May 10, 2011

FIVE THINGS I LOVE ABOUT AUTUMN... and a favourite autumn recipe or two

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?


  1. Hi Michelle
    What I love about autumn is the changing colours of nature and those wonderful leaves turning red and gold - and making a darned mess of the place.
    I made the following meal for my friends on a particularly cold and wet day during Easter.

    Prawns in coconut sauce.
    1/2 kg shelled prawns
    1/2 teasp white pepper
    1 teasp fresh corriander chopped
    1/2 cup oil - or wee bit less
    2 cups coconut milk
    2 big teasp chopped red chillis - alter to suit taste
    2 bay leaves
    3 cloves
    6 black peppercorns
    6 mint leaves
    In a pan, heat oil, not too hot, and add cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves. Fry one minute.
    Add chillies, mint, corriander, pepper and prawns, cook for a few minutes on med heat.
    add coconut milk and cook low heat 20 mins so sauce thickens.
    Serve with rice or freshly baked bread.
    I like the sound of your chilli and veg bake too. Anything with chilli is a great warmer.

  2. Oh, Sue, YUM! I am so going to try out this recipe. Soon. It sounds divine, and the perfect thing to cook on a chilly night.

    The changing colours of the leaves is one of my favourite things too. I was in Canberra recently (further south and a bit cooler than where I live) and there were entire streets that must've been at least 3 feet under leaves. I was seized with the childish urge to run through them.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Michelle, I love autumn too! Particularly April...the 24th, if we want to be specific. {No real reason for the date. Just love the number 24.)
    I'm not such a cook (ask my poor husband!) but I do try. Love the sound of the chilli bean recipe!
    And to Emily and Nat too =)))

  4. LOL, Robbie -- 24th April? I love your specificity. Glad to have another autumn lover on board.

    The chilli bean recipe is super easy if you wanted to give it a go :-). Just saying...

    And thanks for the congrats -- my cheeks are sore from smiling! And to Emily and Nat -- Congratulations again!!!

  5. Michelle, the thing I love best about autumn is we start using our fireplace. Love the smell of it, the ritual of collecting sticks and bringing the wood in from the shed, the gorgeous visual of the red-gold flames in our loungeroom, the fabulous warmth sitting in front of it... I love everything about it!

    I'm also very fond of snuggling under the covers, and autumn means bringing out the winter quilt and trying to steal a few extra moments in the mornings, all snuggly and warm. :)

    Those two recipes look fabulous! Oh, I thought of another thing about autumn - my man's delicious sticky date puddings. Happy sigh. Will see if I can get a recipe out of him to share. ;)

  6. Oh, Rachel, I want me a fireplace! You make it sound so dreamy and romantic, not to mention snug and warm. Actually, there is a bit of winter in the air today so I hear you on trying to steal a few extra moments in bed in the mornings -- found it very hard to drag myself out from under the covers today.

    Sticky date pudding!!! My favourite pudding in the world!!! You MUST follow up with the recipe now ;-) .

  7. Hi Michelle. I love that it's time to bring out the soups... Pumpkin being my fave... I dont have a set recepie, but I do believe the "secret ingrediant" is a splash of curry powder :))) Congratulations on your nomination!

  8. Hi Tash,

    Snap! I'm making up a pot of vegetable soup this afternoon. And like you, no set recipe... though, I was thinking a hint or two of chilli might be nice. Pumpkin soup is one of my favourites to eat, but I've never tried making it I wonder if you could get away with mashing rather than blending? Hmm... might have to invest that further.

    Thanks for dropping by, and thanks the congrats!

  9. The sticky date pudding man isn't home so I'll give you one of my favourite recipes of the moment. It's one we made up and it's quick and yummy.

    Pesto Pasta

    1 container of freshly made pesto (unless you make your own)
    1 large zucchini, grated
    Feta cheese
    Raw cashews

    While the pasta is cooking, fry the onion and garlic until soft (we use our big wok).

    Add in the grated zucchini and cook until it's looking nice and done.

    Tip in the pesto to heat through.

    As soon as everything's heated, turn off the heat and add the cashews and feta.

