How to Cook for a Family Reunion: Part 1 – Get Ready, Get Set…

Flipping pancakes shoulder-to-shoulder with my brother; laughing to tears at the four-year-old’s water fight; playing board games until well past midnight; a stream of dirty -yet happy- children’s faces; and choruses of “Thank you, Auntie Aimée!” – these are but a few of my favorite memories from our recent family reunion.

You may recall I was keeping very busy last month making pancake mix, granola and other do-ahead breakfast food in preparation to host our family reunion. Now it’s come and gone, leaving behind some, oh, 10,000 photos, heaps of great memories, many stray articles of clothing, and a few lessons learned.

Be they large or small, planning a successful family reunion takes plenty of coordination to ensure everyone is comfortable, well-looked after and well-fed!

In this two-part series on hosting a family reunion from the kitchen, we will look at:

  1. Get Ready, Get Set…: Essential planning and preparation.
  2. Lessons learned from the Kitchen: How to feed everyone – simpler.

Here’s how to get started on planning your event and a few things to consider before everyone arrives. [Read more…]

Weekend Reading: More Great Canning Recipes

Our Canning 101 series wraps up today. Are you inspired yet?

I’ll tell you, I’m buying the first case of peaches that shows up at the market and I’m not stopping there. All the recipes left me itching to can! I’m ready to stop editing posts and talking about canning–I’m ready to get my kitchen really, really sticky!

We’ve covered a lot of ground, wouldn’t you agree? A post on The Basics got us out of the gate with a bang, after which we moved onto Tomatoes, followed by Fruit Butters without looking back. We reached our stride with Cherry Preserves and Peaches, while an introduction to Lacto-Fermentation pushed some of us out of our comfort zones. Nectarine-Raspberry Jam brought us down the home stretch and was a sweet ending to a good run.

Thank you to everyone who followed our series and contributed such savvy comments. Also, thank you to my contributors who shared their knowledge willingly in hopes of inspiring a new generation of canners.

Now, we’d love to hear about what you are canning in your kitchen–or have plans to can. Feel free to share with us in the comments section.

Of course, we couldn’t cover everything in just one week, and so here are some more recipes to peruse. I’d be happy with a shelf full of these sweet and savory preserves in my pantry! Hmm, I guess I had better get busy.

[Read more…]

Canning 101: Freezer Jam (Recipe: Nectarine Raspberry Freezer Jam)

Written by Cheri of Kitchen Simplicity.

Freezer Jam is a great way to break into the preserving scene. The recipes are made in smaller batches, require little to no cooking (which gives them a fresher taste) and need no special canning equipment.

All you need to do is puree or mash some fruit, mix it with sugar and pectin and throw it in the freezer! [Read more…]

Yogurt Sheet Cake with Berries

Don’t be surprised if I keep bringing back recipes from foods we enjoyed during our family reunion.

Make no mistake, good food abounded during that time, and while I wasn’t about to take time away from family to blog everything as we consumed it, I will rewind and share some favorites over the next few weeks…

Like this yogurt sheet cake (which I had made before, loved, and never got around to sharing…oops!) and birthday cake for my brother’s little guy, Jesse. The little sweetie turned two while they were here and it was my absolute treat to be able to bake his cake.

A sheet cake was perfect for this event; I didn’t want to spend the whole afternoon in the kitchen, yet still wanted something that felt festive.

This recipe comes together quickly, and the frosting is poured over the top and left to run down the sides in the true unhurried fashion of lazy summer cooking.

For the simple decoration, I cut a ‘J’ stencil out of cardboard, lay it on the cake and generously doused it with sprinkles.

The kids approved.

Pair this cake with any berry you like, whatever is gorgeous and ripe at the market or in your backyard. It was strawberry season in June and we were bringing home a flat of 6 pints from the market every day.

The ripest ones got whizzed into a coulis along with some vanilla sugar and the rest were sliced up and served alongside the cake.

I love this cake, not just for its simplicity, but for its tender crumb, too. No doubt the cake’s moistness is a result of the two cups of yogurt, and the cake flour certainly contributes to its tenderness.

Thanks to Gourmet magazine for this recipe. Can we just take a moment for my favorite magazine, please? This cake was featured in the August 2009 issue (to date, my favorite issue).

Try it!

Yogurt Sheet Cake
with sliced strawberries & strawberry coulis

Makes 1 9×13 sheet cake. Serves 12.


for cake:

  • 3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, warmed in shell in warm water 10 minutes
  • 2 cups well-stirred plain whole-milk yogurt (not Greek-style) at room temperature 30 minutes

for frosting:

  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method for Cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter a 9×13 cake pan, then line bottom with a rectangle of parchment paper and butter parchment. Dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat together butter, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, at medium speed. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with yogurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and mixing until just combined. Spread batter evenly in pan and rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake until cake pulls away from sides of pan and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge. Invert onto a rack and discard parchment. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

Method for Frosting:

Stir together confectioners sugar, corn syrup, cream, and vanilla until smooth.

Put cake on a platter and spread icing on top in a thick layer, letting it run down sides. Let icing set at least 15 minutes.

Serve with plenty of fresh berries and a strawberry coulis.

Do ahead: Cake can be made and iced 1 day in advance. Cover and keep cool.

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Don’t Miss…Julie’s profile of yours truly on The Family Kitchen, the family food blog of our friends over at Babble:
Master Your Muffins with Aimee Wimbush-Bourque of Simple Bites.

It’s an honor to be featured!

Lacto-Fermentation: An Easier, Healthier, and More Sustainable Way to Preserve

In March we ate the last of 5 1/2 gallons of lacto-fermented vegetables. They stored for over six months in our refrigerator and I didn’t boil a single pot of water.

I think everyone should try lacto-fermentation for three reasons:

  1. The product is a living food, full of enzymes and probiotics.
  2. The process is much faster than waterbath or pressure canning.
  3. The process (and storage) can be done with zero energy usage.

A healthier product in less time and with less energy usage? Yes please!

How It Works

Before the advent of modern day canning, most of our fore-mothers preserved the harvest through lacto-fermentation. Dill pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi are all products of this preservation method.

[Read more…]