Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hey Winter? Your Seasonal Lease Is Up! Please Leave!

According to the calendar, winter is supposed to start on December 21 and end on March 20.

Aw, IF only it were that simple here in Winnipeg! Our winters often start in mid to late October and snow can continue to fall and stay on the ground well into April!
"Technically" spring arrived this past Thursday. Now if only our temps would reflect that arrival! Okay, we flirted with seasonal temps for a few days last week, but the cold air just doesn't want to leave!

On October 27, I posted a blog about The Chill In The Air - and hoped that Mother Nature would be kind to us this winter! YEAH as if!

This has been the coldest and snowiest winter we've had in 35 years!

I honestly don't recall when the first snow fell - only that it was sometime in mid November. I do recall that it was icy as heck those first few days after as we'd also gotten a bit of freezing rain before it turned to snow!

That iciness is vivid in my recollection as I fell while getting out of a vehicle in an icy parking lot on November 19. I had one foot on the running board and carefully placed the other on the ground. When I lifted the foot off the board, the one on the ground went out from under me and I landed more or less flat on my back!. I didn't break anything - just looked ridiculous as I attempted to stand up again! I was a bit bruised and sore later on!

We got more snow over the next couple days. Shortly after that I was walking on Graham Avenue downtown on a dull cloudy morning and walked right into one of those metal bus benches! It was covered in that fresh snow and I didn't see it! OUCH! (Yes, more bruises!)
I generally fall at least once every winter but twice in one week was not a good start! I knew then that this was going to be one of those winters!

Until the first week of December, snowfall and temps had been fairly normal for these parts.
Then, Mother Nature's winter machine broke down and we've been more or less stuck in ridiculously cold, snowy weather ever since!

In a normal winter we get about 110cm/43.3" of snowfall. We've had almost 150cm/59" this year - including just over 8cm/3.2" last Sunday! Fingers crossed we won't be getting any more! But that is most likely wishful thinking as we almost always get a nasty wintery blast as we are just nicely adjusting to spring.

Now normally, some of that snow would melt during the odd warm spell - generally in late January or early February. Not this winter! This past winter only a handful of days made it even near - let alone above the seasonal norms! We usually have about 45 days with windchills of -30C/-22F or more. This year? Would you believe twice that? Yup! Heck there were a whole lot of those days where the windchill was -40C or MORE! Sadly, there were even a few that bordered on windchills of -50C/-58F! NOW THAT IS COLD!!

Only the heartiest, bravest and craziest of humankind embraced and thrived through the frigidness. I suspect they may be part polar bear!

For those of us who are less adventurous in the wintery ways and were forced/dared to venture out into the frigidness, it meant at least one extra layer in our wintery armour. Another layer that made movement of arms and legs more difficult. It was a reminder of what little kids must feel like when they have snowsuits on that barely let them move!

In past winter's the city of Winnipeg did a fairly decent job of keeping the streets and sidewalks cleared. However this past winter they just couldn't get ahead of the game. The bitter cold temps made it harder to keep machinery running. Sanding or salt has virtually no effect when the temps get that low either so things just got worse instead of better.

The prolonged cold and additional snowfalls wrecked havoc with our cities crumbling infrastructure. Back lanes and many side streets are filled with high snowbanks and windrows of hard snow chunks. From Jan 1 to Feb 26 the city had 838 water main breaks. You can add a few more dozen to that total now! The frost has gone much deeper (+8') this winter which is also causing unbelievable problems for both homeowners and businesses as water pipes are freezing! Well over 1,000 addresses have had to find alternate water sources as they wait for the city to thaw pipes. Some have already been waiting for over a month as thawing options are limited and take time! An additional 6,000+ addresses are at risk of freezing pipes and may be till June depending on how the spring thaw goes!

Then of course there are the potholes created by the thawing and freezing. We get an average of 500 every winter/spring. That number has already been surpassed and the snow has barely begun to melt!

