How to Create the Perfect Tablescape For Your Next Dinner Party

Throwing a dinner party is an art form all on its own. It’s an act of creation that can fill the hearts of your guests with warmth and memories for years to come. This kind of hosting takes finesse, taste and generosity.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult. 

In fact, if you’re at ease and comfortable during the party, your guests will also be relaxed. A few simple touches create a beautiful space that you and your guests can enjoy together. This kind of artistry promotes conversation and makes your delectable meal taste even better. 

The Lighting

The time and the season should greatly influence your dinner plans. If you’re throwing your get-together during the summer, there should be an abundance of natural lighting you can use to your advantage. If you’re inside, keep the curtains open and let the light pour in to reflect off the elements on the table. Consider using shimmering glassware or perhaps deeper, colored glass like cobalt blue or lemon yellow.

Have candles nearby that you can light when the sunlight fades to create an atmosphere of intimacy.

If your party is during colder months, adjust your lighting to suit the mood your striving for. You can use lower lighting from electrical sources and light candles, or keep the chandelier cheerfully blazing. 

For Starters: Food That Decorates

When your guests begin to gather, consider having a platter with fruit and cheese available while they wait for the rest of the guests or for dinner to be served. 

Nothing creates a more lovely tablescape than dusky grapes spilling over themselves, surrounded by pears, apples and berries. Leave the cheese in wedges with small knives so guests can cut their own portions. Small plates your guests can hold while mingling with each other is a necessity!

Even if it’s nothing more than water, make sure to have drinks available for thirsty guests. 

Linens

For Boho chic and charm, mix and match our hand block print linen tablecloths and napkins. You can achieve a softer, more subdued table with colors like pewter or sparrow, or use one of our more neutral tablecloths to mix with any of our napkins in more vivid colors.

A festive, vibrant look is easily achieved with a “Here Comes the Sun” tablecloth in cardinal red or tanager yellow. Match with napkins in a complementary color

Decorative Touches

Heaps of blossoms or an interesting arrangement of greenery is a lovely focal point. Think less centerpiece and more of a natural touch to bring out the beauty of your table. If you’re using the fruit platter as the decor idea, you can leave that front and center with a few blossoms tucked here and there for contrast. 

However, if the appetizer proved popular and was decimated by your hungry guests, remove the platter.

A runner of flowers or greenery that curves down the center of the table is a lovely style. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to achieve this look. You can also use accents from the seasons like pine, mini pumpkins, or small eucalyptus branches interwoven with simple white blooms. 

The benefit of a runner is you can easily place food around the decoration, or arrange the runners around serving dishes, and no one’s view is blocked from anyone they want to talk to—which is a common problem with tall centerpieces.

The Art of the Dinner Party

As life gets busier and we tend to be more isolated from each other, throwing a dinner party is an act of love. In addition to your beautiful tablescape, have some soft music playing that doesn’t interfere with the conversation but does promote a mood of friendship and serenity. 

Consider choosing a menu that can be made in advance as much as possible. This way you can mingle with your guests and make them feel welcome and relaxed. 

Be sure to find out any food allergies your guests may have or any expectations. They may think you know they’re vegan. They may be wrong.

Nothing spoils a dinner faster than not being able to serve one or more guests, so be prepared. If people can’t eat, the tablescape won’t make up the difference, no matter how elegant or charming. 

Best wishes for a fabulous party!

5 Fall Dinner Recipes Your Guests Will Love

Autumn may be the loveliest time to host a cozy supper. The fiery heat of summer is fading and the air is gentler and the light is golden. 

Outdoor entertaining is still an option and has the advantage of flickering candlelight as the sun sets sooner. As the air cools, insects make themselves scarce and we can enjoy each other’s company without suffering the presence of theirs.

It’s perfect.

It’s also a wonderful time to hit the Farmers Markets and snag some seasonal gems. You’ll get the freshest, brightest vegetables and also be supporting your local farmers. Here are several of my favorite recipes that you’ll love.

Pesto

Pesto gives a powerhouse boost of flavor to your recipes, whether you’re adding a dollop or featuring it as the main ingredient. Take a regular soup and add some pesto and you have a dish that everyone in the family will be begging for seconds!

It’s also a fairly simple process to make your own pesto at home.

Easy Homemade Basil Pesto and Pasta

This pesto is rich in flavor and super easy to make, especially during late summer / early fall when you have loads of fresh basil in your garden. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) pine nuts
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 Put all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend till smooth but still a little chunky.  

