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Classic Gruyère Gougères: A make-ahead party snack for holiday entertaining

I’ve spent the past two weeks preparing myself for the upcoming holidays by stocking a sizeable portion of my deep freeze with an assortment of homemade chewy caramel candies, sugar and gingerbread cookie doughs, pie crusts, soups for quick and nourishing weeknight dinners, and no less than five different varieties of gougères ready for last-minute entertaining and party-going in the coming month.

Lest you think I’m hyper-organized (okay, maybe I am a little), most of it is due to the large amount of recipe testing I’ve been doing for my forthcoming book, and the fact that December is my busiest working month of the year, and there is simply no time to let myself fall behind when it comes to holiday preparations.

While all of the items I’ve stockpiled are essential sanity-savers, none are more important to me than the gougères I mentioned above. They are my secret weapon when it comes to holiday gatherings, and I always, always have a bag ready to be baked between December and January, when surprise visitors pop by or I’m in need of a last-minute party nibble.

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Entertaining tips on www.simplebites.net

12 hosting tips for putting your best plate forward

It feels like Thanksgiving crept up on me this year, and as fate would have it, my kitchen is going to be swirling in a chaos of renovations on the upcoming long weekend.

I won’t have a functioning cooktop, but I will have an oven, so Maple Pecan Pie is still on the menu. Whew. Actually we are dining with family both Saturday and Sunday, so I won’t have to wrangle any sort of mid-construction holiday dinner in my own kitchen. (PS. Stay tuned for a full kitchen tour coming soon when everything is back in place.)

If you’re welcoming guests on Thanksgiving weekend – or any day, for that matter – then today’s simple entertaining tips are for you. I’m a big believer in details, and know that even small gestures can make a big difference when receiving guests.

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Pea & Parmesan Crostini on simplebites.net

My favourite appetizer for easy warm-weather entertaining (Sweet Pea and Parmesan Tartines)

Part of my warm-weather entertaining manifesto is to keep my gatherings as simple as possible. This encompasses everything from table décor to beverages, and most importantly, food. We host several dinners and social soirées in the spring and summer months, and I’m always on the look out for easy-to-execute lip-smacking appetizers that deliver impressive tastes to my guests. Luckily, these tartines fit the bill perfectly.

While the name sounds highly impressive, tartines (or crostinis) are really nothing more than slices of toasted/grilled bread topped with a little something. It can be as simple as store-bought jam and a slice of aged cheddar, assorted spreads, cured meats, or fresh produce that’s paired with fragrant herbs and oils.

I typically opt for the latter, and they are almost always the highlight of the meal. Lightly buttered bread is usually grilled, rubbed with garlic and then covered with a variety of toppings. For spring, I’m smitten with the combination of sweet peas, Parmesan and mint, but you can use pretty much anything that’s in season.

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A sentimental Saveur award to share with you

In the spring of 1999 I found myself washed up in the city of Montreal after drifting around the world for months with just a backpack, a journal and my appetite. I had no job, no prospects, save a flicker of romance with a 20-year-old engineering student.

I knew that I loved food, and wanted to work with it in some capacity, and I knew I needed to stay in Montreal.

Money was tight, and I enjoyed as many dinners as I could at my future mother-in-laws’ table without wearing out my welcome. Still I always splurged (such as it was, back then) on the latest Saveur magazine.

Saveur understood my appetite for stories and recipes of food in all its contexts. It was a read that celebrated food culture and cuisine all around the world, and one that I cherished.

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Natural egg dyes, braided bread, lemon shortbread and other good ideas for Easter

lemon shortbread with lemon marmalade

My Easter plans are a little slow in forthcoming this year as I’ve been distracted by our forays into making maple syrup – our newest urban homesteading project. Look for a full post from Danny soon on our backyard sugar bush adventures later; we’re giddy with our progress.

Easter is a fantastic excuse to entertain and I will definitely be gathering a few friends and family around for brunch or lunch. The boys and I had a chance to bake cookies in adorable little bunny and chick shapes and make the thumbprint shortbread cookies above.

The rest of the menu will be inspired from the archives and a few old favorites I rediscovered when putting together this round-up. Of course, maple syrup will be the spotlight ingredient of the brunch.

Perhaps you’ll find an idea or two below for your Easter table.

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