Rainy Day Activities

What to do when the weather’s cold and miserable?  It’s that terrible in-between season.  Too cold for comfortable cycling.  Too soon for snow and skiing.  I’ve returned to my old faithful running routine to fill the gap and get in shape for the ski season.  Fortunately, I’m fine with running in marginal weather.  In fact, once I get out there I rather enjoy pushing through the dreary skies and wet pavement and enjoy running for the pure exercise.

But days on end of gloomy weather do invite restlessness.  With few mid-week offerings on the cultural scene, I decided we should make our own fun.  What better cold weather activity than making homemade pizza?  Normally, it’s reserved for our traditional dinner on Christmas Eve.  I know, kind of strange for the Christmas holidays.  But the boys love it, and request it every year.  So when they read this, I’m sure they will be envious!

It’s really not all that difficult to make, so I’m not sure why we don’t do it more often.  I rounded up the ingredients, and prepared the dough.  From there, it was a group activity, layering on the toppings and shuffling the pizzas in and out of the oven.  Voila!  Homemade pizza dinner and a good evening’s entertainment.IMG_4804 trimmed IMG_4803 trimmed

Another rule of pizza, at least when it’s just the two of us – we settle ourselves by the fire in the great room, in more relaxed environs rather than the dining room table.  It all started when we were first commuting up to Duluth.  We’d arrive in the evening with hot pizzas straight from Sammy’s that we’d consume as soon as we carried in our worldly goods.  Now that we’re permanent residents, it’s a ritual we have continued.  A good one.

The weather is still gloomy, but we did enjoy our pizzas.  In the event that the sun doesn’t shine for a few more days, here is my recipe for homemade pizza, adapted from a Blackwoods Restaurant recipe.

Homemade Pizza

This is a version of the recipe you can print or save: Homemade Pizza

Morning Muffins

I was tired of looking at the two boxes of Raisin Bran that were languishing on the shelf.  I bought them for my son, but he does not appear to be as fond of the cereal as he claimed.  So I dug out an old recipe for refrigerator muffins.  I got it from a co-worker in my very first real job, and that was more than a few years ago.  But I remembered it as being a good one.  The beauty is that it uses a whole box of Raisin Bran cereal and a full quart of buttermilk.  So no leftovers of odd ingredients.  And the batter lasts six weeks in the refrigerator.

I whipped up the recipe, baked a few muffins and stashed the remainder of the batter in the fridge.  Those first muffins were not what I remembered – the bran flakes had not had time to fully soak into the batter and I could discern individual flakes in a white batter.  The next set I baked a few days later, however, were perfect.  Dark brown inside with a hearty flavor.  Good lesson – they improve with time.  The best part was being able to pop a few into the oven early in the morning and Voila! fresh warm muffins.  It worked especially well when we had overnight company.  I could spoil her with home made muffins right out of the oven without the distraction of mixing them up while she was there.  And for several weeks afterwards, I had muffins at will.  I even got that same son to bake up a batch for himself to take to work in his lunches.  Turns out he likes the cereal better in muffins.

If one refrigerator muffin recipe is good, there must be more, right?  Sure enough, a search on the internet turned up numerous variations.  The one that caught my eye was for pumpkin muffins, of course.  It is still a bran muffin, which in my opinion is a good thing – they’re my favorite.  But the addition of pumpkin and fall spices like cinnamon, cloves and allspice make for a tasty muffin.  This one makes a smaller batch, and only lasts two weeks in the refrigerator.  And now I have leftover canned pumpkin and buttermilk.  Maybe that calls for a second batch.  This recipe is from Pillsbury.

Here are versions of the recipes you can print or save:

Raisin Bran Muffins and Refrigerator Pumpkin Bran Muffins

Happy muffin mornings!

These cookies are Ambrosia

You never know where you will find a good recipe.  This time it was at the South Bay B&B on Lake Whatcom, near Bellingham, Washington.  We were there with our youngest son, Erik, who was a high school senior at the time.  These chocolate chip cookies kept magically reappearing as Erik cheerfully did his part to empty the cookie jar each time he passed.  I had to agree, they were good.  Fortunately our hostess easily parted with the recipe, which she readily admitted came off the enormous bag Ambrosia chocolate chips.

Now I have plenty of experience in failing to successfully replicate others’ recipes.  But this one truly worked.  My results were every bit as good as those at the B&B, and disappeared equally quickly.  Over time, in different kitchens and any season, these cookies consistently turn out to my liking.  That is no minor feat.  Not only are they my family’s favorite, but my son-in-law and now my grandson both ask for them.  What more evidence do I need?  After all these years of testing cookie recipes, I think I can say with utmost confidence that I have finally found the formula for the ultimate chocolate chip cookie.  It is moist, chewy, substantial and generously pocked with chocolate chips.  Nothing better.

I can also attest to the durability of this recipe.  It stands up to a 2-year-old’s manipulation and fascination with dough.  Baking cookies has become a favorite activity of mine with my grandson.  He has his own idea about how cookies should be formed.  But the result is still always delicious.  And he and his daddy are happy when they get to take a bunch home.

Sadly, the lovely B&B is no longer in operation.  But it will be fondly remembered each time we bite into a chocolate chip cookie, because it is unlikely I will use any other recipe.

In the event that you have the same passion for home made chocolate chip cookies, I can save you a lot of research and trials.  Here is the coveted recipe:

Here is a copy of the recipe you can print or save:  Ambrosia Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Now I will have to start on a new recipe quest.  I don’t think my family will mind.