2014: A Year in Review

Can you believe it’s 2015?! Last year just FLEW by, but when I go back and review all the posts from 2014, it really is amazing how much happened. Thanks to all of you who have stuck around and continue to offer your advice and words of encouragement – I love you all!

I’ll create a to-do list for 2015 tomorrow, but first let’s take a look back of some of the best posts of 2014:

DSC00473Most popular post: A step-by-step look at how to turn an IKEA Ribba frame into a bar tray garnered the most clicks this year – and it was even picked up by IKEA Hackers!

Most commented on post: Remember when y’all helped me pick out a new living room rug? Great job, by the way.

DSC01014Best before/after: I’m so happy I finally bit the bullet and gave my living room a navy accent wall like the ones I’d been admiring on Pinterest forever. Will I regret it when I move out and have to paint it back white? Only time will tell…

Still on my wish list: This may just be the year that I tackle my first upholstery project, so I better pick up “Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design” to prepare.

11Best trip: Sometimes the best trips are the ones that are last minute and random and cheap – that happened to be Kansas City for me this year.

Best purchase: I know this is a home design blog, but this Kipling tote has been a godsend this past year. The blogging fashionistas of the world certainly don’t have anything to worry about, but I know a good bag when I see one.

friendsgivingBest party: I finally pulled off a Friendsgiving this year! The place looked great, and I hope it’ll mark the begin of many dinner parties to come. I love hosting.

Greatest accomplishment: I trained and ran a friggin’ marathon. 26.2 miles. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever say that. Hell, I could barely run the 5 miles during soccer two-a-days in high school! It felt amazing.

DSC00683Best recipe: I just made this Parmesan Ranch Snack Mix for a New Year’s Eve party… so, so good – and ridiculously easy!

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Foodie Friday: Pesto and Arugula Pasta Salad

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Whenever I use pesto in something, it makes me think of Jimmy Pesto from Bob’s Burgers. Who’s with me?

…crickets…

Just me? Well, ok then. But seriously, that cartoon is weird. And awesome.

But moving on. Fresh and tasty salads for summer are also awesome, especially ones that require minimal effort. I love a chopped salad just as much as the next person, but doing all that chopping yourself is a real pain in the patoot.

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Enter the pesto and arugula pasta salad. It’s quick and easy; it takes about 15 minutes from start to finish. It’s so easy, in fact, that I’m not even going to add measurements. It’s really just up to your personal tastes. Try it out.

Ingredients

Penne pasta (I used Barilla Whole Grain Penne)
Roasted red peppers (homemade or not, your choice)
Pesto (again, homemade or not)
Fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
Arugula

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Cook pasta in a pot of boiling water al dente. While you’re waiting for your pasta to soften, combine peppers (Full disclosure: I didn’t have any roasted red peppers on hand, so I just used raw red peppers, and it was still delicious!), pesto and cheese in a large bowl.

Drain pasta and rinse under cold water for about 1 minute. Add pasta to the bowl and toss until covered. Gently mix in the arugula, and enjoy! Feel free to make it your own by adding tomatoes, olives, asparagus, etc.

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Foodie Friday: Jalapeño Lime Hummus

DSC00885Happy Friday, everybody! If you’re looking for an app to bring to a Memorial Day party this weekend, let me suggest this jalapeño lime hummus. It’s a good choice not only because it’s tasty, healthy and easy to make, but because you probably won’t have to worry about someone else bringing hummus given the recall. Score!

DSC00875Ingredients
1 can chickpeas, drained and deskinned
2 Tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp jalapeño, roughly chopped (about 1/2 a jalapeño)
1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Dash of hot sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp water

DSC00879Directions
Combine all ingredients except for olive oil and water in food processor, and blend. With the blade still running, add olive oil and water. Continue to blend until smooth and creamy. Spread on veggies, tortilla chips, pita, etc. Enjoy!

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Foodie Friday: Parmesan Ranch Snack Mix

My favorite recipes are not recipes at all, but snacks and meals that are easily customizable and don’t involve much measuring (probably why my baking is so hit or miss…). This is definitely one of those recipes.

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Prepare to eat an entire bag of this stuff on your own, it’s that addictive. Plus, it only takes about five minutes to make, which is very dangerous.

Basically, you warm up some oil and mix it with ranch dip seasoning, cheese, popcorn and pretzels—and that’s it! It’s amazing warm, but it’s still tasty even the next day.

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It’d make a great snack to take to the beach or on a road trip. I’m going to make some to take to a Derby party next weekend. It’s so ridiculously easy to make, but it’s much more personal than just a store-bought bag of Chex Mix or chips and dip.

DSC00680Ingredients:

2/3 cup oil (canola, veggie, olive)
1 packet of ranch dip seasoning mix
about 4 cups popcorn, popped (I used Skinny Pop)
about 3 1/2 cups pretzels (waffle-style really traps the flavoring!)
1/2 to 1 cup nuts of your choice
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated

(Now keep in mind these are all approximate measurements, and you’re welcome to swap in, say, Goldfish crackers or Chex cereal—whatever you have on hand!)

