Every Halloween we get at least one small free pumpkin, courtesy of the Park District, YMCA or zoo. Here's how we make the very most of them.
Of course there's always paint, but since we intend to eat ours, we opt for stickers. You could also use a paste of flour and water to glue cut out paper or fabric designs.
Waiting for it to finally get dark on Halloween is a trial for even the most patient, and we like to fill that time with the distraction of pumpkin carving. Wash the outside skin well before carving in preparation for later cooking, and be sure to save the innards. We use a flameless battery operated candle to keep the insides in good shape.
Another job for Halloween afternoon: soak the seed pulp in water for a while to separate, then strain out as much of the pulp as you can with your fingers. I like to let the seeds dry out overnight at this point, but it shouldn't make much of a difference. Spread on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a little worcestershire sauce, spices and (optional) salt, and bake at 450 for 5-10 minutes. Stir them around every few minutes. When you start to hear a few pop, you're just about done. You can also pan-fry them in a non-stick skillet, but with all the stirring that seems like a lot of work for a handful of pumpkin seeds.
After the evening's festivities are through, we wrap and refrigerate our pumpkin, cutting it into pieces if need be. Since it's only been cut for a few hours it should still be perfectly safe to eat, especially if you've had it outside in the cold.
Sometime in the next day or two, I put the pieces in the crockpot with a half cup of water and cook on low for around 4 hours for a small pie-sized pumpkin. When the flesh is very soft, I remove and cool the pieces. Once they can be handled, I scrape the flesh out with a spoon. It can be used immediately for soup or baked goods, or refrigerated/frozen for later use. You can also roast the pieces in the oven, but I like the low-key, hands off, don't-have-to-watch-the-clock-too-closely aspect of the crockpot method.
Be sure to check out the Muffinator Recipe Generator for some recipes (like the muffins above) for pumpkin muffins, scones, pancakes and waffles.
The non-destructive decorating gets your little ones used to being able to pick the pumpkin up by the stem, so after you carve it, you can enjoy their comical reactions when they try the same thing:
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