by Amanda Morgan - Not Just Cute
Pumpkins are one of my favorite symbols of fall. From their color to their shape, it all just makes me happy! Perhaps most of all, I love that they are just as functional as they are festive. Of course there are jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pie, but you can also use those hollow pumpkins to serve up a fun and memorable meal. Cleaned out pumpkins are ideal for holding pre-made food, such as soups or a casserole, or you can actually cook in the pumpkin shell!
Whether you're looking for a special dinner to kick off the trick-or-treating or just a special treat at the end of a full fall day, a pumpkin may be just the thing to dress it up.
Here are five festive ways to turn your gourd into a gourmet dish!
1. Soup, Stew, and Chili! Cook up your favorite fall time soup. Place it in a hollowed out pumpkin and serve it up from there! Try out this delicious (and easy!) recipe for Slow Cooker Wild Rice Soup, pictured above. You could also use smaller hollowed out pumpkins as individual soup bowls!
2. Apple Crisp! I love making this Pumpkin Apple Bake recipe in the fall, cooking it up inside the pumpkin. The children love using the apple peeler/slicer to help out. I give the apples a head start by cooking them on the stove before putting them in the pumpkin and cooking it all together. The pumpkin does soften a little bit, but holds its shape as long as you don't cook longer than 1 1/2 hours or so. Take the opportunity to talk science and compare the cooked pumpkin to the uncooked pumpkin lid!
3. Shepherd's Pie! Because Shepherd's Pie is basically cooked already, it doesn't take long just to melt the cheese on top. This helps keep your pumpkin from getting too soft. Try this tasty recipe here. (I omit chipotle chiles when cooking for the little ones.)
4. Dips! Whether you're having something sinfully savory like this one, or going the healthy route with a tasty fruit or veggie dip, you can easily put your favorite dip inside a pumpkin, place it on a platter, and serve chips, veggies, or bread all around the pumpkin.
5. I Scream! OK, a little Halloween play on words. You can use small pumpkins to hold ice cream. Serve up your favorite flavor with cookies on the side.
Whichever route tempts you most, start by thoroughly washing your pumpkin. Next, you need to cut the top off. Jack-o-lantern style is usually a little too small. Don't be afraid to cut off 1/4 to 1/3 of the pumpkin. This gives a wider opening which makes it easier to serve food. Hollow it out well, and then rinse.
Don't forget to involve your children in this fun project. Have your little ones help you hollow out your pumpkin and rinse it. Let them help make the food to go inside as well. (Read more about how cooking benefits the child's development here.) Serve them up together for something truly memorable! Enjoy a special pumpkin surprise with your little ones!