Thursday, December 8, 2011

Guinness and Red Velvet

Well, hello there! It's been a while, I know. 'Busy' doesn't really begin to cover it, but I'm here now. And with a renewed love of baking no less. So perhaps the tiny sabbatical was necessary. I'll admit, I was getting to the point where I was beginning to--well not hate precisely--I suppose not love baking. When it's all you do, all day, every day it can start to lose its lustre.

However, a couple weeks ago my sister asked if I would make red velvet cupcakes for a baby shower and I said yes because why not? I hadn't made cupcakes in a while, and I had yet to break in my shiny new KitchenAid stand mixer (which is heaven, by the way). And after making them, and decorating them, I stopped and realized I'd really enjoyed the entire process. I'd had fun. So all is not lost on the baking front. I just need some variety.

The red velvet recipe I used was from Martha Stewart and they got rave reviews. Now, confession, I never actually tried one because I didn't have any extras. So I can't actually give you a run down on what they tasted like or the merits of the recipe. I can tell you that if you're going to make red velvet cupcakes I highly recommend investing in some high quality red food colouring, because you use so much less than the grocery store variety (Club House, etc.).

Also, when doubling the recipe make sure you've doubled all the ingredients, because it's not fun emptying batter back into the bowl after scooping half of it into cupcake cups when you realize you're short on flour and that's why it looks a lot like soup.

Another confession, what I like best about red velvet cake of any kind? The cream cheese icing. I am actually always mildly concerned about red velvet cake because that (see below) requires a lot of food dye.

I would like to find a recipe that uses beet juice to get the colour, I know they're out there, and when I find and test one I'll let you know.

On an entirely separate note: isn't my stand mixer pretty?

As always I overestimated the amount of icing I needed for decorating. There is almost nothing I hate more than running out of icing when I'm baking and having to make more in the middle of decorating, so I always err of the side of way too much. Especially having run out of icing when you really don't want to (i.e. weddings). So I decided that I would make more cupcakes and use up what was left of the cream cheese icing.

I settled on Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes. This recipe is all over the internet on different blogs and websites and I couldn't find the one I used the first time I made them this past March, but this time I used the one here and they tasted exactly the same.

These cupcakes are divine. I mean really, just so good. I'm going to have to keep this cake recipe around to use in layer cakes because chocolate cake was meant to taste this way. The Guinness rounds out the flavour beautifully and adds just a hint of something, a bit bitter, a bit sweet, a bit 'please sir, I want some more.' I really can't say enough about this cake except: make it! Make it now!

They bake up wonderfully and have a gorgeous texture, kept moist by the sour cream. I had a picture of them baking in the oven that I was going to post until I realized that the flash had betrayed how truly filthy the back of my oven is, so you get them post-baking instead. One day when (if) I clean my oven I'll have mid-bake pictures for you.

The first time I made them I did use the whiskey ganache and the Bailey's icing that accompany the cake recipe and they are completely worth it. It's the best of the Irish wrapped up in a cupcake. On the other hand I would eat them plain, no icing, no ganache, nothing. Just the cake. That's how good they are. So seriously, if you're going to be making cupcakes any time soon, make these ones. They might even help you fall in love with baking again.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I feel a bit as though I've abandoned this recently. I had several ideas for posts in August and then suddenly I looked up and it was September. The air has been cool and crisp these past couple days, promising that autumn is well on its way. Hopefully this means a resurgence in the time I spend in my kitchen. I no longer have the heat as an excuse to stay away.

I was originally going to talk about the lemon curd that I used as a cake filling recently, but then I decided I needed to talk to you about the cake itself. So I'll save the lemon curd for later.

First, I have a confession to make--I don't really like cake. Oftentimes when I make one I rely on other people to let me know if it's good. For me, I take a bite and think well, it tastes like cake, nothing special. And this cake was much the same for me. But other people rave about it.

Also, it bakes up beautifully. This is where I find merit with this cake. The recipe is relatively simple, it bakes evenly, slices smoothly to reveal a gorgeous crumb, and stands up well to being tiered. This was the second time I've used the recipe and it's one that I will continue to go back to when I need a versatile white cake.

