Each fall, we host a pumpkin carving party for our friends and family, because I love Halloween, all things autumn, and fall harvest food. I’ve also learned that not all adults are as willing to dress up in a costume as I am, so an actual Halloween party is more work for them, and a general “Come eat, drink, and maybe carve a pumpkin!” is more enticing.
Decorating for the party is always fun, and so is coming up with the menu. I got these wonderful Crock-Pot Hook Ups last year for Christmas, which are basically a bunch of slow cookers that you can plug in together (so you only use one outlet). They are like upgraded versions of those silver trays with little flame-heaters underneath, but you can actually cook in them throughout the day. They are pretty awesome, and helped to inspire the menu. We did minimal prep and were able to enjoy the day more this way.
Pumpkin Carving Party Buffet Menu
We had a slider bar with three different options: pepperoncini beef, ham BBQ, and meatball marina. I also made roasted brussels sprouts with chickpeas and cauliflower, cheesy potatoes, and a really incredible salad with pears, apple, and maple-bacon. No pumpkin carving party is complete without pumpkin beer, Oktoberfest, and apple-champagne punch. Add in apple-toffee dip, pumpkin cheesecake, and funfetti Halloween cupcakes, and you’ve got a festive fall smorgasbord.
I’m still stuffed…I may have ate too many leftover sliders for breakfast this morning.
Links to Recipes Used:
- Pepperoncini Beef Sandwiches – This recipe is almost deceivingly simple! I serve with provolone and horseradish sauce from the deli.
- Ham BBQ – This is a traditional Pittsburgh favorite.
- Meatball Marina – No recipe for this one. Just toss a bag of frozen meatballs in a crock pot, cover with a jar of marina, and cook on low for four hours.
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chickpeas, Cauliflower, and Almonds – I adapted this recipe by adding cauliflower to the mix, and also tossing the chickpeas in smoked paprika before adding them to the dish to be roasted.
- Apple-Pear Salad with Maple Bacon – This was one of the best salads I’ve had in awhile. The cranberry vinaigrette is awesome, too.
- Cheesy Potatoes – I’ve been using this one for a few years now, always a hit. I add lots of onion powder to the mix, and use more cheese and cream than the recipe calls for.
- Apple Punch – Instead of ginger ale, I used champagne.
- Apple Toffee Dip – My best friend made and brought this dip to the party but I found this adaptation online and made it last year. You won’t be able to stop eating this once you start.
Tips For Having Your Own Pumpkin Carving Party
- Pandora has a Halloween Party station. If you can’t get enough of Thriller and the Monster Mash, this is your go-to for Halloween party music.
- Buffets are the best for this kind of party. If you’ve got pumpkin guts on your hands, the last thing you want is to have to stop and try to eat a fancy sit-down dinner. We had guests who arrived at different times but the food stayed hot and ready. Plus, all that concentration for carving the perfect pumpkin can work up an appetite, and guests can freely go back for seconds.
- Carve outside. If you can, set up the carving outside and the food inside. Clean-up is so much easier this way!
- Newspaper and a bucket are your best friends. Lay the newspaper down to protect your table. Have guests dump their pumpkin guts in the bucket, then toss the whole thing in the garden for easy compost. Then roll the newspaper up and throw the whole thing away. Easy!
- Make a one-stop-shop drink station. Attach a bottle opener permanently to your cooler, and keep the cooler outside to help the ice last longer. Place a recycling bin nearby for easy disposal.
- Hang bistro lights. As the sun goes down, they provide just enough light for people to still carve by, and the glowing pumpkins add to the ambiance.
- Stockpile firewood. If you’re having a bonfire, don’t run out and let the fire burn down. It goes faster than you think.
- Keep your pumpkin carving kits and tools year after year. If you have the time, copy the pages from a pumpkin carving kit so you’ll never run out of templates. Keep tape, markers, and scissors handy for those who are carving. And of course, tea lights and lighters!
- Think outside of the carving box. Glitter blue, crayons, paint, and glow in the dark spray paint all make for creative, cool pumpkins without the sharp objects. Sometimes this is the better option for those who have been drinking (and/or for children).
- If you are making punch, make sure your ice ring actually FITS in the punch bowl. We used a tart pan and made apple-juice ice cubes that fit in the bowl and also kept the punch tasting fresh and not watered down. I froze apple slices for garnish. We learned this lesson the hard way last New Year’s Eve.
- Grow your own party favors. We grew daisy gourds in our garden over the summer, and harvested in fall just in time for the party. Our guests thought they were cute!
- Have you ever hosted a pumpkin carving party? Have any tips to share?
I enjoy hosting this party each year, and it was extra special for us because this weekend is also our second wedding anniversary weekend. Spending time with our friends brought back some awesome memories. I can’t wait for this tradition to continue next year.