ZePossibilities of Pumpkins

ZeBot's Pumpkin Patch Buddies

I just made ZeGreatest discovery! You know those orange spheres that are piling up in farmers’ markets and grocery stores? They’re pumpkins! Okay, you probably already knew this, but pumpkins are totally new to me. (Give me a break: I’m a zebra!)

I always figure the best way to find out about something you never knew existed is to do a little detective work. My favorite farmers, food historians and librarians were happy to help out. I even asked a couple of dogs, since if they like something, you KNOW it’s going to be cool.

My buddies Spot and Rover give pumpkins a BIG paws up!

My buddies Spot and Rover give pumpkins a BIG paws up!

I found out that pumpkins are members of the squash-and-gourd family (it’s always fun to have family, don’t you think?). Some people think pumpkins are vegetables, but they’re actually fruits. You can tell because fruits almost always have seeds on the inside (although berries like to be different and have them on the outside). If you’ve ever scooped the squishy guts out of a pumpkin, you know they have LOTS of seeds.

You might think from their bright orange color that pumpkins give you tons of energy — and you’d be right. They’re loaded with natural sweetness and awesome nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds are packed with good-for-you stuff like protein, B vitamins, iron and vitamin E.

Carving jack-o'-lanterns with hooves is challenging -- but I did it!

Carving jack-o’-lanterns with hooves is challenging — but I did it!

The kind of pumpkins that are best for eating are known as “sugar pumpkins” (they taste super-sweet). Farmers also grow special pumpkins that are great for carving, which are called “jack-o’-lantern pumpkins.”

Humans are pretty smart – they’ve been growing and eating pumpkins for thousands of years. They’re native to Central America, but have been grown in North America for centuries (archaeologists have found bits of pumpkin in ancient cliff dwellings in the American Southwest).

Native Americans made use of the pumpkin harvest in all sorts of cool ways – from drying pumpkin strips for weaving into mats to roasting pumpkins for food.

I have a feeling Native Americans never did THIS with a pumpkin!

I have a feeling Native Americans never did THIS with a pumpkin!

When the pilgrims arrived in New England in 1620, Native Americans shared their pumpkin knowledge with their new friends. They taught settlers how to make what would eventually become pumpkin pie – and a Thanksgiving favorite!

Here’s what they did: pilgrims cut the top off the pumpkin, removed the seeds and filled the hollow inside with milk, spices and honey. They put the lid back on the pumpkin and roasted it in the embers of a dying fire. This created sweet, spicy pumpkiny goodness that later became the filling for today’s pumpkin pie.

Are spiders a typical ingredient for pumpkin pie? I HOPE not!

Are spiders a typical ingredient for pumpkin pie? I HOPE not!

Pumpkins’ name comes from the Greek word “pepon,” which means a large melon. The English word was “pompion” until about 1640, when people decided “pumpkins” sounded like more fun.

I think so too, so I decided to learn even more about pumpkins at a super-fun festival in Half Moon Bay, California — the Pumpkin Capital of the World. My friend Farmer Mike told me that the largest pumpkin he’s carved at the festival is about the size of a Volkswagen (but you can’t drive it)!

My friend Farmer Mike gets creative with pumpkins in a BIG way!

My friend Farmer Mike gets creative with pumpkins in a BIG way!

Hungry for pumpkins? Here’s a colonial rhyme: “We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon. If it were not for pumpkin, we should be undoon!”

If you feel the same way, try the Pumpkin Power Porridge from my buddy Jennifer Wickes (recipe below).

Want it at noon? Instead of having chips with your lunch, try some roasted pumpkin seeds. You’ll find an easy recipe from Chow Bella Kids just underneath the porridge recipe.

This should give you more than enough fun fuel for a happy and healthy fall!

ZePossibilties of pumpkins are endless -- but I suggest starting with breakfast!

ZePossibilties of pumpkins are endless — but I suggest starting with breakfast!

Recipe: Pumpkin Power Porridge

As you can see, this recipe makes enough to power up your whole family. If you just want a bit of pumpkin power for your own breakfast, a super-quick and easy option is to stir about 1/4 cup pumpkin puree and a little brown sugar and cinnamon into a bowl of cooked oatmeal.

What you need:

1 1/2 cups quinoa, cooked (ask an adult for help)

1 1/2 cups Steel Cut Oats, cooked (ask an adult for help)

3/4 cup soy milk

3/4 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

3 tablespoons agave nectar

1/2 cup walnuts, optional

1/2 cup dried cranberries, optional

What you do:

Mix all ingredients thoroughly together and serve.

