Stuffed Mini Pumpkins

Pile of Pumpkins!Autumn is one of the great seasons; watching the color of the leaves turn, the brisk crisp coolness in the air and the emergence of pumpkins and squash in the market.

These various squash found their way into my basket while shopping this weekend.

These various squash found their way into my basket while shopping this weekend.

Today I saw these mini pumpkins and some white pie pumpkins, so I filled my basket.

This stuffed mini pumpkin makes a great little side dish. The best part is you can fill it with a variety of things, from soup to salad or use it to hold grains or a mix of things like I did here.

When using a variety of things inside the pumpkin, remember to cut them small so you can get a bit of everything in one bite.

I think these would make a really pretty side dish on  Thanksgiving table or buffet.

To present them on a platter, think ‘patch patch’ and decorate around the pumpkins with salad greens or Brussels sprouts.

Serve stuffed mini pumpkins on a platter, think "Pumpkin Patch"

Serve stuffed mini pumpkins on a platter, think “Pumpkin Patch”

To prepare the pumpkins, cut the tops off using a sharp knife. Then gently scoop out the insides and discard.

Season the pumpkins inside with salt and pepper and a small bit of fresh butter.

Steam the pumpkins until the inside flesh is tender. Test by using a fork or tip of a paring knife.

Do not poke through the shell to test doneness, that would cause the pumpkin to leak any liquids you put inside.

Once the flesh is done, place the pumpkins upside down on a clean towel and allow them to drain for a few minutes.

Carefully fill each pumpkin with the filling. If serving warm, cover each pumpkin with tin foil and put it in an oven set at 400°F for 30 minutes or until the contents are warm.

If serving the pumpkins cool or at room temperature, chill before filling.

The filling used for these pumpkins is a filling that reflects the changes of the season. Stuffed Pumpkin

Pumpkins Stuffed Roasted Beet, Sweet Potato, Dried Cranberries with Toasted Pecans and Feta Cheese

  • 1 medium-sized beet, roasted, cut into very small cubes
  • 1 medium sweet potato, roasted, cut into very small cubes
  • 1/4 cup toasted pecan pieces
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

Keeping the vegetables separate as you cut them, roast them for about 10 minutes in a 350°F oven or until each cube is done through.

Chop the toasted nuts and dried cranberries then combine them in a bowl, add the beets and potatoes as they finish roasting. Mix together and sprinkle in the feta cheese. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. A touch in cinnamon or ginger is a very nice addition and fragrant too.

Either cool the mixture to serve cold or warm the mixture then stuff the pumpkins. Cover with the pumpkin “lid”, wrap in foil and warm in the oven.

Use spatulas to lift the cooked pumpkins because the skin gets delicate and tears easily.

Honey Peppercorn Vinaigrette

Honey Peppercorn Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon ground mixed peppercorns, use pink, white, dried green, black and Szechuan peppercorns for maximum interest
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Tablespoon shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup good quality vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients except the oil in a large bowl, whisk together. Add the oil and whisk to combine. Adjust seasonings, stir or shake just before serving.

Top the stuffed pumpkins with a bit of Honey Peppercorn Vinaigrette just before serving and add a bit to the stuffing for added moisture.

I hope you try making these stuffed mini pumpkins this season. Personally I love squashes of all kinds and look forward to  this time of year.

Happy Fall!

Plated stuffed mini pumpkin

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Roasted Tomatoes Provençal

These slow roasted Tomatoes Provençal are a wonderfully delicious way to enjoy the full ripe flavor and natural sweetness.

TomatoesI do this to use up any extra tomatoes we don’t get around to eating fresh. One week both Robert and I brought home an arm load of fantastic heirloom tomatoes from the local farmers market.

Being February when we bought them, I knew they weren’t local but they sure looked and tasted great.

Roasting Cornish Hens for dinner one evening, I decided to also roast some tomatoes.

Here’s how:

Tomatoes Provençal

  • Good quality ripe tomatoes
  • Kosher salt or French Grey Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Herbs d’ Provence
  • Olive oil
  • Pinch of sugar (Optional)

Slice the tomato in half. Slice it across the middle, rather than top to bottom, to expose all the seed pockets.

Gently press out the seeds, catching them in a wire mesh strainer.  Place the cut and seeded tomatoes in the strainer, cut side down. Allow them to drain for about an hour or so.

Reserve any juice and press out any additional juice from the seeds. Set this aside for later.

Use a shallow baking dish. Place the tomatoes cut side up into the dish. Don’t crowd them as we want them to roast and concentrate all around. If they are crowded together, only the outside edge will get thoroughly roasted.

Sprinkle salt, pepper, herbs and sugar is using over the tops of the tomatoes. If you like, you can also add garlic, I chose to leave it out this time.

