Wednesday, October 21, 2009

There's More to Pumpkin Than Pie!

Yesterday we talked about dinner time chat and how to build a conversation, as well as a meal, around a theme. This got me to thinking--we haven't talked about fall meals or anything pumpkin yet. Fall is my favorite season and pumpkin is one of my favorite things to cook and bake with.

There really is so much more to pumpkin than pie. Because of its bland flavor deck (a little food industry lingo there), it can be used in so many applications. And what's ultra cool, pumpkin not only shines in recipes, it is highly utilitarian. For instance, did you know you can use a cleaned-out pumpkin as a casserole dish? And did you also know that once cleaned out, it can be a terrific punch bowl? And little bitty pumpkins make neat candle holders!

This said, can't you just see what a FUN dinner you could have using pumpkin? Here's the menu:
Hamburger Rice Casserole (baked in a cleaned out pumpkin)
1 lb ground beef (cooked and fat drained off)
3 C cooked rice (brown provides the most nutrition, but use whatever you have)
1 med. onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 pkg Onion Soup Mix
1 C chicken broth
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together and spoon into a hollowed out medium-sized pumpkin. Put pumpkin lid over opening and bake for maybe 40 min. or until casserole mixture is heated through. Serves 6. Just place this pumpkin "dish" on the table and enjoy the ooohs and aaahs from family. (NOTE: If baked too long, the pumpkin will lose its ability to retain its shape, so watch it closely.)

Cranberry Spritzer (served in a pumpkin "punchbowl" with dry ice for effect)
1 2 liter bottle Ginger Ale, Sprite, or 7-Up
1/2 gal cranberry juice
Pour soda and juice into a well-cleaned largish-size pumpkin. Bring to table; drop in chunks of dry ice. The ice creates a foggy layer of mist that rises out of the pumpkin and will absolutely delight your diners.

Table Decor: Let's get all Martha Stewartish on the kids and set out some candles. Core out candle-sized holes in 3 or 5 mini pumpkins, place candles in the openings, light them and watch what an eerie effect is created by the candle light shimmering on the mist floating out of the pumpkin "punch bowl". You might complete the look with some well-placed autumn leaves amongst the candle holders.

And then back to the aforementioned idea of table conversation: Since this is such a FUN approach to family dinner hour, jokes would easily fit in. I used to get a children's joke book from the library once in awhile and read jokes to everyone while we were eating. The dopier the better--they got us laughing and sparked the comic bone in some of the kids--made up jokes were even funnier than the ones in the book!

Can't you just see what an amazing time you could have with these ideas? You'll never look at pumpkin the same again--and what a way to start a family tradition and build some memories. I'll close with a question: what are YOUR favorite pumpkin recipes? Please share, and until next time, here's to making family dinner hour possible!

1 comment:

  1. Alice, I can't email you - it always comes back. I have lots of info to share with what I'm up to and something I think you might be interested in getting involved with to share your message to a wider audience. My email is and I hope you can send me maybe an alternative email cause I have never been able to get an email to you. Talk to you soon. Deb White