Sunflower seed butter with flax and chia

Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes

Once again, I’m copying Trader Joe’s. They have a peanut butter with flax and chia and it’s a fantastic way to get some extra nutrition into a picky eater. Here’s my school-safe version!

Jump to the recipe!

I have a confession to make: I go back and forth between caring A WHOLE LOT about M’s nutrition and then feeling like there are a million little struggles every day and I don’t want to add food to that list.

And he’s always been a contrarian with FOMO, which means he doesn’t love limits. The “perfect parent” voice in my head constantly beats me up about not being stricter. Don’t get me wrong, I say “no” to things 100 times a day and we obviously set lots of boundaries. But we’ve figured out that M does better when he has choice within those limits and that we have to say “yes” to some things or there will be a meltdown.

Anyway, part of M’s way of gaining control these days is that he has VERY strong opinions about food. What he loves one day, he hates the next. Peanut butter mixed into applesauce has been a constant and lately he’s been really into PB&J’s after watching this silly video.

BUT we can’t send any nuts to school, so sunflower seed butter it is. Unfortunately, a lot of the store-bought ones don’t taste great. I’ve made my own sunflower seed butter before and I do love this recipe. But if M’s eating this for at least one meal per day, I wanted to beef up the nutrition. And it tastes so good, he doesn’t complain!

Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes
Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes

A couple of notes about this nut butter:

  • When roasting the nuts, you want them to be mostly brown and golden rather than gray. But watch to make sure that they don’t burn! (See the photos above for a before and after.) Well-roasted seeds are much easier to process than ones that are still partly raw.

  • The grinding process takes a bit of patience. If you let the machine run, the seeds will come together into a paste. There are more detailed instructions for the individual grinding steps in the recipe below. Be sure to read the recipe before starting this butter.

  • Storage: I store this seed butter in the fridge because I’ve read that flax and chia (and seeds in general) tend to get rancid quickly when left vulnerable to moisture and heat in the cabinet). The cold tightens the butter considerably, but 20 seconds in the microwave makes the butter easily spreadable again.

Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes
Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes
Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes
Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes

Sunflower seed butter with flax and chia

Yield: 2-2¼ cups 
Time: 30-35 minutes

3 cups raw sunflower seeds
4-6 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp flaky sea salt
3 Tbsp each chia seeds
3 Tbsp whole flax seeds

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the raw sunflower seeds out on a large sheet pan. Roast for 5 minutes and shake the tray. Roast for 2-3 minutes more, checking to make sure that the seeds don’t burn. When the seeds are uniformly more golden brown than gray, they’re ready for processing.

  2. Add the roasted seeds to a large food processor and grind for 2 minutes. The seeds will break up and look very dry and like breadcrumbs.

  3. Add 2 Tbsp of coconut oil and the maple syrup and process for 2 more minutes. At this stage, the seeds start coming together in a large slow-moving glacier of seed butter. Scrape down the sides and break up the glacier as necessary. It will still feel dry and crumbly when you break up the glacier.

  4. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and process again, this time letting the machine run. Let it go for at least 3-4 minutes before adding more coconut oil as the heat of the processor and the continued grinding will start to make the butter smoother and wetter. The glacier of seed butter will still be forming, but will be spinning around the food processor much faster.

  5. After that 3-4 minutes, and while the food processor is running, add the other 2-4 Tbsp of coconut oil to achieve a silky consistency. Don’t add more maple syrup or water because it will make the seed butter stick together and clump more instead of smoothing it out.

  6. The whole process of grinding the seeds into a smooth butter usually takes between 15 and 20 minutes (including stopping add ingredients), so patience is key.

  7. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the sea salt, chia seeds and flax seeds and stir well.

Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes

Purple kale pesto

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This recipe is really just an excuse to make tomato hearts. Because TOMATO HEARTS! (See the easy peasy tutorial below.)

As always, scroll to the next photo to skip the life update coming at you: I've been with my mom in the hospital for the past few days, hence the long pause in posting. I'll spare you the details, but it was pretty brutal for my mom and will continue to be a rough course of treatment in the coming weeks and months. 

Seeing someone I love be so sick brings out competing urges in me. On the one hand, I want to be optimistic and wait to freak out until we see what happens in the next few weeks. On the other hand, I want to mentally prepare for the worst, or, as I usually do, talk about/worry about "the worst" as though somehow saying it out loud or thinking about it constantly will keep it at bay. Like the Scheherazade of cancer.

Anyway, as always, I can only control what I can control. I'll try my best to carry on and eat well and get veggies into my child and not let him watch all the television though I mostly want to curl into a ball and stare at the wall.

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This pesto is so vibrant and delicious. And purple feels on brand for Valentine's day, no?

Though I'm always in favor of shortcuts in recipes and against dirtying unnecessary dishes, you really must blanch the kale before making this sauce. But I sometimes go straight from the pot to the food processor (shaking off the excess water in the process) and skip the post-blanch ice bath that is supposed to stop things from overcooking. I find that the blending does the trick and a little excess water doesn't hurt the mixture either.

