Wednesday, April 30

Two Faces of April

Snow in early April

Grass is greening in late April

April is typically a transition month, straddling the progression from winter to spring. While that transition occasionally happens in March, in the ten springs we've witnessed since moving here, it's almost always occurred in April. It makes for an interesting month!

A heron flying over the pond, mid-April

Rhubarb starts!
It means that we often usher in April on snowshoes and wave it out in sandals — with a lot of rubber-booting in between. If it's been a particularly wintery winter, it could even mean the dog sled ranch continues running tours and the ski trails and hill are still open and busy. As the month progresses, snow flurries turn to rain showers, the ice melts and the trails souffle, and the warm sunny breezes are put to work drying everything out.

It's not our prettiest time of year, as the winter majesty fades before the summer lushness blossoms, but it's fresh and hopeful and full of promise. It's April!

April sunset

Laundry line resurrected!

Tuesday, April 15

Ciambella alla Carote

As many of my guests and friends can attest, I am a recipe junkie. I love browsing cookbooks, magazines, newspaper clippings and websites for new recipes or twists on old ones, using these as jumping off points for creating my own concoctions.

You can imagine my delight, then, when repeat guests of ours gave me a wonderful gift last year: The Silver Spoon cookbook. It's a mammoth tome—nearly 1,500 pages of (mostly Italian) recipes organized by main ingredient or category of dish. It's a staple in every Italian kitchen and has been since the first edition was published in 1950.

It's unlike any traditional North American cookbook I've seen (and I've seen many!). It has chapters on Guinea Fowl, Scorpion Fish, Garbanzo Beans, Anti-pasto and more. I turned to the chapter on Family Cakes for a few reasons. For one, I wanted to make a homey dish, one that would be found in a typical Italian kitchen on any unremarkable day. I also have a practical streak so I wanted to try a recipe that would also be at home at our breakfast table (thus I bypassed the "Calf's Head" chapter).

The first recipe in Family Cakes was for Ciambella alla Carote, or Carrot Ring Cake. Familiar yet different. Just what fits my bill. The recipe called for a "6-cup capacity tube pan". Judging by the picture in the cookbook, it's more shallow and has a larger centre hole than North American tube or bundt pans, and holds about half the capacity. There are a number of ciambella recipes in this section so I assume it's a common pan size in Italy. I used a loaf pan instead. You could also use mini-loaf pans or muffin tins instead. I think I'd have to double the recipe if I wanted to try it in a bundt pan.

The resulting Carrot Loaf was delicious. Moist, not too sweet. Perfect for the breakfast sideboard or for an afternoon snack. I thought I'd share this with you now since a carrot dish seems appropriate with Easter just around the corner. Bake up a loaf or two to have on hand should friends, family or an Easter Bunny drop by.

Buona Pasqua!

Carrot Loaf

Slightly adapted from The Silver Spoon Cookbook's Ciambella alla Carote

The original recipe calls for the batter to be baked in a 6-cup capacity tube pan. If you have one, by all means, use it. If not, use a loaf pan, mini-loaf pans or muffin tins.

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pinch ground ginger
  • pinch ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons oil (sunflower or light olive)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus extra for the pan
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 medium-large carrots, grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, ginger and nutmeg. Make a well in the centre. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, butter, milk and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and stir until almost combined. Stir in carrots, raisins and walnuts.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes for a loaf or ring, about 25-35 minutes for muffins or mini-loaves.

Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes then unmold. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Buon appetito!

Saturday, April 5

Spring Events in Muskoka & Almaguin

Here's a list of events in Muskoka and the Almaguin Highlands this spring. Got a local event to share? Let me know and I'll add it to the list!

BONUS: Book by April 19 for a two-night stay between April 20 - June 23 and get a free $50 gas card and $50 in spending vouchers as part of Explorers' Edge Fuel & Fun promotion.

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TriSummit Triathlon Conference
Second annual triathlon and endurance sport conference brings together the top educators, experts, coaches and athletes in the field. Three days of speakers, workshops, clinics and events to help you reach your personal best. Visit TriMuskoka for details.
April 11 - 13

Easter Long Weekend
Fern Glen Inn
The first long weekend of the spring! Treat yourself to a little getaway to Fern Glen Inn to renew, recharge and rejuvenate yourself. (p.s. There will be chocolate!). Book online or send us an email to reserve your weekend getaway.
April 18 - 21

Mother's Day 
Fern Glen Inn 
Treat your mom, your wife, your sister or yourself to a weekend away and let someone else do the cooking and cleaning. Our famous breakfasts are fresh, healthful, indulgent -- just what every mom deserves!
May 11

Muskoka Heritage Place 
Museum, pioneer village, and portage flyer train open for the season. For more information please visit Muskoka Heritage Place.
May 17

Victoria Day Long Weekend 
Fern Glen Inn
Better known as the May Two-Four, it's the unofficial launch of the outdoor season, a weekend to get out of the city and into the woods! Spend the weekend at Fern Glen Inn and we can help you with plans to go canoeing, horseback riding, hiking, shopping, golfing or just chilling out in the fresh air. Book online or send us an email to reserve your weekend getaway.
May 16 - 19

Spin the Lakes Cycle Tour
Huntsville and area 
Hit the road and pedal your way around Muskoka lakes, along routes with breath taking views and spectacular rock cuts, through several small towns and over terrain that consists of moderate rolling hills. Not a race, this event is geared for everyone to participate and enjoy. Choose your distance from 20k to 170k. Fully supported with vehicles, food and water stations. Visit Bike Muskoka for details.
May 24

Colonel Chris Hadfield 
Canada Summit Centre, Huntsville
Be inspired and enthralled by an evening of conversation, pictures and song as world famous astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield shares his story and lessons learned. Visit Huntsville Festival of the Arts for details and tickets.
June 2, 7:30 pm

The Huntsville Half 
Come on out and challenge yourself with a half marathon, 10k or 5k race, then follow it up with a post-race live music concert in River Mill Park. The race course is through lovely Muskoka scenery; the concert is all-ages with a beer tent and great food vendors. Visit Huntsville Half for details and to register. Runners staying two nights at Fern Glen Inn get a free upgrade to VIP status!
June 14

Live It! A Culinary, Home & Garden Getaway
Whether it is a love of gardening, a passion for food and wine, or a “how-to” home renovation aficionado, the Live It Getaway weekend will offer something for everyone. Experts talks, demos how-to's, culminating with a licensed dinner and dancing under the stars! Visit Huntsville Adventures for details.
June 20 - 22