Spice it Up with Pumpkin Seeds

If carving jack-o-lanterns is in your future, don’t pass up the opportunity to make delicious, freshly roasted pumpkin seeds—the perfect treat to celebrate the season.  It’s easy to turn the seeds from your pumpkin scraps into a crunchy, savory snack that’s packed with nutrition.  

Pumpkin seeds have it all—heart-healthy fats, protein, fiber, and an array of vitamins and minerals that should make other nuts and seeds jealous.  They’re especially rich in iron, which helps your blood cells deliver oxygen to all parts of the body, and magnesium, which helps keep your bones and heart strong.  Pumpkin seeds are also one of the best food sources of zinc, a mineral that plays a vital role in immunity, wound-healing, and skin health.    

You can enjoy pumpkin seeds in two forms.  Whole pumpkin seeds (like the ones you scrape out of your Halloween pumpkins) have a flat, white hull and are often sold roasted and salted as a packaged snack food.  You can chomp them down whole, or crack open the shell first like you would sunflower seeds and eat just the kernel inside.  You can also buy already-shelled pumpkin seed kernels, which are small, flat, and dark green in color.  Pumpkin seeds can also be labeled as pepitas on a package (pepitas usually refers to the hulled kernels, rather than the whole seeds).

Whole pumpkin seeds are great for snacking, but the kernels are much more versatile.  You can sprinkle pepitas on yogurt, cottage cheese, cereal, or oatmeal, or make your own low-fat granola with pumpkin seeds in the mix.  Sprinkle them on quick breads or muffins as a crunchy topper, or make pepita-crusted chicken or fish.  Pumpkin seeds are also a terrific garnish for pureed soups like butternut squash.  Try substituting pepitas and cilantro for pine nuts and basil in any classic pesto recipe to make a delicious Mexican variation. 

Here’s my personal recipe for Spicy Pumpkin Seeds—keep it on hand for a post-pumpkin carving celebration!

SPICY PUMPKIN SEEDS 

Ingredients 

  • Pumpkin seeds from 2 medium pumpkins (about 1.5 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 300°F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.

Rinse the pumpkin seeds in a colander.  Remove as much of the stringy pulp as possible (swishing the seeds in water helps separate the seeds from the pulp).  Drain the seeds well and pat them dry with a kitchen towel or paper towels.

In a medium bowl, combine the seeds, canola oil, and seasonings.  Stir or toss with your hands until the seasonings are evenly distributed.  Arrange the seeds in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the seeds are golden brown.  While they are roasting, stir the seeds approximately every 15 minutes.

For more information on healthy eating, visit www.joybauer.com and follow Joy on Facebook and Twitter.

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