If you celebrate any kind of holiday this time of year at some point we want to create that “baked in the oven” wholesome meal. Many of us either have some fond memories of someone cooking for a holiday meal all day or maybe we are trying to create that for our gathering now. Many people cook a large ham or turkey in the oven and if that doesn’t happen somehow the meal is a disappointment. When I did my soul searching I found that there were several things that could be labeled as my core values.
On of them is that I deeply care about the earth we live on, in fact not recycling a bottle can trigger an anxious or maddening reaction within me. For instance, I am in a place like “Starbucks” and I purchase a bottled “Green Smoothie” and then when I am finished realize they have no recycling bin. My gut insides want to shout out-loud “What the FUCK Starbucks? How can you dare ignore this obvious thing?” Not only am I so triggered by Starbucks lack of respect for the earth that supports it but I am outraged at the obvious corruption of the company. It leads me to believe they are as corrupted as our government, hypocrisy on top of irresponsible. Several years back when the UN declared that meat & dairy production was the number one pollutant of the world, I began to make big changes. How could I ignore this? Although it seemed everyone else was jumping through hoop after hoop to recycle another bottle, I stopped eating meat and still recycle bottles. I cannot ignore the facts. My soul knows that our earth is vital to our own existence. My values about the earth lead me to the understanding that moving to a vegetarian diet would also keep me from the same hypocrisy I felt about Starbucks.
But Wait! I have come from some dark places and I value things like community & family. I know just how important they are and what is a holiday without turkey or ham? How could I possibly create a wholesome meal without these main dishes. I had taught myself both how to cook a whole turkey and ham with the gentle guidance from some of the kindest wonderful people in my life. My son valued the wholesome meals that I cooked for various holidays. Part of it was the tradition of it but the other part was the warm homey feeling of the energy of the kitchen. The feeling we have of contentment when someone has made food from scratch in our kitchen. This atmosphere is part of of why so many of us find ourselves emotionally connected to meat.
I lived a lifestyle of fast food and morbid obesity. As I changed I became a flexitarian for several years showing my respect for the environment and slowly weaning myself off meat. Then when I made the final leap to vegetarian I felt so good about the food I ate, most of it from scratch in my busy kitchen. I found that eating in a way that matched my values helped me feel more connected to my food. This lifestyle change lead me to an awareness for our connections to what we put in our body. If it is aligned with our highest values we find it more filling and satisfying. When it looks like McDonald’s we are easily disconnected and only reacting to the emotional reward from eating. When it came time for the holidays I wanted to be sure I also kept those wholesome values that I had raised my son with, after a lifetime of getting it intermittently. I was happy to find so many variations of the stuffed pumpkin recipe and have tried it in a variety of ways over the years. At this point in my journey I have changed the recipe and have prepared it for small and large groups. I have prepared it for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although my son is now grown I am still happy to share this recipe with friends and community.
Choosing the pumpkin is the challenging piece. I recommend finding a farm that has “edible pumpkins”. Although you can use the Jack O Lantern variety it will be more watery than edible varieties. There are usually several varieties and you want to be sure its big enough to stuff and feed your family. Bring your kids to help choose the pumpkin, it helps them get excited their own connection to food. When served you will serve a bit of stuffing with vegetables, including some squash. Once you pick your pumpkin be aware that it can be kept in a cool dry place for approximately 6 months and it will keep in a healthy way. Once your ready cut a whole in the top like a Jack O Lantern and clean it out in a similar way. Put the seeds aside and invite a young person to clean, season and bake them. Often a fun activity for young people, especially when left to be creative in their seasoning.
I baked my own bread, set it out to get stale and toasted it. You can just purchase bread crumbs if that is easier for you. Season it and mix it with whatever root vegetables are available in your area at the time. This recipe does not have onions and garlic but they can be added for those who tolerate it. Creativity is encouraged and the use of fruit like apples or pears can add a nice touch.
3-4 cups of large Bread cubes
2-3 medium root vegetables (Sw. Potatoes, Yams, potatoes, parsnips, exotic varities)
2-3 medium pieces of Fruit (Apples and/or Pears)
3 Large Carrots (all colors)
3 Large pieces of Celery
1 TBSP Cumin Seed
1 TSP Fennell seed
1 TBSP Sage
Salt & Pepper
- Cut up your vegetables and fruit to small pieces and celery & carrots into slices
- Heat 2 TBSP of Olive Oil and lower heat.
- Add Cumin Seed and Fennell seed, wait till they pop
- Turn off heat and add Sage, Salt and Pepper immediately
- Mix bread cubes, vegetables and fruit with oil and herbs
- Stuff all the contents inside the prepared pumpkin
- Bake in preheated oven at approximate 350 degrees. Just like a turkey or ham it depends on the size of the pumpkin on how long and temperatures.
- You know its done when you can poke a fork from the outside to the thick areas of the pumpkin
- Be sure to enjoy with other vegetarians dishes and I recommend Quorn for a meat substitute. It can easily be added to the stuffing or served on the side with mushroom gravy.