Halloween – Creepy Home Decor for that Scary Time of Year

There’s something about October that just sparks a little life into the fall season. The weather gets chillier, the coats come out, and everything gets just a little spooky.

It’s also sort of a divisive season. There are Halloween people, and there are not-Halloween people; costume people and the people that hide out to avoid the dress-up madness; the people who hoard their candy all year and the people who gorge that same night.

I am the ultimate Halloween person. Costumes make me so happy and the spooky decorations always crack me up. This year, instead of a small, shared apartment, I have an actual house to decorate! It’s the best. And now I get to share this deco with you!

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This year’s Halloween Centerpiece was inspired by a bouquet of roses that Mike had gotten me for our anniversary in August. Normally, the roses last about 2 weeks before they really start to wilt and harden – and that’s when I start drying them out to jar and preserve them. (Read more about my Jarred Roses here.)

That two weeks puts us mid-September, and two weeks more of drying out brings us to the month of Halloween! I decided it might be a good idea to make them the center of this year’s centerpiece before I jarred them up this time…. and the rest of the display comes from the Target dollar section – aka my favorite store. I think the flowers are just really perfect!

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Behind the centerpiece, hanging over our window, is this Bloody Weapons Garland I found on Amazon that absolutely cracks me up. It’s metallic, and really noticeable from the street, which I also love since our street has high walking traffic. Buy the garland here. 

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Last but not least, Halloween Door Decor. Last year around Halloween I had only been dating Mike for a couple of months. Probably against my better judgement, I bought this Rottingham’s “Dead and Breakfast” sign and decorated his doorway with it along with some cobwebs as a surprise. (I also dressed in a unicorn costume to hand out candy, right down to the blue wig and the rainbow tail, which I don’t regret for one minute. Mike is in the “not a costume guy” group, which makes this more entertaining for the reader.)

The sign had to make an appearance again this year for that reason. However, I cannot stand those cobwebs. They’re annoying to put up, they’re annoying to take down, and they don’t ever seem to stay! That’s why I opted for black creepy cloth this year, and this fun “keep out” tape – also from the Target dollar section!

Halloween has always gotten me so excited. The decorations, the desserts, and the costumes are just so fun. and there’s so much opportunity to tap your creative genius!

Stay tuned in the next few days for two new posts… a Halloween treat for the whole family, and some of my favorite costumes from over the years.

How are you decorating this Halloween? I’d love to see how you’ve done up your home!

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TB12 Method Seasonal Salads – My Take

Meal prepping as always been a part of my weekend – particularly since I moved into Mike’s. Now that I’m in grad school about 10 hours a day and Mike’s at work sometimes longer, meal prep has become absolutely necessary for us to continue eating healthy and not order pizza every night of the week!

Meal prep fell away this summer, with me being home most of the day, but now that fall is in full swing we are back in action every Sunday evening! As a big Pats fan, Mike has also recently discovered Tom Brady’s new healthy lifestyle book, The TB12 Method. I’m not usually a fan of these fad lifestyle books, but I will say the recipes are pretty great.

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Disclaimer: we are not and in no way want to eat vegan! So I’ve been taking his recipes and adjusting them to reflect our very omnivorous, meat-eating lifestyle.

Here’s my version of the TB12 Seasonal Salad with Savory Vinaigrette. I chop all the veggies on Sunday, so that morning assembly only takes a few minutes.

Mustard Caper Vinaigrette:
Recipe will fit in one standard sized mason jar for refrigerator storage.
1/4 c mustard seed
1/4 c capers, including juice
1 c lemon juice
1/8 c walnut oil
1/4 c olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend until smooth.

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Salad
Adjust servings up or down based on desired size.
1 c salad greens (I like spinach and kale mix)
1/2 c baby carrots, cut in half the long way
1/2 c radishes
1/2 c rice
1 handful of mixed microgreens (pea sprouts, fennel sprouts, etc)
1 handful alfalfa sprouts
1/8 c pistachios
1/8 c mixed seeds (I use flax, chia, and sunflower)
1/2 avocado
1/8 c Mustard Caper Vinaigrette

Has anyone tried the TB12 Method yet? What do you think?

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Stay tuned for my blog post on The Importance of Meal Prepping, and weekly meal prep menu posts.

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Homemade Italian: Meatball Mania

Growing up in an Italian family, meatballs were a constant staple at the dinner table. Everyone had their own recipe — some more dense, some sweeter, and some an entire meal in themselves!

When I started really getting into cooking, in high school, I would visit my aunt, my dad’s oldest half-sister, who was the hands down best cook in the bunch. I wanted to learn all of the traditional recipes – meatballs, red sauce, fried doughs (with a name so Italian I have no idea how to spell it), and morning pastries.

