How to Cook for a Family Reunion: Part 2 – Lessons Learned From the Kitchen

This post is Part 2 of How to Cook for a Family Reunion. Read Part 1 here.

What is hosting a family reunion like? Well, think of the biggest, most elaborate birthday party you’ve every thrown for your kids. Think of the planning, the prep, and the big day. Then string ten of those birthday parties in a row – with all the guests sleeping over. That describes the work that goes into planning and executing a family reunion pretty accurately.

Not to worry, however! With proper planning, communication among family members, and following the suggestions from our first post, you, the host can enjoy the reunion just as much as your guests. Yep, that’s right, you’re not going to be chained to the stove the whole time, so you’d better bite the bullet and go swimsuit shopping–you’ll be poolside along with everyone else!

This post will highlight tips for success to feed a large group of people from your own kitchen. I think that if the kitchen is running in a smooth and orderly fashion, the family reunion is sure to be a triumph!

So grab a pen and paper and take notes for your own reunion… or even as preparation for hosting those out-of-town guests next weekend. [Read more…]

Cookbook Love: What I’m Reading

My cookbook collection has expanded considerably this summer and the content has gotten much, much richer. I use to be a collector of coffee table cookbooks – pretty to flip through, but not so practical for the home cook- but nowadays, I’m all about practicality and application.

Yes, gorgeous photos are still appreciated, but writing, style, fresh ideas and personality all take precedence as well.

That said, here are some recent acquisitions that I can’t put down, clutter my night stand and counter tops, and are already getting a tad splatted…

250 Home Preserving Favorites by Yvonne Tremblay.

If there is a Canadian queen of jam, it’s probably Yvonne. She’s pretty much the quintessential Prairie girl who grew up making jam & jelly alongside her mother and grandmother. Fortunately for us, she shares her favorite recipes in this new cookbook that is jam-packed (terrible, pun, I know) with inspiration.

250 Home Preserving Favorites begins with a thorough primer on preserving (Thank. You. Yvonne.) covering everything from The Fundamentals of making jam to Choosing and Preparing Fruit & Vegetables. The entire section is crammed with tips, obviously learned from years of experience and is worth the price of the book alone.

Then, the recipes!
Yvonne already won me over with her Micro-Mini Jams, explored and tested over at Simple Bites. The book also contains a bevy of both single and mixed fruit jams, conserves, marmalades, fruit butters (we love those!) and chutneys.

Oh, there’s also a few mincemeat recipes. You’ll recall I made mincemeat for the first time last Christmas. Well, I’ll be giving these new recipes a go come November.

Ideal for the fledgling or veteran jammer, I recommend 250 Home Preserving Favorites for anyone who loves preserving food in jars.

Lighthearted at Home by Anne Lindsay

Yet another Canadian girl! Culinary icon, Anne Lindsay is probably familiar to many of you and in this new cookbook she gives us over 500 –um, wow!– recipes with a ‘lighter’ side to them.

Basically, I’ve adopted this cookbook as my new ‘Joy of Cooking’. Anne pack so much into this hefty hardcover book, with recipes from appetizers to desserts and everything in between. The hard part? I want to try everything!

Recipes are easy to read and follow, the photos are splendid, and the tips on healthy eating an added bonus.

I particularly love the creative menu planning ideas, as I entertain often.

Lighthearted at Home is an extremely well-rounded, feel-good cookbook. It’s one you want to buy and slip into your kids’ suitcase when they leave for college. I can’t wait to try the other, oh, 490-some recipes, that are calling to me!

The Berry Bible by Janie Hibler.

Who doesn’t love berries? OK, my kids don’t, but that is besides the point. I’m loving my advanced copy of The Berry Bible and its 175 recipes for berries of all kinds.
These are gorgeous and original recipes; just the section on poultry paired with all sort of succulent berry sauces and glazes is enough to get the tummy really, really rumbling.

Oh, and did I mention that the first half of the book is an A-Z encyclopedia on berries worldwide? Yep. There’s no question this is Janie Hibler’s area of expertise.

Just one quibble about the Berry Bible: no photos. Yeah.
Now, I read cookbooks the same way others read novels, I’ll devour them, photos or no photos, but this could be an issue for those of you who are more visual.

However, my advice? Get in line for a copy of The Berry Bible.

Poor Girl Gourmet by Amy McCoy

I’ve already waxed eloquent over my love of Amy’s cookbook, but in no way has it gotten shuffled to the bottom of the pile or pushed aside as new books arrive.

It stays on my counter with my other favorites (pictured at the top of the post) and is getting plenty of use. In fact, I’m packing a jar of her Tangy Barbecue Sauce for our upcoming camping trip to the Maine coast.

Sure, go ahead and leave a comment: What cookbook is getting the most use this summer in your kitchen?

Not Just Hot Dogs: 3 Real Food Campfire Meals

This topic is perfect timing for our family, as we’re heading up to the Boundary Waters tomorrow for a much needed family vacation. This is the time of summer when the kids are restless and the parent’s patience is wearing thin. We can only be cooped up for so long before we just need to spread our wings and shake our tail feathers a little bit.

So often I feel like people give up when it comes to camping food. All creativity is thrown out the window, and the hot dog and hot dog bun enter the picture, taking up residence as the only dinner able to be cooked over an open fire. But it’s not.
[Read more…]

How to Cook for a Family Reunion: Part 1 – Get Ready, Get Set…

Flipping pancakes shoulder-to-shoulder with my brother; laughing to tears at the four-year-old’s water fight; playing board games until well past midnight; a stream of dirty -yet happy- children’s faces; and choruses of “Thank you, Auntie Aimée!” – these are but a few of my favorite memories from our recent family reunion.

You may recall I was keeping very busy last month making pancake mix, granola and other do-ahead breakfast food in preparation to host our family reunion. Now it’s come and gone, leaving behind some, oh, 10,000 photos, heaps of great memories, many stray articles of clothing, and a few lessons learned.

Be they large or small, planning a successful family reunion takes plenty of coordination to ensure everyone is comfortable, well-looked after and well-fed!

In this two-part series on hosting a family reunion from the kitchen, we will look at:

  1. Get Ready, Get Set…: Essential planning and preparation.
  2. Lessons learned from the Kitchen: How to feed everyone – simpler.

Here’s how to get started on planning your event and a few things to consider before everyone arrives. [Read more…]

Weekend Reading: More Great Canning Recipes

Our Canning 101 series wraps up today. Are you inspired yet?

I’ll tell you, I’m buying the first case of peaches that shows up at the market and I’m not stopping there. All the recipes left me itching to can! I’m ready to stop editing posts and talking about canning–I’m ready to get my kitchen really, really sticky!

We’ve covered a lot of ground, wouldn’t you agree? A post on The Basics got us out of the gate with a bang, after which we moved onto Tomatoes, followed by Fruit Butters without looking back. We reached our stride with Cherry Preserves and Peaches, while an introduction to Lacto-Fermentation pushed some of us out of our comfort zones. Nectarine-Raspberry Jam brought us down the home stretch and was a sweet ending to a good run.

Thank you to everyone who followed our series and contributed such savvy comments. Also, thank you to my contributors who shared their knowledge willingly in hopes of inspiring a new generation of canners.

Now, we’d love to hear about what you are canning in your kitchen–or have plans to can. Feel free to share with us in the comments section.

Of course, we couldn’t cover everything in just one week, and so here are some more recipes to peruse. I’d be happy with a shelf full of these sweet and savory preserves in my pantry! Hmm, I guess I had better get busy.

[Read more…]