Anyone who grew up carving Jack-O’-Lanterns for Halloween has probably had roasted pumpkin seeds at one point or another. What else are you going to do with the guts from your pumpkin? In a rare occurrence, we decided to carve pumpkins this year, and to roast the seeds as well. First, for your viewing pleasure, a blurry portrait of my somewhat dentally challenged Jack-O’-Lantern:

Jack-o-Lantern - Munson Farms Pumpkin

Jack

I decided I wanted to add some pizzazz to my roasted seeds… No – you know what? I don’t really care for that word, pizzazz. Something about it displeases me. What to use instead… How about: I decided to give some character to my roasted seeds, by coating them with spices. There. That’s better.

Washed and De-Pulped Pumpkin Seeds - Munson Farms Pumpkin

Washed and De-Pulped Pumpkin Seeds

We had so many seeds after carving, I decided I could easily make two varieties – one with some spicy, cinnamony flavor, and one with a more savory chile pepper flavor. I ended up baking them nearly a week after we carved, so I had to rehydrate the pulp to remove it, but it came off pretty easily nonetheless. Then I dried the seeds on paper towels to be sure the oil I used would stick, mixed up some spices, and tossed together the seeds, some olive oil and the spices. I roasted them for about half an hour, and they were good to go. They are somewhat high in calories and fat, so I generally only have a bout a 1/4 cup at a time – but that’s a pretty satisfying amount.

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - Munson Farms Pumpkin

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1+1/2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds
2-4 tsp olive oil or melted butter
spice blend (choose one from below)

spicy cinnamon blend
3 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp sugar
3/8 tsp cayenne powder
1/4 tsp salt

spicy chile blend
1+1/2 tsp adobo chile powder (I used Savory Spice Shop’s Lodo Red Adobo)
1 tsp ground paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Wash pumpkin seeds, then remove as much pulp as possible. Pat dry with paper towels. Mix spices together. Toss pumpkin seeds with olive oil or butter, and then add spices, and mix well to coat seeds. Spread on a baking sheet either sprayed with cooking spray or lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 20-40 minutes until toasted, stirring every 10 minutes.

My husband and I once saw a display of Halloween cookies labelled ‘Spooky Cookies’. Since these were of the variety with the actual cookies dyed luminescent colors, and slathered with (what we could only assume to be) tasteless frosting, we found the moniker tremendously funny. Since then it’s been a running joke, appropriate for the grocery store cookies of many brightly colored holidays (especially St. Patrick’s Day). So when I decided on making some kind of orange and black baked goods for Halloween, then found some cookie cutters with ‘Spooky Cutters’ on the packaging, I knew I was in business.

It being me, I naturally went and attempted to make lower-fat sugar cookies, with fairly decent results. They didn’t taste bad, in fact my husband and I plowed through them fairly quickly, but these aren’t going to compare with your grandmother’s full-fat holiday sugar cookies. But I was so pleased with how they looked, that I felt compelled to post them, low-fat chocolate sugar cookieness and all.

The cookie cutter shapes in the set I bought (which was very hard to find, I’d like to add – there is not a great selection of cookie cutters with good bats), included a bat, a pumpkin, a coffin, a woeful looking two-legged spider, a cat, and a tombstone. A couple of weeks earlier I had investigated how to make black frosting, and found that in order to get a true black frosting, you pretty much have to have accept a slightly bitter taste. But then I did a little searching and found something called ‘black caviar candy‘, which is black candy-coated peppermint balls, the size of caviar. I ordered some, and then found some reasonably priced professional-grade orange icing color ($2.50 at Party America – hey, can’t beat that, and it will last until the end of time since it’s so concentrated). This stuff really allows you to get deep, rich colors. I had planned to do a few colors, but after painstakingly laying out the black candy caviar on each individual cookie, I decided that two different colors was more than enough. I used the old grocery-store liquid food coloring for the gray-purple bats, and was actually thrilled with the color. (I’m nearly certain that I used 3 drops of blue and 2 drops of red, but…I kind of didn’t write it down, and it’s been several days.)

