Cooking for Two: Individual stuffed pumpkins are quick weeknight meal (recipe) | VailDaily.com

Cooking for Two: Individual stuffed pumpkins are quick weeknight meal (recipe)

Here is a cozy meal the entire family can enjoy. It has infinite varieties to suit everyone's taste, and it's fun to make.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe for stuffed pumpkin from Dorie Greenspan's wonderful cookbook, "Around My French Table." I've adapted the recipe by using individual-sized pumpkins and using different ingredients for the stuffing.

But that's the beauty of this recipe — you can change the stuffing ingredients to what you have in the pantry or your personal tastes. For instance, if you want a vegetarian meal, skip the sausage and add in eggplant, mushrooms and spinach that you've quickly sauteed in olive oil.

This delicious meal is prepared in 10 minutes and then baked for 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees, which leaves you plenty of time to get the kids to do their homework while you relax and enjoy a glass of wine with your spouse.

Three easy steps:

1. Clean out the individual pumpkins — the kids can do this while you cook some spicy Italian sausage.

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2. Each pumpkin is stuffed with equal amounts of torn rustic bread, cooked sausage and cubed cheese. Then you pour half-and-half over the top to moisten the stuffing.

3. Put the top on the pumpkin, place it on a baking tray, into the oven at 350 degrees and bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the pumpkin is soft when poked with a fork. During the final 20 minutes of cooking, take the top off the pumpkin so the cheese can melt and brown.

Remove from the oven, and serve. Stir the stuffing in with the pumpkin, and enjoy. It's a sure way to get the family together for a weeknight dinner.

Thanksgiving for Two

• Have fun. Last year, a snowstorm kept me from driving to join friends for Thanksgiving dinner. So I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for one — which meant I got to prepare all of my favorite dishes. You can do the same.

• Keep it relaxed. For appetizers, I picked up cooked shrimp and cocktail sauce and added two of my favorite cheeses and crackers and a bottle of very good wine.

• Roast a turkey breast instead of the whole bird. Mix softened butter with poultry seasoning and a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Rub the butter between the skin and meat and then all over the exterior of the bird. A turkey breast will cook quicker, and if there are any leftovers, you can make soup the next day. While the turkey roasts at 350 degrees, turn on the Thanksgiving Day parade, the dog show or the football game, pour a glass of wine and enjoy your appetizers.

• Prep your side dishes, and then throw them in the oven with the turkey during the last 30 to 40 minutes. Use roasted vegetables for your sides by tossing them with olive oil, aged Balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. It's perfect for carrots or Brussels sprouts.

• Baked stuffing or mashed potatoes? Choose your favorite — no need to make both. For mashed potatoes, boil the potatoes, drain, mash and add butter or cream cheese and a handful of your favorite cheese — I like gruyere. For stuffing, mix cubed bread, moisten with chicken stock, stir in sautéed diced carrots, celery, onions (you can buy this mix in the frozen vegetable aisle) and poultry seasoning to taste, place mixture in a baking dish, and cover with foil. Add the baking dish of stuffing to the oven with the turkey for the last 30 minutes.

• Dessert? You can buy two slices of your favorite sweet indulgence and a bottle of Prosecco. Finish this perfect day with a leisurely walk and then put up your Christmas tree.

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of 10 books, including the cookbook "Comfort Me: Easy Meals to Bring Your Family Back to the Table."