For many kids, and some die-hard adults, the runup to Halloween is cause for elation. There’s the trying on of costumes, the laying in of a generous supply of candy for trick or treaters, and, of course, the pumpkin decorating.
Carving pumpkins is messy work, but there is a built-in snack reward at the end. Don’t throw out those seeds – roast them!
Not only are they delicious, but making your own crunchy pumpkin seeds means you get to make sure the amount of oil and salt remains within reason, and you also get to show your kids that not all snacks come in crinkly bags; sometimes they come in a pumpkin.
Don’t bypass the cleaning step. If your seeds aren’t clean and dry, they won’t crisp up properly. First, scoop out all of the guts and seeds from your pumpkin. I like to use a large metal spoon for this. Place the whole mess in a bowl.
Then remove the pumpkin guts from the seeds. Some kids will find the gloppiness gross in a yucky way, but some will find it gross in an enticing way.
Remove as much of the glop as possible with your fingers — that’s the best way to do it — and then transfer the seeds to a sieve or colander. Run cold water over them while you pick out and rinse the individual seeds. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a dishtowel to thoroughly dry, at least 3 hours, preferably 12 or more. Dry seeds will roast instead of steaming, and become more crunchy as opposed to chewy.
Some recipes call for hulling pumpkin seeds (which means cracking off the outer shell and just using the smaller kernel inside, also called a pepita) but I have neither the time nor the patience for such things. The shells are perfectly edible, if not exactly tender, and it’s really all about the roasting and the salt anyway. Plus, the shells provide a ton of fiber.
If you want to crack open the seeds after roasting and just eat the more tender inner pepita, that’s fine too – kind of as you would eat a sunflower seed.
SEASONING ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
You (and your little chefs) can investigate the spice drawer and come up with your own brand of “house” pumpkin seeds. There are many spices and herbs that work well in roasting pumpkin seeds. Take a moment and unscrew the lids of the cumin and chili powder jars, sniff, and see what moves you.
If your kids do the sprinkling themselves, it’s a good bet they will a) give the roasted seeds a try, and b) not be stunned to encounter those flavors in next week’s turkey chili.
Other seasonings to consider are a Ranch blend; a mix of basil, oregano, Parmesan and garlic powder; or your favorite rub. You can also use 1 tablespoon melted butter, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon white or brown sugar for a sweeter version.
Roasting pumpkin seeds at 350 degrees F allows them to crisp up nicely, but keep an eye on them toward the end as they can go from golden to too brown quickly. Let them cool before eating so they crisp up; when they first come out of the oven, they can be chewy instead of crunchy.
ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS RECIPE
Serves about 6 as a snack
2 cups rinsed and dried raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
Kosher salt to taste
1 teaspoon cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder or a combination of any or all of the four seasonings (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Scoop out all of the guts and seeds from your pumpkin. Rinse away the slimy, fibrous goop that coats the seeds. Remove as much of the glop as possible, then put the seeds in a colander and run under water, picking out and rinsing the individual seeds. Spread them in a single layer on a dishtowel to thoroughly dry, at least 3 hours.
- Once the pumpkin seeds have been cleaned and dried, transfer them onto a rimmed baking sheet and pour the oil over. Sprinkle the seeds with the salt and any spices you are using. Use your hand or a wooden spoon to mix everything up so the seeds are well-coated with the oil and seasonings. Spread the seeds out in a single layer. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until they are golden brown and fragrant. Give the tray a shake once or twice during roasting to move the seeds around.
- Let the seeds cool, and then add salt to taste.
Katie Workman writes regularly about food for The Associated Press. She has written two cookbooks focused on family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at https://themom100.com/. She can be reached at Katie@themom100.com.
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