I had been waiting for the right opportunity. And it just so happened that all of the pieces fell into place the other weekend. The light was right, it was not raining, the kids were all home and not at school since it was Saturday and as an extra added bonus there was a little frost that made the tips of hay in the field look like they had been sprinkled with powdered sugar. We were about to take our Christmas card photos. I had been discussing it with the kids for a few days and our Erik definitely wanted us to try redo the idea from our 2010 card below. He was just a little squirt back then and stole the show.
I agreed that we could give the idea another try. The way I usually photograph kids is to try get them into their most natural environment. In other words I encourage them to act like kids. I think it brings out the best expressions and their personal nature. As you can imagine it took quite a few shots to get the perfect one.
As we were getting ready, some were quicker than others as is usually the case and kept asking if they could go outside yet. I was trying to slow them down, knowing that since the temperature was just a bit below freezing, they would be inside complaining about the cold before the slower ones even made it outside. Finally, we were all ready. Which one do you like?
Meanwhile in my kitchen I have been experimenting with pumpkins and squash. The thing is that in Finland you cannot really find proper canned pumpkin purée and the stuff I have found is the already spiced variety. Nearly every trip to the States I have taken a can or two back with me. This last time my suitcase was so heavy that I had to do a quick re-pack at the airport counter. I could just blame it on the baby and all of the things he needs, but the truth is that I have not mastered the skill of light packing. I always feel that I should take all those necessary things with me just in case, not to mention the eight pairs of shoes that I had with. That number did not include the baby’s shoes. Almost every autumn I have tried making pumpkin purée and I think I finally learned the trick. My problem in the past has been that it is quite watery and when added to recipes the result is quite bland. The secret is to allow the oven roasted pumpkin to drain for an hour after it has been puréed.
1 pumpkin, cut into half and seeds removed
a large oven pan with sides
Line the large pan with parchment paper. This will make for easy clean-up. Cut the pumpkin into half and remove the seeds. I like to use a melon scoop as it is sharp enough to cut the strands surrounding the seeds. Pour about a 1.5 cm or half and inch of water into the pan and place the pumpkin halves cut side down into the pan. Bake at 160 C/320 F for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the pumpkin feels tender when poked with a knife.
Allow to cool and remove the skin. It should come off very easily. Cut the pumpkin into large chunks and purée with an immersion blender. Place into a sieve over a bowl and allow to drain for at least an hour. Your may gently press down once or twice with a spoon to help release excess water.
This past week I found a spaghetti squash at our local supermarket. It was a rare find indeed in this part of the world and since there were only two left on the shelf I thought that I must purchase it now, for it might be soon gone. Soon after Halloween, there were no pumpkins to be found at the grocery. Pumpkin just isn’t a thing here. I read a few blogs and then tried my own experimentation. I followed the same steps as with pumpkin purée above.
Spaghetti squash gets it’s name from the strands the flesh forms after it is baked. I used a fork to pull it out of the skin. It would work great with a sauce or sautéed with some garlic and butter. If I was to do this again I would not bake it as long, rather allowing to be al dente as it continues to cook when sautéed and mine turned almost to a mush at that point.
Spaghetti squash with garlic and kale
1 spaghetti squash, cut into half and seeds removed
knob of butter
handful of kale, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
blue cheese, crumbled
Line a baking pan with sides with parchment paper and pour about 1.5 cm/ 1/2 inch of water. Place the squash halves so that they are facing cut side down. Bake at 160 C/320 F for about 40-45 minutes or so that it feels tender but not too soft. I baked my for an hour and it was too long.
Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool. Turn the squash over and using a fork remove the inside of the squash and set aside. Mince three cloves of garlic and heat a generous knob of butter on a frying pan. Add the garlic and squash and sautée for a bit. Add the chopped kale and parsely. Last add in a sprinkle of blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Check for flavor.
What a wonderfully entertaining post. Your photographs are beautiful and natural. I particularly like the second photograph taken outside. 🙂
Thank you so much…I think I am leaning towards the send photo as well. 🙂
I will have to catch up with your recents posts as we have been away traveling and there just weren’t enough hours in the days to read blogs. Pumpkin IS a thing here in Australia but we cannot buy tinned pumpkin purée either! I really wonder why not? I eventually evolved a process similar to your own, though, roasting and then draining so that it was not too watery. I love spaghetti squash but we seldom have access to it either and my success preparing it was quite varied depending on the variety. It seems to have a narrow tolerance for over and under cooking. I love your family Christmas photos and agree with above comment, the second one is very cute.
I have bought tinned pumpkin in brisbane before. So useful.
I was surprised how picky the spaghetti squash was, definitely requires a little practice. I understand, sometimes it seems that the hours of the day just run out and something has to be taken out 🙂
I agree with the above comment: That second photo has my vote!
