Wednesday, January 15, 2014

all this running around

I've mentioned, maybe, that I'm not terribly sad and disappointed that last year's fall and cracked tibial plateau mean I can't take up running or jogging? Even when I was young and lean (ie pre-puberty) and active, I never enjoyed thudding around the track, with a stitch in my side and my head hot and thumping in rhythm. A sprint was okay, and it turned out to everyone's surprise that I could do hurdles if I was allowed one practice run up to them first. But long runs? Nope. I have no endurance.
My history and issues around team sports and group exertion are something for another post entirely.
Still, this spring and summer I ended up being around a lot of runners, to the point of helping to marshal a race, the closest I'm likely to come to the perfect summer job of my childhood dreams, which was holding the STOP and SLOW signs on BC highway construction. (Travelling each summer as we did, I got to see a lot of well-tanned young women in reflective vests, helmets and workboots, wielding their two-sided signs and waving cars and trucks onwards or holding them back. Young females with power, tans, and kickass boots! Probably getting paid union wages!)
This wasn't me myself running, of course. This was me being a supportive spouse to the actual running person in a series of 5k, 10k, and half-marathons across the Island, each one organised by a local running club.
I won't try linking to the website for the series, which was minimal and mostly useless, but the races themselves were well organised, though with a certain bias towards those who had come before and knew where things were.
The courses varied considerably in flatness and scenery, and were probably more interesting to run than to watch. Standing 1k from the start/end point of the last race, I got to see everyone run by in a fairly tight bunch, then straggle back in ones and twos.
I also got to see keeners run to the end, then trot back for 1k or so, so that they could cool down. Yikes.

I've sort of understood why my husband likes running. It's not a team sport, and it's mostly competing with yourself and your own endurance and speed. If it isn't around a track, there might even be pleasant scenery.
I hadn't previously encountered the community and support system around local running events, but it turned out to be a pretty good place to hang around. People made a point of staying at the finish line to cheer even the very last runner/walker who staggered in. For the shorter races, the finish line crowd would shout encouragingly "Sprint! Sprint!" and cheer by name.
After each race there was an assembly recognising the best runners in each age/gender category (the first ten in each, I think, which means that at 70 and older, you're pretty much guaranteed a ribbon for completing the course).  Plus the various sponsors gave out prizes, including shoes, watches, gift cards and the inevitable t-shirts.  My volunteering session of making sandwiches and slicing fruit, then marshalling, earned me a water bottle with the 'island road racers' logo, sitting beside me at the computer now, reminding me to hydrate.

It's probably a good thing I'm not allowed to run, or all this sports-related niceness might tempt me to  lose more  potential writing time in pursuit of speed as well as strength. Better to stand on the sidelines and shout "Sprint! Sprint!"

Sunday, January 5, 2014

January ice cream

It's a new year, I've had my birthday, and maybe I should prove that I haven't actually abandoned this blog? So, how about a recipe, though not a particularly seasonal one, given the heavy frost and heaved ground here, alternating with grey clouds and sleety rain.
Last summer I found a Donvier ice-cream maker on, where I have also found lots of fitness equipment, bookshelves, and other useful things. It came with a nice little recipe book, and soon I was using up frozen blackberries and blueberries from the summer before, squeezing oranges and limes, and generally filling up the freezer.
I'd made buttermilk scones, and had buttermilk left over (which I can't drink, because of the texture). Hmm, wouldn't buttermilk and butterscotch go nicely together, I thought. I bet the slight acidity of the buttermilk would balance the sweetness of the butterscotch. Let's fire up the internet and find a recipe.

Some Time Later....

I have found buttermilk ice cream recipes.
I have found butterscotch ice cream recipes.
I have found buttermilk-butterscotch sauce for ice cream.
I have found not one recipe for buttermilk-butterscotch ice cream.

Why? Would it actually taste really bad? I can't believe that. I decided to be a pioneer and make the experiment.
So, examine several buttermilk ice cream recipes, then several butterscotch ice cream recipes. Figure out which were the necessary steps, and combine them. Ice cream, fortunately, is a pretty forgiving medium. Eggs, no eggs, cream, milk, or yogurt, fruit puree, juice or whole, you generally end up with something people will eat straight out of the ice cream maker as soon as it solidifies.

This is what I came up with:
In a medium saucepan, put
1 cup brown sugar (demerara might be good too)
2 tbsp butter (real butter here, not margarine).
Simmer until the brown sugar is melted and bubbling - stir occasionally. (This is the butterscotch part.)
In the meantime, in a mixing bowl, whisk
3 egg yolks (you can use more, but I'm stingy with eggs)
1/4 cup brown sugar.
Add slowly to the saucepan
1/2 cup cream (or light cream or milk)
1 tsp vanilla (or more if you like vanilla a lot).
Stir and continue heating until any little crunchy bits of brown sugar have melted back in (though they might be nice little crunches in the ice cream, so it's up to you).
Take 2 cups buttermilk,
Pour 1/2 cup into the mixing bowl and whisk up.
Pour remainder, a little at a time, into the saucepan and mix well.
(You can try putting all the buttermilk into the saucepan instead - I wanted to dilute the yolks and avoid them cooking into lumps in the next step.)
Slowly pour the saucepan contents into the mixing bowl, whisking as you go. If you put all the buttermilk into the saucepan, apparently it helps if you pour the hot mixture along the sides of the mixing bowl rather than right into the middle. I haven't tried it.)
When it's all mixed up nicely, you can either take it straight to the fridge, or pour the lot back into the saucepan and cook it down further. I've done both, and the only difference I noticed was a darkening of the colour (but I did not do a scientific taste comparison).
Cool overnight in the fridge, covered.
Put mix into your ice cream maker and proceed as directed by your instruction manual.

And I was right. The tangy buttermilk balances the sweet toasty butterscotch very nicely. It is particularly good with a hot apple crumble. Or an apple-quince crumble as below.