The pumpkins have been on display for weeks now, and you’ve probably already picked your favorite at the local pumpkin patch (or plucked it from the produce aisle of your favorite store.) Now that Halloween is upon us, it’s finally time to carve that sucker!

Before you grab your knife and begin hacking, it’s best to have a plan. Here’s a Martha Stewart-approved approach to get started.

  1. Hollow out your pumpkin by carefully sawing off the top with a serrated knife or electric carving knife. Using your hands, a spoon, or a plaster scraper, scoop out the flesh, pulp, and seeds. (Don’t throw the seeds away!)
  2. Sketch out your design. Depending on how particular you are and what effect you’re trying to achieve, use a Sharpie and simply cut according to the lines. Or, you can create your design on a soft piece of paper, and use washable glue or glue stick to affix the paper to the pumpkin. Then, poke holes with an awl, pick, or other sharp object tracing the design. Remove the template and use a miniature saw or carving tool to complete the cuts.
  3. If you plan to make circular cuts (for eyes, for example), a drill with a ½- or ¾-inch drill bit is a quick and easy way to get a flawless result.
  4. Illuminate your jack O lantern with a small flashlight or candle (placed in a glass votive holder.)
  5. Rub a thin layer of petroleum jelly over exposed areas of the pumpkins flesh (on the top and around the cuts you’ve made.) This will prevent the flesh from turning brown and keep your pumpkin looking fresher for longer!

Now that you’ve carved your pumpkin, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Or, more accurately, the seeds of your labor. Dig through the innards you’ve scooped from your pumpkin. Remove as much of the stringy pumpkin pulp as you can, then place the seeds into a colander. Rinse with cold water, then shake the colander to dry (don’t blot with paper towels – the seeds will stick!)

Place the seeds in one layer on an oiled baking sheet, and roast at 300 degrees for half an hour to dry them out. Remove the baking sheet and toss the seeds with olive oil, salt, and your favorite flavoring (cinnamon and sugar, grated parmesan and oregano, smoked paprika and almonds, garam masala and currants… you can get creative!) Once you’ve flavored the seeds, roast them for 20 more minutes until they’re crisp. Enjoy! Pumpkin seeds are packed with antioxidants, zinc, iron, magnesium, etc. They’re a great way to offset the effects of the Halloween candy you know you’ll be sneaking!