Travel: Fruits, Wines, and a Weekend Half

Two years ago this past weekend the world was a very different place.

The world was different enough that we had no issues hopping into the car, driving for nearly ten hours straight, and wending our way across the prairies, over the rocky mountain passes, and into the verdant Okanagan Valley in nearby British Columbia.

for whatever one photo is worth:

The official travel excuse was that I had signed up for an October half marathon in Kelowna. Yet my wife has a healthy collection of extended family who have located to the micro-climate over the past ten years and we were due for a visit.

As much as Canada sometimes deserves its reputation as a vast semi-arctic wasteland, even the locale in a radius hundreds of kilometers from where I sit writing this (which is frozen and snow-covered for half the year), there are places in this vast and diverse country which are fertile and lush.

One of those less-often-frozen zones is the Okanagan Valley, a longitudinally positioned string of deep lakes tucked between the high peaks of the continental divide rocky mountains to the east and the lusher coastal mountains nearer to Vancouver to the west.

The weather-stabilizing effects of this location and the nearby water features means that a climate zone amenable to ample fruit tree orchards and sprawling vineyards exists and makes the region both desirable as a home for hundreds of thousands and a tourist destination for multiples more.

I would move there in a heartbeat given the right opportunity, but two years ago we merely wedged ourselves into the tourist category.

Two days in the area was barely enough to get a taste of everything, though.

On Saturday we visited the local famer’s market in the morning, ate lunch on the pier, collected my race package in the park, wandered through a corn maze on a hobby farm, and visited a wine tasting at a vineyard (pictured) along the road to the house where we had set up camp.

On Sunday I toured a twenty-one point one kilometer stretch of waterfront and urban streetways on foot and recorded one of my better half marathon times in the perfect autumn weather, before slipping back to shower, change and pack the car for the push back across the mountains and home.

Our intention was to make it an annual trip.

A run.

A visit.

Good food.

Fresh fruit and great wine.

Somehow though, the last two years has made the world a very different place and, like so many others around that world, even nearby adventures have fallen to the bottom of our possibilities list.

Recipe: Classy Cordon Bleu

The recipe has a different name in our collection, but as the kid pointed out half way through her portion last night “this is basically just fancy cordon bleu, right?”

She pronounced it with an impeccable French tongue, too. I guess ten years of French Immersion school has finally paid off.

But she’s not wrong.

Or, at least, not too far from correct.

Anyone familiar with the already-kinda-fancy dish cordon bleu knows that a bit of chicken breast is rolled or stuffed with some ham and swiss cheese, spiced, breaded and baked. It’s a tasty bit of chicken dish with a surprise, creamy filling.

This slightly upscale alternative (which we poached from some long forgotten YouTube cooking channels) is a bit of chicken rolled or stuffed with some fancy ham (prosciutto) and some fancy cheese (we used some boursin herb and garlic), spiced, skipped the breading, and baked.

Our classy version hits the same notes as the original: savoury chicken, a warm creamy inside, but adds some unique notes that bring it up to an elevated, but still cook-at-home, quality.

Plus I get to use my big Staub braiser.

the recipe

4 slices butterflied chicken breast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons soft herb cheese
8 slices prosciutto
4 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes
8 pieces fresh basil
2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken broth

After combining the salt, pepper and paprika into a rub for the chicken breasts, coat with the seasoning and lay out on a surface. The chicken is “stuffed” with a layer of each of the soft cheese, prosciutto, sun dried tomatoes and fresh basil, rolling it into a tight coil and holding together with a skewer or toothpick.

In a large cast iron braiser (or using a frying pan and a baking dish) fry the rolls about a minute per side in a bit of oil, then pour the mixture of the lemon juice and chicken broth into the braiser (or baking dish with the chicken) and bake for about 15 minutes at 425F, turning once.

Holy Molar! (Part Two)

Life happens.

It being Sunday, I went for a run this morning. A Sunday run is not that unusual, you say … well, except for the fact that I’ve been barely conscious for the better part of a week and a half.

The nine klick run through the near-freezing suburban trail system was a mix of joyous relief and pounding pain.

Relief, because after ten days in a perscription-induced fog of pain and sleep and blurry half-aware hum, it was wonderful to be back out on the streets feeling the air and the asphalt and the buzz of adrenaline.

Pain, because my tooth felt every jolting footstep like an earthquake aftershock, and oh right we had one of those a few days ago, too. The teeth are unforgiving bellwethers of health and prosperity, it seems.

I try to keep things light and upbeat on this blog as much as I can, but given that a tooth infection that left me all but bedridden for more than a week also found me AWOL from writing the same, I figure I owe a small explanation.

I recall, but you may not that about six months ago I lost a filling.

I had it repaired, took some antibiotics, and went along my merry way.

Or so I thought.

The thing about lost fillings, tho, the thing that doesn’t get mentioned (or if it did didn’t get heard or understood because there was a lot of background noise, everyone was wearing pandemic masks, and my face had just undergone two hours of emergency dental work back in March) is that infections are a real possibility and a big ol’problem.

They creep up on you.

You are busy minding your own business, planning your running training schedule, looking forward to some new snow, and pushing through work hectics. Then the pain starts, at first as a mild headache, then later as a throbbing migraine-like mist over your brain, and then ultimately as electric shocks running up the side of your face that hurt like so much angry bacteria ravenously feeding on the nerves of your molar … until your wife needs to drive you to an emergency dental appointment in the middle of the morning where they do x-rays and give you stack of prescriptions an inch thick and send you along your way with a fresh appointment for an upcoming root canal.

I’ve been popping a cocktail of drugs to kill the infection, sooth the pain, and reduce the swelling, and it has left me tired and numb and so much disinterested in finding interesting things to write about here. So I didn’t. Sorry.

Did I mention that life happens?

Well, life happens.

And yet somehow I woke up this morning feeling almost … almost … back to normal, a few days prior to that root canal appointment later this week, and decided I could probably handle some time on the trails.

It turns out I was right.

I just wish sometimes these lessons came a little less painfully.

Sky Light, Sky Bright

A few nights ago (back when I was still wallowing in the afterglow of a turkey dinner and mentally preoccupied by an upcoming puppy surgery) I was laying in bed, reading, when my phone buzzed on my nightstand.

“Northern lights are aglow tonight if any of you are still up.” One of my running crew posted on the group chat.

I rushed to the backyard and did not see this.

Instead, I saw the wisps of some green light over the tops of the trees in my backyard and the roofs of the houses that back onto ours. Hints. Not actually anything worth remarking upon.

I was already settled, garbed in my pajamas, and tired … so I went back to bed.

When I woke up the next morning another running friend had shared the included photo on the group chat. He lives a few blocks away from me, but apparently has a much better northern view.

I was in the backyard tonight again for a few minutes, looking upwards and hoping that the northern lights might make a reappearance. All the night sky had to offer me though was a few bright constellations. Cassiopeia. Ursa Major.

But no more northern lights.

Alas, earlier this week the solar winds crashing against the atmosphere offered us a one night show … and I missed it.