Friday, October 24, 2008

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

This week at the church I work at we had a pumpkin fun night. A bunch of pumpkins were carved, and three people carved their first pumpkin ever. I made roasted pumpkin seeds with kids. First of all, this is great extra project for kids when pumpkin carving is going on. Especially with younger ones that don't have the eye-hand coordination yet for carving.

First, turn on the oven to 375, and get a few bowls, a couple baking sheets and some towels (kitchen towels are best, paper works too).

The only hard part of roasting pumpkin seeds is the first half of the prep. Getting all of the pumpkin off of the all of the seeds. The best way to start is while you are removing the pumpkin guts...the more seeds you can extract from the stringy orange sticky insides at this point, the better. I suggest having two bowls. One for pumpkin innards and the other for seeds. Once you have all of your seeds in the bowl, next step is the kitchen sink. If you fill the seed bowl with cold water, it the sticky stuff becomes less sticky and it is easier to get the remaining little bits and pieces clinging to the seeds.

Next, pour the seeds into a colander to drain water. Depending on how the water step went, you may have to do some additional picking over the ensure clean seeds. Spread the seeds out on a towel that is on a baking sheet or platter, and using a second towel, blot the seeds dry. Put seeds into a dry bowl.

Seasoning time! Sky is the limit here, and the answer of seasoning comes down to what you like and how intense you like it. Regardless of your impending choice, you need oil. I use regular olive oil. Not fancy expensive, gloriously fruity extra virgin olive oil. Regular olive oil. You want the oil to be somewhat neutral.

Proportions....If you had one big pumpkin, you'll have enough seeds to spread in a layer on a baking sheet (I'll call this a batch). In this case add a couple TBS of olive oil per batch to the seeds still in the bowl. The seasoning becomes a little tricky. If you want simple salt-only seeds, use a couple rounded teaspoons of kosher salt to a batch. With kids this week I made two "flavors", using Penzey's Pizza Seasoning and Penzey's Southwest Seasoning. Use about a TBS to 2 TBS (depending on desired intensity) per batch. I used the blends with the kids this week for ease, but one of my personal favorites for pumpkin seeds is to use equal parts smoked paprika and ground cumin.

One of the reasons this is fun to do with kids is that for almost the whole time, they can be involved with every task. The second to last task is usually one of the more fun ones. Now that the oil and seasoning has been added to the seeds in the bowl, you get to squish your hands around to coat all of the seeds with oil and seasoning. This is super fun. Spread out the seasoned seeds onto a baking sheet.

The last step is of course where the kids must return to their pumpkins. Put the seeds into the oven. Every five minutes, take seeds out, toss around a little, redistributing them, and checking on their progress (this is especially important if you are doing this in an archaic church oven with hot spots and no way of determining an actual temperature and you are guessing it is at 375). Total roasting time can be anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Why? Depends on a couple things, such as how much moisture you blotted off with the towels and how big the seeds are (bigger pumpkins give you bigger seeds). Seeds are done roasting when they turn a light brown color. Remove from oven, remove from baking sheet and put onto a plate to cool or into a bowl, and stir a little bit to dissipate heat. You can eat them immediately!

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