Butternut Squash, Ginger and Pear Soup


Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada! I made big turkey dinner for my family last night and then we watched the Blue Jays’ baseball game together. It was fun family time and the Blue Jays won, so we had much to celebrate.

Many people take a moment on Thanksgiving Day to mention all of the things that they are thankful for. I have a long list of family and friends who make my life special and I hope they know who they are. I also have a passion for photography and food, and the joy that sharing those passions brings me. I am thankful for those blessings every day, not just today.

One of my blog followers asked me to feature a fall soup so I tried out this vegan version of Butternut Squash, Ginger and Pear soup. It is a compilation of a few recipes. I really like the complex flavour that adding coconut milk adds to the recipe. The consistency is lighter than other butternut squash soups that I have made but, it is still packed with flavour.

I hope you enjoy the soup. Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers!


Butternut Squash, Ginger and Pear Soup

Makes 8 servings


2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 medium leeks, finely chopped

2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced finely

6 pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch pieces

6 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 cup coconut milk

Fresh thyme sprigs and pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)




In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and ginger and sauté until tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

Add the squash and pears and continue to cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes until squash is tender.

Remove from heat and add coconut milk. Puree the soup in a blender in batches and serve with your choice of garnish.



Asparagus Vichyssoise Soup to Warm Your Heart


For those of you who live in warm climates, I am envious. Canada and the Northeast U.S. has been pummeled with snow for the past few days. Our poor neighbours south of the border in Buffalo, NY had 4 feet of snow fall on them. Yes, you read that correctly, that was 4 feet not 4 inches. It is only November and I am already dreaming of flying to warmer climates. I often wish I could live in Canada during our warm season and New Zealand during theirs. It would be fun to switch hemispheres every 6 months.

Even with the cold, I am starting to get excited about the holidays! My grandson is in kindergarten and has his first school concert next month. The holidays are so much more fun when you see them through the eyes of a child. They still believe in the magic of the season. They believe that if they wish for something, it will come true.

In the spirit of the season I have 3 wishes:

I wish that we could truly have peace on earth.
I wish that those who are less fortunate are able to find warmth and food this winter.
I wish that we could each take time out from our day to do something good for someone else.

If you could have 3 wishes what would they be? If you could help someone this holiday season, what would you do?

To warm up from the weather outside, I made a wonderful version of my favourite soup, Vichyssoise. This is Yotam Ottolenghi’s version from his cookbook called Plenty which adds asparagus for even more dimension. Once you taste this version you may not go back to the original.


Asparagus Vichyssoise Soup

Makes 4 servings

2 leeks
1 pound asparagus
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 ½ tbsp. butter
2 ½ cups organic vegetable stock
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp. heavy cream
6 tbsp. Greek yogurt
Grated zest of ½ lemon

Peel the potato and dice, roughly. Chop off and discard the green of the leeks, cut them in half lengthways, wash and slice. Cut off and discard the woody base of the asparagus, then cut into ¾ inch pieces; keep the tips separate. Reserve a few whole spears.
In a big pan, sauté all the vegetables, other than the asparagus tips in butter for four minutes, taking care they don’t colour. Add stock, sugar and a little seasoning, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, lid on, for 40 minutes. Add the asparagus tips and cook for and additional 10 minutes.
Once done puree the soup in a blender until smooth, fold in the cream and half the yogurt, leave to cool to room temperature, then chill. While it’s cooling, bring a pot of water to the boil, blanch the reserved asparagus spears for 30 seconds, drain.
To serve, pour the chilled soup into bowls, add a dollop of yogurt and swirl with the tip of a skewer. Place some blanched asparagus pieces in the centre of the soup and garnish with lemon zest.

Recipe from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Wonderful Vegetarian Corn Soup with Avocado and Lime


Why are there so many competitive cooking shows on TV?

There is Master Chef, Recipes to Riches, Cutthroat Kitchen, My Kitchen Rules, just to name a few. What happened to educational programs like Cooking with Julia or Jacques Pepin where the chef prepared dishes and explained classic techniques as they went along.

