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

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

Basic Freezer Cookies (Blueberry & Pumpkin Seed Version)

IMG_5367These are excellent cookies to have on hand in your freezer.  They are easy to make, and quick to bake.  We used to make them every Christmas with nuts and cherries, and there is something so wonderful about their simplicity.  So often during the holidays we work to create little masterpieces, so it is lovely to be able to whip up something so good, so easily!  Actually, you could make them today, and bake them Christmas Eve! No muss, no fuss.

For this version, I’ve used dried blueberries, raw pumpkin seeds, and ground flax.  Five other versions follow the recipe.  But this is the type of cookie that does well with experitmentation, so let your creative juices flow! Continue reading