Wednesday, January 30

Crusty Dinner Rolls

Dinners here at the inn always include homemade bread on the side. Sometimes I make a cottage wheat baguette, sometimes cornbread or biscuits, sometimes our multi-grain house bread, and sometimes dinner rolls.

I went with my favourite dinner rolls -- dark and crusty on the outside with a rich-yet-airy and tender interior -- for a dinner recently. When the eight guests collectively ate the whole batch of 18 rolls then asked for the recipe, I decided it would be a good one to share with all of you.

I use a bread machine to mix any kind of yeast-based dough and let it rise, simply because it does its thing unattended, leaving me free to do whatever else needs doing. But I always, always, shape the dough by hand and bake it in my oven, either free form or in a bread pan. If you have the time and a bit of bread-making experience, go ahead and make this recipe using your preferred method. Then please come on back and let me know how it turns out and if you did anything to adapt the recipe!

No matter how you make them, I hope you enjoy these tasty little bread rolls as much as we do!

Crusty Dinner Rolls
Makes 18 rolls
1/2 cup milk, warm but not steaming
1/4 cup (2 oz) unsalted butter, very soft
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Add ingredients to bread machine and process on Dough/Manual cycle*. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with flour.

When bread machine cycle is compete, transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead a few times until smooth and elastic.
Divide dough into 18 equal portions (a digital kitchen scale makes this easy and precise).

Shape each piece into a smooth, tight ball and place seam side down on prepared baking sheets. Dust balls with flour and rub to coat.

Use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to snip or cut a cross in the top of each ball.

Lay a sheet of parchment paper and a clean dish towel over each pan of dough balls. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until puffed and nearly doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°.

When risen, uncover dough balls and bake until deep brown and cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.

Serve hot or warm. Pass the butter, please!

*I use a bread machine to mix dough and let it rise, but if you don't have a bread machine you can use a stand mixer with a hook attachment or even just a sturdy spoon and your own two hands. Follow the method of your favourite bread recipe for mixing, rising, punching down, and rising again. Then shape and bake as described above.

Monday, January 21

Warm Feet, Happy Feet

From Mountain Equipment Co-op
Many of our guests at this time of year are coming from urban centres in Southern Ontario, cities where winter conditions are sporadic and short-lived, cities where an arsenal of winter gear is seen as something only a dedicated winter athlete would need. Not so!

A few simple staples in your wardrobe will mean you're ready when a winter storm blows through your town, when you have to shovel the drive or face a blustery trek to the subway or bus stop. Better yet, it'll mean you can treat yourself to a winter getaway to play in the snow in comfort!

From Canadian Tire
Winter is fun if you're warm and dry from head to toe. It's easy to layer on clothing from ankle to neck -- just add layers of thermal underwear, extra sweaters and double up on fleece pants. It's not so easy to improvise on footwear. For warm feet, you need proper winter boots.

Boots are the one item of apparel most people underestimate. They think they can add an extra pair of socks and make due with the same boots they wear to the office or the grocery store. Extra socks can help but it's possible to have too much of a good thing. If donning an extra pair of socks makes for very snug-fitting boots, they can actually make your feet feel colder. You need wiggle room around your toes to trap warm air in with your feet and allow for good circulation.

We recommend boots that go up mid-calf or higher; that slip on; are cinched at the ankle (with straps or laces) for a secure fit; cinch at the top to keep the snow out; and have a removable liner for quick and easy drying. As I mentioned above, they should be large enough to allow for wiggle-room to trap warm air and unrestricted circulation.

From Canadian Tire
Most boots have a rating from the manufacturer indicating what temperature they are designed for. In my opinion, the minimum to get would be -30°C but -40° or -50° are fairly common and should be easy enough to find. If you're prone to cold feet, go on and seek out a -100° rated boot!

Don't worry, you won't have to break the bank. Prices range from $80 to $200 and up. Good sources if you want reliable boots on a budget are Canadian Tire and Mountain Equipment Co-op. You can also find winter boots at most outdoor and sporting stores in the city. Locally in Muskoka, there are number of outfitters with retail stores carrying boots and apparel. In Huntsville, check out Algonquin Outfitters on Main Street.

Think of winter boots as an investment. A good pair will last you for years and provide warmth and comfort when the temperature drops. They'll let you enjoy the best part of the snowy season, letting you get outside and play when everyone else is grumbling and waiting for Spring.

From Mountain Equipment Co-op
Click for more information on What to Wear in Winter, the joys of FLJ's and other thermal underwear, plus an explanation of temperature rating from MEC.

Got a favourite piece of your winter wardrobe you wouldn't go without? Let us know and help us keep warmer and drier while we're outside having fun in the snowy season!

