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

{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.

A Timeless Classic: Birthday Pumpkin Pie

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I often ask my brother if he wants to switch birthdays. I would much rather have a birthday in the fall. I could reward myself with long walks amid the changing leaves and pumpkin pie instead of cake (though I don’t remember the last time I had cake for my birthday). But alas, I must endure a birthday in March – not quite winter, not quite spring and always sopping wet with rain. It turns out my brother isn’t much of a cake fan either. So with the extra pumpkin purée I had, I baked him a pumpkin pie for his birthday.

As I was gearing up to shoot the process, I knew I had to get started early. It’s true, natural light is best when it comes to food photography. But the type of light is very important. 9 am light looks very different from 12 pm light and each one creates different textures and moods. I shot this sequence of pictures from 8 am to 8:30 am which was perfect! I knew I needed enough morning light but not too much to where it was harsh. The result was a very soft light with deep shadows. The lighting just made me want to stay in that spot forever and keep baking like there wasn’t a care in the world.

It’s funny, when you smell pumpkin purée it smells nothing like the pumpkin taste we know and love. Someone somewhere put a bunch of spices together and said, “this is what pumpkin should taste like.” And I agree with that person, so I don’t intend on creating anything new here. Here is a very timeless pumpkin pie recipe you can enjoy for thanksgiving (or anytime someone doesn’t want cake for their birthday).

{Recipe}

You will need:

2 cups pumpkin purée (I used real pumpkin from a pie pumpkin but canned will work too)

1 12 ounce can of evaporated milk or 1 1/2 cup heavy cream

2 eggs plus the yolk of 1 egg

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional, this stuff is expensive!!)

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Crust:

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

5 1/3 tablespoons shortening

1/4 cup water (or as needed to form the dough)

Start with making your crust. Mix together flour, salt, shortening, and water and form into a dough. Knead and roll out large enough to fit a 9″ pie pan. You want at least an inch of overhang for the crimping. Roll the edges under so they sit on the edge of the pan. Next, with your index finger and thumb form small notches all around the edge of the crust. Poke holes in the crust once it is formed in the pan (this will prevent the crust from expanding during baking). Refrigerate for 1 hour.

– Preheat oven to 425 –

Combine eggs, spices and sugars, pumpkin purée, and evaporated milk and mix well. Pour filling into the crust and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The filling will be puffed up but this is normal due to the leavening of the eggs. Let cool for two hours. If you’re making it for the holidays or anything special, I would suggest baking the pie the night before and let cool at room temperature until the next day when you’re ready to eat it. This will let the pie firm up really well.

Any holiday or birthday favorites of yours? Comment below!

A Steller Story – Apple Cider Baked Chicken

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A couple days ago I made this wonderful dish by Gimme Some Oven. A fall dish of baked chicken with lemon and mushrooms marinated in apple cider. You can find the full recipe here. If you read my last Steller Story post, here’s another one for you to check out! Steller republished this in their Bon Appetit collection. If you still don’t have Steller, shame on you (just kidding)! But it is so fun you really should give it a try! It’s an app that lets you tell a story with your photos. View the full Steller Story here.

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If you want to see more from me on Steller, search for adele_hall! I’d love to see some of your stuff too!

– Adele

A Fall Favorite: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I believe fall is the most contemplative season. Whether we’re out on a walk or in the kitchen, it seems the world stops for a while so we can admire its beauty. The cold weather beckons for good food and warm company; whether that’s around a fire or a table. I always think about Little Ingalls Widler, back in the pioneer days. The always had a fire going in the kitchen and the family would gather around the table for a warm meal. In the fall and winter, it was crucial that they had enough food stored up. Though we don’t have to worry about that now-a-days, I still think it does one good to step back, take great care in preparing, and savor the company the meal is shared with.

It is an understatement to say Butternut Squash is a fall favorite! I’ve seen it everywhere from Pinterest to Instagram. And would it come as a shock to you to say that I’ve never even tasted it before?! Yep, you heard that right. I’m not a big soup fan, I will admit. But I couldn’t resist when I saw A Daily Something’s recipe. It looked so delectable, from preparation to the bowl. Once more, it wasn’t too complicated that I could give it a first try. Now, this is a very basic recipe but the flavor in this should not be understated. The squash is roasted with garlic and thyme making it a very savory soup. You can always create your own recipe and add things like pine nuts and apples, or add buttermilk or half and half for a thicker soup. But if you’re looking for a basic butternut squash recipe with loads of flavor, this is a great place to start!

