Recipes by Emily Truman | Photos by Will Marks
When temperatures start to drop and days become shorter, it can be difficult to maintain the cheery summer dispositions which seem to come so naturally from May through August. It is easy to throw a backyard barbecue or afternoon pool party when the weather’s feeling fine, but as soon as the leaves start turning color, there is a real temptation to burrow away on your sofa, wrapped up in a blanket until those April showers are over. The Valley Home team is here to convince you—winter is cozy! Winter shimmers and glistens! Winter is the perfect season to throw a party to warm up you and your guests during these long months.
How about a fête inspired by the Winter Solstice and our (somewhat intense) love of pie? A Winter Piestice party, perhaps? This is the perfect, cozy gathering to get your friends and family out of hibernation for a long winter’s night. To warm up our guests, Emily Truman of Odd Pies cooked up three different pies which paired perfectly with cold nights: apple-cheddar, tomato, and a sweet potato shepherd’s pie. All three were a huge hit, and did not require much work from the host once the celebration had begun.
We served up all of our culinary creations on flatware and serving platters mixed and matched from thrift shops and friends’ cupboards; this vintage flare really gave the party a warm, ecclectic, yet comfortable vibe.
To drink, how about some mulled wine or hot cider? Apple cider is a perfect option for those who are looking to imbibe something non-alcoholic. (Simply turn the page for our mulled wine recipe and some additional serving tips.)
Valley Home decided to decorate with a nature inspired theme by setting up plenty of candles in mismatched mason jars and other antique or thrifted votives. Just add in a couple of antlers, branches, or swags of pine to fill out empty spaces on your table. Keep this Winter Solstice celebration simple in its planning and execution, and allow the coziness of the candles and warmth of your guests to really shine through.
Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
Sauté half of a diced onion and two cloves of minced garlic. Add 1 lb. of ground beef, salt, pepper, and cook until browned. Drain and layer meat into the bottom of a casserole dish. Add layers (1 cup each) of cooked sweet peas and sweet corn. Top off with mashed sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with flaky salt, and pop into an oven preheated at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. (We stuck ours under the broiler for 3 minutes to caramelize the sweet potatoes, too.)
Place prepared pie crust into 9-inch pie shell (we prefer homemade, but you can certainly use a store bought crust). Pile 6 peeled, cored, and sliced apples mixed with 1.5 cups of aged cheddar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 3 tablespoons lemon juice into the pie shell. Cover the pie with a second prepared pie crust. Cut edges to fit and crimp with a fork. Cut slits to vent and sprinkle top with sugar. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven.
Place prepared pie crust into 9-inch pie shell (we prefer homemade, but you can certainly use a store bought crust). Layer 3 sliced heirloom tomatoes, 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, 1 cup of aged cheddar cheese, and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese into pie shell. Sprinkle the top with 2 cloves minced garlic, fresh herbs of your choice, and 1/2 cup more of aged cheddar cheese. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbling.