Pumpkin Risotto

Pumpkin Risotto

If you’re looking for new pumpkin recipes to add to your seasonal repertoire, this savory recipe is a nice alternative to sweet pumpkin desserts.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a 3-quart casserole dish over medium heat. Add the sage and garlic; cook for 1 minute.
  2. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover, transfer to the oven, and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.
  3. Stir before serving!

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Halloween Countdown Day 29: Do the Monster Mash

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If you need to pump up the volume in the final stretch before Halloween, then simply queue up the Halloween tunes! It doesn’t matter what spooky song your crew listens to, as long as everyone does the boogie(man) boogie!

Veronika was soon obsessed with the Ghostbuster’s theme song and paraded around singing “ghost busters!” at the top of her lungs. Monster Mash was also a fast toddler favorite.

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Travis wanted super spooky, which meant we had to dig deeper into the Halloween vault. Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the overture from Phantom of the Opera upped the ante!

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We soon decided we needed ghost dancing partners, so put together classic ghosts: wrap a cotton ball in a tissue and secure with yarn. Add marker eyes and an 0 mouth to each, and then break out the spookiest dance moves you know!

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Halloween Countdown Day 28: Watch a (Sorta) Spooky Movie

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No matter what your kids’ favorite cartoon or show is, chances are there’s a Halloween special to go along with it. These seasonal episodes are fantastic for kids because they tend to be a little bit spooky, but tame enough for even toddlers to handle. That means the whole family can enjoy the fun!

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Here’s a roundup of what Travis and Veronika have watched this month:

Wild Kratt’s: Creepy Creatures

If you Give a Mouse a Pumpkin

Daniel Tiger: Dress Up Day

Ready Jet Go: Jet’s First Halloween

Word Girl: Tricks and Treats

Peg + Cat: The Halloween Problem

The grand finale was the most classic of all, cuddled up on the couch for It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

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Other ideas, though we didn’t watch them, include a spooky Paw Patrol (try Pups and the Ghost Pirate) or Pinkalicious: Pink or Treat.

Meamwhile, if you need the perfect snack during all those scary episodes, it turns out that October is (no surprise) National Popcorn Poppin’ Month!

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In celebration, we tested out 5 new popcorn toppings over the course of our viewings:

Melted Chocolate

Ranch Dressing

Vegan Parmesan sprinkles

Taco Seasoning

Cinnamon-Sugar

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The verdict: Taco seasoning was too spicy for everyone; Veronika liked melted chocolate best; and Travis preferred plain old melted (vegan!) butter.

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Fall Hair Gel Sun Catchers

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I wanted to make a couple of orange sensory bags for Veronika this morning, with Halloween and autumn in full swing, only to realize I didn’t have any orange food coloring! I didn’t have yellow, either, which meant I couldn’t even mix red and yellow to make orange.

On a whim I decided to see if I could dye things the old-fashioned way (spices!) and there was orange turmeric in the spice rack. The result wasn’t perfect, but adding the spice turned out to be half the fun.

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I squirted a generous amount of clear hair gel into each of two small zip-top bags to start. In the first, I added about a teaspoon of turmeric and mushed around until it was orange. Veronika loved the smell of the turmeric, and wanted to help measure out the spoonful!

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Then I added orange leaves we’d brought home from the playground yesterday. The turmeric did make the bag slightly cloudy and hard to see the leaves, but it worked fine if in direct sunlight.

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For the second version, I drew jack o’ lantern features directly on the plastic bag with a black sharpie. Again I added 1 teaspoon turmeric, along with 1 drop of red food coloring. This made a great orange!

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Because the black features were on the outside, the graininess of the spice didn’t matter this time. Veronika loved playing with this squishy bag where I taped it against the window.

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These turned out to be so fun, and spot-on for the season, too.

