12 Ways to Serve Your Thanksgiving Feast in a Pumpkin
Enhance Your Table Presentation by Serving in a Pumpkin Shell
As the autumn days get shorter, the air turns crisp and the leaves begin changing color while beginning their fall, as the trees go into winter hibernation. Corn stalks, bales of hay, scarecrows, and pumpkins are being placed around homes for decorations both inside and out to welcome in the beginning of autumn with Halloween celebrations.
Pumpkins are plentiful during the autumn months of the year, as the fall is when the they are harvested from the fields. They are being carved to decorate for the Halloween holiday season and to celebrate the bountiful harvest as we prepare for the coming winter months. What many people don't realize is that pumpkins are good to use for things besides Jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pie.
Pumpkins are one of the healthiest foods we have going at this time of the year, and their shells can make a gorgeous show-stopping presentation at any holiday feast when stuffed with other food and served from the holiday table.
12 Thanksgiving Dishes to Serve in a Pumpkin Shell
Pumpkin shells can be used to serve any number of food creations for a stunning table presentation. You are only limited by your imagination. Below is a list of just 12 of the many autumn food ideas that can be served from a hollowed out pumpkin and other winter squash shells.
- Baked brie
- Mashed potatoes
- Roasted fall vegetables
- Baked seasonal fruit and nut desserts
- Pumpkin ice cream
- Bottled beer ice bucket
- Punch bowl
How to Use Real Pumpkin Serving Bowls
For autumn and halloween dinner parties or a Thanksgiving feast, it makes a gorgeous presentation when a main course is served in a real pumpkin as a serving bowl. The dish can then be eaten along with the pumpkin if you wish. If a loved one's birthday happens to fall during an autumn month, then by all means try pumpkin for their birthday!
The type of pumpkins you will want to buy are the "small sugar pumpkins" or the "pie--baking pumpkins."
Buy a large pumpkin to use for soups and stews, and buy smaller pumpkins for side dishes and desserts. The smaller ones can also be used as individual serving bowls. Buy enough for each guest attending your dinner to have their own pumpkin bowl.
How do you prepare pumpkin serving bowls?
There are several ways pumpkin bowls can be prepared; it all depends on how you want to use them.
Pumpkins can be washed, scraped clean of seeds, and used raw, or they can be baked with or without being filled. If using raw, after cleaning out the seeds and fibrous membranes, rub mineral oil (it's food safe) all over the shell. The oil shines them up making them look clean, pretty, and shiny. Notice the pumpkin lid in the photo above.
Pumpkins can serve the dip or the chips—large ones for the chips and small ones to serve cheese dip, guacamole, or salsa.
You can also twist a wreath out of bittersweet vine to act as a decorative base for the bowl.
Pumpkin Cheese Dip
This is an incredibly easy and delicious fall recipe. When I first made it, I didn't have any ricotta cheese. So I used 4% fat small curd cottage cheese, and I added a little grated whole milk mozzarella. I wouldn't try it with a low fat milk mozzarella though, as it won't melt right.
I also substituted Spike—I love Spike, and you can find it at local health food stores—for the salt and added dry hand rubbed sage that I had grown in my garden that summer. Both ways are delish. My way was a creamier, cheesier version.
- 2 small sugar pumpkins
- olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 6 oz cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 2–3 dashes of cayenne pepper, for a little kick
- Spike or sea salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat oven to 400°F.
- Cut tops off pumpkins, make the hole quite large. Gut the seeds and stringy insides.
- Set pumpkins in a baking dish and liberally drizzle olive oil inside each. Toss in garlic, garlic powder, Italian herbs, salt and pepper.
- Bake for at least one hour.
- Remove from oven and let cool. Carefully scrape out pumpkin flesh into a separate bowl. The flesh should be very soft, and easy to remove.
- Add softened cream cheese, ricotta and pumpkin to food processor, or blender, blending until smooth. Add in parmesan and seasoning.
- Scoop pureed mixture back into pumpkin shell or serving dish. Serve warm with multi-grained crackers.
Preparing a Pumpkin Shell Ice Bucket
This is really quite simple to do and is a festive way to use pumpkin shells to serve your party guests.
- First, you will need a large plastic or glass bowl to line the pumpkin once it is cleaned. Measure the bowl so that you will know how large a pumpkin you will need to hold the bowl.
- Next, select a wide, large pumpkin; measuring it to be sure your bowl will fit in it.
- Cut off the top third with a serrated knife or keyhole saw, and scrape out the pulp and seeds. If the pumpkin is a bit rocky, saw of a thin layer on the bottom just to level.
- Rub down outside of bowl with mineral oil to shine it up.
- Next, fit your bowl into the pumpkin. The bowl will prevent the gourd from becoming water-logged and soggy. If the pumpkin opening is a bit too small for the bowl, carefully shave the inside edge with a spoon.
- Finish by filling the bowl with ice and bottles of beer or wine.
Note: This bowl could be used as a harvest party punch bowl too!
