Lemon Poppyseed Cake

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This was one of my favourite dessert treats growing up. That little bit on the top of the cake where it cracks when baking? That’s the tastiest part. I don’t make it very often now, as P doesn’t like poppyseeds. I know, I don’t understand it either. What isn’t to like? They don’t even taste like anything!

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The recipe is a clipping from an old magazine, and a few years ago when I was visiting, mum copied it for me with her colour printer. I took it home and added it to my recipe scrapbook.

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Here’s a close-up of the clipping if you’re a lemon-poppyseed lover like me. I’ve never done that last step of sprinkling with sugar before serving – the best part about this cake is that it is perfectly sweet, without going too far. I buy Starbucks’ lemon poppyseed loaf sometimes, and it is tasty, but much too sweet compared to this cake.

Here and There

Where I grew up and where I live now are very different places. The flight is only an hour and a few minutes, although the drive is about 14 hours + ferry. As you fly you get to see some very different views in such a short time frame:

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Islands and ocean.

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Islands and ocean and clouds.

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Amazing mountains, I could have taken hundreds of pictures of all the different mountains.

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And, here. Flat, with the mountains off in the west. At least in this photo it looks flat and green, instead of flat and brown.

Saltspring Island – The Home In My Heart

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While out in BC with my parents, I made sure that we took the time to go to Saltspring Island to check out the Saturday Market. My parents live on Vancouver Island, which is to the west of the Gulf Islands. The Gulf Islands (to which Saltspring belongs) are between Vancouver Island and the mainland. Saltspring is famous for hippies, a laid-back way of life, and artists. I’ve only ever had a great time on that island, and whenever anyone asks me that ‘what would you do with $Xmillion lottery winnings?’ my immediate answer is: buy my dream home on Saltspring with artist’s studio, grow all my own food, and raise goats and sheep.

A testament to the lovely quirkiness of the island: All businesses on Saltspring accept the Canadian dollar, they also accept the Saltspring dollar (the exchange rate, for the curious, is 1=1). We saw a man walking a sheep on a leash when we first got to the market, later we saw a different man walking a goat on a leash. We smelt a few whiffs of not-cigarette smoke. We saw booths with gluten-free treats, booths with raw treats, booths with vegan treats, booths with sprouted treats, booths with raw-vegan-sprouted-gluten-free treats, and (my favourite) booths with real-butter-real-everything treats.

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The Saturday Market brings all sorts of people to the island to browse. There is tons of amazing food, plants, clothing, jewelery, accessories, just about everything, and all of it handmade. Treats from the French bakery booth above were delicious, and he was almost sold out a few hours later!

I might live at the epicentre of Canada’s cowboy culture, in the land of Hummers and oil rigs and energy companies (Americans, if you need an example, think Texas) but I am a BC girl at heart. And even though I’ve only visited, Saltspring feels like me. (Americans, think… I’m not sure where your equivalent is. I’d say Berkley, but Berkley is much too big and populated. Somewhere with a commune atmosphere, but none of the creepy bits.)

My whole trip I reveled in seeing and smelling the ocean and its creatures, so when we walked by the Fresh Silver booth, and I saw the sea-life inspired jewelery, I had to stop and look. He does amazing cast (or carved?) silver rings, pendants, everything, and a lot of it is wildlife inspired. When I saw the tidepool pendant, I knew it had to come home with me.

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Tidepools are the pools of water left behind when the tide goes out. There is all sorts of amazing marine life in them, and the home I grew up in (not on Saltspring, but a similar community) was on the water, so dad and I did a lot of tidepool exploring. The purple starfish were ubiquitous in ‘our’ tidepools, so how perfect is the purple gem in the centre of that starfish?

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And of course, there were always crabs in the tidepools – if you look inside the pendant from another angle, you see the crab! The detail in this work is amazing, it’s all one piece, with the amazing seaweed-y outside, and then the little lifeforms inside it. Just like a tidepool, you see different things when you look at different angles. The pendant is also the perfect weight and shape to hold in the palm of my hand and think of the ocean.

One of Tony’s lines as he was selling his wares was ‘Try it on, get attached!’. I was smitten as soon as I saw this piece. I thought (and after a few days back here, I know I was right) that having a little piece of the West Coast around my neck would be a wonderful thing to have.

Something else that I’m going to keep with me from that trip is the sage advice I learned from the greatest of masters – the bumper sticker on the truck beside us in the ferry lineup back to Vancouver Island:

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Relax, this ain’t the mainland.

My new personal motto, here where the mountain meets the prairie and I’m 900km+ from any ocean.

Is there somewhere for you like Saltspring is for me? Somewhere you’ve never lived, but aspire to because it embodies everything you want in life?