Visit Averie Cooks for the full instructions and some helpful hints!

Foodie Friday: Spicy Black Bean Soup

How do we feel about soups when it’s warm out? I think I’m OK with it as long as it isn’t super heavy. And this, my friend, is not. It might not look like much, but I swear it’s surprisingly light and fresh—and it’s even better the next day!
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With work and class now, anything that I can do in an extra 10 minutes in the morning to help dinner get to the table—er, the coffee table—faster is a big help. I chopped the veggies for this in the morning and just stored them in Tupperware until I was ready to put everything together. I can definitely see this becoming a staple because it’s easy, tasty and makes a ton. Plus, it’s healthy!

 

Spicy Black Bean Soup
(serves 4-6)

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into thin rounds (or 1.5 cups of shredded carrots)
6 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
4 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon+ red pepper flakes
4 (15-ounce) cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about one small lime)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Optional garnishes: diced avocado, tortilla chips, rice, etc.

DSC00610Instructions

1. In a medium/large pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. When warm (about 2 minutes), add the onions, celery and carrots and a sprinkle of salt. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetable are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Stir in the garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in the beans and broth, and bring to a simmer. Lower heat slightly, and cook until the broth is flavorful and the beans are very tender, about 30 minutes.

3. Puree about 4 cups of the soup in a blender until smooth (I DO NOT recommend doing this in a Magic Bullet or similar machine because there’s no where for the steam to escape). Return the pureed soup to the pot, and stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Salt and pepper to taste, and top with garnishes. Enjoy!DSC00623Recipe adapted from Cookie + Kate

Foodie Friday: Sausage and Tortellini Skillet

Between settling in at the new job and having some pretty epic fails (see lentil soup) in the kitchen as of late, I haven’t put up any Foodie Fridays the past few weeks. I’m back, but with a disclaimer: This isn’t so much a recipe as common sense.

Sometimes I look around at Pinterest and find a million awesome dinner ideas, but then I look at the ingredient list and think about how I’ll be eating dinner at 10 pm (which I do a lot of the time anyway) by the time I get home from work, go to the grocery, get the million and one ingredients, prep, chop, dice, saute, boil, sear and whatever else it takes to get the dish on the table.

So if you’re in the same boat as me, then this one is for you. One pan. Six ingredients. Zero measuring. Thirty minutes tops. No prep time and very little clean-up. You’re welcome.

IMG_4238_e What you’ll need:

Olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of your skillet)

Smoked sausage (just a hint: turkey sausage tastes very similar to the real deal)

Diced garlic (again, the amount is up to you)

Pasta sauce (I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s garlic pasta sauce)

Pre-made tortellinis (try mushroom or spinach to reduce cheese overload)

Cheese (your choice, I used some mozz and some parm)

Optional ingredients: onions, red pepper, red pepper flakes, spinach, etc.

Make it happen:

1. Slice your sausage into bite-size pieces.

2. Heat the olive oil in your skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and continue to stir until all pieces are well browned, about 5-7 minutes. (It’ll smell freaking awesome. Resist the urge to steal some out of the pan.) This is where you’d also be cooking your onions or red pepper if you chose to add them.

3. Add garlic and stir. (Careful not to burn the garlic, only takes about 30 seconds to brown.)

4. Add the pasta sauce and tortellinis (and red pepper flakes and/or spinach, if you want), and stir until combined.

5. Once the sauce is bubbling, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until tortellini are tender.

6. Lift lid and stir. Then add cheese to the top, and replace the lid. Continue to simmer for about 3-5 minutes until the cheese is melted.

7. Dig in!

Adapted from Kevin & Amanda

IMG_4239_E(Images: These are terrible. My apologies. It’d been a rough day, and I was too lazy to get out the real camera. It tastes good though, I swear!)

Foodie Friday: Tortilla Pizzas

I love pizza. I mean, who doesn’t? Though I am kind of a bad Chicagoan in that sense: I don’t like deep dish. I’d much rather have lasagna if that’s the case. (The lasagna at Sapori Trattoria is freaking amazing, by the way.)

But when I was a single girl, I’d never ordered pizza because a small wouldn’t meet the delivery minimum, and with a frozen pizza it was all too easy just to eat the whole thing, a danger for my waistline (among other things). So I got reallllly into tortilla pizzas.

So crispy and cheesy and the options are endless. I think I originally got the idea from the Abs Diet book (still working on that six pack…), but my excitement was reignited recently when I ran across Averie Cooks‘ recipe for mango basil tortilla pizzas on Pinterest. I happened to have some basil and mango left over from the fruit salsa so the timing was perfect.

And it was delicious. I’m still not 100 percent sure how you’re supposed to tackle peeling/chopping a mango, but pair that sweetness with some red pepper flakes and you’re in business.

Click here for the recipe.