Prepare 1 box of your favorite pasta – I prefer fusilli because it holds the pesto in the curls to give you a sensational flavor with each bite. 

Toss the warm pasta with all of the pesto.  Add more olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

Garnish with a cluster of basil leaves tucked in at the edge of the pasta, and a few sliced grape tomatoes for a pop of color, if you’d like.

 *The pesto can last in an airtight container for a week but I prefer to use it all at once so it’s super fresh. 

Minestrone Soup

This is a basic minestrone recipe, but you can use any vegetables you have on hand. Feel free to substitute chicken broth for vegetable, if you’d prefer. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup diced leeks, white part only
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Pink salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup cooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 spoonful of basil pesto per bowl, depending on taste
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add onions and stir until softened. Add the garlic, and stir for a minute. Add the rest of the vegetables through the carrot, and stir occasionally until all are softened about five minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients through the seasonings. Cook, partially covered, until all the vegetables are soft, about twenty minutes.

Add pasta, beans, and peas and cook for a few minutes longer.

Ladle the soup into bowls and swirl in the basil pesto, only going in one direction. Don’t stir it completely into the soup so a green thread of pesto shows.

Top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and basil, for a gorgeous presentation.

Roasted Vegetables 

Remember what we said about the farmers market? Roasting brings out a vegetable’s sweetness and flavor. 

You’ll want to choose vegetables that will cook together and finish in about the same amount of time. Root vegetables work particularly well together, but really, you can make almost any vegetable work. 

Simple Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs vegetables like squash, parsnips, carrots,
  • 2 medium red, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pink salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup thyme leaves, stripped from their stems for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and cut the vegetables into equal-sized pieces, about 1-in chunks. Toss the vegetables and thyme in olive oil in a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.

Spread the pieces out in a single layer on sheets or shallow baking pans so that the vegetables don’t touch. Roast until the veggies are browned and just tender, about 45 minutes or so. The time will depend on your vegetable choice.

Toss veggies with additional olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with thyme for a lovely presentation.

Roasted Vegetables in Phyllo

Speaking of a beautiful presentation, you can chop up those cooled, roasted vegetables and serve them in phyllo dough cups. You’ll find phyllo dough in the frozen section of your market.

Ingredients:

  • Vegetables from the previous recipe, chopped small
  • Several sheets of phyllo dough, thawed
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheese such as Swiss, Havarti, or Gruyere 
  • Olive oil for brushing

Stack 5-7 sheets of phyllo, depending on how thick you want the vegetable tarts. Any other sheets you’re using, keep under a damp cloth.

Brush each sheet carefully with the olive oil. Take each little stack and push them into an oiled muffin tin slot. Add 1/4 cup of vegetables and sprinkle with cheese. Fold over the phyllo dough towards the middle. The vegetables will be mostly covered.

Repeat the process so you have 12 vegetable tartlets. Bake at 350 degrees until the phyllo dough is browned, about thirty minutes.

If you’re using a tart cheese like feta or goat cheese, don’t use thyme when you roast the vegetables, Instead, mince a handful of fresh dill and fold into the vegetable mixture with the cheese before you scoop it into the phyllo cups.

Serve warm.

Chicken

A few touches can make a simple chicken dish into an extraordinary feast. Here, dates and green olives make this delicious main dish memorable.

Rustic Farmhouse Chicken

This recipe was inspired by The Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella, which I first came across in 1991! It’s been a favorite over the years and I have adapted it to make it my own for ease of prep and ingredients. This is great for a crowd and the prep the night before makes it stress-free. 

Ingredients:

  • 8 – 10 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed (I use a garlic press)
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped fresh Medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
  • 1/2  cup capers with a bit of juice
  • 6 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

 

In a large bowl combine chicken thighs, garlic, oregano, vinegar, olive oil, chopped dates, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cover and let marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place chicken in a single layer in a 9×13 pan and spoon all the ingredients from the marinade over top, distributed equally. Sprinkle brown sugar over the chicken pieces and then pour the white wine over top and around the chicken.

Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, basting frequently with the juices from the pan. The chicken is done when a clear yellow, instead of pink, juice flows from the chicken when pricked. Transfer the chicken, olives, capers, and dates to a platter and moisten with some of the pan juices. Sprinkle parsley on top and serve the remaining sauce from the pan in a gravy boat.

This recipe can be served warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4-6 people

The pesto pasta also goes well with the chicken. Serve with a salad and loaf of crusty bread, which can soak up the juices from the rustic chicken.

We hope you enjoy these recipes and the company you keep. Put on some pleasant music, light the candles and create some lovely memories around the table with the people you love.

