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

Pasta con ceci (and white beans)

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

A one-pot, healthy, vegan optional pasta dinner full of beans and veggies that comes together in less than 30 minutes? Oh, and it’s made with things you likely have in your pantry right now (or could easily get on the cheap)? Yes and yes.

Take me to the recipe!

This dish started with Victoria Granoff’s wonderful Pasta con ceci from Food52. It’s easy, fast, inexpensive, and shockingly complex considering the petite ingredient list and short cooking time.

However, that quick cook left the chickpeas a little too raw, in my opinion. And while I love a healthy fat, the original recipe calls for lots of olive oil and I wanted to lighten it up a bit. I suspect that the larger amount of oil masks the chickpea taste a bit, but I like the idea of replacing fat with fiber and not the other way around.

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

I tried to swap in white beans for the chickpeas entirely, but they cooked down too much. Half and half white beans and chickpeas, though, proved the winning combination: Some bite from the chickpeas and some creaminess from the white beans marries perfectly.

Use whole wheat pasta and throw in some julienned kale at the end and you have a rounded, healthy dish full of fiber and protein.

Even M, who’s been in an extended picky phase, gobbled this up and we didn’t even need to put other “safe’ foods on the table.

All that to say, MAKE THIS FOR DINNER TONIGHT!

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes


Pasta con Ceci (and white beans)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/3 cup tomato paste
1½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed  
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1½ cup uncooked orecchiete pasta (or another small shape)
3½ cups stock or water
1 parmesan rind (optional)
½ bushel Tuscan (also called Lacinto or Dinosaur) kale, julienned (about 1½-2 cups) 

For serving: red pepper flakes, more parmesan,

Heat the oil in a large pot over a medium-low flame, until hot, but not crackling.

Add the smashed garlic (it should sizzle in the pan right away) and cook until it’s deeply tanned, but not dark brown. Adjust the temperature as needed to avoid burning.

Add the tomato paste. It should also sizzle when it hits the pan. If not, increase the temperature. Cook, stirring and hearing the sizzle, for 30 seconds to a minute.

Add the white beans, pasta, water or stock, and salt. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese rind, if using. Let simmer uncovered (you should have a decent simmer going and see bubbles popping throughout the cooking. If not, increase the temperature) for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to your liking and the pasta is cooked.

Turn off the heat and toss in your kale. Stir a few times to let the residual heat wilt the greens.

Serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

How to fill a lunchbox

Chicken and cheese taco with cherry tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries,  Romesco  sauce, guacamole, and flax seed tortilla chips.

Chicken and cheese taco with cherry tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries, Romesco sauce, guacamole, and flax seed tortilla chips.

I spend a lot of time thinking about, planning, and executing M's lunches. And there are days when he eats...none of it. But there are days when he eats tons and I feel utterly triumphant. I wanted to share my top lunchbox tips so that you, too, can declare victory when that lunchbox comes home nearly empty (and you haven't worked that hard to make it happen).

Sushi is always a favorite and can be filled with WHATEVER your kid likes. See my  Instagram post  for my simple sushi rice recipe.

Sushi is always a favorite and can be filled with WHATEVER your kid likes. See my Instagram post for my simple sushi rice recipe.

1) Repurpose leftovers: Obviously, you can plop a portion of last night's dinner into your kids' lunchbox. (See below for some favorite ways to do this.) But another tactic is to make extras of the proteins and veggies that were dinner's components. Those ingredients, plus a tortilla with some cheese (or vegan cheese) and avocado, become a taco, quesadilla, or roll-up. We're also big fans of the "open face" sandwich with cheese melted on top. Or, cube it all up and make a skewer. Or, if your kid is a pasta eater, add those proteins and veggies to noodles and some jarred sauce. Easy peasy.

Leftover fried rice plus smoked salmon, blueberries, cheese, hummus, and pretzels.

Leftover fried rice plus smoked salmon, blueberries, cheese, hummus, and pretzels.

2) Prep: Every weekend I do these 5 things:

  • Hard boil some eggs

  • Make a white, wheat, rice, or bean pasta

  • Bake mini muffins or doughnuts

  • Make no-bake energy balls or granola bars

  • Roast two veggies that I know M will eat

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3) Send breakfast for lunch: I often make double breakfast and add it to a lunchbox later in the week. For instance, these two-ingredient egg and banana pancakes are a big favorite. Use them as sandwich bread with nut or seed butter and chia jam or rolled them up like little cigars. Savory waffles like veggie or cheese can sub in for sandwich bread. Granola cups are also an easy batch bake that work for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

4) Take inspiration from their classroom learning: I like to theme M's lunches, but that's mostly because I need inspiration and not because I'm trying to win any mom awards. Dinosaurs, Butterflies, and The Ocean were particularly fertile ground. Even if "theme-ing" lunch just means cutting out a sandwich shape, it feels a little special.

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5) Deconstruct something they like: Add the fixings for tacos, nachos, sandwiches, pasta, etc and let them put it together themselves. Like a homemade lunchable.

6) Think about appetizers: Have you considered sending your kids to school with a cheese plate or chicken sausage pigs in a blanket? Half of M's lunch most days is a crudite plate.

See? Basically crudite.

See? Basically crudite.

Double Duty Dinner/Lunch Recipes 

Sweets with oomph

No bake add-ins

Happy lunching everyone!