Tag Archives: sunflower seeds

Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Seed “No Nuts Nutella”

Might I tear you away from Pinterest for a few moments so you can read this post?  I know you are getting ready to french braid your hair (sideways) and need to go to the grocery store to buy ingredients for those bacon and cinnamon roll muffins and are in the middle of building that new wrapping paper storage system, but take a few moments to look elsewhere.  No.  Don’t click “See More Pins.”   I realize you need to print out that 30 day training regimen — because who wouldn’t want an ass like that?  But trust me, you don’t know what a burpee is.  Nor do you want to.  I did them.

And the boots.  I need those boots and those jeans and that sweater. And I want to have only matching accessories that show a little pop of coordinated color.  I want to think about what I wear before I put it on, instead of throwing on jeans, a turtleneck, and clogs as I run out the door to pick up the children.

It’s like a dream world, isn’t it?  It’s the world without problems.  It’s all exotic vacations and beautiful food and lovely bodies without back fat.  It’s houses where the piles of school papers have a logical home that isn’t the front seat of your car.  It’s houses with style and matching interiors with themes — rather than a mishmash of your parents’ furniture and stuff you bought from IKEA.  It’s backyards with fireplaces, rather than snow or weeds or neighbors with annoying dogs.  It’s thinking about life using inspirational sayings and being strong in who you are, rather than being small and weak and petty and insecure.

And I guess that’s why it is a tremendous escape.  Life isn’t nearly as pretty.  It has bad weather and cancer diagnoses and health scares and employees who are inspired by the petty rather than the positive.  It has crime and moral failings and budget cuts and terrifying thoughts.  It has self destructive behavior and asses with cellulite.  And waistlines with stretch marks and closets that aren’t dedicated to crafting.   It has kids who puke in the car on those same school papers — that were supposed to be returned last week.

Can we all just cut the crap with the need to have perfection? None of us live it.  Even the people who you think do.  They don’t.  The “strongest” among us are insecure.  The most “beautiful” among us feel ugly. And those people who you think serve only beautiful food (maybe me?) also make instant Jell-O Pudding.  I did just last week.  And you know what? It’s freaking easy.

And sometimes the world around you requires easy in the times of ugly.

But yesterday I took a little time and made this homemade “Nutella” (driven mostly by the fact that I felt guilty that I haven’t posted anything here in a long time … and we can’t have the real stuff due to my daughter’s severe nut allergies).  While on my no carb eating plan, I had a big dollop on a piece of toast.  I licked the spatula multiple times and ate a spoonful of sweetened condensed milk.  It is as delicious as I remember it.  And then I served leftovers for dinner, had two glasses of wine, and passed out on the couch playing Words with Friends.  My husband and I talked for a long time about some intense situations he is dealing with.  We came up with no answers — but a lot more worry.  I later realized that we forgot to pay an important bill.  And my kids didn’t go to sleep until almost 9:30.  I woke up this morning feeling anxious for no good reason.

Or maybe it was for a lot of good reasons.  Reasons that come from not only the ugly of the world, but the ugly that we put upon ourselves.

Enjoy the “Nutella.”

Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Seed “Nutella”

Makes about one pint

1 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted and cooled (you could also use sunflower seeds, or a mix)
2 T vegetable oil
4 ounces dark chocolate
4 T butter
2 t vanilla extract
3-4 T sweetened condensed milk
1/8 cup of milk, warmed
1/2 salt

1.  Place toasted pumpkin seeds in the food processor and process until finely chopped.  Add 2 T vegetable oil in a steady stream while machine is still running.  Continue to process the seeds for about 3 or 4 minutes — until they become like a nut butter consistency.  You should scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure everything gets incorporated.

2.  Meanwhile, melt the chocolate and butter together.  Add in the vanilla extract.

3.  Add the chocolate mixture to the pumpkin seed mixture along with 3 T condensed milk and salt.  Process for a few seconds.  Taste and add more condensed milk if you like it a little sweeter.  It may become very thick at this point.  That’s OK.

4.  Remove to a bowl and whisk in warmed milk, a tablespoon or so at a time until your “Nutella” is the desired consistency.  Store in the refrigerator.  Serve on toast, use for baking, or melt to top ice cream.

 

 

Brown Butter Non-Pecan Pie

Before I had kids, I imagined my life with them only in scenes with a Barbara Walters interview softening glow.  And I imagined babies — never toddlers or tweens or teens.  I’m sure that I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but the beauty and magic of it all consistently put a filter on my imagined reality.  And I guess that’s OK, because you don’t generally do things (by choice) that you imagine will be terrible.  My thoughts were generally filled with laughing babies on park swings — not spending an hour every evening attempting to get two kids to brush their teeth (Because seriously, does the schedule ever change?  No.  So brush your damn teeth.)