Lower-Fat Chocolate Sugar Cookies for Halloween

Lower-Fat Chocolate Sugar Cookies for Halloween

If you want to give the lower-fat version a try, it’s below. If you want to make a sure crowd-pleaser, you might want to make my mom’s almond sugar cookies (a full-fat version her mom got from a Swedish friend (these cookies are probably my favorite ever – I LOVE almond)).

Lower-Fat/Lower-Calorie Chocolate Sugar Cookies

makes 30-40 cookies

5 T butter, softened
3/4 cups erythritol
3 T applesauce
2 T cocoa powder
1/4 tsp espresso powder
1 egg
1+2/3 c flour (I used white whole wheat)
3/4 tsp baking powder (1 tsp at sea-level)
1/4 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar together. Add applesauce, cocoa powder and espresso powder, and mix well. Taste and adjust as desired, then add egg and mix well. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt, and then gradually add flour to the first bowl, mixing well. You should have a firm dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to  375  degrees (350 at sea-level). Roll dough to 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch thickness, and cut with cookie cutters dipped in flour.

Bake for 8-12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack after one minute, and allow to cool completely before decorating.

Swedish Almond Sugar Cookies (Full-Fat)

makes 30-40 cookies

10 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1+2/3 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder (1 tsp at sea-level)
3/4 tsp almond extract

Instructions: Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and almond extract, beating well. In a separate bowl, mix together flour and baking powder, and then gradually add to butter and sugar, mixing well. You should have a firm dough.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (375 at sea level). Roll dough to 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch thickness, and cut with cookie cutters dipped in flour.

Bake for 8-12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack after one minute, and allow to cool completely before decorating.

Icing

1+1/2 c powdered sugar
5 T milk
1/4-1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract (optional)
food coloring

Gradually add milk to the powdered sugar until you have a consistency that’s easy to spread, but that’s thick enough that it won’t just run off the cookies. Add flavoring of your choice. Gradually add food coloring until you get the color you would like. I used professional grade icing color for the orange, and 3 drops of blue and 2 drops of red for the gray-purple. Frost and add additional decorations as desired, then let sit until the icing has hardened.

A Colony of Bat Cookies

A Colony of Bat Cookies

I’ve got several pictures I’ve wanted to use for a while, but which just haven’t fit with anything. So this post is just going to be food pictures. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I love brightly colored ingredients and dishes. The more vibrant, the better! So color is the main feature of all of these photos.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Awesome picture I accidentally took of heirloom tomatoes (because if there’s one thing about my photography skills that’s consistent, it’s inconsistency (with a slight leaning toward blurriness))

More Heirloom Tomatoes

More heirloom tomatoes (because seriously, how cool are these colors?)

Colorful Carrots

Tell me again why we eat mainly orange carrots when this wonderful variety exists?

Pomegranate Arils

I love pomegranate arils – they’re like jewels! If they weren’t so darned tasty I would just stare at them.

Yellow Beets

I’m still hypnotized by beets. I love the bullseye pattern, and how cool is bright yellow surrounded by red-orange?

Heirloom Pumpkin

I thought the lacy grey-brown with the bright orange peeking through on this heirloom pumpkin was very cool. (And it was a tasty one, too!)

Gorgeous Pasta Dish with Green Garbanzos - in which the Garbanzos were totally overwhelmed by the Chipotle Lime Pasta

Gorgeous pasta dish with green garbanzos (in which the taste of the garbanzos was totally overwhelmed by the Chipotle Lime Pasta (which is especially tragic considering how long it takes to prepare green garbanzos!))

