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Welcome Home.

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One four hour flight, a three hour layover and then another 1.5 hour flight and I was home in Nova Scotia. Maeve and I were greeted by sunshine, light breezes (they didn’t last – it was freezing soon after) and my mom and Aunt Joan.

A quick stay in Halifax with my Aunt & Uncle and we were back in Cape Breton last Sunday. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be home. It’s so great to see Maeve with my family – most of whom she’s never met – and see their reactions to her.

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Today is sunny and warm. Not as hot as Ireland has been, but low 20’s and a light breeze – perfect for walks and patio BBQ’s. We’ve been eating some great food, and even better meals are to come.

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So what’s happening in Cape Breton right now? Well, a lot, really.

There are blooming buds everywhere. Lupins are Nova Scotia’s most iconic flower and they’re in full bloom now – covering the roadsides and ditches with waves of purple, pink and white.

Blueberries

Blueberries

Highbush Cranberry

Highbush Cranberry

Bunchberries, blueberries, and small wild strawberries are blossoming, as are the highbush cranberries.

The hay is getting high around the two red barns across from my house. The honeysuckle is thriving and creating lots of food for honeybees.

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My mom’s garden is slowly coming to life. I say slowly because in Ireland we’ve already had rhododendron, peony and rose season and in CB they’re still working on rhododendrons. But the herbs are loving the cool, wet weather and we’ve got lots of chives and oregano ready to snip.

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The birds, moose, beavers, eagles and rabbits are out. We have a pair of chipmunks living near our strawberry patch; Maeve was delighted with them. It’s just getting started here, but I think this is going to be a good summer.

More to come!

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Lately…

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Hi All!

I’ve got a lot to say before I head to Canada on Thursday. Here’s a bit of a (random) round-up of what’s been going on in my world these past few weeks:

Silage Cookin’:

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‘Tis the season! The farm is buzzing with activity as we race against the weather to get all the silage cut and gathered. Of course, this means we depend on our neighbours, friends and family for help. Having plenty of good eats on hand is a must to show our appreciation of everyone’s hard work.

I spent the majority of last week baking and cooking; keeping the kitchen stocked for when the workers could pop in for a cup of tea. Working in the hot weather is just the worst, but it’s the best time to do silage, unfortunately!

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Wexford Food Festival: 

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A few Sundays ago Pat, Maeve and I headed to Wexford town to check out their yearly food festival. I had never been to Wexford so I was excited to see the town and check out the Artisan Food Market (which featured lots of local artisan products as well as a selection from Wales). I loved the curry samples on offer and Pat enjoyed a pulled pork bap.

I wandered around Greenacres before lunch. What a great shop! They have an amazing selection of European wines, local cheeses and fine foods. They also stock an excellent array of kitchen supplies. I’ll be back to stock my kitchen as we renovate the farm house in Tipp.

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For lunch, we went to a lovely Italian restaurant called La Dolce Vita. The owner is really outgoing and makes a great bowl of pasta (and the bread… the bread!). I ordered a bowl of bucatini amatriciana and it was perfect. Al dente noodles, fresh tomato sauce with just the right amount of heat from the chilies.

Ballymaloe Litfest:

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The weekend before Wexford, my friend Grace (who works as a television food stylist and was visiting from Toronto), Maeve and I went to Ballymaloe Litfest. It was even better than last year, if that’s possible.

The farmer’s market in The Big Shed had a great variety of food producers (including some of my favourites – Highbank Orchards, Ballyhoura Mushrooms and Rocket Man to name a few), there was a cookbook shop set up in another of the sheds and the usual workshops and discussion groups were well put-together.

Rene Redzepi, Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi were just a few of the fantastic chefs involved in this annual festival. I met Yotam and we bonded over our napping children – neither of whom slept well the night before. He’s a lovely man.

Larder:

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This is a new shop on The Quay in Waterford specializing in local artisanal products. They also serve coffee and offer daily, fresh baked goods. The spelt brown bread is addictive and the owner, Patrick, is the kind of inspirational businessman you want to support and see succeed. I’d love to see more of these vacant shops on The Quay revitalized the way Patrick’s done to Larder – it’s trendy and well stocked, with seating out on the sidewalk to sit and enjoy your cuppa on nice days.

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Cupcake Heaven:

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Another great Waterford business. I was in Kaffeine (on the pedestrian shopping street) to get a latte before catching the bus and the girl behind the counter gave me one of their cupcakes to try. The cupcakes are made by a group called Cupcake Heaven and they are, hands down, the best in Waterford. They always have samples in the coffee shop so go in for a taste! My favourites are the coffee and chocolate.

Top 50 Restaurants in Canada:

Auberge du Pommier, Toronto

Auberge du Pommier, Toronto

On May 22nd, the 3rd annual Top 50 Restaurants in Canada list was launched by Vacay.ca. I chaired the Top 50 again for the second year and had such a great experience. We had fabulous judges, including some of Canada’s most iconic chefs, and everyone seemed happy to be involved.

As with any restaurant list, it’s hard to really “rate” a restaurant – I mean, at the end of the day, it’s a personal opinion. But I really believe this list is a great resource for anyone planning a foodie visit to almost any part of Canada and I’m proud it’s so democratically driven.

Botched Attempt at Father’s Day?

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So, since Mother’s Day is on two different days in Canada and in Ireland I figured it must be the same for Father’s Day. I must not have been reading the signs, but in Tipperary there were all kinds of “last minute” things on sale for Father’s Day. I assumed that must mean Father’s Day was last (last) Sunday. I got Pat a little present and a card from Maeve and made him his favourite breakfast, only to find out Father’s Day actually took place this past weekend. *facepalm* I’m blaming baby brain.

