Stage an Outdoors-Inspired Thanksgiving Dinner
Lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith creates a gorgeous Thanksgiving dinner where pumpkins, gourds, boxwoods and delights from the edible garden take center stage.
Your meals taste their best when you use fresh, local in-season ingredients. Why not bring this inspiring idea to your Thanksgiving table by hosting a farmers’ potluck-style gathering with family and friends?
There are tons of hearty, flavorful vegetables and herbs that you can harvest straight from your garden this month, or at your local farmers' market. Some of my favorite fall seasonal fare includes:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Winter Squash
- Turnip Greens
- Brussels Sprouts
- Mustard Greens
The options are endless with these delicious, savory choices but two of my favorite recipes for serving a large crowd comes from Chef Matthew Bell, owner of South on Main restaurant, one of the top upscale southern fare bistros in Little Rock, Arkansas. Start your meal off with this healthy, refreshing salad using kale, one of the most nutrient-rich vegetables around. This Kale Waldorf Salad can be doubled or tripled to suit your needs. It’s crisp, light, slightly sweet and very filling.
For dessert, chef Bell has a surefire crowd pleaser and a delicious spin on the traditional pumpkin pie, Pumpkin S'more Jars.
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Cooking is only half the fun when planning your farmers’ potluck gathering. Aim to create a tablescape that accents and enhances your farm-to-table theme.
Look for seasonal snippets from your garden to help transform your dinner table to a bountiful banquet. Go crazy with pumpkins and gourds, and think outside the box with metallic and chalkboard paint to create interesting color themes and textures.
I used my robin’s egg-hued farmhouse table as the inspiration for this tablescape. To achieve this elegant harvest look, collect an assortment of interesting green, white and gray pumpkin varieties and pepper in a few shiny painted metallic pumpkins.
To attain this enchanted silvery effect, alternate solid metallic spray paint with dabs of sponge-painted shiny silver, gold or bronze over the pumpkin’s natural skin. Let each layer completely dry before adding the next. Anchor the overall tablescape with a scattering of miniature pumpkins brushed with chalk paint for subtle texture in shades of pale blue, green and taupe. These elegant mini pumpkins can also double as place card holders.
To give my rustic, farm table a more formal look I opted to create a boxwood topiary within pumpkins as centerpieces. I used artificial pumpkins on my tablescape, but feel free to explore transforming your garden pumpkins into live containers.
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Pumpkins can be transformed into so many decorative accents.
If you plan on serving champagne or white wine at your gathering, consider creating a pumpkin ice bucket to keep your bubbly chilled. To create this harvest-chic cooler, hollow out a creamy white Lumina pumpkin. Remove the top of the pumpkin, just as you would when making a jack-o-lantern. Scoop out the seeds and pulp and discard, and fill with ice and a bottle of your favorite beverage. Pop the top and let the bountiful spirit flow!