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

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

Hot Cross Buns with Currants & Orange

IMG_9470 (1)Good Fridays, for many years, were spent making dozens of hot cross buns to share with our family and friends over the Easter weekend. Ready to be delivered to homes to be enjoyed. Every year I’d tweak the recipe a bit for each batch, always starting with a basic sweet dough made with milk & butter. Sometimes too much spice sometimes not quite enough, and working towards the right combination. Always the purist, I would stick with currants as the only fruit, with the exception of some orange zest.

When I took out the recipe for this year’s I was reminded of the many years of development, by the fact that I have attached all my ideas into a stapled wad of pages. The top page is the “final” version, and the one that I’m sharing with you. These are very simple to make, and have good staying power, so if they’re made on Good Friday, they’ll last well through the Easter weekend. Continue reading

Dark Chocolate Cake

IMG_9724Chocolate cake, one of our culture’s go-to desserts for celebrations, or the cake that sits waiting for the family to come home to from a long day hike, is deservedly legendary. Moist layers of chocolaty crumb, layered and topped with creamy icing make it decadent and yet simple, while a thin sliver satisfies, a big slice is a worthy treat.IMG_9732

This is a great recipe that can be used for a three layer over-the-top fancy cake, or just a simple sheet cake to serve with a bit of ice cream and some sauce. It is incredibly versatile, and will work with many desserts that require a cake base. Continue reading

Traditional Poultry Stuffing

 

Ready for stuffing the bird.

Ready for stuffing the bird.

When I was very small, I remember watching with fascination, as Mom & Dad would put the turkey in the sink, and proceed to stuff it full of the mixture they’d cooked earlier that morning. They’d skewer it closed, stretching the skin to fit. Hefting the bird into a roaster that we never used for anything else, they would then put it in the oven. This would all happen before lunch, as it would take hours for the bird to roast. As soon as it was in the oven, Dad would drive off to go pick up Grandma to spend the holiday with us. The smell of the herb-laden stuffing would fragrantly scent the house all day.

As we grew, we took on a bit more of the holiday cooking each year, learning to simply make dinner, perhaps with a quick glance at the well-thumbed Joy of Cooking, but usually just following what Mom did, which was probably essentially the same as her mom did, and her mom before that.

Although I now buy a bag of coarse breadcrumbs, when growing up we never did. Slightly stale crusts and bits of bread would be kept until there were enough to either break apart to make a coarse crumb, or put folded into a tea towel to be rolled and crushed into fine crumbs. Today our bread trimmings tend to go to the chickens with their morning feed.

As stuffing is a bit of this and a bit of that, I needed to narrow it down to the essentials for the recipe; herbs, vegetables, a bit of fruit, egg, a bit of liquid, and sometimes the treat of oysters, and dry breadcrumb. This is essentially how I make it year after year, occasionally adding something new just to switch it up. Continue reading