Slow Cooker Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I don’t really do Halloween. That isn’t a hard and fast rule, but generally speaking, when the holiday rolls around I never feel like I have the energy to dress up and party hard and go the appropriate amount of crazy that adult halloween without any kids seems to warrant.

In past years, our neighborhood held a block party and D and I would create games for the trick or treaters and we’d have a huge line of people. It was intense, but it was still over by 9 and I got to wear my normal clothes and then go home and sit on my couch. Our new neighborhood had zero trick or treaters, and there was no small part of me that would have been content to spend the entire night on my couch, in sweatpants, watching movies and eating all of the candy that we didn’t end up passing out. But instead we managed to work up enough festive energy to change into actual clothes (still not a costume; I have to be true to who I am), and join in on a friend’s block party one neighborhood over. It was a good time and we were able to pass out part of the candy we had purchased.

I made this Spinach and Artichoke Dip for the festivities. Served in a bread bowl with tortilla chips for dipping, it was a HUGE hit.

And now we move on to Thanksgiving. D and I will be hosting for the first time this year. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but I’ll be honest that the idea of a house full of people and an entire meal to prepare for 10+ diners feels a little intense. Do you have any go-to Thanksgiving recipes? Side dishes that are easy, but delicious? Things that are perfect for preparing ahead of time to decrease oven and kitchen crowding on Thanksgiving Day? Any great advice on how to manage a first-time Thanksgiving meal? Share it in the comments and help ease my anxious mind.

~C.

 

 

 

 

Before & After: Bedroom

I had forgotten how long it takes to feel settled again after moving to a new house. In college, moving pretty much every year, I got really good at packing up whatever belonged to me in a shared house and getting it unpacked and settled in a new place with a 24 hour turn around. But in the (over 7–yikes!) years since then, D and I have accumulated a lot more stuff. We did a big purge before moving out of the old house, but even still it has been a long, slow process figuring out where each piece of furniture should go, how best to store off-season items, what needs to be done to make each room feel comfortable and complete. It’s been a little over a month since we moved and I’m happy to say that, despite one room still full of boxes, we are feeling settled and cozy and happy with the decision to move. It was a long month, though.

The first thing we did after getting the keys to the house was rip up the old, stained, nasty carpet that was covering all the floors upstairs. We crossed our fingers and pleaded with the universe that the floor beneath would be old, but ultimately lovely hardwood that we could refinish. It was not to be.

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Paint splattered plastic faux-wood was not ideal. We tossed the mattress down on top of it and spent two weeks sleeping on the couch or in the empty, barren bedroom. The walls, like the floor, were also stained and dirty and nothing gets on my nerves quite as much as beige paint, so the whole room required a good makeover.

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We are still waiting on delivery of a handmade shelf that will hang above the bed, but otherwise our bedroom transformation is complete. We painted a soft blue on the walls to brighten up the space, and installed carpet over the nasty floors.

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The room is so comfortable now, and very restful. It’s nice and bright on a sunny day. There’s a great big tree outside one window and I love waking up to the sound of birds in the tree and the breeze rustling the branches.

But my favorite part of the room, of the whole house really, are the deep window sills.

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I can fill them with books and framed photos and other small items and still leave plenty of room for the cat to stretch out and enjoy a little bird watching.

D and I will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time ever this year, and my goal is to have everything unpacked and set up before that. Thankfully, we are well on our way.

~C.

 

 

 

Quinoa Salad With Maple Vinaigrette

Our neighborhood had a potluck gathering last night. It was so nice to have an opportunity to meet all of our new neighbors and relax on a beautiful early fall evening, chatting and drinking and getting to know everyone. All of the people we met were wonderfully kind and interesting and we felt instantly welcomed into the neighborhood. It was a great night.

Since I was working yesterday and D was busy running errands all day (we still have a lot of settling in work to do!) we didn’t have a lot of time to fix something for the potluck. Needing something quick, but good for sharing, I found this Quinoa Salad. Tossed with pears, baby spinach, and chickpeas in a maple vinaigrette dressing and topped with pecans, it was full of fall flavors. Hearty, but still light, it was a perfect side salad. I’m sure I’ll be making this again in the months to come and I’m thinking it will pair really well with chicken in an apricot or cranberry sauce.

After a very long, busy week of work last week, I am excited to take the day off today. There are a lot of house-related things that I need to get done, but I am very tempted to spend the day on the couch, just relaxing and recouping. In the next few weeks I’ll be launching a new line of designs for my jewelry store, so perhaps I’ll spend the day getting a few more pieces ready for sale. Here’s a sneak peek of what I’ve been working on!

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~C.

Rainy Day

It’s a dreary, rainy morning and I want nothing more than to stay home all day.

We moved last weekend and are slowly getting settled in our new place. It’s an old stone house with a great, big tree right outside the living room window. I feel so cozy sitting here, drinking coffee and listening to the rain fall. I don’t want to go into work today. I don’t want to deal with slick roads. Don’t want to dodge puddles and still end up with the cuff of my pants soaked through.

I want to sit on my couch all day with a hot mug of one of these teas and a good book.

Or drape a warm, cozy blanket across my lap and watch a classic black and white movie.

Speaking of movies, today seems like a good day to binge watch some trailers and decide what’s on my must-see list for this fall.

Or maybe I would just spend all day sleeping, curled up alongside this guy:

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What are your favorite things to do on a rainy fall day?

