Salted Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter

chocolate sunflower seed butter cutting board

Growing up, I was never the greatest fan of nut butters. While all of my friends gladly ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, ants on a log for snacks (one of Justin’s favorites), and spoonfuls of peanut butter straight from the spoon, I preferred other things. Things like hummus, olives, and mustard, usually with pretzels or pita, for every meal and snack (besides breakfast). I just didn’t get peanut butter. Things have changed over the years, and I slowly began to realize the greatness not just of peanut butter, but of all nut butters. In fact, it wasn’t until I became vegan that nut butters became a regular part of my diet (not out of necessity, but because I truly began to enjoy them).

The real epiphany came when I discovered Peanut Butter and Co., which produces many wonderful varieties of peanut butter such as Mighty Maple (my personal favorite), Dark Chocolate Dreams, and Cinnamon Raisin Swirl. Around the same time, I also found Justin’s Nut Butter, which helped me develop an obsession with maple almond butter (do we see a theme here)?

chocolate sunflower seed butter cutting board

These nut butters, while quite irresistible, are also quite pricy. Which is why I began to make my own. There are endless flavor combinations, and they can be made at the fraction of the cost of store-bought brands. I now only buy the above-mentioned nut butters as a special treat, but make my own on a regular basis. I’ve tried countless variations, and at this point it’s hard to choose one absolute favorite. But, I think I can safely say that this is my favorite sunflower seed butter.

If you’ve never tried sunflower seed butter, you’re in for a real treat. Roasted sunflower seeds transform into a very creamy and satisfying butter by themselves, but the addition of chocolate, sea salt, and just a touch of coconut sugar here make this feel decadent and dessert-like. I have been known to enjoy a spoonful or two straight from the jar before it ever hits my intended delivery vehicle. Why waste a perfectly good apple when what you really want is the dreamy chocolate sunflower seed butter on top? Another plus? If you’re allergic to tree nuts, or know someone else who is, this sunflower seed butter is perfect for you (or to share, but you probably won’t want to).

chocolate sunflower seed butter jar

Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter

Ingredients

•1 1/2 cups roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
•2/3 cup chopped dark chocolate (I used 82% cacao content)
•1/2 teaspoon sea salt
•1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
•2 teaspoons coconut sugar, plus more if desired*

1. Place sunflower seeds in the bowl of a food processor and process until a smooth paste forms, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.

2. Add chocolate, sea salt, vanilla, and coconut sugar, and process until the chocolate is completely incorporated.

3. Taste, and adjust sweetener according to your preference.

Notes: Any granulated sugar can be substituted for the coconut sugar, but I do not recommend using any liquid sweetener, as it affects the texture of the finished product.

chocolate sunflower seed butter knifeHave your snack preferences changed over the years, or have your tastebuds remained unchanged? Any other favorite homemade or store-bought nut butters? What is your favorite way to enjoy nut/seed butters?

Gingerbread Biscotti with Sparkling Lemon Glaze

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Hi! It feels like forever (a week) since I’ve written anything here. Much too long of a break. Hopefully by now you’re not all on gingerbread overload, because you’re in for a treat here. I feel obligated to make gingerbread in some form every holiday season, and even though I technically fulfilled my duty with the gingerbread bars I recently made, I felt like something else, something just a bit more dessert-like, was in order. And along came these gingerbread biscotti, with lemon glaze no less. They are dense and a bit chewy – not quite as dry as your typical biscotti (which I am not such a fan of), and are covered in the most wonderful lemon glaze. A bit of turbinado sugar gives the glaze a nice crunch, and a nice sparkle. If you’re a gingerbread lover, you mustn’t miss this recipe, and if you haven’t yet been convinced of the wonders of gingerbread, hopefully this recipe will persuade you otherwise.