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This guy is Whole 30 compliant but adding in some Parmesan wouldn't hurt one bit. This is also a great way to get vegetables into your child since they're blended into the sauce. I find that the purple color is fascinating to small people and some of it comes out in the blanching water, turning it a gorgeous shade of lavender, which is also compelling to the wee ones. If nuts are a no-go for your kids' lunchboxes, try swapping in tiger nuts (they're not actually nuts) or pumpkin seeds for the cashews.

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Here's a quick tutorial for the tomatoes:

A couple of tips: Look for tomatoes that are longer than they are round and cut them on the diagonal, but toward the middle, leaving a little bulb on each end. When you've cut the tomato in half, flip the right side over so that the two fat parts and the skinny tips meet. Stick a toothpick or skewer through the middle like an arrow. Done.

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Purple kale pesto

6 oz purple kale, stalks removed (1 large bunch)
1/3 cup basil
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 large cloves garlic
½ cup roasted, unsalted cashews or cashew pieces
½ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
salt/pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Rinse the kale and rip the leaves from the stalks into large chunks (this part is cathartic). Put in the boiling water and blanch for 1 minute. Give it a few stirs to ensure that all of the kale is submerged. Add directly to the blender or food processor.

Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until you've reached your desired consistency. If too thick, add more water or oil by the tsp to thin out.

Yield: 18 oz or about 3 cups (This recipe makes a good amount of pesto and was more than enough for a lb of pasta.)

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Roasted fennel and salami pasta

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Raise your hand if you never want to eat turkey again. Anyone? Everyone? Okay then. Here is your antidote to all things stuffing, potato, and pumpkin-related.

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If you read my last post, you might be wondering if the turkey did, in fact, knock M out so that he slept away from home. (If you didn't read the last post or just don't care about my kid's sleep habits, I totally get it and you can skip to the recipe by scrolling to the next photo.) The short answer is, no. The longer answer is, we didn't really let him try. After a disastrous nap attempt, we decided to drive home that night instead of risking another all-nighter.,

I was definitely disappointed to head home so early and M was devastated, so it's gotten me thinking a lot about the danger of expectations as we head into the holiday season. Holidays with kids can be tough. They don't care that you've done the same magical thing for 10 years running. If they're tired or hungry or having a day for no reason at all, you just have to adapt.

For the past two years, that has often meant opting out of pictures with Santa and tree lightings because we knew that at 9-months and 21-months, M wouldn't really understand or appreciate them. And I struggled, especially seeing social media postings of others joyfully doing all of the things.

This year, M is older and more aware and so much more of a "kid." He understands holidays and wants to spend time with friends and family, so it feels like we'll be depriving him of something if we pull the plug due to an impending tantrum. He was SO sad to leave my parents' house after Thanksgiving that I worry about changing plans or setting him up by suggesting something if we can't follow through.

I think we'll try our best to be realistic about our plans and only share them judiciously with M. And we'll also try to be gentle with him and ourselves by acknowledging that this a season where everything is heightened in both good ways and bad. The calculus is always shifting about what's "worth it:" Our sanity versus making memories versus M's immediate happiness versus our overall health.

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Anyway, back to the food! I love roasted fennel so so much. I mostly hate the taste of licorice, but fennel is just a little bit anise-y and roasting it takes away almost all of that medicinal bite. We often put roasted fennel on pizza because its taste is satisfyingly meaty without adding any actual meat.

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I guess it's gilding the lily a bit to add meat to the roasted fennel, but the combo of roasted fennel and salami is top notch. I don't cook the meat at all because heat often turns cured meats a bit too gamey for my liking, but if that flavor is your jam, go ahead and saute the salami for a few seconds. 

I always use Marcella Hazan's famous sauce with a couple of small changes: I use less butter than she calls for. I also melt and slightly brown the butter and then saute the onion a bit before adding the tomatoes (she tosses everything together). The sauce is a perfect amount for about 10 ounces of pasta, but if you like a saucier dish, opt for 8 oz instead.

 

Salami and roasted fennel pasta

For the sauce:
1 can or box of crushed tomatoes (28 oz), or about 1.5 cups
2 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, peeled and halved

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium flame. Place the halved onion cut side down in the butter and let cook for 1-2 minutes, being aware of the butter and not letting it brown too much. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to medium low, and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40-45 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to your liking.

For the rest:
10 oz dry pasta (a little more than half of the box)
1 lb fennel
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Salami

Preheat oven to 400. Wash fennel and chop into thin slices, trying to keep things as equal as possible. This will be difficult, so don’t sweat it too much. Toss with olive oil and roast for 20-25 minutes, until bits start to brown.

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

When pasta is cooked, drain it and return to the pot. Cover with sauce and stir to combine. Add the roasted fennel and chopped salami and stir a few times to incorporate.

Yield: 6 servings

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