One of the first recipes that I published on Linden & Lavender was Lemon Spelt Madeleines with Seasonal Poached Pears and Rose Crème Anglaise. I thought it was a masterpiece, that it would go viral and supportive family members would run out to purchase the obscure madeleine molds. Needless to say, I was shocked when no one commented and there was very little response to the recipe. How little I knew about blogging, marketing and food photography in 2016! I’m pleased to say that I have come a long way since that time (but there is a long way to go). I am still learning and challenging myself weekly. Admittedly, I do get distracted by new things which probably slows down my progress but I know it is not a race in which there is any winner. I’m working against myself but more importantly, for myself. Did I mention I’m that I picked up weaving and that I’m obsessed with gardening?! This is what keeps me working late into the night. The lack of sleep feels worth it if I get the opportunity to create. Is there anything that you’ve been wanting try try or explore outside of your full-time job? I’ve just started diving into these curiosities instead of thinking to myself “one day, when I have more time...” because life is for living now.Read More
Even though there is still snow on the ground there is an excitement in the air. Excitement for the possibilities that only spring can provide. My dining room table turned into a project table filled with seeds, notes, ribbons, labels, old photos and papers of all sorts. Sorting, crafting and planning- we’re all energized for warmer weather over here and for the weekend in general. Here are some borrowed words to celebrate spring, to excite the gardener in you and to add beauty to your day.Read More
Embracing the seasons is often difficult to do in grey, slushy March. But spring is a different story. Spring is easy. The months of May and June offer something new and colourful on a daily basis. In the early days, crocuses display purples and yellows. Daffodils and tulips are soon to follow. Then, everyone counts down for the display of pinks and whites from cherry and apple trees. Lily of the valley quietly flourishes in shade and wetter weather only revealing itself if one takes a moment to slowdown and peer under a heavy, green leaf. The perennial tries to compete with lilacs to perfume the area.
Since moving to the city of Kingston, I have come to know lilacs much better. The colours range from white and light blue to richer magentas, purples and pinks. They seem to take their turns blooming, allowing one another to be showy for a while rather than coming out at the same time. The deeper the flower colour, the richer and sweeter the scent becomes. This makes May and June the best months to walk around the city.
I’m not sure exactly what it is about the soil and climate, but it is a place where lilacs thrive. Kingston is in growing zone 5 which provides adequate climate for the shrub. In addition, it is known as the limestone city of which, it is possible that the limestone could increase the pH value of the soil. More importantly though, the abundance of these plants is likely due to an interest in planting them. It seems that they have been a resident favourite for many years. Long ago, hands that took the time to plant these shrubs so that all could enjoy. Large and mature shrubs are found in most parks. Light purple and white lilacs were commonly planted along the roadsides and highways leading to the city. And, farmhouse laneways are lined with the shrubs making the entrance to the farm rather grand.
Like all flowers, blooming times are fleeting. They urge us to seize the moment. Perhaps to slow down or forage some flowers to bring them indoors and enjoy the somewhat haunting scent. Better yet, they remind us that the world is beautiful even when times are difficult or confusing.
The month of May is speckled with dramatic changes which spark creativity and invigorates the mind to take on those harder tasks. It is close to the top to being a favourite month. The task of packing away those ultra-warm layers of clothes is met with relief. The replacement with lighter layers feels like a whole new wardrobe. The glory of the flowering trees and plants creates a shift in how I go about my day. The firsts of the season are excitedly added to my weekly cooking (asparagus, mostly). Walks home with my girls now take twice as long as we look for flowers to collect and bring back home. That is to say, we routinely take the long way home based on the promise of discovery.
May is a month of beauty, celebration and great distractions. It is choosing to spend more time outdoors knowing that this season of exceptional blooms is fleeting. It is celebrating and recognizing all the wonderful mothers out there. It is a shift in schedules and perhaps a chance to travel outside the city.
My family travelled to New York City for Mother’s Day in early May. It was a trip that my husband and eldest daughter planned so that we could Mother’s Day at the New York Botanical Gardens. We have fond memories of spending time there years ago now.
We drove from a grey and leafless Ontario, through New York state with our three children buckled three in a row. A seven-hour drive in which we made only one, hour-long stop at a giant playground nestled in a charming neighbourhood. An hour outside of New York City everything turned green and we saw the first cherry and apple tree blossoms.
New York, New York, the city that never sleeps has rightfully earned that name. It can be quite a shock to the senses upon arrival. But, it is not all about the exhausting, pavement pounding day followed by an evening theatre and dinner scene. Once a visitor gets past all of the shiny extractions and extensive lineups, there are little places where peacefulness resides. It is a city that can be welcoming to families and travel can be done at a slower pace. I recommend travelling to the city in spring or autumn for the best experience.
