The Yellow Table Author, Anna Carl, Dishes about Dinner Parties & Gifting Homemade Granola

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Who doesn’t love a great dinner party, especially one that is stress-free? We do! And thanks to Anna Watson Carl and her self-published cookbook, The Yellow Table (now available in a new edition), we can all have glorious get-togethers. Her book is a great resource for dinner-party planning, staple seasonal recipes, wine pairings, and table-setting inspiration. Anna joined us to share a few more dinner party tips, as well as her delightful homemade granola recipe that is perfect for gifting. -Kate

Tell us about The Yellow Table and what inspired you to write your first cookbook?

The yellow table is the beloved, mustard-colored table where I grew up eating family meals as a kid. When I graduated from college, my mom passed along the table to me, and it has traveled with me to apartments in Pittsburgh, Nashville, Manhattan, and most recently, Brooklyn. This table has always been a place of love and acceptance for me – a place where meals are shared, ideas and stories are exchanged, and where everyone is welcomed.

In 2011, after years working in food (as a private chef, recipe tester/developer, and food writer), I decided to start my blog, The Yellow Table. I wanted to create a digital dinner party of sorts – a place to share my recipes and stories, and to form community both online and offline.

I started the blog with the dream of one day writing a cookbook, and I figured a blog was a good starting point. It took me 2 years of blogging until I got the courage to actually make the cookbook a reality.

Yellow Table Cookbook/eatboutique

What motivates you to do what you do in the kitchen? 

I love food. I love thinking of flavor combinations in my head, and thinking through color, texture, and presentation as well. Cooking is an extremely creative process for me. But most of all, I love feeding people. I love giving people an excuse to gather around a table and connect. That’s what motivates me most of all!

We know you love dinner parties. We do, too. What would be on your seasonal fall menu for your ideal party?

  • Crostini with whipped ricotta & thyme
  • Butternut squash soup with spiced pears
  • Farro with wild mushrooms
  • Prosciutto-stuffed pork loin with rosemary-fig butter
  • Broccoli rabe with pine nuts and golden raisins
  • Old-fashioned gingerbread with lemon curd

(Recipes for all of these dishes except the crostini are in my cookbook!)

What is the key to a successful dinner party?

Having good guests! If you invite a fun, interesting group of people, you can serve wine and take-out pizza and everyone will have a great time.

But in terms of hosting, have a game plan and prep as much as possible in advance. Ideally the host shouldn’t be in the kitchen all night – he or she should be enjoying their guests. I like planning a menu that can either be cooked in advance, like a soup or stew, or dishes that can be prepped in advance and either assembled or baked at the last minute.

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What’s a recipe from your cookbook you’d make as a food gift?

Definitely my Maple Pecan Granola! It’s my all-time favorite homemade gift to take to friends, and they all seem to love it. I also love making spiced rosemary cocktail nuts and giving people little jars of them around the holidays.

What do you eat when no one is looking? A guilty pleasure of sorts.

Chocolate chip cookies are my weakness. And banana cupcakes from Billy’s Bakery.

Please share a little tip to inspire a home cook.

When people come over to dinner at your house, they’re not looking to be impressed. They’re looking to connect, to be loved, and to spend time with YOU. A simple homemade meal is going to taste better than a fancy restaurant meal merely because it was made with love, and shared in the company of friends.

What’s one of the best homemade food gifts you’ve ever received?

I’m a sucker for homemade jam. My friend Julia recently gave me homemade peach jam she made last summer – it was divine. Also homemade bread is one of my all-time favorite gifts. Bonus points if it’s still warm.

yellowtablegranola_eatboutique

CRUNCHY MAPLE-PECAN GRANOLA

This granola is a staple in our home. The combination of sweet, salty, and crunchy is absolutely addictive. We eat it for breakfast, for snacks (sometimes with dark chocolate added in), and as an ice cream topping; it also makes a perfect hostess gift. ~Anna

Makes: 6 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking) - use gluten-free oats if you have a gluten sensitivity
  • 1 1/2 cups whole or roughly chopped pecans (or walnuts, almonds, etc.)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Coarse sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, pecans, and sunflower seeds.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, and cinnamon until smooth. Pour the maple syrup mixture over the oat mixture and stir well to combine. Divide the mixture between the 2 baking sheets, spread with a spatula, and season lightly with salt. Bake for 15 minutes, then stir the granola gently. Depending on your oven, you may want to switch the baking sheets at this point to make sure they cook evenly. Bake for another 15 minutes, then stir again. Continue baking until the granola is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Place the baking sheets on racks and let sit until the granola is crisp and completely cool.
  4. Store the granola, in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 2 weeks though it likely won’t last that long!
Photos courtesy of Eric Ryan Anderson, Nate Poekert, and Signe Birck. Recipe courtesy of Anna Watson Carl, originally appearing in The Yellow Table.

Eat Boutique was an award-winning shop and story-driven recipe site created by Maggie Battista – an author, business guide and alignment seeker. After hosting retail markets for 25,000+ guests, Maggie now supports entrepreneurs as they create values-based businesses through We Are Magic StudioFollow Maggie Battista on Instagram.

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