As holidays heat up, find cool, possibly pumpkin-y ways to include kids and pets in the festivities

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is just two weeks away. The holiday is among other things, a celebration of the harvest season, and the lowly pumpkin, stripped of last month’s jack-o-lantern bling, is the plain-Jane, quintessential harvest symbol.

Believe it or not, pumpkin is good not just for humans but also cats and dogs. According to “Top 3 Benefits of Pumpkin for Dogs and Cats,” on the Care2 website, a little canned, unsweetened pumpkin (not pie filling) can help cats and dogs with digestive health, urinary health, and weight loss. Cats, as we all know, can be a little more finicky, but the site points out that dogs seem to naturally love pumpkin.

Sara Ipatenco, writing for Demand Media and SFGate, notes in “What Are the Health Benefits of Eating Pumpkin Puree?” that “Pumpkin puree plays a starring role in Thanksgiving desserts, but you should consider making it a more regular part of your diet. The bright orange flesh of a pumpkin is loaded with fiber and key vitamins and minerals. It's also easy to use pumpkin puree in a variety of recipes from sweet to savory.”

The same article suggests that “One cup of pumpkin puree provides you with 7.1 grams of dietary fiber. Pumpkin puree contains about 10 percent of your daily requirement for potassium as well.” Plus, it notes that the vitamins in pumpkin can boost the immune system.

Granted, most pumpkin-y holiday treats are neither as straightforward nor as low-cal as puree. Pumpkin “dresses back up” for the holiday table and should probably sport “dieters beware” stickers. Love pumpkin but looking for a change-up from the classic pumpkin pie? Try pumpkin ice cream pie from Elizabeth at the Sugar Hero! blog. She posts, “Mix the pumpkin puree with some cream and a few spices, swirl it into softened ice cream, and voila…”

Or get borderline decadent with Turtle Pumpkin Cheesecake from Uncle Jerry’s Kitchen. Described as “an intensely mousse-like custard with the subtle flavor of a pumpkin pie covered in melting vanilla ice cream,” the site says, “And you don’t need any ice cream!” Drizzle chocolate over walnuts, then drizzle caramel over the whole shebang. You get the picture. It’s not for those pulling back on sweets. Plus, it makes a BIG cheesecake, one definitely intended for guests.

Parents magazine online shows how to turn a slice of plain ol’ pumpkin pie into an adorable fox, as well as presents dozens and dozens of great Thanksgiving-themed treats, crafts, and activities kids will love.

While cranking out delectables, try and include kids vs. banish them. Huggies (yep, the disposable diaper folks) on their Mommy Answers blog, suggests that even toddlers can help (really!) in the kitchen, posting that “No, you don’t have to plant them in front of the TV while you prepare dinner (not that we’d judge if you did!). But instead, teach them new things and enjoy quality Mommy-and-me time…” They then offer suggestions, including first-hand mom tips for helping little ones gets cozy in the kitchen.