Pumpkin Mania: Part 4

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The last part of our guided-work with pumpkins focused on baking some allergy-friendly bread and sharing it with our neighbours.

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My daughter helps me with baking at least once a month. Not only does she get to mix the ingredients, but she’s also the official chocolate chip dropper (and yes, she usually eats a few along the way).

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While cooking and food prep is something we routinely do together (I’ve spoken about the benefits of this in previous posts), it has been a while since my daughter has come with me to share food with our neighbours.  Now that she’s older and more conscious of our lifestyle, I wanted her to experience this firsthand and lay a foundation for future learning about the rights of neighbours and community-building. It also contributes to her socioemotional development to deepen relationships with the people that make up her “village” and give her a sense of pride, ownership and responsibility towards her fellow community members.

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We used this recipe and adapted it by using a Cloud 9 Bakery’s gluten-free baking mix and using Camino fair-trade, allergen-free chocolate chips. Gluten-free breads are generally less moist and because the chocolate chips were dairy-free, they did not melt, so I was a little apprehensive about sharing it with our neighbours, but they were all super gracious about the gesture (and elated for a visit from my daughter who is growing up so fast!) In fact, one of our neighbours actually has celiac disease so she was excited this was a treat she could actually enjoy. Another neighbour sent us a very nice message about how she enjoyed the bread, which was different from conventional bread, but made for a great breakfast.

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I remade the same recipe with regular flour and semisweet milk-chocolate chips over the weekend for family, and they enjoyed it too!

We are making good headway into our supply of pumpkin puree. Just last night, I made a big batch of these pumpkin spice pancakes ( I did not make this recipe with my daughter who was already asleep but I wanted to link it since it’s a great recipe sent to me by a friend who’s always on the lookout for yummy allergy-friendly foods for our family). We will also be making some pumpkin soup next week.

Pumpkins made a great impression on our family this year (even on my husband, who last year tried to convince me that he hated pumpkins!) Buying and cooking with pumpkins is going to become an annual fall tradition for us. My biggest takeaway has been to buy multiple smaller (sugar) pumpkins since those are more conducive to cooking/baking.

I also just want to take a minute to explain that the majority of the content for the Pumpkin Mania series was based on guided-learning, and while it is valuable for children to partake in “activities”, they, by no means, should make up the majority of a child’s play. The most valuable play for children is free-play (I will write more on this subject at a later time). This series was just highlighting one aspect of our learning over the past few weeks.

Pumpkin Mania: Part 3

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The third experience in our work with pumpkins focused primarily on “cooking.”

To be honest, getting my hands on some unprocessed pumpkin seeds was a big part of my motivation to buy a pumpkin in the first place. Not only was the experience personally sentimental (because it was reminiscent of my dad toasting seeds for us as children), but it was necessary given my daughter’s nut allergies. I was looking for something beyond raisins to add variety to homemade granola. I decided we would take on the task ourselves since it was proving challenging to find uncontaminated pumpkin seeds close to home (not to mention it was way more cost-effective to do it ourselves!)

Because this was such a simple recipe, my two year-old was able to take the reigns and I was the helper.

She simply transferred all of the seeds into the bowl. I helped by adding olive oil and then she used the salt shaker to season the seeds and mixed everything together. She then transferred all of the seeds onto a baking tray and then spread them out.

*Because this was our first time doing this, we decided to play it safe but in future years we will be experimenting with different seasonings and flavours.

Like many toddlers, she prefers using her hands to utensils, so I marveled at her patience as she transferred the seeds (by hand) through the different steps.

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We then baked the seeds at 350 degrees Celsius until they were brown (next time we won’t toast them for as long). She’s been particularly excited to munch on these as a snack and share them with her Papa. Eating seeds has proven to be nice bonding time for them, since someone else has to extract the seeds for her (and I am terribly unskilled at this).

* We were also intending on bringing some for her seed-loving grandfather, but sadly after a night of Mama and Papa binge-munching, there weren’t enough left to share.

This experience was an opportunity for sensory play, fine motor development, and contributed to numerical and scientific concepts (related to measurement and transformation) and life skills (because knowing how to cook IS important). It also had great socioemotional benefits as my daughter was able to eat (and share) something that SHE had created – what a reason to be proud!

Now what happened to the rest of the pumpkin, you wonder? I roasted, puréed and stored it for the last part of our pumpkin experience.