So since becoming a single car family I spend a lot more time at home with my son instead of out at the children’s museum or zoo or even the library (though we are still frequent visitors to our local branch!), So I’ve made a conscious effort to keep things interesting for him on days that I have energy/am not feeling pretty sick.
This week, we’ve had a whole week devoted to fun with pumpkins! While we likely won’t make it out to a pumpkin patch this year (I have big dreams for next year though), my little guy is obsessed with pumpkins. So this week we’ve made pumpkin muffins, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin arts and crafts (which were GREAT for practicing shapes and also amusing when my toddler insisted his pumpkin needed hair), and we read plenty of pumpkin books! (His favorite is this one because he loves saying EEEEEK! along with the little mouse…)
I have a confession… I don’t love Halloween. It’s just not one of my favorite holidays. I don’t enjoy being scared, and usually I’m involved in theatre and dressing up as part of my job so the whole costume thing is just not as novel or exciting… but now that I have a kid to introduce to the fun aspects of the holiday I’m starting to get on board. It has been a pretty fun week and I’m excited for more fun next week. Little guy gets especially excited to play with his plastic Halloween Jack O Lantern so this meal was especially for him to help wrap up our pumpkin week before we head into halloween week! We had done a few pumpkin themed meals earlier (i.e. Jack O Lantern faces in grilled cheese and quesadillas) but this was by far the favorite thanks to the 3-D aspect of it. There seemed to be extra delight in placing the top on and off.
This was also one of my husband’s favorite meals because, as I mentioned when we made bread bowls, he loves almost anything where what the food is served in is also edible. And the great thing about stuffed bell peppers is there is a ton of variety when it comes to what you are stuffing them with and very easy to make adjustments for personal preferences. We used this vegetarian recipe that included tons of protein thanks to the quinoa and black beans but separated enough of the stuffing mixture before adding in the tomatoes to make my son a tomato-free version. If you were having a party it would be really easy to make some vegetarian or vegan friendly and others with ground meat of some sort for your favorite carnivores. I would also highly recommend cooking your quinoa with vegetable stock instead of water when you prepare it ahead of time.
The key to the Jack O Lantern faces is to cut them BEFORE stuffing and cooking the bell peppers. The peppers get soft afterward. If you wanted to be super specific, I suppose you could use all orange peppers, but we wanted the variety and my son actually ended up wanting the yellow one more than the orange one! (maybe because my husband thought it would be funny to make one of the bell peppers look scared instead of happy and that was one of the orange ones?)
Everyone was VERY happy with this recipe and we definitely plan to make it again. I am currently wondering if I could effectively freeze the filling so the process is easier and I have quick, high protein meal once the baby comes… anyone have experience with that? I will also definitely keep this in mind if we ever have a Halloween party in the future 🙂 The only thing I would caution for other parents of toddlers is that dinner took MUCH longer since my son kept wanting to talk to his “pumpkin” throughout dinner and was a little concerned that his dad and I were eating our pumpkins instead of just the filling in the middle like he was doing. We didn’t mind the extra time to see him so excited about a meal though!