by Michelle Douglas
Reading: Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal by Rachel Bailey
Watching: Tomorrow When the War Began
Listening to: Crowded House
Making me smile: Autumn!
Autumn is my favourite season. Today, as I'm writing this, the sky is blue and the air is still and crisp. The screeching of the sulpher-crested cockatoos has just settled and fingers of light are filtering down through the trees.
Oh how I love it! And for some reason it all seems quintessentially autumnal.
Why do I love autumn? Let me count the ways:
1. It's not too hot and it's not too cold: you can wear jeans or skirts, long sleeves or short. And I really love it when the weather is not the main topic of conversation. You know what I mean, those conversation that start: "This is a record heat wave, you know?" or "Did you know this is the wettest summer in twenty-five years?" I like it when the weather is so perfect we don't notice it.
2. Walking: with the let up in the humidity - and I will confess that I am not a heat and humidity kind of gal - I love my afternoon ambles. I try to walk regularly year round, but autumn is the best. And a bonus is that by 4:30 the shadows are lengthening, which for some reason makes my chest expand in gratitude.
3. Public Holidays! Easter and Anzac Day both fall in autumn. While both are times of remembrance and gratitude, they are also traditionally occasions for spending time with loved ones, eating lots of chocolate and playing two-up. And not going to work. :) Also, Mother's Day falls in autumn and my mum, sister, niece and I have a traditional girls' weekend - we cook up a storm and hunker down in front of girly dvds. What's not to like about that?
4. Royal Gala Apples: I will be honest and say that I'm not a great apple lover. I really truly wish I loved apples as much as I love donuts, but that is simply not the case. Unless we're talking Royal Gala apples in autumn. YUM! They just taste like autumn. Here's one of my favourite ways of eating Royal Gala Apples:
Honey Baked Apples
Ingredients: 4 Royal Gala Apples; 1/4 cup honey; 1/2 cup dessicated coconut; 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots; grated rind of 1 lemon; 1/2 tsp cinnamon.
Method: Wash and dry apples. Score skin with fork. Remove core leaving base intact. Remove a little more apple to make the opening wider. Brush with honey and roll in 1/4 cup coconut. Combine remaining coconut, apricots, lemon rind and cinnamon. Spoon into the centre of each apple. Place in microwave dish and cook uncovered on high for 4-5 minutes. Halfway through cooking, press down the filling with a spoon and place more filling in the opening. Allow to stand for 3-5 minutes before serving. Enjoy! (with cream, ice cream or just on their own)
5. My slow cooker: autumn is the time to pull my slow cooker out of its summer retirement. And I always dust it off again with glee! Is there anything better than the smell of a casserole simmering, the scent drifting all the way through the house? I love a whole variety of casseroles, but in homage to the vegetarian LoveCats among us, here's one of my favourite vegetarian slow cooker recipes (and for those carnivores out there, I'm guessing you can already see how easy it would be to add whatever else your red-blooded heart desires).
Chilli Bean and Vegetable Combo
Ingredients: 1/3 cup of olive oil; 400g baby egg plant, thickly sliced; 2 large onions, chopped; 6 garlic cloves, crushed; 2 large red capsicums, chopped; 1 x 750ml Italian-style tomato cooking sauce; 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper; 2 small red chillies, finely sliced; 400g zucchini, sliced; 300g kumera, peeled and cubed; 1 x 420g can of chick peas, drained and rinsed; 1 x 750g can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed; 1/2 cup of fresh parsley, chopped.
Method: Heat half the oil in a non-stick pan. Add eggplant in batches and cook over medium heat until golden brown. Remove from pan and place in the slow cooker bowl. Heat remaining oil in non-stick pan, add onion, garlic and capsicum and cook until the onion softens. Add tomatoes, cayenne and chillies. Cook for one minute. Place tomato mixture, zucchini, chick peas, kidney beans and parsley into the slow cooker bowl. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours. Serve with hot crusty bread rolls.
What's your favourite month? Do you like autumn too, or do you grieve for the summer sun? Most importantly of all, though, do you have a favourite autumn recipe to share?