What are we learning from watching people compete against one another to win cash or titles? Are the people who are disqualified lesser chefs, or did they just not do well under pressure? Are we learning how to cook or how to compete?

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer a program filled with fresh ideas, demonstrations and tips on how to make the dish work. Show me a chef with a passion for food and some amazing ingredients. Then show me how they can turn those ingredients into mouth-watering dishes and I will give you my attention and I will come back for more.

I find my cooking inspiration from great chefs, home cooks and wonderful cookbooks. I am often found sitting curled up in an arm-chair, sipping a cup of tea, and pouring over a good cookbook or a beautiful magazine. I imagine the taste of each recipe and how I might tweak it to make it my own. I look for ones that include seasonal ingredients so the flavours will be fresh and delightful. I mark my favourite pages with sticky notes so when it is time to go shopping I can refer back to those recipes, easily, to make my list.

When I saw this recipe in Gourmet Traveller I was immediately inspired. I have changed the ingredients to suit my taste and to make it work as an easy vegetarian soup that is perfect for this time of year. I love the combination of the tomato and corn based soup with the freshness of the lime and avocado.

Corn Soup With Avocado and Lime

Makes 4 servings


6 vine-ripened tomatoes, halved
14 oz. can Plum tomatoes, drained
1 Spanish onion, cut into wedges
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic gloves, finely chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
3 cups frozen corn
2 avocados, coarsely chopped
1 fresh lime, juiced
1 fresh lime, cut in wedges for serving
1/2 cup fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
Hot sauce, optional-add to taste


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place tomato halves, skin side up on a cookie sheet, add onion and drizzle with half of the olive oil. Place tray in the oven and cook 5 minutes or until the skin starts to blister. Remove the pan from the oven and remove skin from tomatoes.

Heat remaining oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until tender. Add stock, roasted vegetables, canned tomatoes and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Season and simmer 10 minutes.

Pulse in the blender in batches until it is a coarse puree and return it to the pot. Add corn and bring back to a simmer for 5 minutes on medium heat, until the corn is tender.

Coarsely crush the peeled avocado in a bowl, add lime juice and coriander.

Serve soup in individual bowls topping each with the avocado mixture and serving with extra lime on the side.

Hot sauce can be added to taste. I left it out since I prefer a milder soup.

Recipe inspired by Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook-2013 Collectors Edition

Tuscan Bean Soup – Warming Hearts for a Worthy Cause


Instead of starting my year with resolutions about losing weight and getting in shape, I decided that this year I would try to give back to the community in some way. I am blessed with a good job, a thriving business, good health and loving people in my life. There are so many others who are less fortunate who could use some help.

My hope is that if we each decided to perform a single act of kindness each month or give of ourselves regularly, collectively it would make a difference. Of course, if you can do more, it would be more beneficial. I plan to feature some groups that are giving back to the community in some way through cooking or giving of food.

I was really inspired by the Sharon Hapton story. Sharon decided, as she was turning 50, to do something to give back to the community so she founded Soup Sisters. Soup Sisters is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing comfort to women and children in need through the making, sharing and donating of soup to domestic abuse shelters. Soup Sisters have twelve chapters across Canada, with plans to expand into the United States. At the time of printing the book, the organization had provided over 100,000 bowls of soup to women and children in need.

It is not often that I am able to feature a cookbook that is produced by a charitable organization. Often, books produced to raise funds are a collection of home recipes by volunteers photocopied and clipped together with a cerlox binding. The Soup Sisters Cookbook is so much more than that. This lovely cookbook features 100 recipes for heartwarming soups from more than 50 chefs and food professionals. Mouth watering recipes such as this Tuscan Bean Soup, or Curried Squash and Coconut, or Apple, Carrot and Parsnip are divided by season and are accompanied by lovely photos. Although most of these soups were made in large batches for the shelters, the recipes are all written to yield 6-8 servings.

If you are a soup lover, as I am, you will love this cookbook.



