By Terri Fites, MD
This is a great dessert, especially fun for this time of year. My family loved it! I feel like a good mama when I make tasty desserts which also pack some important nutrients—and fit our gluten-free, dairy-free needs. Step aside, cakes and cookies … You can’t compete with the vitamin E, vitamin A, healthy omega-3 fats, cancer-fighting carotenoids, and fiber found in this dessert.
It is a fun recipe to make, especially with kids. You make a wonderful filling and stuff it into a cleaned-out pumpkin shell. Use a pie pumpkin if you want, but to be honest, the first time I made this, I ran out and stole a pumpkin from my front porch. Decorations you can eat are the best kind! However, a pie pumpkin which is smaller and bred to be sweeter rather than bigger works best.
May your food enrich your body and bring joy to your home!
Baked Pumpkin in a Half-Shell
- 1 smallish pumpkin (You may want to double the filling for a large pumpkin. For a very small pumpkin, you may have extra filling and want to have another small pumpkin on hand to stuff.)
- 2-3 apples
- 8 whole, pitted, dried dates
- 1/2 cup walnuts, finely ground
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla
- 1/2 cup of maple syrup or honey
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- Optional: 1/4 cup of raisins, currants, and/or dried cranberries
- Preheat oven to 350 oF (177 oC).
- Wash the pumpkin and cut it in half lengthwise, from stem end to bottom end.
- Scoop out the pulp and seeds from both halves and discard.
- Set aside one pumpkin half for later. Peel and cut the other half into small pieces, about 1/2″-inch in size. (I like to cut the pumpkin into large chunks, peel, and then cut into the smaller pieces.) Place the cut pumpkin into a medium-sized bowl.
- Peel, core, and cut apples into 1/2″-inch pieces. Add to the bowl of chopped pumpkin.
- In a food processor or blender, place the 8 dried dates. Pulse until coarsely chopped.
- Add the 1/2 cup of walnuts to the dates and process until the walnuts are very fine, but not yet walnut butter. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl.
- Place 1/2 cup of pecans into the food processor and pulse until just coarsely chopped. Transfer to the large bowl with the dates and walnuts.
- To the nut and date mixture, mix in the 1/2 cup of shredded coconut and 3 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice. (Add in the optional dried fruit if desired.)
- In a separate small bowl, mix together well the 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon vanilla, 1/2 cup maple syrup (or honey), and 1/4 cup of coconut oil. Pour this mixture over the nut and date mixture in the large bowl, mixing well to coat.
- Add the pumpkin and apple mixture to the large bowl and mix all ingredients well.
- Stuff the mixture into the cavity of the remaining pumpkin half.
- Place the pumpkin half on a baking sheet to catch any juices and bake for 1 hour or until a fork easily pierces the bottom of the pumpkin shell.
- Serve warm or cold.
Variation: Cut off the top of the pumpkin as you would for carving. Scoop out the pulp and seeds. Stuff mixture inside and bake in the pumpkin “bowl” until the shell is fork tender.
My daughter just came in to peek at what I was typing and saw the photo. “Can you make that again, Mama?” It’s a good one. Try it!
Dr. Terri Fites, married nineteen years to her high school sweetheart, is a medical doctor and homeschooling mother of four. She graduated with honors first with her pharmacy degree from St. Louis College of Pharmacy, then with her medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine. She teaches chemistry for her local homeschool co-op and blogs about the role of nutrition and environment in health at TheHomeschoolingDoctor.com.