Ode to the tomato and easy recipe ideas

Photos above by @Tartinegourmande

If you’ve ever tasted a fresh picked, ripe tomato right off the vine, with it’s delicate scent and sweet juices, then you have tasted happiness.  During the summer, when local tomatoes are prolific, you can be creative as the tomato is very versatile and easy to use.   I’ll highlight a few favorite recipes…

Krister’s Aunt Liz reached out to me over the weekend, saying she enjoyed reading the post about Cantaloupes,  and wanted to share that one of her favorite sources for finding recipes is Southern Living.   Since it’s tomato season they had recently posted 47 Ways with Fresh Tomatoes.  Liz’s current favorite from the list is Tomato, Watermelon, and Feta Skewers with Mint and Lime.  I can’t wait to try it!

Also from Southern Living’s list of 47, these Open-faced Tomato Sandwiches with Creamy Cucumber Spread look simple and delicious!  According to the Southern Living Test Kitchen, cut your tomatoes with a serrated knife so that you do not damage the flesh when cutting the skin and lose the juices.

These remind me how easy it is to make variations on this for summer cocktail parties.  You will never go wrong with the super combo of fresh tomatoes and basil on toast, bruschetta or crackers.  Drizzle a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top with a sprinkling of sea salt and oh my.

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Photo by @brookelark

I have always loved making a tomato pie and this recipe on the Southern Living list looks gorgeous – Tomato, Cheddar and Bacon Pie.  You can always leave out the bacon if you wish.

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Photo by Hector Sanchez Tomato, Cheddar and Bacon Pie Recipe

One of my favorite recipes to make year round is Cherry Tomato Tartlets Tatin by @tartinegourmande and her cookbook La Tartine Gourmande.  You slow roast the cherry tomatoes before assembling the Tatin to bake.

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Cherry Tomato Tartin made for my love on Valentine’s Day!

With this recipe I often have leftover roasted cherry tomatoes and they are delicious on their own or added to other recipes.

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Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes by Plan Simple Meals

Thomas Jefferson was one of the first Virginians to grow and eat tomatoes.  Since tomatoes are in the nightshade family most Americans were afraid they were poisonous and did not eat them. Legend has it that Thomas Jefferson first ate them in front of a crowd near Lynchburg, VA at his retreat Poplar Forest and later in 1806 served them to guests at the President’s house which led to their popularity as an edible fruit in addition to a decorative planting.

“Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes
What would life be like without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love and home grown tomatoes.”

John Denver, ‘Home Grown Tomatoes’
(from a song written by Guy Clark)

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

July 4th – what are you serving?

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
   ~ Thomas Jefferson

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It’s that time of the year when we come together to watch fireworks and commemorate America’s independence. I thought it would be fun to share images and recipes that are inspiring me as I plan our festivities for next week, and hopefully give you some inspiration too.  So… let’s jump into picnic mode, fire up the grill and hoist up those Stars and Stripes in celebration of the 4th of July!

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Photo by Yossy Arefi

July 4th is the ultimate way to officially kick off the summer and bring together friends and family around your table, whatever form that may be – a picnic blanket or backyard BBQ, while adding in lots of fresh fruits and veggies as lush displays and recipe ingredients.

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Rose Sangria with Peaches and Raspberries by College Housewife

It’s always festive to have a special drink or cocktail in addition to your other drink offerings in the cooler.   We’ll be mixing up pitchers of this Rose Sangria with peaches and raspberries from the College Housewife blog.

Appetizers and The Table
For me the menu planning goes hand in hand with thinking about the way you want your table to look.  Think about the overall effect, including flowers, tablecloth, napkins, and decorations.  I love to have a broad display with a fruit, veggie or cheese board that makes your table look lush. Sorella Collection in LA makes the most amazing Graze Boards.  Mix and match veggies, fruits, herbs and dips for a big impact.

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Sorella Collection Graze Boards


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Oysters at Merroir

Since we’ll be in White Stone, VA for our 4th of July celebration we will definitely be shucking oysters fresh from the Chesapeake Bay.  Every time we come home to White Stone we eat oysters at Merroir, one of our favorite spots right on the banks of the Rappahannock River.

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Krister at Merroir


What’s on the grill?

The Dog Days of Summer… you can have a variety of hot dogs from beef, chicken, sausage links to veggie dogs, and go crazy with your toppings with a topping station.

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Creative toppings for your dogs by the Sun Chronicle

Chicken is an easy option for the grill.  Marinate chicken breasts any number of ways and grill or go for barbecue, one of my favorites.

