Friday, October 3, 2008

Family Fun Friday: Pumpkin Play

Inspired by this guest post on Money Saving Mom, I bought an organic pumpkin at Whole Foods this week for $5.99. I really have no idea but I am hoping this thing has at least five pounds of edible flesh on it, to bring it in line with my usual produce cost goals.

I've never cooked pumpkin before because I was intimidated by butchering the thing. But Monica from The Homespun Heart made it sound easy -- just cut in half and bake as you would any squash.

Monica first used the pumpkin as a porch decoration, but last year when we put out pumpkins the squirrels ate 'em. However, I did stick it on the dining room table for a couple of days, and if the rest of the junk had ever been cleared off the table, it probably would have looked nice.

Then this morning, I put the pumpkin on the girls' little table and let them go nuts on it with ball point pens. They had a blast -- Nutmeg drawing on a scary face and Pebbles just scribbling. They were happily occupied for long enough for me to unload the dishwasher and watch part of Oprah.

Later I scrubbed the pumpkin off in the sink, but I was not able to get most of the pen off. Never mind, we're not eating the rind.

Then came the moment I was not so much waiting for: Using one of my dull kitchen knives to open this baby up and scoop out the gooky seed mess. I used my knife sharpener, which came with the set for the first time, and -- wow! My knife sliced it right open. It really was much easier than I had anticipated. I ended up cutting two "halves" but also a few chunks. Then I scoooped out the icky seeds, and then I did the worst part: scraping out the stringy parts. But you know what? It wasn't any worse than doing the same process to several acorn squash.

They baked for an hour at 350, which made the chilly house small and feel wonderful.

While they were in there, I washed the gook off the seeds and let Nutmeg lay them out on a cookie sheet. We seasoned them with salt and cinnamon and later, I baked those.

I turned off the oven but left them in there while I took Nutmeg to ice skating. When I got back, one of the sections had apparently gotten a little too much heat:

Then I scooped out and mashed some of the pumpkin "meat." It is, of course, at this point that I begin to feel like I've been intimately involved with this pumpkin all damn day. Then, I mixed up this recipe in the bread machine. Then I made the rest of the dinner.

An hour later, the bread machine cycle was done but the bread wasn't. Apparently, this recipe is not meant for the "super fast" setting. Maybe next time I'll try "fruit and nut."

I stuck the bread in the oven, which was still hot since dinner was in there too. By the time we ate, it was a bit too dry.

So, um, I'd say the pumpkin experience did provide a measure of family fun. The girls loved having it on the table and decorating it, and Nutmeg enjoyed doing the seed thing. But I'm hoping that whatever I do with the remaining 10 tons of pumpkin meat knocks our socks off, so I can begin to feel that the labor of the whole endeavor was worth it. You know, there wasn't really that much work involved; I think it was more the fact that the work stretched out throughout the day even though it was just a few minutes here and a few minutes there.

Also, I'll be stocking up on cans of already pureed pumpkin after Thanksgiving. Heh.


a said...

How to make this easier:

Don't wrestle a raw pumpkin. Just stick it in the oven whole to bake.

When it is cooked (in an hour or so), it is easy to cut in half.

Then scoop out the seeds and pulp into a bowl if you feel like dealing with the seeds for snack food, or into the compost if not.

Scoop the rest out, mash it a bit and freeze it in pureed-can-of-pumpkin amounts. I would use one quart freezer bags because you can stack them flat.

The big pumpkins you buy for halloween are not the best tasting. There are other types, like one called a cheese pumpkin that you can get at farms or farmers markets, which are tastier and don't taste as much like plain squash.

The little sugar pumpkins are best for pie.

You can mix pumpkin puree with spices and vanilla ice cream to make "home made" pumpkin ice cream. It is fun for kids to make and it is tasty.

Carrie said...

No way! I had no idea you could cook a whole pumpkin without cutting it open. I take it the same goes for an acord squash? Should I poke them with a fork first? I'm thinking yes.

Thanks so much for that tip.