Female. Lives in United States/Illinois/Chicago, speaks English. My interests are Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking/Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.
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United States, Illinois, Chicago, English, Female, Food, Restaurants, Cooking, Baking, Travel, Dining Out, Raising Children.

Friday, October 15, 2004

One Pumpkin, Many Uses

I think I mentioned that October is my Month of Houseguests. First we had Win's sister, her husband and their 2-year old son here for a few days. Then a couple days after they left, Win's mom came for a visit. More family is on the way, but before they get here I wanted to take a minute to share a pumpkin tale.

Our Lima Bean loves pumpkins. She calls them "pa pas" and she can spot a pa pa practically a mile away. We'll be in the car driving and she'll say "pa pa." Sure enough, I look and she's pointing out the window at some pumpkins stacked up in front of a store. Or we'll be taking a walk and she'll want to stop and see every pumpkin on every doorstep.

Given Lima's newfound pumpkin love, we decided it would be fun to take her to a pumpkin patch (well, really more of a city streetcorner pumpkin lot) when Win's mom was here. Lima was SO excited to get to walk around amidst all these pumpkins and she regularly bent down and kissed them. She tried to lift some of the big ones but when that didn't work she decided just to say "sit, sit" and try and sit on top of them instead.

We decided to take two home. One big one and one tiny one that Lima calls the "baby pa pa." She routinely carries the "baby pa pa" to the park with us and on stroller rides. As we were paying for our purchase, I mentioned to Win's mom that I bought Lima a pumpkin at the same lot last year but that she was so small she just sat in her stroller and stared at me while I did it. Certainly no talking or running around back then (she was only about 5 months old at the time). This triggered a memory about last year's pumpkin that I had forgotten.

Do you know what I did with last year's pumpkin? I went all Martha Stewart on it and got so many uses out of that thing even I can't believe it. First, we just enjoyed having a whole, uncarved pumpkin around as a pretty decoration. Then a couple weeks later I decided it was time to carve the pumpkin and make a jack-o-lantern. I did that and roasted the seeds with some sea salt for a tasty Sunday afternoon snack. I quickly decided that the pumpkin flesh was too good to waste though...I had a baby Lima in the house and she was at the "new solid food eater" stage where she'd eat very small portions of fruits and veggies.

So I thought to myself, when will Lima ever get to eat pumpkin as an infant? They don't sell it in jars. This is my chance! I carved up that pumpkin, cooked and pureed it, and Lima had meals for weeks.

Pureed Pumpkin Baby Food
Take one small to medium pumpkin and wash it well. Cut it in half and remove all seeds. Cut each half into a couple smaller pieces to fit into a microwave-safe dish.

Place pumpkin and a bit of water (about 2-3 tablespoons) in a microwave-safe dish. Cover with plastic wrap and cook 13-15 minutes on high.

The pumpkin will be very hot when it comes out of the microwave. Let it stand 5 minutes. It's ready when it's a bit tender when poked with a fork.

Scoop out all the pumpkin meat and put it in a blender or food processor. Add about a half cup of water and puree. Add a little more water as needed to ensure that the pumpkin puree has a smooth texture.

Take your puree and spoon it out into ice cube trays. One small to medium sized pumpkin should fill about 2-3 ice cube trays. This translates into roughly 24-36 one ounce servings.

Cover your ice cube trays with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. Remove the frozen pumpkin cubes from the trays and store in plastic freezer bags. Now you have lots of pumpkin servings frozen and ready to go. When you want to use one, just remove a cube from the bag and defrost it in the microwave for your baby.

A few notes on this recipe:
If your child is of an age where they can have spices added to their food, it might be nice to add a bit of ginger, nutmeg or cinnamon to the pumpkin before you cook it. Lima was too young for that at the time, so we did just straight pumpkin puree.

You could also mix the pumpkin with other pureed fruits or vegetables, such as apples or pears. That might taste good and provide a more complex, sweeter taste. Again, be sure your child is ready for that.

Finally and most importantly, I am not a pediatrician so obviously consult with your own doctor before making this or any baby food recipe. As you all probably know, babies become ready to eat solids at different times and foods that might be safe for some babies aren't necessarily safe for all.

See what I mean? I had a totally Martha Stewart moment last year when I not only used my pumpkin as a decoration but then turned it into homemade baby food for Lima. And that was some stock of baby food...I probably fed that kid pumpkin for a month! She liked it very much at the time. Now, at close to 18 months, she'd look at me like I was crazy if I put pumpkin puree in front of her.

So this year I don't think I'll be carving the pumpkins. Lima loves her in tact "pa pas" too much. Maybe we'll just paint faces on them or leave them au natural. Since they're already so kissable in Lima's mind, we probably don't need to do much to make them any better.