Butternut Squash Gratin: A New Family Favorite Side Dish

Today’s post is going to be brief! There’s been a line-up of epic posts recently – all good things mind you, but it’s time for something short and sweet.

This butternut squash gratin is just that: uncomplicated, yet sophisticated in an understated way. We enjoyed it as one of our side dishes this past weekend for Canadian Thanksgiving, and here’s the crazy part: my kids ate it and asked for seconds. I know !

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Thanksgiving…many ways.


Last week I was probably more excited about having Noah home for four whole days than I was about Thanksgiving. For some crazy reason, I had decided not to cook my own turkey dinner, perhaps because an entire week (OK, make that a month) of functioning on five or six hours of sleep had taken it’s toll.

Besides, I knew we would have turkey dinner with all the trimmings at my in-laws, so it wasn’t like I was skipping Thanksgiving entirely.


Then I developed this recipe for Whole Wheat Buttermilk Rolls and invented their adorable presentation…and got all excited about cooking again. And setting a fine table. And hosting. There was no way I could not cook a Thanksgiving dinner, I mean, just look at this festive inspiration outside my patio doors.


So I was pumped; I found a fresh local turkey, TONS of brussels sprouts – which Mateo helped carry – and proceeded to spend half of Saturday in the kitchen.


Turns out that was just what I needed. It no joke that cooking is my therapy of choice, and I relaxed, rejoiced, and found rejuvenation in preparing a simple turkey dinner for my family and a few close loved ones.


You’ve seen a few of these recipes before…Fruit & Herb Stuffing, Perfect Mashed Potatoes, and a few more are coming soon on Simple Bites. One in particular, the butternut squash gratin (Wednesday), was a huge hit, leaving me with zero leftovers. I should probably be happy about that, but dang, I wanted some for the reheat!

So that was Saturday. Sunday was the wonderfully homey traditional dinner with my in-laws. There were pies, Maple, Pumpkin and Cherry. I had some of all three, then we beetled off home because I had an early morning date with these guys:


The folks from Daybreak had invited me to come talk turkey in studio at 8 AM. So I drove downtown and tried to put cohesive sentences together on only one cup of coffee.
You decide if I succeeded or not; you can listen to the radio clip HERE.

I did discover, however, that I have a lot to say on the subject of turkey and could probably go on all day. Mercifully, the news had to be shared eventually and I got shut down.

Our afternoon today was lazily spent, well, eating. Friends came over and we shared a most excellent Turkey Shepherd’s Pie (loosely based on this one, but with sauteed leeks and cheese curd in the mashed potatoes), with more brussels sprouts.


Then we headed outside, went for a walk, hung around the campfire and toasted cinnamon marshmallows, and enjoyed the very best weather of the season.

Late afternoon brought tea on the patio as well as this beautiful pie that my friend brought over.


Yes, there was even homemade vanilla bean ice cream to top it off with. Now you see why my Thanksgiving weekend is shaping up to be one of the best ever.


Incidentally, this pie was also my late dinner, and now that I’m writing about it…I’m thinking I need a snack. So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to enjoy the last few hours of my Thanksgiving – with a slice of apple pie.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers….

Dinner Rolls Baked in a Jar (Recipe: Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Rolls)

Dinner parties have evolved tremendously over the last few decades and that is a good thing. Hosts are more health conscious, well-traveled and embrace a variety of ethnic flavors and cuisines. The standard all-white Parker House dinner rolls are replaced by something more rustic, more substantial, if there is any bread at all.

The dinner roll once graced the side plate routinely at the evening meal, but it is now less frequently present, as carb-conscious folks tend to swap it out for a salad. However, a perfect Thanksgiving meal should include a dinner roll, a healthy, flavorful, homemade bun, with a soft interior and a solid crust.

We’ll be enjoying these Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Dinner Rolls with Rosemary alongside our turkey dinner this weekend. A one hundred percent whole wheat roll that you don’t have to feel guilty about eating, these easy buns are softened by the addition of butter, lightened with buttermilk and fun to make with the kids.

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Inspiration for a sweet table


Remember my fall list? Well, it’s been keeping me pretty busy. Tonight, as we roasted cinnamon marshmallows over the open fire, and the flaming maple leaves fell all around us, I contemplated taking a little hiatus from this space. You know, since fall is such a busy time and all.

But then I realized that we’d be heading into Christmas once I returned, and after Christmas is Blissdom (yes, I’m going) and then in February is that engagement party I’m throwing and Mateo’s birthday and, and…

It’s always a ‘busy time’, so I’m just going to keep posting here and there when I have a few minutes and keeping you up to date with the goodness leaving my kitchen.

Speaking of which, have you seen the Chilled Pumpkin Cheesecake? Just in time for our Thanksgiving? Yep. Don’t miss it, nor the new vlog that I had a ton of fun making. (just ignore the pantyhose comment, OK?)


On to the food! In this case, the sweets. I had the opportunity to bake up a storm for a baby shower for one of my most favorite people ever, Angela. She makes up half of the Tim Chin Photography dynamic duo (check out our last family photo shoot with them) and she’s about eight months pregnant with Tiny Tim, as I like to call him.


I had to go a bit nuts with the food. Ange is such a stylish girl…and loves food almost as much as I do! Here are some of the sweets that the guests feasted on:


Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting. You’ve seen the cake before, now meet the mini-cupcake.


Chai-Scented Creme Brulé, because creme brulé is Ange’s favorite dessert ever. I infused the cream with a little of Philippe de Vienne’s Chai Spice Blend, and it was just enough to give the dessert a hint of something special.


Quebec Pear and Candied Ginger Individual Crisps, served warm with Cinnamon Whipped Cream.


Prosecco-Lime Gelée with Seasonal Fruits, inspired by this post on Desserts for Breakfast. Refreshing, elegant, and low-fat, if you’re concerned about that.


Chocolate Pecan Puddle Cookies are a must at any event, as are Orange Sandwich Cookies with Chocolate Caramel Ganache.

S’mores! Traditional graham crackers, cinnamon marshmallows (blue for ‘boy’) and dark chocolate squares. (I used Lindt). I torched these á la minute for the girls.


Close up of the sandwich cookies. I used Jamie’s Chewy Lemon Cookies, which were fantastic because they can be mixed up, rolled into logs and frozen in advance. I used orange instead of lemon and it paired well with the dark chocolate.
For the filling I prepared Robin’s Dark Chocolate Caramel Sauce, and let it firm up before filling. These cookies were pretty, bite-size and perfect for a baby shower, however they had to be refrigerated right up until serving. Not a warm weather cookie!

There were also mini Lemon Poppy-Seed Cupcakes, and these Nutella Brownies. And that was about enough.

Congratulations again to the mother-to-be. I’ll bet the little guy was kicking up a storm after this sugar rush! Way to get him hooked on crême brulé early…

Simple Chilled Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe (vlog)

Thanksgiving is just one week away for us Canadians and around here that means a few constants such as pumpkin desserts, little boys in button-down shirts, and turkey dinner for fifty.

While pie is a staple on the sweet table, I like to round things out with a cool and creamy cheesecake, preferably pumpkin, since they are so plentiful now. A pie is best enjoyed warm from the oven (not always feasible on Turkey Day), but I’m convinced this chilled pumpkin cheesecake only gets better after a day or two in the refrigerator, making it the perfect do-ahead dessert.

I’m keeping this post short because you absolutely must watch my latest vlog. Not only do I demonstrate the easiest cheesecake I’ve ever made, but it is jam-packed full of practical kitchen shortcuts and time-savers! [Read more…]