Happy New Year and looking ahead to 2018

Happy New Year, friends.

I’ve hesitated to write the first post of the year for the very silly reason that I’ve felt pressured to come up with something inspiring. Remarkable! Fresh! The truth is, however, that I’m not feeling hugely inspired these days.

In the past I’ve ushered in the new year with all sorts of challenges and goals – all of which were absolutely sincere, don’t get me wrong. There was a reminder in January 2017 to do small things with great love and I committed to more gatherings around my table. 2016 was the year I invited you to take the Pulse Pledge, and in 2015 I shared 11 healthy family food habits to embrace.

The year before that we talked about 18 healthful snacks, better for you, better for your wallet. I’ve also covered the best foods to stock in your pantry and brought in new lunchbox ideas with 9 Cures for the Midday Blues. Yes, January is a popular month for setting new goals and pumping ourselves up to eat more nourishing, homemade foods. It makes perfect sense – as long as it is genuine.

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How to style a holiday cookie tray

T‘is the season for sweets of all shapes and varieties: frosted and glazed, rolled and stamped, sandwiched and sprinkled.

Today’s mail delivery brought a pretty box of assorted cookies and confections to our door, straight from the kitchen of my talented friend, Marie. Along with the goods from my recent cookie swap, our cousin cookie decorating party, and a few baking projects of my own, our stash of holiday sweets is quite substantial.

It’s a good thing we love to share. Most of our treats get boxed up and delivered to neighbours, teachers, and family; others are served up for tea time with friends around our table or brought to a gathering for all to enjoy.

A tray of assorted cookies is a sweet and simple way to end a holiday meal. Sure you can always just heap them on a plate and call it a day, but today’s post shows you how to have a bit more fun with presentation.

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Overnight Spiced Stollen Swirl Buns

This morning, as I sat down with a notebook and a pen to make a menu plan for the week, I was filled with such a tangible sense of gratitude; how fortunate I was to be able to outline our eats straight through to Boxing Day.

Noah and I donated some time to a local food bank last week, and I saw first-hand what many people in my community will have to eat over the holidays. Not much, I’m afraid. It is a huge privilege to be able to plan party nibbles, brunch baking, and pot-luck dishes. That is not something I take for granted.

We’re having a bit of a quiet, minimalist Christmas this year. No huge parties or multi-course meals are in the plans, and most of our gift shopping was from the World Vision gift catalogue (really the coolest thing). Here and there, we’ve taken small steps to make a positive impact on our global community – something that’s so desperately needed these days. This is the season for giving, after all.

I’ve been meaning to share this recipe for overnight spice swirl buns with you for a while now. I’m not sure how it fits into my feelings of gratitude and gifting today, but perhaps it will inspire you to bake up a tray of buns and share them with someone this holiday season.

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Aimée’s big batch Chicken Noodle Soup recipe

It’s currently a white-out on the homestead, as the first big storm of winter is blanketing the place in powder. I’m thrilled at the prospect of a white Christmas – and even happier that I have a stash of homemade chicken soup in the freezer for snowed-in suppers like tonight.

I always make an enormous batch of this simple soup before the holidays as it seems like a necessary antidote to all the rich food and sweets to come. I also simmer it in hopes that it will help us combat the seasonal maladies that are always going around. This nourishing soup is such a well-rounded family meal, and that certainly aids my intentions to eat better this month.

In addition, is there anything more comforting than a bowl of chicken noodle soup? Mine uses fennel alongside celery for a fragrant mirepoix and occasionally has a grating of ginger in the broth (and/or turmeric) to help fight colds. I think this soup is special, it’s certainly practical, and today I’m sharing my method for making a nice big batch.

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From sides to stews: a sweet potato recipe round-up

Sweet potatoes are front and centre in the Simple Bites winter kitchen, but not just as a side dish.

In addition to the recipes included in today’s round-up, I find ways to incorporate them into all sorts of meals from breakfast to dinner. I try to roast off a few spuds here and there when I have the oven on for holiday baking projects, then stash them in the fridge for convenience.

In the past I’ve smashed the roasted sweet potatoes and stirred them into a fragrant brown rice pudding. I’ve scooped a few spoonfuls into my smoothies, and together with almond milk, dates, cinnamon and ice, it makes for one delicious shake. I’ve puréed them and added them to chia pudding and even my morning muesli. Once sweet potatoes have been roasted and puréed, you can use them like pumpkin in a wide variety of cooking and baking.

Today’s recipes stay on the savoury side of things. From a delicate buttermilk biscuit to a wintery vegan stew, there’s a sweet potato recipe here for everyone.

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