Dear Barbara: Our kitchen looks like a stringy mess! We are carving pumpkins and are removing the seeds. I am going to try to make roasted pumpkin seeds for snacks. I know you bake them in a skillet or bake them in the oven, adding salt before baking. Is that the only thing you can do to them? I was thinking about maybe some spices or something. — Raychel from Lodi
Dear Raychel: You can spice the seeds with anything you like. Make them spicy with a little cayenne, salt and butter. If you like them on the sweet side, Use the same spices you would use in a pumpkin pie. A little fresh rosemary, very finely chopped, with a little garlic salt added is also good. Just be sure not to use too much; rosemary is very pungent. You can also set a variety of spices on the table and let the kids flavor their own. I would suggest you hold back some seeds in case someone goes overboard on the spices and won’t eat them. You can help them with a new batch!
Dear Barbara: Where did candy corn originate? — Marie from Seattle
Dear Marie: Where most candy originated in another country, candy corn came from the United States and Canada. It was supposed to resemble a kernel of corn. When candy corn was first made, it was all made by hand! I can’t imagine how tedious that job must have been.
Candy corn is all made by machine now, but I’m guessing that the ingredients are about the same. It is usually made at harvest time, and the ingredients are mostly sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s glaze, salt, cocoa powder, artificial flavor and artificial color. How can something that looks so innocent be made with so much sugar?
Dear Barbara: I love roasted peppers, but they seem a bit daunting to roast at home … any pointers for a basic cook like myself? — DMS from Lodi
Dear DMS: Roasting peppers is easier than it looks. You can use a grill, put them directly on a burner, or use the broiler. One thing you can’t do is leave them alone. They need constant turning. Wash them and put them on the fire, stem, seeds and all. When the skin is pretty much blackened, remove the peppers and immediately put them in a paper bag. Tightly seal the bag and let them rest for about 15 minutes. The steam that is formed from the heat will loosen the skins. When they have cooled enough to handle, peel the skin off and discard. Whatever you do, do not rinse them under water! You are washing away the flavor. After they are skinned and the seeds are removed, they are ready to use.
The pumpkins are carved and the candy is ready. Please have a safe and sane Halloween!
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.