Spooky Halloween Pumpkin Punch
Recipe adapted from www.honestlyyum.com.
- 750 ml bottle of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum
- 1 cup blood orange juice
- 1 cup Meyer's lemon juice
- 1 cup simple syrup
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 1/2 cups ginger ale
- cinnamon sticks, for garnish
- dry ice
- large pumpkin or punchbowl
- In a large bowl, add the spiced rum, blood orange juice, lemon juice, simple syrup and pumpkin puree. Stir to combine.
- Once combined, pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a large pitcher and chill until ready to serve.
- Meanwhile, place a large bowl into the hollowed pumpkin shell. Be sure your bowl is safe to handle dry ice. A stainless steel or pyrex glass bowl will be fine.
- Next, use tongs to fill the bottom of the bowl with dry ice, and cover with a slightly smaller bowl. This bowl will hold your punch. Again, make sure both bowls are safe for dry ice. Certain materials will shatter when exposed to dry ice.
- Pour the mixture into the punchbowl. Add the ginger ale and stir to combine.
- And the fun begins. Carefully pour hot water into the bottom bowl so that it contacts the dry ice, thus activating the vapors.
- The length of time the smoky effect will last depends on how much dry ice you use, how hot the water is, and consequently how quickly the ice melts. To keep the effect going you will need to replenish the dry ice as it melts.
- Your spooky pumpkin punch is ready to serve.
- Guests can ladle the punch into their glasses and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Remember to give it a stir as you serve, as the ingredients will naturally separate over time.
Pumpkin Patch Potatoes
A mashed potato and pumpkin combination are a delicious and healthful side dish that works well for any autumn or Thanksgiving dinner party.
- 1 2-lb. sugar or pie pumpkin halved and seeds removed
- 1 medium onion minced
- 2 gloves garlic peeled
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
- dash of red pepper
- 1 lb peeled Russet baking potatoes
- 2 oz. cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives or thinly sliced scallion
- 6 prepared small pumpkin bowls
- Heat oven to 425°F. Have a 15 1/2 X 10-1/2-inch jelly roll pan.
- Place pumpkin halves down on work surface. Peel with a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, following shape of pumpkin. Once peeled, cut the pumpkin in to 1-1/2-inch chunks.
- Set pumpkin chunks on a jelly roll pan with the onion, butter, garlic, 1/4 tsp. salt and the pepper. Toss to mix, then spread out evenly on the pan. Roast 25 minutes, stirring once, until pumpkin is tender and lightly browned in spots.
- Meanwhile, peel russet potatoes and cut into chunks. Place in a medium saucepan and add just enough water to cover the potatoes; bring to a boil; turn down to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat; drain potatoes reserving 1/3 cup cooking water. Return drained potatoes back to pan while still hot.
- Add pumpkin mixture, any juices in pan and the remaining salt, cream cheese, and 1/4 cup of the reserved water. Mash with a potato masher, leaving potatoes slightly chunky and adding remaining cooking water if dry. Stir in chives. Reheat over low heat if necessary.
- Serve in hollowed out pumpkin shells.
Notes to consider:
- Real maple syrup or honey may be added to pumpkin mixture to sweeten. It all depends on taste. Personally, I do not prefer the pumpkin & potatoes to be real sweet so I don't use it, but for those who do prefer a sweeter pumpkin flavor there are a healthier alternative than brown sugar.
- One 15-ounce can of pumpkin can be substituted for real pumpkin and a pumpkin soup tureen may be substituted for the pumpkin shell, but is not as impressive.
- Use sage instead of chives or scallions for a different, and delicious flavoring. Add with the roasted vegetables.
Roasted Fall Vegetables
- 1 3-lb pie or sugar pumpkin
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 large carrots
- 6 small red potatoes about 12 oz.
- 2 golden delicious apple cored
- 1 medium onion diced
- 3 cloves thinly sliced garlic
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- optional: 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
- Heat oven to 400°F. Have ready a 15-1/2 X 10-1/2-in. jelly roll pan. Prep Vegetables:
- Slice the carrots; cut red potatoes in half and slice; cut the apple in half, core and cut in 12 slices; dice the onion, and thinly slice the garlic gloves.
- Next cut the top off the pumpkin, about 2 inches below the stem, to create a lid about 6 inches in diameter. Cut it on a slant so that it will sit on top and not fall through. Scrape out the seeds and stringy fibrous pulp. Set aside for later when they can be cleaned and roasted, if you wish. If not, discard.
- Mix oil and melted butter in a small cup. Lightly brush some inside the pumpkin, then sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. of sea salt. Place cut side down at one end of pan.
- Pile carrots, potatoes, apples, onion, nuts (if using) and garlic at other end of pan. Drizzle with remaining oil mixture, then sprinkle with remaining salt, thyme & freshly ground pepper. Toss to coat then spread out evenly to roast.
- Roast 30 minutes, turning the vegetables over once, after the first 15 minutes. After 30 minutes, increase oven temperature to 450°F, turn pumpkin over, and continue to roast for another 15 minutes—turning vegetables once more, until vegetables and pumpkin are tender.
