Happy Autumn! Rice and Vegetable Medley in Pumpkin Bowls

Fall is, by far, my favorite time of year. Seriously, what's better than leaves bursting with hints of orange and yellow? The gentle nip in the air? And let's not forget the joyful anticipation of the impending holidays. I also adore fall produce. Pumpkins, acorn and butternut squash, sweet potatoes, yams -- they all make their way onto my menu in multiple variations. Like this rice dish. Filling enough to a be a complete meal,  it also makes a great side dish when you use smaller gourds. Feel free to grab your favorite autumn gourd; you can make this dish with pumkin, acorn squash or butternut squash.

Rice and Vegetable Medley in Pumpkin Bowls

2 medium gourds, either butternut squash, acorn squash or pumpkin
2 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup white rice
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup diced roasted red peppers
1/2 cup diced carrots, raw or steamed for 1 minute over simmering water or in the microwave
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Halve each gourd and scrape out the seeds with a spoon (wash and reserve them for roasting later*!).
Brush the inside of both halves of the squash with the melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Place the gourds face-up on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the flesh is fork-tender.
Meanwhile, cook the rice according to the package directions, adding the onion powder and garlic powder to the cooking liquid. When the rice is ready, while still warm, fold in the roasted red peppers, carrots, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
When ready to serve, spoon the rice mixture into the cooked gourds and garnish with parsley.

Serves 4

* To roast the  seeds, make sure they are well rinsed and as dry as possible (I roll mine in paper towels). Toss the seeds in olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet. Season with salt. Roast at 400 degrees for 5 to 20 minutes, until golden brown (smaller seeds with cook in just 5 minutes, larger seeds take longer).

Photo: Apolonia