The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

March 14, 2008

Weekly Recipe(s): Dinner in a Pumpkin = Therapeutic Cat Food

The nice thing about pumpkins is that they last a really, really long time. We’ve had this one since Thanksgiving and finally got around to doing something with it. We also had some cabbage that was getting old, so I Googled “pumpkin cabbage recipe,” not really expecting to find much, and ended up with this fun meal called Dinner In A Pumpkin. Apparently, it’s something people serve to their kids on Halloween because, you know, that’s the only time of year Safeway has real pumpkins.

The original recipe calls for ground beef. I opted for ground turkey instead and brought my own container with me to the butcher counter at Whole Foods, where they didn’t bat an eye when I handed it to them. And yes, this container is plastic Tupperware, which I already had. I’d like to find something made of stainless steel for buying meat but haven’t gotten around to looking for an alternative. [2016 Update:  Here’s my post all about buying and storing meat without plastic.  Hint: I found that stainless steel container I was looking for.]

So, this answers Meg’s question on my March 7 post. She wrote, “Does this mean you’re a vegetarian? It seems like you can’t get meat anywhere without it being wrapped in plastic unless you get it from a butcher or shoot it yourself.” And the answer is that while I eat far less meat than I used to, I still do eat some. And for those times, I take my own container to the meat counter.

But even if you live in a place without a Whole Foods or butcher shop, you can still get meat wrapped in butcher paper rather than Styrofoam and plastic. I inquired at Safeway a while back and was told that if customers come early enough, before the butchers leave for the day, they can request a specific cut of meat to be wrapped in paper. You’ll have to call around to our local grocery stores and see what they’ll do for you. The hardest part is getting up the nerve to ask. But once you get in the habit of doing it a few times, it’s not so scary.

So I baked the Dinner In A Pumpkin, and we enjoyed it that night. And the next night, dealing with the never-ending kitty poo problems, I scooped the dinner out of the pumpkin for us and fed the cooked pumpkin to Soots and Arya (along with boiled chicken, steamed white rice, and probiotic powder.) And I’m happy to report that they are both much, much better.

We did end up having to give them more than this one pumpkin. And unfortunately, since we couldn’t find any more fresh pumpkins, we had to buy canned. I’m feeling a little sad about that right now because even though the canned pumpkin totally helped make them better in the short-term, I’m worried what the lining of the can, that one as well as the cans of cat food we feed them every day, are doing to them in the long term. Today, EWG’s Enviroblog has a really terrific and comprehensive post about Bisphenol-A. You should read it. Turns out the dangers from BPA are higher in canned foods than in water bottles because of the high heat used to process canned foods. There is only one company, Eden Organic, which uses a non-BPA lining in some of their foods. But not all!

Maybe someday I’ll start making the cats’ food from scratch. But for now, I’m still learning to cook for people. And so here, finally, is my modified recipe for:

Dinner In A Pumpkin

1 medium pumpkin
1 pound ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 whole tomatoes and their juices
1 cup broth (Still using up Better Than Bouillon)
3 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup uncooked whole wheat couscous (original recipe calls for white rice.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Wash pumpkin, cut off top, scrape out seeds.
3. Place ground turkey in a large, deep skillet. Crumble and cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain fat, add onion and garlic; saute slightly.
4. Add sugar, Italian herbs, salt, pepper, tomatoes, broth, and couscous; mix thoroughly.
5. Layer inside of pumpkin with 1/3 of cabbage, and turkey and couscous mixture. Repeat layers, replace lid and bake for 2 to 3 hours.
6. To serve, scoop out the fleshy sides of the pumpkin along with the turkey/couscous/cabbage mixture.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use pretty much any grain, vegetables, and meat or beans that you want.

Plastic in this recipe: plastic coating inside lid of Better Than Bouillon jar. Plastic Italian seasoning bottle, which will be replaced with bulk spice after it’s used up. Zero plastic waste for last week.

The couscous, by the way, was Trader Joe’s brand which comes in a plain cardboard box with no inside plastic bag. (Some boxes of couscous do have a plastic bag inside.) Normally, I buy couscous from a bulk bin with my own container, but I think the bulk store was sold out the week I wanted to buy it.

Have a nice weekend. I feel like I’m starting to come down with a cold. Need sleep. Need kitties not to jump on me and bite my face in the morning. It’s like this cartoon. Turn your sound on and enjoy:

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15 years ago

What an interesting recipe. I’ll have to try it someday.

Personally, though I prefer to not use plastic as much as I can, I like having many of my boxed grains and pastas in plastic…or at the very least a good paper bag inside of the box.

You’ll know what I mean if you ever open a box of grain or pasta filled with mealy worms. Ewww.

15 years ago

Unrelated to pumpkins, I remember you posted about cutting boards a while back, but I can’t seem to find the post in the archives. Can you email me the link or the name of the best one? Thanks!

Stretch Mark Mama
15 years ago

Thanks for the info on BPA! As depressing as it is…at least knowledge is power.

Also…been meaning to say “congrats” for being listed on blogs of note. You deserve it! Lots of hard work goes into your blog!

15 years ago

I love this idea! A dinner in a pumpkin, so novel! I am huge into recycling and in general being gentle on the earth. Great post!

15 years ago

Jeez. I can’t believe that there’s BPA in canned foods as well. None of the major media outlets have mentioned that though they’ve made a decent fuss about Nalgene bottles. I thought I was relatively safe with canned goods. (I try not to eat too much canned stuff, but sheesh, what can you do sometimes?)

Blah. Well, I’m just going to be as careful as I can to limit my canned good consumption. And that’s just going to have to be good enough. Sigh.

15 years ago

Yesterday I went to WF to get some grocery and was again stunned to see how much plastic there was – a sea of plastic containers, bottles, wrappers in every aisle. How did we all live before plastic became cheap and popular? Did plastic contribute to our reliance on industrialized packaged food? Will there be an end to the plastic?

15 years ago

Thanks for the BPA links, Beth! I guess I’ll be canning my own tomatoes this year… :-)

Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd
15 years ago

Regarding meat packaged in plastic, even if you shoot it yourself, there are still packaging issues. We raise lambs for our own consumption and when we slaughter a lamb, most of it needs to go in the freezer. I have been unable to find any freezer packaging solutions that don’t involve plastic. Any ideas anybody?