4 tips for welcoming vegetarians to the holiday table (Veggie Pot Pie)

Written by Jan of Family Bites.

For me, Thanksgiving and Christmas are about coming together around the table to share a special meal with those you love. I’m sure it’s the same for most of you, and I’m certain you’d agree that when it comes to holiday entertaining, most celebration menus lend themselves to focusing on the meaty main dish. And for good reason too. What’s not to love about a turkey roasted to golden perfection, bacon-wrapped anything, and glazed hams? Turns out a lot, if you happen to be a vegetarian.

Meat-laden meals are great if you’re an omnivore, but are certainly less than appealing if you happen to be a veggie eater. All too often, those who opt for a plant-based diet leave a special occasion dinner feeling as though they’ve consumed nothing more than an assortment of side dishes for their feast. While this wouldn’t bother me (and I’m a meat eater) I know that not all vegetarians feel the same way.

After years of planning holiday parties at a catering company, I would often hear from 1) meat-free guests who wished there had been a main course for them to enjoy at the dinner/party they were invited to, and 2) hostesses who felt fatigued by trying to plan a menu that was welcoming and delicious for all, including those who eat a plant-based diet. In fact, when it came to planning Christmas parties, the number one question I received before the holidays was “what should I serve to my vegetarian guest(s)?”

I eventually came up with a few tips for welcoming herbivores to the holiday feast. Each suggestion is a small way to ensure that what’s being served for dinner can be eaten by whoever is lucky enough to be attendance, regardless of their dietary preference. [Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

The Hunger Games: 5 tips for feeding your tweens

Editor’s Note: With the arrival of Clara, I’m taking a short maternity blogging break. I’m excited to welcome several guest writers, among them, my friend and mother of tweens, Jan of Family Bites. Welcome, Jan!

The Hunger Games might be the name of a popular book and movie series, but for me it’s an activity I participate in daily.

I live with three hungry boys: my husband and our two growing sons, who are 10 and 11.  Food makes up a major part of our daily lives, and not just because I spend my working hours as a food writer.  The people in my house eat so much these days that I would still be thinking about food around the clock, if only to devise ways of keeping my ravenous boys fed.

On average my kids eat 6-8 times a day.  There’s breakfast, a morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, a second afternoon snack, dinner, and yet another snack before bed.  When Ben, my oldest, has a hockey outing (which is five days a week right now) I can be certain there will be another serving of food interjected at some point in the day.

Why are my kids eating so much? Between the ages of 6 and 12, kids can double their body weight and grow up to two feet in height.  Both of my boys are in this stage right now, and between them we’ve seen 13 inches of vertical growth since spring of last year.

When you add in all of the sports and general physical activity, not to mention hormonal changes and a speedy metabolism, there is no doubt that these are hungry times, and they are likely to continue for another four or five years.

So what’s a mom to do?  I don’t have all the answers, but here are my tips for feeding tweens that have worked well for me over the past two years. [Read more…]

New Year, New Lunchbox: Nine Cures for the Midday Blues

The following is a guest post by Jan of Family Bites. Welcome Jan!

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably always looking for new ways to jazz up the midday meal, whether your packing a lunch for work or school, or both. Let’s face it, packing lunches isn’t the most glamorous job in the home culinary world, and when you’re facing picky eaters, allergies and school policies, feeling inspired each time you approach an empty lunchbox can become quite challenging.

With five full months of lunch-making under my belt for this school year, I’ve been feeling uninspired with the daily packing of late. In order to keep myself motivated, I decided that instead of approaching lunches with a menu, I would attempt to approach them with a theme.

[Read more…]

What You Need to Know About Cast-Iron Skillet Cooking

In an age of multi-colored and teflon-coated non-stick and stainless-steel cookware, it can be a challenge to remember the tried and true beauty of an old-fashioned cast-iron skillet.  Often a necessity in many a grandmother’s kitchen, the cast-iron skillet is a “back-to-basics” item worthy of any family cookery.

Both economical and healthy, these rustic cooking supplies are easily purchased at thrift stores, antique markets and neighborhood garage sales. Also known for releasing small amounts of iron into food, cast-iron skillets provide healthy benefits for those with iron deficiencies. Lasting for years when well cared for, skillet cast-offs or newly purchased pans require nothing more than a little loving care for capable cooking use.

Here’s a look at everything you need to know about why to cook with cast-iron, how to season and clean your skillet and simple cast-iron recipes for your family table. [Read more…]