Sunday, March 1, 2015

Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring!

It's March. Does that mean spring is here?

Only a few days ago, winter storm Remus pummeled us with 8 inches of snow, creating a magical winter wonderland in the deep South. All schools in the Chattanooga area were closed on Thursday, and I was so glad Chattanooga State Community College was too, as I did not want to be driving out there. The snow accumulation atop the roofs had caused docks to collapse in several marinas in Tennessee.

We had our share of adventure at our marina. Around 10:30 pm on Wednesday, fellow boaters diagonally across from us found the end of their finger piers sinking to almost water level. Apparently, the snow had accumulated more on their side; the weight of the snow on the roof and on the docks threatened to submerge the finger piers into the river. They decided to move their boat out of their covered slip to the ship store area, on the other side of the marina. We donned our winter jackets, gloves and scarves, and hurried over to help tie them up. Come to find out, some finger piers of that dock were also partially submerged in the river! We had a community working to get the snow off the main dock with whatever tools we could find - shovels, brooms, etc. By the time we called it quits, it was almost midnight. Back on our boat, the captain also pondered whether we should move out of our covered slip, in case of a collapse. We decided to stay put, but opted to remove the satellite dish so that Mai Thai has enough clearance to move out, if push comes to shove. Never a dull moment living aboard a boat, that's for sure. Thanks to warmer temperatures the next day, the snow melted fairly quickly.
Finger pier threatening to submerge into the river
Winter wonderland in southeast Tennessee
For some people, February might already be a distant memory. For me, February will be remembered as the month spent baking (lots of cookies!) and keeping the boat warm at the same time. Au Bon Pain was my inspiration. This was the café  we used to patronize for coffee and breakfast items on the way to the office in Boston back in the 90s (before Starbucks and Panera came on the scene). The one baked goods I love from Au Bon Pain is their delicious oatmeal raisin cookies - chewy, moist yet crispy. Every time I see an oatmeal cookie recipe, I'd dogear and file it. After many tries, I settled on the oatmeal raisin recipe from Cook's Illustrated.
Fabulous oatmeal raisin cookies, recipe from Cook's Illustrated
This February, I finally got around to baking Cocolocos, the oatmeal cookie recipe with chocolate,coconut flakes and pecans, that I had dogeared in the March 1994 issue of Food and Wine magazine (did I mention I'm a pack rat?) It was so good I couldn't stop eating them! I copied the recipe into this post. Hope you like them as much as I do!

Cocolocos - oatmeal with chocolate, coconut and pecans.Yum!
Cocolocos [print recipe]
(recipe from Food and Wine magazine, March 1994)

These satisfying cookies get their crunch from pecans and their chewy texture from coconut and oats. Use the best chocolate you can buy to make the chunks.

Makes About 3 Dozen Cookies

2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ pound (1 cup) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into ½-inch pieces
1½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sweetened grated coconut (about 3 ounces)
½ cup coarsely chopped pecan (about 2 ounces)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in the chocolate, oats, coconut and pecans.

2. Spoon rounded tablespoons of the dough about 2 inches apart on a large cookie sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes until the cookies are golden. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. (The cookies can be stored for up to 1 week in an airtight container.)

Bet you're wishing spring is here too.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Hiking Raccoon Mountain with Simba

Old Man Winter is going full steam ahead, blasting the northeast with one storm after another. As if one blizzard is not enough, another one is forecast for this weekend. We feel for our friends and family up there. Stay warm and be safe, y'all!
the street outside my sister-in-law's condo in Brookline
her car in the parking lot
As I write this, it's 25 degrees F outside (feels like 15 with 10 mph wind from the ENE), so we're not faring that much better. Yes, it's COLD, but at least, there's no snow to dig out of.

It was a good thing we took advantage of the nice weather last Saturday and went hiking with our buddies and their pomeranian Simba at nearby Raccoon Mountain.
Our gang with the adorable pomeranian Simba
View of the Tennessee River
Woodpecker's artwork?
The nice sunny weather had people come out of hibernation. I've never seen so many people hiking and biking the trails at Raccoon Mountain! The visitor center was still closed, but at the Laurel Point parking lot, they have added more facilities - water fountains, benches to sit and rest, and even tools to fix your bikes (see video)! The restrooms were closed for the season, but there were porta potties in a couple of locations. Two years ago, we were awed by a buck galloping across this same parking lot. No such luck this time :-(!

Stay warm wherever you are. Happy Valentine's Day, Happy Chinese New Year (Feb 19), and if you're lucky to be in Miami this weekend, check out the biggest boat show in town!

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