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Photo by Deb Lindsey for the Washington Post July 4th recipes

What is a 4th of July celebration without corn?  Here are four ways to grill those ears

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Photo by Scott Suchman for the Washington Post July 4th recipes

Something for everyone
In this day and age of wide spread allergies and varied food preferences, you’ll want to make sure you have something for everyone on your table.  For the vegetarian and vegan friendly entree in addition to the standard veggie hot dogs and burgers consider Barbecue Jackfruit Sandwiches  that I found on the Better Homes and Gardens site and if you are not familiar with the fruit they also give you the Jack Fruit Basics.

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Who’s your sidekick?

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Spring Potato Salad by Mississippi Vegan

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Firecracker Green Beans by Mississippi Vegan

Sweet Inspiration
I love fruit!  Fruit on it’s own as dessert, fruit in a pie, fruit in a crisp, fruit in a cobbler.

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Various berry pies by Martha Stewart

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Blueberry Cobbler by Mississippi Vegan

With all the fruit pies, crips and cobblers I like to serve ice cream, both dairy and non-dairy options.  I also think I’m going to try this gorgeous vegan strawberry ice cream pie.

So these are the things I’m thinking about.  What are you thinking about serving? Let us know.  Meanwhile, we’re getting things ready and just hung our new flags…

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

Eat, Capture, Share

August Ardor is all about passion and sharing stories of passion with the hope of inspiring more people to follow their dreams and bliss – more happiness brings more joy into the world, natch.

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Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Kimberly Espinel, an award-winning food photographer and stylist, photography teacher, author of The Little Plantation blog, and creator of the EAT, CAPTURE, SHARE podcast.  Kimberly lives in cool and cosmopolitan London, creates stunning plant-based dishes and images that make your mouth water and your heart skip a beat, teaches workshops, works on her blog and podcast all while pursuing her bliss.

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She inspires me every single day.  It’s no wonder she was the Saveur Blog Awards Editor’s Choice for the 2018 Best Food Photography for last year. Kimberly has a very distinct lush style with her photography – one that she honed herself as a self-taught photographer.

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I asked Kimberly how she got started and what inspired her to take the first step towards following her passion in food photography.  Her journey was circuitous (as many journeys can be) with twists and turns and back roads traveled, with side journeys along the way, before she found where she wanted to go.  She worked as a social worker for 13 years or so and then had her son.  She realized that going back to the same job did not feel right anymore or fit in with the family life she wanted to create.

She asked herself is there a way I can work for myself and be more present in his life? What opportunities are there… what am I passionate about that would allow me that opportunity?  She decided to go back to school to be a nutritional therapist and at the same time moved from an omnivores diet to a plant-based diet.

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She started the food blog as a way to have recipes to share with clients when she was finished with school; however, when she started picking up the camera and shooting food and writing recipes, she filled a void in her heart and it brought her so much joy.

By the time she graduated from school she already had 40,000 followers on her Instagram account.  Yet when she started the blog, she had not heard of Instagram.  In one of her nutrition lectures another girl sat next to her and said “she’d just discovered this photo app and said it’s insane” …Kimberly was mesmerized.

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What’s important to note is that she was not a photographer before starting the blog.  She says she did not know how to work a camera or anything, but once she got the gist of it, she loved the feeling of creating something in her mind and making it come to life.  She said “I loved recipes, I loved to cook – the styling and the photography are my favorite part and now I love teaching others on the side.”

Many other bloggers go to recipe development but she went to photography.  I asked her what inspires her most when she shoots and how her style evolved.  She had always been interested in interior design and architecture, and as a teenager she would redesign her bedroom and kept a scrap book of fabric, looks and visuals that she liked.   At that time, she didn’t know her style yet, but through trial and error she noticed a pattern in the way she shaped and sees things.  She is really drawn to nature, the colors of nature, the colors of the seasons, the colors of vibrant plant-based food that she gravitates towards.

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Over the years she always leaned into her strengths – one of her strengths is bringing people together and creating a creativity community.  She listened to her followers and their needs, wants, and struggles and she realized a podcast would be a great way to bring the community together to further address their pain points and help them achieve their dreams.  The EAT, CAPTURE, SHARE podcast is for a wide audience of food bloggers, food lovers, and everyone in between – mainly people who love sharing their photography, their art and creativity.

Give it a listen and you can check out more of Kimberly’s images and posts on The Little Plantation blog.

