Another year, another "FriendsGiving", If you are just joining us for the first time during the holidays, know that this is our second go around with "FriendsGiving", our full process and reason behind it is available on our FRIENDSGIVING '16 POST [CLICK HERE].
After getting a little more confident with cooking side dishes and the turkey, I have to say my boyfriend and I executed a much better planning system this year. Our schedules are crazy, so prepping the backyard, finalizing decor and seating was crucial to get done EARLY!
Like the previous year, I had guests RSVP by a week prior to our Thursday dinner. I had created another Facebook event to enter in everyone's potluck style dish and or wine option. By the week RSVP, everyone had pretty much decided on a dish and others that had crazy schedules opted for wine.
I learned last year that IT'S OK if everyone DOESN'T bring a dish, but opted for WINE. I can't begin to tell you the amount of left overs from last year! Because cooking for the exact number of people is hard and no one wants to cook less of what is needed. This year for food I added "TO GO" boxes. I bought a whole bunch from the dollar store (yes the dollar store), adorable disposable foil "To Go" boxes a la' restaurant style. Lastly I added serving trays with sternos and had the food served outside on a serving table and extra space was needed so we put the rest of the food on the bar when it was time for dinner. Keep your oven on at 200-250 'F just incase anyone needs to reheat their food from the drive over!
The seating situation was next on our list. Last year we had 14 guests (including us) and this year 18. Now four more doesn't seem like a lot, but providing comfort four our guests (plus we had many people over 6ft) is key in making it all that more enjoyable. I wanted to get another chance at decorating my boyfriend's handmade barn table (I love that table so much), but being the virgo that I am, I struggled to find a way to make the second table coincide. Then my boyfriend had a "Chip Gaines" moment with some spare wood and made me a wood table top. Problem solved and my OCD went to rest.
After deciding on the table situation, we cleaned up/ trimmed up the yard a bit to make sure everything was pristine after some heavy duty rain ( oh, Miami). We began on Sunday afternoon and by Monday evening my boyfriend was cueing lights. We've always had our bistro lights, but this year he added some special up lighting to the trees and bonfire area for a little extra somethin'. While he was doing that on Monday evening I had collected all the decor and supplies needed by that point. By the evening I was organizing my grocery lists, making an assembly line of decor and noting where each item would go.
The first decorative thing I got out of the way that night was the folding of the napkins and the labels- O.MG. that sh*t took forever..hence why I did it early. This year I didn't do seating arrangements because there was already two tables and new couples joining us, so I only reserved two seats for my boyfriend and I and tied the rest of the napkins with "Give Thanks".
Another change up was our plates. Man oh man, the dollar store!!! I was going in there for our "To Go" boxes and found these milk white ceramic plates. Originally I had these clear glass party plates, but I much preferred the contrast of the white against the wood and craft paper. So when I saw these plates, I went nuts! I bought 20 just incase, $20 bucks WELL SPENT!
The decor was rustic and wholesome with a sprinkle of refinement (as a whole). I love the universal uses of mason jars. They were our drinking glasses and it's look is effortless. The gourds were, again, bought in late September from Trader Joe's. The key is (if you live in Miami) to keep them indoors and only take them out for whatever event/decor you need them for but soon after the party is done, bring them in. I'm all about recycling and super paranoid if things going out of stalk. So I always buy early. We also brought back the "I Am Thankful For" table activity that was added to the craft paper tale runner. I always love reading the sweet and funny comments.
Cooking and Food Prep Tips [applied this year]:
If you are hosting, whether Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving, it's usually assumed you are making the turkey. Don't wait till the last minute to buy the turkey either. You need it to thaw out completely. Sometimes it takes two days to thaw in the fridge. If you find your bird still frozen run a COLD water bath and let it sit in there, then once thawed place back in the fridge until it's time for prep.
If you happen to buy the bird with only two days till cooking, do the water bath ASAP! They say it takes 30 minutes per pound in the COLD water bath then place in the fridge until it is time to prep.
Cooking the sides is all about saving time. Always buy your ingredients for cooking a day or two before, because there is nothing worse than cramming all those errands into one day! "Mice En Place" (everything in it's place as they say in the culinary world). Pull and Prep the dishes you will use. Chop anything that can be chopped prior to cooking. Clean as you go. Your sanity will thank you!
This year Friendsgiving was on a Thursday. You can prep/ season/ butter your Turkey as early as Tuesday, no later than Wednesday Morning. Then later on Wednesday I cooked my two sides (sweet potato souffle' [click here for recipe] & Autumn Carrots[recipe post to follow]), baked the cake, poached the berries, figs n pears in a mulled red wine [click here for recipe] lastly made the cream-cheese frosting last. I cleared the dishwasher to have it ready for post festivities and the rest of the kitchen.
So what's next? The day of, I popped that 24 pound (butterball) Turkey in at 11:00 AM at 325 degrees, to have done by 6p.m., to then REST - LET THAT BIRD REST BEFORE CUTTING. I could just hear Gordon Ramsey yell at me if I did otherwise.
Every hour and a half I basted that turkey. Following my mother's footsteps; I had pre-bought freshly squeezed orange juice and XL Aunt Jemima's maple syrup. Yes, those two ingredients will give your turkey LIFE!!! So I pour some juice, then drizzle a nice layer of maple syrup, every hour and a half. The last 45 min to an hour, I take the foil off to brown the outside layer and BAM! My mother's southern influence has just landed in this yummy wonderful goodness.
Let's now take it back a few hours, while your Turkey is going, it is time to dress your tables, take care of any cleaning, sweeping, vacuuming, candle/tea light check etc. that you can do.
This year, I loved that my boyfriend and I started our prep much earlier despite our work schedules. The difference from last year is that we weren't as tired during the party and got to enjoy it that much more when the evening came.
As always, Murphy's law is a bitch and something can always go wrong. This year nothing happened to the party because of our over planning, instead I ATE THE FLOOR NASTY!!! I naturally walk fast--- SLOW DOWN next time will be my note for next year. I legit ATE the floor when I was crossing over from the porch to the food table to put some serving utensils next to the trays. Why does everything slow down when you are about to fall? I was able to say and think a million things in my mind as I went DOOOWWWWNNNN. I fortunately landed on all fours stopping myself from breaking my veneers and nose. A unified GASP swept across the floor! Like a scene in a movie, even a solo shout of " OMG ARE YOU OK?" came from a guest. I thought one of two things, 1) if I crawl away will people notice, can I melt into the floor? 2) I really hope there isn't rip down my @ss cause I haven't even had a second sip of my beer yet and I don't know if I can come back from that. Then my friend Jennifer rushes over with "ooooooooohhhh not the money maker" (my face) and then I lost it laughing and my boyfriend came to the rescue with my beer in hand. LMFAO!!! Some scraped knees and bruises to follow. It could have been much much worse, glad it was me versus a guest- QUE PENA!!!
BELOW ENJOY THE PHOTOS OF THE EVENING. May they help you , inspire you to enjoy making the most out of your next Friendsgiving|Thanksgiving.
From our FRAMILY to YOURS, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!
This year's Menu:
The picture above was the moment everything was set and had 15 minutes to spare till our guests arrived! Sigh of relief! Music was set to "Friendsgiving" on pandora, highly recommend it.
I hope you all enjoyed this year's Friendsgiving. Some things new, some things the same, but always the same thought of being eternally grateful to our friends, family and each other...