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How to make your own sunshine

This morning was grey and cold. It looked like a dreary day, a drastic change to yesterday’s glorious sunshine. I can handle the bleakness of winter in the sun, but I struggle when the clouds make me slouch and the wind howls. So, I took on a winter version of taking lemons and making lemonade…

When I need cheering up, I bake. This morning I needed something quick and comforting, a bit of winter sunshine. Luckily, I have an old favourite that does just the trick – Cornbread Jam Muffins ! Cornbread Jam Muffins Happy GourmandAs you’ll see if you click on the recipe link, this is something I tested on the hardworking cast and crews I worked with during my years in movie catering in Vancouver. If something can bring a smile to the face of a weary soul at the end of a week working outside in the cold winter rain, then I know it works. And I get to enjoy their smile as well as my own when I taste one!

Muffins are listed in cookbooks as “quick bread” for a reason – they are simple to mix, and don’t take long to bake. If you planned just a little, these could cook while you were in the shower and the coffee was brewing. Extras freeze easily and can be reheated in a toaster oven (microwaves tend to make them tough, but if that’s your method, stick to under 15 seconds for best results).

Even if you save this recipe for a day off, I guarantee they will cheer you up. Go ahead and customize them if you like (the recipe includes a savoury variation, or you can make them without jam if you prefer; they even work if you substitute gluten-free flour). Sharing the goodness of these little gems will give everyone a good start to the day.

As I write this, I notice the sky has cleared a bit over us and even the grey skies over the lake look less menacing. I am breathing deeper and a smile is creeping across my lips. It appears my little dose of sunshine worked its magic quite well!

rabbit-hollow-winter-view

 

 

Rain Rain Go Away

Well, it’s now July and the rain and grey skies continue. At least here in the Okanagan it’s not really cold, but it’s not the summer paradise we’re used to, that’s for sure. Gardens are lanky and lush green, and lawns are hard to keep mowed with all the rain. Everyone is still wearing jackets, and only the die-hards deep in denial are sporting their flip flops – who wants soggy toes? But since I said in my last post I was going to make a concerted effort to improve I decided I had to find my own sunshine.

My garden is overgrown, which for the most part means more weeding and less bounty. However, rhubarb is one of the plants that is grateful for cooler temperatures. The strawberries are also plump and juicy in my boxes out back. So, in the spirit of making lemons when life gives you lemonade, I thought it only fitting to make a Rhubarb and Strawberry Pie!  I used the good old-fashioned pastry recipe on the bottom of the Tenderflake lard box, because I wanted this to be a comfort dish. It always turns out flaky and golden brown. The beauty of the pie though, is that even a store-bought pie crust that you thaw and bake will still show well with the taste of freshly cooked fruit.

Having married a chef, I have to succumb to professional criticism of all of my recipes. Martin is friendly about his comments, but he is not shy to tell me when I could improve (“the filling would be thicker if you made sure it boiled”, or “the centre doesn’t cook very well when you put a large decoration on it”). However, when he says that something tastes really good, he means it. And when he goes back for another piece, I know I have a success.

We’ve now eaten the pie, and it’s still raining. But I feel a bit better. It really was like a bit of sunshine, tasting the tart rhubarb and the sweet strawberries with a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream. Scoring a star rating with the chef didn’t hurt either 🙂 

Next I am working on something with our golden raspberries as they are ripening to spite the rain, I think. Keep watching this space for  another recipe!

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