All photos by Kimberly Espinel

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Passion Prints

I have spent much of 2019 thus far looking inwards and reflecting on what’s important in life, what’s important to me, focusing on my daily rituals, which ground me and give me a cadence I crave, so that I can be true to my authentic self and show up every day full of love and inspiration in all that I do.  (At least that’s my goal…of course we all have good days and bad…)

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August Table block prints in Tern Gray

Following your bliss and passion are key to finding happiness, key to slowing down and embracing each moment.  Life is better when you slow down and pursue things you love.  One of my passions is Indian block-printed textiles.  Patterns made with wooden blocks, hand printed by skilled artisans, with natural dyes, derived from indigenous plants – indigo, turmeric, hibiscus, pomegranate and ochre.  Each print has imperfections that add beauty to the overall artistry.

While block printing was first developed in China roughly 4500 years ago, the practice of block printing is about 2000 years old and trade in cotton cloth is said to have existed between India and Babylon from Buddha’s time.   It was on the Indian subcontinent where hand-block fabric reached its highest visual expression.

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Photographs by Mehera Shaw

In home workshops scattered throughout India, you can still find chippas, a caste of printers who continue day after day to stamp lengths of cotton fabric with color using hand-carved wood blocks. They were taught this trade by their parents, who were, in turn, taught by theirs — each generation working almost exactly as the one before, going back at least 300 years.  They are truly skilled artisans.  The recipes for the plant-based dyes are developed within the families and kept alive for generations. The colors are dependent on the quality of the plants, the water and skill and knowledge of the printing masters.

Last year Krister and I worked with an amazing team in a little factory in India to design our own block-printed textile patterns for napkins and tablecloths – and August Table was born.  August Table and our block print designs bring together so many passions for me.  Passion for connecting with loved ones over a meal, passion for baking and cooking, passion for entertaining, and a passion for trying to inspire others to find joy in the same.  I also realize I have a love for styling photographs with our textiles, slowing down in the present to capture a moment of our daily lives.

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August Table “August” print napkin in Tern Gray

Additionally, we get great pleasure in knowing through the production of our textiles we are providing a source of income to many village families in an environmentally positive approach with mill made cotton and natural dyes.  Using cloth napkins is good for the environment while also bringing a touch of boho elegance to your meal, and the linens get softer and better with each use as they age. A few of my favorite shots from 2018 with our textiles are below –  a visual diary of quiet, caught moments, special moments, celebrations and more.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Lemon Thyme Fig Jam

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Figs. Not everyone loves a fresh fig but none can deny their lush, velvety beauty, the deep purple, greens and browns on the outside, and the visual burst of ripe redness inside.  I love figs on a cheese plate drizzled with honey.  I love fig jam even more.

Making jam gives me so much pleasure – the chopping of the fruit, measuring of the ingredients, watching the slow bubbling of the mixture coming together as a thick syrupy jam.   Time literally slows down. I adore making jams of all kinds and these days tend to experiment with the flavor and fruit combinations.

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I’ve mentioned before my grandmother in Virginia first taught me and inspired me to make jam.  She and my grandfather planted fruit trees on their property nestled next to the water of the Chesapeake Bay.  Every summer we made jam from the cherry trees, peach trees, apple trees, grape vines and more. She also loved canning.  After the summer’s bounty and canning sessions she would fill a large wooden cabinet in the basement with her jars of jam, pickled beans, okra, watermelon rind, bread and butter pickles and more.  When those old wooden doors creaked open the rows of colorful jars gave me so much delight.  I would sneak down to the cool basement just to open the doors and stare at the beautiful bounty.

Years later, when I came across Marisa McClellan’s book Food in Jars, it was love at first site.  If you are new to jam and canning, check our her site for tips and tricks on canning 101 to get started.

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Recently I made a fig jam and added fresh thyme and lemon juice.  The taste gives it deeper, brighter layers than a typical fig jam.  Try it out and let me know what you think.

Lemon Thyme Fig Jam Recipe

Ingredients:
8 cups coursely chopped fresh figs
4 cups sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:
1. Remove the stems from the figs and coarsely chop.
2. Wash your lemons, and using a vegetable peeler or pairing knife, cut thin strips of the lemon rind, being careful not to include the white pith from the lemon rind.
3. Juice the lemons.
4. Put the figs, sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice and sprigs of thyme in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Stir to combine.
5. Bring contents to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat to low and let simmer 45-50 minutes, depending on desired thickness.  Make sure the mixture does not stick the bottom of the pan.  While the jam is stewing prepare the jars in a boiling water bath.
6. Remove and discard thyme stems and lemon rind (although a few pieces left in give a bright burst of lemon flavor, which is lovely).
7. Add in vanilla, making sure to stir well. You can use an immersion blender to chop up the fig skins – pulse until desired consistency. (I tend to leave it as is.)
8. Remove the pot from heat and ladle into 4 regular-mouth pint-sized prepared, sterilized canning jars.  Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

 

 

 

Carrie Allen – Transitions

I love the cool, crisp Fall in New England.  The cooler days, the changing leaves, the dark evenings, all make me want to curl up around a fire and have meaningful conversations with my friends and loved ones.  This season always makes me pause and think about the year ahead – as it feels like a beginning with the kids back to school, and I start planning out the festive holidays to come.

