In this economy, it's important to get as much mileage out of your vegetables -- or your holiday decorations -- as possible. The flesh of pumpkins and other winter squash are a great source of Vitamin A, and their seeds are not only tasty, but full of protein, minerals and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Pumpkin seeds make a great seasonal treat, and like other seeds and nuts, are on-the-go snacks that can be enjoyed without guilt. Baking pumpkin seeds is quick and easy.
Start with a pumpkin, or any other variety of winter squash, such as butternut squash or acorn squash, and an oven preheated to 300F. With a knife, cut into your pumpkin and use an ice cream scoop or a sturdy spoon to scrape out the pulp and seeds. Set the pumpkin aside for baking or carving at a later time.
Separate the pulp from the seeds by submerging them in a bowl of water and skimming the seeds from the surface. Discard the pulp. Place the seeds in a sieve and wash with warm water, and then turn them onto a paper towel and pat them dry. If the pumpkin seeds are too wet, they won't toast well in the oven, so use several paper towels if you need to. You may wish to dry them overnight.
Lay out a nonstick baking sheet and spray with olive oil cooking spray. Spread the dry pumpkin seeds on top of it in a single layer -- none of the seeds should be covered by any other seeds, to ensure that all the seeds bake evenly. A large pumpkin may require two batches. Spray the seeds with olive oil cooking spray again -- in lieu of cooking spray, they can be tossed in a bowl with a bit of olive oil. Salt them sparingly and place them in the oven.
At the half-hour mark, check on your pumpkin seeds, turn them with a spatula if necessary and bake for another 30 minutes. You may wish to salt and spray them with olive oil again at this point.
When done, the seeds should be golden brown in color and slightly crunchy. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes. They can be enjoyed hot or cold, but be sure to refrigerate them if they won't be eaten right away. They will keep in the fridge for about a week.
Pumpkin seeds take well to almost any seasoning -- for variety, try tossing them with a dash of Worcestershire sauce and garlic; cinnamon and sugar; or red pepper flakes and seasoning salt. They do not have to be eaten by themselves, either, and go great as a salad topper, included in cookie recipes or ground up in chicken breading.