Thanksgiving Tips from a Major Pro

Somehow Thanksgiving is already next week, and if like me, you’re hosting, you might be approaching panic mode. Well it’s not time to totally freak out – yet! Instead of sharing a tabletop idea with you this year {because last year’s table still might be our favorite post of all time!} we decided to tap one of our favorite experts for her ultimate Save Thanksgiving Day tips: Camille Styles!

COVER IMAGE on table

Camille’s debut book, Camille Styles Entertaining is all about inspiring readers through the seasons with ideas for life’s big celebrations, as well as showing them how to infuse beauty into their daily lives through the food they make, the rooms they design and the outfits they wear. It’s packed with simple details and creative shortcuts that make everyday moments feel special (with 75 simple + seasonal recipes woven throughout.) As soon as my copy landed in the mailbox, I was immediately taking notes. I love her little creative ideas and DIYS {like keepsake what I’m thankful for cards!} that take Thanksgiving to a beautifully personal level.

I asked Camille if she’d share a few of her top tips with us. I’m thankful she didn’t disappoint!

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My husband and I have been hosting Thanksgiving for both sides of our family since the first year we got married. Though we’ve had our share of hiccups (from faulty plumbing to a fried turkey that burnt to a crisp), each year gets a little more seamless, and yes, delicious. If you’ll be taking on hosting duties this year, never fear: I’ve made all the mistakes first, so that you don’t have to. Here are my favorite ways to honor tradition, put a fresh twist on the big meal, and avoid any disasters in the process.

1. Rethink your furniture arrangement to create more space. So your 4-person kitchen table won’t fit all the friends and family you’d like to seat for the feast? Consider moving the dining table into the living room, and extending it with folding tables that you can line up end-to-end and cover with a pretty autumnal tablecloth. It’ll make the dining table the unexpected focal point of the room, plus open up all kinds of space you didn’t know you had.

2. Try out a new color palette. For this year’s table design, I’m using a palette of indigo, earthy wood, organic greens and white, in lieu of the more expected autumnal oranges and browns. Then, to create a unified design, I’ll use table linens, dishes, serving pieces and flowers that fit into those color families. Sticking within a limited palette is the quickest way to make a major visual impact while keeping the details simple!

3. Think beyond the floral centerpiece. In the fall, I love to forage for beautiful leaves and interesting berries or acorns to incorporate into a centerpiece. Pomegranates, winter squash and pears also make unexpected additions to the table and are a modern spin on the iconic image of an abundant cornucopia.

4. Include a couple of menu items that can be served at room temperature. That way, you’re not scrambling to get every single item out on the buffet at once. I’ll make an appetizer like a cheese and meat board that can sit out unattended for a couple of hours during cocktails. Sides like a brussels sprouts salad and cranberry sauce are delicious at room temperature, so you can set those out first while you slice the turkey and keep the sweet potatoes warm in the oven.

5. Don’t strive for perfection. Hosting Thanksgiving does not require Martha-like perfectionism. This is a holiday that’s about counting our blessings, so ditch the pressure, stress, and unrealistic expectations and instead embrace an attitude that puts the focus back on having fun and creating great memories with the people you care about. Remember, your guests don’t want to be impressed – they want to be welcomed into a warm and inviting atmosphere to eat delicious food and savor great conversation!

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We have so much to be thankful for, and a Thanksgiving dinner surrounded by family, friends and a bountiful feast will be the perfect way to count our blessings from the past year as we savor the present, deliciously.

And thankfully, Camille also gave us a super easy, but totally delicious appetizer idea for when that turkey inevitably needs another hour!

FIGS BLUE CHEESE AND POMEGRANATE SEEDS ON ENDIVE LEAVES

FIGS, BLUE CHEESE AND POMEGRANATE SEEDS ON ENDIVE LEAVES

From Camille: When I worked in catering, one of our most popular hors d’oeuvres was a luscious port wine–soaked cherry and blue cheese combo tucked into an endive leaf like a little boat. This is my autumnal version featuring figs and pomegranate for the most gorgeous color and a touch of exotic flavor. So many of my friends eat gluten-free diets these days, so this is a nice way to serve them a great blue cheese that doesn’t require crackers or bread. You can make these up to an hour before the party, and the hearty leaves will hold up as they sit.

INGREDIENTS
5 fresh figs, each cut into 4 wedges
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 heads Belgian endive, leaves separated (smallest leaves reserved for another
use)
2 ounces blue cheese (Stilton, Cambozola, or any creamy blue cheese), at room
temperature and crumbled
¼ cup Candied Pecans (see sidebar), finely chopped
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup honey

SERVES 8
Put the fig wedges in a small bowl and cover with the balsamic vinegar. Set aside
and let macerate for at least 30 minutes (and up to overnight, in the fridge).
To assemble, lay out the endive leaves on a platter. Use a small spoon to scoop
about ½ teaspoon of blue cheese into each leaf. Top each with a fig wedge, sprinkle
with pecans and a couple pomegranate seeds, drizzle with honey, and serve.

