A Thanksgiving Gathering: Eat Local, Eat Sustainable, Eat Mindful

For those of you who are following along with my blog, you will know that I do a lot of cooking. I find it’s relaxing and connects me to the root of our hunger. Last night my boyfriend Andrew and I were flipping through Netflix. After what seemed like a lifetime of searching for the perfect movie, we settled on a documentary: GMO OMG. A concerned father, Jeremy Seifert, goes on the search for answers to Genetically Modified Organisms. He tells his two boys to put on their “GMO goggles” so they can spot perpetrators. Teaching his kids to be aware, Seifert finds out the problem is much more pervasive than people think. In short, Genetically Modified Organisms are seeds that have been genetically altered to allow plants to be resistant to pesticides and herbicides so weeds and bugs are killed but not the plant itself. Seems great right? Not so fast! Check out this link to learn more about GMOs.

This is not the first documentary done on this issue. Food Inc. is a popular documentary and one of my favorites. And there are many others to delve into the subject. As I watched, the spark of environmentalism was lit in me once again. I have a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Geography and have since pursued my real passion which is writing. But I was compelled and I was angry. I was ready to march on Washington!

Of all the environmental issues out there, food safety is what I’m most passionate about. I realized I had left a critical component out in all my cooking and baking. (Or maybe it’s because I was running so far away from my degree that I wanted to forget it) But I can’t remain blind to the obvious pitfalls of our modern food system. Food and water are most critical to human life. Shouldn’t we care about what we’re putting in our bodies? If anything else, isn’t it a violation of our rights to be genetically altering seeds without our knowledge and with no labeling?

The problem doesn’t just end with the chicken or the cow. Just because you buy local meat or eggs doesn’t mean that animal wasn’t fed GMO corn. And if they are fed GMO corn are they really “all natural??” And that’s where it gets complicated. So it seems you have to go back to the seed. And even that seems excessive. But why?! Why are we remaining silent on our most critical need? I believe we need to push for answers and find out what’s really in our food instead of following the food system blindly. It’s our right and we have to start exercising it.

Okay, I’m off my pulpit now. All this to say, I want to make truly sustainable food a component to my cooking. (And I want to start utilizing this degree somewhat ;)) This Thanksgiving I implore you to dig a little deeper into where your food is coming from. If you’re buying locally sourced meat, ask them, “Are your animals fed with GMO corn?” We have a right to know. If for the sheer novelty of it. People might look at you weird and they might think you’re crazy. You can just say, “I’m doing this for my health, and my sanity.”

I don’t know how to tackle the GMO issue in my shopping just yet. Just like I said earlier, it’s a very pervasive issue that permeates almost the entire food system. It seems I will have to dig a little deeper and get back to you. But GMO aside, I can give you some tips for a more sustainable turkey day!

Buy Local

Where are you getting your bird from? The supermarket (where who knows how they were treated – just watch Food Inc.), or the local farm that raises and slaughters the free range turkeys right there? If you’re in doubt of where to look, check out Eat Wild. Just click on your state, and they have a list of grass fed farms. Find one near you and go talk to the butcher – it’s our most basic right to know where our food is coming from.

Buy In Season

This one is simple but hard all at the same time. We live in a world where we can go to the supermarket and get an orange or some berries right in the middle of winter! But those fruits had to be transported to your area from somewhere where they will actually grow. Do yourself and the planet a service and eat seasonally. Just because they provide you with oranges doesn’t mean you have to eat them (and trust me, you can survive without oranges over the winter). Expand your palette and eat winter and fall fruits and vegetables! You’ll be a connoisseur in no time!

Buy Organic

This one is really up to you because I think the innocence of organic has been polluted. When you go to the store and you see something labeled “organic” or “all-natural,” can you really be sure it is organic? You would have to go back to the source to find out. So to me it’s really about the label – and money. So if it eases your conscience to buy organic, go ahead! If it eases your wallet not to buy organic, I’m not going to get mad at you. The jury is still out on this one in my book.

I sincerely hope that we all dig a little deeper and find out where our food is coming from. Not just for Thanksgiving, but any time of the year. As I keep saying over and over, we have a right to healthy, safe, and sustainable food.

If you want to know more about the documentary, you can view their website here.

If you have any thoughts or comments on these issues I’d love to hear from you! What are you doing for a sustainable turkey day?

