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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.