Hey Everyone – just wanted to let you know I am still here! I am working on some fun new posts while I stay warm here at the lodge. See you soon!
No – don’t worry – nothing bad has happened. Well, maybe it was a little bad – but in the good “bad” kinda way, like Michael Jackson – “Bad”.
My son recently turned eighteen and as is our family custom; I asked what he wanted to eat for his birthday supper. He replied, “I don’t really care but I want something with peanut butter and chocolate for dessert. So I began looking through my volumes of cookbooks and cooking magazines and settled on a slightly modified version of a recipe originally found in “Better Homes and Gardens, Cupcakes” published in 2011. My modified version is called the Peanut Butter Bomb, partly because it weighs quite a bit but mostly because it tastes soooooooooooo good!
Now you can try it too – of course feel free to change it up for your family or skill level. Be sure to read the recipe all the way through and assemble all your needed ingredients and tools. This will help ease your frustration. Or another way to ease your frustration is by licking the bowls – but you will probably need a couple helpers because this is a RICH recipe. It makes cupcakes which are great for parties and portion control but more time consuming so I made a layer cake instead. That’s the only modification. So here is the original recipe!
PEANUT BUTTER-CHOCOLATE TWIST CUPCAKES
1/2 C Butter – use the real thing
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 C creamy peanut butter
1 C packed brown sugar
3/4 C granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 C milk
4 ounces milk chocolate , melted ( I used Hershey Bars)
6 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Candy Bars (six Cups- not twelve)
ONE RECIPE PEANUT BUTTER FROSTING
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 C creamy peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla
6 C powdered sugar – sifted
2-5 tsp milk, to achieve desired consistency
ONE RECIPE CHOCOLATE FROSTING
one half of peanut butter frosting recipe
4 ounces milk chocolate – melted and cooled
1. Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile line 34 – 36 , two and a half inch muffin cups with paper liners. ( I used two, 8 inch round cake pans and sprayed them with oil.)
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add peanut butter; beat until combined. Gradually add brown sugar and granulated sugar about 1/4 C at a time until combined. Scrape sides of bowl, beat about two minutes more until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to butter mixture beating on low speed after each addition until just combined.
3. Place half of the batter in to a separate mixing bowl; add melted chocolate to remaining batter. Beat with electric mixer until just combined.
4. Fill prepared muffin cups by alternating spoonfuls of peanut butter batter and chocolate batter, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Use a butter knife to swirl batter in each cup. ( I filled the two cake pans about with equal amounts of batter spooning each batter in to the different parts of the pan and then swirling.)
5. Bake cupcakes for fifteen to eighteen minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool on wire racks completely. OR bake eight -inch rounds for 20 – 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Make frosting.
1. Allow cream cheese to soften at room temperature for about thirty minutes. In a large clean mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with peanut butter and vanilla with electric mixer until light and fluffy. GRADUALLY add powdered sugar, (trust me, it’s worth the time to sift and gradually add or you will have lumpy frosting and your kitchen and hair will be covered in powdered sugar!) Add milk one teaspoon at a time until frosting is piping consistency ( you don’t want it to run off of a spoon, but you want to be able to squeeze it through the pastry bag).
2. Divide frosting in to to equal portions. Set one aside.
3. With remaining frosting, add the melted and cooled chocolate. Beat with electric mixer until combined. If necessary, beat in additional powdered sugar or milk to achieve piping consistency. (I didn’t need to add anything).
4. Spoon Peanut Butter Frosting in to one side of the bag and Chocolate Frosting along the opposite side of the bag. The frosting will be side by side in the bag. Pipe a generous portion on to the cupcakes. (I piped individual rosettes(circles) on the sides of the cake. Then spread a thin layer of frosting on to the first layer of cake and top with second cake. Continue with rosettes on sides and top of cake. and then the top of the cake.
5. Slice the peanut butter cups in to sixths ( hope you don’t have a lisp or that will be hard to say.) And strategically place all over the cake so as to cause spontaneous drooling. Just watch out for the cake cause nobody wants your drool on their piece.
6. Get some stretchy pants and the Rolaids or a couple of kids or friends to help you lick the utensils and scrape the bowls. I must be sure to tell you never to eat raw cake batter because it contains eggs and could make you sick with Salmonella poisoning but hey – it’s your kitchen and you’re gonna eat a “bomb” so whatever………..