Bon appetit! 

Cozy Blueberry Crisp

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Cozy, you might ask?  Yes, indeed, every bite of this blueberry crisp is pure cozy, comfort for me.  All summer long I love making berry crisps with whatever fruit I have on hand, mouthfuls of warm delicious fruit with a sweet crisp oat topping.

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My favorite go to is a blueberry crisp – blueberries are packed with nutrients so while this is dessert you can feel still really good about eating it.  Eat it on its own, pair it with vanilla ice cream, or greek yogurt.  When there are leftovers, I love it with vanilla or honey greek yogurt the next morning.

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Ingredients:

  • 6 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 lemon – for lemon zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Topping:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375 F.  Prepare casserole dish (2 qt baking dish, 9″x9″ or similar) by spraying with coconut spray or pam.

  1. Grate the rind of the lemon to get 3/4 teaspoon of zest plus squeeze half the lemon juice.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, toss the blueberries with the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, vanilla and cinnamon.  Place in your prepared dish.
  3. Combine the butter, oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon until crumbled.  Sprinkle over blueberries and press down slightly.
  4. Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly on the sides. Cool slightly and serve warm by itself, with a vanilla ice cream or greek yogurt.

Enjoy!

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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. 

More joy, more laughter, more love

Collectively, we are all going through a difficult time right now.  When things get difficult, regardless of what is at the root of it, I think the only salve is to create opportunities for more joy, more laughter and more love.  Connections are a basic human need.  We need each other.  For me, connections at the table with an amazing meal, simple or complex with friends and family all around, is grounding and lifts my spirits.

Think of your most memorable meals throughout your life.  Chances are there was delicious food, coupled with emotions and connections.  Perhaps there were tears, or belly aching laughter, mixed with love, friendship and contentment. To be sure, stories were told. Memories were created.

Since I am a trained artist, I approach entertaining, setting the table, menu creation and cooking all with an artist’s sensibility. I love layers, whether I am painting or setting the table.  Layers of colors, textures, flavors and sensations.  In fact, I created the term “Luxe Farmhouse” for August Table specifically to mean layers of rustic charm and simplicity mixed with elements of surprise, whether it’s a glint of shining metal and something sparkly and luxe, or a burst of intense flavor paired with a simple staple.

This weekend, try to connect with others.  Meet outside and bring your masks, practice social distancing for sure.  Studies are showing that it’s far less likely that you will get COVID-19 if you are outside, where there is a breeze.  If meal prep is not something you want to do right now, you can buy simple ingredients and assemble them in a beautiful way, or simply just buy a loaf of bread, cheese and grapes.  Break bread with others.  It’s been too long cooped up in our homes without connections.

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Photo by Inspired by This

Wishing you love, laughter and joy this weekend,
Carrie

33D3287D-7494-4CBE-894B-A02DF7A5768D

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. 

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Dreams

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This smoothie is a dream in a glass.  It tastes like dessert but is made from healthy ingredients so it is 100% guilt free.  Peanut butter and chocolate are one of my favorite combinations of all time.  I always have the basic ingredients in the pantry so that I can make this smoothie for breakfast, lunch or a snack any day.

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The banana can be fresh or frozen.  If fresh, I add more ice.  If frozen, I use less.  I always have bananas on the counter and a bag of peeled frozen bananas in the freezer.  Dates are a must have as well.  Get the fresh Medjool dates and remember to remove the pits.

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For the protein powder, I use the chocolate flavored Complete by Juice Plus, but you can use whatever protein powder you have on hand.  The cacao nibs are for sprinkling on top or for adding an extra spoonful to the glass for a little crunch.

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Ingredients:

1 ripe banana (fresh or frozen)
2-3 dates (pits removed)
1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I use Complete by Juice Plus)
2 tablespoons cacao powder
2 tablespoons peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
2 tablespoons oats (uncooked oatmeal)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup
8 oz oat milk (or other milk of your choice)
2 cups ice cubes

Cacao nibs for topping

Put all of the ingredients in a high speed blender (I use a vitamix) and blend until the smoothie is a rich and thick consistency, ensuring the dates and oats are fully blended.  Pour into a tall glass and enjoy with cacao nibs sprinkled on top.

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Enjoy!

Stay safe and be well.

33D3287D-7494-4CBE-894B-A02DF7A5768D
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. 

 

Going Bananas?

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Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding by The Recipe Critic

The days are starting to blend together as we seem to be hunkering down for a long stretch of quarantine.  Like most people, I am trying to make do and be creative in the kitchen while using readily available ingredients that we have on hand.

