A day at the lake, surrounded with mellow colors and autumn's musky scent, reminds us that Thanksgiving is the harvest's fulfillment.

Cracked Caramel-Pumpkin Pie
Credit: Photo: Tina Cornett

Celebrate Thanksgiving with us in easygoing fashion, without fuss and fancy. It is a day to enjoy good food, good friends, and the good earth. What better place than a lake retreat to savor the fabulous fall foliage and an unforgettable meal. In our plan to simplify, we have selected a streamlined menu brimming with seasonal produce. Plan ahead with our Pack for the Lake timetable to make the occasion a holiday for the host too.

It's the best Thanksgiving ever. We resolve to slow down, breathe deeply, and savor the holidays to come--and to count our blessings the way we counted ripples in the water.

Thanksgiving Harvest Menu:
(serves 8)

Pack for the Lake timetable

In the cooler
Apple-Rosemary Roasted Turkey
Southern Rice Dressing
Acorn Squash-Thyme Soup
Cracked Caramel-Pumpkin Pie
Squash shells (baked)
1/4 cup butter
1 large onion
1 pound brussels sprouts
1 cup whipping cream

For the dinner box
Rustic breads
1 (12-ounce) party pumpernickel bread loaf
1 (16-ounce) can whole-berry
cranberry sauce (optional)
1/3 cup sugar
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1 cup pecan pieces
Candy thermometer
Handheld electric mixer
Recipes for Acorn Squash-Thyme Soup, Caramelized Onion-and-Pecan Brussels Sprouts, and Cracked Caramel-Pumpkin Pie

3 to 4 days ahead
Bake dressing; cool and chill.
Thaw turkey in refrigerator,
if necessary.
Prepare soup according to directions; process in blender, and chill. Seal squash shells in plastic bags, and chill. (Do not heat soup or brown cut sides of shells.)

1 day ahead
Bake turkey; prepare gravy. Remove apple, onion, and rosemary from cavity. Chill turkey and gravy.
Prepare and bake pie. (Do not add topping.) Cover and chill.
Slice onion and brussels sprouts for Caramelized Onion-and-Pecan Brussels Sprouts; seal in separate plastic bags, and chill.

2 hours before serving
Pour topping over pie; let stand at room temperature 2 hours.

1 hour, 15 minutes before serving
Remove dressing from refrigerator; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.
Bake, covered, at 350° for 45 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Arrange tablescape

35 minutes before serving
Remove turkey from refrigerator, and slice.
Prepare Caramelized Onion-and-Pecan Brussels Sprouts.
Reheat soup, and brown baked squash shells.
Reheat gravy.

Before serving dessert
Tap hard sugar topping on pie with back of spoon to crack.
Prepare whipped cream.