And when the babies arrived, I realized there were a whole host of little things that could go wrong.  I spent my time worrying about the big stuff, but never considered that my Christmas baby would be jaundiced and require light therapy.  I never thought about spending New Year’s Eve in the doctor’s office.  I never thought about silly little things that would require ultrasounds and blood work and doctors saying things like “Oh, in most cases this is fine, but we need to check it out.”  I never thought about mastitis.  And holy shit, that day seriously ruined my plan for a Barbara Walters glow.

I especially never thought about the chance my daughter would have severe food allergies.  I still remember standing at my bathroom sink when the pediatrician called to give me the results of the allergy tests we did on a whim because she had eczema (another thing you don’t imagine in your baby fantasies).  She read off the list … “Severe and life-threatening reactions to all dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, and all tree nuts.  With tremendously high levels for peanuts.”

I cried.  And cried.  And cried.  And after I cried some more, I couldn’t help but feel guilty.  Guilty because I ate those things while pregnant and breastfeeding.  Guilty because I knew to stop eating dairy when she showed signs of eczema, but I never stopped eating nuts.  Guilty because she spit up a lot and I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.  Guilty because in the whole universe of things that could go wrong, this seemed minor, and yet it was crushing to me.  I knew that day her life (and mine) had changed forever and that it was always going to be different for her.  And harder.  I remember someone very innocently saying “Oh, she’ll never get to have an ice cream cone.”  Thanks for the reminder.  I certainly wasn’t feeling horrible enough already.

What I didn’t know even then was what it would be like to have a child, not a baby, with food allergies.  I didn’t know how much harder it would be when they are off on playdates, or field trips, or birthday parties — when they are out of your control and making their own choices.  I didn’t think about teachers asking “Can she touch an acorn?” I didn’t think about her having to sit in a special chair or at a special lunch table just to avoid allergens.

I also didn’t know how thankful I could be today.  I am thankful that, at almost 9 years old, she has outgrown all of her allergies except peanuts and tree nuts.  I am thankful (in a strange way) that, because so many more children are afflicted, we now have an entire section of our grocery store devoted to allergy-friendly products — things like coconut milk ice cream, Sunbutter, or wheat and gluten-free bread and pasta.  It would have made my life a lot easier back then, but I am not sure that I’d be sitting here typing this today if it weren’t for her allergies.  They forced me to cook and to understand food at a level I never had to before.

My daughter’s allergies also made me understand the importance of food and family, and the magical moments that occur when we share both together.  And I think I was so crushed when I realized she had severe food allergies because I knew inherently that there would be times when she was excluded from those celebrations — times when the friend’s birthday cupcakes wouldn’t be safe.  And I think that is why I made it my business to cook a safe version of nearly everything just to keep her at the table and let her be part of every celebration (even if it meant baking cupcakes at midnight or attempting to make homemade pasta out of rice flour).

But this year when we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, my daughter will be able to have everything at the table.  Even the “Pecan” Pie.  The soft glow has worn off a bit, but I am so truly thankful for where we are today.  May you all have a wonderful celebration of food and family on Thursday.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Brown Butter Non-Pecan Pie

Make one 9 inch pie

Butter Pie Crust of your Choice (I used this one)
2 cups of sunflower and pumpkin seeds (I liked the mix of both for better texture)
6 T butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup (light or dark both work)
3 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
3 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Roll out pie crust into a circle with approximately a 12 inch diameter.  Carefully transfer to a 9 inch pie dish (not deep dish).  Trim off excess if necessary, leaving about one inch of overhang.  Fold the overhang under and decoratively flute or crimp the edges.  Using a fork, prick the bottom of the crust and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to re-firm the butter.

3.  Place sunflower and pumpkin seeds in an even layer on a baking sheet.  Toast in preheated oven for 5-10 minutes until golden, being careful not to let them burn.  Set aside to cool.

4.  In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and allow to brown slightly.  You want it to be golden brown and smell fragrant, but do not let it burn or you will have to start over.  Remove from heat immediately after it gets to that state and whisk in brown sugar until well incorporated.  Stir in corn syrup, vanilla extract, and salt.

5.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg to break them up.  Slowly whisk in brown sugar/butter mixture (just a bit at at a time, so the eggs don’t curdle).  Mix well to make sure everything is incorporated.

6.  Remove chilled crust from refrigerator and pour toasted (and cooled) seeds into crust.  Pour pie mixture over top of the seeds.  Place pie pan on a baking sheet and bake the pie until the filling has set and it is a nice brown color, about 55 minutes.  Let cool completely before serving.  You can store this in the refrigerator for at least a day (mine’s been in there for two now and it is still great) — just bring to room temperature before serving.