Tuscan Bean Soup

Makes 6 servings


2 cups (500 ml) cooked white navy beans (drained and rinsed if canned)
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, washed and sliced
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
6 large Roma tomatoes, diced
3 gloves garlic, minced and finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
8 cups (2 L) chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish


Puree half the beans until smooth, adding a little water if necessary. Place the pureed beans in a bowl with the remaining whole beans and set aside.

In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onion, carrot, celery and leek in the oil, until the onion is softened.

Stir in all the beans and the tomatoes, garlic and thyme.

Add the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low.

Simmer uncovered until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Season soup with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle up in a bowl and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Recipe from The Soup Sisters Cookbook contributed by Caren McSherry, cookbook author and Owner, The Gourmet Warehouse, Vancouver, BC

I bought mine here:


For more information visit www.soupsisters.org or email: info@soupsisters.org

Food Styling with some Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup


School is out………….Let the fun begin!

I just spent the past 2 months in the Food Styling Program at the famous George Brown College Culinary Institute in Toronto. I signed up for the course after taking Culinary Arts 1 as well as other Food in the Media courses so that I could learn to create beautiful, mouth watering shots.


All of the photos on my blog have been of food that I have cooked or baked, styled and photographed myself. Since I had no formal training in food styling, I decided to try out the program at George Brown College. I like the idea of offering clients a full service of styling and shooting if their budget does not allow for a team.


In the course we learned how create fake ice cream out of shortening and icing sugar, as real ice cream would melt under the hot lights while shooting. This was fun but more difficult than it sounds. The mixture needs to be just the right consistency to look real.


It was a great experience working with a teacher who has been styling for years, as well as another food photographer. We styled ice cream, pancakes, burgers, fruit salads, cupcakes, full course meals, as well as hot and cold drinks.


One downside to taking a food styling course in a cooking school was the problem finding a place to shoot the food, once it was styled. The lighting in the kitchen was strong overhead lighting that reflected off of the stainless steel cooking surfaces and there was only one small window in the area where we cooked. I took these quick shots of my creations to share with you and to remind me of the techniques.

I plan to spend the next few months playing with the concepts that we learned and creating some really fun shots. There is nothing more relaxing than spending time creating food shots that are as delicious to look at as they are to eat.

I have also started working on some pairings of local foods with Ontario wines so please pop back and have a look.

This recipe intrigued me because of the wonderful combination of lemon and dill with the chicken soup.


Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup

Makes 4 servings


1 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick

1 celery stalk, sliced crosswise ½ thick

12 oz. skinless, boneless, chicken thighs

6 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

½ cup orzo

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

Lemon halves (for serving)


Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add leeks and celery and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, 5-8 minutes. Add chicken and broth, season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until chicken is cooked through 15-20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool, then shred chicken into bite size pieces.

Meanwhile return broth to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente 8-10 minutes.

Remove pot from heat. Stir in chicken and dill. Serve with lemon halves for squeezing over

Recipe from Bon Appetit April 2013 edition

Vegetarian Borsch


I recently had the honour of making a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner for some friends of mine. The Sviaty Vechir consists of a meal including 12 dishes that contain no meat and no dairy products. This special dinner is held on January 6th which marks the beginning of the Christmas season on the Julian calendar.

It is tradition that the family gathers around the table to celebrate the holiday that begins when the first star is seen in the night sky. The table is set and the candles are lit and an extra place is set for those who cannot be there. It is a night to celebrate and a night to remember ancestors.

The meal always begins with a serving of Kutia which is a pudding made from wheat berries often flavoured with poppy seeds, fruit, nuts or honey. This course is followed by Borsch soup, cabbage rolls, and various fish and vegetable dishes.

Since I am not Ukrainian I had to do some research before inviting my friends to dinner. I wanted it to be special, while preserving tradition.  I admit that I picked up a few of the dishes at the Deli and Ukrainian bakery in Toronto’s Bloor West Village. Even with the dishes that I picked up, I still had many more to prepare. I wanted to make it a meal to remember.

One of the dishes that I made was this rich, ruby-red borsch soup.The recipe can be altered by using beef broth but am posting the vegetarian version. The broth is light and flavourful and the vegetables add enough substance to make it a heart warming addition to any meal.

