Autumn Dinner Party: Bringing The Outside In.

I am extremely excited to advance to the third challenge of Project Food Blog! I very literally couldn't have done this without all of you so thank you for your kind comments and supporting votes. It means so much to me to share this journey with you!

“Celebrate! You've made it this far, and the next challenge is to hold a party for your friends and family. Whether you're an experienced host or an entertaining newbie, get creative and host a luxurious dinner party where your guests will discover new tastes and exotic flavors. Share your hosting secrets with readers, like how to cook for a crowd, plan a menu, or involve guests in the prep.”

Take a look outside. The days are growing shorter and cooler. The leaves are turning brilliant shades of crimson, gold and bronze. The ground is carpeted with a cacophony of colour. The air is still and quiet, but if you listen closely you can hear the distinct click of Autumn sliding into it's rightful place.

It's a season of comfort found in warm food, an old sweater, a good book or an afternoon walk. It's a time to slow down and appreciate the change that is taking place all around us. To say goodbye to Summer and hello to Winter. It's the perfect time to come together and embrace Autumn with a little dinner party.

So come on in. Let me take your coat. Could I interest you in a glass of Apple Wine or perhaps a handful of Apple Chips? Have a seat and enjoy yourself!

Tonight is all about tantalizing your senses with the tastes, smells and sights of Autumn. Become inspired by this beautiful time of year as I have and bring the outside in. Keep an open mind as we mix savoury with sweet. For starters we have a handsome bowl of slowly baked Apple Chips, crispy with a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar. Make sure to share!

Could I top off your glass of Apple Wine?

For dinner I made you a salad of fresh mixed greens tossed with sliced pears, feta cheese and toasted walnuts, dressed with a Cranberry Balsamic Vinaigrette. Next we have an Apple Cheese and Potato Cake breaded, fried then topped with Apple Roasted Chicken infused with sage and thyme and crowned with Apple Cranberry Sauce. Go ahead. Take a bite. It's as tasty as it looks.

You want seconds? Of course!

Now for dessert. My favourite part! How about a Brown Butter Tart with a toasted pecan crust? I know you're getting full, but how could you not have room for this beauty?

Don't forget your stack of Caramel Apple Surprise Cookies! I couldn't let you leave without taking a little piece of Autumn with you. It's my way of saying thank you for sharing this night with me. You can save it for later. When you have room!

Being a guest at a dinner party is pretty easy going isn't it? Normally being a host is a different story, but I can help you remove the stress so you can enjoy yourself too.

The most important factor in the success of a dinner party is time. Instead of whirling around the kitchen spitting out napkins and snacks like the Tasmanian Devil the day of the dinner, why not make it easy on yourself and do as much as possible hours, or even days, before guests arrive? Instead of battling time, utilize it to your advantage.

I specifically chose an appetizer, salad and dessert that could be made ahead of time. The Apple Chips can be prepared easily the day before, stored then crisped up again in the oven for five minutes. It's not only easy but also fills your house with the natural perfume of Autumn.

Salads are simple, adding colour and whimsy to the table. The Cranberry Balsamic Vinaigrette can be mixed up a day ahead of time, refrigerated then tossed with the fresh mixed greens.

Same thing with the Brown Butter Tarts. Why make them the day of the party when you can save time and sanity by making them the day before? It also keeps your guests guessing about dessert since they can't yet see or smell it until you reveal these lovely personal treats.

Even elements of dinner can be made in advance. The Apple Cheese and Potato Cakes should actually be started the day before to give the mashed apples and potatoes ample time to chill and thicken in the refrigerator. Then, come dinner time, all you need to do is add cheese and green onion then bread and fry them to perfection.

Another stress inducing factor to throwing a dinner party is decor. You could spend hundreds of dollars on centrepieces, flowers and candles, but why bother when many things are readily available for you in nature? And the best part is, it's free! It's all about bringing the outside in so why leave all that colour on your front lawn to waste? Take a stroll in your neighbourhood and gather the gifts of Autumn.

I like to collect a bunch of leaves to tuck between the plates and a crisp white tablecloth. The colours jump out at my guests and it's a welcome change to traditional dinner party decor. I also cut branches from one of my crab apple trees and display them simply and elegantly in a vintage vase. Open and airy so as not to hinder table conversation. The tiny apples look like cranberries. Perfect! As for candles I made my own votive candle holders out of Red Delicious apples and set them atop a runner of leaves.

I hope you enjoyed your evening with me! Autumn is a beautiful season and I'm so happy to share what it has to offer with you. It's vibrant colours, playful flavours and invigorating scents are ingrained in my mind forever as I hope they will be in yours. You're always welcome here. Come back soon! PS: I will post the recipes for these amazing dishes in the next few days so check back soon!

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