I did not write this but it is share-worthy. Tongue in Cheek of course after you swallow the creamy gravy – just read it and you’ll understand: About Mennonites: 6 Warnings From an Outsider..
So this spring – when opening cabins after this crazy winter; we found the typical spring chores to do. Things like bug vacuuming, general cleaning, door adjustments and so on…….
The Central Flyway aka Deluxe aka the big house is one of the oldest buildings here at Harvest Lodge. Tony LePerre started with one room for he and his young bride Marie around 1959. As their budget and their family grew, they added rooms to finish with a four bedroom house. It was sweet to find the electrical breaker box labeled with his children’s rooms.
Previous owners added a steel roof and log siding and the building has hosted many fishermen and hunters over the years. As with all things that get older, stuff shifts. Some things are lower than they used to be, kinda like a gangster’s pants – they be saggin’.
We decided to open a doorway from the kitchen to the living room and in the process , discovered some rotted floor joists. So the fun began!
Jon and his dad ripped up the old floor and jacked up the walls and ceiling to level again. They added new joists and a moisture barrier underneath the cabin. Then they replaced the floor.
My dad had already helped Jon create the door way when they visited in April. Then we stained the floor, bought “new” furniture, a new fridge, five new beds, and added a few pieces of artwork and taxidermy and as French Canadians would say “Voila”!
Did I mention this project was finished in the span of about 10 days! Just in time for a couple generations of family guests to check in for a weekend of fishing! Great job guys! Thanks for all the help! Too bad you probably can’t help the rest of us with our “sags”. Oh the fun of getting older!
So, last week Jon said he was going to take me on a date. Boy did I get excited, especially since we haven’t been on a date since we left Colorado last August! Well, dating in rural Manitoba has a different feel than suburban America. Sure if we were young and unmarried, we’d probably go to dinner or even the movie theater in Dauphin. But we have been married nearly 19 years and we live in the country so we bundled up and grabbed a Coke and the camera. Jon loaded the quad in to the trailer and we headed out in to the woods.
At our first stop, Jon unloaded the quad and I grabbed the laptop and sat on top of a 60 pound bag of oats while we slogged through the sometimes muddy trail to one of our bear baiting sites. It was one of the first really nice sunny days we have had here this late spring and the sun was still warm enough to keep the chill off as the wind blew in our faces. I held on around Jon’s chest (which after months of wood chopping has become quite buff I might add), as I took in the scenery all around. Puddles, boulders, tiny little spruce trees growing along the side of the faint trail. The sun was at the point in the evening sky where it casts a warm glow on everything and the woods became more dense as we rode along in the quiet. Well as quiet as a million frogs and birds can be anyway.
I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the First Nations peoples who first lived here, the abundance of wildlife, the dark starry nights before the electric lights of towns and farms made the stars seem fewer in the sky. How did they navigate the thick trees, where did they make camps, what kinds of plants did they eat?
We passed stands of tall white birch and pines, mixed with tamarack and poplar trees all with a thick layer of dogwoods and wild bushes, dead leaves and tall brown grass underneath. I saw a small ridge with some boulders and imagined that might be a good place for a bear to den in the winter protected from the elements. I began to feel really small on that bag of oats in the middle of the ever deepening bush.
“Just a little further”, said Jon.
We rounded a sharp corner, passed a fallen tree and I saw an old wooden tree stand. Then we came to the spot. Bear baiting is a common practice among hunters Canada-wide. The bear have just spent months in hibernation and are hungry. Everyone has their “secret recipe” to bait so I’ll just leave it at that. We got off and began looking around the area, searching for signs that bears had been there. Scat, hair, paw prints, well that and the barrel was nearly empty so we knew at least one, but maybe multiple bears had been visiting our buffet. Our trail cam was missing one of it’s bungee cords and pointing down at the ground so something was visiting.
It felt a little eerie, like that scene in those teenage slasher movies where the pretty girl is about to go skinny-dipping in the lake in the dark and you’re yelling at the screen saying “no don’t go in the water!” The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and I became much more aware of my surroundings. Thoughts like exactly how far back in the bush we were and that bears had been there just hours before started to run through my mind as we put out fresh bait and cleaned up some garbage the previous owners had left behind. I know bears are scared of people and would probably have heard our quad and wold stay away until our scent was gone from the area – but this people was a little scared of bears just at this moment.