Gorgeous Sushi from Sushi Yoshi in Superior

Colorful (and Beyond Delicous) Sushi from Sushi Yoshi in Superior

I’d been wanting to make pretzel rolls for a while, and finally decided last week that I’d give it a go. But that day I bought a bunch of tomatoes, found myself thinking about them off and on during the day, so I took a detour, and decided I wanted to make tomato pecorino-romano pretzels instead. I had no idea how well that would work, but I figured it was worth a try.

I heated up some tomato sauce (the heirlooms I bought that day were ear-marked for pasta sauce – I used canned sauce for the pretzels), put the yeast in, and waited to see if it would actually bubble like I wanted it to. Fortunately, it did indeed! I added a bunch of finely grated pecorino romano, and used my favorite white whole wheat flour. I let it rise for about an hour, kneaded it very briefly, divided it up, and formed the pieces into pretzels.

The first time I made this I didn’t roll the pieces out long enough, so the pretzels were quite puffy. Obscenely puffy perhaps (but rather amusing, I think).

Round One - Overly Puffy Pretzels

Round One – Overly Puffy Pretzels

I did a second round a week later, adding some basil and oregano to pump up the flavor. I ended up making a larger batch, and figured out why my Dad used to recruit my mom and I to help shape crescent rolls and such when he made them. It definitely takes a bit of time to make 24 shaped pieces (or 23 if you can’t count well while you’re dividing the dough up). Not that making the ultimate Play-Doh shape for anyone who is inartistic (the SNAKE!) is difficult, it’s just time-consuming. But I powered through, and had some lovely looking pretzels to show for it. I made sure to make the ropes longer than the last time so there’d be less puffiness.

Round Two - Much More Normal-Looking Pretzels

Round Two – Much More Normal-Looking Pretzels

I’m really pleased with the color of the finished product. Plus they’re yummy. Definitely a recipe to keep!

Tomato Basil Pecorino-Romano Pretzels
makes 24 (or 23) pretzels

1+1/2 c tomato sauce
1+1/2 packages yeast
1 Tbsp tomato paste
60 g finely grated pecorino romano* (about 2 cups)
1+1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp oregano
3 to 3+1/2 c flour
1 egg, beaten
coarse salt

* You can substitute parmesan if you’d like

Heat the tomato sauce to about 110 degrees (aka ‘warm’ in most recipes – I used a glass measuring cup in the microwave, and used 20 minute increments, stirred it, then put my thermometer in to check. You want to be sure to get it fairly close to 110 degrees, because too cold and the yeast won’t activate, and too hot and you will kill it). Once it’s at the right temperature, stir in the yeast, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, until it’s bubbly.

In a large bowl, combine the tomato sauce/yeast mixture, tomato paste, pecorino romano, sugar, basil, and oregano. Once everything is well mixed, add the flour 1/2 cup at a time. The amount to add will vary depending on your altitude and humidity. You will probably have to mix in the last 1/4 to 1/2 cup with your hands. Basically you want the dough to have a consistency that is smooth, but not sticky.

Form the dough into a ball shape, put in a lightly greased (or cooking sprayed) bowl, turn to coat, and then cover with a slightly damp towel (use warm water). Here is where I’m supposed to say ‘let rise until doubled in size’, but honestly – I haven’t seen ‘doubled in size’ in my bread dough for decades. Lets go with ‘let rise 40-60 minutes, until you can tell that it has increased in size quite a bit’ – but if you really get double the size, kudos to you!

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Punch the dough down to release the air, then divide the dough into 24 pieces. As you are shaping each piece, keep the others covered with the damp towel so they don’t dry out. For each piece, roll into a rope 12-14 inches long. Form into a pretzel shape:

Forming the Dough into Pretzels

Forming the Dough into Pretzels

Arrange the pretzels on two baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray. Brush each pretzel with egg. Now sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes, then remove and cool on a rack. Obviously since the pretzels are orange, you won’t be able to determine their doneness by a ‘golden brown color’. So you kind of just have to go by the outside texture.

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