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Spooky Treat Holders

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These easy treat containers are a great way to hand out Halloween candy this year without kids reaching into a communal bowl. Make a few or a lot, and leave on a patio or table where kids can easily take a single serving. They’re a fun alternative to a standard treat bag.

To assemble, first wrap empty toilet paper tubes in crepe paper or ribbon. I made one version with orange ribbon and another with white crepe paper. Other fun ideas include: green (for Frankenstein!), blue (for silly monsters!), black (for bats!) or even tricolor white-orange-yellow for candy corn.

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As you wrap, you’ll need to work carefully, wrapping one side of the paper or ribbon and then applying glue before wrapping the next section. Wrap, glue, wrap, glue, repeat until the tube is completely covered.

Now add details with pieces of cut construction paper or marker. For example, add wiggle eyes to the blue monster, if you’ve used blue crepe paper or ribbon. Our orange ones became pumpkins and white became ghosts.

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You can then use either cellophane treat bags or regular zip-top bags to stuff candy inside. I filled baggies with a few treats (make sure the stuffed bag is narrow enough to fit inside the tube), and insert into your spooky creations.

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We’re ready for contact-free trick-or-treaters!

Halloween Countdown Day 26: Pumpkin Power

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It turns out that October 26 is Pumpkin Day, as if the gourd needs one specific day in a month that seems to be all about it! But we took the opportunity to test an unappreciated ability of pumpkins: to generate electricity!

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Much like those old potato or lemon experiments, you can hook up two pumpkins to make a clock run or an LED light turn on.

I originally tried to follow online instructions, but had to maneuver things a little differently to line up with the particular items that came in a fruit-battery kit we purchased. The set-up looks like this: lnsert a cooper strip and a zinc strip into each of 2 small pumpkins.

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Use an alligator clip wire to attach the copper strip from one pumpkin to the zinc strip from the second pumpkin.

Now, use a second wire with alligator clip to attach the zinc strip from the first pumpkin to the negative node of either a multimeter, clock, or LED light.

Use a third wire with alligator clip to attach the copper strip from the second pumpkin to the positive node of the multimeter, clock, or LED light. Hopefully the photos in this post make all that clearer!

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Your circuit should be complete.

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Travis was wowed watching our clock blink on. At one point we left it running for over an hour.

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Why does this work? Pumpkin flesh has acid (though not as much as lemons), which means the zinc strip will start to lose electron ions. Those ions travel over to copper, which generates electricity.

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Now that’s pumpkin power!

Halloween Countdown Day 25: Spider Countdown

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We’re one week away from Halloween, and it was time for a countdown-within-our-countdown! With only a few days left, I had to up the ante on the anticipation for the kids.

I had originally planned to hang plastic spiders on a large piece of black felt for this activity, adhering them with Velcro sticky dots. But I couldn’t find a large enough piece of black felt, so had to improvise a bit.

I painted a piece of poster board black, then added Velcro dots (and some hot glue for extra security) to attach white yarn in the shape of a spider web.

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o make the “spiders”, first fill plastic Easter eggs with a few small candies (we love Giggles, an organic alternative to Skittles), or other Halloween trinkets, then close tightly.

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Use hot glue to add pipe cleaner legs and a Velcro dot to the back of each spider.

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Add the other halves of the Velcro dots to your poster board (or felt, if using) and then stick on the spiders. Now mark each spider with dots in permanent black marker. The first spider gets one dot, the second gets two, and so on up to seven.

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In the morning, the kids came down and discovered this web of delights. I asked Travis to find the spider with only one dot, which he then proudly pulled off and opened up for a surprise.

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Needless to say, candy before breakfast meant happy kids.

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Tomorrow they’ll move on to spider #2. This should tide them over until the big day!

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Tricked-Out Treats

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There aren’t any neighborhood Halloween parties this year since big gatherings are a no-no, but that doesn’t mean you can’t surprise your little goblins with a party platter of tricked-out treats. To wit, we’re getting a little batty with our snacks as we get closer to Halloween. And ghosty, and spidery, and owlish, too!