Jon showed me a skull he found on the ground of some type of weasel and I discovered new species of plants that I hadn’t seen around camp, mosses and lichens and almost tropical looking little succulents that could only grow on the wet forest floor. There were thorny stems of what I wondered might be wild berries. As I looked up at the towering trees, I tried to imagine the excitement of sitting in that tree stand , waiting with your bow, your nerves on edge, your senses heightened as you wait for that trophy buck or bear to come in to view. Nothing but the sounds of the wind in the trees or a distant bird, the rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker. The smell of wet earth and leaves mixing with your breath as you try to be still and quiet-waiting. Waiting for that breathtaking moment when you line up the shot, say a quick prayer for a clean kill and release your bow, your heart pounding in your ears while the adrenaline pumps through your body. Then that almost spiritual moment when you get to the animal and thank God for the beauty and bounty of His creation, for providing this food for your table and this experience to share with other outdoors men and women. The sense of being fully alive in that moment when you have experienced death close at hand. It is a truly unique human experience, one that true sportsmen understand and respect.
As we drove back out on the trail, back to the truck and on to our next bait site, I anticipated the coming weeks, when bear hunters will be in camp experiencing what I just described and telling me about it back at the supper table in the evenings. And I thanked God that I get to be part of the story…………
Recently, I was able to take a little road trip about three hours away. The reason for the trip was to see the orthodontist (welcome to rural Manitoba) but why not take in some scenery along the way? We decided to drive through Riding Mountain National Park, a beautiful park any time of year but I hear that it’s most wonderful in the summer when the greens of the forest trees contrast with the sunny summer sky and the deep blue of Clear Lake. The trails are ready for exploring and the opportunityexists to see a big variety of wildlife.
On this day, the forest floor was still covered with snow from this long winter making the bare poplar trees seem exceptionally stark against the blue sky. They stretched up tall like the people of Canada, pleading for the sun to shine directly on each one alone. We climbed in elevation to the top of the ridge. (about 2200 feet above sea level – which made me chuckle considering that last year, when I lived in Colorado – I lived at about 5000 feet!) At each bend in the road, we craned our necks to see what was coming next. Would there be a new patch of trees? A moose? An eagle perched above the white expanse of a frozen lake? The only living creature we saw was a park worker clearing trees along the side of the road.
We continued on to the south side of the park and out through a few little towns before we reached a broad river valley. The ridge encircled us as we coasted downhill passing the long lane to a pretty yellow farmhouse nestled back along the tree line. As my daughter looked at the road ahead, a rather steep climb back up to the plains, she said, “It’s like an amusement park ride!” I was imagining the first settlers to this area having traveled along the flat dusty fields above to find this secluded spot, lined with trees; the Little Saskatchewan River flowing through the floor of the valley. What a perfect place to stop and build a home, a life.
We saw the orthodontist, discovered “Boston Pizza”, ran all of our errands, stopping and shopping until I was exhausted and hungry, not only for food but also for the quiet ride back to the place we have called home for just about seven months. As the sun was sinking lower in the sky, I anticipated the ride back through the park and a second opportunity to see something new. My mom was along and she wanted to get some pictures this time too as we were less hurried to get to our appointment, so we traveled more slowly. Again we came to the top of the ridge and coasted down in to the valley, this time facing the little yellow farm house with the late afternoon sun streaming in my window. We passed through Onanole, saw the turn to Clear Lake and searched through the darkening forest for a moose or a deer. I thought to myself, thank goodness for the lengthening days and phooey to all those naysayers of daylight savings time. Here it was nearly 7:30pm and the first star was just appearing as we crested the ridge at the top of the park. There, through the break in the canopy, appeared the purple haze melting in to soft oranges and finally blending in to the horizon looking north over Dauphin. I felt like we were on the top of one of those 12, 000 foot Colorado peaks, as if seeing the edge of the world! We stopped to take a picture, marveling at the sight of the twilight sky and the snow covered farm fields below it. Just days before I had mumbled under my breath about the slush under my feet and the forecast of snow yet again, wishing for green grass and spring flowers. I was missing the beauty. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees as the saying goes.
As we continued through the next 200 km until we reached home, we listened to the radio and I sipped my coffee. My mind wandered and I began to think about this last year of journey my family has been on. The peaks, the valleys, the rivers we have forged, the bends in the road holding the unexpected. I wondered if this is what the twelve spies felt like when they were sent out to survey the Israelites promised land. Some saw the beauty and promise of bounty in the land while most saw the giants. There have been times when I have been afraid of the giants too. Of all the uncertainty, of leaving the familiarity of land ,friends, family and a steady paycheck with benefits. There have been times when I have felt the anticipation of climbing the next proverbial hill only to find the next one higher still. The sky finally grew dark and we reached the part of the trip when we are longing for the journey to be over.
