Pre-Schoolers & Pumpkins, Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Scooping out the insides of a pumpkin with my 2021-2022 co-teacher, Hannah.

Autumn Exploration

Carving out the insides of a pumpkin with an audience of little onlookers is fun. Inviting the kids to explore its’ texture is funny. Some are game and some are not! A few reluctant kids change their minds when they see others touching the orange, wet, and stringy pulp and seeds. One girl tasted the pulp and seeds. I know who’ll be a fan of pumpkin lattes!

At the end of the school day, I collected the seeds and, hon, you know what came next. I made Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds (recipe below) and brought them in for the kids to try. Yum!

We also painted mini-pumpkins, crinkled leaves to decorate paper trees, and explored a texture tray filled with smooth acorns, bumpy pinecones, and itty-bitty pumpkins snipped off of Pumpkin Tree branches. We rolled pinecones in paint and then rolled the paint-covered pinecones on blank paper to create original prints.

Hands-on learning!

Image soure: Joy Food Sunshine

Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Tips Before Roasting Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds must dry completely before roasting. Remove the seeds from pumpkins and rinse thoroughly, discarding any stringy orange pieces. Drain seeds by lining a large baking pan with paper towels, spreading seeds evenly in a layer, and letting sit for 24 hours. At the 12 hour mark, change damp paper towels for dry ones, stir to air out pumpkin seeds.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups pumpkin seeds dried for at least 24 hours
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil or butter (or vegan butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (or coconut sugar to make paleo)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Very lightly grease a large baking pan, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Melt coconut oil or butter in a large microwave safe bowl or on the stovetop in a 4-quart pot.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  5. Mix in pumpkin seeds until they are all evenly coated.
  6. Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin seeds and mix until all they are evenly coated.
  7. Spread pumpkin seeds on your prepared baking pan in single layer.
  8. Bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. They are done when they start to brown.
  9. To test for doneness: remove a few seeds from the pan and let sit on the counter to cool. If they harden up the seeds are done. If they remain soft, return to the oven, checking them after 5 minutes. Continue baking in 5 minute intervals until done.
  10. Once seeds are done, transfer them from the warm pan to another pan lined with parchment paper to let cool.

Yield: 3 cups

Store pumpkin seeds in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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Autumn Kids Crafts: DIY Fall Wreath

Inspiration Wreath
Inspiration wreath at Michael’s.

Guess what hon? Twinkl, an online educational resource for teachers and individuals, reached out and asked to include one of my DIY Kids Crafts on their site! “This children’s craft idea features in Twinkl’s Absolutely Amazing Autumn Ideas.”

This Autumn Kids Craft:  DIY Fall Wreath is evergreen, so I’m re-posting this kids activity from the time I taught “Creative Minds,” an After School Enrichment class at Wyoming Elementary School in Millburn, NJ. The 3rd to 5th graders wrapped burlap around wreath forms, hot glued ends, chose leaves, berries, and fruit, and secured them with coiled wire. They tied ribbon as flourishes and added twine for hanging. Fun!

Here’s what you need and how to make your own.

wreath supplies
Wreath supplies

DIY Fall Wreath Supplies

  • Wreath Form, whatever size you want
  • Burlap, amount depends on size of wreath form
  • Coiled Wire, used to secure floral spray before gluing
  • Wire Cutters, we used two sizes, one to trim floral sprays and one to trim coiled wire
  • Hot Glue Gun and extra glue sticks for glue gun
  • Floral Decorations, such as floral sprays (leaves with berries and fruit), colored beads and leaves
  • Ribbon
  • Twine, knotted and looped for hanging
  • Scissors

Directions:

  1. Before cutting burlap from roll, loosely wrap around wreath form to check how much is needed. Allow extra to tuck end under. Cut burlap from roll.
  2. Wrap burlap around wreath form. Tuck end under and hot glue. This will be the back of the wreath.
  3. Decide how to arrange decorations. Some may have bendable stems. If so ,wrap around wreath form.
  4. If floral sprays, berries or other decor have long, unbendable stems, cut off with large wire cutter.
  5. Using coiled wire, secure smaller decor such as leaves and berries to wreath form. Secure to wreath form by criss-crossing wire until decor is secured. Twist wire in back and tuck ends under.
  6. Secure floral spray with wire and hot glue. Hot glue leaves so they cover wire and lay flat.
  7. Hot glue colored beads and individual leaves.
  8. Tie ribbon and glue if needed.
  9. Find top of the wreath. Create a hanging loop with twine.
Coiled wire wrapped around stem in a criss-cross fashion.
Coiled wire wrapped around stem in a criss-cross fashion.
Hot glueing, watch your fingers!
Hot glueing, watch your fingers!
Pretty!
Pretty!
Seasonal!
Seasonal!
Love it!
Creative!

