Gather your closest guy and gal pals and raise a toast to your communal bond. 

Written and styled by Morgan Stephanian, Photos by Ashley Kriegel 

My mother taught me throughout my life that close friendships do not always come easily and are worth fighting for. Our family tradition for Thanksgiving centers around a meal together, during which each person shares what they are thankful for from the past year. This year, I plan to invite a few dear friends to sit around my table, enjoy some delicious fall favorites and reflect and be thankful for our shared time together. Here’s some go-to inspiration if you choose to host a “friendsgiving” of your own.

Get a Good Conversation Going 

At large events, small talk and making introductions is inevitable. I truly enjoy meeting new people, but my heart is so full after an evening spent with close friends. An intimate dinner party can be a good setting to take the time to reminisce and share with friends what they mean to you. It’s all about being intentional.

Simplified: Pick up a set of conversation cards and hide one under each plate before guests arrive. Once everyone is seated, ask each guest to find their card and share their answer once they have one ready.

Next level: Before everyone arrives, jot down a memory or something about each guest you are thankful for. Start the meal with a toast and share what you prepared. Perhaps it will lead to others sharing too.

The Menu

rosemary apple bourbon cocktail

butternut squash soup

bacon-wrapped pork loin over greens

sweet-potato-and-parsnip mash

yeast rolls

pumpkin-spice cupcakes

Rosemary Apple Bourbon Cocktail

Serves eight

Rosemary-apple syrup ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary

1 Honeycrisp or Gala apple, peeled and sliced into wedges

Cocktail ingredients:

1 cup rosemary-apple syrup

1 cup bourbon

Sparkling water (optional)

Crushed ice

Apple slices for garnish


  1. To make the rosemary-apple syrup, stir sugar and water in a pot on the stove over medium heat.
  2. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, remove the mixture from heat and add the rosemary sprigs and half of the apple slices. Let it steep for 20 minutes.
  3. Strain the mixture and let the syrup cool.
  4. To make the cocktail, combine the syrup, bourbon and an optional dash of sparkling water over crushed ice. Garnish it with an apple slice.
Butternut Squash Soup

Serves eight


5 cups butternut squash, cubed

2 cups carrots, sliced

1 medium apple, peeled and cubed

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried dill

5 cups chicken broth

Juice of half a lemon

Optional garnish: Greek yogurt, chili sauce, pumpkin seeds


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the first eight ingredients on a sheet pan and roast for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  2. Combine the roasted veggies, chicken broth and lemon juice into a pot and blend with an immersion blender, or blend in batches using a traditional blender. Once the mixture is smooth, let it simmer for 30 minutes, garnish and serve.
Pumpkin-spice Cupcakes

Serves 18 to 24

Ingredients for cake:

1 box yellow cake mix

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice

1 cup water

1/2 can pumpkin puree

3 eggs

Ingredients for pumpkin frosting:

1 stick butter, softened

1/2 cup coconut oil

4 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 can pumpkin puree

Cinnamon, for garnish


  1. Combine all the ingredients for the cupcakes, mix well, then distribute the mixture into cupcake liners and bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick comes out of the center clean, approximately 18 to 22 minutes.
  2. While the cupcakes are cooling, combine all the ingredients for the frosting and mix until smooth and fully incorporated.
  3. Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, frost them and garnish with a very light dusting of cinnamon.

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