Vegetarian  Borsch

Makes 6 servings


8 cups vegetable broth
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 large beets, peeled and chopped into ½ inch chunks
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into ½ inch chunks
1 large potato, peeled, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
3/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 cup sour cream (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste


Pour vegetable broth into a large pot and add beets, carrots, and potato; bring to boil.

Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Stir in cabbage and 1/2 cup dill; cook until cabbage is tender, about 15 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in vinegar.

Ladle soup into bowls. Top with a sprinkle of dill or a dollop of sour cream.

Roasted Garlic and Acorn Squash Soup


The holidays are ending and so is the mild weather. We had a snow storm the other night and now the world is covered in a blanket of white. Winter is here.

In order to continue with my exercise program throughout the winter I have taken up skating and will soon be trying downhill skiing for the first time in years. I cannot wait!

I am also going to take classes in Culinary Arts. Since enrolling in the Culinary Arts program at Toronto’s George Brown College I have been busy preparing for classes that start January 8. In Culinary Arts 1 we will be learning the basic skills to prepare and cook food in a similar way to how chefs are trained. From there I can take a number of other courses to expand my repertoire and eventually earn a certificate.

We were given a list of required tools that we need to bring to class. I had most of them in my kitchen but needed to source a few items from local cooking stores.

Culinary Arts 1 Tools List:

1              GBC approved uniform and black safety approved shoes
1              Set of knives (10”-12” French, Serrated and Boning)
2              Paring Knives
1              Knife bag or toolbox
2              Wooden spoons
1              Metal spoon
1              Rubber spatula
1              Tongs
1             Vegetable peeler
1              Ladle (3 ounce)
1              Pastry brush
2              Dessert spoons
1              Bib apron
3-4          Side towels
1              Plastic/canvas bag (to bring product home in)
1              Measuring Spoons
1              Measuring Cup

We will be given the George Brown College continuing education chef’s uniform in class but have been asked to buy a pair of black non skid shoes to wear in the professional kitchens. I chose some great black Danko clogs that many chefs use.

I am getting very excited about this course and the experience of being in a professional kitchen. It will challenge me and provide me with an interesting way to pass the winter months. I am a huge believer in life long learning and in expanding my skills.

I will also blog about what we make each week and about my experience in cooking school.

When it gets cold outside there is nothing like a bowl of homemade soup. I recently picked up a copy of Splendid Soups by James Peterson so I could try some of his great recipes. This roasted garlic and acorn squash soup is hearty and rich with flavour; it warms you from the inside out. I served it with a small dollop of goat cheese which provided and excellent garnish.

Roasted Garlic and Acorn Squash Soup

Makes 8 servings


3 acorn squash, about 1 pound each
4 heads of garlic
2 medium-sized red onions, peeled and halved
3 medium-sized carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
¼ cup olive oil
5 sprigs fresh thyme
3 fresh sage leaves
4 cups chicken broth


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the squash crosswise in half and scoop out the seeds. Break the garlic into cloves but do not peel them. Toss the onions, carrots, and garlic in the olive oil and put everything in the bottom of a roasting pan with the squash halves flat side up. The pan should be just large enough to hold the vegetables in a single layer. Roast for about 1 ½ hours, stirring the vegetables (except the squash) every 20 minutes so they brown and cook evenly. Add the thyme to the pan for the last 10 minutes of roasting.

When the squash is easily penetrated with a knife or a skewer let it cool and scoop the pulp into a mixing bowl and discard the peels. Combine the squash with the roasted vegetables and herbs, and enough broth to get it to turn around in a blender or a food processor and, working in batches, puree until smooth. Work the puree through a food mill or strainer into a clean pot. Add the rest of the broth and season to taste with salt and pepper. If you want the soup to be silky smooth, strain it again through a fine-mesh strainer. Ladle into heated bowls and serve.

Recipe from Splendid Soups by James Peterson

Soup Bowls for the Arts-Roasted Parsnip and Apple Soup

Every November we attend a wonderful luncheon at the Burlington Arts Centre in Burlington, Ontario. It is their annual Soup Bowl event.

