Saturday, November 20, 2010


I love to make soup when the weather turns cold! I don't really enjoy them that much for dinner, as I usually need something a little more substantial, but I love taking them for lunches all week long. My regular soup last winter was a mix of carrot, onion and celery, with minced turkey for some protein, crushed tomatoes and a healthy dose of rosemary. I would never blend it But this year for some reason, blended, "cream of" soups are calling my name - here are some that I have made recently!

Honeyed carrot soup from the BBC Good Food website
 (thanks to H for getting me onto this website, it is fantastic!)

This soup is so delectable, easy and cheap, you should make it this weekend! The honey adds a lovely sweetness, that reminds me of the honeyed carrot side dish my Mum would often make. I made this fairly thick and actually had to thin it with a little water when I heated it at work, but this actually works well for transporting the soup - less sloshiness and risk of spilling!

Green pea soup with lime
(modified from this recipe)

Quite different from the recipe, but it was my inspiration. Using frozen peas makes this soup super quick and super cheap. I thought it needed a little something towards the end, so I added a couple of squeezes of lime. It brightened the flavour (though seemingly dulled the colour) and really made it different (as compared to perhaps the usual pea soup with mint, or the even more usual pea and ham flavour combination)

And un-photographed

Smitten Kitchen's Cream of Tomato soup

One word - wow. I could be wrong, but I don't think Australians really eat a lot of the tomato soup and grilled cheese combo which is quite popular with Americans and reminiscent of childhood rainy day lunches. I could be completely converted though - this tomato soup is amazing (even though I skipped a couple of steps and cut corners to make it faster).

I am thinking, thinking now about what else I can make as single vegetable soups - the idea of a cream of onion soup is intriguing, as is trying to make a fruit based, winter-appropriate warm soup (cream of apple?)

Any suggestions?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Roadtrip to Burlington, VT, USA

G and I took a little road trip to the USA a couple of weeks ago. We stayed in Burlington, which is 160km south of Montreal and lies on the eastern side of Lake Champlain.

Such beautiful blue skies! The weather on our first day was amazing - cold, but brilliant sunshine. We wandered around the downtown area, and along the foreshore, stopping to sit awhile in one of the swinging park benches that line the boardwalk. The great thing about going outside of peak season - everyone had a bench!

The top picture is looking out over Lake Champlain - you can see the Adirondack mountains on the other side of the lake. I will have to visit in the summer and see how busy this area is! The bottom picture is a random, municipal building in Burlington, which was so vivid against the sky and the burnished red of the autumn leaves.

A late lunch at American Flatbread in downtown Burlington. This place was recommended on a number of websites - a big draw being their looong list of house and locally brewed beers. I enjoyed a Cornucopia Spiced Butternut Squash Harvest Ale - it hit the spot after a morning of driving and border crossing negotiations! We shared their house salad, with goat's cheese, and two of their signature pizza-style flatbreads. They were good, although not as good as the raves would suggest - a little dry and the toppings were a bit sparse. Still, they tasted pretty great and the ingredients that were fresh and high quality.

Breakfast at Penny Cluse Cafe, also in downtown Burlington. I decided to embrace the Americana and had the southern-style biscuits smothered in herb cream gravy, with eggs and a fruit plate. The fruit plate was actually the highlight - there was about 11 different fruits on it, including pomegranate, fresh fig and a melon which I couldn't even recognise!

The next day was the opposite of the last - rain that turned into icy pellets that turned into snow, yuck! Luckily we had decided to play tourist and visit the local (indoor) attractions! We went wine tasting at Shelburne Vineyard (see above, they grow special vines which have been cultivated to withstand the extremes in temperature), chocolate tasting at Lake Champlain Chocolates (try their Five Star bar if you get a chance!) and ice-cream tasting at the Ben and Jerry Factory (I know, ice-cream tasting when it is snowing outside? Let me tell you, totally worth it!)


On our way back, just before the border, we needed fuel for the rental car (it is cheaper in the USA) and fuel for the border crossing. A quick stop at a McDonalds and look, our visit happened to coincide with the limited edition run of McRib. I think we had these in Australia way back when, but I can't remember them tasting this good! Not sure if they will make it to Canada....

Anyway, it was a great little trip - I can't wait to visit again in the summer!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Balcony gardening - indoors!

The first snow meant one thing - it was time to bring the garden inside for the winter! Last year I was a little tardy and I ended up losing some plants but this year I was on the ball, and just in time! I've chopped the basil back (I am not sure if it will continue to grow now, or if it will be dormant for the winter) and tidied up the mint. The geraniums, whilst not my favourite flower, are going strong and are hardy enough to survive. I am a little concerned about the lavendar, in the white pot, as it is just starting out. Does anyone have any suggestions for helping them survive the winter inside?

However I am not just concerned about survival, but where am I going to put them all? They are living in the kitchen now, as it is the room with the most natural light (no curtains help) but I kind of miss my expanse of checkerboard floor! I wonder if a small shelving unit would be strong enough to support all that soil.....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Scenes from Verdun

Not everyone goes all out with fall and Halloween decorations, but there a couple of houses around me that always put in the effort

See, those big, orange plastic bags? They are multi-functional - they are full of leaves (if you have a tree on your property, you do a lot of raking in the fall) but they are sold with spooky Halloween images printed on the sides, so they can be decorative as they await pick up by the garbage man!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Adventures in pumpkin carving!

As we don't celebrate Halloween in Australia, this is just my third Halloween ever! Whilst I have dressed up in previous years (a zombie geisha in 2008, a crazed butcher in 2009) this year was decidedly low key. But, there was pumpkin carving......

Excavating the pumpkin insides! Special, very costly (26 cents at the Jean Coutu) pumpkin carving implements were used.

If I had been more prepared I would have washed, dried and roasted those pumpkin seeds, but as it was, we carved in the late afternoon, with fading light and rapidly decreasing temperatures. My "pumpkin scooping" hand was numb..... and orange.

Et voila, it is a...... well, it's obvious right? Ok, so this was a free form carve - no stencil, no pencil even! I was going for a cat, in honour of Pistache and all the other cats that congregate around M's house.

(so much for a geeky image, though we both did think of trying to carve Tyler from MR)

It's alive!

Or, at least, alight!

(And one minute after this photo was taken, the wind whipped through the mouth and extinguished the candle)

Ahh, the aftermath. M snapped this photo of the (ever growing, he is surely ready for winter by now) resident squirrel snacking on kitty pumpkin.