Holiday Magic Begins – Thanksgiving is Near!

350x260 pumpkin1Magic is in the air, bright fall colors announce the holiday season. Thanksgiving is knocking on the door. Good smells begin to fill the kitchen.

What a great time to share with the grandchildren our memories wherever they are or we are! It’s especially during the holiday season when we grandparents can shine and have great fun with the kids. We just have to start saying: “When I was your age, I  still remember the most delicious smell coming from the oven before Thanksgiving . . . it was a special spice my mom, your grandmother, used to bake apples.”

Grandchildren love to hear about our life passed. It is magic to them.  Without realizing it, family traditions come alive when we share old-time stories, taste and test recipes we loved as children. If we live too far to visit, the marvels of today’s technology bring us close: video calls or face time, to mention a few. I am not up-to-date on all technologies but the grandkids are.

Kids love to prepare for family celebrations! During my recent visit with my three grandchildren (ages 6,10,12) up in Northern Michigan, we plunged into an early Thanksgiving spirit without planning it. Halloween had just passed. One day, instead of focusing on our grocery list to help out their Mom , we ended up in the pumpkin field way off the beaten track. How did that happen? 350x265 pumpkin3

Well, the grandchildren know that they can easily con me into fun adventures. I love to explore and so do they. Bob said: “Oma, do you know where that road goes?” pointing to a half dirt road. In split seconds I turned the wheels to the right and off we went on our adventure, totally forgetting about our grocery shopping. “We will find out,” I said.  And so the fun began.

We drove through the woods, fields, leading to nowhere. But there to the right was a forlorn pumpkin field with, what it looked like, left over forgotten fruits!  “Wow!” and Thanksgiving came alive. We shared stories about the Pilgrims and imagined being an immigrant settler of old times growing pumpkin. We intertwined my story growing up in surroundings of isolated fields and living off the land (I am a modern immigrant settler, 50 years ago).  Freddy asked: “How did they eat these pumpkins? I wonder how they taste?”

I realized then that the children had not made the connection between the pumpkin paste in the can for a pumpkin pie and pumpkins growing in the field. I grabbed the teachable moment to enlighten: “Let’s get a pumpkin, bake it, and taste it!”

We stopped at a farm. What a display of pumpkins, all shapes and forms; abundance of sculptured gourds in brilliant colors; and fresh apples!!

350x261 pumpkin2 350x265 Apples GeorgeEquipped with our pumpkin to bake, gourds to decorate and apples to bake, we were ready to test and taste our ‘homestead’ Thanksgiving preparation trial. We got busy!

1. Search for recipes: ‘How to cook fresh pumpkin for pie’ and select one they liked the best. The kids love that.  They were amazed how much information they found on fresh pumpkins: different cooking and baking methods; some more complex than others. The last vote: Cooked Pumpkin  because one reader made this comment: “Here is an easy method for cooking fresh pumpkin and making your own puree.” — Vi.

2. Preparation: Try it or share it with the kids, it’s easy and fun:   1 medium sugar pumpkin; preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C); cut pumpkin into small manageable pieces and cut off pith and seeds; place cut pumpkin skin side up in a large roasting pan; add 1/4 inch of water and bake uncovered for 1 hour or until tender. Remove from oven and allow pumpkin to cool; when cooled, cut away skin and mash or puree. Use in any recipe that calls for canned pureed pumpkin.

And the pumpkin seeds! They are so delicious when baked with your favorite spices! Again, there are may ways to roast and spice pumpkin seeds. But this time, I suggested to just experiment and see what happens. We set up a contest: the kids prepare, their parents judge which ones are the most tasty. We separated the seeds on a baking sheet into sections, one for each child, and put all possible spices on the counter: cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, chili pepper, cumin, . . . salt, brown sugar, and so on. Each could select any spice, combine some, . . . and spice their seed section before we bake them. I did not even have to suggest it: they smelled each, tasted it, mixed their own concoction and powdered their seed section. Our experiment became lively and fun. Delicious spicy aroma flooded the kitchen. Into the oven, 300 degree F, and in 20 min. or so, and ready for the tasting judges. Interestingly, the boys (10 & 12) created a hot, spicy badge while their sister (6) opted for cinnamon and brown sugar. Whose was the best? Everyone, including the judges, agreed: depends on your taste! And of course, there were no dislikes.

3. Baking: This is the best part: baking with REAL fresh pumpkin instead commercially canned one. We found a recipe: Grandma’s Old Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies. They are simple to make, preparation time is short and filled with holiday spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla. Instead of 1 cup canned pumpkin paste we used 1 cup of our freshly baked pumpkin with a bit more cinnamon & nutmeg and ground cloves to add more flavor. The kids were the dough tasters to judge whether the spices are well-balanced.  Oh, were those delicious!!

upside-1350x256 cookies.

4. Clean-up time: can you envision the kitchen after three hours of planning, experimenting, tasting, measuring and baking . . . with three kids and grandma? Believe it or not, the fun is not finished. While tasting the cookies and cleaning up, our team spirit of four ‘pilgrims’ or ‘settlers’ in modern times remained as high.

What did we learn?

  • The fun of exploring and experimenting.
  • History and lifestyle of pilgrims, early settlers, immigrants.
  • Searching and evaluating recipes.
  • Measurements of ingredients.
  • Various baking methods using the oven.
  • Tasting spices, different mixtures.
  • Nutrition values – of course I had to add a bit of that.
  • Team work.

Most of all, our afternoon was packed with fun, high spirit and the magic of the holiday season! If you feel inspired, share with us your magic holiday moments with your grandchildren. We love to hear from you!

Happy Thanksgiving!



About Ute Goldkuhle

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