There will be pie, oh yes, there will be pie

It’s decorative gourd season! This is the time of year that we adorn our homes and places of work and play with pumpkins, squash and gourds of all shapes and colors. At home we love to get them in our CSA box and my 3 year old son Miles demanded we buy more at the farmers market because they had longer and curlier stems. I look around at our decoration and I’m glad that it’s not made of plastic or toxic materials. But they are also edible… and we are literally just watching them slowly decompose. Meanwhile my grocery list includes canned pumpkin in order to make a pie… but wait… I slowly look over at the pumpkins on our table, then I look at my grocery list… look at the pumpkins… look at list… pumpkin… list… pumpkin… list… 

This summer Miles picked out a book called “Halloween Pie” - we’ve been reading it for months and Miles has been eagerly awaiting the time to make his own Halloween pie. The book also includes a simple recipe which we’ve read each time we read the story. I told Miles that as soon as we get a pumpkin in our CSA box, we will make a Halloween pie. (mind you I’ve never made a pie in my life). In early September the day arrived… sort of. Each Thursday we open our CSA box of beautifully grown vegetables put together by Angelic Organics. Miles always helps but this time he was on a mission, he tore through the kale and peppers and saw at the bottom, what he thought was a big orange pumpkin. It actually turned out to be a Red Kuri Squash (a variety i’ve never heard of or tried). But this kid had been searching the CSA boxes for weeks, there was no way we were not making a pie out of this thing. I did some quick research on the Red Kuri Squash and luckily found out that they are sweet, creamy and cook just like any other squash. It was game on. Enthusiastically I threw my hands in the air and exclaimed “Tomorrow we will make Halloween pie!” and I got the inevitable 3yr old response “Nooooooooo! Nowwwwwwww!” 

After a bit of explaining Miles went to sleep dreaming of becoming a baker and I went to the kitchen to start the first step - roasting the squash. I baked it for about 45 mins with some cinnamon and once done and cooled I tossed it in the fridge. I also did a quick scan of the recipe because we didn’t have half of what the recipe called for. Before going to bed I pulled various ingredients and substitutes from the cabinets and made sure we would be able to make do (most people would make the quick trip to the store to pick up the remaining ingredients) But, I simply loath “quick” trips to the store - maybe I”m just daring myself to be more resourceful but we always figure it out with what we’ve got and in this instance it proved to be an enhancement. In the end I swapped dairy for coconut cream and altered the spicier flavors clove and ginger for nutmeg and extra cinnamon. I also swapped granulated sugar for honey. 

I believe it was about 6:30 am when I went to get Miles in his room and he looked at me and whispered “I’m ready to make Halloween pie”. The first and most arduous order of business was actually mashing the squash. We only needed 1/2 of the roasted squash to get 2 cups for the pie. I peeled the skin, cut it into chunks and put it in a big stainless steel bowl and gave Miles a potato masher. For the next few hours we took turns squashing, mashing, stirring and tasting. This was basically woven into our whole morning. As we read books, played and walked in our backyard we smashed the squash. Yes, we could have very easily just put int in the food processor - but I wanted this to be an actual activity that Miles is engaged in. I also wanted to know what it was like for my grandmother when she was a kid on the farm because of course back then, everything was by hand. I ended up with strange bruises on my palms and fingertips along with a deep appreciation for the level of convenience a food processor offers. But I can’t deny that my hands and forearms are stronger for it!  With that part done we had about an hour before Miles’ naptime so we prepared the rest of the ingredients. The pie crust required very little work and no eggs, so I bravely allowed Miles to do this part on his own. Basically we measured out some flour, oil, salt and sugar, put it all in the pie pan and he mixed it with his hands and pressed it down - with me as his guide on the side. Once the crust was ready we simply hand stirred all the ingredients for the pie filling and poured it into the unbaked crust. Next comes nap time, again including a conversation about the process and time of baking the pie and eventually he went to sleep dreaming of devouring Halloween pie. 

Below are some pics of our baking adventure

As soon as I got Miles asleep I put the pie in the oven - it requires 15 mins at 425 and another 45 mins at 350. I tend to fill the crust to the brim so I think the latter took closer to 1 hour but I checked every 10 mins or so after the 45 was up. Once the crust was golden and the filling set I removed the pie from the oven to cool. The smell filled the entire house with its spicy sweetness. It felt warm, inviting and cozy. About an hour after the pie was out I got Miles up from his nap and again, a smile spread across his face and he whispered “I’m ready to eat Halloween pie!” So before we went to the kitchen we read his book once more and that lucky kid got to have a warm slice of pie for lunch! I’m not really one to give my kid lots of sugar or treats for lunch but because he had worked so hard to make it, I felt he had earned the honor of eating the first slice. Also the recipe has very little sugar - in fact there was no refined sugar - only 1/2 cup of honey. The coconut and squash are a lovely combination that provide natural sweetness. I felt ZERO remorse about giving it to him and he was beside himself with excitement. And over the course of a week homemade Halloween pie was eaten, shared with guests and even inspired some new variations on meals - such as “Halloween pie oatmeal”.

For about a week the Red Kuri squash was finding its way into a lot of dishes. I made muffins and pancakes with some pie filling that was leftover. Because we only used 1/2 the squash for pie I use the other half to make a savory, spicy peanut dip that also made an awesome sauce for noodles. It really amazed me how quickly the squash would make its way into what we were eating - the key for us was to use it sparingly so we didn’t get sick of it. And each time we ate some Miles would inevitably ask if it was the squash from the Halloween pie. He got so excited to know that his involvement was integral and he was a part of each and every dish we made. I shared pictures and the recipe with my grandmother who was happy and impressed - I felt so good about all the things this squash helped us do, eat and share. It was so great we ended up making another pie (with an actual pumpkin) and this one we made to bring to a friends house. What blew my mind was Miles’ willingness to go through all the effort again and not get to eat it immediately, he held out an entire day and a half and proudly stated that we had made this pie to share. I’m sure we will be making more pies this fall and Miles will get to bring them to share at our family gatherings, knowing that he got to bring something to the table this year.

Recipe

Filling
2 cups of pumpkin/squash
1 3/4 cup creamed coconut
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 9” unbaked pie crust

Crust
1 1/2 cups wheat flour
1/8 cup bacon fat
1/3 cup coconut oil
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp milk or dairy substitute

Directions
• Heat the oven to 425 degrees
• Beat the eggs lightly, adding the other ingredients while beating the mixture
• Pour into the pie crust
• Bake for 15 mins, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees
• Continue to bake for another 45 mins, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean
• Allow your Halloween pie to cool before serving


* The base for this recipe was found in the book “Halloween Pie”.