strawberry and rhubarb buttter

Q&A: Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Tell us how or why not.

Oh, Valentine’s Day. A few of us could do away with the chocolate-dipped heart-shaped holiday, others embrace the opportunity for a romantic evening with their significant other, and the majority of us fall somewhere in the middle.

Danny and I have never stated a tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day for a simple reason: I was always working. In our days of dating and for the first five years of marriage, I worked one of the busiest nights in the restaurant industry. (Mother’s Day and New Year’s Eve also rank high on a level of insanity.)

On February 14 I was otherwise occupied plating hundreds of chocolate deserts and decorating them with raspberry coulis. When I quit work to stay at home with my boys, I continued to associate Valentine’s Day with long hours, sore feet and demanding customers. I suppose that is how it is going to be from now on and that is fine.

Instead, we’ve made our own traditions, like keeping Friday evenings work-free, mixing a cocktail and having ‘us’ time. We have a terrific babysitter that enables us to get out to our favourite restaurants on occasion. Those allotted times to connect are essential in a marriage, especially during this stage of life with young children and two careers.

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How to reheat turkey (and keep it moist) on www.simplebites.net

How to reheat turkey leftovers and keep them moist

This past weekend was the unofficial launch of the holiday season for us. There were are few small signs to note the commencement, though nothing particularly unusual for a late November day.

I planted a Christmas amaryllis and placed it on a warm window sill, to be turned each day. From deep in the walk-in closet, I unearthed strings of lights for the eves and a wreath, for the front door. While the boys rakes the last of the leaves in the back yard, I baked shortbread in the kitchen and sent out hot cocoa to warm their tummies.

In the evenings, I splashed cranberry syrup in a glass with a little gin and tonic and sat down to plan, really plan, my cookie swap, as well as make a list of holiday baking essentials. For Sunday dinner dessert I opened up a jar of mincemeat and serve mini tarts with tea. It felt like the right thing to do.

These are the day of shortbread and spice, cocoa and cranberries. It’s a time of careful list making and time-saving tricks, like today’s post for storing and reheating turkey while still keeping it moist. It’s a classic kitchen trick, nothing I can take credit for, but a solid one, nevertheless, and a tried and true method  used by my mother-in-law every Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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Saveur BFBA Vegas

The Saveur Best Food Blog Awards in pictures

The lights of The Strip from the window of my limo, a mesmerizing fountain that moved to the music of ‪Andrea Bocelli‬, sipping bubbly ‪V‬euve Clicquot while touring a private collection of Picasso’s work – last week was just a little out of the ordinary for this urban homesteader.

Just over a month ago, I shared a story and a virtual award with you when Simple Bites won a Saveur Best Food Blog Award and you were kind enough to tolerate my sentiments and celebrate with me. I guess you could say this post is Part 2 of the story, as I’ve just returned from Las Vegas, where Saveur and the Bellagio hosted a group of food bloggers for the BFBA’s awards.

I’ve only iPhone images to share, as I left both laptop and DSLR camera at home in an attempt at a true mini-vacation, but they capture that full day of celebrating well enough for me to remember it for a very long time.

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mothers day banner

Well wishes for the mothers

So many of you readers are mothers like me, in the thick of it every day, raising little people. Whether your children are grown or small, today is your day.

So take a breath, set aside the to-do list for now, and cherish your time with your kids. They do grow up so fast.

Friends and daughtes on Mother's DayAll images by Tim Chin

I am so blessed to have a close group of friends of mothers and future mothers who inspire me all the time. Their support means the world to me. Sometimes a girl just needs to vent about parenting a five year old or waking up with a baby, and my mama-friends always listen and offer encouragement.

We’re all so different in our approaches to parenting – childbirth, education, discipline – but that is what keeps our conversations lively. We have a mutual respect for each other and a commitment to honestly that is essential for maintaining a friendship as moms, not just girlfriends.

When it comes to parenting, I feel I am learning day by day. These wise words from Diane Loomans, however, are some that I try to apply in my everyday existence:

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Holiday Gift Guide 2012 – Food Memoirs And Non-Fiction

It was food writer Molly O’Neil who said that food preferences, habits and rituals are also intimate windows into disparate cultures, classes, eras and places. We see this clearly between the pages of our favorite food memoirs, the latest, hottest coming-of-age stories.

This year I’ve traveled to Berlin with Luisa Weiss in My Berlin Kitchen, I donned chef whites and piped buttercream alongside Jenna Weber in White Jacket Required, and I ducked behind the scenes of Top Chef with Gail Simmons in Talking with My Mouth Full – and all from under a quilt on my sofa.

I’ve fallen hard for food memoirs and non-fiction this year, reigniting a love that began with Kitchen Confidential and Ruth Reichl’s books a many years ago.

I’m sharing a few of my favorites today; they’re certain to make a perfect Christmas gift for the foodie in the family.

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