All days with young children start early. Travelling, though tiring, sometimes makes children sleep less. To manage, parents can opt for visiting one or two of the many amazing coffee shops. From then on, most days can be enjoyed by choosing one place that is appealing to the children and one geared for adults. A visit to a playground is a must on most days.
My mom was the inspiration behind this cake. Go figure! If you're looking for something a bit different to make your mom, do try this cake.
This cake combines proper with the unexpected. On the proper side, it is infused with Earl Grey Tea making it sophisticated and topped with delicate fruit. The honey cream cheese frosting adds an unexpected twist to a cake that is often fussy. If you chose not to apply frosting to the sides of the cake, as I have, there will be leftover frosting. If your cake didn’t turn out of the pan correctly (read: tattered edges) then frost the sides and it will bring the cake together. If you chose to decorate the cake with the kids, have them make a design on the top using fresh flowers and fruit. I used figs which, are not in season right now but looked too delicious to pass up at the grocery store. Figs, I have discovered, are also a delight to photograph.
Earl Grey Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Icing
Makes: 15 cm/6-inch layer cake
Time: Prep Time (25 minutes) + Baking time (35 minutes) + Cooling/inactive time (1 hour) + Decorating (25 minutes)
Earl Grey Cake
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp whole milk
½ tbsp loose leaf Earl Grey tea
1 1/2 (180 g) cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp Earl Grey tea, finely ground*
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp (85 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (170 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg white
1 large egg
Honey Cream Cheese Icing
225 g (1 cup or 1 regular block of cream cheese) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups (220 g) icing (confectioners') sugar, sifted*
3 tbsp local honey (runny)
Fresh, edible flowers such as pansies from your garden, petals from dandelions
Fresh fruit such as figs
Earl Grey Cake
1. Add the milk and tea to a small saucepan. On medium-low heat, bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally and heat for 10 minutes. Take off the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Strain once it has cooled.
2. Grease and flour two 15 cm (6-inch) cake pans. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
3. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Using a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the vanilla.
4. Alternate adding the flour mixture with the milk infusion. Start by adding a third of the flour and mix. Add half of the milk infusion and mix again. Continue adding and mixing until all ingredients are fully combined (ending with the last third of the flour mixture). Pour into the prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack and then unmold.
Honey Cream Cheese Icing
Mix the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Mix in the icing sugar, honey and vanilla which will create a divine icing for your cake.
Ensure the cake is fully cooled. Level the cake using a serrated knife. Place the cut side up and apply a generous amount of icing. Level the second layer and repeat. If you chose to apply icing on the side, apply a crumb coat to the cake, refrigerate and then apply the last layer of icing. Decorate with your favourite fruit and flowers. Once the cake is cut, serve with a little drizzle of honey if desired.
Serve after lunch on Sunday.
*Optional. This makes the Earl Grey flavour intense and unmistakable. For Earl Grey tea lovers only! Without it, the cake has a subtle flavour in which all will enjoy.
**Sifting the icing sugar before adding it to the fat creates a smooth cake frosting.
Adapted from The Little Epicurean.
Happy Mother's Day!
Earth Day has come and gone for the year. A week ago, Sunday, the children played in the dirt with their shovels and pails, digging up a chunk of my rhubarb plant in the process of making mud pies. It was quite a beautiful day here and we needed it. The cold weather has been hanging heavy on us for the last couple of weeks.
My interpretation of Earth Day is one of celebration of this beautiful place we share as well as inspiration to change. The need to change stems from the negative and sometimes careless impacts that humans have on this one, shared planet. On every level, it is virtually impossible to remain ignorant about the effect that we have on our oceans, land and wildlife. For many, the shift in weather and unpredictable storms has been a turning point to say “let’s do more.” For others, it may be the images of Great Pacific Garbage Patch, sea turtles choking on plastic bags or finding trash along the paths of a local conservation area. Still, for others it may be tied in with health and a desire to have a smaller footprint or connect with the earth through eating organic and locally grown foods.
There were many encouraging and hopeful sentiments expressed on social media. I’ve enjoyed reading them this past week and want to maintain this positive and hopeful energy. I feel that the most important statement of all is the recognition that every day is Earth Day. Let me repeat, Every Day is Earth Day! With this recognition comes the question “what can I do to help?" It is easy to feel overwhelmed but important to start somewhere. Start with a small habit change.Read More