Create / Enjoy

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Holiday party appetizer recipes: My first stuffed mushrooms - with bell peppers & bacon

I made three delicious real food appetizer recipes for our festive natural greenery holiday party, DIYs, and Paleo-friendly recipes --this is #3!

It was probably the most delicious, although definitely the least photogenic. I've never made stuffed mushrooms before, but I understand now you could stuff them with absolutely anything if you can get it to hold together. This flavor combination I ended up with was amazing, although not gorgeous in the brown mushrooms, so I'll have to remember it for other dishes in the future, too!

They did hold together pretty well, though, despite not having cream cheese or other cheesy or bread-ey binder in them. Read on!

They went well with the dried cranberry pork meatballs (here) and prosciutto-wrapped dried figs (here)! See the whole shoot here.


Grain-Free, Dairy-Free Stuffed Mushrooms with Bell Pepper and Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 12 fresh mushrooms (I used organic criminis)
  • 1/2 lb. bacon, chopped small--I use scissors! (Bacon ends and pieces are perfect for this)
  • 1/2 c. onion, finely chopped (I used red)
  • 1/2 c. bell pepper, finely chopped (I used yellow)
  • 1/2 c. almond meal (you can grind your own, see my tutorial here)
  • Sea salt and black pepper

Makes 12 mushroom caps. Double this recipe for a large group!

Instructions:


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Chop ends of mushrooms (and use a small, sharp spoon to scoop out all of the stem base); chop stems.
  3. Cook bacon pieces in a small frying pan.
  4. In bacon fat, saute onion, pepper, mushroom stems, and salt and pepper.
  5. Add almond meal to veggie/bacon mixture (in pan or in a bowl) and press into mushroom cups. The bacon fat and almond meal dust help everything stick together.
  6. Bake in pan or deep cookie tray with about 1/4" of water in the bottom of the tray for 20-25 minutes.

Serve hot! These are ridiculously delicious but they are even better hot!


I guess some meatballs have flour or breadcrumbs in them, but since my time eating bread and my time eating meat haven't overlapped since I was a kid, I don't know what it's like to make that kind. The almond flour worked like a charm and gave a great texture! See my tutorial here to make your own or buy it online! You could also use cashew flour/meal or sunflower seed flour/meal for a nut-free option.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Practical Person's Gift Guide: Books

As you may have seen in my gift guides this year, I'm focused on the practical but also the beautiful. I've learned the best gifts are often very personal, selected based on your relationship with the receiver, but are also general enough they can be enjoyed even if you miss the mark a little. As pretty as they are, I don't love giving trinkets and coffee table books that won't be used. So my gift guides this year are for the practical giver and receiver. Written by a practical person, intended for the relatively practical people in your life.

I did a general (or random, I guess) gift guide (with plenty of my actual Christmas list mixed in) and a kitchen stuff gift guide, and here's a great last-minute gift one: books.

This book list includes some faves I've read or my family members have enjoyed plus some I'd like to check out. There's something on here for moms, dads, babies, siblings, friends, and yourself!

(Including some I may have bought for family and friends this year--stop reading, Mom!!!)

You can see lots of my favorite books in my Amazon store here (click on the type of book you're interested in on the left), but here are some that are great gifts this holiday season!

  1. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography just came out December 12. My mom read me the Little House books and I'm sure she'd like getting this book of Laura's autobiography (annotated by a team of researchers) as something we could enjoy together.
  2. Eat the Yolks is hilarious and interesting and a great overview of food lies and truths. Liz is the best.
  3. Mediterranean Paleo Cooking looks gorgeous and great for my non-Paleo eater friends because the recipes sound so delicious and interesting! 
  4. Becoming a Supple Leopard is a fave of husband's and mine, and his dad had to have a copy once he flipped through ours. Even my dad, not big into fitness the way we are, wanted one after looking at it. It's textbook sized but easy to read. Great gift!!
  5. A funny autobiography. Depending who you're buying for... I've heard good things about As You WishNPH, and Yes Please, all new this year.
  6. Overwhelmed--see my review here! I thought about so many of my friends and female relatives when reading this book, and while it's not always super happy, I would give it out of love.
  7. Meals Made Simple is the new beautiful tome by Danielle Walker of Against All Grain. (Second book after her first, Against All Grain, which is also amazing but a little more complex so better for a more advanced chef.)
  8. The Hormone Cure is another not super fun one, but one that made me think about my loved ones and wish them the best. Could be great for someone who is interested in learning about how we can change our health through how we eat, sleep, move, and supplement. Dr. Sara Gottfried is a Harvard-educated OBGYN who had her own issues and learned to ask the hard questions and find logical solutions.
  9. Super Nutrition for Babies is the coolest!! I've heard it recommended multiple times from nutritionists and moms, but not till I ordered it for a friend with a little one did I flip through. It talks about nutritional needs for babies at different phases of their development and includes some really fun historic information about how people feed babies. A great gift for new parents (maybe along with a bib or something cute!).
Another great thing about books? They're flat, they're easy to wrap and pack, and you can buy them anywhere. I love giving and receiving books at the holidays!