He still got a sleep in, a nice breakfast and a family hike out to the Devil’s Bit near Templemore (will post about that soon).

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Happy Father’s Day anyway, Pat. I’ll get it right next year. (Also: Maeve’s first taste of nutella!).

Crazy Full Moon at the Farm:

I took this shot the other night after a long day of hauling/cutting the silage:

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Cool, huh? Apparently we won’t see a moon like that again in our lifetime (at least, not on a Friday the 13th).

Ombre Obsession:

Last but not least, here’s my first attempt as an ombre cake:

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I’ll leave you with that.

Until next time! xx

Never-Fail Chocolate Cake

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The month of May was an absolute whirlwind. It was one of those months that, when it’s over, you look back and say to yourself, “what even happened last month?” and then you remember: you had visitors. And communions. And long weekends. And a very busy, increasingly mobile/vocal baby.

Now that we’re well into June I realize I don’t have that much time before Maeve and I head to Canada for the summer – in fact, we’ll be leaving Ireland next Thursday.

Oh, and I failed to mention we’re in the process of moving house. Yeah. And it’s silage time. So combine the last few weeks being so busy with packing, moving, silage cooking (which is a fairly large task) and running back and forth from Tipperary to Waterford and you can understand why I’m feeling a bit frazzled.

That said, I’ve been enjoying myself immensely. I’m not the kind of person who enjoys being idle. Maternity leave ended last month, and although I’m not gainfully employed (yet), I’m definitely in work-mode. I can’t wait to get back in a kitchen. Or back to writing full-time. Whatever may be in store, I’m ready for it.

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The last weekend in that crazy month of May was our niece’s 11th birthday. You may remember the cake I made for her last year. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have time to put the same amount of effort in this year’s cake. The weekend before her birthday I made a massive, pink ombre princess cake to celebrate her sister’s first communion and when I asked her what kind of birthday cake she’d like, she simply said “chocolate”. Like last year.

Well… I didn’t really have any time. When Friday came around I did something I never do – I bought a cake mix. And canned frosting.

It wasn’t even Betty Crocker cake mix; it was Tesco brand. I figured all mixes are the same and come out the same – consistently moist and tasty. I was so very wrong.

This cake mix was an abomination. First, I couldn’t believe the tiny amount of batter it made. Second, it was like cardboard when it came out of the oven. I felt bad, but I had to throw it in the garbage. It was awful.

Saturday morning came around and I knew my niece would be visiting soon – and expecting a chocolate cake. I searched my cupboards to make sure I had ingredients and then I did what I should have done from the start – I made this amazingly quick never-fail chocolate cake.

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This is a recipe from home in Cape Breton. It’s actually my sister-in-law’s grandma’s recipe. It has very few ingredients (most will always be in your cupboard, except maybe the cocoa), is low maintenance and bakes to perfection.

When I made this cake, my reasons for never buying cake mix were reaffirmed. It took exactly the same amount of time to make and it was so yummy. My niece loved it, even though it was definitely not on the same scale as last year’s cake.

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Never-Fail Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup canola/vegetable oil

1 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

pinch of sea salt

1/2 cup Dutch-pressed cocoa

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup boiling water

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees (160 degrees Celsius, no fan). Butter and flour any cake pan (bundt, round, rectangular, sheet – go crazy). I just line a regular ol’ springform pan with parchment – I don’t bother greasing.
  • Place the ingredients into a mixing bowl in the order stated in the ingredients list (just one of top of the other; trust me).
  • Using the whisk attachment for your stand mixer or hand mixer, whisk all ingredients for four minutes. This is why it’s important to use cake flour in this recipe – the gluten will not develop as strongly as it would in all purpose flour and you’ll still have a lovely moist cake.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-60 minutes, depending on the cake pan you’re using (sheet cake will take much less time; keep that in mind). When a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, it’s ready.
  • Cool completely before icing, covering in ganache or dusting with cocoa or powdered sugar. Keep covered at room temperature or in the fridge for up to four days.

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Mahon Falls, The Comeragh Mountains in County Waterford

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A few weeks ago on a sunny Sunday afternoon, Patrick, Maeve and I set off down the N25 for a leisurely drive through the Comeragh Mountains.

Like many places in County Waterford, before moving here I wasn’t aware that these mountains existed. Now that I know, I’m saddened thinking about how many other Canadians come to Ireland and never make it to the Sunny Southeast.

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Although it seems to be a stop on many bus tours, Waterford doesn’t feature in as many travel articles or commercials. I’m not sure why that is – the weather is lovely, the beaches are gorgeous and relatively secluded, and the Comeraghs – well, the Comeraghs have some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever experienced.

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In the far reaches of the mountains, there is a short hike to a place called Mahon Falls. This walk is highly recommended. Small children and seniors will have no problem walking to the falls and back – it took about 20 minutes of brisk walking for me to reach the end. The backdrop of mountains on one side and rest of County Waterford on the other is breathtaking, to say the least.

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When we arrived, we looked back at Maeve and discovered she was sound asleep. Patrick and I looked at each other, each trying to think of a way around the situation. In the end, I walked to the falls by myself and Patrick said he and the baby would follow if and when she woke (she didn’t; she was still snoring when I got back about an hour later).

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The path is well marked and maintained and when you reach the falls there are numerous spots for picnics. Just beware of the wind – it can be really harsh and cold, even on a sunny day. Higher up on the hills, if you squint, you can see sheep grazing on the stumpy grass and heather. It’s amazing to see how high they can climb.

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Mahon Falls is about 40 minutes from Waterford City. You’ll see a sign for the waterfall about ten minutes before reaching Dungarvan on the N25 roadway. The hike will take at least another 40 minutes depending on how long you stay to admire the view.

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