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Tuesday, October 5

Pumpkins, Pumpkins, EVERYWHERE!!

Halloween.  Just saying the word conjures up mental images of orange and black, kids in costume, and jack-o-lanterns.  Well...there is candy, too.  LOTS of candy!!  But, be that as it may, it's a nostalgic time for most of us, young and old alike.  Way back when (and I ain't saying just how long ago that really was), I can remember the excitement of dressing up, grabbing a pillow case, and ransacking the neighbors for what loot we could haul off!!

Of course, before we got to that point, lots of us would head over to our local "pumpkin patch", and pick up a couple of hefty ones for carving.  After all, a jack-o-lantern was all the rage, and any porch that didn't have at least one was thought of as the stingy house (haha).  Inevitably, we'd get them too early in the month, carve them up...and by Halloween, they were pretty well ruined, weren't they?  Soft...ugly...often moldy, too.  That's just how it was.  Except on our street. 

See, we learned, living in Florida, that pumpkins go bad REAL fast if you don't take some simple steps to keep it looking good.  It really wasn't hard to do, it just took a little planning on the part of the carver.  So, today I thought I'd offer a few tips on how to keep your carved masterpiece looking sharp day after day, up to a month long (and of course, there's a BONUS recipe at the end for all those seeds you accumulated when you cleaned the pumpkin out)!!

Here's the supplies you'll need:

A large jar of old fashioned Vaseline (or any cheap petroleum jelly)
A cooler large enough to hold the pumpkin
Ice...about 1 bag every three days

That's it.

First, carve your pumpkin.  When you finish, use a paper towel dipped in vaseline, and put a light coating on ALL cut surfaces.  Doesn't take much...just be thorough.  You'll do this once a week.  The vaseline will help keep the pumpkin moist, and will also inhibit the growth of mold and bacteria.

Second, during the heat of the day, store the pumpkin in the cooler on top of some ice.  What that does is prevent the pumpkin from drying out.  You only need a layer of ice on the bottom of the cooler, you don't need to cover it.

Third step, before you put the vaseline on it at the end of each week, submerge the pumpkin in cool water for 1 hour in the cooler (you don't need to do this the first time you coat it, only after you've had it a week).  You can add a little ice, but you don't have to.  After the soak, dry off, then coat with the vaseline.

If you can't find a cooler that will hold your pumpkin, or you have several pumpkins to handle, you can do the soak in a bathtub of cold water.  Just remember to take the pumpkin out of the sun during the day (put it in your garage, or in an unused room...somewhere temperature controlled).

That's all it takes folks...you're pumpkin will last the whole month, no matter what area of the country you live in!! 

Now, let's turn to that bonus recipe I mentioned!!  Don't throw out the seeds when making jack-o-lanterns (or cooking fresh pumpkins), they make great snacks that are rich in fiber as well as vitamins B and E. Kids especially love them. Purists will want only salt as a seasoning, but if you're feeling adventurous, experiment and have fun with seasoning blends.  These roasted pumpkin seeds make tasty, healthy snacks, and it doesn't get any more frugal than this!!

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons melted butter (you can use olive or vegetable oil if you prefer)
salt to taste

Optional Seasonings:

garlic powder or garlic salt
seasoning salt
black pepper
salt free seasoning blend, such as Mrs. Dash brand
cayenne pepper
seasoning
salt
Cajun seasoning blend
chili powder
Mexican style chili lime seasoning
Italian seasoning or other herbs
grated hard cheese such as Parmesan

Preheat oven to 300º F.

While it's O.K. to leave some strings and pulp on your seeds (it adds flavor), clean off any major chunks. 
Toss pumpkin seeds in a bowl with the melted butter or oil and seasonings of your choice. Spread pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a greased baking sheet (cooking spray works great for that).

Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.

Some flavor combinations for gourmet roasted pumpkin seeds:

  • Italian Style Pumpkin Seeds -- Italian Seasoning Blend, Parmesan Cheese, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper

  • Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin Seeds -- Cinnamon, Ground Ginger, a Pinch of Nutmeg, and Butter

  • Greek Style -- Lemon Pepper Seasoning Blend, Oregano, Salt, Olive Oil

  • Buffalo Wings Pumpkin Seeds -- Butter, Tabasco Sauce, Salt
Hope you ALL have fun with your pumpkins this year!!  ENJOY!!


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