The BEST Apple Cider Ever!

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I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with apple cider. I love the seasonal aspect of it but the flavor usually disappoints. It’s frequently way too cloyingly sweet. Not this recipe. I swear! It’s delicious, smells great, and is a delightful mix of sweet and tart flavors. Also it’s the perfect drink to make when you (or a friend) have a cold or a scratchy throat. I serve it at Fall and winter parties during cold/flu season. It’s just the ticket when you know some loyal friend has dragged herself to your house for a function when you know she’d rather be home! Offer this up and she’ll be grateful and comfy. This recipe is based on a recipe from my good friend Carol. She taught me this in college many years ago.

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Today I had 25 ladies over for a garden walk, so I served the cider in this punch bowl. I used a Crate and Barrel glass bowl, clear cider cups and a METAL ladle. The metal ladle is key because the cider will be hot and pouring it SLOWLY over it will minimize the chance that the hot liquid will crack the bowl. I then took a fall garland from Michaels and made a wreath around the punch bowl. Lastly I plugged in a strand a white light for fun fall ambience.

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Here are the two darling cakes one hostess brought. They’re from Whole Foods and we’re delicious. The white mummy was a white cake and the orange monster was chocolate. They were 5 inches in diameter but easily served all the 25 guests.

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Apple 🍎Cider Recipe:

Ingredients:

-I gallon old fashioned apple cider

-One orange 🍊,sliced crosswise into 5-6 slices 

-30 whole cloves

-2 whole cinnamon sticks

-Canned pineapple 🍍juice, 36 ounces (4 1/2 cups) (I use a 6-pack of canned Dole pineapple juice)

-Fresh orange 🍊juice, 2 cups

-Lemon 🍋juice (3-4 cups) (I use bottled “Real lemon” brand juice)

Steps:

  1. Take a large pot and pour the cider into it.  Save the container for step 9 below.

  2. Stud each slice of orange 🍊with 5-6 whole cloves.

  3. Float the orange slices in the cider.  Add the cinnamon sticks.

  4. Add the pineapple 🍍, orange 🍊and 3 cups of the lemon 🍋juices.

  5. Over a medium heat bring the mixture to a soft boil.

  6. Summer for 20 minutes on low.

  7. Taste the cider.  It should be a nice mixture of sweet and tart flavors.  If it’s too sweet add another cup of the lemon 🍋juice.

  8. Enjoy!

  9. Once the party is over,  take the cooled leftover liquid and pour it back into gallon container that the cider was in originally, using a funnel.  Then if you want to enjoy it again, just pour yourself a cup in a mug and microwave it until hot! Yum!🍎🍊🍍🍋🍁

How to Have a Fall Party (Part 3)

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The party was a big success! Here is a closeup of the food island. In the foreground are salami bites which were easy, delicious and successfully prepared the day before the party. In addition you can see that to add interest to the display I took several Amazon boxes and placed them on the island. I purchased a piece of dark brown cotton from Hobby Lobby that I draped over the boxes. These served as platforms for the various foods. I plugged in a strand of white lights and placed two hurricanes on an angle as well.

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For the flowers I took a soup tureen and made a grid over the opening with Scotch magic clear tape. Then I cut a Costco bunch of mums all at the same height and popped them into the grid. To fill in the edges I cut some hydrangea leaves from my yard and to finish it off I added some yellow goldenrod flower sprigs (also from my yard). I added the tureen’s decorative lid to the island display as well.

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One appetizer that was particularly well-received was this plate of deviled eggs. I put a small bud vase filled with orange zinnias and tied with raffia in the center of that platform.

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These ginger cookies were displayed in an orange pumpkin bowl. They were my favorite. Several guests have already requested the recipe.

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This yellow and red cherry tomato bruschetta was a big hit. I displayed it on an old pumpkin platter from William Sonoma.

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These bacon wrapped dates were delicious. I whiffed on an “after photo”, but they were great! Chewy, salty and sweet. Perfection! I displayed them in this Nora Fleming divided piece with a candy corn “charm” attached to the corner.

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For a fun fall touch I put some candy corn in an old pewter dish.

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Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves!

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The last item was a fun fleur de lis sugar cookie. It was decorated with pink sugar (my favorite color) and it comes with a story. Since the party was to celebrate the kicking off of my new blog I thought I should harken back to my “Dr. Julie” roots. Well when I was in private practice this fleur de lis symbol was my logo. I love French food, style and decor, so it was a natural choice.

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To all my faithful blog readers thank you from my heart for taking the time to read my blog. Your comments mean so much to me. I love knowing that some of my musings resonate with you. Happy Fall parties to all of you🍁🎃🍂!

How to Have a Fall Party (Part 2)

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Okay now that you’ve sent out your invitations, it’s time to make some more checklists.

About two weeks before:

  1. Make a menu. In my case I’m serving appetizers, drinks and desserts. The key is to either order the food or choose items that can be made at least one day ahead of the party with minimal additional effort on the party day. Consider frozen appetizers from Trader Joe’s as an option. Any baking should happen now and the items should be securely wrapped and frozen or stored in a cool place.

  2. Line up any help for the party now. Consider nieces, nephews, young neighbors as options.

  3. Make up a detailed grocery list for all the menu related items. Don’t forget paper plates and napkins if appropriate. Also candles and tea lights if needed.

