Auntie Paul’s Rum Balls

img_6128We grew up in a large house built in the early years of the 20th century. It stood on the corner lot, anchoring our neighbourhood. There seemed to be kids in every second house, parents with good friendships built during their time there, and we were all well known to each other. We’d play Kick-the-Can through the summer evenings using a four-block area, and we’d make wild sled courses in the wonderful occasions of snow, down through 35th Avenue.

Through these years the Scotens, our neighbours from two doors down, would come over for lunch on Christmas day. I’m sure all of us children had been up for hours by this point in the day. Between their family of 8 and ours of 6, it made for a house full, slightly chaotic with a large dog thrown in for measure. Lunch was made up of simple sandwiches and treats. And every year, Mrs. Scoten, known much more familiarly as Auntie Paul (Pauline), would bring Cheesy Pleasies, and Rumballs; one extremely savory, and the other sweet. For us the Rumballs were probably our first taste of alcohol, and feeling very grown up, we’d savor them. Their rich chocolatiness filled with cherries and nuts was very much our Christmas treat. When I’d moved away from home, and was going to do my own family Christmas, I remember writing to Auntie Paul and asking for the recipe. She passed away this year, well into her nineties; I know she’d be so pleased to have me share her recipe.

As you’ll see this is a very simple recipe with broad measurements for several of the ingredients. I usually use all the smaller amounts listed, but have been know to fill them chock full of cherries and nuts on occasion, and you’ll need the larger amount of sour cream to help bind them together if you decide to go this route. Continue reading

Cranberry Doodle Bars

img_3006October has been a very wet month, many days with dark skies and rain slashing the windows. Even though we still need to work outside on the farm for a part of each and every day, these days also give us the enjoyment of cocooning in our home. Getting caught up on all the inside jobs that get left by the wayside as we enjoyed the long summer. Being inside more often, gives me more time to bake and experiment.

Cranberries are one of my favourite add-ins, they are so tart and fresh, and work well in sweets and savories.   Here I’ve mixed them into a version of Snicker-doodle cookie base, creating a perfect bar to have as you finish the last chapter of the book you’ve been reading, while the fire crackles in the wood-stove. Continue reading

Pumpkin Loaf with Cranberries & Ginger

img_3183It’s the first weekend in October, raining outside, and I’ve set the thermostat for the upcoming colder weather. There’s something great about turning off the furnace in April, and equally great about turning it back on in the fall. October on Thetis usually gives us an evenly mixed bag of warm & sunny days and cool & rainy days. Giving us time to say good-bye to summer, and start to appreciate and accept the upcoming winter.

The trees are laden with apples and pears, which desperately need to be picked before the raccoons settle in to eat them all. The oak leaves are starting to show their bold reds, with the maples just starting to have golden crowns.   I love this time year, it inspires me to get back in the kitchen to create some new things, and test out some simmering ideas I have. Here’s this week’s offering, a very light pumpkin loaf, studded with bright cranberries and pungent ginger. Drizzled with a vanilla-cinnamon glaze, it slices beautifully, and is perfect for snacking. Enjoy it as you feel the autumn settle in around you, like a well-loved blanket. Continue reading

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

IMG_2535As we near the end of August, and berries are still in full supply, I thought I’d finally post my often-used recipe for Blueberry Breakfast Cake, ready for your Labour Day summer wrap up events. Make now and freeze, it can thaw on your way camping, or overnight ready for the last guests of summer. Of course, you can just make it and eat it, like we most often do.

Sometime a few decades ago I started making Bundt cakes. I never really understood the appeal until this cake. It started with making a simple lemon blueberry cake with a streusel mix going in the pan first, so when it was removed from the pan there would be a crispy topping built in. But never being one to leave good enough alone, I thought the streusel could simply go in the middle, making the cake come clean from the pan, not leaving chunks of streusel littering the counter. Having it in the middle gives the cake a wonderfully buttery crunch in the center of each slice.

I can honestly say that I’ve made hundreds of these cakes. Over the years it became my most asked for item in mixed baking for breakfasts & brunches. It’s perfect for adding to lunches for work or school, so timely that I should think to post this today, as there are only a couple of weeks left until school starts. Continue reading

Coconut Chai Cake

IMG_2094When we were very young, our parents would take us exploring in our cabin cruiser, “The Hurricane” up through Howe Sound, and further up along the Sunshine Coast towards Texada Island. While I never remember staying overnight on the boat, we did do some very long day trips. We’d sit in a line along the bench at the stern of the boat, with lifejackets rubbing our chins, while the sun and wind toasted us. Dad would sit on a high seat, steering, sometimes allowing one of us to help him. There was a small cabin, with counters, a table & bench seating. It most likely converted into a bed if needed. Mom would have packed our very reliable picnic basket with egg sandwiches, some sort of cake, and cookies, and lemonade. At some point, tins of Shasta sodas usurped the bottles of lemonade.

We’d spend all day doing long runs out in the sea, or poking from inlet to inlet, getting off the boat to explore. Needing to swim into shore, or be lifted by Dad.

On a recent road trip up to Bowser, and lots of tucking into the beach all along the way, north of Parksville, we stood on the beach and looked all the way from just south of Baynes Sound towards Vancouver. With the calm waters, and the hint of summer in the air, I was transplanted back to that bench at the stern of the boat, feeling the sense of adventure we always felt when leaving the dock, and very much felt the presence of our parents. Those wonderful boat trips, although early in our lives, imprinted the need to be near the ocean in all of us.

This is a delightful snacking cake that would be perfect for a day on a boat, or a picnic. Originally from BBC Good Food, I have tweaked it a bit, a delicious idea to put the wonderful flavours of Chai into a cake. Enjoy! Continue reading