Our socks are layered, the night skies are starless and the sun only makes brief cameos these days.
Not only do our cars take longer to start in this bitter cold, but so do we. Hubby has been nursing a sore back since he last shoveled the driveway and I've been trying to control asthma symptoms exasperated by the unforgiving wind chill.
There's no two ways about it - winter is kicking our butts this year.
So, in true female fashion, I decided last week that I was just depressed enough to chop off most of my hair. There's something therapeutic about a new 'do, even if it isn't the most practical style for snowy times such as these. I can't explain it; emotionally driven haircuts are just part of being a woman.
I really can't complain about the weather too much. After all, I did move to Ontario from Florida on my own free will. But I've definitely come down with a case of what my friend Rebecca calls "The Winter Blahs."
Now that Christmas Time has passed and the glow of Valentine's Day has faded, there's the numbing realization that there are still months of cold ahead of us and nothing left to celebrate. Itchy winter skin has set in and snow that was once so fluffy and pure is now slushy mud on the undercarriages of our cars.
And so I'm feeling sluggish, drinking way too much cocoa and daydreaming about warm sand between my toes as I hack away at the ice on my windshield each morning.
How to survive The Winter Blahs? Netflix. Dinners with friends. Hand cream. Tissues with lotion. And molten chocolate cakes.
Molten Chocolate Cakes
These cakes are a play on the lava cakes that have become
staples on restaurant chain dessert menus. The "lava" on the
inside is a little more fudgey and less runny than its restaurant
brethren , but is still every bit as rich and satisfying.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (plus more for the muffin pan)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (plus more for the muffin pan)
3 large eggs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces dark Baker's chocolate, melted
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Butter 6 cups of a standard muffin/cupcake pan*. Dust with granulated sugar and gently tap out excess.
Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated with the butter/sugar mixture.
Drop the mixer to low speed and add the flour and salt, beating until just combined. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla seeds and beat until just combined. Be careful not to overbeat.
Spoon the batter evenly into the 6 muffin cups.* Bake for 8-10 minutes, remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. The cakes are ready to pull from the oven when the tops no longer jiggle when tapped lightly. Make sure to let them sit in the pan for the full 10 minutes once out of the oven - you want them to set so they don't fall apart when you pull them from the pan.
Use a rubber spatula to gently loosen the cakes from the pan, then place a plate or cutting board over them and flip the pan upside down to get the cakes out. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Store the cakes in a Tupperware at room temperature for up to 2 days. To reheat, place one cake at a time on a plate in the microwave and heat for 20-30 seconds. The lava will cook and become cakey upon reheating but it will still taste great!
* Note: I recommend filling just the 6 muffin cups but if you decide you want to stretch the batter to 7 cups, reduce the cooking time by 1 minute. Be careful of overcooking or there will be no gooey center!
Last month Hubby, Maple and I packed the Jeep and took a family roadtrip. We drove from Toronto to Montreal, crossed the border into Vermont, stopped for three nights near Burlington, then continued south and spent a few days in New York's Hudson River Valley.
Our week was full of lush, green meadows and rolling hills, winding one-lane roads and covered bridges, roadside orchards and berry farms, crickets and starry night skies. We rented a cabin in Vermont and a cottage in New York and lived in a fantasy world where there were no deadlines, no obligations and zero work stress. Our biggest concern was whether we should have salad or green beans with dinner.
Our vacation was every bit as relaxing as we hoped it would be and gave us the confirmation we were seeking that a simpler life in the country is what we both want.
Everyone we met - from the young man who sold us homemade apple cider donuts to the elderly couple who let us raid their barn for antiques - was pleasant, polite and patriotic. They took pride in where they lived and each urged us to make the move back to America.
It's hard to argue with a sprawling countryside completely void of honking horns and police sirens, manicured farms with hay bales and mini horses, and a panoramic horizon of hazy blue mountains. The views were truly breathtaking in the most unexpected, unassuming way.
