Once upon a time, I was a teacher. An early childhood teacher to be exact, and that meant, I spent plenty of time in the cheerful company of children between the ages of 3 and 7. All of that was once upon a time. When I used to share what I did for a living, many of the responses I received went a little something like this: “Wow! You must have a lot of energy!” or “I could never do that!” Nowadays, when I look back at working with our youngest learners, it all seems like a breeze. My current stint as a stay at home mom of toddler twins, has shown me how much energy I truly possess, how there are things I thought I would never do and discovered how love could make me do anything.
When I reflect on those days in the classroom, one of the things that I fondly remember doing is cooking with my students. During a study on pumpkins, my students and I made pumpkin puree a few times a week. Together with my group of four or five little learners, we would gather around a table, cut our pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and prepare it for the oven. Afterwards, my young chefs would use their “special” large grown-up spoons to scrape out the baked pumpkin’s flesh and store it in jars. We stocked up on loads and loads of this puree to use in recipes for bread, jam or cookies and even kept the seeds on the side for toasting. The ironic bit in all this, is that before I became an early childhood teacher, I knew zero about cooking with pumpkins. Fast forward to the present, ten years later and I can say that I’m an expert in all things pumpkin.
Time has moved quickly since I last led a group of young children in circle time or acted out a story or tricked children into learning addition by teaching them a math game or had my hands covered in a colorful palette of acrylic paint. Yet, two years later and I am still pumping out batches of pumpkin puree. Those years of practice have certainly paid off. The jars of homemade sweet orange mush are now enthusiastically enjoyed and devoured by my semi-toothless toddlers. Soon enough, (because the cliché is so true) they will graduate to more adult-like food and swap the straight up puree for pumpkin pie, cookies, cake and maybe one of these Nutty Pumpkin Carrot Chocolate Chip squares.
Nutty Pumpkin Carrot Chocolate Chip Squares (adapted from the cookbook One Smart Cookie)
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin
2 tbsp. oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup pecans
Preheat oven to 350/180 degrees
In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
In a larger bowl, beat the egg and egg white until foamy.
Add the brown sugar, pumpkin, oil, butter and vanilla and mix until smooth.
Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until it is well blended.
Add the carrots, pecans and chocolate. Stir until smooth.
Pour and spread batter into a 8″x8″ greased pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack before serving.
Cream Cheese Frosting (optional)
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz of cream or quark cheese (1 package), room temperature
2 – 3 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Mix cheese and butter until smooth.
Add the vanilla.
Then slowly begin adding the sugar until you are happy with the consistency of the batter.