A Thanksgiving Gathering: DIY Linen Napkins with Foraged Pine

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Happy saturday everyone! In lieu of my gathering coming up, I thought it appropriate to show you how to make your own napkins! You can use any type of fabric you like, but linen napkins add a sophisticated yet simple look to your table. Add a little sprig of green to your napkins, tie a little bow of twine and you’re all set!

If you’re planning on a simple, cheap gathering it can soon get expensive. Linen particularly is on the pricier end of fabric, and if you buy linen napkins from a store it can start to stack up.

Now I don’t have a sewing machine and my mom’s sewing machine is currently broken SO I had to find an alternative. Though my mom was skeptical, it turns out fabric adhesive works just fine! I think it’s easier than having to worry about needles and thread (especially if you’re not an avid sewer), but if you have a sewing machine handy and you think it’s easier go ahead!

What you need:

– 2 yards of linen fabric
– ruler
– scissors (preferably fabric scissors)
– steam activated fabric adhesive tape
– an iron

Directions:

Cut your fabric into 20.5″ squares. This makes 6 napkins. Start by placing adhesive tape on each corner sticky side down, peel off the top strip, fold the corner over and iron for 10-20 seconds to activate the adhesive.

After you’re done with the corners, do the same thing to each side of the square. After you’re all finished, fold your napkin into a long rectangle (optional: wrap in twine and garnish with a sprig of green).

And that’s it! Pretty simple right?? Gatherings don’t need to be complicated or expensive. You just have to know what you want, and know how you’re going to get it at a reasonable price – even if it means making something yourself.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! What are some of your favorite DIY projects for dinners? I’d love to hear from you!

A Thanksgiving Gathering: Cranberry Sauce

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finished product: cranberry "jelly" sauce

I have to say it was such a joy making this! Growing up my mom always bought the canned cranberry sauce from the store so I never knew anything different. My dad and I being the healthier eaters in the family, were really the only ones to eat it. The tart taste of cranberry sauce was the perfect compliment to an otherwise sweet Thanksgiving meal. And I will always and forever love the jellied kind!

In my quest to make most things from scratch, I realized Cranberry Sauce is super simple to make and can be made plenty ahead of time. Just in time for my Thanksgiving gathering! All you do is prepare the cranberry sauce like normal. Then, pour the sauce into ball jars and let it firm up in the fridge for up to 10 days until you’re ready to serve!

I relished every moment in my kitchen making this. The cranberries bursting with color, yet each one a different shade of red. As the cranberries started to boil, the most heavenly aroma was born. And as it heated up, you could hear the cranberries popping.

– recipe –

Ingredients:

3 12 oz. bags of fresh cranberries (this makes 3 ball jars so however many jars you want is how many bags you need to get)

3 cups water

3 cups sugar

The juice of a whole fresh lemon

Directions:

Combine water, sugar, and lemon in a large stockpot. Stir, and bring to a boil.

Next, add the cranberries and bring back to a boil. Lower the temperature to medium high heat and continue on a soft boil for about 10 min, or until most of the cranberries have opened up.

When the sauce has cooled considerably, blend in a blender or food processor to get a smoother consistency. Pour into ball jars, cover and seal up to 10 days. Just remove whole from the jar when you’re ready to serve!

I hope you enjoyed this simple recipe that your guests will love! The best part is you can make it in advance to take some of the stress off you on turkey day! I am more of a fan of this simple, tart recipe but you can add whatever you like! Some people do an orange instead of a lemon and some add spices to make it even sweeter… it’s up to you!

Be on the lookout for my next post where I’ll show you how to make linen napkins for your Thanksgiving table!

A Thanksgiving Gathering: The Menu

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Hello everyone! I hope you are getting geared up for Thanksgiving! I know I sure am! I am hosting a dinner on Nov. 22nd for invited guests and I would like to share with you some things I’m doing to create a memorable gathering around the table. I am starting a series of posts leading up to Thanksgiving that will hopefully help prepare you for your gathering event. My style, if you read my about section you will know, is very simplistic seeking the lowest cost option while maintaining high quality. If simple is your thing, great! You’re in for a treat. If not, that’s fine – take what you like and leave the rest. I am mostly sharing with you my journey to hosting my first gathering!