As soon as we were back in Toronto, the stresses of our everyday lives were waiting for us. Bobby had a week of tedious travelling for work, from L.A. to Boston, ahead of him, and I learned of the tragic death of one of my colleagues. And so we went from one extreme to the next, from a lovely, relaxing week together to a sad and stressful week apart.
Maybe it's simply because my vacation is over or maybe it's something more... but the chilly air and falling of the leaves is leaving me feeling sad this year. I love autumn but there's something almost lonely about the inevitable descent into winter that is tugging at my heart.
My only comfort since I've been back are memories of pitch black nights, campfire s'mores, Nancy Drew novels and clawfoot tubs. Those little reminders of our family road trip will have to suffice until I can find my way home again.
Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake
After a week of vacation eating (i.e. pigging out like there was no
tomorrow) we agreed that vegetables needed to make a reappearance
in our lives. This zucchini bread made the transition easy. It tastes
decadent, with dark chocolate and a hint of espresso, but is loaded
with green veggies and zero butter or oil. Perfect for breakfast or as a snack.
Yields 2 loaves
3 large eggs
1 cup applesauce
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 medium zucchini, grated
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso or espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
Grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, applesauce, brown sugar, and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Stir in the zucchini, cinnamon, instant espresso, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and cocoa powder. Fold this flour-cocoa mixture into the wet batter in 3 batches. Once the batter is uniform, gently stir in the chocolate chips.
Divide the batter evenly between your two prepared pans. Bake for 55 - 65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pans for at least 15 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing and serving. Enjoy!
Autumn is gently arriving in Ontario after one final week of spectacular heat - summer's last hurrah.
Children in their smart polos and khakis have gone back to school. Maple leaves with burnt brown edges are breaking free from their trees and tumbling down sidewalks. There's a crispness to the air that arrived overnight, a welcome change from the heaviness of Indian summer.
Pumpkin lattes and hot apple cider are popping up on menus just as leather boots and houndstooth skirts fill store windows. Doggies and their humans jog through the neighborhood in chunky knit sweaters. What a lovely way to start a new season.
Autumn has always been my favorite time of year but it means more to me this time around than before. It's Vacation Week in our house and it seems the chilly air arrived with it in a carefully choreographed move. It's as though the universe knew we needed something fresh and invigorating so it lowered the temperature just for us.
There's a growing to-do list that needs to be checked off over the next few days -- get an oil change and Maple's nails clipped, exchange Canadian money for American, and oh yeah, start packing -- but excitement have overtaken any anxiety about last minute details.
This road trip will take us through eastern Canada with a 3-day stop in Charlotte, Vermont before arriving in the New York Catskills. The goal is to, somewhere along the way, find our next place to call home.
It's a strange coincidence that this trip will begin on September 11th, but if you want to twist a metaphor, it is Patriot's Day, And this patriot misses her home dearly.
Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake
This incredibly rich cake is the perfect way to welcome the cooler weather.
Flour is replaced by half a dozen eggs which are divided into thick, creamy
yolks and a beautiful egg white meringue. The result, a crossover between
a cake and a ganache, quite literally melts in your mouth.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
8 ounces dark chocolate, at least 70% cacao (I used Baker's Premium Dark)
6 large eggs, separated
1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup granulated sugar
confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.
Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and microwave for a couple of minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted. Let cool slightly before whisking in the egg yolks.
With a mixer using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, then the vanilla seeds (cut the vanilla bean length-wise and scrape the seeds out using a paring knife) and continue beating until glossy stiff peaks form. Whisk about half of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the rest.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and is set in the center, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before removing the sides of pan.
Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve at room temperature (with a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you're feeling extra decadent).
Slightly adapted from this recipe by Martha Stewart.
Welcome! I'm a pie-baking, dog-loving, antique-hunting patriot. I'm a fan of rustic home cooking, the Yankees and scenic drives through the mountains.