Monday, November 8, 2010

Pumpkins

Sometimes when you homeschool, the activities that you do are learning experiences for both mama and the kiddos.  That was the case for us this time.  I wanted to show the girls the process of turning a pumpkin into a baked treat.  When I was growing up, I cannot ever remember having a whole pumpkin in our house.  Canned pumpkin is so easy to use and we never celebrated Halloween, so there was no reason to have a whole pumpkin.  Even as an adult, this was the first time that I have bought a whole pumpkin.

Last week, we spent several days visiting my parents and sisters.  One day, while everyone was at work, I took the girls to the local pumpkin patch.  We had a great time looking at the many varieties of pumpkins.  They came in so many sizes, shapes and colors.  The girls had a great time running up and down the rows, picking up the pumpkins.


We ended up with three small pumpkins.  I had read that the small pumpkins were best for making pies (which is what we were originally going to make) because they are both sweeter and less stringy.

The girls each took a turn attempting to peel the pumpkins.  This was too tough a task for them, so I took over.  It was a bit tedious with my vegetable peeler,  but not too bad.  I think a y-shaped vegetable peeler would work better for this job.  Before, I peeled the pumpkins, I asked Arin what color she thought the inside of the pumpkin would be. She guessed orange.  Once it was peeled, Ella squealed, "LELLOW!" 



Next, the girls scooped the seeds out of the pumpkin halves. Arin really enjoyed this activity and she helped with several of the halves. 


After the seeds were removed, I cut the pumpkin into cubes and Arin poured water over them.  Then, I boiled the pumpkin until it was soft.  This was a very quick process, about 15 to 20 minutes.


I do not have a large food processer, so I put the cooked pumpkin into the blender with a small amount of water. 


Once the pumpkin had been pureed, I lined a small collander with a coffee filter and I poured the puree into the coffee filter to drain off the water (I was surprised how much water drained off).  We ended up with four cups of pumpkin puree from the three small pumpkins.

I have been having a craving for pumpkin pie for the past several months (when it was impossible to find canned pumpkin in the stores) and originally, that is what the girls and I were going to make, but a few weeks ago, I started the Weight Watchers diet for the umteenth time, and I decided that we would make one of their recipes instead.  I found this recipe for Pumpkin-Oat Bread on the Weight Watchers website.  I thought it sounded great, so that is what we made.  I had planned to make this bread with both of the girls, but ended up making it while Ella was napping, which turned out to be ok since my kitchen is so tiny!  The bread is great served with a bit of whipped cream on top.

Here's the recipe:

Ingredients
1 spray(s) cooking spray, flour-variety recommended
1/2 cup(s) butter, softened
1 1/2 cup(s) packed light brown sugar
3 large egg(s), beaten
2 cup(s) canned pumpkin (we used fresh, cooked pumpkin)
1/4 tsp table salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, or more to taste
1 1/2 cup(s) all-purpose flour (we used fresh milled hard white wheat)
1 1/2 cup(s) uncooked quick oats
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
24 pieces walnut halves

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat a 10- X 15-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Using an electric mixer, in a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and pumpkin; beat well. Add salt, pumpkin pie spice, flour, oats and baking soda; mix thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared baking dish and place walnut halves on top so there will be 1 walnut in the center of each piece of cake. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes.
Cool in pan and cut into 24 pieces. Yields 1 piece per serving.



I would have liked to share pictures of the final product, but remember how I posted that my camera was acting up a couple of weeks ago?  After I wrote that post, the camera started working properly.  It fixed itself as quickly as it broke itself, but as we were working today, it died.  The shutter no longer releases, so I no longer have a camera, until I send it in to be fixed.  Which means, unless I can borrow someone's camera, this will be the last post I will be able to share until the camera gets fixed :(

Prior to the camera breaking, the girls and I did some pumpkin activites.

Ella had a great time with her pumpkin life cycle matching cards.

I gave the same cards to Arin and had her put them in the correct order.
Ella loved transferring pumpkin seeds from one bowl to the other, using a spoon and sometimes her hands.

Arin played a file folder game.  The object of this game was to read the words and then determine if they were real words or not. 


I had printed out a couple of pumpkin pictures, which Arin and I colored together.  Then, I gave her the bowl of pumpkin seeds. She put a few in each of the pumpkin pictures.  She then counted how many seeds were inside each pumpkin and she wrote the number under the pumpkin.  We used our small dry-erase board and dry-erase markers.  Arin doesn't normally like writing unless she is able to use the dry-erase markers, then she loves it!  Once she wrote the numbers under each pumpkin, she decided which one was greater than and which one was less than and she wrote the symbol accordingly.


The girls both painted orange pumpkins on cardstock.  Ella enjoyed this activity for about three minutes, but she does not have the passion for painting that Arin has always had.  I ended up finishing up Ella's pumpkins.  Once they were dry, we glued each onto a popsicle stick.  The girls used their pumpkins to act out a poem that I read to them.


Five Waiting Pumpkins
Five little pumpkins growing on a vine,
First one said, 'It's time to shine!"
Second one said, "I love the fall."
Third one said, I'm round as a ball."
Fourth one said, "I want to be a pie."
Fifth one said, "Let's say good-bye."
"Good-bye," said one!
"Adios," said two!
"Au revoir," said three!
"Ciao, " said four!
"Aloha," said five!
And five little pumpkins were picked that day!

We also read these pumpkin related books:
The Berenstain Bears and the Prize Pumpkin by Stan & Jan Berenstain
The Garden That We Grew by Joan Holub
Pumpkin Circle by George Levenson
Pumpkins From The Sky? by Julia Van Nutt

4 comments:

Michelle said...

Lot's a wonderful pumpkin fun! I've never thought to peel and boil the pumpkin - I always cut it in half and bake it (with a little water in the bottom of the pan) and then scoop it out of the peeling. I like using a whole pumpkin (over the canned stuff) though! Looks like this was a fun experience for you all! :-)

Peterson Party said...

Thanks Michelle! I thought the proper way to cook a pumpkin was exactly the way you explained, but I consulted with both my mom and mother-in-law (separately) before starting the project and both gave me instructions the same way - peel and boil, blend and strain!

Deb Chitwood said...

Great pumpkin activities! I love that your girls helped you through each step of making your pumpkin-oat bread. Those sorts of activities are always the most memorable.
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Valerie @ Frugal Family Fun Blog said...

What FUN! Looks like they really had a good time, and I love your hands-on approach to all this pumpkin learning fun! :-)