Party Planning This Fall Made Easy With This Apple Harvest Party

by Diana Ennen

Holiday cooking and party planning just got easier with this Apple Harvest Party. From great food to party decor tips, we provide all you need to have a fabulous fall party.

Autumn, to me is the most glorious season of the year. I am charmed by the hint of crispness that I feel in the evening air, not quite cold but not sticky hot either, and best of all this is when the apples come rolling in at my local farmers market.

To me, apples are the best and possibly the most versatile fruits on the planet. And, I love that they have a varied and sordid history — from Eden to Snow White (they’ve been through a lot!) So naturally I channel all this apple-love into a fun apple harvest dinner party.

I want to have fun at the party and not be exhausted from cooking and prepping all day so my plan is to keep everything simple. I’d like to have dinner on the deck, so I decide to keep the party to 8 guests total including my husband and me. Next, I make sure that my party space is ready for guests. I make a list of the things that need to refreshed after my summer dinner parties like: buy more citronella fuel for my torches, get a few more votives for the table, sweep the deck and give the cushions a fluff.

I want to include apples in my table décor, of course, but I want it to be simple and fresh. I choose the theme of “fresh from the orchard” and I decide to create centerpieces using paper lunch sacks filled with apples. I roll the sides of the bags to various heights and tie ribbon belts around the sacks for a punch of color. I add tags with sayings including “tasty” & “juicy” to the ribbon for a little fun. These centerpieces will also be great take-home gifts for my friends. I’ll be sure to slip my favorite apple pie recipe into the bags before they leave so they’ll have inspiration for using their apples at home.

Because I’m obsessed with decorative papers, I create apple-themed place cards and menus for my party. These cute little cards are available on my website if you’d like to use them for your party too. Decor tip: slipping the place cards into the tongs of the fork at each place setting adds a little extra dimension to the tablescape and is a great way to display them.

Now for the good stuff – the food! I always have drinks and tasty bites ready to go 10 – 15 minutes before party time. These little lifesavers are great for those early bird arrivals and keep us all happy until the last guests arrive. I decide to make little apple, ham & brie stacks. These remind me of little croque monsieurs – without the bread. Yum! They are great because they can be prepared in advance and then served at room temperature. I think I’ll slide mine on to little skewers to make them even easier to munch. Perfect little no-fuss bites. I think sparkling apple cider and apple martinis are just right with these. Cocktail tip: I recommend using a cocktail mixer when making apple martinis – these shortcuts make “tending the bar” a snap!

For dinner, I want to start with a small salad of mixed greens combined with sliced apples and topped with candied walnuts (which I buy pre-candied in the nut aisle at my local grocery store) and a shaving or two of Parmesan cheese. Bleu cheese crumbles would be a delicious alternative to the parm, if you prefer. Drizzle just a touch of olive oil and apple cider vinegar and voila! Salad is served.

For the entrée, I am craving ham slowly roasted in apple cider with an apple-honey-mustard glaze. Now remember, I said I don’t want to cook all day, so I’m going to rely on my slow-cooker (also known as a crock-pot). This is my favorite entertaining secret weapon. I get all the benefits of a slow cooked meal without having to hover over the stove for hours. To accompany the ham, I’ll make cheesy cheddar grits and apple-cabbage slaw. These will be easy to prepare shortly before guests arrive.

But, how to end this meal, that’s the hardest decision. I love apple pie and I’m sorely tempted to go that route but the siren call of apple-cider donuts is too much for me to resist – plus I can set up stations so that all of us can participate in making them which will be a lot of fun for all of us and create some great memories. What more could an apple-crazed gal like me ask for?

Here are a few of the recipes to try:

(Download both recipes here)

Rustic Ham with Apple-Honey-Mustard Glaze

1 fully cooked ham, 3 – 5 pounds, be sure it will fit in your slow cooker
4 cups apple cider, or enough to cover (apple juice may be used if cider isn’t available)
12 whole cloves

2 cups apple cider
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ cup honey
½ teaspoon or a pinch of ground cloves

1 – Roughly score ham with a knife and randomly stud with whole cloves.

2 – Place ham in slow cooker and pour apple cider over ham to cover.

3 – Cook on low for 8 hours.

4 – During last 20 minutes of cooking preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare glaze. In a small bowl, combine cider, mustard, honey and ground cloves.

5 – Place ham into a roasting pan and brush glaze over top of ham.

6 – Bake for 30 minutes or until ham is browned. Remove from oven and allow to rest on cutting board for 30 minutes. Note: Leaving the ham in the pan will encourage more cooking and not help the ham cool down.

7 – Slice and serve!

Apple Cider Donuts:

2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup apple cider
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups Bisquick
canola oil

1. In a bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add in 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon of nutmeg, combine well. Next, add apple cider, buttermilk, egg, egg yolk and vanilla, mix thoroughly, scraping sides of bowl to be sure batter is well blended. Finally, stir in bisquick.

2. In a shallow bowl or pie plate, combine 1 cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of nutmeg. Set this aside to coat hot donuts after frying.

3. Flour your hands and your countertop and lightly roll dough to a 1/2-inch thickness. Try not to work the dough too much – you don’t want it to become tough. Use either a 2-1/2-inch doughnut cutter or 2 graduated sizes of glasses. Dip cutter or glasses into flour between cuts to keep cutting easy. Reshape dough and cut again. Roll remaining dough into small donut “holes.”

4. Fill a large frying pan ¾ of the way full with oil. Heat over medium heat. Place donuts into hot oil – be careful not to crowd the pan. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes or until golden brown. Gently flip the donut and cook another 2 – 3 minutes. Remove donuts from oil with a slotted spoon or tongs. Drain on paper towels.

5. Immediately dip hot donuts into sugar, cinnamon & nutmeg mix.

6. Repeat with remaining donuts and “holes.”

7. If not eating immediately, allow donuts and holes to cool on cooling rack. Store in sealed Ziploc bag in refrigerator. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Looking for more festive holiday party ideas this holiday season, stop by Jennifer’s blog or her website Jennifer Carroll Designs today.

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Jennifer Carroll is a southern wedding, party and lifestyle expert. Her company Jennifer Carroll Events, LLC designs events all over the U.S. She is currently writing a book on entertaining at home and has launched a line of stylish note card sets for baby, Christmas and everyday.

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