Fall cooking and Thanksgiving menu ideas

Temperatures have dropped around here, sending us scampering to dig out warm sweaters, matching socks and windbreakers. Fall is indeed in the air; invigorating me in a way the warm summer winds never can.

I’ve taken refuge from the cooler weather in the kitchen, which is no surprise, I am sure. A quick trip to market on the first day of October was all I needed to get in the spirit of fall cooking and baking. I filled my basket with pears, leeks, winter squash, fresh cranberries, beets and sweet potatoes  – all locally grown – and rounded out the haul with herbs from my garden.

Then, I fell to menu planning: weeknight meals, recipe development, and the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner. We’re hosting a small gathering for eleven people this weekend, with turkey and all the usual trimmings.

Today I’ve rounded up my favourite recipes for Thanksgiving — and fall cooking in general. Whether you are setting a holiday table for for family, or serving up Sunday dinner to friends, you’ll want these recipes within reach.

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Oregano Hazelnut Pesto || Simple Bites #recipe

Autumn Pesto Blitz (Oregano-Hazelnut Pesto)

If there is one fall tradition I uphold above all, it is making and freezing pesto. Pumpkin spice lattes we can take or leave, but we simply cannot be without multiple batches of homemade pesto as we head into winter.

I keep an eye on the frost warnings, but generally I harvest my herbs during the last week of September. All the basil is set aside for pesto – and a good bunch of the parsley and oregano, too. We like variety in our pesto; it makes up for the fact that we are decidedly unvaried in our use of the sauce. Yep, you guessed it: pasta. I am the mother of three children, after all.

Pizza closely follows pasta as a vehicle for enjoying homemade pesto. There’s hardly a winter pizza we make that doesn’t take a spoonful of the sauce, like this Brussels Sprout, Walnut & Pesto Pizza. Ohh, la la.

Here’s how my autumn pesto blitz goes down, plus a recipe for a new favourite: Oregano Hazelnut Pesto.

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How to host an outdoor pie social || Simple Bites #gatherings #entertaining #pie

How to host an old fashioned pie social

For those of us in Canada, Thanksgiving is a little over two weeks away and preparations have begun in earnest.

No matter how grand the holiday party plans get, it will be hard to top the pie social we hosted last month as part of a backyard wedding celebration for close family. Since the bride and groom already had a wedding cake out in B.C., it was easy to convince them to go with pie for 80 guests.

Pie just makes so much sense for this time of the year. Berries and stone fruits are still holding their spot at the markets; pears and apples as well as pumpkins have arrived.

If you’re thinking pie needs to be in your future this fall, read on for recipes, tips and inspiration.

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How to set up an outdoor buffet in a canoe || Simple Bites #entertaining #buffet

How to set up an outdoor buffet in a canoe

Today’s post shows one more example of how to work with what you have when entertaining. Not only is this practical and frugal, but it can be fun to exercise a bit of creativity and think outside the box.

So we were short a table for our recent backyard wedding reception; the outdoor bar occupied our patio table and over a dozen handmade pies camped out on the dining room table, moved out of doors for the occasion. Sure we could have rented something, but I had an idea I wanted to try using our canoe and a few hay bales.

Danny refurbished a beautiful old canoe this summer and to me, it made perfect sense to turn it into our buffet for 80.

Stay with me on this one…it all worked out in the end.

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Tips for outdoor entertaining and keeping the kids happy || Simple Bites #entertaining #kids

Outdoor entertaining and keeping the kids happy

This week, I’m running a little series on outdoor entertaining, and a big part of a successful party is accommodating all of your guests, right down to the little chubby-kneed toddlers.

Danny and I are at that stage of life where most of our friends and cousins have two or three children each and those little darlings add up fast at gatherings! At our recent backyard wedding reception, the under-12 count came in at an even two dozen. 24 kids.

Tips for outdoor entertaining and keeping the kids happy || Simple Bites #entertaining #kids

Here’s how we came alongside the parents and helped keep the bambinos fed, watered and having a good time.

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