Sidewalks in most areas have been horrid all winter. Now, with the flirtation of spring, they are like rutted skating rinks! I wear my ice grips when I can, but most malls and larger stores don't take too kindly to those being worn inside. My grips are a very snug fit so I really don't want to have to add/remove them at entrance/exits unless I really have to. It just means being a bit more selective where I go till the conditions improve.

I didn't venture out much this winter. I bundled up in extra layers when I did have to go out and wasn't out any longer than I absolutely had to be! I haven't hibernated this much since 90/91. That was the winter I was recovering from a detached retina. Medical restrictions curtailed all outside activity that wasn't necessary and I had to be accompanied by another adult if I did go out due to risk of falling.

Thankfully, I have enough interests to keep myself occupied while inside so cabin fever was at a minimum this winter. I do wish I'd have been able to get out a bit more than I did, but I survived!

Only the heartiest of the winter lovers are lamenting the end of this winter. They've had a good long run of it this year but it really is time to move on!

Most of us would wish the snow gone tomorrow if we had our way. Unfortunately, we need a slow melt or we will be facing a whole new set of issues with flooding. Been there - done that - too many times to mention!

So let's all take a deep breath of the spring like weather - whenever it does arrive - and start the dreaming of how to enjoy all that outdoor time once the white stuff is all gone!


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lemon Pudding Cookies

In my last post, I shared my tale of woe trying to create a cookie using prepared lemon pie filling. It didn't go well to say the least! However, as I mentioned at the end of that post, I do have a tasty cookie recipe that uses an instant pudding mix that works quite well!

I came across the original recipe almost 20 years ago when I first got my hands on one of my all time fave cookbooks - "The Search For The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" by Gwen Steege.

This cookbook was first published in 1988 and republished in 1994. My 1994 edition of this book is falling apart, dog eared and filled with post-it notes of what I liked/disliked or what I did differently for many recipes! There is another, more recent title by the same author called "101 Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies". Though I haven't purchased this title, it appears to be almost the same book with a new name - at least that is my assumption after scanning the "look inside" feature on the Amazon page and comparing it to my tattered hardcover. The index, intro info etc are almost identical.

Anyways, the recipe that I used to create my Lemon Pudding Cookies, was called "Milk Chocolate Chip Delights (page 81). The original called for a vanilla pudding mix. It was a good cookie, but I felt it had more potential to switch up the flavours. I have tried it with a chocolate pudding mix but frankly have tasted better double chocolate chip cookies. I haven't tried using butterscotch, pistachio or some of the other pudding flavours that are available, but they may also work well. You could also try adding some extracts other than vanilla to add more flavour.
I've made my lemon version MANY times over the years! I've tweaked it even more by using a mixture of all purpose and whole wheat flour, adding a bit of lemon extract and zest of a lemon!

The baking temp of 375F may seem a bit high however, I've found cooking them at a lower temp takes longer and will also dry out the cookie more. Just set the timer and keep an eye on them - they can go from perfection to almost burnt very quickly!

Hopefully, you'll enjoy these as much as my friends and family have!

Lemon Pudding Cookies
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 85g/4 serving size instant lemon pudding (not light version!)
1 cup block margarine, softened to room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
zest of one lemon
2 large eggs, room temp
2 - 2 1/2 cups mini dark chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the white sugar, brown sugar and pudding powder just to mix. (I just use a fork for this part rather than turning on the mixer). Add the margarine and mix with the beater on the stand mixer till light and creamy. Add the eggs, extracts and zest. Mix till smooth and creamy.

Gradually add in the dry ingredients - stirring to thoroughly combine. Add in the chocolate chips and stir to combine. Dough will be stiff!

Roll into small balls or drop by teaspoonful's and place about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly. These do not spread very much.

Bake in preheated 375F oven for 8 - 10 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE!! Cool on pan for a couple of minutes then transfer to rack to finish cooling. The cookies will harden a bit as they cool. You can warm them for a few seconds in a microwave to soften just before serving.

These cookies freeze well. Makes 6-7 dozen.