BC trip

I just got back from a bit of a last-minute trip to visit my parents out in BC. It ended up being a lot of fun, and I saw a lot of wildlife! Including these guys, that are always hanging out at the marina down the street from my parents:

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That one seal just wanted to show us his belly, he floated like that most of the time we were watching them. Until he was bored with that type of upside down, and tried out this direction:

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I also saw a lot of deer, although not in my parents’ garden like usual. This year they’re fenced up like Fort Knox with deer fencing, and dad has a stick by the back door for if one manages to get in and he has to chase it. Yes, deer are cute, but they eat all the plants that they’ve worked so hard to grow, or just spent a bunch of money on at the nursery. Thus, the entire perimeter is fenced now, the hedges have a layer of black plastic fencing, and most of it is higher than my head, because deer can jump. The garden also ended up very stinky one day after dad sprayed some deer repellant around. It was definitely a repulsive smell, so I’m going to assume it will work!

There was a baby bunny in the back yard too, but he also got chased off.

Tom Jones at the Jubilee!

I was a little worried watching the news the past couple days. They were reporting about the Queen’s Jubilee concert, and all the newscasters kept going on and on about Sirs Elton John and Paul McCartney. They’re all well and good, but if you’re talking about classic British acts, shouldn’t THE Voice, THE Welshman, THE Tom Jones be there? Turns out, I needn’t have worried.

Whenever people my age, or any other age, ask why I like Tom Jones so much, I tell them I love his voice. Then I find the most recent YouTube video I can, and ask them if they think that when Britney Spears/Lady Gaga/Justin Beiber/whoever they prefer is 72 (well, 72 on Thursday) will they still be singing like he is? Could they ever sing like he does to begin with? I say no.

Cookie Dough Cupcakes – The Best of Both Worlds!

cookiedoughcupcakesfeatureI made these cookie dough cupcakes for a coworker’s birthday. I Pin/bookmark recipes and then just wait for the proper excuse to make something decadent, and it’s usually my coworkers who prosper. And me, of course, because I get to lick the spoon (and bowls, and forks…) when I’m all done baking.

Eating cookie dough is one of my favourite things about baking from scratch. I’ve always been aware that eating raw eggs is not the best thing to do, but when they’re in raw cookie dough, I don’t care. Finding this recipe with an icing and a filling that claim to taste like the real thing sounded too good to be true.

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I found this set of recipes on Pinterest via Dine & Dish. She used a vanilla cupcake recipe from Restless Chipotle, and a cookie dough icing and filling recipe from Tidy Mom. The combination sounded perfect, so I did the same thing!

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I didn’t have vanilla sugar or a vanilla bean, so I used vanilla extract and also some pure vanilla powder I have to get the double-vanilla-whammy.

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I debated about the filling because I thought it would take up too much time, but with a sharp little paring knife, you can cut cones out of the top of cupcakes quite quickly – in less than one episode of Red Dwarf!

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The recipes are for 24 cupcakes, and I needed 36, so I multiplied everything by 1.5. I had so much cookie dough filling leftover. Not that it went to waste, mind you, but we probably shouldn’t have eaten it by the spoonful. I could have just done the regular cookie dough cupcake filling recipe and been fine.

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I found the best way to fill the cupcakes was to roll a little ball of filling and then press that into the hole I had cut out of the top of the cupcake.

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I used the same big icing tip I used for my meringues last week to pipe the icing. Sidenote – this icing recipe has flour in it to get that cookie dough taste. Remember to put a sticky or a sign on the container at work, because gluten-free eaters are certain they can have the icing. A GF actor came up to me and told me they looked so good he ate the icing off of one of them…. oops.

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Safeway had the tiny chocolate chips, I was very impressed with that.

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The cupcake carrier got a good workout that week. I brought it to work full of these, another coworker brought it home when it was empty and returned it a few days later full of strawberry & cream cupcakes for yet another work birthday!

Canning Gear – Second Hand!

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If you think you want to get in to canning your own jams, jellies and salsas, or if that’s your bag already, try checking out second-hand stores! I got the entire haul above for $21. That’s 20 jars, plus a giant canning pot complete with jar lifter inside! Each jar was only $0.29 at Value Village. I’m never buying new again!

All the jars are currently running through my dishwasher, along with the ring halves of the lids.

I’ve written about canning a few times, all those posts are here.

!IMPORTANT CANNING INFO!

If you are going to buy jars second-hand, never use the flat half of the lid to can your jams. The disc part only seals once, and if you’re buying used, you don’t know what it was used for before it became yours. After it’s been opened it won’t seal properly again. If you want to keep dry goods (rice, spices, paperclips), feel free to use them, but never use them to can again. I save mine so I can store stuff in jars if I want to, but I make sure to mark all used ones with an X in Sharpie so I don’t mix them up with the fresh lids.

All I need is a pack or two of lids and I’m ready for the summer canning season! P already complains about the number of jars we have in our pantry…. he’ll thank me when they’re full of plum sauce and mango chutney though.

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There was only on of my very favourite pattern – the quilted diamonds. Any jam that goes in the few of those jars that I have stays here.

I already had a pot I use for the boiling-the-jars part of canning, but this one is huge, plus it has the lifter. My old canning pot may turn into a dye pot sometime soon, so it isn’t a waste! Not that a pot that size for $12.99 is a waste either way.

Do you can? You should!

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