How to tune-up your kitchen for 2013: 9 easy steps

It feels like we’re having a record winter for snow and I haven’t been interested in going anywhere unless I absolutely have to. Today, unfortunately, I’m slotted for the dentist’s chair and a double extraction, but you can be sure that the rest of the weekend will be quiet.

By the way, thank you for all the tips on Facebook for my post-op recovery. No straws. I got it.

Being snowed in means that I’ve had some time to organize my kitchen for the new year. Nothing too drastic, more of a tune-up than an overhaul, but much needed all the same.

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My Holiday Kitchen Tips (that you can totally steal)

Last week I spent the better part of a morning in my pajamas and slippers, leaning on the kitchen counter, where a sprawl of cookbooks, notebooks and post-it notes were scattered. I’ve learned that when a planning mood strikes, I need to ignore everything else and jot down my flow of ideas as they tumble out:

“–make & freeze pie crusts.

–set up a photo booth for cookie swap fun.

–order copies of Desserts in Jars for B, A & M.

–new shortbread flavor???

–check on homemade vanilla.

–stock up on baking supplies…”

My coffee grew cold, and the kids tore apart the playroom in the meantime, but when I looked up an hour or so later, I was better organized for the next two months of kitchen planning. Yep, right through New Year’s Eve and into 2013. Teacher’s gifts, holiday baking, Christmas dinner, a cookie swap, freezer meals and more were more or less sketched out on paper.

Not every detail was planned in that blitz, mind you; I’ll still spend hours on Pinterest adding to boards such as My Christmas Party and Holiday Baking, but the quick brainstorm was helpful to set the holiday planning in motion. Once I gathered my notes and did a quick cross-check with a calendar, it was plain to see I had my work cut out for me, but with planning, everything was doable.

Why plan ahead? Many of our favorite holiday foods – like Tourtière or mincemeat – can easily be made 6 weeks in advance, and some, like the mincemeat, actually improve with age. Guess what? 6 weeks before Christmas is today.

It’s not too early to send out those cookie swap invites, stash a few meals or rounds of gingerbread dough in the freezer, or make those edible gifts for the school teachers.

Here’s what else is on my agenda for the next few weeks; grab a pen and paper and make your ‘To-Do’ list while you read.

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Root cellars and me (tips for cold storage)

Written by Danny.

When I grew up, almost everyone had a basement in their house.  Where Aimee grew up, basements were anomalies.  Our current house doesn’t have one, and so I pine from time to time and wax poetic about the virtues and benefits of having a basement.  Aimee disagrees (strongly), and sees them primarily as “dank caves” or glorified storage rooms. Most of the time, we agree to disagree.

What we both agree on, though, is that having a cool, dank storage room underneath your house can be particularly useful come harvest time when you want to be storing and preserving much of the season’s bounty.  Of course in this case, I’m not talking about a basement room with pool tables and dart boards, or ones with mini-bar, karaoke stage complete with disco ball and orange shag carpet on the floor, walls and ceiling (yes, we did see one of these when house hunting!) – I’m talking about root cellars.

When I think of “root cellar”, my thoughts immediately go to the first one I ever remember (first impressions…).  It was the quintessential setting for a horror movie: creaky door that didn’t quite sit on its hinges; no light; moldy smell; roots (fingers?) sticking out of the earthen ceiling and grabbing at my hair; the back part was condemned because it had caved in and we were warned to not go in too deep… in case another section of roof were to give way. *Shudder*.  Our family was visiting a farm, and I was asked to go get some carrots or something.  I just remember standing outside, about 20-30 feet away from the entrance and trying to drum up the nerve to go and pry open the door.  Mercifully, one of the farmers came to give me a hand with the door, so I didn’t have to enter alone.

Aside from the bravery and character-building that root cellars bring to small children, there are many other useful reasons to have a root cellar, whether as a separate structure to your house, or part of a cool room in your basement.  Because our garden is small, I haven’t had to dredge up those old memories and start digging a hole in the ground for a DIY on building our root cellar. However, given that it is time to be storing some of the amazing deals on produce that we’ve been getting from our local farms at the market, I’ll let you in on where we are storing our goods, and some of what you should be considering if you are looking for a cellaring solution. [Read more…]

A day in the life


A day is rarely the same in our busy little hive, but here is a glimpse at what it frequently looks like – family at the center, work fit in here and there, and plenty of good food to go around.

7:07 – I wake up next to Clara. For some reason it’s taken us until our third child to realize that co-sleeping is where it’s at. This morning, like every morning, I am awash with love for this perfect wee one and her peaches & cream complexion.

She continues to sleep as I creep past the boys’ room, down the stairs, and into the kitchen to brew a French Press of coffee. Danny has already left for an early breakfast meeting, or else he’d be joining us for breakfast.

7:18 – Coffee in hand, I crack open the computer and do a quick email check, answering a few urgent ones. I check that a new Best Bite feature is live, answer a handful of blog comments, and pop into my Skype group for a minute.

8:05 – Noah makes an appearance, heading past me to don his rain boots, and heads outside to let the chickens out. We mix up cornmeal pancakes when he returns, and Mateo wakes up just as the cast iron skillet is getting hot.

8:30 – I change an ever-smiling Clara while Noah (almost 7) cooks us pancakes in shapes like ghosts and monster trucks. We top them with blueberry syrup that I simmered and canned the evening before.

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Garden, chickens and more: an urban homesteading update


Written by Danny.

I‘ve just come off of 2 week vacation and have thoroughly enjoyed the time with my family – including the silly water boy above.  We feel like we are still taking baby steps towards our ideal urban homesteader lifestyle – but we’re doing it at our own pace and loving it.

I’ve chronicled some of our homesteading efforts here on Simple Bites before, but thought it would be good to update you on how we’re keeping up.  Or not.  So here goes. [Read more…]