Sunday, January 11, 2009

Winter fun

Yesterday, we had a snowstorm, and my snow shoveling husband, who I can count on for a snow depth assessment, has determined we had a foot of snow fall. My old man and I met while going to college in the U.P. (pronounced "You-Pee", a.k.a the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, for my non Michigander readers) and he is not prone to weather exaggeration. We don't often see snowfall like this in Ann Arbor, but it was a weekly event in the Keweenaw Peninsula where we went to school. (average snowfall, Houghton, MI in the 300 inch range, Ann Arbor, 50 inch range), so when my man says it was a foot, it was a foot.

My son invited his class to go sledding at our neighborhood sledding hill, which has been dubbed "Cardiac Hill" by generations of neighborhood kids. Most of his class made it, and it was a wonderful time with the snow falling heavily throughout the day. I pronounced to the other moms that were hanging with me that I planned on going cross country skiing on Sunday. The last time I went cross country skiing, 25 years ago, was on a date that didn't go so well. Nordic skiing in the U.P. can be quite a challenge - I had envisioned a romantic time, complete with a bouda bag full of wine and a fabulous winter picnic. Instead, it involved me falling down so many times my date had to push my rear end up several times with his shoulder to make me mobile again. I also managed to fall into a creek and got totally soaked. We went back to my place and I made tacos from an Old El Paso taco kit. Evidently my date didn't find it very romantic either, because while I can't remember his name, I do remember that a) he didn't kiss me good night or b) he never asked me out again and the ratio of men to women was 7:1 when I went to Michigan Tech. I have never XC skied again, and I sold my skis at a neighborhood garage sale.

Since I told the other middle school moms I was going to XC, I figured I needed to make good on my commitment. After all, I have had some substantial ankle surgery since I was 20, so maybe it would work out better. I took my son with me - he's got my bad ankles, too, but he and I are the more athletic members of the family - dad and daughter to sleep in. We went to Hudson Mills Metropark and rented ski, boots and poles for $10 each and had a terrific time! The weather was beautiful - I crammed myself into my downhill ski pants (good thing I am back on Weight Watchers) and wore a turtle neck, wool sweater, fleece jacket and windbreaker and found myself taking some layers off midway. We brought some hot cocoa in a thermos. It was really beautiful with the snow on the trees and the sun out. I can't wait to do it again.

What a great workout! Start by having a good breakfast. Yesterday, I tried another steamed bread in my crockpot, based on a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks of late "Not Your Mothers Slow Cooker Cookbook". I love cooking in a crock pot because it saves the energy of heating up the whole oven. (note that stoves and ovens don't use too much energy anyway, but every little bit helps!) To make this recipe, you need a fairly large crockpot (round or oval) and something to cook it in. A heat proof bowl will work, but I have been using a proper British pudding mold. It's metal and has a lid that clamps on, and it looks like the picture I've included above. Here's my interpretation of Bran Muffin Bread....

Michigan Bran Muffin Bread
5 T. buttermilk powder
1 1/4 c. water
1 egg
1/2 c. dark molasses
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 c. All Bran cereal
1 c. whole wheat flout
1 c. all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. chopped dried apricots
3/4 c. dried cherries

Grease and flour 2 qt. pudding mold, or a heat proof bowl that fits in your crock pot with at least an inch or so clearance all around. In a large bowl, stir together buttermilk, water, egg, molasses and oil. Add cereal and let stand for 15 minutes to soften. Add the remaining ingredients, and pour into mold or bowl. Cover mold - if you are using a bowl, cover tightly with 2 layers of aluminium foil and tie a string around it to hold the foil in place.

Put the mold or bowl in the slow cooker and add enough hot water to insure the vessel is 2 inches deep. Cover and cook on high for 3 - 3 1/2 hours. I shut off the cooker after 3 hours and went sledding at this point, and took it out later, but you could open the vessel on the inside and see if it is done by pushing your finger in it and look for it to spring back. If it doesn't, cover and cook it in additional 30 minute increments until it is finished.

When the bread is done, transfer the mold or bowl to a rack and let it cool for 10 minutes. Invert it on a rack to remove the mold, and then turn it right side up to cool. Cut into wedges and serve with applesauce you canned last fall.

1 comment:

A.B. said...

That is a crazy cool idea! And I LOVE dried apricots and cherries in practically anything. Thank you for the fabulous story along with the recipe. I also LOVE hearing about other people's horrible dating's the voyeur in me.