When you think Thanksgiving, you probably think of tradition, autumnal colors, Pilgrim-themed décor, and, of course, turkey and mashed potatoes.

But Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be traditional, especially in Florida, where November temperatures often spike above 80 degrees and that white powder underfoot is sand, not snow. So why not turn tradition on its head and host a tropical Thanksgiving on the beach with nary a turkey or mashed potato in sight?

Set up a pretty but sturdy folding table and chairs in the sand and topped the table with linens and dishware in vivid coastal colors. A coral tablecloth, turquoise accent pieces and colorful, mismatched plates established a bright, casual tone, and those sunny hues made everything, including the food pop, especially against the neutral backdrop of the sand. An easy-to-carry orchid basket, a ceramic pineapple and capiz-shell napkin rings added the finishing touches.


How about a tropical twist on a typical Thanksgiving menu?

It must be relatively simple to make and could be easily transported from home. A tradition juicy ham, but you you can add tropical flair with citrus-avocado salsa.

You can serve an assortment of colorful sides and salads, including jicama salad, root vegetable hash with sage brown butter and shredded hearts of palm, and an arugula salad packed with roasted beets, oranges, feta cheese, cranberries and a chile-coconut vinaigrette.

Top that with a Captain Morgan rum reduction and cherry garnish... And a fruit spritzer with show stopping floral ice cubes quenched everyone’s thirst. (A tip: Sangria would be lovely to serve, too).

And a pineapple-upside-down carrot cake rounded out the meal!

The Menu

Grilled, glazed ham with citrus-avocado salsa.

Jicama salad.

Arugula salad with roasted beets, mandarin orange segments, feta cheese, sun-dried cranberries and a chile-coconut vinaigrette, topped with toasted coconut.

Cornbread with a Captain Morgan rum reduction and cherry garnish.

Pineapple upside-down carrot cake.

Fruit spritzer with floral ice cubes.


Recipe: Carrot Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Makes 18 mini-cakes or 1 large cake

¼ cup unsalted butter

¼ cup corn syrup

1 cup brown sugar

1 ½ cups white sugar

1 ½ cups canola oil

4 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups shredded fresh carrots

1 pineapple, peeled, cored

and sliced into thin rings

Maraschino cherries, for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Melt ¼ cup butter, ¼ cup corn syrup and 1 cup brown sugar together; portion 2 tablespoons of mixture into the bottoms of 18 greased and floured ramekins. Top with pineapple rings and place maraschino cherries in the center of each pineapple slice.

In a large bowl, mix together sugar, oil and eggs. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Combine the wet and dry ingredients in one bowl, then add shredded carrots and vanilla extract, stirring to combine. Portion cake mixture into ramekins and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each ramekin comes out clean. If you prefer to make one large cake, adjust baking time to 45-50 minutes, checking frequently until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Nice Ice

For a fancy, but fuss-free touch, make custom ice cubes.

Simply fill up an ice cube tray, drop in slices of fresh fruit, edible flower petals or herbs, and freeze. The result is a beautiful drink accessory that will also keep you cool and hydrated on the beach.


Shore Tips for Success

Check the weather forecast, as it tends to change by the hour in Florida. Have a back-up plan for rain, and be sure to pack some sweaters and cuddly throws in case the temperature drops or the wind picks up just as you hit the beach.

We’re blessed with a number of very different beaches and great access and parking to most of them. Do your homework and choose a beach that offers what you want, whether it’s grand seclusion or playground and restroom facilities.

It’s worth walking a little farther from the parking area so you can set up where you’re not likely to get lots of people sitting near you or walking through your meal.

Try to balance traditional and tropical in your menu, so it still feels like Thanksgiving or Christmas or Hanukkah, if that’s what you choose to celebrate.

You want food that holds up well and is easily portable. That means nothing too delicate or cream-based. If kids are attending, bring extra snacks, like peanut butter crackers or fruit. And make sure to keep a basket filled with hand sanitizing wipes, sunscreen, bug spray and an empty trash bag nearby.

Have fun with your décor. Use colors and objects that reference the seaside setting, and leave your precious and breakable holiday china at home. You can find tropical-themed tableware and accessories in local shops; natural items, from starfish and shells to driftwood, add authenticity and warmth.

Whether you’re going full tilt or keeping it simple, the most important thing is to have fun and appreciate the time with your loved ones. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about, after all! And who wouldn’t be thankful for a sunset and sea view as you’re breaking bread around the Thanksgiving table?


Credit to Sarasota Magazine Website.

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