A simple, rustic wedding cake with fresh fruit and blackberry sauce

An island rental kitchen and a wedding cake

Come with me, if you will, for an afternoon at a sprawling rental cottage on a remote Pacific Northwest island called Cortes. My extended family and I have gathered here for a reunion and the wedding of my younger sister; the last Wimbush sibling is to be married.

For the most part, this is to be a handmade wedding, made entirely possible by our family unit coming together out of love. (Well that, and pound after pound of strong coffee.) It’s the day before the wedding and everywhere you look, people are preparing. In a shady patio, under the weave of kiwi vines, my brother and elder sister are hand painting wedding signs on smooth lengths of driftwood. On a nearby table, the bride is arranging sweet peas and foxglove into simple bouquets, rounded out with wild ivy and purple yarrow.

Down on the beach, my brother-in-law is gathering pearly white oyster shells to lay for an aisle and the groom is flexing his muscles while moving driftwood aside for a path. Over by the blackberry bushes that frame our ocean view, Danny is picking berries for the cake, a task only for the brave of heart. He gathers me a great big bowlful, and I simmer the berries with brown sugar and butter into a dark, jammy sauce to serve alongside the cake.

My mother is slicing eggplant, browning lamb, and whisking a bechamel for her famous moussaka, a dish that will feed us all at the end of this busy day. In a back bedroom, tucked away from sight, my mother-in-law is ironing a long white dress with lace and an elegant linen suit. My father is showing a few guests his favourite haunts around the island, and thus doing his bit to keep them out of our hair until dinnertime.

On the balcony overlooking the sea, my sister-in-law is plucking away at a ukulele and rehearsing “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” for the intimate beach ceremony. A few children are hard at work on handmade cards for the bride and groom, and the rest are hovering around my workspace, hoping for a taste of cake batter. I’ve got some leftover, so I bake off ten cupcakes and hand them around, much to their delight. First taste of the wedding cake!

The spacious kitchen looks out over a calm ocean inlet, where a few fishing boats are anchored and the tide rises and falls to show off a world-class oyster bed. I’ve just beat a dozen pale blue and green eggs with sugar and vanilla bean, folded in the flour together with the buttermilk and placed 8 round cakes pans in the oven. I’ve crossed my fingers that they will bake evenly, and I am flapping my arms at the herd of children that want to run through the kitchen at top speed. “These cakes will fall with all this stomping!” I holler, and shoo them outdoors where they will climb trees for apples and play Duck, Duck Goose on the grounds.

Soon enough I join the cousins under the hot July sun, armed with a wide-brimmed hat and a sharp knife. I walk the gardens of our VRBO and discover enough fruit growing that I decided to garnish the wedding cake with the bounty. My sister and her fiancé are expecting a wee little one in January, and the fruit symbolizes that beautiful new life. [Read more…]

Muscavado Blueberry Plum Sorbet | Simple Bites #recipe #dessert

Muscavado Blueberry Plum Sorbet

Mid-summer wild blueberries and sweet plums tend to show up around the same time at the farm stands here, conveniently marketing themselves to be paired together in the kitchen.

I’ve long been a fan of the blueberry-plum flavour combination because it is a perfect balance of tart and sweet. These fruits also cook up into preserves and desserts of the most gorgeous purple hue that are hard to resist.

I’ve made a very successful fruit butter and pancake syrup with the two, now I’m marrying the berries and stone fruit into a vibrant sorbet perfect for summertime.

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Herbal Homestead Gin & Tonic | Simple Bites #recipe #cocktail

Herbal Homestead Gin & Tonic

The summer days are long and hot here on our homestead, filled with chores that never quite seem to finish. But occasionally in the late afternoon, when the sun has already drifted down into the trees and the footsteps of the children are starting to tire, Danny and I cool down with a cocktail.

We sit on the edge the garden and absentmindedly tug at the weeds while conversing about our respective days. Time seems to speed up all of a sudden and the moments slip away as quickly as our gin and tonics are depleted.

Lately I’ve been mixing our drinks right in the garden, with a handful of herbs and a warm, sun-ripened tomato. Today’s Herbal Homestead Gin & Tonic is undoubtedly our new summer cocktail of choice, thanks to its fragrant herbaceousness and cucumber sweetness.

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Tour a lentil farm | Simple Bites

Tour a lentil farm + Bacon, Lentil & Tomato (BLT) Salad

The wide variety of food produced in this vast country has enchanted me ever since I was little. As a wee one alongside my older brother, I slung a fishing line over the side of a canoe for lake trout, and on my own I foraged for wild strawberries and morels to bring back to my mother’s kitchen.

From watching wild salmon spawn in on the West Coast to digging for clams on the far East, my culinary education continues to expand, year after year. This past week, I had the opportunity to travel to the middle of our country: a family-owned lentil farm in the heart of Saskatchewan.

Expansive fields dotted with farms were completely new territory for me. Although I knew that Canada was the world’s largest lentil producer and that Saskatchewan produced 95% of those beauties such as Black Beluga and French Green, I really had no clue how lentils were grown. It was a fantastic learning experience, under the broad blue skies of the great prairies.

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Family dinner on Simple Bites

Weekend links and photos

It seemed as though we waited for spring for forever, and then it came and went in a blink.

The days are much hotter now and we cool off with chilled watermelon, cold brew tea, and gardening under the lawn sprinkler. I’m logging long hours in my kitchen, working on both blog and book, not to mention a few side projects like hosting a wedding. Posts will continue to be a little less frequent over the summer, but there is some good stuff coming up, like our absolute favourite mid-summer fruit sorbet.

Here’s what I’ve been reading and loving around the web recently:

Hit the jump for news of my next reader event (West Coast!) and plenty of images from the homestead.

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