Merry Christmas from Simple Bites (vlog)

To all my wonderful readers, near and far, young and old — Happy Holidays!

Today will be spent at mostly home, preparing for Christmas dinner tomorrow, playing in the snow, and wrapping up the last few presents. If we’re lucky, we’ll all get a nap in before we head to the evening service. Then it’s home for tourtière and off bed for the kids.

Enjoy your Christmas Eve and here’s a special message from all of us to you!

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2010 Holiday Gift Guide: My Top 10 Cookbook Picks

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved cookbooks. As children, my sister and I would nestle on the sofa, The Encyclopedia of French Cooking opened between us, and we would turn it carefully, page by page, scrunching up our noses over the sautéed chicken livers and sighing over the Raspberry Charlotte and Grand Marnier soufflé. I didn’t know what Grand Marnier was, but I knew I wanted some.

My parents gave me my first cookbook when I was eleven. Pies. I think I made every pie in the book. It was the beginning of what has become a carefully chosen and beloved collection. I never tire of cookbooks. Even though digital recipes from blogs and websites are a huge inspiration and now a normal part of everyday life, I still love to flip through cookbooks, be they old favorites or new acquisitions.

Cookbooks make a fantastic gift for anyone who finds cooking a muse instead of a chore, but with so much selection out there, how does one choose a cookbook that will be used for years?

This following is a list of some of my absolute favorite and most useful cookbooks. I say ‘some’ with all honesty, as it was very hard to narrow the list down to ten, while keeping it diversified. Diversity is key, however, as the dear ones on our Christmas lists are all so different.

For the eco-conscious to the romantic recipient, here are my top ten cookbook recommendations to gift this year. A few are hot off the press and others have been around a tad longer, but are just too good to leave out.

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A Virtual Thanksgiving (Recipe: Bread Stuffing with Seasonal Fruits & Herbs)

The very best holiday meals are those where friends and family gather together and everyone brings a dish. These lovingly-prepared contributions compose a complete meal that would otherwise be a lot of work for one poor soul, and represent a community effort where all can benefit, i.e. feast!

This week, a few of my food blogging friends and I are doing just that: we’re throwing a virtual Thanksgiving dinner party and you’re invited. The talented Liz brought us together and we promise to make you hungry each and every day as this progressive meal unfolds all week long. Of course, we hope to inspire you as well.
(Aren’t I lucky? Although we’ve already celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada, I couldn’t turn down this dinner invitation from such a fun bunch of girls, so I’m helping myself to seconds on dressing as we speak.)

Shaina and I are collaborating today to bring you the main feature: the turkey and stuffing. Although we’re both theoretically attending the dinner, we’re cooking our contributions separately because we both feel pretty strongly about how the bird and the dressing go together. Ideally, not at all.
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Holiday 2010 Gift Guide: My Top Ten Stocking Stuffers for the Kitchen

Being the planner and organizer that I am, I’m thinking about Christmas presents already! Most of my family lives either internationally or across Canada, and so I like to get their boxes out by early December. That way I know gifts will arrive on time, plus then I can focus on other important tasks – like baking gingerbread with the boys and getting my season’s greetings in the mail.

So, in the name of organization, I’m bringing you a holiday gift guide for the kitchen in three parts – big items, stocking stuffers and cookbooks – to help you can get some ideas and recommended resources for the cooks and bakers on your list (or your wish list).

Last Friday we looked at my Top Ten ‘Big Ticket’ Kitchen Items, now I want to give you the top ten smaller tools I reach for every day while cooking and baking. They are absolutely essential for all that I do in the kitchen and making the task of preparing three meals a day much simpler.
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Holiday 2010 Gift Guide: My Top Ten ‘Big Ticket’ Kitchen Items

My younger sister is an animal expert, my elder sister a sommelier; when I need advice on my cat’s diet or a particularly tricky wine pairing, I call one of them and get the straight scoop (or pour) before I make a purchase. Adding their input and expertise to my decision has saved me a considerable amount of money and has helped me avoid headaches (and I mean that quite literally.)

The questions that come my way are all kitchen related. Don’t ask me for fashion advice, home decorating direction or – oh. my. NEVER! – computer counsel, but DO bring me your queries on kitchen tools.

I’ve rummaged through the tool kit of many a professional chef. I’ve taken detailed inventory of a restaurant kitchen’s supplies. I’d rather shop for spatulas than shoes and I’ve probably cooked every day for the last twenty years. I’ve seen what lasts (my mother’s Le Creuset she received as a wedding present 35 years ago), I’ve seen what breaks (cheap blenders, espresso makers) and I’m ready to share my recommendations.

Whether you are writing your own holiday wish list, or are looking for the perfect gift for the cook in the family, let this list of items inspired from my personal kitchen be your guide.
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