IMG_6427Gingerbread Biscotti with Sparkling Lemon Glaze

Biscotti

•2/3 cup turbinado sugar
•1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
•1/2 cup sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)
•2 tablespoons almond milk
•2 teaspoons vanilla extract
•2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

•1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
•2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
•2 teaspoons ground ginger
•1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
•1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
•A pinch of salt

•1/4 cup raisins
•2 tablespoons chopped chocolate or mini chocolate chips
•2 tablespoons chopped raw almonds

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line with parchment paper or lightly grease a baking sheet.

1. Combine sugar, molasses, oil, almond milk, vanilla, and flaxseed in a small bowl, and whisk together until homogenous.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, spices, baking powder, and salt. Pour into sugar mixture and stir until fully incorporated.

3. Fold in raisins, chocolate, and almonds.

4. On your prepared baking sheet, form two logs about 12 inches long by 3 inches wide. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven and transfer biscotti to a wire rack to cool for at least 45 minutes.

5. Once the biscotti have cooled, preheat the oven to 325°F. Cut biscotti into 1/2 inch thick slices and rearrange on baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on how dry you want your biscotti.

6.  Allow biscotti to cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

IMG_6380Sparkling Lemon Glaze

•1 cup powdered sugar
•Zest of two lemons
•Juice of two lemons
•1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

1. Whisk together powdered sugar and lemon juice until homogenous. Stir in lemon zest and turbinado sugar.

2. Pour the glaze over cooled biscotti. Allow to set for at least an hour before serving.

The biscotti can be stored in an airtight container, unrefrigerated, for up to two weeks.

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How were the holidays for you? We had a wonderful dinner and were even able to take a break from cooking in the middle of the day for a nice walk.

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Is there a certain dessert (or other food) that you make every holiday season? What about other traditions?

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Garlic and Mustard Seed Gomasio

_MG_7989Condiments are extremely important. It’s a fact that can’t be denied. Mustard (which I adore) and ketchup (which I cannot stand – anyone else?) have their places, but sometimes you need a bit of a change. It’s not that food tastes bad without condiments, it just tastes better with them. Now, most condiments are of the saucy variety – aside from mustard and ketchup, the American classics, there is barbecue sauce (which we’ll get to another day), salsa, and countless varieties of hot sauce. These served me perfectly well, that is, until I discovered gomasio.

If you aren’t familiar with gomasio, it is  a traditional Japanese condiment comprised of toasted sesame seeds and salt. It doesn’t sound like much, but let me assure you, you need to try this recipe because once you do, you’ll never want to be without it. It helps that you probably have all of the ingredients in your cupboard right now, just waiting to be put to good use.

I’ve seen several varieties of gomasio in stores – from garlic to seaweed, but I decided to come up with my own variation. The homemade version is much more cost effective, and you can customize it however you like.

Lately, I’ve been sprinkling gomasio over just about everything. It goes wonderfully with grains and steamed or roasted vegetables, which are a part of my dinner every night. Sometimes I can’t wait for dinner though, and I do admit, I’m guilty of taking a few pinches straight from the jar. It’s that good! I’ve made several versions of gomasio, and here I decided to include mustard seeds and garlic powder. If you aren’t a fan of either, you could leave them out completely, or substitute with your own favorite herbs and spices.

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Garlic and Mustard Seed Gomasio

Ingredients

•1/3 cup sesame seeds (you can use any variety; I used a combination of black and white)
•2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
•1 tbsp sea salt
•1 tbsp garlic powder

1. Combine the sesame seeds and mustard seeds in a skillet and toast over low heat, stirring often, until the seeds become golden and fragrant.  You will hear some popping; don’t worry, this is normal.

2. Remove the seeds from heat, allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then pour into the bowl of a mortar and pestle (my choice) or spice grinder along with the sea salt and garlic powder.  Grind until most of the seeds are broken apart.  Do not grind the seeds to a powder; you are looking for a bit of variety in texture.

3. Store in an airtight container and sprinkle over anything and everything.

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Have you tried gomasio yet, or even made it yourself? If not, what are your favorite condiments?