You can check out all my gift guides here.

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for shopping with the companies that support this blog!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas tree shopping and holiday party-having

We are fully committed to the holiday season over at my house after this weekend! This seemed to be the big party weekend, with several family, friends, and work things to go to--something fun every day. We had friends over for our second annual holiday potluck, and was so exciting to share our home with friends this cozy time of year.

Our tree and house are fully decked out after Christmas tree chopping the other weekend!

I did simple tree decorations this year, and I love how the house was pretty much almost entirely decorated for the party already once we got the tree up!

Here are a few shots from our party that I took before everyone arrived. I also used the greenery (and mini tree!) that Orchard Supply Hardware provided for the holiday party/table shoot I did recently.

It was so cozy and relaxing sitting around during downtime this weekend with a lit tree with presents and stockings nearby.

I have one more week of work before I get a holiday break! Grateful that we got to start the festivities this weekend and still have plenty of time to enjoy the tree and decorations!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Practical Person's Gift Guide: Kitchen Stuff

A follow-up to my "Practical Person's Gift Guide" of a couple weeks ago--this one's also written by a practical person, intended for the relatively practical people in your life, but with some of my favorite practical and beautiful kitchen goodies.

Over only the past two years, I've been learning to cook, and I've gotten really comfortable with and excited about a few tools and processes in particular. I love to share things I'm passionate about, and it would be great if I could share some of my new love of cooking real, whole, nutrient-dense foods for my family through personal gifts to friends.

Isn't it just the most perfect to find a pretty, useful, valuable gift specific to each friend? I hope this gift guide can help you with that! Here's my gift guide of kitchen stuff that will inspire and nourish.

You'll recognize a few of these kitchen faves in my Amazon shop here, but here are a few that would make great gifts!

A practical person's gift guide - for the cook or food lover!



  1. Cuisinart mini food processor. We use ours all the time for sauces and smaller dishes, and it's much easier to store than a full-size food processor.
  2. Cast iron Dutch oven. How beautiful are these Dutch ovens from West Elm? Unfortunately/fortunately, they're on sale, so they may not be around for long. There is also this classic Lodge Dutch oven - 3.5 quart or 6 quart. I had never used a Dutch oven until last year but now I'm hooked. Stove-to-oven-to-table-to-fridge!
  3. THE CLASSIC cast iron skillet. This one comes with the handy perfect-fit rubber handle. (Bonus to include: home-rendered lard or tallow to cook in and season it with! See how and why to make your own here, here, here, and here.)
  4. Enameled cast iron skillet (or this West Elm one, which is on sale). We have a small enameled cast iron skillet we use for eggs all. the. time. and they never stick!
  5. Really good, programmable slow cooker. We got this one for a wedding gift and use it several times every week. It's on right now, actually. It's great for setting when you leave the house or need something cooked then kept warm during the night. 
  6. BIG butter dish for grassfed or European butter. You'd be surprised how hard it is to find butter dishes big enough for Kerrygold butter!! We bought ourselves one of these, plus a gift for my in-laws, who also buy the good stuff.
  7. Stick blender. Great specialized, small kitchen item. This is great for soups, sauces, and Bulletproof® Coffee (if you hold the cup or jar, don't leave it on the table if it's full).
  8. Spiral slicer. I know it may seem like a lot of appliance for one function, but if you've ever tried to make zucchini noodles, sweet potato noodles, and squash noodles over the same few-week period with the little handheld one (like I have, ahem) you'll find yourself wishing for a dedicated, more functional machine. The little ones work for skinny zucchini but nothing bigger or firmer. Spiralized noodles are delicious and a great base for just about any dish - plus they fit extra veggies into the meal!
I'm serious about the cast iron--there's a reason it's been used forever!! We've given a cast iron pan along with a jar of home-rendered lard (seriously, check out those links above) as gifts before and people love trying new things (new classic, old things).