The fall has so much bounty that inspires me: gorgeous dahlias, zinnias, cosmos, leaves turning their golden hues, apples heavy on the limb – ready for picking, pumpkins and gourds of all shapes and sizes.

All of this quietly stirs up anticipation within in me… thinking about what is to come, what I can create and make, bringing friends together.

As the season quietly transitions from Summer to Fall with the days getting shorter and cooler, this site is also quietly transitioning.  August Ardor remains all about passion.  I still welcome guest posts, written by my insanely talented friends, whenever they feel moved to share anything about their passions; however, I want to bring some focus to my efforts, which can be wrapped up around a table.

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I have always loved gathering people together, planning delicious meals, flipping through cookbooks (another deep passion of mine) and setting a fun and inspiring table.  I know my love for this grew out of spending summers with my Grandmother Corinne Earle every summer in the country, down on the Chesapeake Bay in Lancaster County, Virginia.  She was the ultimate southern hostess and taught me to garden, make jam, set a table, make biscuits, steam crabs, plan a party and more.

Beautiful design, in every form from architecture, to interiors, to painting, to setting a table all inspire me.  I want to focus on these topics – entertaining tips and tricks, recipes, inspirational thoughts, mindfulness, healthy living, and beautiful design.  Krister will share his passions and architecture.

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Today as the blog takes it’s new focus, Krister and I are launching my long-time dream of August Table, an online store with handmade block print linens that we have designed and had made in India, along with curated products that we love –  to help inspire you to be the baker, the cook, the entertainer, the designer and the gardener.  All things that I am deeply passionate about.

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Helping inspire others around the table is a passion project.  If you gather in the kitchen, around the table, on a picnic blanket, you are hopefully with people you love and care about and have healthy delicious food, which can be very simple and fresh – not a huge ordeal.  The main goal is to make connections.  Slow down.  Savor each moment and every bite. Relax and Enjoy.  A common thread I always talk about is slowing down and unplugging.  Perhaps it’s because I too get easily caught up in email, busy life, my wonderful job in corporate innovation, trying to pack in too much all the time.

I long for quiet days filled with beauty and slowness, which can take many forms.  Making time for creation, things that inspire me, including writing this blog, help me find my quiet days of beauty.

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I’ll close with this quote by author and poet Victoria Erickson:

If you inherently long for something, become it first.  If you want gardens, become the gardener.  If you want love, embody love.  If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation.  If you want peace, exude calmness.  If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint.  If you want to be valued, respect your own time.  If you want to live ecstatically, find the ecstasy within yourself.

This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Coffee Love…and morning rituals

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Image by rawpixel.com

My love of coffee is epic – the aroma, the flavor and warmth all create an intoxicating experience.  Admittedly,  I cannot face the morning without a strong cup of coffee, so I relish the fact that my loving husband brings me a steaming mug every morning in bed.  I can smell the coffee as I wake and I pause in gratitude and luxuriate in the first few sips.  Drinking a good cup of coffee is an indulgent experience for me, a part of my morning ritual.

Aerial view of hot coffee

Image by rawpixel.com

Morning rituals are important.  Your morning sets the tone for day and it’s too easy to jump out of bed and run straight into your day without mindfulness and intention, allowing stress and anxiety to creep in with racing lists and thoughts running through your head.

Previously I’ve talked about connections, finding quiet moments and finding delight in simple pleasures. Creating a morning ritual helps with all of these things and actually helps push you towards achieving your goals, however big or small.

One of my new morning rituals is reviewing my FLOW planner, which my dear friend Mia Moran recently published.  It helps you get your thoughts out of your head and create space for you to design and define the life you want, from big life goals down to seasonal goals, to monthly and even weekly.  I love it.

Other ideas for morning rituals are journaling, meditating, exercise, stretching and yoga.  The idea is to have purposeful, quiet time with yourself.  If you treat yourself well, you are more present, loving and quite frankly fun for everyone else in your life. I know adding in extra things into your already busy schedule sounds hard… but waking up a little bit earlier and spending some quality time with yourself makes everything else easier.

“The true way to live is to enjoy every moment as it passes, and surely it is in the everyday things around us that the beauty of life lies.”  Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here.