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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Seeds!

I have vivid memories from my childhood of carving and painting pumpkins in the weeks leading up to Halloween. While the creative aspect of it was fun, what I remember most was my mom scooping out the seeds for roasting. It was such a fun and delicious treat then, and still is now. Sure, trick-or-treating is an exciting adventure for kids but some moms don’t really want their kids to come home with a bag full of goodies just to gorge on candy and sweets all night! I know a lot of moms who say that they allow their kids to choose a few of their favorite pieces of candy from their baskets and then they donate the rest. Well, what better way to compliment this healthy decision with a healthier treat for the kids so they don’t feel deprived?? I, for one, think that toasted pumpkin and squash seeds is the perfect way to do just that!

What many people don’t know is that you can roast and eat the seeds of most pumpkins and squashes, not just the typical carving or pie pumpkins. For dinner tonight I am having spaghetti squash with veggies and tomato sauce and I am topping it with its very own seeds (pictured here). You can use seeds from spaghetti squash, pumpkins, butternut squash, acorn squash, kabocha... whatever you choose to make for dinner! Many people toss the seeds when cooking with squash but they are such a useful and healthy food too and should not be neglected! They make a great crunchy on-the-go snack for kids and adults alike. You can also throw them in salads, wraps or trail mix. I like to put them out at holiday parties and social gatherings as a great alternative to nuts.

To roast your seeds:
1) Pre-heat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees.

2) Scoop the seeds out of the squash, removing any flesh. Clean and dry thoroughly.

3) Place the seeds in a bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. Mix until well coated. Be careful not to over do it. You want them to be lightly coated, not drenched.

4) Stir in sea salt and pepper or your favorite seasoning until well coated.

5) Cook for 8-10 minutes or until desired crunchiness!

The best part is that you can make so many variations. Tonight I made the simple and traditional version, using just sea salt and pepper, but you can dress them up any way you like. Try using cayenne pepper, turmeric, curry pouder or wasabi powder for a spicy version. You can also make a sweet treat and use cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Or, if you are really daring go for some garlic powder. Experiment with your favorite spices and herbs!

So what makes these little babies such a healthy snack? They are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids for one, making them a heart healthy source or unsaturated fat, as well as a great anti-inflammatory. They are also a good meat-free source of protein, as well as a great source of zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, iron just to name a few. Their anti-oxidant carotenoid content means they help protect against harmful free radicals and promote cellular functions too. Overall what all that means is that they help lower cholesterol, boost immunity and protect against cancer, heart disease and other disease such as those of the prostate.

Powerful little suckers, huh? So you can see why they’d make a great alternative to candy for your kids on Halloween night!

Keep it Fresh!