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

Glazed Harissa Spiced Pork Ribs with Roasted Oranges

IMG_7642Our community is often on the look out for great fund-raising ideas for our little island for different social assistance programs, the school, and maintaining & improving our community hall. The essentials are that it be interesting enough to attract at least 30% of our population, be something that we can pull off with the expertise we have at hand, and an event that makes the most money possible given the first two requirements.

One year we decided to do a walk-a-thon to raise funds. We don’t have a circuitous route on Thetis, so we had boats move us from one road end point to another. Already we had a built in infrastructure consideration that made the walk more interesting! The walk was planned for a Saturday morning, so some of us realized that most people would already be here the night before, so why not feed them?

I led the group, and we served big servings of lasagne and Caesar salad. This was the event that I created my Roasted Vegetable Lasagne for. We sold 80 tickets for $15 within the first three days, and as there were only 350 residents on the island that was pretty good!

Then my head started tumbling over ideas… If we already had a captive audience, how about doing some sort of auction?

Our house is full of art. We have many pieces waiting to get hung if another piece gets moved. What if others are in the same boat? What if some of that art isn’t ever going to get hung? What if we had an auction where folks could put the art up for auction whether it’s a print or an original; acquired or created by themselves? What about artisans? Before I knew it, the idea had created itself!

By the time of the event, we had a beautiful quilt, original sketches, acrylics, funny little thrift shop finds, and some amazing current and antique prints offered for sale.

I can’t remember how much money we made that night, but I do remember the quilt being sold for $1,500. Many people took home new art, as well as selling one of their own pieces.

The weekend was a huge success, and although we didn’t offer the art auction again the next year, the walk-a-thon continued on for several years raising money for our little one room schoolhouse.

A decade or so later, in 2011, the community dusted off the idea of an art auction. Instead of being a last minute idea, we would take the time to figure out logistics, and try to make it a “huge” event. This year will be our 4th in a row, and each year has done substantially better than the past.

The main draw, besides an awesome evening out, is the dinner. We have decided to go with a Moroccan inspired meal this year, so from an appetizer tent to the main meal served on linen clad tables on the tennis court, every item draws from the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

I spent most of a day figuring out this recipe for this year’s event. Braising the ribs in harissa spiced orange juice, and incorporating roasted oranges to the final glaze, which elevated a basic rib recipe into something exotic. The ribs can be glazed either on the barbeque (as we’ll be doing for the event) or simply glazed in the oven, as I’ve done with them here. Continue reading

Orange & Ginger Compote

IMG_2854Tapioca, rice pudding, bread pudding, & custard are some of the most loved comfort-food desserts.  Easy to make, not super sweet, and good for you at the same time. To serve any of these desserts for a special occasion add a spoonful of this compote to add some colour and a bit of zing without overwhelming the gentle quality of the dessert.  It would probably work well on a bowl of rich vanilla ice cream as well. Continue reading

Cranberry Orange Loaf


Funny how one thing reminds you of another?  We grew up in a big rambling house in the west side of Vancouver.  It was a time of parents putting work-horses across the road so the kids could play hockey, Hallowe’en would be the scent of smoky piles of raked up maple leaves, and all the neighbours would bring their fireworks to our front yard.  We had the dentist that always gave us each a toothbrush, the grumpy old man that no one would go to his door, and a woman who made decorated cookies for us that were barely palatable (thank goodness for our Newfoundland, Tasha).  Our Dad worked in the food import business, mainly food from China.  We were always excited to see just what he’d found to pass out to the Trick or Treaters.  The best were the orange flavoured jelly slices that were wrapped in a Goldfish printed wrapper, with a long flowing tail and a shiny orange ribbon.

This recipe is from Elva Thorpe, a dear lady who lived kitty-corner to us across the lane.  That’s how we used to talk!  I hope people still do.  She was old enough to be our grandmother, and made wonderful apple muffins and this loaf.  I still have Mom’s hand-written recipe cards from then.  I’ve used other recipes, but still come back to Mrs. Thorpe’s, it’s either because it’s the best one, or it always triggers memories of a wonderful childhood. Continue reading