Stuffed Pumpkins

stuffed pumpkins

Pumpkins are not only an ingredient, but the dish in which this meal is served.  Use sugar-pie pumpkins (not jack-o-lanterns or decorative squash).  The bonus is that this meal yields a side treat for the squirrels – toasted pumpkin seeds.   If you don’t have furry friends, you can season the seeds with salt, pepper, garlic powder and/or chili powder and serve them to your two-legged friends (do not season seeds for squirrels).

  • ¼ cup wild rice
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 sugar-pie pumpkins (about 2 ½ – 3 pounds each)
  • ½ onion
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • ½ pound smoked sausage
  • 1 small apple
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage or 1 tsp dried sage
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme or  1 tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Put wild rice in a small pot and cover with broth, bring it to a boil.  Turn down the heat to medium low and simmer mixture for about 30 minutes, or until grains begin to pop open.  In a separate pot, bring about 2 cups of water to a boil.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice across the pumpkins below the stem about ¼ of the way down to create “lids.”  Scoop the seeds and stringy contents out.  Discard stringy contents, rinse and drain seeds.  Spread the seeds in a single layer on a broiler pan, spray with non-stick spray. Rinse insides of the pumpkins and drain.  Spray the insides and outsides of the pumpkin shells with non-stick spray.  Place them cut side down on a roasting rack placed inside a 13” X 9” baking dish.  Put broiler pan with seeds on the lower rack of the preheated oven.  Put dish with pumpkin shells on the top rack.  Carefully pour about ½ inch of boiling water into the baking dish.  Slide the rack into the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

While pumpkin shells are baking, heat up the canola oil in a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Peel and chop onion, chop celery and add to sauté pan, stirring occasionally.  Dice sausage; core and chop unpeeled apple.  Add sausage, apple, cranberries, and herbs and spices to the pan.  Turn heat to medium low and stir occasionally until vegetables are soft, about another 15 minutes.

When oven timer goes off (this will occur before the stovetop mixture is done), carefully take the baking dish of pumpkin shells out of the oven (don’t spill hot water on yourself).  Give the pumpkin seeds a stir and close the oven door.

Using hot pads, transfer the pumpkin shells to a cutting board.  Remove the rack.  Drain the water out of the baking dish.  Return the rack to the baking dish.   Using a small sharp knife cut away some of the cooked pumpkin flesh from the inside of the pumpkin, leaving enough behind so that the shell can still hold its shape.  Do not remove any pumpkin from the bottom of the pumpkin shells.  Return the pumpkin shells to the rack, cut side up.

Chop the removed pumpkin and add it to the stuffing mixture in the sauté pan.  Add the wild rice (most of the broth should be absorbed) and add it to the sauté pan.  Turn up the heat, stir well, boil down remaining broth, if any and turn off the heat.  Mix in cheese.  Taste and correct seasoning.  Spoon the filling into the pumpkin shells. Put the “lids” on the pumpkins and return them to the oven for eight more minutes.  When you put the pumpkins back in the oven, give the seeds another stir to allow them to brown evenly.

Make a green salad while the pumpkins are heating up.  When the timer goes off, turn off the oven and remove stuffed pumpkins and seeds.  Using a large slotted spoon and a pot holder, transfer each pumpkin to its own plate.  Serve hot.  Makes 2 servings.

Let seeds cool and give them to the squirrels.  Or eat them yourself.

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