Winter Roses

It was -3°C (27°F) yesterday morning, and only 8°C (46°F) in the house when I got up to light the fire. The days are short and often rainy. Nights are long. Towels in the bathroom never dry.

Sometimes it can feel miserable.

But over the weekend, I picked roses.

And I have to remind myself that at the winter solstice in Minnesota, I was hacking parsnips out of the frozen ground with a pickaxe, and months would go by without the temperature rising above freezing. The day my daughter was born, the noontime temperature was -31°C (-23°F). I used to teach snowshoeing. The winter we moved to New Zealand, the ground froze to 3 metres (10 ft) deep–froze people’s septic systems for months. Winter was real and deadly.

By contrast, I have not worn a winter coat since we moved here twelve years ago.

The lawn needs mowing year round.

I grow a winter garden (and the vegetables don’t freeze solid).

I pick roses.

Hard to complain about that.

Black Bean Quinoa Burgers

I love burgers made from all sorts of things. At this time of year, most of our burgers are bean based, and most are made up as I go, with whatever’s in the house.

Bean burgers require some thinking ahead, but this recipe makes enough that it’s worth the extra work.

2 cups dry black beans
1 cup quinoa
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 carrot
1 Tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
handful fresh cilantro
2 eggs

Boil the beans ahead of time in plenty of water until soft. Drain and mash cooked beans in a large bowl (I use a potato masher for this). Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water until the water is absorbed (10-15 minutes). Finely chop the onion and garlic. Sauté them in 2-3 Tbsp of olive oil until the onion is translucent. Grate the carrot.

Add all ingredients except the eggs to the mashed beans and stir to mix. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.

Form into patties and place on a well oiled baking tray. Bake at 210°C (400°F) for about 25 minutes, flipping the burgers after 15 minutes.

Makes about 18 burgers. Freeze the leftovers for quick mid-week meals.

The Season for Food Porn

A spread of summer vegetables ready for grilling.

I roasted the last of the summer’s potatoes last week, and finished off the carrots over the weekend. The corn I froze in March and April is already a memory, as are the cherries, apples and blackcurrants.

We’re getting to the boring time of year, when our vegetable options are limited, and we eat a lot of beans. It’s not a problem, but it means it’s a great time to enjoy food porn. Here are just a few of my favourites.

Waffles smothered in strawberries

Roast summer veggies

Soy, parmesan-crusted zucchini sticks, watermelon, and breadsticks dipped in a rich tomato sauce.

Tomatoes ripe and flavourful

Apricot upside down cake

Homemade strawberry ice cream

Spectacular Storm

Just a few minutes before the rain, with the sun still shining.

When I checked the weather forecast last night, it looked promising for hanging out the washing today. Perhaps a bit overly windy, but a dry nor’westerly wind.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the house this morning before it was light, so I wasn’t able to get the laundry on the laundry line. Instead, I hung it on the indoor drying rack, set on the porch.

It was a good thing.

The storm that was forecast to blow in late in the afternoon arrived several hours early.

I had a fabulous view of it from the library where I was working today. The clouds spread out like a spill of hot jam, oozing across the the sky. The leading edge, when it first appeared, was white and smooth, but behind it, the clouds roiled black.

For an hour, I watched the storm ooze toward me. All the while the sun shone bright and warm.

Fifteen minutes before I knew I had to leave to pick up the kids, I decided it was time to make a run for the car. The storm nipped at my heels, and I just had time to get into the car before every autumn leaf on the street was whipped into the air by the first gust of wind.

I drove to the kids’ pick-up spot through a whirlwind of flying leaves and rubbish. By the time their bus pulled up a few minutes later, the car was being lashed by rain and hail.

And the laundry? It wasn’t exactly dry, and some of it had blown off the rack. But I was thankful that darkness had kept me from putting it on the line in the morning.

Moonlit Night

I should have stayed in this evening and written my blog post.

But the moon was full, the sky clear, and the sea calm.

They called the family out to the beach, where moonlight sparkled on cresting waves. Where the black shadows of driftwood stumps clawed across the rocks. Where waves hissed and foamed up the sand. Where mist clung along the arch of the shore. Where the salt smell clung in our hair and nostrils. Where one single light, far out on the Banks Peninsula, was the only sign we weren’t completely alone on Earth.

So you’ll have to excuse me, for I’ve written no post for today. I have no photo–only my words to urge you out on this moonlit night.

Rainy Day Cookies

Yesterday was a squally southerly. Not much fun to be outdoors, but at least there were moments when it wasn’t raining, and the sun even peeked out for about thirty seconds.

But today, that southerly has settled into an all-day heavy, driving drizzle. Looks light, but soaks you through in minutes.

Cabin fever has set in on this long weekend.

So it was time to bake again. Something involved. These subtly flavoured crunchy oat thins were just the thing. The difficult-to-work-with dough took extra time and care to mix and roll out. The fragile unbaked cookies had to be handled with care. And the filling of them to create beautiful sandwiches had to be done with gentle precision.

Not a cookie to make when you’re rushed for time.

But a wonderful rainy-day creation.

Name that dinner…

While doing the afternoon chores today, I considered what I would make for dinner. Before I came inside, I gathered some of the ingredients I needed from the garden and from storage in the shed.

Can you guess what vegetable I paired with these flavourful ingredients?


You got it.


Truthfully, I didn’t decide exactly what I was making until after I gathered these seasonings; I only knew I wanted pumpkin. And to me, there’s nothing that says pumpkin like sage, thyme, onion and garlic. (Unless, of course, you’re talking sweet pumpkin, in which case it’s cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.)

I think many gardeners do this. We look at what vegetables we have on hand, and often know the ingredient list for our meals long before we know quite what we’re making.

Tonight I used my pumpkin in a cheesy pasta, but it could have just as easily become risotto, galette, or pot pie with very little change in ingredients.

Of course, the only reason I think sage and thyme when I consider pumpkin is because of my cultural background. If I were Indian, I might pair my pumpkin with cumin, coriander, garam masala and turmeric for a spicy pumpkin curry.

It’s what keeps gardeners from getting bored of eating the same vegetables day after day. Small changes can make a big difference in the final product.