    Serve with the pasta.

    We've experimented with a few other ingredients, like eggplant, which is nice for a change, but the above recipe is our fave and we keep coming back to it.

    And just noticed the book you're reading. How cool!! :)

  10. Okay, the above sounds pretty darn divine, Rach, so shall have to give it a go.

    :-) and yes, I'm loving the book I'm reading at the moment!

  11. Hug congratulations on your RuBY nomination, Michelle! And Emily and Natalie too! You guys are fabulous!

    Michelle, my hand is up as another autumn fan - I love spring too. We're having a VERY chilly autumn day here today with a top of 7C - perfect soup or casserole weather. I have a slow cooker too - one of my most used kitchen items.

    Yummy recipes!

  12. Thanks, Sharon!

    Ooh, it sounds cold in your neck of the woods. I know, why don't you go and hug that RBY trophy you won last year. I bet that would help keep you warm! :-)

  13. Hi Michelle,

    First up let me say CONGRATULATIONS on being a finalist in the Romantic Book of the Year Award! That's just wonderful news. Your Cattleman is the only one of your stories I haven't read and I'm really looking forward to it.

    As for autumn - it's gorgeous isn't it? I was in the mountains on Sunday in misty weather, fine rain and glowing autumn leaves. Perfect for walking, cream teas, reading or soup!

    Just home now after a cold day out and I've put a chicken on to cook - it's already smelling terrific.

    Thanks for the recipes. I'm going to give the apple one a try soon.

  14. Hi Annie,

    Thanks for the congrats! I'll admit to still grinning at the news. :-)

    Ooh, I love the mountains in autumn and your weekend there sounds heavenly. "Perfect for walking, cream teas, reading or soup!" Oh, you've named some of my all-time favourite things!

    Hope you enjoyed your chicken!

  15. Oh I love the change of seasons, and all these yummy recipes that are making me drool!!!
    To me Autumn is about packing away the heat and enjoying mild days and cool nights that are great for snuggles =)

  16. Michelle

    I too love autumn it is the best time of the year and I agree for all of the reasons you have said there seems to be a freshness in the air that comes with the cooler weather, I am not a summer person and all the aromas of stews and casseroles yummo home made apple pie nothing better.

    May I add my congrats to you Michelle (loved that book) and to Natalie and to Emily well done Ladies

    Have Fun

  17. Coming in late here to say I'm an autumn lover too! Love the cool nights, the leaves changing colour, the sunny days -- and the rain, too, when we get it!

    Thanks for the recipes, Michelle -- they both look delicious! And congrats on the R*BY final!!

  18. Oh, Mel, you put it perfectly: "Cool nights that are great for snuggles."

    It seems as if we're all a bunch of snuggly fireside kitties here at the LoveCats :-).

  19. Yay, Helen, another autumn lover! I can never work out whether it is the new freshness to the air that I love best or the scent of a casserole slowly cooking away. Hey, I don't have to choose -- I can love them both :-). However, you may be right and homemade apple pie may just trump the lot of them?

    Aw, thanks for the kind words about my book -- utterly chuffed that you enjoyed it!

  20. Emily, maybe it's the sheer variety that we get in autumn that makes us love it so. Like you say - sunny days, rain, the leaves changing colour. I think everything looks crisper and clearer in autumn.

    Hope you enjoy the recipes!

  21. Hi Michelle ~ I'm in Spring mode right now but I do love the autumn as well. Summer here is too short and too hot and winter is too long and too cold. Spring and autumn are about perfect. Autumn brings lots of tomatoes to eat out of our garden and stuffed squash. Spring brings flowers and renewed hope. I may complain about the weather but I don't think I'd enjoy living some place that didn't have four seasons.

  22. Hi Kaelee,

    I hope you're enjoying lovely spring weather! (and my mouth is watering at the sound of your garden's stuffed squash)

    You said: "I may complain about the weather but I don't think I'd enjoy living some place that didn't have four seasons." You know, I think there's a lot of truth to that statement. I have a feeling that I wouldn't appreciate autumn so much if it wasn't for our hot, humid (and long) summers.

    Thanks for dropping by!