July 4th – what are you serving?

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

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

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Photo by Yossy Arefi

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

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Rose Sangria with Peaches and Raspberries by College Housewife

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

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

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Sorella Collection Graze Boards


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. 

 

Eat, Capture, Share

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All photos by Kimberly Espinel

 

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

Carrie Allen – Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Cinnamon Vanilla Cashew Cream

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Eating healthy and serving healthy food to my kids is critically important to me.  Yet we all crave sweets from time to time so having recipes made from wholesome ingredients that actually benefit our bodies fills me with joy.  My friend Mia gave me Alissa Cohen’s Raw Food for Everyone Cookbook one year for Christmas.  It was here that I first stumbled upon chocolate pudding made from avocados.  I have adapted the recipe over the years to whatever I have on hand but the main ingredients are simple: avocados, dates (or agave syrup, honey or maple syrup – whatever you have!), plus cacao (or cocoa powder).

Last night I had to be on a work conference call (it’s hard to coordinate meetings with Tokyo) so I asked my 12 year old daughter to make pasta for dinner for her and her brother – you do what you need to do to balance work and life.  I set two avocados next to all the ingredients, thinking they would also have avocados with balsamic vinegar on top, a favorite of ours.

When I came down they were eating their pasta but the avocados were untouched.  I asked why they were not eating them and my son, who is 11, said “we thought you could make chocolate pudding with them instead.”   What a great idea!  I topped the avocado chocolate mousse (more of a mousse this time than a pudding) with cashew cream, which balances the deep rich chocolate flavor with a lighter creamy taste.

The recipe is super simple.  Here is what I made last night:

Chocolate Avocado Mousse
2 ripe avocados
1/4 cup organic, raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
1/4 cup coconut milk
4 dates, soaked in hot water for a few minutes
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and spoon into bowls.  You can put it in the refrigerator to chill for 10-30 minutes.  The pudding will develop a skin over top, just like pudding, if it sits for a while. Spoon cashew cream on top before serving.

Cinnamon Vanilla Cashew Cream
1 cup raw unsalted cashews soaked in water for 1-2 hours
1/2 cup water, plus more for a thinner cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put all ingredients into a high speed mixer (I use a vitamix) and blend until smooth.  Add more water, sweetener and cinnamon according to taste.  This will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

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Carrie Allen created this blog as a way to share stories of passion and love, big and small, with those around the world.  You can read more about this on the About page!