Monday, October 31, 2011

All About Pumpkin: Fun for Kids & Adults!

Well, kids, October is wrapping up, which also means our pumpkin-themed month is coming to an end. In the spirit of today being Halloween, I'll cover a couple uses for hollowing out a pumpkin.
Of course there is your normal Jack O' Lantern, which is a well held tradition for families. Did you know the American tradition actually comes from Ireland? There, they used to carve out & decorate turnips & potatoes. But when the Irish came to America, they found that the native pumpkin was easier to use. A few of my friends made Jack O' Lanterns this year. Aren't they cute?

But being the progressive adult that I am, I did not. Instead, I made a super-adult-ish pumpkin air freshener. I guess this is where I admit that, for one, there's not much of a difference, mine is just more "adultish." And secondly, I once again took inspiration from Care 2, who in turn stole it from Martha Stewart. But all is fair in love and blogging.

Just like every other pumpkin carving scenario, you'll pick out a pumpkin, cut off the top, and scoop out the guts. My husband really enjoyed the last part. Be sure to save those seeds, we'll get to those later.
I'm not sure if he thoroughly enjoys dismembering pumpkins or just wanted an excuse not to do homework.

End result.
After you get all the yucky stuff done, like most Jack O' Lanterns, you'll pick out a design, and sketch the design onto the pumpkin. The easiest way I found was to print out the design, pin it to the pumpkin & poke holes along the lines. We don't have the fancy-schmancy carving tool kit, so I used an ice pick.

Then you will start cutting. This has been a low-budget project since the beginning, so we used a few knives that we have at home.

I was not expecting it to go well, but it looked great. And while the husband was cutting in a few extra diamonds, I started on the one part that makes this different than a regular Jack O' Lantern: the spices. Basically, you'll want to rub some of your favorite fall spices into the inside of the topper. I chose some cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves. If you want vanilla,  do not use extract, just get some vanilla beans.

After that is all said and done, you're finished. Stick a candle in the pumpkin, light it up and turn off the lights.

Not only do you have a centerpiece for your autumn decor, but the candle & spices will fill your home with the aroma of autumn. Well, mine smells more like Christmas now, but you get the point.

See the spices?
Just because I'm so proud of my carving, I'm throwing in another photo. I should mention that before you carve, you'll want to wash your pumpkin with bleach &  hot water to kill outside germs. I unfortunately did not and my pumpkin started rotting within a week.
Bam! But now it's rotting :(
So, after you get your air freshener set up, you can now tend to the seeds. Previously, I have covered the nutritional goodness of pumpkin seeds. And many of us know the best way to eat them is roasted.
You certainly don't want to eat them like this.
So (obviously) you will want to clean the seeds first. I just used our strainer and gently hand washed the seeds. While that is going, melt down a tablespoon of butter, set your oven to 200 degrees, and prepare a cookie sheet with some foil.

Then you will spread the seeds onto the cookie sheet while pouring the butter over the seeds. The secret is to keep the seeds from over lapping. We added a little garlic salt, then stirred/spread the seeds out a little more before popping them in the oven.

I have to be honest, I really didn't record a time on these, we just kept a close eye and stirred around occasionally. It was a good 10 minutes or more though. You'll want to take them out after they are nice and golden brown. Once ready, take them out, let them cool, and enjoy.
Ready for Om Nom Nom-ing
I should also add when your Halloween is over and your pumpkins starts to rot (like mine), be sure to throw it in the compost pile. Mixed in with the fallen leaves in your yard, you'll have a great compost for your garden next year.

So I guess that's it, that ends our pumpkin-themed month. It's bittersweet. While I'm ready to cover other topics, I really enjoyed sharing my love for pumpkin. I hope some of you are now inspired to include a little pumpkin in your life.

And if you've like the month-long theme, never fear, I have scheduled themes for the rest of the year. Next month, I'll cover how to prepare your home for winter. It will not only help the environment, but also your wallet. See you all next week.

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