The recipe was originally published in the Holiday 2009 edition of Food and Drink magazine. As per usual I changed a few things to suit myself. The recipe provided is complete with it's own filling and icing, which I disregarded in favour of my own. I used a wonderful lemon curd from Anna Olson (who, incidentally, also created this cake recipe) and the Italian buttercream icing that can be found at one of my earlier posts here.

I had fun playing with piping techniques for the decorations around the side of the cake. And then came the flags. I left them for last for obvious reasons and the entire time I was decorating the rest of it I was labouring under the impression that the Canadian flag was going to give me the most trouble.


The British Flag is deceptive in its apparent simplicity. Let me tell you when something is symmetrical both vertically and horizontally it is going to give you trouble. I drew about five or six on parchment paper before I was brave enough to go the cake itself--compared to the two Canadian flags I practiced.

I guess all those years in elementary school drawing the Canadian flag actually paid off. Who knew?

Lady Baltimore Cake

2½ cups pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
½ cup 2% milk, room temperature
½ cup water, room temperature
6 large egg whites, room temperature
¼ tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the sides and line the bottoms of two 9" round cake pans with parchment paper.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt (alternatively, mix them together with a whisk because sifting is a pain).
In a separate bowl cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in vanilla and lemon zest.
Combine milk and water and add alternately with the flour to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour.
With clean beaters (make sure they're grease-free) whip egg whites and cream of tartar to medium peaks. Fold into the cake batter in two additions.
Spread evenly into cake pans and level. Bake for 30-40 minutes. The tops should be slightly browned and spring back when pressed lightly with your finger.
Cool for 30 minutes before turning out of the pans.

The original recipe calls for tangerine zest rather than lemon, but I was going for lemon here, so I changed it. If you're looking for a plain white cake, no citrus to be found, just leave it out altogether, though I would probably throw in an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract in that case. Also, as usual, I didn't use cream of tartar because I just don't have any. Throw in a splash of lemon juice to achieve the same effect.

Another note--whenever I make a cake I use simple syrup on each layer to keep it moist. It's extremely easy to make. Just pour about a cup of sugar (you can eye-ball it, exact quantities are not important here) into a pot and add just enough water that the sugar is covered and completely wet. Bring to a boil then remove from heat and allow to cool completely. You can store it in the fridge and it will keep for several days. When you're ready to use it just add a splash of water to dilute it and thin it out. I used water and lemon juice to punch up the lemon a bit more.

Most importantly: enjoy! Or at the very least watch everyone else enjoy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Accio Cookies!

So life has been hectic lately. Maybe not the best excuse for my absence, but there it is. Also, I was planning a party and it consumed most of my time for three weeks. In the build-up to the last Harry Potter film I decided we needed to have a themed party to celebrate...and, okay, to mourn a little bit the conclusion of a franchise that I have been invested in since I was 11 years old.

A lot of planning went into it. I painted banners, I made loot bags with tiny labels, and of course I made cookies. I can't resist a good excuse to make adorable decorated sugar cookies. And these ones turned out brilliantly if I do say so myself. Honestly, I was nearly giddy with how well they turned out.

I made the snitches using a bat-shaped cookie cutter and then attaching a round cookie over the bat's body. I was a little nervous about them before they were decorated because they really did just look like beach balls with bat wings. But, oh, they ended up looking like snitches in the end!

But the sorting hats were my pride and joy. The wands were cute, but the sorting hats. I don't really like to brag, but I wanted to preserve one for all eternity in a glass case. I didn't, of course, but it was tempting. Fair warning, the rest of these are mostly pictures of the party. I will end the post with a Butterbeer recipe (because how can I not?), but I really just want to show you how hard we geeked out at this party.

House banners, painstakingly hand-painted: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin respectively.

Hogwarts Coat of Arms. Also, hand-painted. For those of you who don't know, the motto translates into 'Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon.'

Liquid Luck, used to great effect by Harry in Half-Blood Prince. This version consists of whiskey and pearl petal dust.

Amortentia, the most powerful love potion in the world, though the most this version will do is make you squeaky clean and smelling lovely, as it is only body wash.

Loot bags courtesy of Honeydukes.

The best assortment of wizarding candy.

I had far too much fun making these.

And here we all are, bedecked in our wizarding best and enjoying every moment of it.