Aside from the guests, décor, etc., food is why you have a dinner in the first place. So it should be at the forefront of your mind. I know I can concentrate a little more heavily on the menu since my décor is going to be pretty simple.

I do not plan on doing a “traditional American” Thanksgiving dinner. A lot of us will be going to multiple Thanksgivings for family and I don’t know about you, but there’s only so much turkey I can handle this time of year! I plan on doing some different dishes while throwing in a few holiday favorites as well!

I also want to preface, some of these are not my own recipes but I have provided links where you can view them!

For Starters…

Autumn Harvest Barley Salad

For a starter, I wanted something lighter than soup but hearty enough so it wasn’t a summer salad. Adding any type of grain is a great way to get a hearty salad (without adding meat). I’m going to do a simple barley salad with dark greens, dried cranberries, pecans, and feta cheese served with an apple cider vinaigrette! You can also add butternut squash or acorn squash to this! But because I’m using butternut squash a little later, I’ll leave it out of the salad.

Main Dish

I think I’ll leave that one a secret 😉 I’ll tell you it won’t be turkey! Whether or not you prepare turkey is totally up to you! If you are only going to one Thanksgiving (yours!) it makes sense to make turkey. But if you are going to multiple Thanksgivings you might want to give yourself a break and fix some other type of meat.

Side Dishes

Homemade Cranberry Jelly

This one is super simple! Growing up my mom always bought the cranberry jelly in the can. It was the perfect bitterness to balance out the sweetness of (what seemed like) the entire meal. (Plus I have to admit I liked plopping it out of the can!) So I am sticking with the jellied version – just homemade this time. I’ll be trying Marisa McLellan’s easy cranberry jelly recipe!

Butternut Squash and Apple Stuffing

This one is not my own recipe. It is taken from Savvy Eats. I like stuffing but I always feel it tastes too bland (unless you pour gravy on top!). And then I thought, why don’t I take something savory like stuffing and combine it with something sweet like butternut squash (and because you have to fit in butternut squash somewhere in your menu, right?)?! And then I found a recipe, because I am much too chicken to develop my own.

Fall Roasted Root Vegetables

Roasted vegetables are an easy and healthy way to add some color and flavor to your Thanksgiving meal! Just gather your favorite fall vegetables (I’m doing carrots, parsnip, onions, and garlic), toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and herb of your choice, and voila! You have a simple but elegant side dish!

Dessert

Pear and Frangipane Tart

I’ve already made pumpkin and apple pie yet this season, so I wanted to try something different for dessert! I always forget about pears and yet they are a good fall fruit. This recipe comes from Sunday Suppers and is adapted from Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite by Sarah Copeland. You can find the entire recipe as well as view pictures of the tart here.

 

So there you have it! I know this isn’t one of my typical posts with pictures but I have provided the original links where you can view the pictures as well as the complete recipes! Once I am finished with the dinner, I will post my pictures and recipes up on the Recipes page.

Above all, I hope you gain some inspiration from this fall-themed Thanksgiving menu – whether you choose to go traditional or not. Be sure to click the links and check out these foodies and see what else they have to offer! They are truly talented individuals!

Do you have any must-try thanksgiving dinner favorites? I’d love to hear them!

Cheers for now!

Adele

The Pursuit of Simplicity

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I was reminded this morning of a quote by Yvon Chouinard.

“Going back to a simpler life is not a step backward.”

How often I have to remind myself of that, daily even. In our world of 9 to 5 desk jobs, stuffy board meetings, etc. it’s tempting to think that’s all there is. And if you encounter the corporate world, they will wonder why you are doing what you love to do and will persuade you in another direction – as if they own your life.

I’ll be honest, I have my doubts. The influence from corporate life is insurmountable. Going back to a simpler life feels like a step backward. But that’s how I know I’m doing the right thing. When you do something for yourself, you will doubt and you will receive push back. But that’s all the more reason to press on.

So no matter what your calling is (maybe it is the 9-5 desk job), here are some ways you can push through the criticisms and enjoy life as it’s meant to be lived.

Trust in the Lord with this new endeavor

This is a huge one, guys. Anything I do: cooking, my ability to write or style a table is because God has blessed me with these abilities. It’s not really about me at all, it’s about Him. Making sure my heart is in the right place and giving glory to Him is what’s most important. The bottom line: I would rather risk it all and have a deeper relationship with God in the process than be safe and be far away from Him.