Over the years, I’ve adjusted the meatball recipe to become my own – added a few things, subtracted a few things, and adjusted amounts. Now I’ve decided to share it here with you!

I like to double the below recipe and freeze in bags of 9 or 10 – enough for 2-3 people to mix with pasta for dinner, plus leftovers. Please note the amounts are rough estimates — I usually do this by sight or feel, and you can tweak as necessary.

Meatball Recipe

Italian Style Meatballs
1 lb ground meatloaf mix (1/3 pork, 1/3 veal, 1/3 beef)
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 egg
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Italian-Style Breadcrumbs
Plain Breadcrumbs (up to 1 cup)
Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients except plain breadcrumbs by hand in a bowl. Add plain breadcrumbs until able to roll mixture into balls without large pieces sticking to hands.

Bake on 350 for 10-30 minutes, based on size of meatball, until both sizes are browned and the entire ball is cooked through.

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Stonington Vineyards – Surprise Party on a Budget

Wine and cheese plates are sort of my family’s “thing.” In a time when other families packed tuna sandwiches and PBJ’s, my parents were packing entire charcuterie boards in the picnic cooler, with multiple types of cheese, crackers, grapes and meats.

That’s why this year, when my mom turned 60 (sorry mom!), we decided to throw her a surprise bash at Stonington Vineyards, a local winery that receives nothing but rave reviews.

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Picture from Stonington Vineyards site

It was a perfect day – 80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, the quintessential Rhode Island Indian Summer. Mom had no idea, either…. she thought that just our immediate family was going out to eat somewhere outdoors, and wasn’t expecting a party of 10 waiting for her around the corner!

The winery was so accommodating. We had initially booked a tasting, thinking the event would take place outside — all of the wineries I have been to (on Long Island) did outdoor tastings, so I didn’t think about it when I booked the reservation! When we found out the event would be indoors, we decided to skip at the last minute in favor of sitting with our huge wine and “nosh” spread on the porch. Cancelling so last minute wasn’t a problem at all, and we went ahead and got a big sampling of their full range of wines.

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It was a rose kind of day, but by far the favorite was the Seaport White, a reasonably priced white blend that even the non-wine-drinkers enjoyed.

I didn’t get the chance to snap a photo, but here’s what I included in my spread… a massive, high quality charcuterie spread for 11 people that cost me less than $100!

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Gluten Free Homemade Granola

I first became obsessed with cooking and trying new recipes in high school. At the time, eating organic was becoming wildly popular, and I was becoming more health (and body) conscious.

In my house, we’d been eating fresh fruits and veggies from the garden since we were kids. Our dinners were well-balanced, and our breakfasts were well-rounded, but as an Italian household, everything was heavy in carbs. I still remember my breakfast every morning – an everything bagel with butter, plus 1/2 a grapefruit with sugar.

I became interested in cutting white carbs that year, and discovered granola. That same year, a local runner published a granola recipe in our town newspaper, The Westerly Sun, and I was immediately intrigued. My mom and I made it that weekend, and it was a hit. Over the years, I’ve edited and tweaked this recipe to granola perfection.

The long list of ingredients looks intimidating, but it’s a lot simpler than it looks. I usually try to reign in a helper to shell the pistachios with me, or knock out this task first, since it’s the longest step!

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This is my favorite mix, but you can add, subtract, and mix up as you see fit. Sometimes, I like to substitute chia seeds for flax seed, or add some walnuts or chocolate.

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Honestly, the bowl of nuts looks good enough to eat on its own. I like to mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the rest in a larger bowl, then add together. It makes the mixture much easier to mix.

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It’s important to stir the granola on the sheet every 5-7 minutes while it’s baking so that it doesn’t burn! I have 30-35 minutes listed in the recipe, but on a darker sheet or with a thinner layer of granola, it could be only 25. The granola will be crispy and golden when it’s done, and after cooling for 3-4 minutes, will form clumps.

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Look how much granola this recipe makes! This usually lasts me for a meal a day for 2 weeks – especially if I end up mixing it into yogurt for breakfast or lunch.

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Gluten Free Homemade Granola
Scroll down for a shareable recipe card!

6 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup flax seed (wheat germ if you’re not gluten free)
2/3 cup real maple syrup
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup molasses
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups raisins
2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup pistachio meats
1 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients except dried fruits in a large bowl until well coated.

Use cooking spray to coat 2 cookie sheets. Spread half the granola on each sheet.

Bake 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees, lightly stirring every 5-7 minutes, until crispy. Switch the sheets from top to bottom rack and vice versa for even cooking. Let stand to cool.

Add raisins and dried cranberries, and store in airtight containers.

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Shareable gluten free granola recipe card

 

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