Monday, January 7

Winter Events in Muskoka & Almaguin

There are plenty of activities and events in Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands this winter. From outdoor festivals and activities, to live performances and inspiring films, to laidback getaways with wide open schedules, there's something for everyone.

We've started compiling a list of events. Check back often for updates.

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Burk's Falls Winterfest
Burk's Falls
Sleigh rides, indoor and outdoor games, prizes, vendors and live entertainment. At the Burk's Falls fair grounds. Visit the Burk's Falls Winterfest page for details.
Jan 12 & 13

Banff Mountain Film Festival
Be inspired and exhilarated by a selection of films that take you around the world, to the tops of mountains and down raging rivers. From adrenaline-fueled action sports, to an exploration of wild landscapes and remote mountain cultures, the films in this year's Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour will ignite your passion for adventure.
Algonquin Outfitters is the host for the Huntsville stop on the tour; and the Algonquin Theatre is the venue. Two evenings screening different shows. Discount at the Algonquin Outfitters store for people attending both shows.
Festival Special: Stay two nights at Fern Glen Inn and attend at least one night of the festival and get $32 off your stay. That's the cost of two tickets!
For descriptions of the films, visit the Algonquin Outfitters blog. Purchase tickets online from Algonquin Theatre.
Jan 22 & 23

Muskoka Loppet
Arrowhead Park
A classic ski tradition at Arrowhead Park just north of Huntsville, hosted by the Arrowhead Nordic Ski Club. 15 km and 30 km classic events; 3 km and 9 km individual and relay snowshoe events; 5 km classic for social skiers. Visit the Arrowhead Nordic Club website for details.
Jan 27

Kearney Dog Sled Races
A great weekend to get outside and enjoy winter at the largest dog sled racing event in the north-east. Spectators can watch the dog sled races, ski-joring races and the adorable kid-and-mutt races. There are also demos, activities, snow-bike races, entertainment, vendors, food, and bonfire. For more info and a schedule of events visit the Kearney Dog Sled Races website.
Feb 9 & 10

Algonquin Outfitters Winter Fun Day
Oxtongue Lake
An activity-packed day sampling the best of a Muskoka winter. Activities and events include dog sled rides, winter games, snowshoe hikes, races, Nordic ski lessons, winter camping demos, outdoor BBQ and campfire, plus in-store sales and prizes.
Feb 9

Art Froid at Arrowhead Park
This "Cold Art" festival in the park features snow sculptures along the skating trail. Park visitors will be given ballots to vote for their favourite entry. The event also features night skating by tiki torch, a campfire for roasting hot dogs, plus free hot chocolate. For more information visit the Ontario Parks blog.
Feb 9

Valentine's Day
Fern Glen Inn
The best gift you can give your sweety is some time away with you! We think any getaway here at Fern Glen Inn is special, but if you want to add some extra treats, order our Muskoka Winter Wonderland package, including 2 nights accommodations, breakfast both mornings, homemade biscotti and gourmet hot chocolates, plus a one-day parks pass to explore Arrowhead or Algonquin Park. Every winter stay includes complimentary use of snowshoes to enjoy on our trails. Book online or email us for details.
Feb 14

February Long Weekend
Fern Glen Inn
Make the most of your mid-winter break by getting out of the city and coming out to play in the snow! Go snowshoeing and tobogganing (complimentary on site); let us book you in for a guided dog sledding tour; enjoy all the winter activities in Arrowhead Park; hand-feed the chickadees or unwind by a real wood fire. This weekend always fills up so reserve your room soon. Visit Fern Glen Inn or book online.
Feb 15 - 18

Winter in the Wild
Algonquin Park
Join Ontario Parks and The Friends of Algonquin Park in celebrating winter in Algonquin Park through indoor and outdoor events at various locations throughout the Highway 60 Corridor of the park. Events and activities include guided snowshoeing and birding, touring the visitor's centre collections, landscape and wildlife photography tips, winter camping demos, and bonfire and wolf howl. Visit the Friends of Algonquin Park for details.
Feb 16

Dwight Winter Carnival
Celebrate winter with events and activities in this town just west of Algonquin Park. Visit the Dwight Winter Carnival website to see what's in store.
Feb 21 - 23

Ontario 55+ Winter Games
Athletes 55+ come to Huntsville to compete in winter sports including skiing, skating, hockey and more. Visit Ontario 55+ Winter Games for details.
Feb 26 - 28

Randy Bachman - Every Song Tells A Story
Inspired by his award-winning radio program Vinyl Tap, Randy Bachman takes his master story-telling and musical knowledge on the road to give fans on a guided journey through the last 30 years of popular music. In the intimate setting of the Algonquin Theatre; $55/person. Purchase tickets online from the Algonquin Theatre.
Mar 21