Every October, when I fix Dinner-in-a-Pumpkin for my family, I think about the first time I ever made it.
About fifteen years ago, I was a member of a women's group that met once a month for dinner, crafts and conversation. I was serving on the food committee and one of our members threw out the idea of serving Dinner-in-a-Pumpkin for the month of October. My responsibility was to find women who would volunteer to cook the dish in their homes, provided I supply the recipe and the pumpkins.
Several ladies came forward to help, but one woman, in particular, stands out in my mind. Gayla. Read on and you will understand.
Gayla told me she'd be happy to help, so I delivered the pumpkin, along with the recipe, to her home and left them with her teenage daughter. Later that evening, I received a phone call from Gayla informing me that the pumpkin was "just too big" (each pumpkin was 5 lbs). So, humoring her, I said I would be happy to come by the next day and exchange pumpkins. She said she would not be home, but she would leave the (apparently humongous) pumpkin on her doorstep for me to swap with a smaller one.
The next day, the phone rang and it was Gayla on the other end, letting me know that the pumpkin was the "wrong type" and she refused to make the dish in it. (Bare in mind that the other lady volunteers had the same size and type of pumpkins and were OKAY with it.)
Time was running out. The event was that very night and clearly I was getting nowhere with Gayla. However, she was doing a terrific job of getting out of her assignment as well as making me feel like sh*t.
Exasperated, I told Gayla that I would cook her pumpkin. I mean, why not? I was already cooking one. Surely I could squeeze another pumpkin in my oven (insert eye roll here)?! Gayla didn't hang up before reminding me, one more time, that the dinner was not going to taste good using the "wrong type" of pumpkin.
That evening, Sharon, a dear friend of mine who also served on the food committee and had lent a listening ear when I needed to vent, informed/warned me that Gayla had arrived. We were surprised she had the audacity to show up, but surprised isn't the word I'd use to describe how we felt when Gayla was the first one in line for food! I. Kid. You. Not.
Anyway, with that memory shared, here is my Dinner-in-a-Pumpkin recipe...
1 and 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1/4 c. chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 tea. salt
Cook together until celery and onion are tender.
1 (5 lb) pumpkin
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 TBS. brown sugar
1 (4 oz.) can sliced mushrooms, drained
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
2 cups hot cooked rice
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 10 inch circle in center of baking sheet. Set aside.
Prepare pumpkin by removing seeds and pulp.
Combine ground beef mixture, soy sauce, mushrooms, soups and rice in pan or large bowl. Spoon into pumpkin. Replace top of pumpkin and bake on prepared baking sheet.
Check pumpkin after 1 hour. Continue baking until pumpkin is tender when pierced with fork.
When serving, dish out pumpkin with the casserole.
Recipe will feed 6-8 people