Pumpkin season, a season for gratitude and giving back...

Pumpkin season... a season for gratitude and giving back. www.ChefShayna.com

Pumpkins pumpkins everywhere. Before I start to pull out my Christmas decor, which I am very excited to do, I am going to embrace the last of pumpkin season. The weather has cooled down, the leaves are starting to change so it is officially time to enjoy Fall food. Before pumpkins are all out of stores, I suggest making this delicious soup (recipe and video below). This soup can be prepared directly inside a small pumpkin, which means less dishes for you but also a unique way to impress your guests.

Along with pumpkin season comes Thanksgiving and taking the extra time to give thanks. It is our nightly tradition, all year long, for each family member to say what we are thankful for as we sit down for dinner. We hope to encourage the girls to take time to stop, reflect, and come up with a meaningful answer about something that happened that day that they are thankful for. This time of year we make sure to place even more emphasis on being thankful and recognizing how blessed we are as a family. Our youngest daughter is the “thank you” police, making sure everyone says please and thank you. I think this children’s book is partially responsible for encouraging her to say "thanks."

Teaching kids gratitude and how to give back. www.ChefShayna.com

Helping others…
While we hope to instill gratitude in our girls, we also want to show them how they can help others and that it is important to help those in need. When my oldest daughter was 3 years old, her preschool had a change drive. I asked her to share some of her coins for the change drive and she said, “why mom, I worked hard for my money [emptying the dishwasher], don’t they have to [work hard] too?” This coming from the same girl that expressed empathy and included it in her vocabulary at age 2 (thanks Daniel Tiger) was a sentiment that caught me off guard. The more I thought about it, it made sense for a 3 year old to say that but it definitely sparked an on going conversation about being part of our community and how it is important to help others, care for others, and look after each other.

This year we have decided to host a food drive to collect non perishable items for Bulldog Pantry. Bulldog pantry is a student run food pantry that services the area surrounding Fresno State by providing groceries for those in need.  The organization is run by volunteers from Fresno State with the goal of fighting food insecurity in our community. While my oldest daughter was eager to give, at first she was a bit hesitant to give up a few cans of her favorite black beans and boxes of her beloved shell shaped macaroni and cheese from our pantry. It was a perfect opportunity to teach her that since we are fortunate enough to have more cans than we need, we are going to share with a family that does not have any and might like to also have black beans and macaroni and cheese. It is our chance to brighten a little girl or boy's day by sharing what we have. Our little action can help make a difference in our community.

If you would also like to share this sentiment with your kiddos, I encourage you to allow them to pick out a few non perishable items from your pantry or when shopping with your kiddos at the grocery and donate them to the Food Drive.

Teach your kiddos to give back. Canned food drive Nov 13- Dec. 3. www.ChefShayna.com

Food Items Needed:
Pasta, Rice, Beans, Canned Food, Cereal

You can help:
Donate perishable food items.
We will be collecting items now through Dec. 3rd. You can drop off Food items at Young Chefs Academy (1134 E Champlain Dr. #101, Fresno, CA 93720). Stop by with food items and we have a small gift for you to say thanks.

The impact it will make:
Bulldog pantry has 2 more distribution dates this year. November 18th and Saturday, Dec. 9th from 9-10:30am. We will be sharing the food items collected with them on Tuesday, Dec. 4th. Let’s rally to support those in need this holiday season.

Scrumptious pumpkin soup in a pumpkin
1 Sugar Pumpkin, deseeded
1/2 shallot, sliced
1 garlic clove minced
Vegetable or Chicken Stock
1 TB maple syrup
free sprinkles of nutmeg
Parmesan Cheese
Salt & pepper
Heavy whipping cream or full fat coconut milk/cream

1. Preheat the oven to 400º
2. Use a pairing knife to remove the top of the pumpkin and scrape out the seeds & fibrous strands.
3. Add in the shallots & garlic and pour in the Stock leaving a border an inch from the top. Add in maple syrup a few shakes of nutmeg & salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle on Parmesan cheese & return the lid to the pumpkin.
4. Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 1 1/2 hours until the outside of the pumpkin softens. If the stem starts to burn cover it with a piece of tin foil.
5. After removing it from the oven pour in a little bit of heavy cream or coconut milk. Use a spoon to scrape down the side and stir together. You have the option to use an immersion blender to blend it all together to make a creamy soup. Be careful not to pierce the skin. Garnish with heavy cream or full fat coconut milk.