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Not all Halloween treats are wrapped in paper. Some come from pumpkins.

Not all Halloween treats are wrapped in paper. Some come from pumpkins.

For many children and even some enthusiastic adults, the lead-up to Halloween is a source of excitement. There's the process of trying on costumes, stocking up on candy for trick-or-treaters, and, of course, the tradition of pumpkin decorating.

Carving pumpkins can be a messy task, but there's a delicious reward waiting at the end: pumpkin seeds. Don't discard those seeds; roast them!

Not only are roasted pumpkin seeds delicious, but when you make them yourself, you can control the amount of oil and salt, and you can also show your children that snacks don't always come in crinkly bags; sometimes, they come from a pumpkin.

Don't skip the cleaning step. If your seeds aren't clean and dry, they won't become properly crispy. Start by scooping out all the pumpkin guts and seeds. I find it helpful to use a large metal spoon for this. Place the whole mess in a bowl.

Next, separate the pumpkin guts from the seeds. Some kids might find this gloppy part gross, but others may find it intriguingly so.

Use your fingers to remove as much of the goo as possible – that's the most effective way – and then transfer the seeds to a sieve or colander. Rinse them under cold water while picking out and rinsing the individual seeds. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a dish towel to thoroughly dry, for at least 3 hours, preferably 12 hours or more. Dry seeds will roast, rather than steam, and become crunchy instead of chewy.

Some recipes suggest hulling pumpkin seeds (which means removing the outer shell and using only the smaller kernel inside, known as a pepita). However, I don't have the time or patience for that. The shells are entirely edible, albeit not particularly tender, but the focus is on roasting and saltiness. Moreover, the shells provide a significant amount of fiber.

If you want to crack open the seeds after roasting and consume the more tender inner pepita, that's perfectly fine, similar to how you would eat a sunflower seed.

You (and your young chefs) can explore the spice drawer and come up with your own blend of pumpkin seeds. Many spices and herbs work well when roasting pumpkin seeds. Take a moment to open the cumin and chili powder jars, sniff them, and see which ones appeal to you.

If your kids are in charge of sprinkling the seasonings, they're more likely to give the roasted seeds a try and won't be surprised to encounter those flavors in next week's turkey chili.

Other seasonings to consider are a Ranch blend, a mixture of basil, oregano, Parmesan, and garlic powder, or your favorite seasoning. You can also create a sweeter version with 1 tablespoon of melted butter, ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of white or brown sugar.

Roasting pumpkin seeds at 350°F allows them to become crispy, but keep a close eye on them toward the end, as they can quickly go from golden to overly brown. Let them cool before eating so they become crispy; when they first come out of the oven, they can be chewy instead.

Serves about 6 as a snack

2 cups raw pumpkin seeds, rinsed and dried 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil Kosher salt to taste 1 teaspoon of cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, or a combination of any or all of these seasonings (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Scoop out all the pumpkin guts and seeds. 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 dish towel to thoroughly dry, for at least 3 hours.

  3. Once the pumpkin seeds have been cleaned and dried, transfer them onto a rimmed baking sheet and pour the oil over them. Sprinkle the seeds with salt and any spices you wish to use. Use your hand or a wooden spoon to mix everything, ensuring the seeds are well-coated with 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. Shake the tray once or twice during roasting to move the seeds around.