Dinner in a Pumpkin

This is one of our Halloween traditions.  My kids were skeptical when I first made this, but to the surprise of us all, they loved it and asked for seconds.   We make this the weekend before Halloween when we carve our pumpkins.  Don't let the ingredients overwhelm you, this is easy to make, it just takes a bit of time, so plan accordingly.  Read through the entire recipe so you know what to expect.

One important note.   Liquid can leak out of the bottom of the pumpkin as it cooks.  I recommend baking this in an alumium turkey roasting pan sitting on a baking sheet so you don't make a mess in the oven. 

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (or ground turkey)
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 - 14.5 oz cans beef stock
1 10.75-oz can cream of celery soup
1 10.75-oz can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup instant rice, or 1 pouch Uncle Ben's Express rice
1 pound mushrooms, drained and sliced
1 onion, diced
1 sugar pumpkin, about the size of an adult head (Don't panic, these are the basic pumpkins sold at most stores).
1 8-oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained and sliced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut off the top of the pumpkin.
Clean out seeds and pulp.
Rub the inside of the pumpkin with the pumpkin pie spice.
Place the pumpkin in the aluminum roasting pan and set aside.

In a stock pot, saute the onions and mushrooms in the olive oil until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the ground beef and season with the salt and pepper.
Cook the meat mixture until lightly browned breaking up the meat.
Drain the beef mixture and return to the pot.

Add the rice, water chestnuts, soy sauce, sugar, soups, and stocks, and stir to combine.
Cook over medium heat until the mixture is heated through, about 5 minutes.
Pour the ingredients into the prepared pumpkin.
Replace the top on the pumpkin a little askew to create a vent.

Place the roasting pan on the lowest rack in the oven.
Bake for 3 to 4 hours until the pumpkin is cooked.
After the first hour of cooking,  check it every hour.
You can tell if you scape the inside of the pumpkin and it pulls away from the skin.

Use care when removing from the oven, the pumpkin is heavy and hot.
To serve, scoop the contents of the pumpkin into shallow bowls.
Make sure you scrape the sides of the pumpkin along with the meat mixture, it's delicious.
Serve with crusty bread.

Serves 6 to 8.

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