To sign up for Meridian’s Free Newsletter, please CLICK HERE

When I was young my mother traditionally made clam chowder in bread bowls for our Halloween dinner. It was hot, yummy and fast — which allowed us to quickly move along to the Halloween fun. One year, all those many years ago, my mother dispensed with clam chowder and made dinner in a pumpkin. It felt so magical and it was SO yummy that I found myself wanting it every year. Once I became a mother and had the chance to create fun traditions for my family, I decided we would have dinner in a pumpkin every year. It has become a HUGE family favorite. Sure, it takes a bit more time than soup, but this annual stroganoff-type casserole with a hint of sweet and squash, starts getting requested in August.

As my Halloween treat to you I would like to share my recipe for a great and festive Halloween meal. (Remember to have your family eat together around the pumpkin to make the meal even better!)

NOTE: This is called “Dinner in a Pumpkin,” but if your family wants this casserole other times of the year, just make it in a casserole dish instead of inside a pumpkin.

1 small to medium pumpkin
1 onion, chopped
1-1/2 to 2 lbs. ground beef
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 (4 oz) can sliced mushrooms, drained (optional)
1 (10-3/4 oz) can cream-of-chicken soup
1-1/2 cups cooked rice
1 (8 oz) can sliced water chestnuts, drained

Cut off the top of pumpkin and thoroughly clean out the seeds and pulp. Paint an appropriate face on the front of the pumpkin with a permanent marking pen or acrylic paint. Preheat oven to 350F (175C). In a large skillet, sauté onions and ground beef until beef is browned and onions are tender. Drain fat if necessary. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, mushrooms and soup. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cooked rice and water chestnuts. Spoon mixture into cleaned pumpkin shell. Replace pumpkin top and place pumpkin with filling on baking sheet. Bake 1 hour or until inside meat of the pumpkin is tender (test with fork). Put pumpkin on a plate. Remove pumpkin lid and serve casserole and pumpkin meat. This gives you the main dish and side dish. (Some pumpkin varieties taste sweeter than others.) Serves 6.

For more great ideas about how to strengthen your family read Nicholeen’s new book “Roles: The Secret to Family, Business, and Social Success”.