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One a Penny, Two a Penny…

Did you have hot cross buns for breakfast today? I did. Do you know why we have them at Easter? I remember the rhyme from childhood, but I must admit that not having a religious upbringing I didn’t know the history of this seasonal sweet bun. As I sat munching and sipping my tea this morning I did some research, and I figured I can’t be the only one who didn’t know all the tidbits I found. So, here you go – new knowledge for your brain.

Let’s start at the beginning: Easter Sunday is the celebration at the end of Lent, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus. Lent is the period before Easter, starting on or about Ash Wednesday  (depending on your religion),  and ending just before Easter. It signifies the 40 days that Jesus wandered in the desert, and those observing Lent solemnly honour his sacrifice by many activities that seek to bring them closer to God. Fasting as Jesus did, or giving up luxuries in life is usual for the faithful during Lent; prayer, penance and repentance are also common. Hence the common expression, “giving up (something) for Lent”.

The Lenten fast of ancient times was much more broad and strict than it is today, in some places allowing only bread in one’s diet, but for most removing all animal products and allowing no meals until later in the day or the evening. Nowadays, a fast usually involves a full meal and up to two “collations” – sustenance to keep one going, but not so much as to count for a full meal. Some people do not fast but do remove meat from their diets, either for all of Lent or at least on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays and Saturdays in Lent. Lent ends either on Good Friday, or at midday on Easter Saturday, depending on your faith.

Since no animal products were allowed during Lent, sweet breads (containing milk, eggs and/or butter) would not be on the menu. Therefore, hot cross buns would be eaten at the end of Lent. They are not just a random treat, either – the cross on the top signifies the crucifixion of Jesus, and the spices represent those used to embalm him for his funeral. The first hot cross bun was apparently baked by a monk in medieval times.

The solemn nature of hot cross buns is not to be taken lightly – in 1592, Queen Elizabeth I actually forbid their sale on any day but holy days (Good Friday, Christmas, or for funerals). The punishment for selling them was to have all your product donated to the poor. James I of England did the same thing in the 1600’s; for many years you could not find a hot cross bun recipe, as the buns were only made in secret by home bakers. The first modern record of them is a written account of street sellers hawking them in the 1700’s, the source of the nursery rhyme I remember:

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny.
Hot cross buns!

If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons!
One a penny, two a penny.
Hot cross buns!

Of course, as with most things that carry such significance there are many bits of folklore attached to hot cross buns. Did you know…

  • hot cross buns are said to have healing powers? If you give one to someone who is sick, it can help make them better (perhaps this comes from sharing them with those less fortunate?)
  • hot cross buns don’t go bad? If you hang one in your kitchen on Good Friday, it will bode for good breads all year long, and keep your house safe from fire and bad spirits. (the preserved fruit would help keep the bun fresher, but I’m not sure I would keep it up for a full year.)
  • hot cross buns are full of luck? Taking one on a sea voyage will prevent a shipwreck, and it is said that friends sharing a bun will have a strong bond of friendship in the coming year. (Any hope against shipwreck was probably worth trying; as for friendships, well who wouldn’t want a pal that shared their treat?)

Although I don’t observe any traditional religion, I do certainly believe that sharing oneself with loved ones and in the community is important. I also believe that to be a good person requires thoughtfulness and focus. As such, I can understand the importance of Easter and appreciate its solemn history.

So, in honour of Easter, may you enjoy every moment. Whether you celebrate a feast day that is at the centre of your faith, or your family, or both, I wish you well this Easter weekend.

Peace be with you.

Taking a Wellness Day

You know those days when you just feel like your get up and go got up and went? Today was like that for me. 

I got up this morning early  to a dark sky.  We were out of yogurt, my best morning energy boost. Ella and I walked in the rain, muck up to our ankles and clouds around our ears. Even the tulips were on strike. 


As the day wore on, I just seemed to get colder even though I was inside. (It was supposed to be a day working on garden projects but pouring rain doesn’t make for good digging weather.) I needed to focus on my wellness, as it was suffering 

 I decided about mid-afternoon that my best chance for a pick-me-up lay in the remainder of the Chocolate Pudding Cake on the counter. I set my sights on dessert to heal my spirit. (Not the most healthy option, I’ll admit; but sometimes instant gratification offers the energy for the next step.)


Thankfully, Wednesdays have a built-in bonus for me – it’s the night I volunteer with Girl Guides. Our Sparks troop, a wonderfully rambunctious bunch of 5 and 6 year olds, is the best remedy for low energy or feeling down.  After a very bouncy Easter egg hunt, ribbon dancing and a parachute game, they all went home smiling, and just a bit more tired.  I felt much better. 

Now that I’ve had my tea and dessert, I feel prepared to tackle the world again tomorrow. I’m so thankful I got a chance to soak in some positive energy today (and a bit of chocolate). 

March Madness Leads to April Calm

We are basketball fans in this house, but I’m afraid we can’t keep up with March Madness the way we used to. We do, however, like to catch up on the final run and appreciate the mastery of the final four teams. Today we sat back and watched the recorded game between the Oregon Ducks and the North Carolina Tarheels.

