How to host a cookies + punch party | Sevengrams

The problem with hobbies, it that they often end up taking the back seat when life gets busy. Case in point - this space and my commitment to the blog. I've totally dropped the ball over here lately, and can't quite pin it on one specific reason why.

It took the holiday season to kick me back into gear. I've been busy decorating the apartment, baking all the cookies, and planning some of the best custom christmas gifts ever. This time of year I also love hosting. There's something really special about setting aside a night to just spend some quality time with friends. We realized last year that December weekends fill up quickly, so suggested a weeknight holiday soirée with friends.

In an attempt to establish a new holiday tradition, we hosted our second annual cookies and punch party this past Tuesday -- an excuse to menu plan, decorate the house, and share in a little holiday indulgence. Weeknight hosting isn't as tough as you may think, you just need to plan ahead. I've done my best to break it down below. Wishing you all a festive and happy holiday season!



Vegan Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream | Sevengrams #virtualpumpkinparty

October has maybe been the best month yet. The weather has been fabulous, the leaves are looking better then ever, and we've been happily chowing down on all things autumnal, like apples and squash. I could live in this season forever.

When I received Sara's email about this years #virtualpumpkinparty, it was a balmy October day and I had a sudden craving for ice cream. The ice cream bowl was still hanging out in the freezer, and it needed to be moved into the cupboard for winter hibernation, so I figured why not. I took all the familiar pumpkin pie flavours and wrapped them into a coconut based, vegan ice cream. Then, because I always prefer a little crunch and texture, folded some dark chocolate shards into it. So even if its not a warm autumn where you are, I'd say make ice cream - because there's always room for ice cream, no matter the season.



Italian Plum Compote | Sevengrams

With Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) just around the corner, this recipe seemed fitting, almost necessary. Every year, my Oma (maternal grandmother) would make her famous plum pies for the holidays -- an open face pie with a shortbread-like crust, loaded with fresh fruit. During the summer months, blueberries, for jewish new year, italian plums, for her birthday in December, apple slices and cinnamon.

My mom continues the tradition and bakes these pies throughout the year; I on the other hand wanted to feel the warmth and familiarity of the pie, without going through the effort of baking (lazy or efficient, I'll let you decide). That's where this compote comes in -- yielding a similar texture and equally gorgeous colour as the plums baked atop the pie crust. Eat it straight out if the jar, or top your morning oats or yogurt with it. Either way, you're going to wish you had made a double batch.



Western Canada | Sevengrams

We spent the last week of August soaking up the end of summer in Western Canada. We've both skied out west before, but never experienced the Rockies in the summer. 10 travel days later and I can confidently say that I've been seriously missing out on some jaw-dropping landscapes by living on the east coast.

We kicked off the week with 2 wonderful days in Vancouver, surrounded by great friends who we hadn't seen in far too long. Saturday was spent biking the sea-wall, hanging on the beach in Stanley Park, and chowing down on phenomenal tacos and margaritas in Gastown. On Sunday, we ventured out of town to Deep Dove - a charming waterfront town just a short jaunt from the City. We had planned on renting stand up paddle boards, but the threatening weather held us back. Instead, we indulged in local donuts, drank the local beer, and lounged on the grass listening to live bands (thanks to the unexpected Deep Cove Daze Festival).



Cucumber, Gin & Chartreuse Cocktail | Sevengrams #drinkthesummer

A few years back, I traveled to the French Alps to visit a dear friend. It was the first time I visited the French Mountains, and the first time I was spending any real time with her man. A few days in, post dinner, he took out a bottle of Chartreuse, a common after dinner drink in France. "Enjoy it straight, on ice," he said. I tried, I really did, but with its intense green colour, earthy tones and potent flavour, I knew I wasn't going to be able to drink it straight (sorry Matt). I returned home from that trip with my own bottle of Chartreuse, determined to develop a pallete for it. Three years later, I'm still working my way through the bottle, tucking it into cocktails whenever I can, and if I'm feeling bold, sipping on a small glass post dinner.

When I decided to join in on #drinkthesummer, I immediately knew my drink had to have chartreuse as the base. From there, I added some puréed summer cucumbers (they're looking so fine at the market right now), and some gin (because cucumber + gin, always). Then a little lime and simple syrup to round off the flavours.

Be sure to check out all the fabulous blogs taking part in this year's #drinkthesummer, and mega shout-out to Sherrie for organizing such a fun party!



Summer Pasta with Hemp Seed + Basil Pesto (V+GF) | Sevengrams

Between a wedding weekend away, a week of working in the Toronto office and a long weekend cottage getaway, it was beginning to feel like I'd been away from home for a while. When I stepped out onto our balcony on Tuesday morning and noticed the size of our basil plant, I knew right away that I'd been gone for too long. Summer getaways are fun and all, but sometimes, all I want is a home-cooked meal and a good night's sleep in my own bed.

My Italian girlfriends tell me that an abundance of basil always means pesto, so I took the overgrown plant as a sign. I invited my gluten-free, dairy-free sister over for dinner, and then set out to whip up a pesto that she'd eat -- void of dairy and packed with protein. I had a bag of Trader Joe's gluten free pasta that I picked up in Vermont a few weeks back, and swung by the market for some plump quebec tomatoes, and some perfectly sweet ontario peaches -- ideal summer pasta add-ins if you ask me.



Dairy-free "buttermilk" pancakes | Sevengrams

My new laptop allows me to shut down for the night with webpage tabs still open. At first, I thought this was great - I could read things at a more leisurely pace and not worry I'd forget about a new post, or hot article.

But now, mid summer, when the last thing I want to do at the end of a work day is face my computer, I find myself struggling to keep up with all of my favourites, leaving 20+ tabs looming week after week. It sounds ridiculous to say that I feel stressed about having too many blogs to read, but that's how I feel. The blogger community is one that I feel very lucky to be apart of, and a huge part of that is reading, commenting, liking, and supporting one-another. I got through a handful of them this weekend, more coming up this week. Baby steps, right?

We celebrated 4 years yesterday, and though we had a celebratory dinner planned, breakfast needed to feel a little special too. These pancakes, doused in all the summer berries, just felt right.