Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve loved dressing up for Halloween. Blame it on my creative mind, but I get a thrill out of coming up with killer (pun intended) costumes each year. When I worked as a section editor for Orlando Weekly, I won the office costume contest with my morbid rendition of the SeaWorld trainer who was tragically drowned by the killer whale Tilikum. (Insensitive? Perhaps, but I scored $50 bucks.) And one year I even corralled all of my girlfriends to dress as the Disney princesses. Then a blonde, I went as Tinkerbell and I made a Peter Pan costume for Kenny, who was still my boyfriend at the time. Last year I took the pop-culture route as Effie from Hunger Games. This year’s costume is still in the works. (Insert evil laugh!)
Beyond the tricks of Halloween, I also really enjoy the seasonal treats. Carving pumpkins around this time of year is now an annual tradition for Kenny and me – going 7 years strong. Not only do I think it’s fun to design the carving cut-outs, but I always roast the pumpkin seeds afterward. Full disclosure: I am completely obsessed with these spicy little seeds and have been known to eat handful after handful in one sitting. They are seriously addicting.
Here are two of my favorite recipes using Halloween pumpkins. You might opt to use canned pumpkin for the dessert bars and that’s totally OK – more time for trick or treating! But don’t throw away those raw seeds from the pumpkin’s inside guts. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
2 cups pumpkin seeds (amounts to about one pumpkin)
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove pumpkin guts from seeds (you could also soak them in water if you’d like). Scatter seeds evenly on a greased baking sheet. Pour melted butter over seeds and sprinkle Cajun seasoning on top, toss to coat the seeds. Roast seeds for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden and crunchy.
Sweet Pumpkin Bars
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
15 ounce can pumpkin
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13-by-10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.
To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.