Butterbeer Floats

Vanilla Ice Cream
Butterscotch Schnapps
Club Soda

Drop a scoop of vanilla ice cream into a glass. Pour some butterscotch schnapps over top (about 1 1/2 oz). Top up with Club Soda and enjoy!

Many recipes call for Cream Soda, but the thought of it alone was near enough to induce diabetic shock, so I decided Club Soda would work as a good, less-cloying substitute. Everyone seemed to enjoy, so I'd say it was a success.

And for all you Harry Potter fans out there, don't forget to check out Pottermore, launching in October!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Quick and Easy

Summer arrived with a vengeance on Wednesday, attempting to smother us with heat laden humidity. It's not that I don't like the heat. It's the heavy, lethargy-inducing heat that I have a problem with. The kind that makes you want to curl up in the back of your freezer and never come out. On days like that I never feel like eating. But for the sake of health and survival, it is required. On days like that I turn to food that is quick and easy and, if I'm really lucky, refreshing.

I have found just that food, courtesy of my mother, and thought I would drop in to tell you about it. That way, wherever you are, if you're suffocating under the weight of a thick-aired summer day, you have something to eat. I would hardly call this a recipe. It doesn't need to be cooked so much as assembled. Like a salad, but even easier. It contains only three ingredients: cottage cheese, avocado, and blueberries.

Now, don't run away. I know it sounds horrible. This is why I love being an advocate for food. Unlike a lot of foods (ice cream, cookies, and chocolate to name a few), there are some that can't sell themselves. Prunes fall unfortunately into this category as well, but that's for a later post. So I am here to tell you that as shudder-inducing as the above combination sounds, it's not. It's actually quite delicious. And refreshing.

You will need the following:
1/2 avocado
1/2 cup cottage cheese (roughly)
1 handful of blueberries

Mash up the avocado and drop it in the middle of a plate. Make a little well in the center and deposit your cottage cheese on top. Make a little well in that and toss your blueberries on top. Voila! I told you it was easy.

Trust me. It's delicious. Would I lie to you? Have I ever led you astray before? Just give it a chance. It's not even that bad to look at, and considering it involves mashed avocado and cottage cheese that's quite an accomplishment.

Enjoy! And happy summer!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Communion Cakes and Someone's Coat

Oh, hello there. It has been a while. I knew it had been, but I didn't quite realize how long until I went to write this post and realized it had been a month. Well, I'm here now. And I have a cake for you.

If you're wondering about the title of this post it's a play on an Iron and Wine song. One of my favourites, especially now that the weather is getting nicer. It just sounds like a breezy, sunny day. Unfortunately, the day of my cousin's First Communion was the opposite of that. It was cold and rainy. Nonetheless the cake was a success.

I would like to say that I came up with this design all by myself; alas, that would be a lie. In fact it is a near carbon copy (changes in colour and dimensions aside) of this cake.

It was fun to make. I love making bows out of gumpaste. I don't know why. They're just so cute. And I'm a huge sucker for quilting on cakes.

Inside was a white butter cake and Italian buttercream icing (because I will use no other).

Overall I think it was a resounding success. I have another cake to show you in the near future, just as soon as I get the pictures off of my mom's camera. And then some recipes. I have a hankering to make some jam, so this might be my next project. Until then, enjoy the ever improving weather.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Eggs

Happy Easter everyone! Yes, I am a week early, but my parents are headed to Charleston for a wedding Easter weekend, so we had Easter dinner yesterday and I took the liberty of making some sugar cookies. In case you haven't notice I'm a little bit addicted to decorating sugar cookies.

I love the endless possibilities that Easter eggs afford. There are so many different ways to decorate them. I decided to go for more traditional pastel colours and slightly old-fashioned designs. Like the filigree and dots for example.

The flowers are outlined with icing and dipped in sugar. I would have used coarse sugar had I had some handy, alas I am woefully ill-equipped.

And of course what is Easter without chicks? Half of them I dipped their whole bodies in sugar and the other half just their make them look kind of fuzzy.

The design on these ones is one I used on the Christmas tree cookies I made over the holidays and I think it works just as well for Easter eggs.

