Many years ago, I worked with a woman from Jamaica, and she said she didn’t understand why we decorate with pumpkins and then throw them away, since she’s used to eating them. Up until then, I don’t think I realized that people actually ate pumpkin. I knew that people at pumpkin pie (although no one in my family did, so we never had it at Thanksgiving), but I didn’t really connect the two things. She was right though, why do we decorate with perfectly good food?
I actually did try to decorate with pumpkins when we moved into our own house 5 years ago. I was so happy to finally be able to decorate the outside of the house for the holidays. I came home from the store with mums and large pumpkin and placed them on my porch with pride. I was inside for a few minutes and then went back out to my car to get something, and I discovered that squirrels had already started eating the pumpkin. (Deer later ate the mums, too.) So much for that.
Every year since then, I’ve placed plastic pumpkins from Michaels on the porch in the fall. The squirrels can’t eat them (although they’ve tried – seriously, they have chew marks on them), and I’m not wasting food. I do usually buy a few mini pumpkins to decorate inside the house though, mainly because they’re so cute.
I was looking at the display of mini pumpkins on my fireplace mantel recently and I thought of my ex-coworker. There really isn’t much inside a mini pumpkin, so it’s like I’m wasting food by decorating with them. (I usually throw them outside at the end of the season, and the squirrels go at them with as much gusto as they did that first large pumpkin on the porch.) But could I use them in a dish? I headed to the kitchen to experiment.
Stuffed Mini Pumpkins are Perfect for Entertaining
The result of my experiments were stuffed mini pumpkins. I used forbidden black rice to make them extra spooky. (I had to look the rice up to see why it’s “forbidden,” and apparently at one point in time, only Chinese emperors were allowed to eat it.) Brown or white rice can be used, too, of course. I also used a mixture of white and orange mini pumpkins to mix things up a bit.
These stuffed mini pumpkins are perfect for Halloween parties. If you’re having a dinner party, they make a great appetizer. If you’re having more of a drinks and snacks party, you can place a mini fork in each one to make them easy to eat while mingling. These make a great appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner, too.
Stuffed Mini Pumpkins
- ½ cup black rice
- 1 cup water
- 8-10 mini pumpkins
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 medium-sized onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6-8 crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 cups baby spinach or baby kale
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds
- Fresh parsley for serving, optional
Preheat your oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly oil a baking pan.
Add the rice and water to a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 40 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all of the water.
While the rice is cooking, slice the tops off of the mini pumpkins, and hollow out the inside. Save the seeds for roasting, if you like. If they’re too tough to cut through, pop them in the oven for a few minutes to soften them.
Rub the insides of the pumpkins with 1 tablespoon of the oil and sprinkle on ½ teaspoon of sea salt along with the black pepper. Place the pumpkins on the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they are slightly tender.
Add the rest of the oil to a large pan over medium-high heat along with the minced onion and cook until the onion begins to turn translucent, about five minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms, thyme, and the rest of the salt. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the mushrooms have browned. Add the scallions and spinach or kale, and cook just until the greens have wilted.
In a large bowl, mix together the cooked rice, the vegetable mixture, and the balsamic vinegar.
Stuff the mini pumpkins with the rice mixture, and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until they are heated throughout.
Serve hot, garnished with pumpkin seeds and fresh parsley.
Other great recipes for Halloween parties include:
- Chili Roasted Pumpkin Nachos
- Autumn Apple Cider Sangria
- Vegan Cheese and Apple Tartlets
- Deviled Purple Potatoes