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November 2014

harvest pecan pie {grain-free pecan pie}

there are standards in our family for Thanksgiving, and one is that certain annual recipes must not be missed.  no matter how “creative” this daughter-in-law feels, when the holiday is done with my husband’s crew, tradition holds.  pecan pie must happen, and when her crew can be with us, my sister-in-law brings a chocolate pecan pie that would knock you on your buns.  this year i’m doing one that has maple sugar instead of corn syrup.  i’m doing a grain-free crust, and it’s going to be ah-mazing.  i said so.  grain-free pecan pie – and that will be a new tradition.

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here’s the recipe for my grain-free pecan pie for this year:

what are your family’s must-have desserts?  have you dared to try something different, and created a new tradition?  i’d love to hear yours!

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thanksgiving tips {planning a stress-free holiday}

sometimes the holidays bring stress to a family.  always, they bring opportunities to make magical memories that get passed down to the generations.  as we are gearing up for the holidays in a new home, away from old family and friends, i’ve been thinking about some of our best holiday memories, and what made them so.  i thought maybe you, too, could use some thanksgiving tips to help you in planning a stress-free holiday.

laugh.  a lot.

no words needed.  (it helps if you are married to the funniest guy on the planet.  or at least the funniest guy in your family.)


thanksgiving tips dancing with my father f


thanksgiving tips dancing with my father b


take advantage of memory-making.

holidays often mean the opportunity to share space with generations and friends and family we don’t often see.  being in a new place this year means we won’t be with family or old friends.  we’ve been graciously invited to join new ones, and that makes past memories, as well as the new ones we will make, all the more dear.  challenge your kiddos, and yourself, to be intentional about conversation during the time you share.  does nana have a favorite potato recipe or tip for the most moist turkey?  let the kids learn it, and make sure to write it down!


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 have goodies on hand for snacking during prep time.

nobody likes a grumpy chef/host.  put out some yummy snacks that you and your guests can enjoy while waiting for the main event.  (click here if you would like tips on creating this pretty cheese platter!)

 how to make a cheese platter c


have something for little hands.

last year, we printed this adorable activity book for the youngest of the crew, but we discovered even the big kids enjoyed it.  this year we might print this one to take to join new friends!

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our a-girl likes to look up, and create, pretty folds for napkins.

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make it pretty.  but keep it simple (and a gift doesn’t hurt).

our dishes were dwindling and our budget was small last year.  we picked up some simple white plates from a big-box store and added small details like tea lights and pretty paper straws.  then we used pretty cupcake liners to tie up new tealights with twine, and those were favors for the guests.  the table runner was inexpensive burlap that we didn’t even hem.  i love the rustic look we got for very little effort, don’t you?


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 welcome guests into the kitchen.  (aka: all hands on deck!)

i remember a few holidays growing up where the host felt she bore all the weight of making everything.  this led to stress for her and guilt for others.  even if it makes for a bit of crazy, welcome help in your kitchen!  i read once that true hospitality says, “come in.  help out.  enjoy the fruit of our labor with me.”  i love this mindset, and it helps the work get done faster, too!


easy thanksgiving tips


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roll with the punches.

with two sets of hands in the kitchen, sometimes things get a bit scattered.  when my sweet mom-in-law joined me in making some yeasty rolls, we got a bit carried away, and ended up with giant-hamburger-bun-sized “rolls.”  do you think anyone complained?  nope.  more surface area for warm melty butter.

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sit down.  eat.  enjoy.

am i the only one who’s tempted to keep working to make things perfect?  the only one who’s ever dined with a host who couldn’t settle in and enjoy?  don’t be afraid to relax and soak in the bounty.  you deserve it, and your guests will relax even more!


thanksgiving tips dancing with my father e


thanksgiving tips dancing with my father


what are your best tips for hospitable hostessing?  i’m always looking to get better at the craft, so i’d love to hear from you!


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how to create a cheese platter {with free printable cheese labels}

i don’t know about you, but i love to have something nice to nibble on when i’m cooking.  it keeps me in a good mood, and it’s nice for guests when i’m working on last-minute details for the meal.  i like to have healthy snacks even when it’s just for our kiddos on an everyday weeknight, because it helps them be more patient for the meal.  when it’s a healthy snack, i don’t worry that they will fill up on worthless stuff either.  for me (and for lots of gifted hosts, i know!) a cheese platter fits that bill, and it can even stand in for a light meal if you like.  here are my tips for how to create a cheese platter.


how to make a cheese plate


choose a moveable plate, tray, or platter that you can relocate with you and your guests.  this wooden tray has been around for years, and i can replace the ribbon to fit the decor of the day.  i like that it’s big and deep and i can pile in lots of yummy treats and pretty serving dishes, too.


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curate a small, but varied selection of cheeses.  i like to have a blue, a goat, an aged cheese (like a cheddar or aged gouda with some crystallization), and a creamy soft cheese with savory seasonings.  it’s good to have a mix of “potent cheeses,” as my kids call them, and mild ones.  to add variety, i usually drizzle one salty cheese or a goat cheese with honey.  it adds such a twist of flavor!  (if you have a specialty store near you, it’s super fun to visit and learn from an expert, especially if they’ll let you try their favorites!)


how to make a cheese platter B

create depth of flavor and visual interest by adding additional items like sweet pickles, stuffed olives, and fresh fruit.  i love turning dishes upside down and stacking to add height, as well.  here, i’ve mixed white and clear dishes for variety, and since we were already beginning to reduce our grain consumption, i skipped the crackers.  i don’t even think they were missed!


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if you create a beautiful platter, you might even find your guests deem it photo-worthy!


how to make a cheese plate B


in the past, i’ve used cute mini chalkboards, but i also made these nifty little labels and thought you might like them to decorate your own cheese (or any kind of nibble-ish) platter.  click here to download your own; i recommend printing onto white or colored cardstock and maybe even mounting against a different color.  i’ve left some blank so you can customize them however you like!

Cheese Labels WEB


how might you use these labels?  give a girl some new ideas!


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