Sunday, October 28, 2012

Welcome to Post-Leaf, Pre-Snowbank Season!

The last couple of mornings, Winnipeggers have woken to a bit of the white stuff on the ground. Temps are hovering around 0C/32F which also means that it is icy on streets and sidewalks. Friday morning there was a 20 car fender bender on a city overpass. Not a fun way to start the day!

It's too early for this right? Nope! Not in this prairie burg!

The season of fall started on September 22 - just over five weeks ago. Supposedly, the season is to last until December 21 when winter officially begins.

Now that time frame may actually apply in some rare lands, but here in Southern Manitoba, the season of fall doesn't follow the rules. Well to be honest, none of the seasons really do but today I'm specifically referring to fall.

Our leaves can start tuning in late August and be almost gone by the official start of fall. We can have skiffs of snow by late September or early October. We can have snow on the ground by mid October that - horror of horrors - STAYS till spring!!

It seems that every year is a bit different. Does Mother Nature flip a coin to decide when our leaves will turn colours? Then another one to see when they will all fall to the ground and a third to see when the first snowfall settles indefinitely on our land?

She may be the ruler of the seasons, but I suspect that the four seasons play some sort of cosmic weather game with her over their respective territories in order to reign supreme in her eyes. They try to sabotage each other by making it snow in June or melt in February. They send frost or a late snow to delay spring or a massive wind and frost to speed up fall.

Why can't they all get along and just let people enjoy the respective seasons rather than playing games with our environment?

I imagine that their answer would be that this keeps things interesting for them and supposedly for us! Heaven forbid the meteorologists actually figure out all of their tricks and be bang on with the forecast every time! What would be the fun in that?

Well, I for one could use a little boring when it comes to the weather of the four seasons. I don't mind a little tweaking to cool things down in the heat of summer or to warm things up a smidge in a bitterly cold winter. What I don't like is the teasing that goes on in spring and fall.

This year, our leaves were still relatively green the day before Fall started, Within a week or so, they had pretty much all turned colour. Only a few days later, the winds kicked in and the beautiful colours began to fall to the ground. We here in The 'Peg got a skiff of snow that melted within the day. Southeastern Manitoba got a nasty snowstorm that knocked out power to thousands. Some were in the dark for several days over the Thanksgiving weekend on October 8.
Yup, the true beauty of fall is fleeting. I'm glad I got out for my walk in the leaves when I did. Had I waited a few more days, I'd have been looking at barren branches and walking on soggy leaves.

We needed the rain but I really wish the multicoloured leaves had hung on the trees more than a few days. Now, the branches just look so empty and forlorn. Most of the birds flocked south weeks ago. Even some of the human variety of snowbirds have headed for southern climes already. They are getting out while the getting's good!

The prairie landscape is looking cold and bleak. The days are growing ever shorter. The lovers of warmer weather are complaining how cold it is. Cleaning up the leaves and gardens is either done or being left to mulch for spring. The winter snow lovers are chomping at the bit to get out for their winter activities.

It's the time of year when you really don't know how to dress. Okay, that happens several times a year in these parts, but this post is about fall. It is still a bit too warm to be pulling out the long-johns, winter coats and scarves. But, you need more than a light jacket and a hoodie. Under-dress and you'll catch one heck of a nasty cold. Overdress and you sweat like crazy then catch a chill when you strip down and head out again. It is a delicate balancing act that can easily go either way.

Even the hint of precipitation can mean snow if the conditions are right. The question is - will this be the snow that stays? As much as I dislike how the snow and inevitable ice patches limits my mobility, there really is a freshening beauty to the white stuff - in moderation of course! Let's not overdo the snow love here - especially only five weeks into fall!

If I had my way, fall - and all of its leafy beauty would truly last more than a couple weeks! It would last a good two months or more! The snow can jolly well wait it's turn in the winter season.

Heck, if it were REALLY up to me, it wouldn't snow till Christmas Eve and then it would melt on January 2!!

Alas, Mother Nature and her four feuding sibling seasons don't give a fig what I or anyone else wants. They remind us of this every chance they get.

I know there is no real point in lamenting the all too short beauty of fall but sometimes it just feels good to blow off a little steam and vent about the things we can't change. 

Mother Nature, I'm sorry if I have offended you or ticked you off. It is nothing personal - I swear!

Oh, one more thing - can you please hold off on any more of the white stuff for just a little longer? I haven't gotten all my winter supplies in my pantry yet. I'm not quite ready to hunker down for hibernation.

Yeah, I know - we'll get the snow when you decide we get the snow. Oh well, never hurts to ask!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

PB Apple Chippers

Last fall, I came across a recipe for “Apple Peanut ButterCookies” on the Taste Of Home site. It sounded interesting and had gotten some good reviews. Since I love Peanut Butter and Apples, I thought I would give this recipe a try - with a few of my own adjustments of course!

The original baking temp was 375F but I found that a bit too hot and the cookies were over-baked around the edges so I reduced the temp to 350F which resulted in a much more even bake. I altered the proportions of shortening and Peanut Butter from 50/50 to 25/75. Rather than using all purpose flour entirely, I did a 50/50 split of all purpose and whole wheat. I reduced the cinnamon slightly as I am not a huge fan of cinnamon and didn't want it to overwhelm the other flavours. I upped the quantity of grated apple. And of course I added chocolate chips!

After all. what could be more tempting than a combo of Peanut Butter, Apple and Chocolate!?!

The result was a soft, flavourful cookie that is perfect to serve anytime with a nice cold glass of milk or a mug of hot chocolate!

PB Apple Chippers

1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cup grated peeled apple, firmly packed (3 medium, peeled cored and grated)
1 cup crushed peanuts
2 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream the shortening, peanut butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in apple, peanuts and chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Do not over-bake! Cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks. Makes about 9 dozen.