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!

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. 

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.

Inspiredbythis

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. 

 

Cocktail Spotlight – Todd Maul

With the warmer weather and eating outside more often, I like to mix things up and make fun cocktails when possible.  With this in mind,  I asked my friend and super mixologist Todd Maul what he’s been drinking during quarantine.

Todd

Todd’s been drinking two drinks – a Mai Tai and a Negroni.  His recipes are below!  I hope they inspire you too.

ToddMaulcocktail

Mai Tai Recipe

Todd says the trick to a good Mai Tai is finding a good orgeat recipe.

  • 2 1/2 ounces of rum – he recommends equal parts dark and aged
  • 1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce orange clement shrub – triple sec works too
  • 1/2 ounce orgeat syrup

Mix all the ingredients and enjoy with a garnish like the one pictured above!

Negroni Recipe

Mix equal parts:

  • Gin
  • Campari
  • Sweet Vermouth
  • finish with an orange twist

According to Todd, the trick to this drink is matching up your vermouth with your gin.  Use a softer vermouth, Lustau or Dolin, with less aggressive gins.  Use Carpano Vermouth with more aggressive gins.

 

As always, please drink responsibly, stay healthy 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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

datesbananasJPG

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.

smoothieingredients

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.

smoothie_angle

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. 

 

Your Spring Table #togetherapart

Springtable_lookingout

This year your Spring table is no doubt going to be different than years past as we cannot host gatherings of friends and family at our tables.   We also are seeing a limited supply of certain items in the grocery store, so planning more extensive menus can be tricky.

I would suggest simplifying this year.  Make it easy on yourself, and those at home with you, by pulling together a simple menu, while still making the occasion feel extra special.  Pull out those linen napkins and a tablecloth if you have them.

If not, check out our offerings at August Table, we can get them to you!  Put flowers on the table.  If you have a yard, cut flowers or branches and put them in a vase, jar or anything fun.  Mix up your prints, plates and cutlery for a fun boho look.

Now what to serve?

Caramelized-Shallot-Gruyere-Rosemary-Quiche-Crust-top
Caramelized Shallot and Gruyere Quiche with Rosemary Crust

 

You can dress a quiche up and make it very elegant with simple ingredients on hand and add a green salad and fruit salad and you’re good to go.

spinachmushroomquiche
Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

 

As with any of these recipes and ideas you can substitute ingredients for what you have on hand.  No eggs?  Buy a carton of egg beaters and use those.  No fresh veggies?  A bag of frozen broccoli or spinach makes a delicious quiche!  I’ve noticed that if the milk is not in stock at the store they likely have oat milk or almond milk.  You can use any milk substitute – just make sure you get the plain flavor.  You get the idea.  Be creative.

In addition to quiche you can throw together a board and have fun with it.

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Ultimate Spring Brunch Board by Half Baked Harvest

 

I also love the idea and look of a bagel board.  Make your Easter brunch easy.

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Bagel and Smoked Salmon Board by Half Baked Harvest

 

Another idea – create a yogurt parfait station with yogurt, fruit and granola.  Other fun items to consider: muffins of various flavors, hard boiled eggs or deviled eggs.  Delicious and fun to assemble.

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Yogurt Bowls by Sugar and Charm

 

You can add different cereals too…

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Breakfast Parfait Board by Barefeet in the Kitchen 

 

Have a good week.

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. 

 

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. 

 

 

Reboot, Refresh

greensmoothies_nadiadamaso 

Green juices by Nadia Damaso

 

It’s been a minute since you’ve heard from me, for which I am very sorry; however, I made a conscious decision in late November to unplug over the holidays and spend quality time with the family.  We had a fun family vacation in Vermont, and amazing meals  rich with connections and conversations throughout the holiday season with loved ones from Vermont to Virginia, and many tables and cities in between.

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Photo by Jess Ann Kirby

 

The holidays quickly turned into 2020 and here we are in March already!  During February Krister and I participated in the NY Now Winter Show, our first ever trade show and I am delighted to share that our linens are now sold in boutiques across the US in 15 states.