  4. Clean any candle holders, hurricanes, platters you’ll be using.

  5. Label the serving pieces with the name of the dish.

  6. Iron any tablecloths and linens.

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About one week before the event:

  1. Text any non-responders to get an accurate guest count.

  2. Come up with a music playlist.

  3. Do a preliminary grocery shop for all the non-perishables, beverages and ingredients for items that will be frozen.

  4. Prepare any dishes that can be frozen.

  5. Clean the house thoroughly. This will leave you with just a quick cleaning of the common areas the day of the event.

  6. Move any furniture and set out extra seating if needed.

  7. Determine where the food and drink will be served. For my party’s the food will be served on my island. I’ll need a tablecloth and a flower arrangement or two. I’m going to set out candles and maybe white fairy lights so I’ll have to locate those.

  8. Locate bottle openers, cork screws, and serving pieces.

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Two to three days before the party:

  1. Stock the bar. Party planners say that you can get five glasses of wine out of a typical 750 ml. wine bottle. Guests typically drink two drinks in the first hour and one drink per hour subsequently.

    As for ice get one and a half pounds of ice per person. This will allow for pre-cooling of beverages in coolers or buckets as well as for ice added to any beverages.

  2. Put out candles. Put up any decorations.

  3. Specify a place for coats. It’s fine to use a bed for this purpose.

  4. Finish grocery shopping.

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One to two days before the party:

  1. Buy and make or arrange for delivery of floral arrangements.

  2. Set tables.

  3. Finish as much cooking, prepping as you can.

  4. Make a detailed timeline for cooking any of the food. Put post-it notes on each tray of food with the cooking temperature and cooking time.

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Day of the Big Event:

  1. Buy ice.

  2. Pick up any last minute items from the grocery.

  3. Check all bathrooms for supplies and toilet paper.

  4. Straighten up common areas.

  5. Get dressed for the party.

  6. Put wine, beer and soft drinks into ice buckets, or nearby refrigerator one hour before the first guests arrive.

  7. Put out any non-perishable items one hour before the event.

  8. Finish cooking any appetizers to be ready for the first guests.

  9. Light the candles and start the playlist 15 minutes before showtime.

  10. Enjoy!!! Happy Fall party 🍂🍁🎃!

How to Have a Fall Party

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Fall is almost officially upon us as the first day is this Monday, September 23 (which is also my younger son’s 29th birthday!). This also represents just passing the three month mark since the inception of my new blog. Thus my web designer and I decided a celebration was in order.

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Well I don’t know about you but setting the date for a party is a great incentive to get decorating projects finished. So once we picked the date, I went on line and purchased cute invitations. (Another option would be an evite or electronic invitation.) The invitations were brown with a fall arrangement so that will be how I’ll coordinate the food area.

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I’m a big seasonal decorator. I have collected stuff for years and have a great storage room where I keep everything. It’s arranged by seasons so I just go through the boxes and pick out the various items each year.

I focus on the great room, kitchen, dining room, and powder room. These are all the common areas where guests will be at any party.

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Just about everything is silk or artificial so it all lasts forever. If anything gets dusty I quickly run it under the tap and let it dry. Above is an old log crate with silk mums. And on the end table are great yellow silk begonias (from the Chalet) and an artificial pumpkin.

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On my great room ottoman I display three glass cylinders of hydrangeas that I bought several years ago at Pottery Barn. To these I added several silk sunflowers from Michaels. The love seat pillow is from Pottery Barn last year.

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The pumpkin pillows are from Pottery Barn. They’re 20 x 20 inches and have removable down pillow inserts. So several times per year I change the covers to coordinate with the season.

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I fill the kitchen canisters with candy corn from the grocery store and pumpkins and pine cones from Michaels or Homegoods.

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I put silk garlands of fall leaves and apples above my kitchen cabinets. These are available every year at Michaels and some years at Homegoods.

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I made this cool fall arrangement several years ago when I saw this same grouping at an art fair. I snapped a photo and luckily was able to locate all the flowers in the “real” arrangement. So now every year from mid-September until Black Friday this pot sits by my fireplace. You never know where you’ll get decor inspiration. So I recommend that any time you see a cool idea, take a photo with your phone to make it easier to replicate.

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Lastly I popped more garlands and a ceramic pumpkin on my great room bookshelves. So by setting a party date I was happily forced into getting all my fall decor in place.

In tomorrow’s blog I’ll tell you what’s next on my pre-party agenda. It’s a busy next few days…

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Here’s my back door wreath. Happy Fall 🍂🍁🎃!

Fall Lamb Dinner

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This week we had good friends over for a fun fall meal with rack of lamb as the main course.

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Mr GQ made the lamb and we served it on this great pumpkin platter (old from William Sonoma). This is an excellent entree for a dinner party as it can be assembled way before the guests arrive and then popped in the oven 30 minutes before you want to eat.

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For an appetizer I made these easy and tasty one ingredient cheese appetizers. I made them the day before the dinner and kept them under a glass dome until the guests arrived.

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For a side I made the Barefoot Contessa’s orzo with roasted vegetables. I made it the morning of the dinner and I finished it with cheese, basil and scallions right before serving.

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In addition I served roasted Roma tomatoes. I roasted the tomatoes for two hours right before dinner.

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For the table I used a tan cloth as the under layer. Over that I placed a yellow, green and blue harvest pattern cloth on an angle for visual interest. I then layered dark brown rattan placemats (from Amazon). The cream plates are from William Sonoma. The napkins are deep olive green from Amazon and the wine glasses are from Crate and Barrel (old). The yellow roses are in a Waterford biscuit jar.

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The meal was delicious and the company was terrific! I love dinners by candlelight especially in the fall when the evenings come sooner. Happy early fall!.