Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weekend Getaway

Last fall, one of my gal pals called and asked if I'd like to go with her to her cottage about an hour north of the city on Lake Winnipeg.

Would I? YES!!!

It had been years since I'd gotten out of the city for more than a day trip.

I've always envied people who had a cottage - or access to one! I know people who own cottages but just never felt comfortable enough to try and invite myself - especially since I'd need someone to drive me!

My friend and I had talked about me going up with her before, but she also knew that I wasn't a fan of hot weather or much of a water person so hadn't asked me during the hotter months.

We left late Friday afternoon and were back early Sunday afternoon. Only two days but OH - how wonderful it was to get away! The weather was cool and mostly cloudy but it was just so relaxing!

Well, I must have been a good guest as I got invited back last weekend!!

Again we left on Friday afternoon and arrived around 6. The weather was sunny with temps in low 20'sC so quite comfortable. We dropped our stuff at the cottage and headed out for a yummy supper of fish and chips (fresh pickerel) then to get some groceries for the weekend. Back at the cottage, we settled in and spent the rest of the evening chatting. We turned in around 11.

I woke about 5 to birds chirping and the sound of rain. Naturally, I rolled over and went back to sleep.

When I did get up a few hours later, I could tell from the look of the puddles on the ground that we'd gotten a fair bit of rain during the night. Unfortunately, it continued to rain off and on all day! Not that we had really planned much outdoor activity - it just wasn't what we had hoped for either! We wanted to spend at least a bit of time outside!

We did manage a short walk between showers in the afternoon. We walked to the nearby beach, listened to the waves lapping the shore and watched some sailboats out on the water. 

Within minutes of our return home it started to pour! An hour or so later the sun shone for a while but was once again overtaken by clouds and rain.

My friend's cottage isn't fancy - or even that modern. The original part was built about 50 years ago but has been added onto a couple of times. My favourite room is the spacious sun room with lots of windows, wooden walls, beam ceiling, comfy places to sit a spell and a fireplace in the corner! She had the fireplace installed after she bought the place a few years ago. Personally, I think it makes the room perfect! When we weren't in the kitchen or the bedrooms, we spent almost all of our time in this room.

There are lilac trees on the edge of the neighbours property. While the sun was out, there were at least twenty monarch butterflies fluttering around the blossoms! Even with my monocular, it was still a bit hard for me to see them but it was a lovely sight! The bright orange and yellow wings were so vibrant! I tried to take some pics, but even after I cropped them, they are still quite hard to see!

After a BBQ supper, my friend lit a fire. I love a wood fire! Even though I grew up on the farm, we never had a fireplace so that was something that I always looked forward to when I worked at camp or visited other people who had one!

There is something about the smell of the wood, the crackle of the logs and watching the flames dance themselves into an exhaustion of glowing embers that is so soothing and mesmerizing!

As much as I love living in the city, there is a serenity and peacefulness to being in a country setting. When you are surrounded by the sounds of city life, you tend to forget how quiet it can be. The roads in the area aren't paved, so you hear vehicles coming from further away as the gravel crunches under the tires. The sound kept reminding me of being on the farm and hearing a car driving in the lane and wondering who was coming to visit. I had to keep reminding myself that as quiet as this place was - there were also many other cottages nearby!

I fell asleep to the sounds of crickets. No screeching tires, horns, sirens, loud music or late night rabble-rousers!

On the other-hand, I was awakened in the pre-dawn hours by the cacophony of birds chirping. What could they possibly need to discuss so loudly at that time of the morning? Couldn't they possibly wait to have these discussions at a more civilized hour - when most humans are also awake? I mean, it's not like we actually understand what they are saying! Oh well, at least I was able to eventually get back to sleep!

So what else did we do besides talk, eat, sleep and take a short walk? Well, we both had our e-readers with us and spent some time reading. I had also brought backgammon, a crib board and a deck of large print playing cards. Neither of us had played backgammon in many years so we had to reread the rules first! Alas, my friend's luck was better than mine and she beat me 3 out of 5 games - and yes I'll admit it - she skunked me in two of them! I was the victor in cribbage though!

