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

Gâteau au Chocolat Épicé

IMG_6434I’ve always loved the exotic combination of chilies & chocolate.  The two flavours are perfect together, and have been used together for far longer than I’m sure the history books show.  Whether it’s adding a bit of cocoa to a robust chili con carne, or having a chili infused piece of chocolate, it all works for me.

I was working on a Mexican menu for an event once, and needed to finish with a cake.  Starting with a basic flourless cake recipe, I added different amounts of various spices until I finalized the recipe with this mix.  Because it is flourless, it stands well as the gluten-free dessert selection on a buffet.  It is a grown-up cake, and is good as part of a menu that requires something less sweet, that is also intriguing.

Usually I serve the cake precut into wedges, with raspberry coulis and a bowl of whipped cream alongside.   When you’re done, remember to thank the Mayans. Continue reading

Chocolate Date Cake

IMG_5149While our girls were growing up, we always had extra children in the house.  It helped that we were the closest home to the island’s one room schoolhouse.  Consequently I tried to have quick snacks that would refuel them before they’d head out to play on our farm.  Sometimes it was just a snack to eat while curled up on the couch watching a movie on a rainy Saturday.  This recipe was used many times over the years, and was a favourite of the builders who built our house.  The dates give it an honest sweetness, and the simple topping of nuts and chocolate give a crunch and richness to make the cake even better.

I’ve made this cake with regular all-purpose flour and with gluten free flour (I use Cup 4 Cup), and it is light and fluffy whichever you choose to use.  The nuts can be any type you want, or even a combination.  Do use semi-sweet chocolate chips though, as milk chocolate will be too sweet. Continue reading