Aunt Cherry’s Oatmeal Cake

The other day, I was bored and looking for something to bake.  So I did a Twitter call for ideas, and a friend sent me this recipe.  It was called “Aunt Cherry’s Oatmeal Cake” and is apparently one of those old recipes with a fictitious name attached — their family baked it all the time growing up, but never knew who Aunt Cherry was.  Beyond, you can find similar recipes online that also refer to Aunt Cherry.  Based on that, I’m figuring Aunt Cherry wouldn’t mind me putting my spin on it.  And of course, now that I realize that the entire internet is public domain (Thanks Cooks Source!), I am going to call it my own.  But seriously, Monica Gaudio, if you are out there and you are actually Cherry, just email me for my address and you can send me a check for featuring your work.  If I rip off enough people’s work, I might actually find a revenue model for Cuizoo.

The recipe seemed intriguing — not many ingredients, seemingly very easy, and get this:  dollops of a butter/brown sugar/coconut/nut mixture dropped into the cake batter before baking.  That last part is what got me.  There was just no way that could turn out to be anything but delicious.  And I figured that I could make it *slightly* more healthy by cutting back on the sugar a bit and substituting whole wheat pastry flour.  Obviously, I also needed to remove the nuts because of my daughter’s severe nut allergy.

I decided to make it yesterday and if I only knew Cherry’s last name, I’d write her a thank you note — attached to a big bottle of vodka, and perhaps a personal massage device.   She deserves it.  It is that good.  And it’s easy.  I mean one-bowl-for-the-cake easy.  It makes a tremendous dessert (maybe with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream), but I could easily see it served for a special breakfast or brunch too.  Because today was Friday, November 12th, I deemed it a special breakfast day and we had it before school.  With fruit, of course.

The original recipe calls for walnuts (I substituted sunflower seeds), regular all purpose flour, and 1 cup each of brown and white sugar in the cake (I cut it back to 1/2 cup each in the cake — but left the sugar the same in the dollopy mixture).  If you want to go all out, feel free to make it with white flour and the normal amount of sugar.

You can thank me and Aunt Cherry later.

Aunt Cherry’s Sticky Oatmeal Cake

Makes one 9 inch by 13 inch cake

(Adapted from some lady named Cherry, who may or may not be real or alive)

Cake:
1 cup oats (I used old fashioned)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 eggs

Topping:
1 cup sunflower seeds (or other chopped nuts)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup of milk
6 T butter, melted
1 t vanilla
1 cup shredded coconut (not sweetened)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking pan.

2.  In a large bowl, mix together dry cake ingredients: oats, white sugar, brown sugar, whole wheat pastry flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg.  Make sure to break up any lumps of brown sugar.

3.  Add boiling water to dry ingredients.  Using an electric mixer, beat in softened butter (1 stick).  When incorporated, beat in eggs one at a time.  The batter will be thin.  Pour into greased 9 inch by 13 inch glass baking pan.

4.  In a small bowl, mix together topping ingredients:  sunflower seeds, brown sugar, white sugar, milk, melted butter, vanilla, and coconut.  Drop in small dollops all over the unbaked cake batter.

5.  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.  Remove and cool on a rack.  Send Aunt Cherry a thank you note.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Spinach, Ricotta Salata, and Toasted Sunflower Seeds

I have hit the point in the year where I am officially out of my summer tomatoes.  And my strawberry jam (which makes everyone very unhappy).  I never freeze enough because I am always limited to my meager amount of freezer space.  So I have to either learn to can or buy a deep freeze — both things that are on my to-do list.  Anyway, I had to buy canned tomatoes at the store the other day and it sort of pisses me off.  It’s not that they are terrible — there are some really excellent canned tomatoes; it just seems so unnecessary given the piles of tomatoes at the end of summer.  So, this year, I am officially promising to freeze more.  Maybe.  

So this dish was inspired by both my CSA box this week which was full of spinach, as well as the noticeably empty hole in my freezer that used to hold the tomatoes.  I make a version of this all summer long when tomatoes are plentiful and it is especially good with the heirlooms (if you are willing to part with them for sauce).  In a pinch, I just chop them up and don’t even peel them.  If you are using fresh tomatoes, feel free to cook the sauce less so it retains those bright tomato flavors.   

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And the other thing I love about this pasta dish (and really anything with a big pile of cooked greens in it) is that it is a one-bowl meal.  A salad is a great companion; but I always figure that I am eating my “salad” in a condensed form cooked right in the dish.  And my daughter loves the fact that she can eat about four bites of spinach and it equals one huge spinach salad.  

