When hosting a big party or get together like Thanksgiving dinner, we always like to have a pre-made cocktail on hand when guests arrive. This does a few things: 1) helps get everyone situated and makes them feel welcome — 2) eliminates us from having to be bartender the entire evening — 3) sets the mood that we are here to have a good time.
For a fall cocktail, the first place we turn to is the beautiful marriage of whiskey and apple cider. We have made and tweaked this recipe a number of times over the years and finally feel like we have the blend just right. Whiskey, apple cider, lemon juice and champagne combine to make the perfect chilled whiskey cocktail. It’s a little sweet from the cider, sparkling from the champagne, and has a nice twist of lemon to make it refreshing. Make a big batch to have on hand this Thanksgiving or for any other fall event- it’s a hit even with whiskey haters.
1 bottle of chilled champagne- choose a dry variety so the drink isn’t too sweet
cinnamon sticks for garnish- optional
Make the cocktail by combining all of the ingredients in a large beverage dispenser. Give it a good stir so that the flavors combine. If you want to make this ahead of time, combine all of the ingredients except for the champagne. Add that just before serving so that the drink keeps some carbonation.
We know how fun it is to entertain, but also how stressful it can be if we are unprepared for the night. After a lot of practice, we have come up with a few solid check points to help us stay organized and ready-to-go by the time guests are knocking on the door! For each party that we blog about, we will highlight each of these steps and how they helped achieve the final look for our event.
PICK A THEME
Picking a theme for an event helps us to get started with everything from the menu, to decor and tablescape ideas, and even entertainment. We are not suggesting that every party be a Halloween costume party, but having a theme or concept will help you stay on track and have a clean looking event. Some ideas are a wine tasting party, fall foods, or “on the grill”.
CHOOSE A MENU
We have a few suggestions about getting the menu started, as this is often one of the more challenging parts of entertaining!
Choose a variety of dishes that can be kept warm in the oven or served chilled/room temperature, and only one dish that needs to be made at the last second, if any. This helps prevent the kitchen from looking like it is on fire as people are arriving and lets us enjoy being guests at our own party.
Have an appetizer that is ready to go before your guests arrive. We love any version of a meat and cheese board. It’s visually enticing and will encourage our guests to drift away from the kitchen if we need a little extra prep time.
Let your guests help! We hate coming empty handed to someone else’s home, and if a guest offers to help, we let them. Don’t be afraid to tell them the theme of the party or what you had in mind for the menu.
When in doubt, go back to the theme. If we are struggling to make a menu cohesive, we will go back to the theme and try to start all of our ideas from there.
In our dream world we would have a full set of dishware and tableware for every party we want to plan. In real life, we use these tools to help make our events special without breaking the bank in the process.
Have one neutral set of dish ware and placemats that can be used in any season or for virtually any type of event. This checks a giant box off our list and allows us to put more time and effort into other areas of decorating.
Flowers and candles to step up the sophistication. These two things will always help your event look clean and well put together.
A few unique touches. Go back to your theme and menu to find some creative ways to decorate. Hurricanes filled with lemons and oranges make a great table runner for brunch; a bowl of seasonal vegetables and fruit can be a great centerpiece, and empty wine bottles filled with flowers can line a table for a festive nighttime event.
Thanksgiving is one of our absolute favorite days of the year. Our Nana has hosted Thanksgiving for as long as we can remember and is the ultimate hostess. Everything from the table settings and place cards to the delicious meal is expertly thought out and memorable. We were inspired by her attention to detail when creating this year’s look for our Thanksgiving table setting.
When starting to create a scheme for your table, it’s important to narrow your scope and limit the design elements. It is easy to go overboard with a theme for any holiday, Thanksgiving included. Our inspiration for this year’s table came from new place settings that Tate’s mom purchased this year – rustic placemats and napkins that can easily be matched with our china to make the table feel dressed up for the holiday. We continued the rustic chic theme and added natural looking table decorations- faux pumpkins and squash in hurricanes, cinnamon scented pinecones for the table, and an arrangement of flowers purchased at the grocery store. As a whole, this look is very clean, simple, and cost effective. It is a great example that less is always more when it comes to decorating. One of the best things about using hurricanes and vases for flowers is that they can be easily lifted and removed to bring food to the table. It will make it that much easier to be a host that can enjoy the party.
Expert Tip: set your table at least a day in advance (flowers excluded). There is no reason to wait until the last minute to do this and can save you a lot of time the day of.
In setting out to create our Thanksgiving menu for Tuck & Tate, we really tried to think about all of our favorite memories and moments from our past Thanksgivings. We took into consideration rules our Nana has instilled over the years like “there is NO kale at the Thanksgiving table” and “mashed potatoes should never be healthy”. We know that everyone has a favorite dish, and we hope we can contribute some new ideas to your table this year! We will be posting a new recipe from the menu below every day leading up to Thanksgiving.