Dozens of potters work countless hours throughout the year to produce beautiful hand-made bowls. For one weekend in November 1,000 of those bowls are sold off to raise money for the arts centre. Each person buys a ticket and is allowed to choose one bowl as they enter the dining hall.

Once you have chosen your bowl you take it to one of the restaurant stations where they fill it with delicious soup and provide you with a side salad to go with it. After you finish your lunch volunteers take away your bowl, wash it and bring it back to you all wrapped and ready to take home.

There were four local restaurants who donated soup and salads for the patrons. This year the generous donors were Socrates, Pepperwood Bistro, Canyon Creek and Emma’s Backporch. I chose the Lemon, Chicken and Rice soup that Socrates had provided. It was light and lemony and delectable.

I was invited to this event by my sister who is one of the potters at the centre. She made 50 bowls for the event on her own. It is a great way to start off the holiday season and to support the arts. It is also a great place to find local works of art for holiday gift giving. She has invited me a few times over the past few years and now we consider the day a tradition. It is a great way to get together with family and friends over a sumptuous lunch.

As a tribute to this event I am featuring a wonderful fall soup that I found in my new cookbook Small Plates and Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga. This beautiful cookbook is a work of art on its own. I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I did.

Roasted Parsnip and Apple Soup with Mustard Croutons

Makes: 6 to 8 Servings


1 lb. parsnips, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for garnish
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery stalk, diced 2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
5 c. chicken stock
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
3 slices sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Grated Gruyère cheese, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Toss the diced parsnips, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, turning the parsnips halfway through the cooking process.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and celery. Cook the vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tender but not browned.

Add the roasted parsnips, apples, potatoes, chicken stock, coriander, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). In a small bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard, remaining olive oil, and thyme leaves. Add the diced bread cubes and toss them in the dressing. Lay the croutons on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until golden and crispy.

Puree the soup in a blender in batches or with a hand blender in the pot.

Top each serving with the croutons, and Gruyère cheese.

The soup will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or it can be frozen for up to 1 month.

Recipe from Small Plates and Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga

Perfect Thanksgiving Pumpkin Soup With Honey and Cloves!

Fall Colours-Algonquin Park

Algonquin Park

Algonquin Park

Algonquin Park

We took a day trip to Algonquin Park last weekend to take some photos of the fall colours. The day was amazing; the air was crisp and the sky a rich blue. The fall colours were at their peak and everywhere we looked the trees were showing their fiery autumn hues.

I am truly ashamed to say that this is the first year that I have enjoyed this gorgeous place, even though it is only 3 hours north of Toronto. It is a great place to camp or to go for a day hike through the trails and around the multiple lakes. We hiked a 5km trail that was fairly rugged and full of surprises.

We made our way up and down the terrain, in and out of the bush. When we were in the middle of the forest we could have heard a pin drop in the silence that surrounded us.

It was magical!

This Monday is the Thanksgiving holiday in Canada so I thought I would  feature a traditional fall soup. I served this soup to my family for dinner and it was a huge hit. It is nice served with some toasted pumpkin seeds or pumpkin seed kernels sprinkled on top. Otherwise you can add a small dollop of soft goat cheese if you like. It makes a rich, flavourful soup for the first course of a holiday dinner or for lunch served with warm panini or croissants.

Pumpkin Soup with Honey and Cloves

Makes 8 servings


2 tbsp. (1/4 stick) butter
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 2-pound pumpkin peeled, seeded, chopped (about 6 cups)
6 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
5 whole cloves
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp. honey 


Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery and onion; sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add pumpkin, 6 cups stock and cloves. Cover and simmer until pumpkin is very tender, about 25 minutes.

Discard cloves. Purée soup in batches in blender or use a hand blender to purée in the pot.

Return soup to Dutch oven. Stir in cream and honey. Bring to simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

(Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill. Bring to simmer before serving, thinning with more stock, if desired.)

Recipe from Bon Appetit, October 1995