It must be known…I love carving pumpkins. It’s an activity that allows me to be creative, precise, and focused. It’s also just plain fun. Who didn’t love picking out and carving pumpkins as a kid? As a child, my carved pumpkins were probably never that fancy looking and they were probably limited to really rough jack o’lantern style faces, but what they looked like doesn’t matter so much as the fact that the carving alone is something that fills me with nostalgia. When I start to see the pumpkin stands in my area open for the season, I get a little anxious and excited, and I start thinking about all the different ways I can carve them up and display them.
So far, I’ve carved three pumpkins this year. I wish I were talented and artistic enough to carve them free hand, but alas, I’m one of those girls who needs a pattern. I also need good tools. For years, my kitchen knives suffered each October because I was using them to carve pumpkins that definitely did not turn out to be as beautiful as they looked in my head (this was also pre-pattern). Now, I stock up on pumpkin carving kits when I see them on sale and I’m set for pumpkin carving to my heart’s delight. The pumpkin carving kits I bought this year come with small, sharp tools and several patterns that you tape onto the face of the pumpkin and trace around with a poker. They are almost fool-proof. The one caveat is that you need to make sure you hollow out your pumpkin so that there’s only about an inch of flesh left on the inside — this is where mine failed a bit. Too much flesh makes it hard to make the small, precise cuts in some of the more intricate patterns. In the end, though, my pumpkins still looked pretty darn good!
So…once you’ve carved your pumpkins, you are left with lots of pumpkin “guts”. Please, please, PLEASE DO NOT THROW OUT THE PUMPKIN SEEDS! Pumpkin seeds are an undercelebrated, often unappreciated snack that are unbelievably tasty, incredibly useful, and loaded with nutritional value. Pumpkin seeds are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids (often called MUFAS), which help lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (the good stuff). Pumpkin seeds are also an excellent source of protein.
As far as using them goes, you can snack on them the way you would nuts, bake with them (perhaps tossing 1/2 cup into a batch of muffins), or add them to a salad. Before you do any of these things, though, you should roast them. It’s super easy and the result is something so tasty and nutritious that you will not regret taking the time to separate seed from guts and season and roast.
Let’s get started.
Like I said, you need to take the time to separate seeds from guts. I did this after I was done carving. If you’re lucky enough to have an extra set of hands around, this takes no time at all. If you’re doing it on your own, it really only takes about five minutes.
Once the seeds are separated, rinse them in a colander and shake them dry. Don’t make the mistake I did and turn them out onto a paper or cloth towel. They stick. Although this is not the worst tragedy that can occur in a kitchen, it’s a big ol’ pain in the rear. Just shake the heck out of them while they’re still in the colander and that will be good enough.
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
Spread your seeds, in a single layer, on an unlined and ungreased baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes to dry them out.
While the seeds are roasting, you need to decide just how you want your seeds to be seasoned. There are infinite possibilities for this. You can dry roast them with no added herbs or spices, or you can add any spice mix combo that you like. So far, I’ve done BBQ and cinnamon sugar. Pick flavors you love and you can’t beat the results!
So…get your ingredients ready…
No matter what flavorings you choose, you’ll need olive oil and kosher salt. The mason jar above has what’s left of a BBQ seasoning I mixed up awhile ago. (1 1/2 c. paprika, 3/4 sugar, and 3 3/4 T. onion powder — thanks to the Neely’s cookbook)
When the seeds come out of the oven, grab a bowl and toss the seeds with the olive oil, salt, and your seasoning blend. Do all this to taste or desired coverage. I did about a tablespoon of oil, 2-3 pinches of salt, and a couple spoonfuls of the seasoning blend.
Once the seeds are seasoned the way you want them, put them back on the baking sheet, return them to the oven, and bake until they are crisp and golden. This takes another 20 minutes or so. And they should come out looking something like this…
When they’re done, let them cool and then throw them in a container and leave out at room temperature. They keep for quite a while, but they won’t stay around for very long. These are great to carry along with you in your purse or bag and they’d be a great snack to send to school with kids. I have a ton of mason jars sitting around, so I threw mine in one of those.
I have two more pumpkins to carve this weekend, so I’ll definitely be roasting more seeds. I’m craving more BBQ seeds, and I’ll probably try an Italian seasoning blend to see how that goes. What I love about this technique/method, is that you can experiment in an infinite number of ways and every single flavor you try is going to yield a tasty, nutritious, and filling snack!
On a not quite as healthy note, I wanted to throw in a picture of one of my other doughnut experiments. I used the same batter recipe as my cinnamon sugar cider donuts, but used Pampered Chef’s Sweet Caramel Sprinkle blend as a topping to make my own version of a Dunkin Donuts Caramel Apple Doughnut. One of my trusty tasters told me that she likes my version better than the DD doughnut, so I consider this one a crowning achievement!
Oh yeah, and one last thing…when you carve your pumpkins, don’t cut your hole out of the top…once you’ve lit your pumpkins, the top ends up shriveling and it eventually falls into the pumpkin. Instead, cut a hole out of the back and hollow out from there. I wish I could take credit for this tip, but I saw it on a Food Network competition show and couldn’t believe that I’d never thought of it myself! I love pumpkin stems and I’m always so upset when the top falls into the pumpkin and I lose that part of the finished product.
Ok…I think I’m done. I hope this weekend’s posts inspire you to take advantage of the cooler weather that fall brings us. Get out of the house and visit a pumpkin patch, take a haunted hay ride, fumble through a corn maze, take a drive to check out the fall foliage or stop by an apple orchard for apples and cider. If you stay in, carve those pumpkins or get in the kitchen and cook or bake some of those super yummy comfort foods that we all associate with fall. No matter what you do, savor it, spend it with people you truly love and value, and take the time to slow down and enjoy the bounty that autumn offers. It won’t be long before we’re under several inches of snow, and this is a season that’s too beautiful to ignore.
Happy Saturday! Stop by again soon!