We are cheering for the Ducks, with their Canadian contigent. Of course we can appreciate the other team, both of us remembering the golden age when Michael Jordan played for North Carolina.

James Naismith

Ultimately, it’s about spending an afternoon relaxing together and enjoying a great North American pastime. (I don’t have to say “American”, since it was a Canadian who invented basketball.)

Thankfully, I didn’t even have to feel bad spending a spring afternoon inside. I had already spent part of the morning selling Girl Guide cookies with some of our Sparks, and the rest of  it trimming our lilac hedge in the front yard. The weather turned ugly after that, with the wind kicking up and the clouds darkening.


So, we hunkered down with an afternoon cocktail and some pretzels with dip. (One part thick yogurt, one part sour cream, a spoonful of your favourite hot sauce and about half a part of a flavoured mustard – I used a chili garlic mustard I had in the pantry.)

The score went back and forth, and back and forth again. We debated plays and cheered great shots. We groaned when the other team broke away and took the lead.

The game clock played on. We nibbled our pretzels in anticipation, with excitement, and then in hope that our team would pull off a win.

It went down to the final seconds. North Carolina 77 – Oregon 74. North Carolina missed 3 foul shots in a row, and when the ball bounced off the back board into play, the Ducks took it down the court, They scored, for 2 points, with 5 seconds left in the game.

Unfortunately, Oregon didn’t manage to get that last point. North Carolina will play against Gonzaga on Monday night for the national championship.

But there were some fantastic plays on the court. And the pretzels and dip were really tasty. It was a wonderfully relaxing afternoon.

Get right in it!

One of the things I love about cooking is the hands-on approach. You have to touch the food, feel how it behaves as you mix it, taste it as you transform it. Cooking is a never-ending discovery of sensations.

As I was making Peanut Butter Criss Cross Cookies this afternoon it occurred to me that Spring Break started this weekend in the Okanagan. With apologies to anyone allergic to nuts, I thought what a great recipe this would be for kids to make.


Cookies are always a good thing to start with for a young cook and who doesn’t want to get their hands right in the bowl?! Squishing the dough between my hands as I made balls to be “criss-crossed” with a fork took me back to my childhood. There was a delicious sense of abandon at being able to get messy on purpose.

Okay, the secret is out – I live a double life. I love to be a girl, dressing up and being feminine and soft and delicate; I also love getting down and dirty in the kitchen and the garden. Is that bad? I don’t think so – the opposite nature of the two sides has helped me find a balance in my life, and feeling food and the earth it grows in keeps me connected to the universe.

So I suppose as much as the big kid in me just thinks kids would love messing around, I also believe it gives them roots in the world and connects them to something bigger than just us.

It’s not quite warm enough to muck in the dirt yet (although jumping in puddles is a highly underrated activity, especially with good gumboots). But at least you can get in a bowl of cookie dough and feel the inner peace that comes from creating something.

Happy Spring Break!

Flavours Galore

Who says Monday has to be humdrum? Why can’t we start the week with a bang?

I needed to shake myself out of the doldrums and so when I saw a robin this morning, I was spurred on. I grabbed a recipe I had set aside in my pile of “meals to be made soon” and set to work.

When in doubt, roast chicken is always a good go-to meal. You can do an indefinite number of things to it, and serve it with just about anything. Almost everyone loves roast chicken. Just make sure it’s cooked (160F internal temperature) and voilà!

If you are a regular reader, you know that I am an adventurous amateur cook. The recipe I am featuring tonight is full of aromatic flavours, with an exotic combination of ingredients. A number of items do not hold usual spots on many grocery store shelves, but if like me you don’t have a local specialty food store, I can recommend a place to help you out. They are often an inspiration for me, and the recipe I used tonight is from their wonderful website, with just a few adaptations.

World Spice Merchants in Seattle is a treasure trove full of spices, herbs, blends and teas from around the world. The staff in the store is knowledgeable and the website is a virtual encyclopedia of information on spices and their uses. Even if you have no need to shop, I recommend you peek at their beautiful website and blog set-up.

Daylight Saving Time started this week, and so the days are longer now. However, I didn’t want to be cooking late. My plan was to have a meal that could be organized easily; while the chicken roasted I could prepare the other parts of the dinner. I even had time to walk the dog.


I also wanted to start the week with a recipe that gave us some leftovers. Roast chicken for two means at least a few sandwiches or meat for a salad. The original recipe was for roast quail, but that was too fussy for an everyday meal. (Besides, I’ve always thought quail has too many bones for the meat you get to eat – it’s more work than enjoyment.)

Sometimes I stick with old-time favourites to accompany a new item, but tonight I wanted to keep to a theme. I cooked farro, an ancient grain, and sautéed some veggies with smoked salt. The grain has a wonderfully nutty texture and the smokiness from the salt provided a perfect foil to the complexity of the flavours in the chicken. I even splurged with a local wine from our cellar; after all, creative effort deserves reward and recognition.

So, there you have it: Aromatic Deluxe Roasted Chicken. If I do say so myself, it turned out rather nicely.

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​Happy Monday. Here’s to a great week!

 

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