Chewy Gingerbread Bars

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We are big fans of bars here, as they are easy to make, and convenient to grab on the run. Work and school make it difficult to have “real” lunches sometimes, and bars usually do the trick, or at least work well at holding us over until we can eat something more substantial. I haven’t yet come up with one bar recipe that I make every time, but I have quite a few that always produce satisfying results. This recipe uses a combination of whole wheat and brown rice flour, as well as rolled oats and millet puffs for texture. A bit of candied ginger adds an extra treat, and makes these bars quite seasonally appropriate. I’ve used ground ginger and cinnamon here to produce a gingerbread-like flavor, but any number of other spice mixtures would work nicely.

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Gingerbread Bars

Ingredients

•2 tablespoons ground flaxseed plus 4 tablespoons water

•2/3 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
•1/3 cup brown rice flour
•1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
•1 teaspoon baking powder
•1/8 teaspoon sea salt

•1/2 large or 1 small banana, mashed (about 1/4 cup) (applesauce or another fruit puree would work equally as well)
•2 tablespoons melted coconut oil, or other neutral oil
•1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses (or regular molasses, for a subtler flavor)
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•1/3 cup turbinado sugar

•1/3 cup rolled oats
•1/3 cup puffed millet
•2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
•2 tablespoons raw unsalted sunflower seeds

Lightly grease or line with parchment paper an 8-inch square baking dish. Preheat oven to 350°F.

1. In a small bowl, mix together ground flax and water. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

2. In a large bowl, combine whole wheat flour, brown rice flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together banana, sunflower oil, molasses, vanilla, sugar, and flax mixture. Pour over flour mixture and stir until just combined.

4. Fold in oats, puffed millet, candied ginger, and sunflower seeds until evenly dispersed.

5. Spread dough into an even layer in prepared baking dish. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until edges are just golden.

Cool in baking dish for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Can be stored in an airtight container, unrefrigerated, for up to a week.

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Do you have a tried and true bar recipe? Do you even like bars? What are your favorite kinds, whether store-bought, or homemade? Any other favorite snacks that are convenient during a busy day? If I don’t have any bars on hand, I usually turn to pears and apples, and I generally keep a stash of dates with me wherever I go, for whenever cravings hit.

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Sweet and Salty Roasted Coconut Chips

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Are you guilty of picking the best parts out of the granola? I know, so am I. For some, myself included, it’s usually those nice big chunks of granola that go first, while the crumbs fall to the bottom of the bag and are eventually forgotten. We’ll talk about granola chunks another time, though. Today I want to talk about coconut. In the last batch of granola I made, there were irresistibly crunchy flakes of coconut strewn throughout, that I couldn’t help but pick out. Forget the chocolate, dates, and pecans. It was the coconut that I wanted. So much so, that I decided to roast up a batch of pure coconut goodness. Some of you may have experienced the recent phenomenon that is Trader Joe’s roasted coconut chips (I know Chelsey is in on the secret). My version is a bit different, but just as delicious (not to mention cheaper)!

I kept it simple here, with a basic sweet and salty combination, but I imagine that an addition of cinnamon, cocoa powder, or any other warming spice would be delicious. I can envision adding a dash of cayenne or chili powder to the mix and using the chips as a salad topping in place of croutons. Let me know if you try this out!

Roasted Coconut ChipsRoasted Coconut Chips

I generally buy my coconut from Nuts.com, but the brand Let’s Do Organic, which is available in most health food stores, as well as Whole Foods (at least where I live) also sells coconut flakes. 

Ingredients
•2 1/2 cups coconut flakes (not shredded coconut)
•3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
•2 tablespoons maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
•1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 275°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

1. Heat the applesauce, maple syrup, and salt in a small saucepan until just warm.

2. Pour applesauce mixture over coconut flakes in a medium bowl and stir until thoroughly coated.

3. Spread mixture evenly onto baking sheet, in as thin a layer as possible.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring every five minutes until coconut is golden.