I'm sure my tips for kitchen goodies will evolve with my cooking skills, but I love to stick mostly to the basics like some of these above!

Check out all my gift guides here.

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for shopping with the companies that support this blog!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Easy holiday potluck party decor!

This will be our third Christmas in our new house. Since we moved in and began to feel really settled in our space and proud to share it with family and friends (and since we finally had room for more than a couple people to be over at once!), we've really enjoyed having friends for dinner and - scary - having parties!

Last Christmas we had our first holiday potluck. I hope it will become an annual tradition! It's so hard because there are so many family, work, and friend parties and commitments leading up to Christmas, but we really wanted to put something on the calendar so we chose a Friday evening (this week!).

I picked out some party invites from Zazzle and they gave them to me, along with a bunch of cool printed goodies. It was hard to choose between the designs, but I wanted something very low-key and simple. It's not going to be a fancy party, just a relaxed, cozy evening in!

I went with some holiday botanical print invitations (these here). I loved the simple two-color look and natural elements!

I contacted the invite designer on Zazzle (Dulce Events) and she put together not only the cards but all kinds of other fun coordinating items, more than I could have imagined.

She made these thank you stickers I can use on favors (I made these chocolate peppermint coconut macaroons last year for friends and packaged them like this...), even matching brown/white print tissue paper!

I wanted coordinating everything--stamps as well as potluck dish cards, maybe some pre-printed table place cards, maybe even cloth napkins (which you can order in ANY color!!).

Imagine our buffet table looking a little like this!

I love having cute cards for people to write the names of their dishes on.

I don't really need them for the potluck, but I couldn't resist these pretty name cards. I'll find some use for them sometime. 

What a fun, fresh (and complete) party suite I ended up with!

Other favorite invites on Zazzle (some of which would totally work for a New Year's party after the holiday!):


Another Zazzle shop I love is Hooray Creative, and also check out Blush Printables for some gorgeous gold and glam pretty things.

Zazzle is having a big sale today (Wednesday 12/10) where you can save 80% off invitations & 20% off site-wide with code: FUNCHEER4ALL

Here's to simple potlucks to celebrate family and friends this season!!

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for shopping with the companies that support this blog!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Holiday party appetizer recipes: Prosciutto-Wrapped Dried Figs with Walnuts

Recipe #2 from our festive natural greenery holiday party, DIYs, and Paleo-friendly recipes! A simple and fun prosciutto-wrapped dried fig, stuffed with walnut pieces.

The bacon-wrapped date is a party classic and favorite, but I wanted to try something a little different. I'm very new to fancy meat appetizers, but dried fruits do seem to usually go well with cured pork, right? And I wanted to use figs, although they're not fresh anymore so dried is the best I had. I see a lot of dried fruit/meat appetizers with cheese or goat cheese, but I don't do dairy most of the time so I wanted to do something tasty and interesting that was also dairy-free.

I buy dried figs and walnuts in the bulk foods section of the grocery store, and this was actually the first time I've ever bought prosciutto--one package was more than enough for plenty of these treats, so it's not too expensive, either.

Here they are as listed in our holiday party shoot, with a few other appetizers (including these dried cranberry/pork meatballs and another one I'll post about soon!).

Prosciutto-Wrapped Dried Figs with Walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 18 dried figs
  • 18 dried walnut halves or quarters (depending on size/variety of figs)
  • 9 pieces of prosciutto, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 18 toothpicks

Instructions:


  1. Cut stems off figs and make incision into fig from cut end.
  2. Push walnut halves or quarters (my figs were small so I used quarters) into figs.
  3. Wrap each fig in small slice of prosciutto and poke a toothpick all the way through.
  4. Optional (I did not do this): put some lard, butter, or coconut oil in a skillet and pan fry the wrapped figs, flipping as they sear. Or, roast in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. (I thought mine were prettier cold so I didn't cook or bake them!)

Serve cold if you don't cook them, and serve immediately after frying or baking if you do.

You could also try it with pecans or other nuts if they are local to you!

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