Harvest Dinner Party

As I continue to adjust to being unemployed and am waiting to have a baby to take care of, I find myself getting a little…well, bored. I’ve painted all the rooms that needed painted and accomplished lots of projects around the house since June and have run out of things to fill my time. I did start a part time job in retail, which is great during the holidays but I’m only working like 15-20 hours a week and that still leaves plenty of time to be bored, especially when Eric is traveling as much as he has been this Fall, I don’t even have anyone to cook for! I decided to remedy my situation by making something for myself to do and throwing my first large dinner party.

I decided to theme it with the harvest/Fall and wanted to host enough people to put all the leaves in my table (I have 4). I ended up with a menu consisting of 3 courses and a guest list of 12 people! The menu itself came easily to me, a few new items and a few sure things combined to create the ultimate Harvest Dinner Party. Here’s my menu, along with live links to the recipes used:

Cocktails: Great Pumpkin Stout

The Montparnasse

First Course: Butternut Squash Soup

Second Course/Main Event: Maple-Brined Pork Roast with Apples and Onions

Honey Glazed Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Raisins

Potato Gratin with Leeks

Third Course/Dessert: Chocolate Pecan Pie (recipe from the Tupelo Honey Cafe Cookbook)

Sweet Potato Pudding (recipe from the Tupelo Honey Cafe Cookbook)

I think I can safely say that each one of these dishes was a hit and I was very proud to serve each one. My favorite of the night is a tie between the brussels sprouts (which is the only dish that came back completely empty) and the chocolate pecan pie. It was my first time making both of these recipes and they were both outstanding, not to mention easy. I was able to make the brussels sprouts while my guests were talking to me and having cocktails in the kitchen and the chocolate pecan pie was a cinch and came out so delicious. It might be my new favorite fall pie.

Here are a few photos one of my guests was able to capture for me while the evening progressed (Thanks Mike!).

My table set and ready for food, the mismatched chairs remind me of Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving, though the table was not a ping pong table.

Cocktail hour in full swing.

Action shot of brussels sprouts and butternut squash soup.

Pork being sliced. The apples and onions combined with a maple syrup glaze gave incredible flavor to this roast. I will be making this again, it was simple and so delicious.

A sweet finish to a great evening, made even more sweet with homemade vanilla bourbon whipped cream.

I wanted my harvest dinner to reflect the flavors of the season without using any Thanksgiving “staples” as a part of the menu. I think it was a success! I can’t wait until our next dinner party, I’m going to need to start writing down ideas!

Are you all getting ready for Thanksgiving? Are you making the big feast or bringing a dish to share? Any suggestions you can share to make the day successful? Mine is, make as much the day before as possible, even prepping ingredients and get that table set so you don’t have to worry about anything like that as you’re putting everything together and visiting with guests.

Lastly, I’m hosting Bean Chat for Gevalia Coffee this Thursday from 10am-11am. I’ll be discussing some food related topics on from their Facebook page. I’d love to see you over there so go to Gevalia’s FB page and “like” them, then on Thursday click on Bean Chat between 10am and 11am or join via Twitter chat. See you there!

Red, Blue and Pink

Yesterday was election day, I hope everyone exercised their right to vote! I for one, am not very political but I always vote and I’m always happy when campaign commercials and mail come to a halt. Yesterday was also a big day in our household, not because of our political views but because while everyone else was watching polling coverage, Eric and I were at the doctors office watching a much more important broadcast that looked like this:

Yes, you’re looking at a tiny human that will be making its big debut into the world somewhere around March 26, 2013. Oh, and to state the obvious, I’m pregnant!

Yesterday, marked the halfway point in this pregnancy and we finally got to see this little person that has taken up residence in me since July.  It’s gets better, following our appointment, we send out this photo to friends and family:

We have a daughter! I can hardly believe it. Now we get to start thinking about our little family and all the fun things that our future holds. So, while the whole country was seeing red and blue yesterday, we were seeing only pink.

Now, for the details. You may remember my post of yore discussing our struggles with having children. After choosing to end our infertility treatments, Eric and I entered a very dark phase of our lives. We were both depressed and grieving the loss of the dream we had for so long of our family. I was hopped up on synthetic hormones and my body was not my own. I felt out of control, overweight and useless. But, we plowed through and grew closer as we focused on adoption and the plan that God had for our lives. We both started to come out of this funk in the Spring and I also began seeing an acupuncturist, along with working out a lot and trying to get back to where we were pre-infertility. We began to enjoy the time we spent together more and were both feeling optimistic about our futures individually and as a family. We made the decision to begin adoption this Fall with a timeline of at least 2 years until we had our child. We were moving forward and feeling good. We put having children, the old fashioned way, behind us.

And then, as life does, we got thrown a curve ball and I lost my job. Even though it was unexpected, we took it as a opportunity for me to pursue a new passion, food. I looked into culinary school and was planning a short jaunt in NYC studying pastry arts. The week that we had planned to go to NYC to tour the school, I found out I was pregnant! Talk about the biggest curve of all.

Eric and I were stunned for about 3 days straight. We had been given this amazing gift but at the same time, we had already put this dream to bed. We were both a bundle of emotions and rode a roller coaster for a week or so after finding out this news. As anyone who starts a family can attest to, the moment it becomes reality is joyful and terrifying all at the same time. Suddenly, you have a new consideration, an important consideration and your choices become so much more meaningful.

Eric and I made the tough choice to postpone culinary school for me. The timeline of classes would have taken me well into my third trimester and although Eric wanted to make it happen for me, I was nervous about being able to handle all that work on my feet and living alone for those months in NYC. I’m happy to focus on being a mom for now and continue to blog about my kitchen adventures. (I can’t wait to make my own baby food!)

When people ask me how this happened, after all we’ve been through, I tell them it was God. Thats the only way. He chose to give us a blessing, though we don’t deserve it. But we will try to be the best parents we can be. We have no idea if we will ever be able to have more children but we are still hoping to adopt, we just may have to wait a few years now.

That’s the pregnancy saga so far. Now, I’m 20 weeks along and feeling great! The baby is “perfect” to use the words of the ultrasound tech from yesterday (a big relief) and now I’m wondering what she’ll look like, will she have red hair like her mom or a high squeaky voice? We can’t wait to find out! I also can’t wait to decorate the nursery! Don’t worry, I’ll share all the details with you guys.

But enough about me, how was your election day? Is everyone OK after hurricane Sandy? I love to know how you’re doing!