November 13, 2007

Graham Crackers

I've been on the lookout for some good cracker recipes for years. My kids love snacking on crackers of all kinds, but the cost of supplying two good eaters with organic, unrefined munchies isn't cheap, so I've been keen to make them myself. I got lucky several weeks ago when I scored a copy of The Fannie Farmer Baking Book at a second hand store, and lo and behold, it has several recipes for crackers. The most exciting discovery (for me anyway) was the recipe for homemade graham crackers.

That typical graham cracker flavor comes from a combination of graham flour and honey. I don't usually have graham flour on hand, but I found some at a nearby bulk food store without too much trouble. It's similar in appearance to regular whole wheat flour, but with larger pieces of bran.

Click to enlarge image
I followed the recipe exactly (see above photo), but found it unnecessary to flip the crackers halfway through baking. I did the first time, but didn't like the way they browned on top. The texture didn't seem to suffer for baking on only one side.

The one thing I did learn was that it's very important to roll them to the right thickness. I had a few in the middle that were just a bit too thick, and they came out of the oven lacking that cracker crispness.

I'm happy to report that they taste just like graham crackers (who'd a thunk?!)! Most of them were gobbled up within the first day, but we've got a few left almost a week later and they still taste good. The true test will be whether I can use them for pie crusts (or s'mores!).
I can't wait to try the cinnamon version, and I can only hope her savory cracker recipes are as good.

November 04, 2007

Sight Seeing at Home

If you're like me, you don't often get around to taking in the "touristy" sights in your own hometown, thinking you'll get around to it when you're less busy, when there are fewer actual tourists, or when the weather cooperates. Stupidly, that's how I felt about things like the 1000 year old cedar tree that lived in Stanley Park. It had been there for 1000 years already, surely it would wait around a bit longer until I got my act together and finally went to take in this awesome sight. Sadly, sometimes it's a mistake to wait.

This tree was reportedly the oldest of its kind in North America, (standing 131 feet tall, and 42 feet around at its base), and it even managed to withstand the wind storms of last winter that destroyed so much of Stanley Park. Unfortunately, the root system and interior of the tree had become so rotten in recent years that it was unable to support its hulking size any longer, and it crashed to the forest floor last month.

We may have come too late, but it was still an impressive sight, even laying down. It was nice to see that we weren't the only ones who were moved by its longevity - there was a steady stream of people who came to pay their respects to this fallen giant.

The above photo is taken from the mound where its trunk stood for so long. You can see how huge it still is in relation to the people standing beside it - the two halves of the tree were pushed to either side of the trail to allow passage through. The majority of the tree extends off into the distance and out of sight.

We had fun imagining all of the historical events that this tree would have "seen" or lived through in its lifetime. It seems fitting that it will be left to decompose in this place and enrich the ecosystem that it oversaw for so many years.

Since we were doing the touristy thing anyway, we stopped and visited the famous hollow tree that we've driven by for years without ever stopping to take a look. Now we've got our very own copy of the requisite Stanley park photo.

Those of you who have been reading for awhile will probably remember the devastating storms that we had last winter and the toll it took on Stanley Park. I posted some photos of the north east side of the park last year shortly after the storms, but I've never shown you the worst of it. The first time I drove through this side of the park I was reduced to tears (granted, I am a bit of a sap) - it looks like someone took a huge weed-wacker to the north west side of the park. These two photos were taken from the road - this time last year you would never have known that there was water on the other side of those trees.

We were lucky enough to bump into the park warden who lives in the park directly across the street from where this photo was taken. She and her family were there for each of the major wind storms, and they had to leave their cottage and spend the night in the middle of an open field each time to avoid being flattened. Their house didn't end up getting hit thankfully, but she said that sitting out there in the driving rain with the sound of the forest smashing down around them was one of the scariest things she's ever been through.

It's devastating to think that the park will never be the same within my lifetime or even within my kids' lifetimes, but I'm glad that we spent enough time there in previous years to remember it as it was.


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