If you like hot cereal: mix the ingredients, heat gently on the stove (ask an adult for help with this) and enjoy!

Makes 6 servings

Recipe: Yummy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

What you need:

Seeds from 1 large pumpkin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

What you do:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Scoop the seeds out of your pumpkin, then rinse off the slippery pulp.

Toss with olive oil and salt.
Spread the seeds evenly on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake until dry and crispy – about 45 minutes.

Crunch!

Chuck Williams Teaches a Zebra ZeWay to Cook!

Chuck & ZeBot-framed“The way to be a good cook? Just cook!” –Chuck Williams

When my friend Chuck Williams told me that being a good cook is something that happens by just cooking, I nodded my head so hard my stripes got all squiggly.

If anyone knows about cooking, it’s Chuck. He’s 99 years old—and cooking is something he’s done ever since he was a kid. Today, Chuck is the author of lots of cookbooks and the founder of a very cool kitchenware store called Williams-Sonoma.

Chuck first started learning to cook back in the early 1900s, when he spent lots of time in the kitchen with his grandmother. In those days, people didn’t have microwave ovens or electric mixers or even many real cookbooks. So how did kids learn to cook?

“I learned to cook by watching my grandmother and listening carefully to everything she said,” Chuck told me .

“I helped her in the kitchen every day. I watched and I listened and I asked questions. One of my favorite things was making pies with her. After she finished trimming the crust, she would give me the scraps and let me try to make my own pie.”

Chuck at Age 12 -ZeBlog

“Did you ever make mistakes?” I asked. (This is an important question, because zebras tend to be all hooves in the kitchen—and make lots of mistakes!)

“Of course,” Chuck said. “That’s how you learn. Your mistakes teach you how to do things right the next time. And there are times when a mistake leads to a wonderful discovery in the kitchen. Often times a mistake can turn out better than the original.”

“But what do I do if I make a mistake and it doesn’t turn out to be anything except a big mess?” I asked.

I was thinking of the first time I tried to make an omelet, which is one of the first things Chuck says kids (and zebras) should try to make when they’re learning to cook.

Unfortunately, my omelet ended up looking like a globby yellow UFO—but at least my cat, Whitefoot, enjoyed it.

 

Chuck laughed. “If you make a mess, you clean it up. And then you try again. It’s all about practicing. You just keep cooking—and one day you discover that you really know how to cook.”

Zebras love discovery, so I decided to practice my kitchen skills until I made something wonderful.

And what is ZeBest way to practice? By cooking and baking for Chuck!

Every chance I get, I make up a new recipe for him. The things they all have in common are stripes–and being made with lots of love.

Since ZeGrandma lives far away, I imagine that I’m in the kitchen with Chuck, watching and listening and learning.

Chuck's Kitchen Secret: Have fun -- and wear stripes!

Chuck’s Kitchen Secret: Have fun — and wear stripes!

The more I practice, the more fun I have. I love cooking, baking, tasting and sharing—I feel as though I could stay in the kitchen forever.

And that’s a great thing. Because Chuck’s advice for a long and happy life is this: “Love what you do—and always eat well!”

ZeBot & ZoeBot Striped Blondies

Recipe: ZeBot’s Striped Chocolate-Cherry Blondies

Whenever I bring these to Chuck, he smiles and says “I love these because I can tell that they’re really homemade.” Actually, they’re hoofmade – with lots of love!

What you need:

1/2 cup butter (this is the same as 1 stick)

2 cups  dark brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tbsp. milk (either whole or 2% milk works best)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips to mix in + 1 cup more for melting

1 cup dried tangy cherries (Chuck and I like Montmorency)

Extra Secret Ingredient: Lots of love!

What you do:

Before you start baking, please get all your ingredients ready, grease a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

1. Cut the butter into little slices (about the thickness of your finger).

2.  Put the butter slices in a Pyrex (a kind of glass especially designed to stand high heat) measuring cup or a small glass bowl, then cover with a saucer (this will keep butter from splattering when you melt it).

3. Microwave the butter for about 1 minute (just till it’s melted).

4. Pour the butter into a big mixing bowl,  then add the brown sugar – mix it all up with a big spoon.

5. Add the eggs, one at a time (remember to break open their shells first). Stir up the buttery sugar and eggs really well.