All in all, it was a wonderfully relaxing weekend despite the weather. 

I sincerely hope that I am invited back - perhaps as soon as the fall? 

I can hope! Besides, I want a rematch of backgammon and I must defend my Crib title!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Apple And Pork Burgers

There are countless kinds of beef burger recipes out there. There are also many for chicken or turkey burgers. There are a wide variety of burgers available at your local grocers - from your basic beef burger to a gourmet variety! You can make or buy salmon burgers. If you are lucky, you will even find farmers sausage burgers in your area. (I prefer Winkler Farmer Sausage!)

But you don't often see recipes for a pork burger - unless you really look for them.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that lean ground pork was on sale at a local grocer. I'd never bothered buying ground pork before but decided to look for recipes for pork burgers. I found several at Pick Pork (type "burgers" into their search box on the left side for the full list) and also at Canadian Living.

The recipe that I came up with for this post is based on the Sage Apple Burger from Canadian Living. The original called for apple juice to be mixed in, but I decided to try it with grated apple instead. I also added some sweet bell pepper, a bit of BBQ sauce and some garlic powder. The apple and the BBQ sauce help keep the burger moist and add flavour. This recipe will also work well with ground chicken or turkey rather than with the pork.

Since I live in an apartment without a balcony, I grill my burgers on a George Foreman Grill. However, if you are lucky enough to have an outdoor grill, The Manitoba Pork Council recommends that you barbecue fresh/thawed burgers over medium heat for 5-6 minutes per side or until no pink remains. Frozen burgers will obviously take a bit longer.

When serving the burgers, I like to use my Mango Chutney (recipe posted here) but you could also use relish (my recipe posted here). It's a personal choice how you garnish!

Apple And Pork Burgers

1 1/2 pound lean ground pork
1 egg
1/3 cup finely chopped green onion
1/4 cup finely chopped red or orange sweet bell pepper
1/3 cup grated apple (1 medium apple, peeled and cored)
1 Tablespoon BBQ sauce (original, onion or garlic work best)
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried sage

Combine all ingredients and shape into 6 or 7 burgers. Place the burgers between layers of wax paper in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze the burgers, then stack (with the wax paper between them) in a freezer bag and store in freezer for future use.

Note: I cut several lengths of wax paper ahead of time, then lay a burger at the end of each one and fold end over end so that once they are frozen, there is at least two layers of wax paper between each one. This makes it MUCH easier to separate when you want to cook them.

 Everyone has their own way of preparing and garnishing their burgers. This is mine:

1 apple and pork burger (frozen)
1 slice onion
slice of red or orange sweet bell pepper
3 medium mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 whole wheat hamburger bun
light mayo, or ranch dressing
mustard (French's original or sweet onion)
Mango Chutney
Monterey Jack or Mozzarella Cheese

While the grill is preheating, prepare the veggies and bun. Spread a bit of mayo or Ranch Dressing on half of the bun. On the other half, spread a bit of mustard, then mango chutney. Place a slice of cheese on each half. Toast the bun halves in a toaster oven or place under a broiler to warm buns and melt the cheese while the burger and veggies grill.

Place the burger, onion, pepper and mushrooms on preheated grill. Grill for about 6 minutes or until burger is no longer pink inside. It isn't necessary with a Foreman Grill, but I like to turn the burgers and veggies about 1/2 way through to ensure even grilling.

To assemble, place the onion and pepper on the bottom half of the bun, top with the burger, then sliced mushrooms and then the top of the bun. You can either lay the onion and pepper on whole or chop and then put it on the bun. I find that by putting the onions and peppers on one side or the burger and the mushrooms on the other that the veggies are less apt to fall out as you eat them - probably sticks a bit more to the cheese that way!
I also tend to have more of the mango chutney on the side for dipping but you could also use ketchup.

Serve with a tossed green salad or raw veggies and dip.