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Friendsgiving 2016!

Last week Dan and I hosted ‘Friendsgiving’ and it was a complete success! We look forward to our annual dinner each year, as we host between 8-10 of our closest friends at our little Evanston, IL cottage. This year, I was excited to utilize a number of items we received from our wedding registry (post coming soon) as well as decor left over from our wedding. Most notably, the topiaries, brass candle stick holders and brass floral centerpiece. I nabbed a lovely silver/gray Ralph Lauren tablecloth from Home Goods that paired nicely with the decor elements.

To finish the tablescape, I looked no further than the produce and floral sections of the grocery store. Fresh pears, artichokes, festive corn & greenery completed the look I was had in mind.

Our menu items were divided up between each guest/couple, offsetting the cost. Our friends/neighbors cook the turkey each year which allows me to focus on the table design, appetizers, main dishes and cocktails.

I made:

Autumn Sangria with Apples, Pomegranate & Figs

This sangria was delicious but DANGEROUS. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find figs at the store and I bet it tastes even better with them.

Sweet Potato Casserole Bites

These were insanely delicious and a huge hit.

Things to note:

In the recipe, the pictures show perfectly sized, round bites. If you’ve ever seen a sweet potato then you know they can be really large, as well as wide and are often lumpy. Obviously they only showcased the “pretty ones” for the recipe, but beware that if you get a larger potato, you might have to cut the slices in half to keep them bite-sized.

Also, I dashed each bite with The Spice House Old Town Spiced Sugar to give them even more flavor.

Lastly, BEWARE of the broiler step! This was my first time using the broiler and I was shocked by how quickly the tops scorched. 30 seconds is plenty.

Maple Orange Cranberry Sauce

Oh my, this sauce is heaven. I am a huge fan of cranberry sauce so I was stoked to make this.

Observations:

Keep a lid on this while cooking. When the cranberries pop, they get everywhere. I got splattered (ouch!) and the sauce got all over my stove top.

I wound up using way more maple syrup than suggested. I preferred to taste a bit of the maple flavor, and dull down the extreme tartness.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme Herb-Laminated Biscuits

This herb lamination trick seemed intriguing to me, appealing to my craft side. It doesn’t take long and looks awesome, though I don’t think my guests were as impressed with it as I was.

Things to note:

If you are going to do this, as well as bake/cook/host/etc., I highly recommend using frozen biscuits. They tasted great and were a huge time saver.

Once you blanch the herbs, they tend to roll/clump together and you need to unroll and flatten them to dry. Parsley is the hardest but I think it looks the best. I didn’t end up using thyme because it didn’t flatten like I had hoped it would. If you had to narrow down which herbs to use, I would say parsley and sage look the best. Use whatever you have left over from your holiday recipes!

Green Bean Bundles with Maple & Brown Sugar

Gahhhh! This recipe, from Williams Sanoma, didn’t turn out like the photos, as you will see in my pics below. (Sad face)

Observations:

The recipe instructions say to barely cook the bacon, browning on the edges but leaving it pliable. I definitely should have cooked it more. Also, the beans got a bit shriveled looking but they tasted great. *Oh the marvels of food styling & photography!!!*

I suggest using some of The Spice House Old Town Spiced Sugar to give it more flavor. Also, we drizzled a bit of the bacon fat over, which made them even better. Seriously, these were delicious. We even crumbled the extra bacon and sprinkled over some of the casserole bites. Extra yum!

For a quick, polished look, I tied our new Crate & barrel napkins with some leftover Paper Source ribbons.

It was fun to break out my Mother’s Bordeaux Princess House glassware for dinner!

As I mentioned earlier, I picked up some produce and loose floral for the table, creating an organic, Fall themed look. I placed the greenery throughout the middle of the table so that it looked a bit like a runner.

My main challenge was getting everything out in a timely matter, and have everything warm. I think I did ok. It was helpful to use dishes that can transfer from oven to table, like our Le Creuset dutch oven set atop of marble Williams Sanoma trivets.

Before:

After:

Wishing each one of you a blessed Thanksgiving and holiday season. Take time for those you love and ENJOY each other. <3

Xx

Tara

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