poisoned halloween candy?

I grew up long ago and far away, in a land where we sifted through our Halloween candy to cull the razor-blade apples and poisoned nibbles, identifiable by their opened wrappers.  My mom took the extra precaution of keeping Yuck Mouth at bay by making us give up all the “pure sugar” hard candy and soft, chewy, cavity-inducing candies.  We could keep the chocolate, because it had at least a tiny bit of nutritional value.

Now, it most likely doesn’t.  Most of the sugar has been replaced by high-fructose corn syrup.  But there’s even more frightening stuff in your Hershey’s minis: child slave labor. After being reprimanded with other chocolate companies years ago, Hershey’s decided not to take significant steps to change labor practices in Africa, where they source their chocolate.

So even though (because?) I’ve celebrated my freedom from the oppressive regime of my own childhood, where even the kittens needed to be taught to fake smile, I’m done with mass-market Halloween candy. No Hershey’s for me this year.  Because of the deprivation* of the Great Cull, I never thought I’d be the kind of person who gave out raisins or pencils or (quelle horreur!) UNICEF change, so I’m going to go for another candy alternative. I’m not sour enough to give out crummy toys or office supplies yet.  Yet.

We don’t get many kids, so I can spend a little more on fair trade chocolates.  Dagoba, an Oregon organic chocolatier, has spendy tasting squares [Dagoba is now owned by Hershey’s — thanks, Carol, for the comment and see more info here], and there are other fair trade options here and here.  Euphoria Chocolate Company, based here in Eugene, also has cute Halloween chocolates by the half-pound, but I don’t know anything about where they get their chocolate.

What are you giving away for treats?

* No, Mom, I’m just kidding.

dirty pumpkin seeds

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Happy Halloween!  Retrogrouch and I carved our jack-o-lantern last night, and got our scaaaaary on.  I am bedecking our porch with body parts, and he’s been nailed through the head.  Luckily, the injury wasn’t bad enough to stop him from the carving.

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For me, the best part of pumpkin carving has always been roasting the pumpkin seeds.  Each year, I carefully separate out the seeds from the goo, rinse them and dry them, salt them, and put them in a 350 degree oven.  Each year, I also forget about them and have to throw half of them away when they get too dark.

Last year, when working on the Master Food Preserver hotline, someone called in and asked how to make pumpkin seeds.  I started to give my standard schpiel, then realized that I could (and should) look up a recipe in our giant binder of recipes and techniques that are tested by our Extension program and others across the country.  And lo!  The Good Book shewed that she was in great error.  I was roasting the seeds at way too high of a temperature, hence the bitter charring when I forgot about them.

This year, I looked at the seeds with their pretty orange lacing of goo, and thought that I might capitalize on the extra flavor of the pumpkin pulp on the seeds, so I didn’t rinse them.  I tossed them in some oil with coarse sea salt and black pepper, then roasted the speckled, striped seeds.  And lo!  Dirty Pumpkin Seeds were born.  And they were delicious.  Even after I forgot about them.

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Dirty Pumpkin Seeds

This recipe doesn’t measure the amounts, since the amount of seeds one gets from a pumpkin can vary widely.  The larger jack-o-lanterns can actually have fewer seeds than the smaller ones.

  • Seeds from one jack-o-lantern
  • Coarsely ground sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Carefully pick through the pumpkin innards to get all the seeds.  Discard malformed seeds and as much of the orange goo surrounding the seeds as possible, placing seeds in a clean bowl.

Do not rinse the remaining pumpkin goo off the seeds.  Add coarsely ground sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, then coat the seeds in enough vegetable oil to make them slick but not dripping with oil (I used about a tablespoon).

Spread seeds out in a single layer in a Pyrex dish or cookie sheet.

Roast for about 45 minutes, checking occasionally, until light gold in color and completely dry.  If you forget about them, they’re ok for about an hour.  You’ll smell a gentle roasting smell, not the charring of burnt seeds, as a reminder.

They tell me the seeds will keep for about a week unrefrigerated, but mine have never lasted more than a day or two.