NYNowbooth 

August Table at NY Now Winter Show 2020

 

But what’s this reboot, refresh about any way?  During the holidays I spent a lot of time journaling and creating vision books to help me get crystal clear on what I want for myself, for my family, for August Table and how I want to engage with you.

Ultimately, this blog is about passion with the intention of bringing more joy, more love and more laughter to you, my friends. You will find posts about mindfulness, healthy eating, my favorite recipes, food photography, paintings, design, coffee shops and more.  I will also be curating more content from friends and inspiring things that catch my eye, which can be on any topic.

What would you like to see?  Do you want to share a story or a passion? Truly anything goes so please reach out or drop a comment below.

thyme_and_emerald_greens 

Maple Broccolini Salad with Cashew Cream by Thyme & Emerald

 

So let’s refresh.

Today you cannot go anywhere without hearing about the coronavirus, the flu and germs.  I think this is a great time for everyone to think about what’s on your plate, what are you putting in your bodies, as well as making sure you wash your hands as much as possible.  For most people, 55% of daily calories come from processed foods.  This is not healthy – the more calories that come from processed foods high in salt, preservatives, sugar and saturated fats the worse it is for your body.  Try to substitute processed foods for more fresh fruit and veggies.  Please.  It’s good for you.

greensmoothie_myberryforest 

Green Smoothie by My Berry Forest

 

One way to do this is to make smoothies and juices as well as adding in more greens to each meal.  The more nutrition you put in your body the stronger your immune system will be to help you fight off viruses and germs.  I’ve pulled a few favorite recipes and photos to inspire you here.

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Kale and Pink Beet Salad with Turmeric Tahini Recipe by Thyme and Emerald

 

Over the last few months I have been talking about the benefits of drinking celery juice to just about everyone who will listen.  We start our mornings with 16 oz of freshly juiced celery juice on an empty stomach – before coffee, I know…  The results have been transformative! Why not give it a try?  Celery juice helps clean out toxins, viruses and heavy metals from your body.

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The Medical Medium on the Virtues of Celery Juice by Anthony William on Goop

 

In addition to the celery juice I’ve focused on what’s on our plates, trying to ensure we have as many colors as possible on the plate and that our meals are loaded with nutrition.  One of my favorite go to any time meals is eggs with greens – not to be confused with green eggs and ham.  The recipe below of Turkish fried eggs coupled with garlicky greens and avocado is delish.

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Turkish Eggs with chile butter and whipped feta by Half Baked Harvest

 

I hear you – sometimes it feels like a lot of work to pull together a healthy meal.  I know what it feels like after a long day when you want to put your feet up and relax but have hungry faces looking at you.  The more you plan your weekly meals out and shop on the weekends the easier it is.  Also you need to simplify.  And guess what, if you get the rest of the house to help you prep it becomes a fun activity.   I look for things to have on hand that put a delicious meal on the table in less than 30 minutes, like the Saucy Garlic Butter Shrimp with Coconut and Rice Noodles below from Half Baked Harvest.

 

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Saucy garlic butter shrimp w/ coconut milk and rice noodles recipe

 

On the weekends I like to make big pots of soups, chilis and stews and put extra in the freezer to pull out on those extra hectic nights.  I’d love to hear what you have on your table.

Stay healthy 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. 

 

With Love and Gratitude – Inspired Sides

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year with its focus on gathering people around the table for a meal, connecting with loved ones and expressing gratitude for all that we have.  I find meaning in the cooking, the eating and the gathering around the table with friends and family, and for me it is an ultimate expression of loving and being loved.  Slow down and savor the connections, the conversations, the flavors.  Remember to focus on the present moment… and during the busyness of the day perhaps take a moment to pause for a delicious cup of matcha tea.  If possible try to get outside as a group and maybe take a walk after the meal

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Fare Isle Cup of Matcha with August Table Napkins

I have always taken my cues from my Virginia grandmother, who all summer long canned fruits and vegetables from her gardens, which were set up in lovely rows on the banks of Carters Creek just off the Rappahannock River.   Everything she cooked was fresh and made from scratch with love and attention to detail.  She was a bundle of energy (a ball of fire really) and had routines in place for every day, and special traditions for the holidays.

