Bacon, Cheese and Spinach-Stuffed Mini Pumpkins

Serves 4.

Note: If you only think of mini pumpkins as decorative, let this cheesy bacon and spinach-stuffed recipe show you how tender and flavorful they can be on the dinner plate. Perfect as a light main dish, served with a crispy green salad, these baby pumpkins also make an impressive side on a holiday table. If desired, you can eliminate the goat cheese and double the amount of cream cheese in this recipe. From Meredith Deeds.

• 4 mini pumpkins

• 1/2 tsp. salt, divided

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided

• 1 tbsp. butter

• 3 c. baby spinach

• 2 oz. soft goat cheese, room temperature

• 2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

• 1/2 c. heavy cream

• 1 egg

• 1 garlic clove, minced

• 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

• 1/8 tsp. cayenne

• 1 1/4 c. cubed (1/2-in.) baguette

• 1/2 c. shredded Gruyère cheese

• 1/4 c., plus 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, divided

• 3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Using a sharp, small knife, carefully cut a circle out of the top of each pumpkin, as you would with a Jack-o’-lantern. (Make sure the circle is large enough to allow you to stuff the pumpkin.) Scrape out the seeds and strings and season the inside of the pumpkins with a total of 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Fit the tops back onto the pumpkins and place on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are just tender when the tip of a knife is inserted into the sides. (It’s OK if they have a little liquid inside them.) Set the tops aside and let the pumpkins cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool and squeeze out any excess moisture.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the goat cheese, cream cheese, cream, egg, garlic, nutmeg, cayenne, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Stir in bread cubes, Gruyère, 1/4 cup Parmesan, cooked bacon and cooked spinach. Let stand for 10 minutes to allow the bread cubes to absorb some of the liquid.

Spoon bread mixture into the pumpkins and sprinkle the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Place back in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until knife inserted in the center of the stuffing comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 410 Fat 31 g Sodium 880 mg

Carbohydrates 16 g Saturated fat 18 g Total sugars 5 g

Protein 19 g Cholesterol 140 mg Dietary fiber 2 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 2 high-fat protein, 3 fat.