Seasoned, ready to roast tomatoes

Seasoned, ready to roast tomatoes

Drizzle a light bit of olive oil over the tomatoes and roast them, uncovered, in a 350°F oven for at least an hour and one-half. Keep an eye on them as you do not want a dried up leathery tomato (good sometimes, not here).

When the tomatoes are done roasting, allow them to cool before serving. Their full flavor potential is best at room temperature or slightly above.

Here we served them along side of grilled cheese sandwiches and butternut squash soup.

Lunch!

Lunch!

Be prepared! They will go so fast so be sure to roast more than you need.

If, by chance, you have any left over, you can make great roasted tomato marinade or  roasted tomato vinaigrette or even roasted tomato soup.This afternoon, I am putting some on grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. YUM!

Typically though, you have to roast the tomatoes specifically for these dishes as there never seems to be any left over.

How To Roast a Turkey

Dear Tyler,

Roasting a good turkey takes time.

A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S....

See the pop-up timer in the bird? (the white thing)

Your first turkey!

The adventure begins.

If you use an aluminum roasting pan, put a sheet pan under it and do not lift the foil pan without the sheet pan support.

The bird:

Defrost:

See the post on 4 ways to safely thaw food.

Whenever you handle poultry products, act as if you are handling potential contaminates.

Defrost in the refrigerator: at least 5 hours per pound.

If on roasting day it is still not thawed, complete the thawing under clean running water. Again, see 4 safe methods for thawing food.

Be sure to wash your sink both before and after rinsing the bird.

Remove the bird from the wrapper. Do this in the sink because of all the juices that will be in the bag from defrosting. If your bird has a bag of giblets, neck and livers, remove it. Some use these to make a stock and gravy but I don’t.

Your Grandfather (my dad) loves the neck! He would boil it and then pick all the little slivers of meat off the tiny neck bones, savoring every morsel.

You, on the other hand, can throw them away unless you like such things.

Rinse the bird.

Pat the bird dry with paper towels.

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.

Before the oven gets hot, take a look at the shelves and adjust them so the turkey will fit in. In my oven the only rack that will fit is the bottom rack. It leaves just the right amount of space between the top heating elements and the bird.

While the oven is preheating, finish preparing the bird.

Place your aluminum roasting pan onto a sheet pan for safety. The aluminum pan is not strong enough to hold a 15-pound bird without support.

Chop carrots , celery and onions (not you, Tyler) to line the bottom of the roasting pan.

Chop your carrots and celery into chunks and place them on the bottom of the pan. If you liked onions, you would put some of those in there too. Since you don’t like them, leave them out.

Place the turkey, breast side up into the pan. Tuck the wings under the shoulders so the tips don’t burn in the long roasting process.

Gently loosen the skin and press some seasoned butter under the skin. This will help baste the bird as it roasts.

Season the skin and place some herbs, orange or citrus fruit into the cavity. Season inside the bird too. Season it with salt, pepper, your favorite spice mixture, what ever seasonings you like.

Tie the legs together and plump up the breasts.

Cover with bacon strips to baste the turkey during the initial phase of roasting. Remember the large bird will roast for several hours. After the first 2-3 hours, the bacon will be done, remove it and this becomes the “cooks treat”. Continue roasting the bird, basting every 30-40 minutes. The skin will crisp and become golden brown. If the skin starts to get too brown before the bird is done, tent it with foil.

Cover the surface of the turkey with bacon strips.

Place the supported roasting pan into the oven. Reduce the heat to 325°F. Roast until the internal temperature reads 165°F or higher in the leg or thigh. For your 15 pound bird that will take about 3 1/2 to 4 hours, maybe longer.

My 17 pound bone-in breast took 6 hours.

If the bird starts to get too brown, cover it with a tin foil tent.

When the bird is done, remove from the oven and allow the bird to rest at least 1/2 hour (covered in foil) before carving.

How do you carve a turkey? I found this video on You Tube that shows you step by step.

I didn’t have time to make a video for you, sorry.

Enjoy your Turkey! Take pictures of your first.

How odd in our culture, roasting your first turkey is some kind of right of passage.

I love cooking this meal and hope you do too.

Watch the carving video, use a sharp knife and enjoy your dinner!

Here is a tip:

Place your cutting board in a sheet pan to catch all the juices that run out while carving. Stir these juices into your gravy.

Tyler, remember, I am just a phone call away if you get stuck.

There are also many other “Turkey Hot Lines” for those  who get stuck.

If all else fails and you totally blow it, Chinese restaurants are usually open on Thanksgiving as an Emergency Back-up Unit.

Love you!

Mom