If you are like us this time of the year, you are entertaining more in a week than you have in the last three months. With family in town, every meal starts to feel like its own holiday! While we normally make this recipe for our Break the Fast dinner on Yom Kippur, we thought we would share it with you now because it’s great when you need breakfast for a crowd.
What we love about this Green Chile Egg Bake is how versatile it is. You can opt to make this dish the morning you want to serve it or make it the night before depending on your schedule. We add green chiles because we like to add green chiles to just about anything, but the base of the recipe can be used for nearly any flavor profile. For example, sub out the chiles for feta cheese, kalamata olives, and sun dried tomatoes and now you have a Greek version. Add sausage to make it an even heartier entree. There are so many things you can do with this recipe- we can’t wait to see where you go with it!
Green Chile Egg Bake Makes: 8-10 servings Prep Time: 15 minutes Bake Time: 70 minutes Total Time: 90 minutes
2 cups 2% milk
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
12 oz cream cheese (you can use a less-fat option if you want)
2 cups shredded cheese- match the cheese to the flavor profile you pick for the dish! We used shredded cheddar and pepper jack
8 oz – green chiles
fresh parsley for garnish, chopped (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk to blend. Add the milk, salt and pepper. Whisk well to combine.
Peel the challah crust away from the top and bottom of the challah. Discard the crust and tear the challah into large flat pieces. Layer the pieces into the baking dish.
Add the chiles to the top of the challah, spreading evenly throughout. Use a knife to cut the cream cheese into small pieces and do the same, layering on top of the chiles around the baking dish. There’s no need to go crazy over how evenly you distribute- it all bakes and blends together!
Sprinkle half of the cheese on top of the green chiles and cream cheese.
Pour the egg mixture over top of the challah. Give the entire dish a firm press so that the challah absorbs the liquid of the milk and eggs. Add the remaining cheese to the top of the egg mixture.
Spray a piece of foil with cooking spray.* Place on top of the egg bake and bake in the oven for 60 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the egg mixture is baked through in the center.
Remove from the oven and let sit for at least 5 minutes before slicing.
* At this point, you can refrigerate the egg bake and bake the next morning if it works with your schedule better. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking and add an extra 10 minutes to your bake time.
Every year we host a Friendsgiving party. It is truly a day that we look forward to year round as a chance to get all of our friends together for good food and (a lot of) drinks. We hosted our Friendsgiving on November 3rd and due to the timing with Halloween decided to add a theme: Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. This really took things to a new level and we have already decided that all Friendsgiving parties should have a theme involved.
We centered our decoration and menu around combining the best of what Day of the Dead and Thanksgiving have to offer. We wanted the decor to have bright colors and feel sophisticated but fun and celebratory of Dia de los Muertos. To achieve this, we used bright blue linens and used a mix of colorful plates and napkins. We specifically chose not to put the plates or napkins in any specific order, instead to have a blend of colors throughout the entire table. Centerpieces were comprised of skulls that we painted in our Fall Party and skull candles. As a fun party favor, we had shirts printed that sat on each chair.
One of the best parts of hosting a Friendsgiving party is that you can ask all of your friends to help contribute and bring a dish. We wanted the menu to be traditional Thanksgiving foods with a Mexican twist. Luckily we have friends that are in for a themed party, so they were happy to play along.
With so many people bringing dishes, we don’t have linked recipes for everything on the menu. Hopefully this will serve to help inspire your party menu if you have any version of a Friendsgiving or a Day of the Dead party in the future.
Appetizers: Mini Burritos, Day of the Dead Hummus and Skeleton 7 Layer Dip
Side Dishes: Enchilada Mac and Cheese, Mexican Street Corn, Sweet Potatoes with Black Bean Salsa
Cocktail: Classic Margarita
Four Tips for Throwing A Great Friendsgiving
1. For those looking to host a Friendsgiving party and don’t know how to broach people contributing with food or alcohol, we send out a spreadsheet (Google sheet) to our guests once they RSVP that they are coming. It helps people see what our ideas are and gets them excited to come and contribute.
2. If you are having a sit down dinner, make place cards. This way you can mix up different groups of friends so everyone mingles. Your friends that know each other well will have plenty of time to chat during the rest of the party.
3. Limit the amount of menu items that you take on as the host(s). Decorating, planning, and taking care of your party space is a lot to handle! Don’t feel like you need to contribute the bulk of the food as well. We always cook the entree but try to limit ourselves otherwise so that we can enjoy the day. If everyone contributes, there will always be plenty of food.
4. Put water and wine on the tables before you sit down for dinner. This prevents people from constantly getting up while you are trying to have a nice dinner and makes sure you aren’t playing waiter/waitress the entire evening.