Archives for September 2012

8 tips for hosting Thanksgiving outdoors

Written by Simple Bites contributor Jan Scott of Family Bites.

The first time I told my mother-in-law that our annual Thanksgiving dinner was being held outdoors, she replied with “well, that’s interesting.” Not one to openly voice her opinion, or critique her sons and their wives, there was no mistaking the “lady, you’ve lost your mind” tone in her comment.

I’d wanted to celebrate the day of Thanks outdoors for a few years, and every October had arrived with uncertain weather forecasts, forcing me to hold the event inside. It had become a tad tight and crowded in our small urban home, as our family had nearly tripled in size in recent years. Of course, as each Thanksgiving Sunday arrived, the skies were blue, the temperature warm, and I cursed myself for not dining al fresco.

I’m happy to report that three years later, the Scott Family Outdoor Thanksgiving is a delicious success, thanks to our glorious October weather, and I dare say it’s now a holiday the entire family looks forward to. It does take a little coordination, though, as most outdoor meals are casual affairs, and I’m always determined not to loose the specialness of our holiday meal just because it’s being eaten outside.

Here are a few tips to help you host your own holiday dinner in the open air this year, if you’re so inclined.

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Planning for the October Unprocessed challenge (Pumpkin Spice Granola)

If I could sum this post up in five words, I would say, in true Joy the Baker fashion,

October Unprocessed. Get into it.”

However I feel I owe you at least a little background, followed by a look at how I’m gearing up for the annual whole foods challenge. The motivation? That has to come from you, but if you are already a regular reader of this blog, I’m guessing that you would be totally down with this challenge. (There I go again with the Joy-isms.)

What is the Unprocessed Challenge?

Andrew of Eating Rules is a terrific guy with a fantastic message about healthy food. His goal behind the October Unprocessed challenge is to try to get as many people as possible off of processed foods and eating whole, healthier foods during the month of October. The thought behind this goal is to show people that they will ultimately feel better after the challenge – and hopefully be inspired to improve their long term eating habits.

What are the ‘rules‘?

“Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.” – Andrew Wilder.

Sounds do-able, right? After all, we’re already on the whole food track here at Simple Bites.

You may remember that we cut our teeth on October Unprocessed for a week last year. There was the menu plan, and the follow-up recap of the week, highlighting a few of our favorite recipes. I also wrote a guest posted for Andrew and shared Seven Ways to Survive October Unprocessed with Kids, which I’ll be putting to practice again this year.

This time around I’m feeling better equipped for taking on the whole month. We’re feeding a baby real food, after all; that is even more incentive to keep our diet unprocessed. Sure, Canadian Thanksgiving is coming up in October, but both this naturally sweetened apple pie and this rustic maple pecan pie are unprocessed, and as long as we have pie, we’re all set.

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English Eccles Cakes for special occasions

From time to time there are occasions special enough to break out the fine china and bake up a tray of scrumptious treats. The impending arrival of a new baby is just that sort of opportunity, and Eccles Cakes are just the ticket for a tea-time delicacy.

Today we celebrate our friend Jen Schall, who is due to have a sweet baby girl in just a few weeks. She is the gentle, yet opinionated voice behind My Kitchen Addiction, and has been baking a little bun in the oven alongside her usual sugar cookies and coffee cakes. This little one’s arrival is highly anticipated and a few of us just wanted to surround Jen at this significant time in her life and show our support.

If we could be so fortunate as to bypass the miles that separate us all, I imagine we would gather in a sunny living room for tea and treats. We’d give Jen the comfiest chair, of course, then settle in around her – on pillows, the sofa arm, or cross-legged on the floor – to admire her taut belly, speculate over baby names, and prattle on about our own birthing experiences. (Sorry, Brian!)

Traditional English Eccles Cakes would be my contribution to the event, a crispy pastry filled with spiced currants and topped with a sprinkling of raw sugar. Read on for the recipe and for an impressive list of links from the other virtual baby shower attendees.

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Crushed Tomatoes: Canned or Frozen?

Written by Shaina of Food for My Family.

Here today, gone tomorrow. Or so the saying goes. The tomatoes that seem to fill every square inch of my farmer’s market will surely be around for another week, but then they will slowly disappear, being replaced by an overabundance of winter squash and pumpkins. The pumpkins are coming.

What’s been priceless to me during the long winter months, however, is having those tomatoes around. Store-bought tomatoes simply do not sing as do their locally-grown counterparts. They lack the depth and character of the heirloom varieties that stare back at me in my backyard and on the farmers’ stalls. They are devoid of flavor. (In my opinion, at least.)
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A Robot Birthday Cake

My chubby-cheeked firstborn, my Noah, is seven. Yesterday we bounced balloons, cut cake, passed lemonade, and sang to celebrate another milestone, another year gone by. The signs are everywhere: his front tooth is lose, the cuffs of his favorite blue sweatshirt are creeping up his arm and he’s growing in every direction.

Around the table at his party, he deftly wielded an eight-inch serrated knife and carved up slices of birthday cake for each one of his friends. He served himself last. That, in itself, is a sure sign he is growing up.

I’ve already shared my tips for a simple kids birthday party, so I won’t go into detail on the decorations (none) or games (one enormous neighborhood treasure hunt), but I am excited to tell you about Noah’s cake. A homemade cake is an essential part of the birthday party, and this year’s theme was: Robot!

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