Stuffed Baby Pumpkins – The Perfect Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner recipe.

Firstly, I dare you to look at a baby pumpkin and not melt slightly at their absolute cuteness. The obsession to decorate yet another corner of my kitchen in orangeness is actually becoming a slight problem. Not for me mind you but for those around me. Just to paint a picture, ‘pumpkin corner’ is now what I am calling around my bookshelves. However, last week I decided to eat one! Yes, one of my little pumpkin babies, went into the oven and I have to say, the love affair has become much stronger.

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Cooked in the oven, the flesh from these mini-pumpkins transforms into a sweet delicious meal that can only be described as the most quintessential autumnal food you will ever eat. Yes, they also make fantastic mini-lanterns but trust me when I say to cook them!

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As the majority of my household is either fully vegetarian or pescatarian, I really have to think long and hard about protein. We love tofu and beans, but who wants to eat the same thing every day, especially when feeding kids, it has to be mixed up a little. Plus, variety is the spice of life, or so they say (whoever they are).

Quinoa – the superfood with amazing health benefits.

Quinoa, pronounced ‘keeeeeeen-wa’ is a small, wheat-free grain similar looking to rice, but so very different nutritionally. 100g of cooked quinoa provides 4.46g of protein, 1.9g fat, 19.4g carbohydrate, and 2.8g of fiber (nutrition taken from the back of the packet).

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It also contains small amounts of healthy heart omega-3 fatty aides and most importantly contains all nine essential amino acids which makes it a complete protein source. This is especially good for us vegetarians and vegans who might be missing out on those much-needed nutrients.

Quinoa is the least allergenic of all grains. This means if your child or anyone in your family has a wheat allergy this is a great substitute.

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Cooking Quinoa

The first few times I cooked quinoa it was a disaster! I never understood how amazing cafes could create those beautiful salads with light fluffy quinoa when mine was a soggy disaster. Here’s what I learned!

  1. Quinoa has a bitter coating called saponin which is a compound that coats the seeds. This comes off when boiling and can give your quinoa a bitter taste when cooked. It is super important to put your quinoa into a sieve and run under a tap until the water turns clear.
  2. When I cook quinoa I now put in a little less water. Usually, it is 1:2 (1 part quinoa, 2 parts water) on the packaging, but now I use 1:1.45 (1 part quinoa to 1 3/4 parts water).
  3. Quinoa cooks by steaming. Bring the water to a boil, add the quinoa, then let the water bubble again. Cover the pot with a lid then reduce the heat to a simmer. DO NOT TOUCH THE LID for 15 minutes. Just let it do its thing. It needs all the water in there and by removing the lid your quinoa won’t cook correctly.
  4. When the time is up, remove from the heat and leave it to rest for 5 minutes with the lid still on.
  5. Fluff with a fork and voila….fluffy, delicious quinoa.

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Stuffed Pumpkins

Cut the tops off the pumpkins, then using a spoon scoop out the seeds and discard. Then using a spoon, scrape the flesh until the area between the skin and flesh feels thinner. You obviously don’t want to pierce the skin so the filling won’t fall out during cooking.

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I drizzle the skins with a little rapeseed oil and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes while I prepare the filling. This isn’t an essential step, but it helps to cook the inside of the pumpkins really well so any leftover flesh can be easily eaten.

The filling is so easy to make and whether you want to use a pumpkin for serving, it is a dish you will make time and time again. Simply fry the onions with garlic until soft, then stir in the kale and lemon juice then remove from the heat. Add in the cooked quinoa, pomegranate seeds, crushed pecans, thyme, and parmesan cheese. You can omit the parmesan from your baby’s portion as it is high in salt. 40g really isn’t a lot though in comparison to the amount of quinoa.

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Fill up those mini-pumpkins with your mixture and place back in the oven for 15 minutes.

My daughter and I are the only two in our house who like mushrooms, so I cook them separately and top the pumpkins at the end. If your family loves mushrooms you can add to the quinoa mixture or just leave out if you don’t like them at all.

Serve the pumpkins with a side of veggies or if you are like us a side of pan-fried hake or just eat as they are. I top with a little extra pomegranate, thyme leaves, a sprinkle of parmesan for adults, and a whole lotta love.

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This is a perfect weeknight meal, perfect as a delicious thanksgiving dinner or Halloween spooky meal.

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If you try this, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag your photo with #babyledfeeding on Instagram.

Lots of love,

Aileen xoxox

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      • PREP TIME
      • 15 minutes
      • COOK TIME
      • 20 minutes
      • TOTAL TIME
      • 35 minutes
      • SERVES
      • 2 Adults and 2 Children

What goes in...

  • 5 mini pumpkins
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 2 red onions finely diced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2 large handfuls kale finely chopped
  • Zest and Juice 1 lemon
  • Seeds 1 pomegranate (keep a few for decorating)
  • Handful Pecan nuts crushed
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 40g grated parmesan cheese
  • 200g mushrooms
  • Drizzle olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • 200g (1 cup) quinoa
  • 500ml (2 cups) water

How to make it...

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180ºC.
  2. Rinse the quinoa in a sieve under the tap until the water runs clear. Bring water to the boil, then add the quinoa and simmer with the lid on until it has absorbed all the water. Leave to stand for 10 minutes with the lid off then fluff with a fork and leave aside.
  3. Slice the tops of the mini pumpkins then, using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds from the inside and discard. Then, scrape the inside flesh getting as much out as you can, finely chop this and leave aside. Place the pumpkin shells onto a baking tray, drizzle over a little rapeseed oil and bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the rapeseed oil in a frying pan, then cook the onions until they start to caramelize. Crush in the garlic and cook for a further minute, then add the chopped pumpkin flesh, kale, lemon zest and juice, pomegranate, thyme, and parmesan cheese, then add in the cooked quinoa and stir well until completely combined.
  5. Fill the pumpkins up with the mixture, then place back in the oven for a further 15 minutes.
  6. While the pumpkins are cooking, heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms until browned.
  7. Serve with finely chopped thyme leaves, a sprinkle of pomegranate, and top with mushroom.