It's that time of year when we start to plan catching up with friends and family. Not everyone feels like going out and navigating the restaurant scene and if you're still observing social distancing rules and keeping your gatherings small, it's likely you'll be entertaining at home.

We have some great ideas to give you the edge when it comes to stocking your pantry and preparing a holiday-worthy spread at home. Here are our picks for the season:

CHEESEMONGER BOX

Cheesemonger Box

Who doesn't like hand-chosen artisanal cheese to share over wine? But who knows what's good? Founders and certified cheesemongers Laura Downey and Chris Palumbo have taken the confusion out of choosing cheese with cheesemongerbox.com, a sophisticated subscription of choices from American and European artisanal and small batch cheesemakers and specialty food producers. Choose from a variety of subscriptions sourced from small farmers, creameries, and cheesemakers nationwide; and you can also be sure that trusted importers and distributors have been used to source the most authentic artisan and farmhouse-style European cheeses.

We found this a great way to keep the fridge stocked with quality and conversation-worthy cheese that also looked good on the table and was plentiful enough to go around. Select the right subscription package for yourself and share with your guests; or purchase a one-time gift that is hand-cut specifically for your gift-giving preferences. And if you are already a cheese connoisseur you can also Build Your Own Box.

Each box comes with generous half-pound cuts of cheese and thoughtful sides such as artisan crackers and small batch jam, or spread such as some tangy raspberry mostarda, or charcuterie — all attractively packaged with helpful tasting notes and serving suggestions.

SEABEAR SMOKEHOUSE

It wouldn't be the holidays without some delectable smoked salmon to complement your favorite glass of Champagne, martini, or dry white wine! The perfect appetizer with a touch of luxury, vibrant color, and warm, smoky flavor, salmon is also a great no-fuss, elergant choice of snack packed with healthy Omegas as well. SeaBear Smokehouse’s Appetizer Sampler Collection features six of their most popular items, all ready-to-serve, making it an easy table option or a thoughtful gift to bring to your favorite foodie host. But don't stop at salmon. SeaBear's plentiful smokehouse turns out chowder and Dungeness crab and plenty of complete meal options that can have you serving up a three-course seafood dinner without any fuss!

SeaBear Smokehouse is rightfully proud of its 60-year heritage in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. The authenticity, quality — and simply delicious, fresh, and carefully packaged product — has something for fish fanciers, food connoisseurs and health-conscious enthusiasts.

TRE OLIVE

TRE Extra Virgin Olive Oil

With all the cooking that happens during the holidays, we've found that an essential kitchen staple to have on hand is good olive oil. And we mean not just good enough to cook with but good enough to eat with our favorite bread! TRE OLIVE's centuries-old Italian olive tree groves are the source for a bright, smooth, and nutty Extra Virgin olive oil. This product comes from an Italian family in Calabria that has been in the olive oil business for five generations.

Attractively packaged, it makes a thoughtful gift for the foodie in your life. The Piattino Gift Box contains one 250ml tin of extra virgin olive oil (your choice of which scrumptious one to choose!) along with a tasting dish and TRE Olive's famous spice pack, which contains a melange of herbs and spices perfect for sprinkling into a dish of the EVOO and dipping your favorite baguette or focaccia. A tasty gift or addition to the holiday table!

RAISED GLUTEN FREE

One of the problems with the holidays is that the eating can get carb-heavy. Gluten-free guests may feel like they're creating a headache for their host, especially when it comes to pies. We're pleased to report we've found a solution that will have your carb-hungry friends envious.

Imagine savory pies and quiches with a perfect flaky crust filled with hearty vegetables, all while being allergy-friendly and 100% vegan. Crafted with care by two California moms passionate about providing delicious treats for families with food restrictions, Raised Gluten Free pies are plant-based, vegan, and in addition to being certified gluten free, also free of dairy, eggs, nuts, and peanuts, Kosher Pareve, and Non-GMO Project Verified.

We tried the Vegan Quiche and found the light and fluffy organic tofu and savory spinach filling baked to perfection in a light pastry crust. Raised Gluten Free also makes fruit pies, too — the apple and berry peach are scrumptious and taste much healthier than traditional fruit pies. Be a thoughtful host and keep a few of these convenient 6" pies in your freezer in case one of your dinner guests comes out as gluten-free!

LASTING FRESHNESS

Lasting Freshness

This has got to be one of our favorite kitchen finds of the year. Lasting Freshness is a high quality, stackable, vacuum seal food storage system that’s superior to conventional plastic containers you've been using — including those repurposed takeout containers! Do yourself a favor and switch to the Lasting Freshness system. Not only do these containers keep food fresh five times longer with a pump system that is designed to suck all of the air and moisture out so food stays fresher longer; the containers themselves come in an array of sizes that take the hassle out of the storage of leftover meals and ingredients such as stocks, soups, cereals, cuts of meat, casseroles, and even slices of pie and cake.

This is the perfect way to store all those Thanksgiving leftovers that usually create a chaotic mess in your fridge, using up your dishes and going bad after a day or two. Cut down on waste and keep your gourmet goodies shelf stable for longer. We baked a batch of cookies and with the vacuum seal system they lasted 21 days!

Andrew Van Dorsselaer

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The creative process has many layers as most dance songs do these days. It begins with the Jawbreakers producing the music then finding a voice to sing it. In this case, Amunda, formerly of the Australian group Operator Please. The song dismisses its punk roots and evolves into a banger bop with dancefloor disco sass much like its producers.

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Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

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