You know that feeling that happens when the first hint of fall makes its appearance? Usually it’s when we’re on our morning walk, and a chilly breeze blows in.

Suddenly I smell that certain scent that reminds me of crunchy leaves and pumpkin spice and wool, all rolled into one.

This time of year always catches me by surprise with how busy it is, and especially this year, instead of letting it blow by in a whirl of deadlines and calendar appointments, I’m making it a priority to carve out plenty of time with the people I love. And if that time involves carving pumpkins and watching This Is Us with cozy socks on? All the better.

shop the look:Threshold Tan Vintage Distressed Area Rug, Lana Curved Back Dining Chair in Natural; Astrid Mid-Century Dining Table in Natural Wood; Small Wood Vase; Large Green Vase; 24 x 30 Framed Canvas Trees

One intention I’m setting now is to bring back the tradition of Sunday Supper. It’s the perfect time to hang out with family while everyone’s feeling relaxed from the weekend. I’m keeping it simple — one weekend might be a big pot of spaghetti for just the four of us; another I might braise a big pork shoulder and invite a few friends for taco night. Either way, it’ll be casual, with a focus on filling my home with the scents, sights, and feels of the season thanks to Target’s fall home collection. Forget “impressing my guests;” my only goal is to make my home a haven where everyone feels welcome and Sunday scaries are nowhere in sight.

Go for faux

Target’s selection of faux flowers and foliage is blowing my mind this season. The fall collection is so on point – and I love mixing their faux, dried, and fresh flowers for an unexpected arrangement that’s full of texture. Plus, these last way longer (like, forever) and it’s an affordable way to have flowers on the table all year long. We used the preserved artichoke bundle, fluffy grass, ginkgo, hops and the dried brown leaves.

A Hands-Off Menu

I am determined to be the host – and the mom – that’s not relegated to the kitchen all night. I mean, don’t you want to be playing Scrabble with cider in hand, right along with the rest of your crew? Thought so, and it is actually possible to make that happen while still getting a special dinner on the table — all that’s required is a little strategic menu planning. And a slow cooker helps, too. 😉  My secret is to not try to plan too many different components to the menu — choose a main that can be made in advance, and bonus points if you’re really only cooking one thing from scratching and assembling the rest from good store-bought ingredients.

Here’s what’s on the menu this Sunday:

  • Cheese & Cider – grown-ups *might* have added a splash of whiskey.
  • My “Every Night” Salad – this one was a kale, apple, and goat cheese version.
  • Slow-Cooker Mushroom, Onion & Herb Risotto – this recipe is a game changer.

The Family Happy Hour

We always set out yummy pre-dinner snacks when we host a party, so why not do the same for a special family night? I am a major fan of what I’ve dubbed “Family Happy Hour,” because not only is it an easy way to make a normal evening feel festive, it literally makes our family happy by giving them something to graze on and staving off hangry vibes. Because, I don’t know about your family, but the people in our house get reallll hangry sometimes, and it is not pleasant to be around. I can sip my (spiked) cider and relax with some gouda, and when suppertime comes… we’re ready to roll. Slow cooker to the rescue!

shop the look: Warwick 3-door Media Cabinet; Small Green Vase34″ Round Mirror; Glass Decanter with Wood Stopper; Oversized Woven Tray; Magnolia Garland

Cheese Please

I get so many questions about how to make cheese boards pretty without spending a fortune, and I’ve got to say that my main piece of advice is to keep it simple (I know, I’m a broken record.) Choose two good cheeses (I like one hard cheese like parmesan or aged cheddar, and then a soft cheese like a blue, goat, or brie.) Put them on opposite ends of a wood board (I love this paddle board from Target), then surround with sliced salami, green olives (Castelvetrano for the win), dried figs or apricots, water crackers, and some type of nut (have you tried Marcona Almonds? You must.) Add in pretty cheese knives, like this marble set,  and you’ve now got a gorgeous cheese board on your hands with a little something for everyone.

Pro tip: If you make your cheese board extra big, it totally counts as dinner.

Get lit

Target’s Threshold Whiskey & Oak is my favorite home scent of the season — one whiff and I start dreaming of apple cider and nights by the fire. To create that firelight glow that I crave this time of year, I love grouping lots of candles together on a sideboard or shelf. Go for a mix of sizes and heights — this Sandalwood & Tobacco candle packs a punch with 8 wicks! Once we lit the candles, it was pure magic to see the light bouncing off the metallic surfaces and creating the coziest vibe for a chilly evening.

shop the look: Threshold 9oz Whiskey & Oak Candle; Threshold 14oz Whiskey & Oak Candle; Glass Pumpkin Vanilla Candle; 5oz Sandalwood & Tobacco Candle; 11oz Sandalwood & Tobacco Candle; Melamine Dinner Bowl in Gray (below)

A Slow-Cooker = Your Favorite New Way to Make Risotto

I’ve always tended to save risotto for restaurant meals — I love the luxurious texture but knew that it usually comes as a result of half an hour of constant stirring, and I genuinely must ask: who has time for that? I suppose that Italian Nonna’s do, and honestly I love the idea of it, but in this current season of life my focus is more on getting the most return (i.e. deliciousness) from the least effort possible.

Enter this Mushroom, Onion & Herb Risotto. It feels both special and cozy, and requires none of the constant stirring of the original. There’s a quick sauté of the onions and garlic on the stove, then everything gets dumped into the slow cooker for 3 hours, and you’re done. Add a sprinkle of chopped rosemary and some thick parmesan shavings if you want to go all out. Scroll down to the very bottom of this post for the recipe.

Textural Healing

When temps get chilly, I love adding cozy vibes inside by layering as many different fabrics and textures as possible. A heavy knit throw like this one from Target new brand Casaluna draped on the back of a chair, earthy linens and dinnerware on the table, and natural materials like wood and woven baskets feel instantly warm and welcoming.

While you can totally get away with a bare table in the summer, I love using this season as an excuse to bring some color and pattern to my dining table. This plaid runner is the perfect example of just one detail that makes a major impact on the overall vibe of our family dinner. And when in doubt, these pretty white napkins go with everything, and are just about the easiest way to make a meal feel special.

shop the look: Round Beaded Basic White Dinnerware Set; Footed Serving Bowl (coming soon); Scoop Flatware Set (coming soon); Telford Tumbler Set; Marble and Wood Cheese Slicer

Slow-Cooker Mushroom, Onion, & Herb Risotto

Serves 8

This slow-cooker mushroom risotto has onions and herbs, and is a shortcut version that doesn't require constant stirring.

By Camille Styles
Prep

10 minutes

Cook

180 minutes


Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (uncooked )
  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
  • wedge of parmesan
  • chopped rosemary for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat, then sauté mushrooms, onions and garlic. Cook for 7 minutes until mushrooms are lightly browned and liquid is evaporated.
  2. Dump into a crock pot. Stir in rice, broth, butter, salt, pepper, and rosemary.
  3. Cover and cook on high-heat setting for 3 hours (or low heat for 6 hours) until rice is tender.
  4. When ready to serve, top each bowl with lots of grated parmesan, a pinch of rosemary, and a little more salt and pepper. Eat!
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Photography

Kristen Kilpatrick