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Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Banana Bread by Half Baked Harvest

Bananas, one such ingredient, seem to still be easily found at the supermarket; yet, I’ve noticed that they, for the most part, come nearly banana bread ready, peppered with brown spots.  This is the perfect time to grab as many bunches as you can.  You can peel a bunch and freeze the bananas for smoothies, banana ice cream and other recipes for later, and whip up a  batch  of banana pancakes or banana bread today.

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Banana Smoothie by Kristine's Kitchen

I have included a variety of recipes that use bananas for you here.  Also, some ingredients are hard to come by these days… like eggs!  You can buy a carton of egg beaters or the like to keep on hand for everything from banana bread, quiche to whipping up scrambled eggs.

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Ricotta Chocolate Chip Banana and Chia Pancakes by Half Baked Harvest

Bananas in pancakes are a natural pairing that give you extra nutrients and flavor.

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Banana Oatmeal Pancakes by Taste of Home

Did you know that you can blend frozen bananas and make the most delicious creamy ice cream without any other ingredients?  Or just add in whatever additional flavors you like: peanut butter and chocolate, yes please!; strawberries blended in and sliced on top with banana; coffee… oh yes!; vanilla, definitely… the possibilities are endless.

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One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream  by the NY Times

Banana ice cream paired with chia pudding?  Check it out…

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Peanut & Maca Banana Ice Cream by Nadia Damaso 

Have you ever had that moment when you bite into a warm, freshly baked piece of banana bread and the flavors explode in your mouth and you think you’ve hit nirvana?  The recipes following can have that effect, just a warning.

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Chocolate Chip and Almond Butter Banana Bread by Half Baked Harvest

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Banana Buttermilk Bread by Local Milk 

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Banana Bread Pudding by Tornadough Alli

Enjoy and stay safe my friends!

33D3287D-7494-4CBE-894B-A02DF7A5768D
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. 

 

Toast

We need to talk about toast.  Toast is one of the simplest ways to pull something fabulous together for breakfast, lunch or dinner and anything in between.  It can be savory, sweet, simple, complex and the combinations are endless.  Toast is comfort. The bread can be sliced bread, white bread, wheat bread, rye bread, sourdough, gluten-free or a bagel, french bread or flatbread.  You get the idea.  Anything goes.

And guess what?  During this time when everyone is inside and balancing this new life of work and family and everything all together, toast can be your saving grace.  It’s simple.  Seriously, you can prepare a meal with toast in 5 minutes or less.

A few ideas for toppings with things you likely already have on hand:

  • Peanut butter and jelly and sliced fruit on top
  • Avocado and egg with or without greens and salt and pepper
  • Nutella, peanut butter and banana
  • Cheese toast (served with warmed tomato soup!)
  • Plain with butter and leave the eggs and fruit on the side
  • Cheese and tomato drizzled with balsamic vinegar
  • Cucumber, cream cheese and dill
  • Buttered toast with a bowl of veggie soup
  • Hummus and veggies
  • Tuna Salad
  • Chicken Salad
  • and so on…

For the kids in the house (regardless of age) make it fun.  Play with shapes and even get them to help assemble… or make a toast bar, putting a variety of things out and letting everyone assemble their own toast.

And let’s not forget cheese.  Warmed cheese and bread with anything is divine.

Consider toast your blank canvas and share your toast ideas below!  Next up I’m thinking about french toast… but that is altogether different.

Be well.

33D3287D-7494-4CBE-894B-A02DF7A5768D
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. 

 

 

Thanksgiving is not a day, it’s a way of life

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Thanksgiving is fast approaching us and many people have started to plan the details: the guests, the menu, the sides, the desserts, the decorations for the table and so on.  It’s a day that, hopefully, brings families and friends together, is rooted in tradition, and is primarily focused on gathering folks around the table for a meal, all the while expressing our utmost thanks for all that we have.

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Photo by Our Food Stories

The Thanksgiving meal holds a special place in my heart because it brings people together at the table, which is a passion of mine and the inspiration behind August Table.

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Connecting with loved ones at the table is so important.  Thanksgiving can be many things and any way you do it is just perfect.

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Photo by Our Food Stories

I love the big and boisterous meals, which tend to happen when you bring my family together; as well as the meals shared with friends when we bring our families together and each contribute various traditional and nontraditional favorites for the meal, like we are doing this year; and the quieter ones too that buck the traditional fare altogether, like last Thanksgiving when Krister and I rented a little cottage on Cape Cod (since our four children were all off doing different things) and we ate oysters and fish and other yummy fresh things coupled with delicious cocktails made from Rye, spiced honey syrup, lime and ginger, and after took a very cold walk on the beach with our dog.

