Well, I’d hoped to have this post up before Thanksgiving, but regrettably time has gotten away from me. The move has completely thrown off my planned schedule, but the plus side is that all of that will be done with in about a week and half. Hopefully, you still find these fall event ideas and tips useful during this busy season, and perhaps the Simple Citrus Cider Cocktail will be a welcome relief after a busy day of Black Friday shopping!
An Autumn Affair: Pulling It All Together
Creating the Menu:
Over the last few weeks, I’ve personally introduced you to two entrees, one dessert, and (by the end of this post) two cocktails you can mix and match to create your own Autumn Affair-themed dinner party. For ease, here is a sample menu of what your evening might look like:
Drinks: Honey Bear Bourbon Cocktail with Citrus-Sage Syrup OR Simple Citrus Cider Cocktail (Recipe below!)
Main Course: Apple and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash OR Roasted Pumpkin Baked Pasta
Dessert: Maple-Bourbon Pumpkin Crème Brulée
Any of these menu items will go nicely together in whatever combination you choose!
Still need more ideas for your Autumn Affair? Here are a few recipes from around the web offering some more inspiration:
- Starter: I’m a sucker for spinach dip, and this Roasted Butternut Squash Spinach Dip from Jessica Merchant over at How Sweet It Is would likely be a wonderful appetizer with this menu.
- Main Course:
- Looking for a soup or Paleo-friendly option for your event? Check out this Ginger Acorn Squash Soup with Thai Mini Meatballs.
- I’ve never made gnocchi from scratch before, but this recipe for Acorn Squash Gnocchi makes it look easy.
- Dessert: I actually made these Pumpkin Cookies from Food & Wine Magazine years ago during a blackout without the help of an electric mixer, because I needed to use up all my eggs and butter with our tiny apartment gas stove. They did not disappoint under those circumstances, so I can only imagine how good they would be under normal ones!
Setting the Stage:
With the food taken care of, what’s next?
First of all – keep it simple! While you could absolutely incorporate any of these recipes into other holiday meals, with so many potentially elaborate holidays in the fall I suggest letting the seasonal foods themselves be the stars of this gathering. This intimate dinner should be an escape from the stress, not the source of more.
If you do want to decorate your home, here are a couple ideas that won’t break the bank:
- Seasonal Squash: While decorative gourds can get a bad reputation, I personally love the look of a few placed around tastefully, and they are incredibly inexpensive this time of year. Better yet, do what I do and skip the decorative ones and go straight for the ones you can eat – Throughout the fall I have piles of acorn squash, butternut squash, and various types of pumpkin piled up on my counter as they await their turn to be cooked. A cured squash, if kept dry and cool, can last for weeks and this way you have fully functional decor that you can eat up at your leisure.
- Firelight: Whether you are lucky enough to have an actual fireplace in your home or even a simple collection of candles, the orange glow will provide a warm and comforting atmosphere for you and your guests.
- Extra Touches: You can never go wrong with touches of warm-colored metals, like cast iron, bronze and copper; with darker woods; a scattering of “fake” autumn leaves; or even linens in shades to match the changing foliage. You can often find some choice seasonal pieces inexpensively at places like Target, Pier One, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and so forth, and with any luck they can double as decor for other events. I often find beautiful pieces with animal and leaf motifs this time of year that I end up using year-round!
The Simple Citrus Cider Cocktail
As the final recipe for An Autumn Affair, I offer something made specifically for this stressful season.
Some days, measuring out ingredients, let alone making a homemade syrup like this one, is out of the question (no matter how simple it might be). Some days, you’d like a cocktail but don’t have the time, energy, or gumption to do much more than throw a few things in a glass and call it done. I get that. I’m a queen of that. We all have our go-to’s – gin and tonics, vodka cranberries, or just a bottle of beer or two fingers of scotch. All of these are good. But what if you want to offer something simple to company (or just something different than your usual)? These are the days were my easy cocktails come in, and I hope to share a few of these embarrassingly simple recipes with you as we go. As part of the Autumn Affair series, I’m happy to give you the Simple Citrus Cider Cocktail.
Now I wanted to call this is a ‘Lazy’ Citrus Cider Cocktail, (and I kind of still do), but I was worried someone out there might take ‘lazy’ in a negative light. As a detail-oriented over-achiever, I can tell you this truthfully: There is nothing negative about letting yourself be lazy once in a while, ESPECIALLY if you are also making a full meal. The Simple Citrus Cider Cocktail was “invented” while I was recipe-testing the Roasted Pumpkin Baked Pasta. I wanted a fall-inspired cocktail with our dinner, but had been working in the kitchen for hours. I’d been taste-testing the Honey Bear Bourbon Cocktail for days and needed something different. I had farmer’s market apple cider, and remembered my mother’s crowd-pleasing hot cider recipe includes both rum and orange juice, so I combined the cider and juice with some of my favorite Kraken Spiced Rum. I couldn’t be happier with my decision. It’s just a combination of 2 parts booze, 2 parts orange juice, and 4 parts cider, but I think you’ll like it too.
Simple Citrus Cider Cocktail
- 2 oz spiced rum (I prefer Kraken)
- 2 oz orange juice
- 4 oz apple cider
- lime wedge (optional)
- Fill a tall glass halfway with ice and layer the ingredients in order, starting with the rum. Stir with a spoon, or just swish it all around in the glass depending on your desired level of effort. If you have it in you, add a twist of lime. Your call.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this first series, and are able to take some time to let yourself be lazy and enjoy the season with your loved ones. Tell me if you give this meal a try in the comments!