For spiders, cut kiwi into rounds and arrange 8 pretzel pieces around each circle as legs.

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For ghosts, cut mini cucumbers in half lengthwise. Cut out small pieces of non-dairy cheddar slices for eyes and mouths.

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For vampire bats, spread water crackers with guacamole. Place each cracker over two blue corn tortilla chips for wings. Use additional corners of tortilla chip for fangs, and pieces of non-dairy cheddar for eyes.

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At dessert, it was time for some sweet-not-spooky owls!

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Trim rice crispy treats (such as Made Good) along one edge to form two triangles. Spread with your favorite vegan vanilla frosting, then add two creme-filled cookies (such as Newman O’s) as eyes. We had some sleepy owls and some that were wide awake! Add an almond for a beak, and your little owls are ready!

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No tricks here, just delicious treats that had the kids smiling.

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Spaghetti Spider Web Craft

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Thanks to some recent sensory play with Veronika, I’ve learned a few tricks about how best to make sculpture from spaghetti. I realized the same method could be used to add to our Halloween decor, because it would result in perfect “spider webs”.

To start, mostly this activity was just spaghetti sensory play again. This time, I tinted a big batch of spaghetti a witchy green hue and instead of adding glue, I added corn syrup.

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Just pour it on until you have a nice coating over the noodles. This not only means the noodles won’t clump together as your child plays, but also means the final artwork can still dry like glue, but stay edible.

And good thing, because Veronika was in the mood to nibble on pasta today! I gave her a small dish of plain noodles, but she ate big handfuls of the green stuff right from the pot!

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Eventually I diverted her attention from eating noodles to making the spider web craft. Lay out squares of wax paper and help your toddler arrange noodles in a circle. The thinner the overlap of the noodles, the faster and better these webs will dry.

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Being a toddler, of course she also wanted to make big gloppy piles of noodles, which was half the fun.

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She loved calling them webs, though, as she worked.

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Once we had three neat web shapes, I placed them on a baking sheet and put in the oven at 175 degrees F for 2 hours. This was sort of a guess, but it worked perfectly. The webs came off from the wax paper without tearing or breaking at all.

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Thread yarn through the top of each “web” and hang in spooky corners or windows. Bonus points for plastic spiders to live in each web!

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Melted Crayon Pumpkins

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After melting crayons to make planets, Travis wanted more melt-y fun this morning. So we thought we could decorate pumpkins this way!

Our pack of crayons had multiple hues in the red, orange, and yellow family, so I took all those from the box and soaked them briefly in water. This will help the wrappers slip right off. Snap each crayon in half.

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At first we tried arranging them around the stem of our medium-sized pumpkins, but realized they were going to slide off, as they was not enough surface area to rest on.

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So then we thought to do the project on our biggest pumpkin, even though the original intent was to save this one for carving. Now, although the crayons could balance, they flew off as soon as we turned the hair dryer on!

Thinking quickly, we backtracked to our medium pumpkins (phew, the big guy can safely await carving day), but this time I used a dab of hot glue to secure each crayon near the stem.

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Success! Now we could turn the hair dryer to high heat without the crayons flying off. It’ll take a few moments of patience, but sure enough, they’ll begin to ooze and melt.

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This was fantastic fun, all the more so because the goriness of melting crayons just feels downright Halloween-y. It takes longer than I would have thought, but Travis insisted on watching every dripping, melting moment.

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He loved when rivulets of wax would drip down but cool almost instantly (in much the same way that icicles form), leaving neat strings of wax behind.

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These were fun to snap off, too!

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Keep going until all your crayons are completely melted.

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One note of caution: the melted wax will fly further than you think, due to the force of air coming out of the hair dryer. So be sure to cover your surface area completely with wax paper or newspaper.

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The end result is a beautiful way to decorate your pumpkins with no carving knife!