Mom asked, ” Are those lights in the distance your place?”
“No, just a few more turns, past those trees.” I replied.
Silence fell on the car and I realized, we are all just searching in life. Searching for that light of home, that place of belonging. Sometimes the way is rough and steep, sometimes the trees are so thick we think we may never find the way. Sometimes the giants scare us from taking the path we wanted. Other times in our journey, there are places of rest and valleys with peaceful rivers and sunny little houses to visit. Once in a while we get to stop and stand at the top of a peak with beautiful sights to bless our eyes. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees.
Thousands of years ago, there was a man. A man who was born to be a King. His journey started in very humble beginnings, a stable – not a palace. His family was much like ours and as he faced “giants” and traitors, friends and enemies- he celebrated joy and he experienced profound loneliness and grief. His journey ended at the top of a hill known as Golgotha where he was nailed to a tree, stretching up toward heaven, asking for his father’s will. He became The Way to heaven in that moment for all of us. He will provide to you that valley of rest, He can give you that sense of home, that feeling of belonging when you are traveling in the wilderness, searching for a home. Tomorrow I will celebrate Easter, the day Jesus rose from the dead to prove that He was a King. The King of Kings, Lord! My prayer for all of you is that you too, will find peace and belonging on this journey called life, by looking to a tree, that cross, that was among the trees of the forest but held the Prince of Peace.
I don’t know about you all but the “Frozen” movie craze has reached fever pitch at our house. First my daughter came home singing the song, “Let It Go”, so we bought the soundtrack. Later that week a friend offered to loan us the movie for the next four days. Marathon watching began. I think I counted 5 times in the span of those four days. My three year old now knows all the songs and she and her sister fall asleep every night to the sound track. My favorite character is Olaf the snowman and I especially like his song about summer.
I know the folks over at Disney are pretty smart but who would have known that they would choose to release a movie about being perpetually frozen in a year where all of North America has experienced such a brutal winter? Is someone over there channelling Walt and getting information we don’t have access to? It has been especially hard for us newbies to Canada. We are learning how to chop and season wood, how to run a woodstove, using electric heat without breaking the bank, dressing in three or four layers – all while remodeling a kitchen. Folks all over Canada have experienced record cold, record snowfall and record days without water due to this frozen winter.
However, there can be beauty in a “frozen” state. Look at my facebook page for Harvest Lodge on Waterhen River and you will see the early morning sun shining off the frost-covered trees. Look in the scene where Kristoff and Sven are going back in to the woods and you will see the beautiful birch trees nestled in the white snow – it’s a bare kind of beauty like the woods here in my neck of Manitoba.
All of this started me thinking: the character “Elsa” in the movie isolated herself because she felt that her “power” to freeze things was only destructive. By the end of the movie, she learned that true love can help us all realize the beauty that can also exist in this frozen state of being. Think about it, God “freezes” the nature around us in an effort to cause the growth to slow down, to take a time of solstice. Many animals hibernate during winter to grow babies or protect themselves from the cold. It’s a natural shut down created by God for the benefit of the trees and animals. What if we had this “power” to freeze, freeze time, freeze moments? Like the nights sitting in the dark rocking our newborn- smelling their hair, or that special day with our Grandma we got to spend as a child. On the flip side I can think of moments I should have frozen, like when I overreacted to a mistake a child made or had anxiety about something, that moment I spoke badly about myself or someone else.
Thankfully, God can have the power over my heart if I just ask Him. He also has the true love for me that noone else can give me and can create beauty from my harshness. He gives me the opportunity to have moments of quiet solitude and rethink my ‘frozen” possibilities. Those moments I will have to come where I can make a better choice, an opportunity to grow. Now don’t get me wrong , I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO READY FOR SUMMER! I need sunshine, I need warmth, I need green stuff growing all around me. I am ready for winter to stay away for a long time but I am trying to see the beauty in the frozen things. It’s kind of like forcing your computer to shut down when it’s not working properly. You have to “reboot” it when you turn it back on, we all need a reboot sometimes. Or maybe just a proverbial boot in the backside.