Listen to your critics AND your fans

This reminds me of something Michael Scott said (he was a very influential thinker), “Don’t listen to your critics, listen to your fans.” I don’t think that’s entirely true because your critics shape you just as well as your fans. But I’ll tell you something, doing something you love and having people appreciate that is more reward than money. I have had too many interviews with no call backs, or no interviews at all after turning in an application that I thought was very well done. Hopes and dreams are crushed because a couple people make a decision about someone’s worth. Take that with a grain of salt, but move on and create your worth in this world.

Never give up

Okay, I know this is super cliché but it rings true! If Bill Gates or Steve Jobs would have given up on their dreams where would we be? (I wouldn’t be telling you this now that’s for sure, and a whole host of other things) Though I don’t intend to be the next Steve Jobs, no matter how big or small your dreams are, pursue them with everything you’ve got. Look guys, we’re only given one life. And that life is WAY too short to waste it away being somewhere you don’t want to be. (Of course there are obligations and seasons but that is a post for another time)

What are some of your dreams and how are you pursuing them? I would love to hear from you!

How To Make Hydrangea Christmas Wreaths

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When my boss told me we were making wreaths with dried hydrangea I thought, “What? How’s that going to look?” But after it was all said and done it looked great! This isn’t my only wreath tutorial this season, but I thought it was interesting enough to show you in case you wanted to try it! It’s pretty simple and you only need a few things to make it work.

– dried hydrangeas (it’s okay if not all of it is dry)
– straw wreath outline (you can find these at any craft store)
– scissors
– hot glue gun
– spray paint in green or any color of your choice (optional)

The process is pretty straightforward and simple. You’re going to take pieces of the hydrangea and cover every inch of the front, so you can’t see anymore straw. There is no need to cover the back side. If you don’t have a hot glue gun you can stick the pieces in the straw or the wire that’s wrapped around the straw. (Just be careful when you’re cutting the wrapping off that you don’t cut the wire).

After that how it looks is up to you! You can leave it brown like it is which I think is a really pretty and rustic look. It looks nice too if you spray paint it green. Then you can add pine cones, berries, etc. to give it an even more festive look!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and that you try it yourself. Let me know how it turns out if you do!

I’m looking forward to showing you more festive wreath ideas for your holiday season!

{A Recipe} Red Potato, Sausage, and Feta Bake

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This one is a hit guys! It’s another fall recipe from A Daily Something. I changed it slightly as I omitted the butternut squash and used red potatoes instead (mainly because Andrew doesn’t like butternut squash :/). So I intend to use butternut squash in it someday and if you do, tell me what you think! I can only guess it’s just as delicious as this!

This is probably one of the best combinations of flavors I’ve tasted in a while. Everything goes so nicely together. The italian sausage adds a sweetness to the dish and the feta cheese helps to balance that sweetness out. I was tempted to try a leaner meat in this but I’m glad I didn’t because the sausage added great flavor. The nice thing about this is one helping was enough for us. The flavors were so intense it left you satisfied, not begging for more.

This is definitely a savory fall dish you have to try! Our home was filled with the most pleasant aroma and we couldn’t wait to eat it! There is also versatility to this dish as you can toss it with scrambled eggs the next morning! I’m always happy when I make something Andrew really likes so this is staying on the “must make” list for sure!

– Recipe –

You will need:

– 1 lb. Italian sausage
– 2 large onions
– 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, divided
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
– 1 1/2 tsp. salt
– 1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
– 1 tsp. pepper
– 2 medium butternut squash or 1 lb. red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
– 2 cups (8 oz.) crumbled feta cheese
– 2 small sweet red peppers, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, cook the sausage, onions and 1/4 tsp. pepper flakes over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink and onions are tender, breaking up sausage into crumbles; drain.

In a large bowl, combine the oil, rosemary, salt, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, and remaining pepper flakes. Add butternut squash, cheese, red peppers, and sausage mixture; toss to coat.

Transfer to an ungreased shallow roasting pan. Cover and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until squash is tender. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then serve & enjoy.

I hope you try this recipe! If you do, let me know what you think! I am certain you won’t be disappointed.

