Trick or treat: pumpkin inspiration for Halloween

Last Halloween Sam embarked on his first real Trick and Treating with glee. Never before have I seen a child so excited about a root vegetable; he shrieked ‘PUMPKIN’ with delight when he spotted them outside doorways as he knew that meant permission was granted to collect more sugary treats whilst maybe saying the odd BOO!! On this particular trail I could have hugged the elderly couple who had gone to the trouble of making toffee apples but as is the way with this festival, there were a lot of shiny sweet wrappers and jellied spiders.

However, all is not lost when the veggie literally lighting the way is the pumpkin – packed full of antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamins C and E it is the perfect addition to our diets as the weather gets colder and we become more prone to infection. So, how can we encourage our little people to embrace it and all its benefits?

I have to confess; Sam tried roasted pumpkin on its own at the weekend and wasn’t keen. He joyfully stated though, as he put it back on the plate with its corner nibbled, that it will probably take him up to 15 tries before he likes it. I guess he’s paid attention to the research I spout but perhaps I should have said 5 and not 15! It may take up to 15 tries to like something Sam but don’t feel that’s a number you actually have to hit!

How to prepare your pumpkin
As they come in all sizes, you needn’t feel overwhelmed at the peeling task at hand. I buy the small ones and cut into quarters scooping out the seeds and pith with a spoon. I then roast the pumpkin quarters with their skins on for 30-40 minutes as they’re a lot easier to peel off once they’re cooked. If you’re up for the challenge though, once peeled and chopped you can boil it for 15-20 minutes.

Pumpkin meal ideas
So, in the season that pumpkins take centre stage, how can we get more from it? My kids are a big fan of hummus, but shop bought varieties tend to be higher in salt and not as nutritious as homemade versions so pumpkin hummus is definitely worth a try, especially as the colour is so appealing to them and is associated with foods they already love, for example carrots or satsumas.

How to make pumpkin hummus
You will need:

  • 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small pumpkin (the size that would fit into cupped hands)
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • Black pepper

Method

  • You can cook the pumpkin in the microwave rather than roasting it, but if doing so peel it first.
  • Mash all the ingredients together either by hand or in a food processor. Add the lemon juice and pepper to taste.
  • Serve with wholemeal pitta and veggie sticks of your choice for an extra fibre boost. Remember dips are a great way to boost veg intakes. More ideas can be found in our eating your green blog.

Cheesy pumpkin Slice
Children are more accepting of new vegetables when they are served with familiar foods. For us this is cheese. There are many ways in which you can combine eggs and cheese with a variety of veg to make a frittata but this one works well with pumpkin. A food processor is ideal to preserve time and sanity.  

You will need:

  • 4 eggs
  • 3 courgettes, grated (about 300g)
  • 1 pumpkin about the size of a gala melon, grated
  • ½ leek
  • 125g reduced fat grated cheddar
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 4 large handfuls baby spinach (you may wish to shred to disguise it more)

Method

  • Heat the oven to 180 C (Gas mark 4)
  • Beat the eggs
  • Sift the flour in
  • Add in all the prepared veg and mix together
  • Line a 10- inch dish with baking paper
  • Pour in the mixture and bake for 30 mins
  • Serve the slices with whatever you fancy – yum!

Whilst this vegetable is readily available make the most of it by incorporating it into traditional dishes that you make throughout the year, for example lasagne or stews.  This Moroccan Pumpkin and Chickpea stew is a favourite in our house.

And let’s not forget the seeds. They are a source of protein, healthy omega-3 fats and are rich in minerals such as zinc which help to protect our kids from coughs and colds. You can roast 100g each of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds for 5-8 minutes, keeping an eye on them and removing them as soon as they turn brown. Then blitz them with 4 tablespoons sesame oil for your very own seed butter.

They make a great addition to a trail mix for a child over 5 – a handful of nuts, seeds, some dry breakfast cereal and some Claws with a few chocolate drops makes a great, tasty snack for your little ones. I confess Sam still picks the seeds out in his, but as I keep reminding him – 15 tries my darling!

Have a great Halloween!