love on a platter: Grandma M’s cinnamon buns

This morning while it was still dark, I went into my kitchen to make a batch of cinnamon buns. I was craving some serious comfort food. This is my late mother-in-law’s recipe (only I’ve adapted it here for the breadmaker). She was a not only a superb cook, but also one of the strongest, kindest, and most capable women I’ve ever known. When she served these buns, what she was really serving was love. On a platter.

 Grandma M’s Cinnamon Buns

1/2 cup milk, warmed slightly
1 large egg
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp yeast

Add ingredients to bread machine in order listed. Use dough setting. If you don’t have a bread machine mix together the warmed milk, sugar and yeast and let stand for approximately five minutes, then mix in the remainder of the ingredients. Knead thoroughly and set to rise until doubled in size.

Cinnamon Filling

1/4 to 1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp cinnamon

Once the dough is ready, roll out to a rectangle approximately 1/4 inch thick. Spread thickly with butter (use as much as you like – be generous!) and then sprinkle with brown sugar (1/2 cup) mixed with 1 tbsp cinnamon. I’m pretty conservative with the sugar – use more if you want the full-on Cinnabon kind of experience. Roll tightly starting with the long side of the rectangle. Divide in 12 equal portions. Place the rolls into a well-buttered Pyrex lasagna pan (9 x 13 inches)- giving the rolls room to expand. Set to raise for 30 minutes in a warm spot.

Bake at 375 deg F for approximately 15 minutes or until the buns are golden brown.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 tbsp butter
3 oz cream cheese
1 1/4 cups icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

Beat together and spread over the warm rolls before serving.


the complicated business of ethical eating – and the Starbuck’s pumpkin scone clones


Food has become big in every way. Forbes magazine says that food is the world’s largest single industry.

When you start to think about the size of the food industry globally – the numbers are impossible to quantify and understand. But what is understandable is that there are over seven billion of us on the globe and every single one of us is affected daily, several times over, by the food industry.

From farmers and growers to processors, manufacturers, and advertisers; to transporters, wholesalers and retailers; from celebrity chefs and cooking shows, to food magazines and food blogs; to farm stands, markets, restaurants and speciality stores; from fast food to slow; and from vegans to locavores to flexitarians – food permeates our existence in more ways than ever.

Eating safely, reasonably, and ethically is an increasingly complicated business.  Continue reading “the complicated business of ethical eating – and the Starbuck’s pumpkin scone clones”

in memory of Ivy – date nut loaf


When I first moved to Australia, years ago, I lived in a funny little flat in Melbourne. My neighbour, Ivy, who was alternately cranky and sweet, used to scare the life out of me with horrifying tales of poisonous spiders and snakes and staggering crime statistics. “Careful that baby doesn’t get snatched right out the window,” she said, as I moved into the flat with my baby girl in arms. “We’ve had a whole raft of babies stolen in Melbourne lately – you’ll need to keep your windows locked.”

That was my introduction to Australia.

Continue reading “in memory of Ivy – date nut loaf”

last taste of summer – loaded lemon & blueberry scones


I’m in favour of dragging summer out as long as possible. It’s my favourite season and although I agree, autumn is fantastic, I never, ever want summer to end. I love the long days and nights, the cycling and outdoor activities, time at the lake and shore fires. I love running about in sun-dresses and sandals. I like summer fruits and salads and barbecues. And shooting stars, and fireflies, and sleeping with the windows open and the overhead fan on. 

All summer long, I make an effort to never complain about the heat or humidity. My theory is that you cannot complain all year round – if you must complain then you must limit yourself to one season. It’s only reasonable. It’s generally winter when I feel entitled to complain. Last year I made it through the winter with very little moaning at all. Continue reading “last taste of summer – loaded lemon & blueberry scones”

tart wild thing: wild apple crisp

Last night, just after dusk, I heard a pack of coyotes howling. It’s such a classic call of the wild – first the high-pitched yipping – then the howls. Then the dark silence, as though it never happened. Except it’s so haunting that the sound stays with you a while – lingering on – giving you just the slightest sense of unease.

This morning it was the wild geese. They’re gathering on the river just beyond my house. Every fall they do this. They congregate for days until, I presume, they reach some critical mass, when they take off and head south in their classic V-formation.

Wild seems to be a theme in my life just at the moment.  Things are a bit wild – a bit messy and out of control – too many deadlines – too much on. I’m overwhelmed. Even my misuse of hyphens seems to have become a little more wild than normal.  Continue reading “tart wild thing: wild apple crisp”

love, truth, and lemon muffins

“Love and truth, in the long run, no force can prevail against them.”

This was Mahatma Gandhi’s answer when American journalist William Shirer asked Gandhi how he had managed to single-handedly rock the foundations of the British Empire and rouse one-third of a billion people into a non-violent revolution against foreign rule.