 

~C.

 

 

Slow Cooker Potato Soup

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We are less than a week from moving day. Our culinary focus has turned entirely towards using up whatever food we have and making quick, simple meals that don’t take up too much time that could be better spent packing and cleaning. We did one last small grocery run over the weekend for a few staples, and we’ll get one more CSA share this evening, but that’s it. With a limited pantry and limited free time, last night I turned to my best friend the crockpot for a little help.

I still had a few weeks of CSA potatoes on hand that I’ve been wanting to use up, and given the cool weather yesterday (and again this morning!), it seemed like a good time for soup.

I love potato soup. It’s so basic, but so hearty and, frankly, uplifting. It’s one of those foods that I feel is kind of taking care of me as I eat it. For this particular soup, I followed this recipe for Loaded Baked Potato Soup. I didn’t include the bacon or the sprinkled cheese at the end. I also didn’t have any chives, so I substituted parsley for some added flavor and a bit of green (just sprinkled on at the end, not cooked in the soup). I couldn’t find our pepper grinder, because I can’t find anything in this house anymore, but it was still plenty flavorful. I served it over a little bit of wild rice to add a bit more thickness (I like really thick soups), with a dollop of plain greek yogurt on top in place of the sour cream.

If you’d like a variation on the potato soup theme, I have done a Potato Leek Soup in the past that was similarly fantastic. It has a few more steps, but is still quite easy to throw together.

If 85% of my kitchen wasn’t already packed in boxes, I definitely would have made and Irish Soda Bread to go along with the soup.

It has been a crazy couple of weeks, but with only 6 days to go, I have to say I’m pretty impressed with how well D and I have been managing this transition. Moving is hard, and so far there have been very few stress-related breakdowns. We’ve got a clear, concise list of what tasks remain and each day we’re crossing a few off and getting closer and closer to being all packed up and ready to start fresh in a new house. I’m getting excited.

 

~C.

Spiced Rum Mojito

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This summer never reached a point of feeling like a sustained, true summer. Absent were the weeks of 100 degree temperatures coupled with body melting humidity (I’m certainly not complaining). At times it’s felt like late spring. At others, like early fall. It’s been breezy and cool and absolutely glorious. But without the memory of painful, sweltering heat still recent in your mind, those early harbingers of fall don’t seem to resonate quite as fully as I like them to. Kids are headed back to school, college football kicks off in full this weekend, apparently pumpkin flavored beverages are already showing up in bars and coffee shops around the city (too soon!). Normally these are the early signs of autumn that I welcome with open arms and use to push me through those last fews weeks of hot, desolate summer. They have all snuck up on my this year, though. The whole summer has felt like a transition to fall (again, I’m not complaining!), so the start of college football and an unexpectedly cool night where I have to throw on a cardigan to comfortably sit outside on the deck don’t bring quite the same sigh of relief and hope that they have in years past. But I’m still excited that this time of year has arrived. The shift from summer to fall is probably my favorite time of year. It’s not quite as soul lifting as that first hint of spring, of warmth and earth and sunshine. But I like warmer days that fade into cooler nights. The slow turning of the leaves. The crispness that creeps a little further into the air with each passing week. It’s a slow transition, and I like it all the better for that. The way you both cling to summer and embrace fall all at once. I like apples. Good apples. Fall apples.

D and I have made these spiced rum mojitos only once before, but they strike me as the perfect drink for this time of year. A regular mojito, with its white rum and strong minty, sugar flavor is a purely summer drink. I can’t imagine drinking one on a day that wasn’t blisteringly warm, so that the liquid feels like it is actually filling every channel of your body, cooling and refreshing you from the inside out. The spiced rum mojito is refreshing, but the darker rum mellows some of the sweetness and gives it an almost earthy taste that I actually prefer. It would be an ideal drink for a late summer evening, when the sun is fading and the air cools. Sip it while resting with your feet up on the back deck, discussing your football team’s (fingers crossed) first win of the season.

~C.

 

Spiced Rum Mojito

recipe via The Savory

2 oz Spiced Rum

2 Barspoons of Brown Sugar

Juice of 1 Lime

8-10 Fresh Mint Leaves

Soda Water Fill

Mint Sprig for Garnish

In a shaker, muddle mint leaves with sugar and lime juice. Add rum and shake with ice. Dump contents directly into a Collins glass. Fill with soda water. Slap mint sprig and garnish.

Summertime Pasta With Squash and Corn

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Dan and I are getting ready to move. We have three weeks before we close on our new place, and while we don’t absolutely have to be moved out of our current house by that point, we want to get this place up on the market, so we’re doing our best to shoot for that three week timeframe. Moving is so overwhelming. No matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, it always feels as massive and daunting an undertaking as it did the time before. Our house is in a state of organized chaos. Since most of our packing, cleaning, moving preparation has to occur in the evenings when we are both home from work, we are definitely going to need some quick and easy meals for the weeks to come.

First up, this Summertime Pasta with Squash and Corn. The recipe calls for rigatoni, but I didn’t have that on hand, so I went with tri-colored rotini. Despite the use of butter, this pasta tastes really light and fresh. I definitely recommend using fresh corn that you cut straight off the cob, and a sweet corn pairs particularly well with the squash flavors. I used regular crookneck squash, but I think any kind of summer squash would work. It’s very quick, very tasty, and very likely something we’ll be eating again and again in the weeks to follow.

~C.