Mornings Like These

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Do you ever have mornings like these? Nothing to do, nowhere to be, save for enjoying the beauty of your own home. I had a morning like this. It got bright as the sun rose, highlighting the fall colors on the trees. But something inside of me knew it was cold out. So I stayed inside and began my morning ritual – coffee and local eggs, which I opted to bake in my cast iron skillet. The new dining room table was looking beautiful adorned with florals, the light creating sharp contrast on this bitter cold morning – a rustic look which I adore.

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It’s important that we have mornings like these once in a while, and dare I say often, if possible. The reason I love mornings so much is because it’s a fresh start to a new day. And how you start your day is how you intend to end it. When we slow down our mornings, we slow down our entire day. And by that I mean being more mindful, creative, and careful about what we do and say. Our days become full of meaning rather than walking through life blindly.

I implore you to take a day or a few days to slow down your mornings. Drink a cup of coffee and watch the sun rise. If you can’t watch the sun rise, get up earlier (still have coffee) and take some time to reflect, pray, and meditate. You might be surprised how much better your day ends up!

How do you like to start your day? Comment below!

Floral Arrangements: A Simple Tutorial

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Before I worked at a flower shop, I had no idea how floral arrangements were really done. At least the kind not in vases. At Flowers of the Good Earth, we always use fresh flowers for weddings, funerals, school events, etc. We rarely use silks. So how they made fresh flowers, say in a basket, was beyond me.

Turns out, you soak special green florists foam (which I’m sure you could find at Hobby Lobby or the like) in water, then stick your flowers in that. Who knew?! Your flowers can be in a pretty basket and still soak up all the water they need. Of course they don’t last forever, but they last longer than they would if they were not in water.

For this floral arrangement, I am making alter flowers for various churches in Lancaster. But the concept is useful for any arrangement you want to do!

You will need:

Some type of green filler (I used leatherleaf)

Green florists foam

Scissors

Any flowers you want! (I used white carnations with 2 accent flowers)

Directions:

1. Start with your foam. If you need to cut it to fit a container (like I did), I would suggest cutting it while it’s dry that way it won’t make a big mess. Next, soak your foam in water. About 5 minutes, or until bubbles stop coming up.

2. Once you have your foam ready, start with your greenery. I usually start with a large piece to establish height at the back. Then, you’re basically just layering down from there. You want it to look natural and flow. Sort of how ferns come out in waves, it should look like that.

3. Now you’re ready to work with the flowers you’ve chosen. The placement of flowers varies depending on what you’re making the arrangement for. In this case, these churches are very particular and they like things neat and symmetrical. In any case, you want to make sure your flowers are spaced far enough apart and you need to establish some height. But play around with it and see what you like!

And that’s it! Pretty simple, right?! It only requires patience and a good eye. It’s creating a work of art out of flowers and letting others enjoy the beauty!

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! I have a wreath tutorial planned that will come just in time for the holidays, so be on the lookout for that! Comments? Questions? I would love to hear from you!

Adele

{Gather} The True Meaning Of Hospitality

The holiday season is coming up and that means decorations, gifts, parties, etc! For the first time, I have a home I can entertain in. It’s new and exciting! I know I want to do away with all the fluff and get back to the basics. I’m hosting a Thanksgiving gathering with our closest friends around the idea of simplicity.

If you’ve never heard of me talk about this before, it’s part of the Slow Living movement. Instead of focusing on decor and lavish dinners, everything is much more simplified and centers on human conversation and connections.

But even in the effort to simplify things, it can get quite complex and hectic. Keeping up with the Joneses… or Kinfolk, Local Milk, whatever you want to call it. I can’t honestly say I’m not inspired by them. We’re all following someone.

As I was doing my daily She Reads Truth devotional this morning they were talking about hospitality (how appropriate). I mean, real hospitality. What it looked like for Jesus to invite people in. He dined with tax collectors and sinners, and was found hanging around the shunned people of the day. They never worried about the decor, whether it was simple or lavish or what food they had there. And I’m sure that was the last thing on Jesus’s mind. All He cared about was that He got in front of the people who needed Him the most. That’s true hospitality. Inviting people in no matter their social standing for the simple goal of loving on them as Jesus did.

I hope as we all plan our parties this holiday season, we would remember what true hospitality looks like. Whatever our style is, let that take the backstage. But let our hearts point to Jesus this holiday season.

Adele