When Shirer pushed him for something more specific than just fighting for independence with love and truth – Gandhi replied… Continue reading “love, truth, and lemon muffins”

rhubarb coffee cake

014I’m a huge fan of rhubarb. It’s such a useful and tenacious plant – thriving in all sorts of conditions, requiring next to no maintenance, and coming back faithfully year after year. Plant it once and you have a lifetime source of free food. The leaves are one of nature’s most potent natural pesticides. The red stalks are a cheerful harbinger of spring – generally one of the first edible things up in the garden every year. And best of all, it’s so tasty. Rhubarb just makes good sense. Continue reading “rhubarb coffee cake”

a week of lost and found and the perfect recipe for muesli

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” Henry David Thoreau

This was a week of losing and finding things.

I lost a silver charm bracelet loaded with sentimental value. It felt like a metaphor for all kinds of other things I’d lost over the years – people I’d loved,  people I’d trusted, my father, my longest term friend who died much too young of breast cancer, places I’d lived and left behind, a gold box-link bracelet that slipped from my wrist while I was riding my bicycle to university years ago, beloved books that ran away and never returned, the only piece of designer clothing I ever owned – a long flowing sheer black shirt – that mysteriously disappeared from a hotel room in Copenhagen, and memories of things that I can no longer fully retrieve.

I know that material things are just that – things. I know that while I was turning my house upside down, stripping beds and looking in teapots and gumboots and other unlikely places for my bracelet – that people were being diagnosed with cancer, or dying, or being born. That relationships were breaking down or being formed. That tragedy and horror and miracles would be unfolding somewhere else on the planet. That life goes on. That a charm bracelet is an insignificant little thing in the grand scheme. I know that.

But still, my mind turned over and over wondering when I’d last actually seen the bracelet on my wrist. I backtracked through the days that preceded – through all the places I’d been – trying to remember some detail that might be a clue. I chastised myself for my carelessness. I heard my father’s voice, reprimanding me, oscillating between anger and frustration and care.

I kept thinking about my father. In my memories he is almost always in the kitchen – wearing an air-force blue wool pullover, standing at the sink, looking out the window – eating a bowl of muesli. Or if not this memory – one of him carrying our huge ginger tabby cat around like a baby, telling it utterly ridiculous things – like Very Important Scientific Facts or reciting “the Owl and the Pussy Cat”. These things stand out for me. If I delve a little deeper there are a million other memories – but these are the immediate ones.

Then, the night before last, I woke in the dead of night, hot and sweaty, my throat sore, tears rolling down my face. I’d been dreaming about my friend, the one who died of breast cancer. I’d had a crystal clear memory of us – 40 years before she died. We were six years old and at Brownies. We were running hand-in-hand, full-tilt, round and round the church hall, screaming with joy, our long hair – hers auburn, mine blond – streaming behind us. Our Brown Owl was the first adult I’d ever met who seemed not to mind noise nor care what we did. So we ran and screamed with complete abandon. Week after week we did this. And it was one of the most joyful things I’d ever known.

This is why losing something is hard. Because it triggers the layers of memories of past losses.

But while I spent my week searching, I found things. I found memories that reminded me of great joys, I found missing socks, and on the floor of my car – an ancient hair barrette that I’d assumed was gone forever. Then, on Friday, at the closing ceremony for a First Nations event, I found a lovely, young teenage girl, who stood in the sunshine reciting a traditional blessing in her own language. And for those few moments while she spoke everything else ceased to exist. Later, standing together in the kitchen, I asked her what the blessing was about – “It’s about thankfulness – for the earth – for each other – all that kind of stuff,” she said, with a beautiful, carefree smile.

All that kind of stuff indeed. I felt as though, in her presence, I’d found a bit of my younger self. I wanted to interview her for a story. So she wrote out her name for me – and told me to look her up on Facebook. I did – and the first thing I found was the Henry David Thoreau quotation above.

This morning, just after I ate my muesli, standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window, lost in a week of reveries, I found my bracelet.

Here in memory of father – is my recipe for muesli. It’s insanely healthy, a lot less expensive than the packaged kind, and seriously addictive. I eat it with rice or almond milk and a swirl of honey or maple syrup. I think it is the best muesli ever. My dad would have loved it.


Homemade Muesli

2 ½ cup large flake oats
1 cup rye flakes (I buy organic rye flakes at Tara, my local health food store. They’re surprisingly inexpensive and very healthy.)
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips – like large flakes (I also buy these at my local health food store – but you can use whatever kind of coconut you like. Some people like this toasted – but honestly – the whole point of this exercise is that it’s fast, easy, and RAW)
1 cup trail mix (or make your own – nuts, raisins, currants, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, etc.)
1 cup dried fruit – I like cranberries and dried sour cherries
¼ cup ground flax seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt

Toss all the ingredients together and store in a glass jar. Voilà perfect homemade muesli!

plagiarism and the starbucks pumpkin scone clones

Lately I’ve been thinking about plagiarism.

The topic made big news recently in the Canadian media when our once pre-eminent national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, had an epic plagiarism scandal.

A regular Globe and Mail columnist was said to have “borrowed” copy directly from a blog. Continue reading “plagiarism and the starbucks pumpkin scone clones”