5. Let coconut cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Roasted Coconut ChipsWhat are your favorite simple snacks? Lately, I’ve been making little snack plates full of these roasted coconut chips, dates, toasted pecans, and fresh fruit (I finally found Cara Cara and Blood oranges in my market!).

Brussels Sprouts with Sesame Vinaigrette

IMG_5917As a child I absolutely despised brussels sprouts, or at least that’s what I’d have you think. The truth is, however, that I never even ate a brussels sprout until several years ago. It was at this point that I had an epiphany: I was lead to believe that I hated brussels sprouts because children are supposed to hate brussels sprouts. I never even gave them a chance! My first experience cooking brussels sprouts was with a recipe from the wildly talented Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. Her recipe for Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Apples truly converted me, and I’ve been a great fan ever since.

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Brussels Sprouts with Sesame Vinaigrette

for the brussels sprouts

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 pound brussels sprouts, cleaned and quartered
2 large cloves garlic, minced
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons raw sesame seeds

for the dressing

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon vegan worcestershire sauce (optional)*
1 teaspoon coconut aminos*
2 teaspoons maple syrup or liquid sweetener of choice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of salt

In a large pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat until melted, then add cleaned and quartered brussels sprouts and stir to coat with the oil. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until brussels sprouts are beginning to brown, then stir in garlic, salt, and sesame seeds, and cook another 2-3 minutes, until garlic is fragrant and golden. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool.

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid (I like to use old mustard or jam jars), and shake vigorously to emulsify. This makes a good deal of dressing, so you will have some extra

Pour 2-3 tablespoons of the dressing over the brussels sprouts and stir to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

*Notes: Leave the worcestershire sauce out for a gluten and soy free dressing, as most are made with soy sauce. Coconut Secret brand coconut aminos are gluten and soy free. If you do not need the dressing to be gluten free or soy free, tamari or soy sauce may be substituted in equal amounts.

IMG_5920Are you a fan of brussels sprouts? If not, I certainly hope I can convert you. Are there any other foods you love now, but couldn’t stomach in the past? What made you change your mind?

Chocolate Chunk Maple Granola with Coconut and Dates

IMG_5936Granola is a staple in my kitchen, and I cycled through recipe after recipe, with many failures and simply mediocre recipes along the way. That is, until I found this gem of a recipe from David Lebovitz (who originally found it from self-proclaimed domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson). While I do really enjoy big chunks of granola from time to time, this recipe produces a lighter result, thanks first, to the crisp rice cereal, and second, to the slow, gentle baking.

This granola is full of flavor and texture thanks to the crunchy pecans, flaky coconut, chewy dates, and rich chocolate that melts with each bite. Of course, you can substitute your favorite dried fruits and nuts for the pecans and dates, but I must say that this is a winning combination.

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Chocolate Chunk Maple Granola with Coconut and Dates

Inspired by this recipe from David Lebovitz.

Ingredients
•4 cups rolled oats*
•1 cup crisp rice cereal (not puffed rice)*
•1 cup chopped pecans
•1 cup sesame seeds
•1 cup large coconut flakes
•1/4 cup packed brown sugar
•1 teaspoon sea salt

•3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (or other fruit puree)
•1/3 cup brown rice syrup
•1/4 cup maple syrup
•2 tablespoons coconut oil
•1 teaspoon maple extract (or vanilla extract)

•1 cup chopped dates
•1/2 cup dark chocolate chips*

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line two baking sheets (preferably jelly roll pans) with parchment.

1. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, crisp rice cereal, pecans, sesame seeds, coconut, brown sugar, and sea salt.

2. In a small saucepan, heat the applesauce, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, coconut oil, and maple extract until warm.

3. Pour the fruit mixture over the dry mixture and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Divide the mixture and spread evenly onto prepared baking sheets.

