My slide into the new year has been a good one. After successfully completing two family visits, I arrived home just past midnight on Christmas, threw the car keys into a drawer, and left them there until January 5th. An introvert’s dream come true.
I got straight to work on a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle of Mary Poppins floating gracefully above the London skyline. And I ate. A lot. I followed up our traditional Christmas fondue and Swiss raclette with my favorite bean stew. I made smashed avocado and eggs topped with my favorite Rio Fuego hot sauce, and my friend Kris introduced me to a new Italian sweet – potica, a simple walnut bread that blew my tastebuds several mornings in a row.
I broiled grapefruit with cardamom sugar and ate as much fresh pineapple as my unacclimated, northern mouth could possibly handle. There were black bean-poblano-mushroom enchiladas, plump artichokes dipped in lemon butter, and copious amounts of spicy caramelized peanuts. To fully celebrate citrus season, I made mini key lime tarts and polished off a case of clementines. A neighbor dropped by a loaf of homemade raisin-nut bread that made a week’s worth of remarkable toast. And I tested out my brand new “kladdkaka” pan with a Swedish chocolate sticky cake.
To compensate for this gluttony, I snowshoed. A lot. An excessive amount, really.
I should explain. Back in July, I received a seemingly benign Fitbit for my birthday. Which is really nothing more than a trumped up pedometer. And I admit, when I first heard of the Fitbit, I scoffed. Have we really become that sedentary that we need to track our steps?! What is wrong with us?! The well intentioned folks at Fitbit suggest that walking 10,000 steps a day is a reasonable, healthy fitness goal. Again, I scoffed. No problem. I’m active. Bring it on, Fitbit.
Oh how naive I was. It was a blow to discover that taking Earl for a quick morning spin, parking my car a decent distance from my office door, going up and down a flight of stairs a handful of times to use the restroom, walking across campus for lunch and maybe once or twice more for a meeting, then taking Earl for a quick evening spin yielded roughly 4,000 steps. Not even half of the recommended goal. That’s when I got serious. I am now a full-blown, self-acknowledged, Fitbit fool.
Midway though my eleven day puzzle, eat, snowshoe stint, I received a note from Fitbit congratulating me on earning my Italy badge. Which means that since owning my Fitbit, I have walked 736 miles – the entire length of Italy. Our snow came early this year, wreaking havoc on my walking route. I was in despair for a full week until my clever husband pulled our snowshoes out of the shed. I figure almost a third of my journey has has been via snowshoe. Which is a heck of a way to see Italy!
Happy 2015 friends. Here’s to many great steps…
Swedish Chocolate Sticky Cake
Until my mother – lover of all things cookware – gave me a kladdkaka pan, I’d never heard of one. But the pan came with a recipe for chocolate sticky cake tucked inside, which I think has become my new go-to brownie recipe. The edges are chewy and the interior is perfectly, well, sticky. You could easily make this in an 8-inch too – though you’d be missing out on the handsome fluted edges. (plus, “kladdkaka” is just fun to say.) It’s an intense, sweet cake that goes lovely with a shot of espresso at about two in the afternoon.
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/3 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
handful of cocoa nibs (optional)
Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, cocoa, and salt together. Mix in eggs and blend well. Stir in flour and optional cocoa nibs until just combined.
Pour batter into greased kladdkaka or 8-inch pan. Bake on the lower rack of a 350º F oven for 25-30 minutes*, until center is just set.
Let cool for 15-20 minutes. Run a knife or spatual around edges to loosen. Hold a plate in place over the pan and invert to release cake.
*This will yeild a slightly oozy cake that can be served as is, or with whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream. For a slightly firmer, more brownie-like texture, bake the cake a bit longer until the center is mostly set.