Pumpkin Seeds Three Ways

Halloween Week Banner2Happy almost Halloween! For my family, the most exciting part of this week (other than Halloween night itself) is carving our jack-o-lanterns. We’ve had one too many squirrels demolish our creations, so we learned to wait it out. The all-you-can-eat pumpkin buffet can open after Halloween!

Speaking of carving, did you know it’s easier to carve from the bottom? I had NO idea until I recently stumbled across this carving video from Better Homes & Gardens. I’m a huge sucker for a good tip like this.

Once the excitement of carving our ghoulish grins is over, we love playing with the seeds. Well, once they’re clean. Funny how the kids suddenly have something terribly important to do when it comes time to desliming the seeds. Thanks, guys.

Since pumpkin seeds are pretty much a once-a-year treat for us, I love finding new ways to use them. Here are three of my favorites!

  1. Bake them. The basic salt-and-oil roast like this from SimplyRecipes is classically delicious. If you want to mix it up a bit, try a batch of Sweet and Salty seeds from Real Simple.
hallo-pumpkin-seeds_300

Sweet & Salty Pumpkin Seeds, Real Simple

  1. Grow them. Why spend lots of money on pumpkins next year when you have a handful of free seeds this year? Once your seeds are washed and dried, store them in an envelope. Pumpkin seed envelopeThe best place to keep them is somewhere cool and dry. I like to use the refrigerator in my garage. Label the envelope with the date and name so you remember what’s inside! When to plant? In cooler parts of the country, the best time to plant pumpkin seeds is late May. In warmer parts of the country, you can wait until mid July to plant pumpkins in time for Halloween.
  1. Craft them. Seeds are way underrated in crafting, IMO. Look at this pretty ornament I whipped up. I’ll have a full DIY on these beauties Thursday. Be sure to check back!
Pumpkin seed ornament_finished

Pumpkin seed ornament. Watch for DIY instructions Thursday!

In the meantime, what’s your favorite way to serve up some seeds? Do share!

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A Happy Halloween Meal

Halloween MenuThe formula for concocting a perfect Halloween dinner is “simple + delicious.” For this reason, using your crockpot is a must. Just fill it with tasty treasures before you head out to work, and you’ll come home to a magically finished meal.

This is especially helpful when you have a house full of eager trick-or-treaters who want to eat, dress and run. Everyone can have a good meal before they head out. When they return, second helpings are warm and ready!

I also like recipes I can prepare ahead of time, so this post is full of ideas for the simplest, happiest Halloween meal.

The Line Up

  • Spooky Taco Soup
  • Ghoulicious Guac with Bat Chips
  • Pumpkin Veggie Dippers
  • Sopapilla Pumpkin Cheesecake
  • Fanta-lanterns

Quick tip: To add seasonal flair, take everyday recipes and get creative with their names – like Spooky Taco Soup. It’s taco soup with a cute name and served in bowls that look like little ghosts for instant Halloween cred.

Speaking of bowls, I’m a huge fan of paper plates and other disposables on nights like Halloween. Who wants to spend this special night hovering over the kitchen sink? I’ll give you some easy and creative serving ideas with each recipe below.

Spooky Taco Soup (click for recipe)

This version from Allrecipes.com is a good one. I also like how their site allows you to adjust the servings so you can easily scale the recipe.

Spooky Bowl

Ready for my soup now.

To make the soup “spooky”, hot-glue googly eyes to the sides of paper or plastic soup bowls.

Ghoulicious Guac (click for recipe)

Homemade guacamole is the perfect partner for a cup of taco soup. I don’t know many variations of guac, so you might already have your own go-to recipe. If not, here’s a great one from SimplyRecipes. You’ll want to prepare this right before serving so it’s fresh and delicious.

Now, to make the dip Ghoulicious (see what I did there?), serve it with Bat Chips!

Bat Chips

A fresh batch of bats ready for the oven!

All you need is a bat-shaped cookie cutter, a package of flour tortillas, olive oil, Kosher salt and black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut each tortilla with your cookie cutter. Place your bats in a single layer on a sheet pan and sprinkle lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crisp, turning once. You can make these a day or two ahead of Halloween and store them in an airtight container.

Pumpkin Veggie Dippers (click for recipe)

pumpkin platter

Such a happy pumpkin.

This is a basic veggie platter featuring carrots, sliced cucumbers, broccoli and Ranch dip. Simply arrange the vegetables in the form of a pumpkin on a large platter. Serve the Ranch dressing in small bowls or ramekins to create the eyes and nose. It’s super easy and kid friendly.