6. Stir in the milk and vanilla.

7. Dump in the flour, baking powder and salt, then mix it all in. There should be NO white clumps or streaks in your bowl. Stripes are great, but we don’t want them here!

8. Stir in the chocolate chips and dried cherries.

9. Use your spoon or a rubber scraper to get the thick batter happily settled in your greased baking pan. Be sure to spread it so the surface of the batter looks nice and even.

10. Bake for 30 minutes, take the blondies out of the oven and let them cool.

11. To make zebra stripes on your blondies, ask an adult to help you melt some semisweet or milk chocolate chips (on the stovetop or in the microwave). Then use a spoon to drizzle the melted chocolate onto the pan of blondies.

12. When the chocolate isn’t gooey anymore, cut the blondies into squares. Save a couple for yourself, then put the rest on a pretty paper plate and give them to your favorite human (or zebra)!

ZeAmazing Magical Spice Detectives & ZeScience of Taste

ZeGreat Spice Detectives!Do you believe in magic?

That’s what some of my favorite kids and I asking were asking each other the first time we blended our own spices.

When we sprinkled our spices on hot, buttery baked sweet potatoes, the only way we could describe what happened inside our mouths was MAGIC!

But I’m kind of getting ahead of my own stripes by starting in ZeMiddle of my story.

ZeBot Spices for Whole Spice

It all began when I asked my friends Ronit and Shuli Madmone: “What are spices? And why do humans like them so much?”

I thought, considering that they’re experts who own a really cool company called Whole Spice and I’m a just a simple zebra who’s only beginning to explore the world of food, they would have given me a super-simple answer.

But they looked at each other and laughed, “If you really want to understand spices, ZeBot, come to our house.”

It turned out that my questions were the first steps on a journey that would take me into deliciously exciting new worlds.

For a taste of our adventure, please check out the video (below) — then read on!


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ZeGreat Heirloom Tomato Cake

ZeBot Heirloom Tomato CakeSummer is ZePerfect time for celebrations – and all the fresh colors and flavors at ZeFarmer’s Markets make it more fun than ever!

So you can imagine how excited I was to be invited to help host a Farmer’s Market Supper Party with some of the Bay Area’s coolest food bloggers and cookbook authors (links to all ZeRecipes are at the end of this post).

Our mission: to showcase the season’s bounty with a creative vegetarian supper. Everyone was very understanding about my being a novice cook/baker who’s all hooves (and no opposable thumbs) and told me it would be fine if I made up a zebra-friendly dessert.

I figured I’d do what ZeGrandma and ZeMom always taught me: don’t go to a farmer’s market with your stripes totally set on making something in particular.

ZeBot Tomatoes Napa

Instead, have fun wandering around and discovering the day’s freshly harvested treasures, then create a recipe based on what you find.
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Wokkin’ On Sunshine: A Magical Exploration of ZeWok Shop!

Chinatown Gate with ZeBotHey, who wants to go for a wok with me?

When I asked my Chinese-born American buddy Julianne that question, her reply (like yours might be) was: “Um, what’s a wok?”

Well, I knew that a wok is a kind of cooking pan — and being a zebra who loves to roam (and is very fond of puns), I’ve always like saying stuff like “let’s go for a wok.” But Julianne and I wanted to explore all the sizzling secrets to wonderful wok cooking.

Since we think the best way to start on any new  path of culinary discovery is to do some ZeSearch, we decided to begin in my ZeNormous cookbook library.

Julianne Does Research

The next thing we did was call my friend Grace Young, who has written lots of award-winning cookbooks all about the wok and the amazing things it can do.

It turns out that the voyage into the world of woks is deliciously vast and exciting.
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George Washington, ZeFarmer: Exploring ZeCulinary Gardens of Mount Vernon

ZeBot Poses at Mount Vernon

What do kids, zebras and George Washington have in common?

Lots of things!

Vision. Imagination. Ingenuity.

The joyful desire to explore new ideas and discover innovative ways to do things. The belief that anything is possible—and that you can have fun making it happen.

If you’re an American kid, you already know that George Washington was the very first president of the United States.

But did you know he was also called America’s “foremost farmer”?

ZeBot Visionary Farmer

It makes sense, because both being president and a farmer have a lot to do with planting, growing and harvesting—whether you’re talking about seeds or ideas.

George Washington was as innovative and visionary at farming and horticulture as he was at helping to create a country. When he wasn’t busy being president, his primary occupation was being a farmer.

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