I saved my favourite for last. My favourite because I've never actually done brush embroidery until now and I am unabashedly, indescribably, ridiculously in love with brush embroidery. Who knows why? But it's just so elegant and pretty.

So there you have it. My decorated, decidedly non-chocolate Easter eggs. I still want to participate in an Easter egg hunt. Unfortunately my parents decided that once you've reached your twenties you're too old for such things. Oh well. Happy hunting nonetheless!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sunny and warming up nicely

Oh, hello there! Yes, it's me again. Surprised? I am. But as I sit here, drinking my coffee, having just eaten some rather wonderful pancakes, I feel the need to share said pancakes with you. It's a lovely day outside; sunny and warming up nicely. Spring is on it's way this time, I'm sure of it. No more surprise snow that refuses to melt for weeks. And I am coming out of hibernation at last.

This morning I was inspired to make pancakes. I love breakfast and so rarely get the chance to sit and have a proper breakfast. So I decided to take advantage of my morning off. This recipe was adapted from How to Cook Everything. I began with the basic recipe for fluffy pancakes, substituted some of the white flour for buckwheat flour, and threw in a mashed banana. And, voila! Light and Fluffy Buckwheat Banana Pancakes.

I love when improvised recipes turn out well and these turned out even better than expected. The banana and buckwheat play off each other nicely, the sweetness of the banana tempering the buckwheat, which has a tendency to be overly earthy at times. Rather than substitute the entire quantity of white flour with buckwheat flour, like the recipes suggests, I opted for half and half. I wanted the buckwheat to be present, but not kick you in the mouth and take over. And the bananas, oh. They hovered at the edge, subtle, just hinting at their presence, not overwhelming the senses as bananas sometimes do.

They were the perfect start to the morning. A light sweetness to accompany the light breeze drifting through the window, making the whole apartment smell like spring. This bodes well for the day ahead.

Light and Fluffy Buckwheat Banana Pancakes

1 cup milk
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
2 tbsp sugar
Dash of salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 mashed ripe banana

Beat milk and egg yolks together. Mix dry ingredients. Set both aside.
Whip egg whites until stiff, but not dry.
Combine milk mixture and dry ingredients. Mash banana and add to batter.
Gently fold in egg whites until fully incorporated.
Heat skillet and melt butter in pan. Pour some batter into the pan and cook until bubbles form on the surface. Flip and cook until browned.
Add syrup and enjoy!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Perfectly Peanut Butter

Yesterday I made peanut butter cookies. There was a time in my life where I didn't like peanut butter cookies. Which is odd for several reasons. One being that I have yet to meet a person who doesn't like peanut butter cookies (those with allergies aside). Another is that I love peanut butter and I love cookies, so you'd think the two together would create my ultimate love. Not the case. All this in spite of my tendency to eat peanut butter straight out of the jar.

But then I started working at this place called Sweet Flour, where we make the most divine peanut butter cookies. And well, I sort of fell in love with peanut butter cookies.

Since I am surrounded by peanut butter cookies at work I haven't felt the need to make them at home. But yesterday I was sitting on the couch, browsing through my Harrowsmith cookbook for a good cookie recipe and the peanut butter cookies caught my eye.

Carlene Blankenship, who submitted this recipe to Harrowsmith (a magazine, for those of you who have never heard of it), calls them Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies, and I am inclined to agree. They are delicious. And easy.

Now I have an admission to make. I didn't technically follow the recipe. And it wasn't until after the batter was mixed that I even realized I hadn't. As previously mentioned, I make cookies at work. So when I get a recipe for standard drop cookies I tend not to really read through the recipe. Which is bad because, no matter what, you should always read through a new recipe before starting. Even if you're sure the entire quantity of sugar is supposed to be creamed in at the beginning.

Anyway, as you can see, they turned out fine. I don't actually think it makes that much of a difference, but the next time I make them I'll do it properly. And if you make them before I do, properly, without my apparently haughty I-don't-need-recipe-instructions attitude, let me know how they turn out.

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup pack brown sugar (divided)
1 egg
3/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Cream butter, peanut butter, white sugar, and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt, then beat in. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top of dough and fold in so sugar granules are still visible. (Yes, that was the bit I missed when I made them)
Scoop dough using a 1" ice cream scoop (or just roll them into tablespoon sized balls) and press into 1/4"-thick circles on a baking tray. Bake at 375F for 10 minutes.