Sopapilla Pumpkin Cheesecake (click for recipe)

Why not top off the night with a slice of this decadent dessert? When I saw this recipe, I was like, “You had me at sopapilla. And pumpkin. And cheesecake.” I love this recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff. They have tons of great recipes. Be sure to check them out!

You can cut these into squares and serve on a pretty orange or black platter. Or eat straight from the pan. That’s how I roll with these beauties.

Fanta-lanterns

Fanta-lantern

Cheers!

This is a cute way to dress up your drinks. I made silly jack-o-lantern patterns out of black construction paper, cut them out and used double-sided tape to adhere to the sides of clear plastic cups. Serve fizzy, orange Fanta in these adorable cups for instant Halloween cheers.

Planning Checklist: Day(s) Before

  • Grocery store run. Here’s A Happy Halloween Meal Grocery List you can download.
  • Create the soup bowls and cups
  • Bake the bat chips
  • Make the cheesecake
  • Prep the vegetable platter
  • Brown the meat for the soup

Planning Checklist: The Day of

  • Fill your crockpot in the morning
  • Make the guac just before serving
  • Set out your food and serving pieces
  • Enjoy the night

Happy Halloweeating!

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Trick Out Your House for Treats: A Halloween Checklist

Halloween's pumpkinsWhen we first moved to Arkansas, we made the rookie mistake of not asking our neighbors about Halloween. We figured we’d see about the same number of kids from our previous neighborhood, so I bought a single bag of 100-count Snickers. Thinking half of them would be for me while I waited patiently between doorbell rings. Boy, were we wrong!

Our street was swarming, SWARMING I tell you, with costumed kids. The little ones started as soon as we pulled in the driveway from work. So we obviously didn’t have our A-game on. At one point, kids were lined up down the sidewalk waiting at each door like they were in line for a Disney ride. Needless to say, our bag of candy disappeared faster than you can blow out a candle. We made an emergency trip to the grocery store for more candy, which only lasted another 30 minutes. We finally had to shut down our candy factory and watch the insanity from a one-inch opening through our blinds. It was incredible. It was also pretty cool to see so many of our neighbors getting into the spirit and creating a safe place for kids to enjoy the holiday. I’ll always remember that night, which is why I developed a plan for all of the Halloweens to come.

If you want a fun and organized Halloween night, here’s my go-to-checklist. Now is the perfect time to start planning and checking away:

  • Costumes and accessories. Here’s a huge photo library of homemade costume ideas from Costume Works. Remember to wear long underwear if it’s chilly so you don’t have to cover up your cool, new outfit.
  • Treat bags. If you don’t want to go the standard pillowcase or plastic bag route, Pottery Barn has the most adorable plush treat bags on sale and they can be personalized – so there’s no question whose candy is whose. Unless it’s a Snickers. Then it’s mine.
  • Flashlights or glow-in-the-dark necklaces. These are important safety items for everyone – big and little tikes alike!
  • Jack-o-lantern candles. We like to use flameless LED candles so we don’t have open flames near the bushes – or the kids with flowing princess dresses.
  • Special goodies for your friends and neighbor kids. I like to wrap non-candy treats, such as pencils, stickers and small glow sticks in clear cellophane bags tied with festive orange and black curly ribbon. All of the parents will thank you.
  • Candy bowl prepped and ready for the onslaught of everyone else! Shop at your local wholesaler (like Sam’s Club) for good deals on big bags of candy.
  • Cute door sign for if/when you run out of candy. I made this one out of a chalkboard sign from Hob Lob. I used white paint for the message and tied a new ribbon through the holes.IMG_4250
  • Crockpot prepped and ready. Halloween is the perfect night for a crockpot meal. A special, spooky menu with recipes will be posted this week!
  • Treat jar to store the goods. Each of our kids gets his/her own jar. As soon as they get home, they sort through their candy, toss anything unwrapped or homemade from people we don’t know (I’m not taking chances), trade anything that’s not a personal favorite, and store the “keepers” in their jars.
  • Festive movie for candy-sorting entertainment. Our family favorite is the classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

Even if you don’t have a wild and busy neighborhood like ours, you can conjure up your own Halloween fun. Invite a few friends over, have an awesome meal, eat your own trick-or-treat candy and watch for that Great Pumpkin to appear. Just wait and see.

I hope this helps you have a happy and relaxed Halloween!

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