CANDIED PECANS
½ cup pecan halves
½ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
Kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. In a small saucepan, combine the pecans, sugar, and
1 cup water; bring to a boil, and stir continuously until the sugar dissolves. Cook over
medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the
pecans to a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar and kosher salt, then bake for 8
minutes, or until the nuts are lightly caramelized. Let cool, then serve or store in an
airtight container for up to 1 week.

PS: I’ll be co-hosting Camille’s San Francisco book signing party with Caitlin Flemming on Thursday – we do hope you’ll drop by! Details HERE.

images by buff strickland courtesy of camille styles

Three Recipes You’ve Gotta Try this Month

With Halloween already a distant memory and Thanksgiving right around the corner {leading straight into holiday cookie mania}, there’s precious little time left to flex some foodie muscle! Soon menus will have to be skewed to the common dominators of large family gatherings, so I’d get to cooking while the cooking is good! Thankfully, food blogs like my lastest discovery, Renee Kemps have me highly motivated to experiment with some new recipes before the onslaught of visitors starts!

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Soup is my ultimate fall comfort food. Light but soothing, rich in flavor but easy on the stomach – a fabulous steaming bowl of homemade soup is the perfect thing to rely on before the heavy holiday meals start up. This Roasted Tomato and Bell Pepper Soup, looks absolutely luscious, even though there’s not a drop of cream in it! Definitely know what I’m going to be whipping up this week!

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On my bucket list for this year was to learn to make homemade bread. Well – I better get to it because time is running out! This gorgeous loaf of homemade Rye, aka a petit boule is certainly motivating though. While I highly doubt my first go will turn out so beautifully, I’m going to give it a try! Who knows, maybe homemade bread will make it onto my Thanksgiving table!!

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My favorite way to prep for holiday feasting is with salads. They by no means have to be depriving. When you put a little oomph into your salad they are packed with flavor, texture and are just as satisfying as anything uber indulgent. This lentil salad with roasted beets and tomates has the warm hearty flavors that scream fall. Fresh herbs give it depth and complexity and the addition of some goat cheese makes it feel just a little decadent. It’s salads like these that’ll justify those second helpings of stuffing {and pie!} come Thanksgiving!

What about you? Do you have signature dishes you love this time of year. I’m always looking ot add to my repertoire, so I’d love to know your latest favorites!

All images via Renee Kemps.com  

Brooding Brunch: Eggplant Breakfast Hash

When somebody says brunch, bite size everything comes to mind, right? Brunch buffets are always filled with individually baked and wrapped pies, miniature muffins, cute quiches….the list goes on. While nibbling here and grazing there has its perks, the truth is by the time 1:00PM rolls around, we’re hungry again! So if you’re like us and want to skip the small bites and go right for the good stuff- especially after a night of costume parties and trick or treating- we suggest this hauntingly heartwarming Eggplant and Linguisa Hash!

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Eggplant and Linguisa Breakfast Hash

1 medium eggplant, cubed
1 orange bell pepper, big chunks
1 Linquisa link
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1 egg per person
2 tbs. olive oil
handful of parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Dice eggplant and bell pepper into half inch cubes. Sprinkle eggplant generously with salt and set aside for at least 10-15 minutes. Drain excess water from eggplant on paper towels. Heat skillet on stove and then add olive oil. Once the olive oil is hot {you’ll see it glisten}, add in the linguisa, cook until browned and put to the side in a bowl. In the same skillet, drizzle other tablespoon of olive oil, heat and add diced onions. Saute until soft and translucent and then add eggplant. Cook for 3 minutes or until soft. Then add bell pepper, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until tender. Add linguisa back into the pan. Top with a fried {or poached if you’re brave!} egg and fresh parsley.

Something about a hash, especially in a cast iron skillet, screams small town, home cooked, good livin’. It’s the ideal dish to add to the spread when treating your guests to a hearty harvest-season brunch. Serving something filling also means you can cut the time baking the cutesy, time consuming finger foods and go right to the good stuff!

We encourage you not to be frightened- go on and add in whatever is in your fridge to the mix. Sweet potato or your favorite squash would be a delicious seasonal addition. We’d also definitely add a splash of our favorite hot sauce. Remember it’s a hash- anything goes!

To get the scoop on our complete All Hallows Eve Brunch click HERE. You’ll be all set for entertaining this Halloween weekend!!

original photography for apartment 34 by Aubrie Pick