Transitional Dressing, Elegant Lifestyles Magazine, September 2022

FASHION FLUIDITY IS THE KEY

Though I’m not ready to store my summer clothes just yet, my latest article published in Elegant Lifestyles Magazine is all about transitional dressing–what to wear when the weather is still-summer one day and entering-autumn another. Then there are the days that combine both!

Many years, when heading to our annual Pick-Your-Own-Pumpkin-and-Hay-Ride-Day at Ort Farms in Long Valley, we’d dress for crisp air and then shed layers as the afternoon sun warmed up the fields. We loved deciding which pumpkins would make the best jack-o-lanterns, smell the sweet hay, pet the adorable farm animals, and take home freshly baked apple cider doughnuts. The best part? Spending time together as a family and seeing other families doing the same.

Happy early autumn, hon.


Thanksgiving Menu–Autumn, Tomato, Bean and Vegetable Soups

My Thanksgiving menu always includes soup. Velvety Vegetable Soup has been my go-to meal starter for years, but last year I changed it up by serving Roasted Autumn Vegetable Soup. It was delicious! Friday, when the house is full and lunch includes more visitors, I’ve paired Roasted Tomato Soup and Tuscan Rosemary White Bean Soup with paninis and cheese and cracker platters.

Wishing you a healthy and happy Thanksgiving! Hope it’s filled with family, friends and some time to relax.

Thanksgiving Side Dish, Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallows

Image source: Home Made Interest
Image source: All Recipes

Thanksgiving is around the corner and that means recipes, recipes, recipes! My Sweet Potatoes With Marshmallows casserole is a family favorite, and the actual index card with the recipe is special to me because it was written by my Grandmother Ruth. It’s stained and yellowing and I keep it in a sandwich bag but, come to think of it, I should laminate it! For Thanksgiving, we prepare no less than three Sweet Potato With Marshmallow casseroles and, at the end of dinner and divvying “some to take home,” there might be about three quarters of one baking dish left over!

Happy holidays, hon!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 lb can sweet potatoes (light or no syrup preferred), drained
  • 1 (8 or 15 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained (either size works, depending on desired sweetness) 
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (can lower sugar quantities if desired)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 bag mini marshmallows (can use less or more of bag as desired)
  • nonstick spray or margarine or butter for greasing

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9 x 11 glass baking with non-stick spray, margarine or butter.
  2. With hand mixer, beat potatoes well. Add crushed pineapple to potatoes and mix.
  3. Separate egg and beat egg white until stiff. Set aside.
  4. Add yolk to potatoes/pineapple mixture and beat.
  5. Add brown and granulated sugars to mixture and beat.
  6. Fold egg whites into mixture.
  7. Pour mixture into greased baking dish. Dot the top with about half of the mini marshmallows.
  8. Bake for approx, 25 minutes and then dot the remaining marshmallows on top. Bake for about 15 more minutes. Remove from oven when marshmallows are lightly browned. Tip: Pay attention to marshmallows. They will puff in oven before settling. Add second half of marshmallows when first half is only slightly browned.)
  9. Total bake time is approx. 40 minutes.

Yield:  8

Prep Tip:  A day or two before the holiday, prepare casserole (steps 2-7) but do not top with marshmallows, and refrigerate. On Thanksgiving, remove prepared dish from fridge about an hour before baking. Bake following instructions to dot casserole with half of the marshmallows, bake partway, add remaining marshmallows, and finish baking.

Recipe in my Grandmother Ruth’s handwriting.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread on my hand built ceramic serving dish.

Have you heard of The Able Baker in Maplewood, NJ? It has the most delicious baked goods and the place I go to when I don’t have time to bake. Last week, I picked up a Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread and wondered why didn’t I think of that? This easy and delicious recipe can only be made better by adding chocolate!

Happy baking, hon.

CHOCOLATE CHIP PUMPKIN BREAD (OR MUFFINS)

Yield:  2 loaves

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

3 1/2 cups flour (I used a combination of whole wheat and unbleached flour)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground allspice

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2/3 cup water

1 cup chocolate chips, add more if desired

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat first 11 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes or until well blended.  Add 2/3 cup water and beat until blended.  Stir in chocolate chips and pour batter into 2 greased and floured 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.  Or, add batter to muffin tins.  Bake for 1 1/4 hours for bread, 35 to 40 minutes for regular sized muffins, or 30 to 35 minutes for mini muffins.  Test centers with toothpicks and when they come out clean, they’re done.  Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.

