This year, we celebrated our Thankgiving island style. After thoroughly enjoying it, I thought I would share our Tropical Thanksgiving Dinner here on the blog and give the simple steps on how I prepared this holiday gathering!
I never thought I would pair the word ‘tropical’ with Thanksgiving but here we are, in 2016, ladies + gents . . .
And I’m doing just that!
Since Aaron + I weren’t spending our holiday on the east coast, as we have for our entire relationship, we decided we wanted to go the extra length to make our first tropical holiday with my mom special. At first, my idea of having a turkey dinner on the beach sounded far-fetched and more like a hassle than anything. But after some planning, refining our list of ‘essentials’ and making a day out of it: it was delightfully + beautifully simple.
Here’s how it came together:
As a family we sat down + talked about the parts of Thanksgiving that are our absolutely favorites or must haves.
The plates that made the cut? Yams, corn, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, potatoes + gravy, green beans and sure, even the turkey!
To make set up easier, we tried to think of ways to condense things down: make pumpkin pie bites instead of a whole pie, not make alllll the fixings but not compromise the meal, carve the turkey before we got there, etc.
We made a list of the ingredients, the plates we would need to hold the food + all of the supplies we would need.
➁ Curating + Foraging
Once we made the list of food, it became a matter of what all do we need for the set up? I wanted the holiday to be as equally beautiful as it was going to be tasty. I wanted to bring the full feeling of Thanksgiving to the beach.
To do so, we needed:
A dining table
Baskets to set folding table on
Table cloth + decor
Dishes to transport the food
A picnic basket to carry everything
In the spirit of embracing the tropics, I wanted to have the table reflect the simple, yet bold beauty of the islands. I went into our backyard + around the neighborhood to forage bougainvillea and monsterra leaves the morning of. Up against the simple white tablecloth, it was a bit too striking for me. So I thought – need a runner – and started brainstorming. I was initially thinking of a macramé runner but couldn’t find one on the island, so instead I opted to use my favorite beach blanket folded as the runner.
My mother is a phenomenal cook + has always made our Thanksgiving meals from scratch in our kitchen. For as long as I can remember, we’ve always had a home full of people on this holiday. This was my mom’s ‘thing’ (if you will) growing up. Whether it was her family, my father’s family, friends or acquaintances – everyone was welcome. Although, since her move to Hawai’i a few years ago, I’ve celebrated with Aaron’s family and have only been able to give her a call on the day, sending her love from afar.
So this year was special. Up at 7am, we were cooking in her kitchen, watching the parade, sampling different pieces of the meal we would soon be enjoying. The house smelled amazing. Here we were, cooking just as her mother + her did, year after year. It was nostalgic and warmed my heart. We made everything the day of, starting in the morning + finishing our last tasks around 12:30pm.
I was in charge of the yams, the pumpkin pie and had the honor of making mom’s cranberry sauce recipe. Growing up, I really didn’t like this cranberry sauce (she was so sweet + made me my own without any crunch) but a few years ago something struck me and now I’m obsessed.
Here’s her recipe:
1 bag of cranberries
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
Boil until cranberries skins start to burst
Take off heat + let cool
Pour the cranberries + sauce into a mesh strainer
Press the skins against the strainer with a spoon until all the juice is out!
Zest one medium orange + squeeze juice into cranberries
Add about 1/3 cup chopped pecans and 1/3 cup chopped celery
Stir + voila!
➃ Setting The Scene
When thinking of where to do our dinner on the beach, we chose a beach with parking close to the sand for easy unloading + loading. With this beach being a local favorite, we worried that it would be pretty busy, which it was, although we found a cove on the north end that was completely secluded + open for the taking. It was perfect!
We unloaded the table, picnic basket and food. I took my time setting up. I was just in awe that this spot was where we were blessed enough to enjoy our holiday. I kept looking out at the water, soaking it all in.
To start: we set down the baskets, then the table on top, put on the table cloth + then just started layering the decor. Everything came together really simply + then it was time to eat.
I photographed the table, poured some wine + then we dug in! We had a crockpot buffet server that easily kept the food warm. Getting everything out + serving it up was pretty easy. We were able sit + take in the gorgeous view in front of us! The sunset was unreal. . .
So there you have it – Our Tropical Thanksgiving! No, this was not just an easy-going, no fuss, no effort beach holiday. We definitely still put effort into it, put emphasis on the details + tried to make it special. But I’m still in awe about how it really wasn’t a pain in the ass. Surprisingly for some, and not so surprisingly for others, was fun and memorable. I’m so glad we made it happen!
How did you spend your holiday?
Have you been somewhere tropical before?
I would love to hear your thoughts + tips on how you switch up tradition + make the holiday your own.