Dinner in a Pumpkin
In my last post, I alluded to our pumpkin tradition. Here is a big part of the story.
When we lived in the little town of Moorpark, the bishop of our ward was a gentle giant of a man from Idaho. He and his family were just plain good people. The ward was full of wonderful, "just plain good people."
One Sunday I happened to be talking to the youngest daughter in the bishop's family. She was a bit anxious for church to be over, not because she didn't want to be there, but because she was excited to go home to eat her very favorite lunch!
The reason for her enthusiasm - a scrumptious, available-only-in-the-autumn, meal they called Dinner in a Pumpkin. With a review like she gave, I HAD to have that recipe. The bishop's wife was genuinely happy to share it with me, and I am equally as happy to be able to share it with you.
The Woody family has enjoyed Dinner in a Pumpkin at least once each fall for quite a few years now, for as long as the girls can remember, I'm sure. We've already had it once this year, and it's still sugar pumpkin season so we may get to make it again! We didn't take pictures this year, so I'm going to share the recipe with pictures from a few years ago (2004). THAT year, we documented the whole process because it was the first time that the girls really got involved in the tradition.
Step 1: Get one large (9-12" diameter), or two to three small (5-6" diameter) sugar pumpkins. These are NOT the same as the ones you carve to make jack-o-lanterns. They're sometimes called pie pumpkins. If your produce manager is inexperienced, they may just be labeled "small" pumpkins. We usually use two of the small ones, and depending on their size, there is usually a bit of filling left over. (More on this in a later step.)
Step 2: Cut a lid on the pumpkin(s), as though you were going to carve a jack-o-lantern.
Ask your charming assistant to hold the pumpkin which is waiting its turn to be, um, prepared. It will make both you AND the pumpkin feel better. :o)
Step 3: Scoop out the "pumpkin guts" so that it is as clean and smooth as possible inside.
Be sure to save the lid(s) to be used later during baking, AND the seeds.
You can toast those in the oven with a little salt later! They add a nice crunch if you sprinkle a few on a salad or a bowl of pumpkin soup.)
Step 4: Chop, dice, or slice 1 1/2 cups celery, 1 cup white onion, (we actually use onion powder instead)and 1 cup mushrooms. You could also add bell peppers, if you were so inclined, which our family is not!
Step 5: Inspect your pumpkins, inside and out, to make sure there are no remaining seeds or "strings."
Step 6: Saute the celery, mushrooms, and onions in a small amount of olive oil.
Step 7: Add 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of ground beef (or turkey, which we prefer) to the veggie mix and cook until browned.
Step 8: While you are browning the meat, cook 2 cups of rice.
Step 9: When the meat is nicely browned, add 1 can of cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup.
Step 10: Add the following ingredients to the meat mixture: cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups low-sodium soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. (Optional ingredients can be added now as well: 1/2 cup chopped olives, 1/4-1/2 cup raisins, 1 tsp. oregano, and/or 1 tablespoon chili powder.)
Step 11: "Stuff" the pumpkin(s) with the meat, veggie, and rice mixture.
Keep filling... you'll make it!
Step 12: Replace the lid(s). (Put them on tightly... NOT askew like they are in the picture.) If the pumpkin(s) won't fit into the oven with the lid(s) on, cover the top with alumium foil instead, to help keep the juices in. Place in a baking dish or on a cookie sheet (unless you really enjoy cleaning ovens!). If you had leftover meat mixture, you can put it in a casserole dish, cover, and bake it along with the pumpkins.
Step 13: Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. It may take a little longer if you use one big pumpkin. Just check for doneness of the pumpkin using a toothpick or fork. It should be soft, but not mushy.
Step 14: To serve, remove the lid(s) and slice into wedges (like a pie). You can either eat the meat mixture along with the pumpkin, or scrape it off to one side, butter the pumpkin like squash, and eat it separately. Jelly and Doodle prefer theirs separate, because they prefer that someone else takes the "skin" off the pumpkin.
Step 15: ENJOY!
Try this. It's more than a recipe, it's a family adventure.
You may just find yourselves with a new autumn tradition.