Put the inside of your Jack-O-lantern to use

Published 7:07 pm Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Few things represent Halloween more than a brightly carved pumpkin sitting on your front porch.

Triangle eyes, nose and snaggle-toothed smiles; the carving of a pumpkin has become an art form.

My oldest daughter, Lizzie, asked me the other day when we were going to paint pumpkins.

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I quickly responded with, “you mean carve pumpkins?” She said, “No, paint them.”

I just couldn’t believe my ears. Why would she want to paint a pumpkin?

I know I didn’t bring her up that way.

When I was growing up, we would always pick out our pumpkin at a pumpkin patch, go home to carve the top out of them, scoop out the innards, carve them up, put a candle in them and sit them on the porch. We would all go outside and look at them and “oohh” and “aahh” over each one.

It was sort of like looking at Christmas lights.

It’s the inside of the pumpkin that intrigued me the most while growing up – the ooey-gooey insides with the seeds. My mother would roast the seeds for a tasty snack. She would preheat the oven to 350-degrees and separate the seeds from the “guts”. Using her hands, she would pick out the seeds and lay them on a buttered or greased baking sheet.

She never rinsed them because she said that it removes a lot of the flavor. She would bake them for 10 minutes and then she would add a little salt.

She wouldn’t add any spices or anything exciting, just salt. They were great, though.

I have learned that the pumpkins we use for carving are not particularly good for baking. The smaller the pumpkin, the better to cook with, but that is a whole other column.

I hope to change Lizzie’s mind about painting pumpkins versus carving pumpkins. It’s been a family tradition to carve pumpkins in my family for as long as I can remember.

I’m trying to continue that tradition with my children. I guess I’m going to have to roast some pumpkin seeds. Maybe that’ll change her mind.

Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

Half teaspoon kosher salt

Quarter teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 300-degrees. Spread the seeds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry throughout, 50-60 minutes.

Increase over temperature to 350-degrees. In a large bowl, toss the seeds with the butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon.

Return the seeds to the baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until gold brown; about 10 to 15 minutes.

Tiffany Cannon is a field editor for Taste of Home Magazine.