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While I love Thanksgiving I would challenge everyone of us to try to bring the goodness of giving thanks into our lives every day by practicing gratitude.  With gratitude people acknowledge the goodness in their lives.

Science says that people who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness.  You need this and so does the world.

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Photo by Our Food Stories

Happiness comes from a place of feeling good.  You can tell yourself short, good feeling stories multiple times throughout your day.  Reframe a negative thought to view it in a more positive context.  If you are not feeling joy, pause and focus on something small – maybe you like the way the clouds look, or the way the wind feels on your cheek, or the way a cup of coffee tastes, or the way the sunset is bursting with color.

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Focus on how they make you feel and then feel gratitude that you can experience them.  Then notice another and another.  Until suddenly you start feeling really good.  This helps you be your best self, every day and at the table with those you love.

33D3287D-7494-4CBE-894B-A02DF7A5768D

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. 

Apple Extravaganza

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Apple season is upon us and regardless of whether or not you are venturing out to pick your own, visiting a local farm store or getting them from the corner market, there is no doubt you cannot ignore these vitamin-packed fall fruits.  Apples are everywhere this time of year, and they are at their best fresh from the orchard.  Apples are delicious on their own, cool and crisp, dressed up or down, in savory meals, slaws, smoothies and the myriad ways of turning them in to show-stopping desserts.

As I am wont to do, and with my passion of inspiring others to gather ’round the table with others, I share some lush photos and recipe links to inspire you with apples from the savory to sweet, healthy to decadent, and mouthwatering and exquisite, like the beautiful Very Berry Apple Pie recipe above from the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen.

Crisps are super easy and delicious and this recipe will not disappoint.  This version is gluten-free and vegan so that you can serve it to any crowd and not worry about allergies.

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Photo by Mike Garten - Lauren Conrad's Brie and Apple Tart Recipe

Brie and Apples are a delicious savory pairing from the Brie and Apple Tart recipe above to simply slicing up some of your favorite apples, like Granny Smith, for your cheese board.

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Water is one of my other passions, ensuring we are all drinking enough, thinking about the quality of our water, and our impact on the planet and our oceans.  One way to dress up your water intake is to load it up with fruits and herbs.  I love the idea of apple and mint – with a paper straw of course.

I saw this recipe for Bourbon Apple Pie Ice Cream on the Good housekeeping’s list of tastiest apple treats to try for fall.  I was like holy smokes!  Boozy Ice Cream?  I love bourbon, I love ice cream and I love apples and apple pie.  I will definitely be giving this a try.  Click the link above to learn how along with ice cream making tips by Broma Bakery.

Buttery pastry with sweet baked apples?  Yes please, click the link above for Ina Garten’s delicious recipe.

I want to highlight the versatility of the apple and I love slaw… so a Mustardy Cabbage and Apple Slaw sounds delicious and can complement so many things.

Those are apples folks!  Can you believe how beautiful the apple rosettes look on this pie?  Preppy Kitchen says it takes time to make this one, natch, so save this recipe for special occasions or for a weekend when you have extra time on your hands to roll those lovely apples.

I’ll close with an easy no bake recipe.  The Caramel Apple Trifles are loaded with cinnamon and layers of apples, cinnamon whipped cream, caramel and granola.  You can whip these up in no time!

33D3287D-7494-4CBE-894B-A02DF7A5768D

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. 

Soulful Soups…

Fall is fast upon us in New England with its cool and crisp air, leaves starting to show their new tawny hues, shorter days and chilly nights, farm stands packed with pumpkins and apples, warm sweaters, wool blankets and cozy fireside chats.  During this transition from summer to fall my thoughts always turn to pots of soup bubbling on the stovetop.  Soups are nurturing to the soul, warm you up on a cold day, and are packed with goodness.

I like to experiment with different flavors and textures in my soups and if you make a big pot of soup it can feed the family for days.   I love all kinds – big pots of chili, winter squash soups, beans and rice infused soups, asian inspired soups, and especially good old fashioned tomato soup with a grilled cheese on the side.  I’ve shared some of my favorites here with links to recipes and the makers.  Enjoy!

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Peruvian Chicken Cauli Rice Soup from The Clean Plate
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Pumpkin Soup by @kraut_kopf

 

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, linen 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


Oysters

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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.