Great Pumpkin Caper!

by Just a Pinch Of Ginger on October 30, 2013 · 0 comments


I love Halloween. Always have. Perhaps it’s my penchant for all things dramatic and macabre. Give me any excuse to dress up and woo hoo! I’m in. Even before having kids, I was that weirdo who really decorated for All Hallows Eve. That took some creativity and effort waaaaay back when–before Sears, Hallmark and Target offered every spooky notion imaginable. The fact that my first baby was born two days before Halloween granted me permission to go further over the top. He was supposed to be born in November, so I had made this awesome spider costume to go over my rotund baby belly. When he showed up early, I really had no choice. I rolled his royal babyness into a white sleeper with ears and painted a bunny face on him. Much to the horror of many a do-gooder. Eeek! Make up on a new born! Yeah, well, it wasn’t much make-up… and he lived, unscathed as far as I could tell.

It was really cute. Adorable even. Worth it.

Once all my wee ones got into the trick or treating thing, I was hard core. I crafted or sewed most of their costumes. My sincere apologies, I was that annoying mom who had the perfect props and did theme-y photo shoots of them. Keep in mind, this was the Pre-Pinterest era. I was crazy loooong before crazy was cool.

pretty pumpkins all in a row...

Our kids were all very healthy eaters. We didn’t allow many treat foods and limited their juice and other sugar intake. The whole candy thing really did a number on them. My usually agreeable elementary aged kids turned into grump monsters. The first words out of their mouth when they got home from school: “Can we have a candy?”. Tears, begging, pleading… for days on end. Yuck. Just yuck. But, I didn’t want to be a lame parent by banning candy completely and have them bail on Halloween; I loved it too much. I’m not sure where or when I happened upon the idea of the Great Pumpkin, it wasn’t mine, but it saved what little was left of my sanity. In our house the  Trick or treat rules are:

  1. Have a warm, healthy, filling dinner before trick or treating.
  2. Go out and gather candy to your little heart’s content, race from house to house if need be, fill your sacks full! Have fun, say thank-you at every single house, LOUD enough for the folks to hear you and no candy en route… none, zero, zip.
  3. Come home, warm up with hot chocolate (Mommy gets Bailey’s too) and sometimes popcorn. Find your own special spot on the floor, dump out bags. (This was tough when we had six out at once–candy chaos!)
  4. Depending on how old the kids were and how much energy we had left, we’d do sorting games, sneak a little fun math in, or just let them sort away. Then take a few fun pics of them with all their loot and generally get excited about the smells and colours.
  5. Now the tough part. Anything that we deemed unsafe or just too disgusting (jelly filled anything), I removed and threw out. Any bagged snacks like chips, corn nuts, sesame seeds etc. were set aside for family snacks. We didn’t normally buy that kind of stuff, so it was an easy treat for home movie night etc. Once they were left with the remaining loot, they were allowed to select the number of treats equal to their age plus one. Yes, really. That’s it. For those of you who have battled with your kids over candy, you won’t believe how easy this actually is. I mean, they do struggle with the decision. Over the years, we’ve watched some pretty impressive critical thinking skills develop. They head into the candy selection process with a strategy. Weighing size of said candy vs. favourite flavours.
  6. All of the remaining candy gets tossed into a big bowl and left outside for The Great Pumpkin’, sometimes the kids even leave a note.
  7. In the morning the kids are thrilled to see that he has taken the candy and left treats in exchange! Over the years we have found books, videos, board games, new mittens, toy figures, one year he even brought fleece blankets… you just never know 😉

We started this tradition when our kids were quite young, so it was easy to maintain. I admit it could be slightly more challenging to start with older kids. We encouraged lots of our friends to get on board, and that made it easier. Yes, it takes a bit of pre-planning. No, they don’t always want to give up their candy. In the end though, they are excited for the surprise the next day and all that candy-inspired angst is gone. Oh yes and don’t forget my dear ‘Great Pumpkin’, get that stuff outta the house as soon as possible! Seniors homes love to get the little treats to offer up to residents. I save the little pure chocolate bars to use in Christmas baking as well.

No, I’ve never sat up late watching a movie and personally eaten fifteen of those little morsels without noticing… who told you? Anyway, it worked really well for us, do what you will with it and Happy Halloween!

To help curb those candy cravings here’s a quick treat that we’ve made a few times with our pumpkin seeds, a little more snazzy than just salt. Enjoy!

Piquant Pumpkin Seeds


  • 4 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds
  • 4 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp coconut sugar (found at Costco… or use white or brown)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp Five Spice powder
  • pinch or two of cayenne pepper


  1. Boil seeds in salted water for twenty minutes to allow all the slimy pumpkin insides to get cleaned off.
  2. Spread out on cookie sheet or two, and allow to dry for several hours or overnight.
  3. When seeds are dry, toss them in a bowl with 2 Tbsp butter, spread out thinly on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt.
  4. Bake the seeds in a 300 degree oven for 35-40 minutes, it really depends on your oven so… keep checking. Seeds should be lightly toasted, not brown inside.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together half of the sugar and all of the spices.
  6. Once the seeds are done, remove from oven and set aside.
  7. In a large frying pan melt remaining butter and olive oil, add remaining butter and stir over a medium heat. Add the seeds and stir well until they are coated with caramel sauce.
  8. Remove from pan, toss in sugar and spice mixture… yum! Adjust for your taste.

Hold on, man.  We don’t go anywhere with “scary,” “spooky,” “haunted,” or “forbidden” in the title.  ~From Scooby-Doo

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