4. Bake the granola for approximately 45 minutes, stirring every ten minutes, until the granola is deeply golden.

5. Remove granola from the oven, stir in dates, and let cool completely. Once cool, stir in the chocolate chips. You can stir in half of the chocolate chips while the granola is still warm, if you prefer that they melt into the mixture.

The granola can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month.

*Notes: For a gluten free version, be sure your rolled oats, crisp rice cereal, and chocolate chips are gluten free.

IMG_5931What is your favorite granola recipe? Or, if you don’t have one, what would your perfect bowl include?

Seeded Maple Cinnamon Bars

IMG_5788Some foods just evoke a certain season for me, and almost any sweet with a hint of cinnamon immediately makes me think of fall. I had been craving something sweet, but not cloyingly so, with just a hint of cinnamon for warmth, and perhaps a bit of crunch. That is where these little gems began. I threw these bars together with ingredients I nearly always keep in my pantry, so they’re perfect to make in a pinch. This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a guideline; I can imagine all sorts of mix ins that would work just as wonderfully. I chose poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and raisins this go round, but any combination of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit would be equally as delicious. Next time, I’m thinking of adding crystallized ginger, to up the spice just a bit. If you’ve ever had a hermit cookie, the texture and taste here are quite similar.

IMG_5811Seeded Maple Cinnamon Bars

Ingredients

•1/4 cup maple syrup (coconut nectar, agave nectar, or other liquid sweetener will work if you don’t have maple syrup on hand)
•2 tablespoons coconut sugar (sucanat or turbinado sugar will work, too)
•1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses (or regular molasses, for a milder taste)
•1 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water
•2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
•2 tablespoons almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract

•1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
•1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond meal
•1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
•1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•1/2 cup rolled oats
•1/4 cup poppy seeds
•1/4 cup sesame seeds
•1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

1. In a small bowl mix together maple syrup, coconut sugar, molasses, flaxseed mixture, oil,     almond milk, and vanilla until combined.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the rest of the ingredients.

3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined.

4. Scoop dough onto parchment lined baking sheet and form into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick all the way around.

5. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to brown.

6. Let cool on baking sheet for at least 30 minutes before slicing into bars.

The bars can be stored in an airtight container, unrefrigerated, for up to a week, and though I haven’t tried it, I’m sure you could make a batch now to freeze and save for the holidays. If anyone tries this with success, let me know.

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Coconut Vanilla Date Butter

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I’m sure that by now, most everyone reading this has heard of the magical substance that is coconut butter. It is so versatile, and most importantly, quite delicious. Perhaps even more versatile, though, are dates. Just as simply as dried coconut can be ground into coconut butter, so, too, can dates be whirred around to form date paste, a wonderful, complex, and rich natural sweetener for anything from savory sauces to the sweetest of treats. Now, we know that both coconut and dates are wonderful on their own, but what if we were to combine the two? And perhaps add a dash of vanilla to the mix? We would be left with an utterly heavenly combination, perfect for spreading on toast, dolloping on warm oatmeal (or overnight oats!) or simply eating straight from the spoon. I do imagine that this spread would be equally, if not more lovely with the addition of a bit of cocoa powder, or even melted chocolate. Of course, I’ve not yet tried that variation, but I’ll report back just as soon as I do.

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I tend to buy my dates and coconut in bulk from Nuts.com. They have a wonderful variety of dried organic fruits, nuts, and nearly every other specialty baking item I ever find myself in need of.

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 Coconut Vanilla Date Butter

Ingredients

•1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
•1 cup packed pitted dates (I used a combination of Barhi and Medjool, but any variety will work)
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Soak dates in warm water for 30 minutes to an hour.

2. Process coconut in a food processor until it forms a buttery paste.

3. Remove dates from soaking water and add to food processor along with the vanilla. Continue to process until the mixture is smooth and homogenous.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

IMG_5752Apparently, cats are fans of dates, too!

What are your favorite homemade spreads? This coconut date butter is a close second to my favorite, chocolate sunflower butter.