Halloween has come and gone and we are starting in on the Thanksgiving season. And there is nothing to me that is more Thanksgiving then the beautiful pumpkin. Sure, we use pumpkins to carve our jack-o-lanterns and decorate around the house during the autumn months, but there are so many wonderful uses for this gourd.
As a child, I always loved going to the local pumpkin patch to pick out that perfect pumpkin, a tradition that I have carried on with my own daughter. However, these pumpkins are so much more than decoration or pie filling. They can be used in so many dishes, both savory and sweet which not every vegetable or fruit can do. It has such a lovely orange color that compliments many different dishes and can even be used in drink concoctions as well. And let's face it... is there anything that is more traditional for the autumn?
In my on-going efforts to increase a child's life-long love of whole foods and eating where they live, I say the pumpkin is a perfect food to accomplish that exact goal.
The pumpkin is so personal. You go up and down the pumpkin patch looking for just the right one. We never just show up and take the first one we see, especially when we are children.
Here are some of my favorite ways to work with pumpkins and most winter squash.
Simple pumpkin puree:
- One pumpkin
- Large stock pot
- A machine or kitchen tool to puree
Start by taking a heavy-duty vegetable peeler and taking the skin off the pumpkin. Then with a good chef's knife cut the top of the pumpkin off and then down the middle. Take the seeds out and place them to the side for another use. Cut into medium-sized cubes and put into your stockpot of simmering water. DO NOT add any salt or seasonings. Let simmer for about 30 minutes and then drain. Bring down to room temperature or slightly above it then puree.
Now you are able to use your puree in several recipes. It can freeze really well in 4oz containers and be used at a later date. Also this simple puree is the perfect first food for baby. Any winter squash is easy on digestion and very few people have a pumpkin allergy. This puree has so many uses and will keep all winter if stored properly.
Toddler pumpkin sauce squares:
Toddlers have the ability to eat more complicated foods, but still lack the dexterity for crunchier treats that are served during the Halloween and Thanksgiving season. This is a great seasonal treat for toddlers, heck all of us!
- 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
- 1 cup simple pumpkin puree
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon of canola oil
- 1/4 cup of currants, raisins or dried cranberries.
- 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove mixture (pumpkin spice)
- Three spoonfuls of apple butter (or sauce)
- 1/8 cup of oats
- kosher salt to taste
In a large mixing bowl first add your dry ingredients, then slowly add your wet ingredients until blended perfectly. In a small and greased cake pan pour in your batter. Cook at 350F for around 45 minutes or until golden brown.
These bars are very moist and melt in your mouth like apple sauce, hence the name. They are delicious for all ages, but really great for toddlers who are still learning how to eat more adult foods. I made up this recipe for my daughter's harvest party at school. They were a great hit!
- 5 cups of pumpkin puree or 3 cans of pumpkin
- Half a box of vegetable or chicken stock. Vegetable stock is a little more earthy and of course has no animal products.
- 1 cup of water
- 1/4 cup of apple cider
- 1/2 cup of white wine
- splash of brandy or apple brandy
- One onion
- Half a stick of butter
- Pumpkin spice to taste
- 1 apple
- 1 pear
- Bacon (optional for vegetarians)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 pint of heavy whipping cream
In a large stock pot caramelize your onions and bacon with the half stick of butter. When they start to really brown and pieces start sticking to the bottom deglaze to get the fond off the bottom and let cool for just a minute.
Add your stock, water and apple cider to the caramelized onion mixture and let simmer for a few minutes. Start to add your pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin. While that simmers start to slice your apple and pear without their skin, then add to the simmering soup.
Let simmer for about 10 minute and then add your salt, pepper and pumpkin spice and let simmer for another 30 minutes or until all the flavors can fully infuse. Use a kitchen masher to break up the apple and pear into a semi-pureed state. Then at the very end add your wine, brandy and heavy cream. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds.
Serve with a beautiful harvest salad and crusty bread and enjoy your family dinner!