Note:  Bread may be well wrapped and kept frozen up to three months.

Post Halloween Easy Kids Activity, Pumpkin Pieces Float

Halloween may be over, but the pumpkins still have a purpose. Before you throw away your jack-o-lantern, here’s an idea–cut it up into pieces. One of the directors at my preschool suggested this easy, fun and educational kids activity, and the kiddos loved it.

My co-teacher and I cut up our classes’ pumpkins and placed the pieces in a water table. Don’t have a water table? A big plastic bin, large sink or even a bathtub will work.

Our two-year olds had a blast scooping, filling, pouring and experimenting. The blog Miss Ashlee’s Class suggests ways to enhance the activity. Older kids could discuss the parts of a pumpkin, hypothesize whether they think the pieces will float or not, learn about density, and record observations.

Happy hands-on learning–always!

Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

My co-teacher, Hannah, scooping and sharing the insides of a pumpkin.
Image soure: Joy Food Sunshine

I like roasted seeds and nuts (do I sound like a squirrel?), but have never tried sweet roasted pumpkin seeds. When we were scooping pumpkins and saving the seeds for our two preschool classes, my co-teacher Hannah said she loved the seeds with cinnamon. Mind blown! What planet am I living on? How did I not know about these? Hon, here’s a healthy, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo-friendly, kosher recipe from Joy Food Sunshine that I must try!

Happy carving, scooping and baking!

Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Tips Before Roasting Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds must dry completely before roasting. Remove the seeds from pumpkins and rinse thoroughly, discarding any stringy orange pieces. Drain seeds by lining a large baking pan with paper towels, spreading seeds evenly in a layer, and letting sit for 24 hours. At the 12 hour mark, change damp paper towels for dry ones, stir to air out pumpkin seeds.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups pumpkin seeds dried for at least 24 hours
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil or butter (or vegan butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (or coconut sugar to make paleo)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Very lightly grease a large baking pan, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Melt coconut oil or butter in a large microwave safe bowl or on the stovetop in a 4-quart pot.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
  5. Mix in pumpkin seeds until they are all evenly coated.
  6. Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin seeds and mix until all they are evenly coated.
  7. Spread pumpkin seeds on your prepared baking pan in single layer.
  8. Bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. They are done when they start to brown.
  9. To test for doneness: remove a few seeds from the pan and let sit on the counter to cool. If they harden up the seeds are done. If they remain soft, return to the oven, checking them after 5 minutes. Continue baking in 5 minute intervals until done.
  10. Once seeds are done, transfer them from the warm pan to another pan lined with parchment paper to let cool.

Yield: 3 cups

Store pumpkin seeds in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Manifesting a Grasshopper?

Bonding with a striped-leg grasshopper.

One of my favorite sounds is the nighttime chirping of grasshoppers and crickets. Summer chirping lulls me to sleep the same way as ocean waves. Right about now, in mid-October, I pay close attention to insect mate-calling. There will be a night when the air is filled with nature’s stereo, and the next night the record’s put back in its sleeve. Though I love autumn, it makes me melancholy to bid an official farewell to perfect-temperature-nights, warm-sand-days, and a summer’s promise of possibilities.

As I continue to work towards my writing goals, I’ve added something to my thought process–manifestation. I concentrate on my goals; what they are and what it would feel like to achieve them. If you see me gazing at the sky, know that I am sending my independent-minded characters, lyrical writing, and layered stories out into the universe, hoping they find champions who will bring them to life.

Did I know that when I read the poignant poem Postlude, I was also manifesting a grasshopper? I did not, but there he was, away from his lawn forest, a striped-leg, little guy who let me scoop him up. When I opened up my palm, he hung out and studied me with his five eyes. Then, he hopped out of my hand.

Do you think it’s a sign? A coincidence? A message from the universe that my-work-my-heart-my-passion to share the wonder in the world by writing Kidlit is traveling on both puffy white clouds and waving green grass? I pray so.

Stay by the hearth, little cricket.
Cendrillon

You prefer me invisible, no more than
a crisp salute far away from 
your silks and firewood and woolens.

Out of sight, I’m merely an annoyance,
one slim, obstinate wrinkle in night’s 
deepening trance. When sleep fails,

you wish me shushed and back in my hole.
As usual, you’re not listening: Time stops
only if you stop long enough to hear it

passing. This is my business:
I’ve got ten weeks left to croon through.
What you hear is a lifetime of song.

by Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize winning poet