The Champagne Life on a DIY Budget Since 2007

Fall Harvest Menu for a Thrifty Thanksiving

fall harvest party menu thanksgiving

Happy almost Turkey Day! As a die-hard New Englander, fall is my favorite time of year: I’m obsessed with all things plaid, fallen leaves, bonfires, football games, apple picking, squash, and pie spices. I try to make those traditions, colors, and flavors of the season last as long as humanly possible, though I do love the holidays, too: the sparkle & shine of ornaments and prettily wrapped packages; the twinkle of white lights; the joy that lights up a loved one’s face when they open a thoughtful gift. And the party dresses — oh, the party dresses!

Though we’ve posted before about our favorite way to make a Thanksgiving dinner under $75, and our top affordable Thanksgiving wines, I also wanted to share with you one of my favorite fall harvest menus — taking advantage of what’s in season and providing an alternative to traditional dishes like turkey (especially if, like me, you happen to be allergic!)

I first made this menu in early October for a fall clothing swap at my house with a bunch of my favorite Boston fashion ladies, and it was a smashing success. I’m sure you’ll have the same response — even if you only make the salted caramel fondue!

Thank you for reading Shoestring and supporting us year after year. It warms my heart in ways you can’t imagine. Gobble, gobble!!

~ Melissa


  • 2 bottles 90+ Cellars Prosecco
  • 2 cups Bully Boy vodka
  • 2 cups Mathilde Poire pear liqueur
  • 2 cups pear nectar
  • 1 liter VitaCoco coconut water
  • 2 liters soda water (made from SodaStream)
  • 1 Bartlett pear, thinly sliced

Pour vodka, pear liqueur, pear nectar, coconut water and thinly sliced pears in large decorative punchbowl (I got mine from Goodwill for $10) and stir vigorously to combine. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Just before serving, add Prosecco and soda water. Serve immediately.


  • 1 Trader Joe’s organic butternut squash soup
  • 1 Tbsps yellow curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 Macintosh apple, diced fine
  • 2 Tbsps chopped Macadamia nuts or almonds
  • 1 Tbsps butternut squash seed oil (optional)

Combine first three ingredients, whisking spices to thoroughly incorporate, in medium saucepan. Simmer on medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until heated through. Drop a healthy pinch of diced apples into bottom of each tall (3-ounce) shot glass then fill each one with hot soup. Top with pinch of chopped nuts and tiny drizzle of finishing oil. Serve immediately.


  • 3 lbs organic chicken tenders (about 20 tenders)
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbsps whole grain mustard
  • 1 Tbsp dry hot mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white wine or white balsamic vinegar

Combine all ingredients but the chicken in a glass bowl and whisk to combine. Add the chicken and coat thoroughly with marinade mixture. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, best if overnight. Grill on cast iron Lodge indoor grill on stovetop or skewer for outdoor grill. Serve immediately over salad or with quinoa.


  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 whole beets
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 small log goat cheese, about 4-6 oz
  • Cinnamon, ginger, and brown sugar to taste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup butternut squash seed oil
  • 1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Champagne Muscat vinegar

Roast beets and butternut squash according to directions (linked). Cook quinoa in vegetable broth according to directions (linked). Allow all ingredients to cool. Clean beets (according to linked directions, above) and dice beets and butternut squash (no larger than 1″ cubes). Combine beets, butternut squash, and quinoa in large glass bowl. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, cinnamon, and ginger to taste. Whisk oil and vinegar together in measuring cup then pour over vegetable/quinoa mixture, stirring to combine thoroughly. Mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight. When ready to serve, crumble goat cheese over the top, stirring gently to combine, and enjoy immediately.


  • 1 package Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel caramels, unwrapped
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 4 Macintosh apples, sliced medium-thin

Unwrap each of the Fleur de Sel caramels and place in glass bowl, making sure no tiny bits of plastic wrapping remain. Microwave caramel for 20 seconds, then remove and stir thoroughly. Add half of the low-fat milk, stir, then microwave another 20 seconds. Remove from microwave, stir thoroughly, then add remaining milk. Test, microwave another 10 seconds if needed to combine or heat through completely. (You can also use an electric fondue pot if you have one instead of the microwave.) Serve immediately with fresh cut tart apple slices.


  • 1 gallon local/organic apple cider
  • 5 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cups Calvados or brandy

Combine all ingredients in large stock or saucepan, or Dutch oven, and simmer on stovetop on low for at least one hour, up to four hours. Serve with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top (optional) or let guests serve themselves by placing mugs, additional mason jar full of cinnamon sticks, and decorative ladle on counter next to stove.

Story & recipes: Copyright 2012, Shoestring LLC.
Photos: Copyright 2012, Melissa Massello & Lei Ann Off Duty