You don't actually need to use a fork to press the cookies, but there's something that is just very peanut butter cookies about using a fork. I have a memory of pressing peanut butter cookies as a child and, despite my dislike of peanut butter cookies at the time, I remember feeling like it was something special, putting the finishing touches on those cookies. I can't even remember who was making them, just the fork pressing into the dough to make those distinguishing cross-hatches.

So I would recommend using a fork, if just for nostalgic purposes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sea and Sun

Ah, sun and warmth. I had almost forgotten what they felt like. I have used the past week to acclimatize to the cold after coming back from the Bahamas, the beautiful, sunny, warm Bahamas. It is raining right now. And I wish I was back here.

It really was just what the doctor ordered. Apart from some unfortunate food poisoning on my sister's part and some inordinately itchy sand fly bites. But it was nice to get away from the cold and snow for a while. The moment we stepped off the plane it smelled like summer. Like heat, and earth, and sweet flowers on the air. Heady and humid and the greatest relief from the persistent chill of home.

These vacations never last long enough. Especially when you come home to a fresh layer of snow. Especially when I managed to avoid sustaining any serious sunburns (a feat previously unheard of when I'm in tropical climes). Especially when the water is this blue.

For the most part we stayed on the resort, lying by the pool, walking on the beach, drinking margaritas and pina coladas at 11:00 am. And all that was fantastic. I finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo and unblocked some serious writer's block that I'd had going on. Already I'm 9000 words into my next book. It's amazing what a little sun and relaxation will do.

But let's be honest. The reason I'm mentioning this vacation here at all is because of food. The day we went into town for some shopping we stopped for lunch at this little Italian restaurant called Cafe Matisse. It was tucked away in the midst of some legal buildings, it's walls covered in the lively, colourful works of Matisse.

It was here that my family and I made a rather important discovery: we're not really resort people. While the resort food was decent, it had nothing on this place. This home of the best calamari I've ever tasted. Of beautifully plated decadence and food that you could continue eating long after you're full. We are absurdly spoiled food snobs. But I'm okay with it. We know better now. It's not just that we want to go to different restaurants when we travel, I think we need to. Isn't that part of the fun of traveling?

But I'm holding you in suspense, aren't I? You want to know what this beautiful concoction of red and green is. Well let me tell you. This dessert is avocado mousse with raspberry coulis. It was easily one the best things I've ever tasted. The term mousse is used rather loosely here I think. It wasn't actually set with anything as a mousses usually is. It had more of the consistency of slightly runny pudding. I wish I had a better way of describing it because I fear nothing I say is really going to do it justice. It was smooth and subtly sweet. Avocados lend such an unbelievable buttery texture to everything that it was like eating liquid silk. Sweet, creamy liquid silk.

The raspberry coulis provided a lovely tangy quality that offset the sweetness, but if I were to make this, I wouldn't put as much of it. You have to dig quite a bit through the coulis before you get to the avocado. If you ever go to Nassau, Bahamas, I insist that you cannot miss this. Order the calamari and the avocado mousse. You won't be disappointed.

On a completely separate and unrelated note, I do not forget the last promise I made to provide a recipe this post. So here is one for some cookies I made a few days before we left for vacation. They are Banana-Walnut Chocolate-Chunk Cookies from Martha Stewart and they got rave reviews from everyone that tried them. They're like a hybrid between chocolate chip cookies and banana bread. Truly warm and comforting on a cold day.

Banana-Walnut Chocolate-Chip Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 large)
1 cup rolled oats
8 ounces chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine flours, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
Cream butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture and mix just until combined. Add oats, chocolate, and nuts.
Using a 1 1/2 inch ice cream scoop, or two spoons, drop dough onto a baking sheet about an inch apart. Bake 13 minutes.

This recipe doubles easily without being excessively large. It will still fit nicely in your large mixing bowl. Also, I used pecans instead of walnuts, since that's what I had in the cupboard. I also didn't have enough chocolate, but that's the glorious thing about what gets mixed into a dough. The quantities aren't really important. So pour a glass of milk and enjoy!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cookies and Chocolates

Well, that was not the month I had planned. I seem to remember saying that part of my New Year's Resolution was to write on here more. That's what I get for voicing my intentions. A jinx. Oh well. I'm here now. And I have for you some cookies and chocolates.

