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Spice up Halloween: Cinnamon Toasted Pumpkin Seeds are just the right snack

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Cinnamon Toasted Pumpkin Seeds are a tasty twist on the fall treat. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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I never feature the same ingredient two weeks in a row, but since it’s Halloween today, I can’t resist returning to the pumpkin.

I figure that any vegetable mighty enough to warrant its own legendary creature, like The Great Pumpkin, has earned the right. Besides, pumpkins are incredibly versatile. While last week’s recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread showcased the flesh of the pumpkin, today I’m focusing on the seeds within that flesh with a sweet snack called Cinnamon Toasted Pumpkin Seeds.

Roasting pumpkin seeds on Halloween is a time-honored generational tradition in our family. I loved returning home after an arduous night of trick-or-treating to the wonderful aroma of toasted pumpkin seeds. My mom always made a salty version, but my own family prefers them roasted in a blend of butter, cinnamon, salt and sugar.

Pumpkin seeds make a terrific, healthy snack food and are loaded with vital nutrients and minerals. They are rich in zinc, potassium, protein, iron and fiber, and they're a great source for healthy fats and those all-important antioxidants.

They can be frozen for up to one year, and if you’ve already carved your pumpkins but didn’t save the seeds, you can find them at natural food stores and some supermarkets. When carving pumpkins, a sharp knife will suffice, but I’ve had better luck using the inexpensive plastic tools sold in the Halloween section of most grocery and big-box stores.

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The best time to harvest the seeds is as soon as the pumpkin has been carved, when the inner pulp is still moist enough to allow the seeds to easily separate. I try to remove as much of the stringy flesh as possible at this stage. Once harvested, place the seeds in a medium-sized colander and give them a good rinse.

Next, place the colander into a similar-sized bowl and fill it with water, stopping about an inch from the top. The seeds will rise to the top, while the pulp will sink to the bottom. Give the seeds a good stir to shake off any remaining pulp and let them soak at room temperature for 30 minutes.

There is a definite belief that boiling the seeds in water for 10 minutes before roasting will help them cook more evenly. I’ve done this in years past, but one year I decided to skip this step and I’ve never had a problem since.

One step I never skip, however, is drying the seeds. I place the damp seeds on a tea towel or paper towels and gently pat them to remove most of the water, then leave them to sit at room temperature until they are thoroughly dry, at least 30 to 60 minutes. Drying the seeds first enhances the roasting process and ensures that any coatings and seasonings you apply will stick.

Every year we watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” hoping that Linus will emerge from that desolate pumpkin patch victorious after a visit from the mythic vegetable. Every year we’re disappointed, but these fragrantly autumnal Toasted Cinnamon Pumpkin Seeds never let us down.

Happy Halloween!

Cinnamon Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Makes: 1 ½ cups

Ingredients:

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3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups pumpkin seeds

1 ½ cups sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, cinnamon and salt until well combined.

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Place pumpkin seeds in a large bowl and add the melted butter mixture. Toss well until the seeds appear evenly coated. Spread the seeds onto the baking sheet in a single, even layer.

Bake in a 300-degree oven, stirring occasionally, until the seeds are fragrant, lightly brown and mostly dry to the touch. Remove sheet from oven and place on a heatproof surface. Sprinkle the sugar over the seeds and toss until evenly distributed.

The coated seeds can be stored in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks.

Recipe Time Capsule:

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“Home With the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.

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