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{Recipe}

Butternut squash

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped

6 cloves garlic

Olive oil

Fresh thyme

Chicken broth

 

– Preheat oven to 375 –

Start by cutting the butternut squash in half. Scoop out the seeds in the cavity (these can be roasted just like pumpkin seeds!). Place 3 cloves garlic and 2-3 sprigs of thyme in each cavity. Then, drizzle the halves with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Carefully turn the halves over and place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour. You should be able to stick a fork in it easily if it is done!

Sauté the onions in olive oil over medium heat. Next, add the butternut squash. Turn up the heat a little so the squash can caramelize. Add your chicken stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Lastly, use an immersion blender to break up the squash even more. Otherwise you will end up with a very thick consistency. Serve with fresh bread and enjoy!

Slow Living {In the Kitchen}

Ahh, finally back to the blog. So sorry I’ve been gone, friends. I’ve been pretty busy and preoccupied with other projects! My friend Sarah and I have decided to start a business. Not really sure what it will look like yet, but it will be centered around the idea of living simply – Hey! That’s what my blog is about! More than living simply for ourselves, we want to show others what it looks like and how they too can live a life more in tune with their surroundings. One way to do this is to hold small, intimate gatherings; enjoying company and conversation, and teaching the art of simplicity.

I figured I would show you what I’ve been doing lately. I’ve been into food photography from what I’ve been baking and cooking. There is something so personal about the food we eat. It is our daily sustenance; without it, we die. But in this day and age, we have lost touch with our food. When we grow our food, harvest it, prepare it, and eat it, we have a personal connection and a knowledge of where that food came from. Food photography is about showing the beauty of being in our kitchen, of slow living, and all the messes and imperfections that come along with it. In other words, it’s life.

{Vegetable and Ricotta Pizza}

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{Pumpkin Pie}

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{Apple Galette}

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{Morning Cast-Iron Baked Eggs}

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Homemade Applesauce

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So, this past weekend my friend and I went to an apple orchard. The experience was less than desirable. The orchard was crowded, most of the apples had been picked over or weren’t ripe yet, and (at this particular place) the price of the smallest bag was $20! But in spite of all of that, I did get some apples!

I decided I really wanted to make applesauce, but I didn’t want to use all the apples I had just got! So I used 4 medium apples which made 1 ball jar’s worth. I don’t eat too much applesauce anyway, so it’s perfect. If you want to make a bigger batch and store them over a long period of time, you can can them. But that’s a post for another time.

Homemade Applesauce

 

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Start with 4 medium apples. Peel them and cut them each into 8 sections, or use an apple corer and it does this for you automatically. After I cut them into 8 sections, I actually cut them once further, so they were smaller chunks. But this is optional and totally up to you.

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Put the apples in a big pot and cover the bottom of the pot with water or apple juice. We don’t want to boil the apples, we just want to soften them up, so be careful not to put in too much water. Then, I put in 2 teaspoons of lemon juice (to help slow down the oxidation process or browning of the apples) and a pinch of salt to help them soften up faster. Now this is the part you can kinda play around with. For the spices I used 1/4 cup brown sugar and a teaspoon cinnamon. But you can just add sugar instead of brown sugar, or add more spices like nutmeg, cardamom, etc. I chose brown sugar and cinnamon, in part because it’s what I had in my pantry, but also because I wanted that darker, spicier flavor. So again, it’s up to you!

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Heat the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, covered. I kept mine on medium-low and it took 25 minutes. After it’s done simmering, you can do one of two things: Mash the apples with a fork or potato masher, or throw it in the blender. I chose to use the blender. It was way quicker and gave it the smooth consistency I was going for. I don’t like chunks in my applesauce. But you can blend it to whatever consistency you like!

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And that’s it! Pretty easy right? I was surprised how well it turned out for my first time making applesauce! Feel free to try my recipe, or play around with it to see what you like. I would think it would be pretty hard to mess up applesauce (but you never know).

Feel free to share your recipes and experiences with making applesauce!

Until next time,

Adele

Recipe:

4 medium apples
Water or apple juice
2 tsp. lemon juice
A pinch of salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon