Sayonara 2014

OH what a year it has been!  To say that 2014 has been a roller coaster would be a WILD understatement!!  I’m never one to look back on a year and say good riddance….but I must admit that I’m ready for a new year and a fresh start.  Not that this year hasn’t been amazing (hello…find out we are expecting a little one) it’s just had a few pretty significant bumps thrown in there as well.

But all things considered I choose to take this day as a chance to remember all the blessings that have come our way and be thankful for all that we have in our lives.  We are so incredibly lucky to have the most amazing friends and family around us; supporting us and celebrating with us.

So Cheers to all of the wonderful things that 2014 has brought you and your family.  Cheers to all the laughs and fun times.  Cheers to all the lessons learned and personal growth.  Cheers to making 2015 even better!!

fireworks

Be Safe and CELEBRATE all of the blessings in your life!!
~ Jillian

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Yummo: New Year’s Appetizers

So hard to believe that 2014 is coming to an end.  This year has FLOWN by and been quite the adventure!!  Over the years we have tried all sorts of different NYE celebrations but in the end our favorite way to ring in the new year is close to home, casual and with friends.  This year especially is a “calmer” celebration for this girl (maybe a glass of Faux-Champagne at midnight??) but any good celebration is not right without some yummy appetizers to munch on!  According to Martha there are a few foods that will bring you extra luck in the new year!  Consider recipes with black eyed peas, grapes, lentils, greens, and any food shaped like a coin.  Here are a few easy recipes to get your mouth watering and the luck a-flowing!

Black Eyed Pea Dip 

black eyed pea dip

Roasted Grape Brushetta

grape brushetta

Lentil Hummus

???????

Kale & Artichoke Dip

kale artichoke dip

“Coin-shaped” Cucumber Bites w/ Feta & Sundried Tomato

cucumber bites

Creamy Black Eyed Pea Dip

warm black eyed pea dip

Greek Yogurt Grape Salad

grape salad

Lentil Dip

lentil dip

Cheesy Kale Chips

cheesy kale chips

Round Tomato Bites

cherry tomato bites

Yummo & Cheers to a fabulous New Year!
~ Jillian

Monday Mantra: New year

OH what a holiday celebration it has been!  We have a large family so our Christmas isn’t only one day of the year (in fact we still have a few little get togethers on the books coming up) but we get to have all sorts of fun times with our loved ones!  We made Christmas cookies, played card games, watched little ones go nutzo over all things Frozen, ate LOTS of food, celebrated our little sprout on the way but most importantly spent lots and lots of time with our favorite people!!  No matter what is going on in your life, spending time with family reminds you how blessed you truly are.

christmas cookies

Now as we turn over to a new year its reflection time.  Reflection on the many highs and lows of the past year.  Acknowledging the bumps in the road and realizing how you’ve grown from them.  Holding on to the joy and happiness of the wonderful things that have happened throughout the year.  The end of this year marks some pretty big monuments for our family and we can only be hopeful and excited for the times that lay ahead!!

“This will be the best year yet!!”

baby fist pump(Image source unknown)

Happiest of New Years to you and yours!
~ Jillian

Merry Merry: Holiday Decorating!

Merry Merry!  It’s that time of year, when Christmas music is blaring on the radio (can’t say I mind that) there are pretty lights and holiday cheer everywhere!!  No matter what is going on in your life…there is something so special about this time of year.  Coming home to a house filled with Christmas lights, garland and a lovely smelling Christmas tree makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside!!  One of my favorite things to do this time of year is to CRAFT!  To take bits and pieces of things I already own and make them even more fabulous and festive.  This year I scored a load of magnolia leaves from a local tree (ah thank you) and have given my standard old garland and wreaths a fabulous refresh!  What better place to gather a bit of inspiration for your updated holiday decor then…Pinterest (duh)

wood box(source)

joy wreath(source)

garland(source)

chair(source)

porch(source)

pinecone(source)

windows(source)

table tree(source)

trees(source)

white(source)

brown paper(source)

Spread some holiday cheer!
~ Jillian

What we Ate: Thanksgiving Edition

Turkey hang-over is Totally a thing!  We have officially burned thru the leftovers and are back to normal life (ish) and I must admit I’m missing a few of those oh-so-yummy thanksgiving treats!!  We do things a little different in our family because almost everyone is Gluten Free.  Not wanting to deprive ourselves of the traditional menu items, we’ve adapted them to be healthier, gluten free but just as yummy!  So here is a recap of what we ate (and what caused us to be in such Gluten Free / Turkey Day bliss!!)

Oven Roasted Bone-in Turkey Breast & Crock-pot Turkey Breast

As a recovering vegetarian taking on the turkey was a BIT overwhelming!  We all tend to go for the white meat so I decided to go the turkey breast route (a little less intimidating but just as yummy!)  I found a great recipe online for a slow cooker turkey breast (and the slow cooker is TOTALLY my jam) so i gave it a whirl, but as a back-up i made one in the oven too!  Well great success…they both turned out delicious!  The crock-pot turkey completely fell right off the bone and the texture was just delicious!!
crock pot turkey
Gluten Free Dressing

This is a family tradition for sure!  My mom simply adapted our classic recipe by using gluten free bread in place of the usual stuff!  You can easily switch out a GF option for your favorite recipe to make this menu item a little healthier!