- For a stunning presentation, fill the pumpkin with the roasted vegetables and present in the whole pumpkin at the dinner table. Cut in wedges to serve.
Pumpkin Shell Fruit Casserole
I haven't had this recipe in a long time and don't know where I got it originally. I found a couple of recipes online that are similar but a little different.
Sherrie Hansen's (owner of the Blue Bell Inn B&B) recipe was the closest, and she couldn't remember where she got her recipe from either. She uses smaller pumpkins for individual servings, while I used a whole larger pumpkin.
- 1 10 - or 12-inch sugar pumpkin
- 4 apples unpeeled and cubed (about 2-1/2 cups)
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- 2 oranges peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup real maple syrup or 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- Scrub the pumpkin. Leaving the stem on for a handle, carve the top off the pumpkin, about 2 inches below the stem, to create a lid about 6 inches in diameter. Cut it on a slant so that it will sit on top and not fall through. Scrape out the seeds and stringy fibrous pulp. Set aside for later when they can be cleaned and roasted, if you wish. If not, discard.
- Mix apples, raisins, nuts, oranges, maple syrup or honey, and spices. Spoon them into the shell. Put the lid on and place the filled shell in the oven on a pie plate.
- Bake at 400°F for one to two hours; just until a fork can easily penetrate the shell.
- To serve, remove the cover and serve at the table from the shell for a stunning presentation. Top with your choice of sweetened yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, heavy cream or whipped cream, if desired. They are all good!
Preparing Small Pumpkin Bowls
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Cut off 1/2 inch from the tops of 4 miniature pumpkins (6 to 8 ounces each); set the tops aside.
- Using a spoon, scoop out seeds and membranes and set aside to clean and roast later.
- Place pumpkins, cut sides down, on a baking sheet.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or just until pumpkins are easily pierced with a fork.
- Fill will favorite ingredient and serve.
How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds
It would be a shame to throw away all those pumpkin seeds when they are so full of nutrients and taste so good too. They will make a wonderful healthy garnish to salads, soups, stews and casserole dishes.
They are also great as low-calorie healthy snacks too!
- 3 c. pumpkin seeds
- olive oil cooking spray
- sea salt for seasoning
- With seeds and stringy pulp in a colander, separate seeds from pulp by removing them under running water to clean.
- Rinse some more.
- Clean all the pulp from the seeds.
- Rinse real good again.
- Discard leftover pulp to the compost pile.
- Spray baking sheet with an olive oil cooking spray. Add seeds in a single layer. Lightly salt the seeds with the sea salt.
- Bake at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Turn seeds over halfway between roasting time.
Spiced Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
There are many different seasoning mixes that can be used when roasting pumpkin seeds. Personally, I like a hot and spicy mixture using garlic powder, cayenne pepper, chipotle pepper, and sea salt. Below are links to roasting pumpkin seeds using different spice combinations.
Pumpkin Soup in a Pumpkin Shell
There are as many pumpkin soup recipes as there are cooks. I have 10–15 different pumpkin soup recipes in my own personal recipe file. They are all different, and they are all good.
Pouring your homemade pumpkin soup into a pumpkin shell to use as a serving bowl is an easy special touch. It's worth it to go the extra mile when they are in season to make the homemade pumpkin puree and to use hollowed out pumpkins as the soup tureen.
- 3/4 cup medium dice bacon or duck fat
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3/4 cup onions
- finely chopped
- 4 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup cream
- 4 tablespoons cream cheese
- 3 to 4 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon marjoram
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon mace
- 3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- grated rind of 2 oranges (about 2 T.)
- kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
- In a soup pot on medium heat, cook bacon or duck fat until all the fat has been rendered; do not burn. Remove and reserve the browned pieces.
- Sauté the onions in rendered fat and butter until golden, but not brown. Add the pumpkin puree, milk, cream, 3 cups chicken stock, and honey, stirring constantly.
- Add the ginger, brown sugar, spices, and citrus; heat slowly. Do not boil.
- Let simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, stirring often. At this point, check the consistency.
- If the soup seems too thick, add the remaining chicken stock and adjust seasonings.
Garnish for Pumpkin Soup
Here is some garnish to add to your tasty soup.
- 2/3 cup whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks
- 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
- 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds toasted (or pecans, coarsely chopped)
- reserved crispy bacon or fat back
- In a small mixing bowl, mix whipped cream, herbs, and pepper together. Set aside.
- Pour soup in bowl. Top with herbed seasoned cream, crispy bacon, and toasted pumpkin seeds.
- Serve immediately. The cream will melt on the top of the soup and will help finish the soup to a smooth consistency.
- If you used canned pumpkin and the soup is too thick, add chicken stock, water, or orange juice to taste.
- The soup may be made the day before serving and refrigerated. This will meld all the flavors together.
- Recipe from The Fallingwater Cookbook: Elsie Henderson's Recipes and Memories