This looks like a great day for pumpkins! Outdoors as well as indoors…Lovely kids!
Thank you Leya!
I love the third photo from the top, the one right underneath the children on the sofa. You can see each one clearly and I love the littlest one starting to walk to your eldest who is holding out her arms. It’s wonderful, the rest are cheering the little one on, Great photo and really lovely spaghetti squash recipe.
Thanks Suzanne, I think I am leaning towards that particular photo 🙂
Great post and well said! Your pumpkins look so cute! All the pics r great! 🙂
Thank you Indu!
Hard to believe you are having freezing temps when it is going to be 40C here tomorrow !
Yes Sherry, it is hard to imagine that in your corner of the world, summer is in full bloom! The past couple of days have been particularly gray and although it is only a little past 3 pm, it seems to be getting darker. Time to light the candles to battle the gray 🙂
One of each, please:) The second one stands out for me. Guess we are so lucky to have the canned pumpkin. Spaghetti squash didn’t “sell well” when I tried so don’t go there:) I liked it…love the pictures…
Maybe we’ll have to send you one of each Gramma ❤ I guess I didn't realize before I started how picky the spaghetti squash was. Next time I will have to bake for a shorter time.
My favourite photo is the one where the baby has almost reached his big sister – all the children are animated and engaged – it’s a lovely idea.
Before we lived in the US, I used to make pumpkin pie with Japanese pumpkin, which was the easiest and most commonly used here. It is very smooth when mashed and made beautiful pumpkin pie. I had a terrible time with the pumpkin I bought in America, so I asked Americans for their recipes. I couldn’t believe there was such a thing as tinned pumpkin!
Living in other countries is such an eye-opener, isn’t it? 🙂
I think I agree with you and am leaning towards that photo.
I have heard elsewhere that they have had luck with the Japanese pumpkin. Pumpkins are such a rare occurence here that I may have to try my hand at growing them 🙂
I have always struggled to make pumpkin puree good enough for a pumpkin pie. Your method with the extra draining sounds like a good idea. I love the second photo. Everyone is so excited but the little one is very serious as he walks with deep concentration towards his sister.
He is a funny little guy 🙂 He knows how to walk, although it does require concentration, but prefers to walk (and sometimes almost runs) on his knees around the house. I had been struggling with the pumpkin purée for years and was so excited to get it to work this time around.
Beautiful photos of your beautiful children. I love the second one in the series as well. 🙂
Thank you Andrea, I think I agree with you 🙂
So many pumpkins and all so adorable!
I’m a big fan of spaghetti squash – especially since I try not to eat wheat because it seems to trigger migraines. Your dish with kale and blue cheese sounds wonderful.
Thanks 🙂 It seems that spaghetti squash could offer a good alternative to those trying to avoid wheat or grains. How long do you bake your squash in the oven?
Oh – yes – it’s a bit of a bugger because it takes so long in the oven – so I’ve taken to nuking it! First I wash it, then I carefully stick a knife blade into it quite deeply in several locations, and then stick it in the microwave for about 10 minutes (depending on the size). Once it soft enough to yield to the touch – I remove it – let it cool and then cut in half, scoop out the centre – and then use a fork to separate the strands. It works well and is so much more energy efficient! 😉
Saw you slipped some kale in, Laila 🙂 And I love all the photos of your little ones. But if I had to choose it would be the top picture. So much love and life there. And mischief! x
Yes, I did try to sneak in the kale for added nutrients and if someone starts to pick the little pieces out I just claim that it is a herb that is a seasoning and it pays to leave it it. 😉 Well, you made me start rethinking the whole holiday card…thanks for the input.
Ha! Love that you packed tinned pumpkin purée in your suitcase! I’ve also been guilty of packing unusual stuff when traveling, usually vintage kitchen crockery (which also weighs a tonne)! Tinned pumpkin purée isn’t available here either, and I’ve always been curious about it. Great idea to allow the pumpkin to drain for an hour after puréeing. Really love your natural Christmas photos, so much nicer than the wooden staged photos that photography studios seem to to churn out at this time of year. The couch photo is a ripper!
Oh, yes…sometimes it is just better to not say what is in the bags…although I do wonder what the customs officials think when they scan the bags 😉 I’ve carried all sorts of my own personal treasures across the sea that might make someone roll their eyes. 🙂 I really like the couch photo, it has been a favorite and apparently for the kids as well since they have been talking about redoing it since last Christmas.
Great post! Love the pictures! What restaurant have you had the best pumpkin pie? Remember to add it to your Besty List! http://www.thebesty.com/tableofcolors
Such gorgeous and heartwarming photos! 😀