I am a home schooling mom of 3 great boys. My oldest boy, JJ, is 11 and involved in 4-H and several sporting activities as well. McP is a wild 4 year old that wants to do everything his older brother does. Most of the time that is a good thing. Then there is my surprise little 6 month old Hamster who can't wait to mix it up with his older brothers. We have a small acreage property with a few animals and we enjoy gardening. In addition to my love of gardening, the boys also enjoy cooking with me and we like to experiment in the kitchen a bit.
I lived for 36 years in Florida and we moved to rural Wyoming 3 years ago. It is a slightly shorter growing season in Wyoming and gardening here has been a challenge, but I think we are making headway. For the last 3 years JJ has tried growing pumpkins. He wants to grow all kinds of pumpkins and winter squash but especially the elusive Dill's Atlantic Giant pumpkin. So this year we planted seeds and as a back up we also planted a few started plants from the local garden center. Plus over the winter of 2008-2009 the dogs scattered some seeds of a pumpkin that my husband had just chucked out the back door when it started going bad. So this year we had lots of pumpkin plants and a bumper crop of pumpkins - including a 55+ pound Giant Pumpkin. Certainly not a record breaker, but the biggest we have ever grown and good enough for JJ to win the biggest pumpkin at the farmers market! Just to brag McP entered a winged gourd that he grew and he won for best squash (non-pumpkin).
I will be honest here that my experience cooking with pumpkin has been limited to opening a can of Libby's real pumpkin and baking a pie. I was not even sure how one prepared fresh pumpkin. Thanks to the internet I found that cooking a pumpkin was really quite simple. My preferred method is baking, but it can also be boiled or even microwaved. SO are you ready to cook a pumpkin or several?
The trickiest part of preparing pumpkin (or any winter squash) is cutting it! You can use a sharp knife or run out to the garage and get your husbands electric saw (I will wait for you!). Just wash off the blade when you are done, we won't tell him you used it. Now that the pumpkin is cut in half, scoop out the seeds and set them aside. You can eat the seeds raw or roast them. Or if you do not want to eat them at least put the out for the birds.
Find one or more shallow dishes in which to bake your pumpkins. Place the pumpkins cut side down and add about 1 inch of water to the dish. I like to cook several at one time. Set your even at about 350 and go put your feet up for a bit - I like to check in on my pumpkins about every 20 minutes and add additional water as necessary. How long it takes to cook in part depends on how large and how many pumpkins you are cooking. When the shell feels soft it is done. Take it out and let it cool. Once cool you can scoop out the yummy pulp, puree in the food processor and use it for soup, baked goods and even a healthy smoothie. I am finding that freezing in 1 or 2 cup increments works great for later use.
So how about that healthy, but yummy Pumpkin Pie Smoothie. Your kids will think it is dessert, but you will fool them!
2 cups cooked fresh pureed pumpkin
2 cups yogurt (Plain or vanilla)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
1/3 cup brown sugar (or to taste - probably would use less if you use vanilla`yogurt) or honey
A few ice cubes
Blend in blender and enjoy.Now you tell me that you did not grow pumpkins this year and you did not pick one up at the farmers market. Well that is okay too, just grab a can of pumpkin off the pantry shelf. You smoothie will still be nutritious, but it may be a little thicker than above. Just add some extra ice or a splash of milk. I hope you enjoy and if you have any interesting ways you use pumpkin I would love to hear them as I have many more pumpkins to cook yet. I need to get some cut now though before my husband gets home and discovers that I am using his saw.
Til next time -----
WYOMOM (aka Carol)