One ingredient note here… Ricotta Salata is a dried and salted form of ricotta.  It is hard cheese that crumbles very nicely and is very mild (similar in texture — but not flavor — to a firm feta cheese).  It is wonderful in salads and pasta.  If you cannot find it, I would substitute Parmesan or Romano, although it won’t be quite the same.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Spinach, Ricotta Salata, and Toasted Sunflower Seeds

Serves 4-6

2 T Olive Oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
28 oz. can of chopped or crushed tomatoes (or fresh)
Salt and Pepper
Pinch of sugar (optional)
2 T fresh oregano, stems removed and chopped
1/2 cup of toasted sunflower seeds (or Pine Nuts if you don’t have allergy issues)
10-12 oz. of whole wheat pasta (we used Fusilli, but any kind will work)
5-6 oz. of Ricotta Salata
4 packed cups of spinach (washed, stemmed, and chopped)

1.  Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add garlic, onions, and a few red pepper flakes (optional) and saute for 3-5 minutes until softened a bit. 

2.  Add tomatoes, oregano, a pinch of sugar (if your tomatoes need it), and some salt and pepper to season.  Simmer sauce for 10-15 minutes. (Less if using fresh tomatoes.)

3.  Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions.

4.  Add chopped spinach to tomato sauce and stir it in.  Allow the spinach to wilt and cook down.  (It will seem like too much, but it will be fine.)  Remove sauce from heat.

5.  When pasta is done, drain and return to large pot.  (Don’t drain your pasta too thoroughly, a little of the pasta water helps the sauce stick.)  Add tomato/spinach sauce from saute pan and toss over the heat so the sauce “cooks” into the pasta a bit.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

6.  When ready to serve, crumble most of the Ricotta Salata into the pasta and add the sunflower seeds (or pine nuts).  Toss well and season more if necessary.  Serve the pasta with a bit of additional Ricotta Salata on top and some fresh oregano.  

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Detox Chocolate Coconut Cookies

This morning brought rain, cold, and being housebound because we have some major construction occurring on our house.  No sense explaining it, but suffice it to say that I wanted to be nearby as our entire  chimney was being rebuilt.  When I looked at the clock and it said 10:18 (that’s not close to lunchtime, or naptime, or anything, for that matter), I decided we needed a project.  

And I am not sure about you, but how can I feel like I ate a small country’s sugar consumption in one Easter weekend?   Probably because I came close.  And I find that once I eat too much sugar, I almost need detox to curb my taste for it.  So, I wanted to make something that would please the toddler, give us a project, and curb our Easter sugar addiction.  What I came up with was inspired by Nikki’s Healthy Cookies at 101 Cookbooks, which is a great kid-friendly, flourless, sugarless cookie.  

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This cookie takes a slightly different turn with chocolate and sprouted spelt flour.  And I’ll warn you: they are not very sweet… there’s just a bit of added sweetener and a mashed banana.  But I think they would make a great freezer stash for those days when you need a chocolate pick-me-up but aren’t willing to go crazy.  (Actually, I think most of my afternoons would qualify as that.)  I added toasted sunflower seeds because of my daughter’s nut allergy, but if that’s not a problem for you I think some macadamia nuts would be absolutely divine.  

And the ultimate test was my two year old, who chowed one down like it was a solid chocolate bunny.  

Detox Chocolate Coconut Cookies

(Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies)

1/2 cup of coconut oil
2 T brown sugar
2 T honey
1/2 cup cocoa
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 1/2 cups sprouted spelt flour (could use whole wheat or white whole wheat flour) 
1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 T yogurt
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds (or other nuts such as macadamias — those should be roughly chopped)
1 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut 

1.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Combine spelt flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda in medium bowl and set aside.

2.  In a medium saucepan, melt coconut oil with brown sugar, honey, and cocoa.  When melted, remove from heat and stir in mashed banana, yogurt, and vanilla extract.  Pour into large bowl and let cool for a few minutes.

3.  Once cooled a bit, beat eggs and stir into cocoa-coconut oil mixture.

4.  Add dry ingredients (flour, salt, BP, BS) to cocoa-coconut oil mixture and stir well with a rubber spatula.  The dough will be a little wet (sort of a thick brownie batter consistency).  Stir in coconut and toasted sunflower seeds/nuts.

5.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and use about one tablespoon of dough per cookie.  You should be able to get one dozen on a standard cookie sheet as they don’t spread much at all.  Bake each batch for about 6-7 minutes.  (I liked mine best at 6 minutes because they stayed a little gooey.  The batch I cooked for eight minutes got too dry and cakey for my liking.

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