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.

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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.

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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. 

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!

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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. 

Autumn Ballad

Undoubtedly Autumn is one of my favorite times of year.  The air is cooler and crisp, the lighting stirs something inside me and then there are the colors… the magical golden hues of the leaves everywhere you turn.  Pulling on more layers before heading out for a walk, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the smell of wood burning in the air as folks start their nightly fires to warm the body and soul, pumpkins, cider, apples – just a few things  I love about Autumn.  During the fall I also find that I tend to look inward and crave mental stimulation with books, poetry and learning.  I thought it would be fun to share a few poems about Autumn here for you too.  Enjoy!

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When I Am Among The Trees

Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,”
they say, “and you, too, have come
into the world to do this, to go easy,
to be filled with light, and to shine.”

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Fall, Leaves, Fall

Emily Brontë

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

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To Autumn

John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

 Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

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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. 

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

 

Getting back into the Groove…

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You may find that after the slow, lazy days of summer it’s hard to get back into the fall groove of schedules, routines, meal planning, earlier bedtimes, homework and more.  With all of the transition, stress can sometimes creep in and you may feel like there is no extra time, especially for a fun, healthy meal around the dinner table.

I have a few tips here to help you move past stress and allow space for you and your loved ones.

First, it really helps to write everything down on your calendar or planner for weekly events, practices, appointments, meals and more. My friend Mia created a gorgeous planner called FLOW planner and I love it. (You should check it out!)  The Flow planner has sections for you to map out your daily events, work, weekly meals as well as special quiet time for you and fun times with the family.

With all the busyness it’s really important that you take care of yourself.  If you do not care for yourself, you cannot care for others or be fully present and live the life of your dreams. I often speak of mindfulness – I’m constantly striving to be more mindful in each moment myself.  Remember to pause and respond with intention when you are in a given moment – often our minds react to something in the present which raises our stress levels.  If you pause and take a deep breath and picture something you love, it will raise your vibration and push the stress away.

To help you get back into your routine and ward off stress you should schedule time for yourself each week to unplug, exercise, drink loads of water, meditate and make good choices around snack time.  And of course, connect with loved ones as much as you can.

Sending you love and light during this fall transition.

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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.