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

Carrot Loaf with Ginger & Walnuts

IMG_1756With the warm spring sun these past few days I am hoping that the interminable rains of this last January & February will be gone from my memory. Those soggy months had us out in the weather far more than usual, trying to keep our magic, flying cows at home!

Long before we became the owners/custodians of our beautiful farm, there roamed a herd of about forty Belted Galloway cattle, across about 100 acres of what a half would become our farm. Around the whole of the property ran a three-strand barbed wire fence with split cedar posts. Over the years we’ve been here, almost this entire fence has been replaced with 5-strand & treated posts. Just over 2.5 km. That’s a lot of fence. We are somewhat experts. One small stretch of the original fence still stands, is still in great condition, and for some inexplicable reason the cows believe that it is as strong as a 5-strand.

One area that was a difficult place to build a fence is where the fence runs up the rocky soil to the cliff face. It is so steep, that when I stand on a deer trail my hands steady myself by putting them on the ground in front of my face. Somehow the deer zigzag up these trails with no problem. The cows are heavier and taller, so their trails stop a bit further down where the slope is not so steep. Their trails are about 6” wider than a deer trail. We have always managed this area by pulling deadfall to brace behind standing trees, and stacking up lots of dead branches, knowing that the animals could not climb up and over the piles, when climbing up a slope. We tend to it every few years, adding more to our stacked deadwood walls.

On many of those rainy days early in the year, our late afternoons were spent finding the herd of flying, magic cows, trying to figure out where they could possibly have got through the fence. Our fences are in such great state of repair after many days of fixing what could even possibly be a breach point. But still, they were getting out.  Which is when we became concerned that they’d learned how to fly.

One late afternoon, I did the usual search. While walking the fence line in the valley, I saw a tiny white face at the far end of the valley, at the far reach of our neighbors’ land. As I watched, the whole herd emerged from the distant trees, and slowly made their way towards our property. With opening wide a nearby gate, and a bucket of grain, we were able to get them back home. We locked them up in an 8-acre area, until we could at last find just where it was they’d been getting out.

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Waiting for the waters to recede.

We waited until the waters had receded somewhat from the valley bottom, and got across into the cliff bottom. Climbing up, we found that the property line that is way up the slope had been re-surveyed. Our only guess is that the surveyors had broken through our carefully piled stacks to work the line, creating an access point for the cows. We ran ropes all the way down the hillside, tied from tree to tree; at about waist height over bases of dead fir & cedar, and wove branches and reworked stacks all the way to the top.

That day was for me, the first day of spring. The sun was shining the whole day while we worked in our shirtsleeves. I was hesitant to let the cows out of their incarceration, but knew that we needed to. Spring has continued on, with the cows quietly grazing on all parts of our property, with no venturing to far off places.

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So in celebration of this newfound time (meaning not having to search fences day after day), I made a delightful carrot loaf with walnuts and candied ginger. I hope you enjoy it. It is perfect made using either all-purpose wheat, or gluten free flour. It is also dairy free, an added bonus if feeding those with dairy issues. Continue reading