Gluten Free Spicy Mac n Cheese

My sister-in-law has perfected this one and it is DELICIOUS!  I won’t pretend that this is a super healthy dish BUT by making a few changes (like using GF pasta and switching out the sour cream with greek yogurt) we’ve eased up a little on the calories and fat without sacrificing any of the decedent yummy taste!

Ingredients:
– 3 cups uncooked GF elbow pasta
– 6 tbsp butter
– 4 tbsp GF flour (substitute with cornstarch)
– 1/2 tsp garlic powder
– 1/2 tsp (ish) salt
– 1/2 tsp pepper
– 1 cup sour cream (substitute with Greek yogurt!!)
– 2 1/2 cups milk
– 3 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
– 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

– Cook pasta until al dente, drain and set aside
– Preheat oven to 350°
– In a large pan, under medium heat, melt butter and add garlic powder
– Add the flour, salt & pepper.  Whisk until smooth for about a minute
– Stir in milk & sour cream.  Whisk until smooth.
– Stir in the cheese (save 1/2 cup pepper jack cheese)
– Add the macaroni & mix well
– Pour into casserole dish, sprinkle with reserved cheese and bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes
– Serve HOT and enjoy

mac

Mashed Potatoes & Gravy

Back to a good old classic for these babies!  We used standard potatoes this year, but you could easily make a mash with red potatoes or even sweet potatoes for a yummy alternative!

Brussel Sprouts

I consider it a GIANT win to be able to convert some very picky / non-vegetable eaters to brussels sprout lovers!!  That is a tough veggie to crack for some but i was determined!!  I have actually had requests from former non believers for my not-so-traditional sprouts recipe.  Nothing a little parmesan and capers won’t do to win over any food lovers heart!

Tangy Cranberries

This is another family tradition that we’ve adapted over the years.  We take a simple cranberry sauce and flip it on its head with the fresh taste of citrus and the spice of a little jalapeño!

Ingredients:

– 1 small red onion, quartered
– 1 tbsp jalapeño pepper slices (adjust this to your level of spice)
– 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
– 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
– 1 cup whole dried cranberries
– 2 tbsp lime juice
– 1/4 cup agave syrup or honey
– 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
– 1/4 tsp cinnamon
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Directions:

– In a food processor, combine the red onion, jalapeño peppers and cilantro.
– Pulse until finely chopped.
– Add the fresh and dried cranberries, then pulse again until coarsely chopped and Set aside.
– In a large bowl, whisk lime juice, honey, cardamom, cinnamon, salt and black pepper.
– Add cranberry mixture, then toss well.
– Serve as a side dish, salsa or even as a heated sauce

cranberry sauce

Butternut Squash

This is a personal favorite of mine!  Simply roast up cubes of butternut squash (tossed in coconut oil), add in walnuts, rosemary & your favorite crumbly cheese (my sister-in-laws favorite is Gorgonzola) and Enjoy!!

Collard Greens

A southern classic!  One of the things i love most about marrying into a southern family is the FOOD!  They have introduced me to so many recipes and dishes that are just to die for!  The collards were cooked down with a little vinegar and spices…delicious!!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I’m not even sure there is a reason to go into detail here.  A Flourless Chocolate Cake…need i say more?  Decedent, rich, almost like eating a piece of fudge.  DELICIOUS!  Who says being gluten free is no fun…

flourless-chocolate-cake(This is not our actual cake…it didn’t last long enough to snap a pic!)

Cheesecake w/ Homemade Caramel Sauce

Another amazing yummo!  For this one my sister-in-law found a pre-made GF pie crust to save time, which allowed her to make HOMEMADE caramel sauce.  WOW.  Totally worth it!

Now do you understand why i’ve been in a food coma for the past week!  Such a fantastic meal, made even better by sharing it with our amazing family!  (for the record…my niece’s two favorite items were the mac’n’cheese & the chocolate cake) I am not able to pick a favorite…it was all amazing!!

Yumm-o
~Jillian

Monday Mantra: confined

Have we all recovered from the turkey coma…a little lingering perhaps?!?  I hope you had a wonderful time with your loved ones!!  This time of year gets so hectic its nice to have time to slow down (between servings of mashed potatoes) to enjoy the things that matter most.  We had a full house and it was wonderful!!  Admittedly its been a tough couple of weeks around here so a little TLC from some of my favorite people was exactly what I needed.  So now that the gravy has dried up and the cranberries are almost gone its time to get back to reality.  BUT even in reality its important to constantly count our blessings and be thankful for the things we have in life that are truly wonderful!

“You are confined only by the walls you build yourself”

brick wall

Happy Monday
~ Jillian