Dinner in a Pumpkin: A Carved Tradition


I could go on and on about my fondness of fall. There are so many aromas and sights to behold that my senses all fire in delight! Since becoming a mother, however, I found that my love of fall has formed into a deep-seated admiration. From raking leaves into a pile for the sole purpose of jumping into them with my son to hot chocolate dates with my daughter, I found that we enjoy this season to the fullest with our annual traditions—one, especially, that I hope will continue as my children get older.

Your Mother Sent You What?

Making Dinner in a Pumpkin

In my sophomore year of college, one of my friends invited me to her apartment to make dinner. Why would a poor college student reject such a wonderful offer? I gleefully went downstairs only for her to hand her roommate and I a GIANT pumpkin. We were making dinner in a pumpkin! It looked like something straight out of cartoon. For someone who had not grown up making anything from scratch, this looked absolutely ridiculous (because pumpkins, at least in my mind, were only for carving funny faces).

She told me about how her mom made this dinner for her family every fall. Her mom spent time picking out the most perfect sugar pumpkin specifically for this meal. She would then spend almost 3 hours making this delicious dinner so that her family could enjoy it on a crisp fall day. My friends and I cleaned the pumpkin out, saved the pumpkin seeds to snack on later, went through her recipe, baked the dinner, and then enjoyed our hearty meal. I had fallen in love with this beautiful tradition.

Carving Out a New Tradition

pumpkin picking tradition

Back in October 2011, my husband was set to deploy to Afghanistan. We were also expecting our first child. I didn’t want my beloved fall to be tainted by something dreadful, so I decided that I would go out and find the most perfect pumpkin to make pumpkin dinner.

Of course, I stumbled. I didn’t know there were so many different types of pumpkins! And I combed through so many recipes! After a cut hand, many spices, pumpkin guts splayed all over my tiny apartment kitchen, I had created a new tradition…something I wanted to continue to share with my children.


The Recipe

Admiring the pumpkin tradition
Admiring the pumpkin!

Every year, I pick out the most perfect pumpkin; I have found it on a farm, at the store, or even a little pumpkin patch off the highway. It usually sits out in my kitchen for a week while my children admire it. I gather my ingredients and let my little ones smell the spices; sometimes it makes them sneeze, but mostly, they giggle. I save the seeds for later and make my own salt and pepper pumpkin seeds which quickly become a coveted snack in our house.

So here’s my recipe. It may not be perfect, but it is mine. I hope that, one day, when my children go off to college, they will also receive a huge pumpkin in the mail, smile, and share this wonderful tradition with someone else.

Dinner in a pumpkin
Bon Appétit!

Dinner in a Pumpkin


  • 1 sugar (or pie or cinderella) pumpkin
  • 2 tbsp (or more depending on size of pumpkin) brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp of allspice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cups of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of chicken broth (have more on hand just in case it looks dry!)
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 1 cup of mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 package of frozen french cut green beans
  • 1 1/2 cups of cooked long grain and wild rice mix
  • 1 lb pork sausage (or sausage of choice)
  • 1 lb of ground beef


  1. In a large skillet, mix ground beef and sausage and cook until brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven until 400º. Remove top of pumpkin, but save for later. Remove seeds and stringy pulp.
  3. Combine brown sugar, pumpkin spice, and allspice. Pour into pumpkin. Using your hands, coat mixture onto the sides and bottom of pumpkin. Replace top of pumpkin.
  4. In another sauce pan, melt butter. Add celery, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook until translucent. Then add heavy cream and broth. Stir. Cook until boiling.
  5. Mix beef and sausage mixture, mushroom mixture, rice, and green beans until incorporated.
  6. Place pumpkin on baking sheet. Remove top and carefully spoon mixture into pumpkin. Put the pumpkin into the oven for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours until pumpkin is easy to scoop off with a spoon from the sides.
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Neidy (pronounced "nay-dee") is a native Georgia girl, but moved to Omaha in 2012 and hasn't looked back. She lives in East Council Bluffs with her husband Zach, her sons Charlie and Eddie, and her daughter Tegan. Neidy met her husband while in college and married him while he was still serving active duty in the Marine Corps. After a brief stint living in San Diego, they decided to move back to her husband's native home in Omaha. Neidy finished her degree at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, pursuing Film Studies, which has cemented her love of Omaha. She's now a homeschooling mom and works at her church as the children's ministry site manager. She also loves a great cup of coffee, exploring various locally-based restaurants, indie movies, experimenting with new recipes, finding new ways to teach her children, and cheering on the Huskers.


  1. This sounds amazing! Quick question–do you put the brown sugar mixture inside on the sides and bottom or the outside of the pumpkin?

    I think I’m going to try this in Oct!

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