This year we are spending Thanksgiving at our friends’ house where various families and multiple generations will come together to cook together, share a meal and give thanks. My friend Mia has always made sure her family is intentional about their choices for the day around food and activities, the only requirement is that everything needs to be stress free and everyone comes early in the day so that we all cook together.

I have offered to set the tables (we’ll have multiple tables of guests) and hope to create a serene scene with rustic centerpieces, lovely linens (natch), and personal touches for the celebration so that everyone feels special.

Recently I’ve been perusing cookbooks and social media for inspiration on the sides that we’ll bring to complement the meal.  Below are a few that inspire me along with their recipes.  I hope you find some inspiration too.

Starters

I always love having appetizers around the kitchen and house when guests arrive.  This allows everyone to nibble while they catch up, cook and prep for the meal to come.

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The Little Plantation Beet Hummus

Beets are a versatile vegetable that when used as a dip add a beautiful ruby color to the table.

Mia'sbeetdip

Mia served her beet dip last week at a Holiday Market

Mia’s signature dish is her beet dip, which is divine, healthy and colorful.  She purees beets, soaked cashews, lemon juice and salt.  You must try it – it is earthy and addictive, served with sliced cucumbers and crackers.  I hope she’s making it on Thursday.

London’s Yotam Ottolenghi makes lush gorgeous vegetable dishes.  His Plenty and Plenty More cookbooks are some of my favorites to flip through, especially when I’m looking for sides.  This muhammara with feta would be an amazing starter for the meal along with elements from a board of olives, pita bread, chopped veggies, rice crackers and more.

VegetarianVenturesdip

Vegetarian Ventures Beet Hummus with Hazelnut Oil

Cranberry Sauce

I love cranberry sauce, seriously love it.  Any way it comes, relish, chutney, from the can, all of it. And no holiday meal goes unadorned without it.  My sister Coree is famous in our family for her cranberry sauce (and pies) but since I won’t have hers this year, I think I’ll try this recipe from Fare Isle.

sides

Sides

I think the side dishes at Thanksgiving are where you can get really creative, and not only rely on the standard traditional fare, think bright colors and varied flavors.

For this stuffing recipe you can add or subtract as needed. Gluten-free? No problem, swap out for a gluten-free loaf of bread.  Vegetarian?  Use veggie broth instead of chicken broth. You get the idea.

In addition to the green beans, salads, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, think about pasta as an option too!

Desserts

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Banana Trifle and chocolate cake in Charlottesville with Krister's parents.

Thanksgiving is a time to bring out many types of dessert for the dessert table.  Three years ago I made a banana trifle and chocolate cake to mix things up a bit; however,  traditional apple and pumpkin pies are always a hit.

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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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the table

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Each season brings with it an abundance of varied flora, fruits, vegetables and natural elements that can all be used to decorate your table.  During the fall and winter months I like to incorporate a mixture of flowers, gourds, pine cones, branches and more.  I’ve pulled together a collection of images here to hopefully inspire you and your table.

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Unexpected Arrangement by Better Homes and Gardens

Layering colors and textures make your table more vibrant.

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Simple fresh herbs, fragrant and lush, are always a favorite of mine year round.

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Fresh Herbs by Better Homes and Gardens

I love the purple cabbage in this centerpiece.

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Look to the Veggie Aisle by Better Homes and Gardens

An edible centerpiece is always a hit.

Holiday Mason Jar Crafts

Edible Centerpiece by Better Homes and Gardens

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White Pumpkin Centerpiece by Better Homes and Gardens

Seedpod centerpiece

Dried Flowers by Better Homes and Gardens

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A Green Garland by Better Homes and Gardens

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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. 

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.

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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.