I've found myself with more free time this fall as I'm no longer a student. With more free time I've been able to enjoy the fall activities that I never found the time for whilst in college. We visited R&A Orchards in Ellijay, Fausett Farms Sunflowers, and Bradley's Pumpkin Patch in Dawsonville. I hosted a few of my friends last weekend for a pumpkin carving party. I wanted to serve snacks that could be enjoyed while carving, versus a sit-down meal.
I went to a concert the night before so didn't have much time to prep. Thankfully this menu is mostly assemblage, so I was able to get everything done before guests arrived at 12:00.
Make chocolate bark. (Can be made a few days ahead.)
Make English oat crisps.
Pick up doughnuts and fresh country bread from local bakery.
Assemble fruit & cheese platter.
Heat apple cider. Keep warm in insulated carafe.
Pop popcorn. (This is fine to serve room temperature.)
Toast bread. Sauté chard. Serve hot. (I did this after guests arrived.)
Atlanta finally had a chilly day, so to keep us warm on the screen porch I served hot spiced apple cider. (A splash of Bourbon also kept us warm.) I picked up some cider from R&A Orchards in Ellijay, GA. Before guests arrive, simmer the cider with cinnamon sticks, black pepper corns, star anise, orange peel, and cloves. Your house will smell amazing. Keep the cider warm in an insulated carafe and serve with a shot of bourbon once guests arrive.
Get the Recipe: Barefoot Contessa Hot Spiced Apple Cider
Apple Cider: R&A Orchards
Your house will smell insanely good as this simmers away.
First up I served a fruit and cheese board with grapes, fresh goat cheese with black pepper, fig preserves, and English oat crisps. I made the oat crisps the night before and stored them at room temperature. Ina's recipe is made in the food processor. I don't have a food processor large enough to accommodate all the dough, so after grinding the oats and butter in two batches, I stirred in the water and baking soda with a fork. I ended up needing to add a little extra water (about a tablespoon) to reach the right consistency. These crackers are lightly sweet and were delicious with the black pepper goat cheese. Ina also has a recipe for homemade fig preserves, but I opted for store bought preserves to save time. I lined the board with some leaves from one of our hydrangea bushes. I love how everything looks against the green background.
My mom taught me that if your serving dish is too big, add something inside to take up space. For example, if a salad bowl is too big, add a smaller upside-down bowl underneath the salad to take up space. I didn't have the right size bowl for the fig preserves so I added a plastic tupperware lid to the bottom, so the preserves reached the top.
Get the Recipe: Barefoot Contessa English Oat Crackers
Bruschetta with sautéed chard was the one dish that I was unsure about. I figured if it didn't turn out we had enough other snacks that it wouldn't matter. I should never have doubted Ina, as this was delicious. Rainbow chard is sautéed in olive oil and finished with a drizzle of lemon juice and parmesan cheese. My bakery recommended I use boule which was an excellent suggestion. I lightly toasted slices of fresh boule in the oven, then topped with the chard. I halved the recipe which was perfect for 6 people. We ended up adding goat cheese from the fruit and cheese board to the bruschetta which was incredible.
Get the Recipe: Barefoot Contessa Bruschettas with Sauteed Chard
Popcorn is usually a safe bet for a crowd-pleasing snack. I served microwave popcorn in apple baskets. Like an idiot, I completely burned one batch of the popcorn (smoke pouring out of the microwave kind of burn) which dissipated the aforementioned delicious apple cider smell. Sigh... at least we carved the pumpkins outside.
For another no-cook nibble I served Sicilian herb-marinated olives from the Whole Foods olive bar. Olives are one of my favorite snacks and we usually keep them on hand.
For something sweet, I picked up cinnamon apple cider doughnuts. They were delicious, especially with the apple cider.
For an extra sweet snack, I served some leftover French chocolate bark.
Check out last week's post to get the recipe.
Get the Look:
As far as set up goes, a pumpkin carving party is simple. You'll need pumpkin carving tools (i.e., kitchen knives), newspapers to catch any mess, and of course, pumpkins. We picked these up from Bradley's Pumpkin Patch in Dawsonville. Set out some trashcans for the pumpkin guts and some large spoons to scrape the insides and you're ready to carve.
I'm not confident when it comes to floral arrangements. I usually stick to one type of flower but decided to try my hand at an autumnal arrangement with flowers I picked up from Trader Joe's. While it's not perfect, I'm pleased with how it turned out. (Any floral arranging tips would be appreciated - ha!)
Thanks for reading!