And I just can't wait until next Halloween

'Cause I've got some new ideas that will really make them scream

And by God, I'm really gonna give it all my might!

- Jack 'The Pumpkin King' Skellington, The Nightmare Before Christmas

I didn't realize it until it was too late this year, but when we chose this house we moved into one of 'those' neighborhoods: Halloweentown. As the first day of October flipped over on our collective calendars, the decorations began to creep out of storage. A black cat here, a twiggy broom there....then suddenly in the last few weeks there was an onslaught of fake cobwebs, giant lawn inflatables, spooky lights and severed heads and all things ghoulish. One house a block away hosted a full-on haunted house, complete with tombstone-strewn front lawn and sound effects. For a neighborhood that had seemed outwardly a bit conservative, it was a real pleasure to discover that my neighbors were.......basically, kind of secret freaks, after all. It was weirdly comforting.

Of course, as I mentioned, we realized it too late this year. Too busy with home renovations, with work, with general life things. No decorations, not even any costumes for us. But next year.....oh my goodness, the thought of next year has me cackling and rubbing my hands with cartoonish glee. And like the Pumpkin King, I've got big plans.

This year, we'll be dining on Halloween candy and I'll be dreaming of these individual stuffed pumpkins I made not long ago. Pumpkin season continues even after the cobwebs have been swept away, so make sure to take advantage of this recipe while you can. It's something of a relative to Dorie Greenspan's famous

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

recipe, and is basically one of my favorite savory bread pudding recipes stuffed into a pumpkin--the most wonderful, roastable bowl that you can eat afterwards!

Petite Stuffed Pumpkins

3 cups cubed bread (day-old, slightly stale bread is great if you have it)

2/3 cup milk

3 small pumpkins

1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage

1/2 cup diced onion

1 cup sliced crimini or button mushrooms

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup grated parmesan

3 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed

salt & pepper

In a large mixing bowl, place bread cubes and pour milk over them, set aside. Cut 'lids' into each pumpkin as you would for a jack o'lantern, with a sharp knife. A note on 'small' pumpkins: size is approximate, I had one Sugar Pie pumpkin and two smaller Sweet Dumpling pumpkins (winter squash have

the cutest

produce names


). Scoop out seeds and other stringy bits, discard or set aside for roasting.

Preheat oven to 350, get out a roasting pan that can hold all three pumpkins at once. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, saute Italian sausage until about halfway cooked through, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go. Add mushrooms, saute until browned, stirring occasionally. Add onion and celery, cooking for several minutes until both are softened and translucent. Transfer mixture mixing bowl with bread and milk, toss to combine. Add parmesan, fresh thyme, and salt & pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly, stuff into pumpkins and place pumpkin caps on top. Roast at 350 for 20 minutes, remove caps and bake for 10 more minutes--at this point they should smell heavenly and be nicely browned on top. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes, then serve while warm.

You can scoop everything out beforehand and serve it that way, but I'm a fan of serving each person their own personal pumpkin. Make sure to scrape the insides of the pumpkin itself while eating from this 'bowl' to get a little of the sweet, creamy pumpkin mixed with the savory stuffing.


I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it?

--Anne Shirley, in

Anne of Green Gables

by L.M. Montgomery

Fall is here.....or is it quite yet? October in the desert is always an exercise in waiting, in longing. Staring intently at photos of everyone else enjoying crisp mornings, cozy flannel, freshly picked apples and woodsmoke and steaming lattes (you know the Three-Letter Seasonal Beverage of which I speak) gets a little disorienting when the weather is determined to hang onto endless summer. A tempting breeze ruffles the leaves just outside my window, the light is all golden-tinged and wonderful....but I am not tempted at all. It's one hundred degrees and it's mid-October and I just plain have summer fatigue. Better to stay indoors, gazing adoringly at photos of pumpkins and woodpiles instead, dreaming of November.

We may not be ready for boots and hot apple cider just yet--if ever!--here in the Southwest, but we


have our pumpkin spice if I have anything to say about it. Just like last year, I'm

not exactly feeling

that Three-Letter Seasonal Beverage, but I do think the combination of pumpkin and something spicy is a winner. These Pumpkin + Chorizo Empanadas are like perfect little parcels of fall flavor (unladylike admission, you guys? I absolutely love anything that can be picked up and eaten out of hand in a few bites), and they're full of rich, wonderful pumpkin filling with just a hint of smokiness that makes me think of cooler days ahead. Pair this with an earthy, autumnal kale & apple salad in white miso-apple cider vinaigrette (more on that later), and November may as well be here already.

Pumpkin + Chorizo Empanadas

Makes about 12 empanadas

For the dough:

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup vegetable oil

ice water

1 egg

For the filling :

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup diced onion

1/3 lb ground pork chorizo

1 cup pumpkin puree (I used organic canned pumpkin, but you're welcome to roast your own)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon honey

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. Add vegetable oil, then sprinkle in ice water a tablespoon at a time until dough reaches a kneadable consistency. Knead only two or three times to form the dough into a bowl, then cover and let rest in fridge for an hour.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, saute onion until translucent. Add chorizo and cook until done, stirring frequently. Add pumpkin, chili powder, cumin and paprika, continue stirring for another minute, then remove from heat. Taste and add salt and honey (feel free to adjust these amounts slightly, to taste), then let filling cool thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 350, and line a baking sheet with parchment. Remove dough from fridge, pull small bits (slightly larger than a walnut) off it and roll them out individually into flattened squares approximately 3 inches on each side. Place a small spoonful of filling in the center of each, fold the other side over to form a triangle and crimp edges together with a fork. Beat egg and brush the top of each empanada lightly with the mixture. 

Place baking sheet in oven, bake for 22-25 minutes (flipping once, around the 15-minute mark), or until golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool until just warmer than room temperature (beware of steaming hot pumpkin filling burns!), then serve and enjoy.