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November 21, 2016

Sharing Bountiful Baskets | Fig Preserves & Goat Cheese | Fall Burrata Platter

This year I hosted another "Thanksgiving Basket" party with my friends, a tradition I started and shared last year.  I've added some photos from this year's party and a couple of appetizer recipes that I made from the new Barefoot Contessa cookbook, Cooking for Jeffery.  These would both be great appetizers to add to your Thanksgiving menu - both so easy and very seasonal.  And, oh my goodness, the fig preserves.  So. Good.  

Fig Preserves & Goat Cheese

Burrata Platter with Prosciutto, Arugula and Butternut Squash

About the project from last year:

Every year our Church hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for members the week before.  This year, I was asked to contribute the centerpieces for each table.  Initially, I thought - easy, I'll just grab some candles from the store, some leftover wheat bundles and call it a day.  I was sort of thinking of it as just one more thing I had to do during the launch of my Holiday product line and just before we were hosting Thanksgiving at our house...  perfect.  

Then I had a moment.  I thought, during the Holiday season I really hate "wasting" money on decorations when it could put it to better use - I wanted the centerpieces to do something besides look pretty.  

My idea was to make a big bountiful basket for each table to serve as the centerpiece, each containing all of the fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner (minus the Turkey), and each made for and donated to a family in need after the dinner was over.

These baskets were made not as handout, but as a gift that was joyfully made and given.  I wanted them to have fresh vegetables and fresh herbs, just like I buy for my own family.  The idea was to be that it wasn't just a gift of utility, but of grace and plentiful bounty, that even in struggling times, sharing and experiencing something beautiful is still important.  I wanted each family receiving these baskets to experience the joy of receiving a beautiful gift - not to be thought of as a donation.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 
The plan was for Mike and I to buy and donate all of the supplies for these 24 baskets.  I thought it would be fun to recruit some friends to help assemble the baskets - a party, maybe a little girls night with wine + snacks, to make it fun.

That's when the magic happened.  I send an email to about 15 friends from Church and our neighborhood Mom's group to invite them over for a fun night putting together Thanksgiving baskets.  Within 15 minutes, almost all had replied "Yes, and what can I bring to contribute!"  I made up a shopping list, thinking we'd still be donating a good chunk of the goods.  These women replied back in record time, donating every single item on the list.  It was amazing.

And what's more, they were glad to do it - so very happy to help.  I feel so blessed to have cultivated a group of friends with such large hearts and willing spirits.  These women take care of their own children and families all day long, work jobs, run their households, and exhaust themselves taking care of others, yet they jump at the opportunity to help and take care of someone else.  To think, I almost missed this opportunity by taking the easy way out.

The sweet Fig Preserves (I served warm) paired with tangy goat cheese on crackers or toasts - they are so, so good.  I have a new go-to favorite easy appetizer. 

The recipe from the Barefoot Contessa's book called for fresh figs for this recipe.  So, I made a point of going to the fancy market in my neighborhood that always carries them this time of year... but they were out.  So, I adapted the recipe for dried (preserved) figs... to make Fig Preserves.  Basically, you just have to reconstitute the figs in orange juice for about an hour before to plump them up.  I loved the result, but am still looking forward to trying the recipe with fresh figs... hopefully very soon.

Fig Preserves & Goat Cheese

1 - 14oz package of preserved whole Figs
1 cup of orange juice
2 teaspoons of grated orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice
3 cups of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla (or bean paste)
soft goat cheese
crackers or toasts for serving

Cut each preserved fig into 6ths - I did this with my kitchen scissors.  In a medium bowl, place the figs with 1 cup of orange juice, or as mush as it takes to cover them completely.  Let sit an hour, or until plump.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, place orange zest, 1/2 cup of orange juice, sugar and vanilla.  Bring to a simmer, stir.  Add figs.  Cook at full simmer, uncovered for 1 hour until sauce thickens like jammy syrup.

Cool slightly before serving.  I like to serve warm with cold soft goat cheese, crackers and toasted slices of baguette.

Fall Harvest Burrata Platter with Arugula, Prosciutto & Butternut

I added roasted butternut squash to this recipe since the original called for figs, and we were already having the fig preserves.  I also thought it helped to make it more of a meal.  Also, the vinaigrette recipe is my own.

Salad :
4-6 cups of Baby Arugula
1/4 pound of Prosciutto, very thin
Fresh Burrata Cheese (or Fresh Mozzarella)
Roasted Butternut Squash cubes
Toasted Baguette Slices
Vinaigrette :
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of dijon
1 teaspoon of garlic salt
1/2 cup of olive oil

Assemble platter with arugula, slices of prosciutto and butternut squash on one side.  On the other side, add cheese & baguette slices.  Drizzle vinaigrette over the cheese and salad.

Photos from last year : 

Here are some of the busy bees buzzing around filling baskets, making sure they were each beautiful. 
There may have even been some competition...

The new farmhouse table piled with potatoes and pie shells.

Mike was out of town so Emma got to join in on the Mom's night.

Here are the baskets set up at the church the next day.

Thank you to all of my dear friends that came together to make a little magic this season.  I'm so honored and blessed from your giving!


  1. Jenny,

    So beautiful and gracious. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Beautiful baskets. What a wonderful cause.

  3. Anonymous3:41 PM

    What a wonderful idea! You managed to make a beautiful centerpiece that would go to a good cause. I work at a church and will certainly keep this in mind. Where did you get the lovely baskets? I love reading these kinds of stories. Isn't it amazing that sometimes all you have to do is ask and people are more than willing to lend a hand!

    Pat in Chicago

  4. I love this!! Thanks so much for sharing!! Your inspiration really hit home and I love your idea of a basket full of gift wrapping goodies!

  5. Jenny -- I love this idea. My daughter Chloe and I donated our time on Thursdays at the First Parish church in Concord for a year when she was younger -- 12 (she's 20 now, so much younger). It was an amazing experience. So glad you're doing this and invited others to help participate! Wish I was there to contribute but will find another place nearby! Happy Holidays

  6. Anonymous7:29 PM

    This is the most loving/brilliant idea I've ever seen! Seasons blessings to you Jenny!

  7. Anonymous9:24 PM

    Beautiful idea!!! How generous too!! Very nice to have fresh things instead of canned.

  8. I'm so glad you shared this! I love this idea and how they turned out.

  9. Love everything about this!!

  10. What a wonderful story and a fabulous idea! Loved it all. And I know the families that received those baskets appreciated the contents and the beauty. :)

  11. Jenny, bless you for sharing your blog - your heart and your beautiful home bless us! Now, bless me please by telling me where you got those Windsor counter stools!!!


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