As it were I think cookies and chocolate may be one of the only redeeming qualities of Valentine's Day. As my sister said, it either makes or breaks a relationship or succeeds in making single people feel even more single. It also transforms normally respectable looking places into venues that appear to have been vomited on by giant pink marshmallows.

Then again, it gives me the excuse to make cute cookies and pretty chocolates and I can forgive any holiday that allows me to do that no matter how cheesy or nauseating it happens to be. And I get to use filigree. Which I only recently learned how to do and am rather excited about. Look how pretty it is?

And I got to make cookies look like candies. Candy message hearts to be exact. You know the ones. They cross so far over into the realm of the absurdly corny and saccharine that they're cute. It is impossible for them to function in any form that is not ironic. I was quite happy with how they turned out.

Oh, and the chocolates of course. Which I made with one of the lovely new chocolate moulds I got from my mom for Christmas. They fit so perfectly in the little pink boxes I got. Yes, I realize I am a giant hypocrite. Hating on Valentine's Day and then unabashedly flaunting all the trappings that go along with it. Well, such is the world we live in. And aren't they pretty?

Recipes next time. I do promise. I recently made some delicious cupcakes that deserve mention here, but I didn't get a chance to take any pictures so they will have to wait until I make them again.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A bit of warmth on a cold day

Hello faithful readers! I feel bad that I haven't posted anything lately, but Christmas was hectic. Fun and wonderful, as always, but very busy. But have no fear, my New Years resolution involves writing here more often.

I had extravagant intentions of writing about my adventures in Christmas baking, but I spent so much time baking that I had no time left for writing. I made decorated sugar cookies as well as some chocolates, both molded and dipped. I plan on making some of the same for Valentine's Day, especially since I got some lovely chocolate molds for Christmas, so you will not miss out entirely.

I also attempted to make German springerle, which may have turned out better had I not over-baked them. Next year I will attempt a new recipe and let you know how it turns out. Also, I will watch the oven throughout the baking process. Or just set an oven timer.

Until then I have something else for you. I had several days off recently. Entire days off. No work, no school, only minimal chores to do around the apartment, so I decided to make myself a good meal. In light of the recent snow and cold (and the head cold I contracted) I decided soup was a good way to go. And what I landed on was this lovely recipe from Fine Cooking magazine.

It is called autumn vegetable soup, and though it is no longer autumn, I think it's also appropriate for the chill of winter. It's chunky and hearty and downright delicious.

Soup is easily the best way to get your vegetables. Though vegetables have begun to grow on me in recent years (figuratively speaking of course), they're still not my favourite thing in the world. But even as a child, when I abhorred vegetables with a passion normally reserved for spiders and centipedes, I would eat them in soup. Something about the mingling of flavours, the softening of the normally hard and crunchy carrots or broccoli or celery, makes vegetables nearly divine. They sort of melt in your mouth with the broth, warming you straight to your toes all the while satisfying your appetite and keeping you healthy. The true definition of delicious and nutritious.

So here it is. Autumn vegetable soup. I tweaked it from the original recipe because I had spinach in my fridge and didn't feel like buying kale. I added the cumin and I'm leaving out the salt that it calls for because even with the low-sodium broth I found it a bit salty.

Autumn Vegetable Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
3 medium carrots, medium dice
1 large yellow onion, medium dice
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cubed butternut squash (about half a 2lb squash)
1/4 tsp ground allspice
pinch of cumin to taste
1 quart low salt chicken broth (for those of you not brought up on the imperial system of measurement it's just over 950ml or three standard size soup cans)
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups lightly packed spinach or kale
1 cup chickpeas

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.
Add carrots and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 6 minutes.
Add garlic and cook for a minute more.
Add the squash, allspice, and cumin and stir to combine.
Add the broth, tomatoes with their juice, and thyme.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add spinach and chickpeas and cook uncovered until squash is tender and spinach is wilted, about 10 more minutes.
Discard thyme before serving. Season with more salt and cumin to taste.