You’ve got your Pumpkin Spice Latte on morning repeat, your kid has developed a real taste for those candy-corn pumpkins—and you keep eyeing the pumpkin pie at the store for just a little too long. It’s easy to get diverted to the sugary side of the fall gourd, but there’s great ways to incorporate pumpkin into your diet in healthy (and savory) ways. Between being a top source of Vitamin A, beta-carotene and fiber, pumpkin is also just plain delicious when you subtract the sugar and spices. But if you look at the pumpkin display in the store and feel totally intimidated to do more with it than draw on a crooked smile, we took the fear out by asking a few awesome chefs to give us their favorite kid-friendly recipes, all of which can be diced and mushed into finger foods (or slurped) for early eaters.
Pumpkin White Bean Soup
"This is one of my favorite recipes to make this time of year because it really captures the flavors of fall in an authentic, not-too-in-your-face way. White beans give the soup some extra body while adding protein, which I love - a very sneaky (but delicious) way to get some extra nutrition into your kids! This soup is a true under-30 minute meal - you'll be shocked at how much flavor you'll get in such a short amount of time." -Lauren Kretzer, contributing chef to vegan fast-casual favorite byChloe.
2 Tbsp virgin coconut oil
2 stalks celery, finely chopped (about 2/3 cups)
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp minced ginger
1 small apple, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tsp salt
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
4 cups vegetable stock
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
1 15.5 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 large bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add celery, onion, ginger and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are slightly softened and onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add apple and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
2. Add coconut milk, vegetable stock, pumpkin puree, cannellini beans, bay leaf and cinnamon stick and increase heat bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
3. Remove bay leaf and cinnamon stick and let soup cool slightly (about 10 minutes) before carefully transferring to a blender. Blend soup (in batches, if necessary) on high, or until completely smooth.
4. Return soup to the pot and warm to desired temperature. Add maple syrup and stir until combined. Serve immediately.
Related: 7 easy finger foods for baby
Pumpkin Fries with Pumpkin Seed Aioli
"Our son Jackson loves this recipe! As we live on a farm, eating based on the season is part of everyday life. Pumpkins, which we grow in our gardens, are a favorite because of their sweetness and similarity to starchy vegetables like potatoes, which makes them a great healthy substitute for french fries. We serve these as an easy and fast weeknight side dish or keep prepped in the fridge for quick after school snacks." - Justin Walker, chef/owner of Walker's in Cape Neddick, Maine (set to open in early spring 2018)
8 cup pumpkin skinned and cut into fries
1 gallon cold water
1 cup corn starch
1. Soak pumpkin fries in the cold water for at least 2 hours or over night.
2. Pre-heat fryer to 350F.
3. Strain fries from the water and completely coat in the corn starch.
4. 1. Fry for 2 minutes or until crispy.
Pumpkin Seed Aioli
1 cup mayonnaise
1T pumpkin seed oil
2T lemon juice
Combine all ingredients to feather and serve as a dipping sauce with the fries.
Cheddar and Squash Dumplings
"Similar in texture in spirit to pierogi, the dumplings are made with a simple dough that can be filled with many different combinations. In the fall, I like to stuff them with a combination of sharp cheddar and sweet squash or pumpkin filling. The result is finger-friendly food that the kids love! " - Matt Jennings, of Townsman and debut cookbook Homegrown (Artisan Books, October 2017)
For the Dough
5 to 5½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup whole milk
1 cup cold water
2 tablespoons sour cream
For the Filling
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces aged cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons whole-milk ricotta, homemade or store-bought
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives, for garnish
2 tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds, for garnish
Pure maple syrup, for drizzling
Sour cream, for serving
Make the dough:
1. In a large bowl, combine 5 cups of the flour, the milk, water, egg, and sour cream. Stir until the mixture comes together in a ball, adding more flour if the dough is sticky. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead gently with your fingertips, lifting the dough off the counter and dropping it down (the dropping technique is key for delicate and pliable dough). If the dough seems very sticky, add additional flour by the tablespoonful.
2. Knead until the dough is smooth on the outside and slightly sticky when poked, 2 to 5 minutes. Gather into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature while you make the filling.
Make the filling:
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Put the squash in a medium bowl, add the olive oil and a few pinches of salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Arrange the squash in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast, stirring frequently, until the squash is tender but not browned, about 20 minutes.
3. Remove the squash from the oven and let cool slightly, then transfer to a food processor. Add the cheddar cheese, ricotta, nutmeg, and cinnamon and process until pureed. Transfer to a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, and let cool.
4. Form and cook the dumplings: Preheat the oven to 250°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Unwrap the dough and cut it into six even pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time (keep the remaining pieces under a clean, damp kitchen towel so they don’t dry out) and using a well-floured rolling pin, roll the dough to a thickness of ¼ inch.
5. Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut out circles from the dough. Spoon a small amount of the filling into the middle of a dough circle and, with a pastry brush, brush the edge of the dough with water. Carefully fold the dough over to form a half-moon, enclosing the filling inside. Crimp the edges with your fingers to seal. Set the dumpling on a baking sheet. Repeat until all the dough and filling have been used, gathering up and rerolling the scraps of dough as needed.
5. Add the dumplings to the boiling water and cook for about 90 seconds, until they float. Use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer them from the water to a rimmed baking sheet and let cool.
6. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add some of the dumplings and fry, turning frequently, until lightly browned on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to an ovenproof platter and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining dumplings.
7. Just before serving, sprinkle with chives and sunflower seeds, and drizzle with maple syrup. Serve with sour cream on the side.
When it comes to feeding time, choose a high chair that will make both baby and you comfortable. There are plenty of options, from the space-saving and foldable Nano to the modern multi-use, height-adjustable Fresco (which you can use from newborn days up until age 8!).
Excerpted from Homegrown by Matt Jennings (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Huge Galdones.