breakfast/ gluten free

Blueberry Banana Buckwheat Pancakes!


Ingredients~
Serves 2

3/4 cup wholegrain buckwheat flour
1 medium spotty banana, mashed
1/2 cup & 2 tbsps milk of choice (although soy may affect the flavor… just a heads up!)
1 pasture raised egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup fresh or frozen wild blueberries (or regular blueberries, if that’s what you have on hand)
1/2 tsp pure acai powder (optional, adds more berry flavor)

Berry compote:
1/2 heaped cup blueberries
1-2 tbsps fresh orange juice
Dash of cinnamon

For serving:
Generous drizzles of maple syrup
2 fat orange wedges (squeeze them over the pancakes!)
Freshly whipped cream~ simply add 1/8 vanilla extract to 1/4 cup heavy cream and whisk away!

My love for buckwheat pancakes was re-invigorated by The Almond Eater’s recent blood orange buckwheat pancakes recipe!

Instructions~

breakfast

Salted Caramel Apple Challah French Toast

Oh yes, thick and fluffy french toast + salted caramel sauce. Swoon. This kind of breakfast jolts me out of bed in the morning. The alarm goes off at 5 AM and in a matter of seconds I am re-considering the point of everything. Questioning my new goal of waking up at 5 AM has been a daily occurrence. It takes zero effort to fall back into sleep; it’s still pitch black outside at 5, and the birds have not even started singing their songs… Why am I doing this to myself again? Remind me, please? Ah yes, productivity. But it’s not just about eagerly completing ‘things’ on my To-Do list before the clock strikes 8. It’s also about feeling grounded (or at least a little bit closer to that), in my self and purpose and goals, before it’s time to mingle with other people and go through the motions of my outside responsibilities. I have to write an essay, I have to get a head start on studying for a math quiz, but I also have to sit with myself and meditate and recollect my intentions and values. The latter part of those responsibilities is just as, if not more, important than the former part. Waking up at 5 AM gives me a chunk of time to allot to me and myself. I highly recommend it. Although, I will also admit that it is not always as poetic as it sounds. It’s been two weeks since I re-vamped my morning routine and I still struggle to keep up on some days. There are mornings when I have to tempt myself out of bed with the promise of french toast. The satisfaction of getting out of bed by 5:01 (more like 5:15) + the pleasure derived from the sight and scent and taste of almond crusted challah french toast drenched in salted coconut sugar caramel = a happy person who is more likely to be a joyful presence in the classroom, at work, and at home.

In saying all that, I also recognize that non-circumstantial happiness is an important thing to stay mindful of and work on cultivating. I’m not really sure how to truly do it… how to be happy in the face of impending doom or discomfort. I definitely don’t think the pleasure one’s palette receives from salted caramel sauce is somehow shallow or wrong. Maybe we ought to strive for a balance of pleasures. Isn’t it impossible to not get carried away by one’s senses and desires from time to time? That is the animal in us, isn’t it? The animal in me sometimes wants to take me out for a fancy almond milk cappuccino, and sometimes I enjoy listening to it (although my new weekly budget may have something different to say about that…)

There’s no denying that a good chocolate chip cookie is capable of making most people smile. I will proudly raise my hand to salute that statement. But I am also fascinated by the idea of remaining content, happy even, at the prospect of never eating a chocolate chip cookie again. Or any other sweet or savory baked good for that matter. That thought frightens me a little! A life without fudgy brownies and tart pies? Is that a life at all? Of course it is, right? To begin weighing the quality of my life based on how many brownies I get to eat sounds a little troubling, and yet, I think I get caught up in that silly method of judgement all the time. My state of mind and mood are always tied up in external things and circumstances. It’s fascinating to imagine a life less dictated by the external; what would it feel like to stop caring about what other people thought of you? What if, when I didn’t get what I want, when I’m feeling lonely, when it begins to rain on an already successfully shitty day, I could pause and not succumb to my regular dread and despair… what if I could talk to myself like I was my own friend, rather than always seek the fleeting comfort of food or the presence of another person to cheer me up and distract me from my original feeling.

I know, I’m also rolling my eyes at myself, because, obviously, that is a super hard, if not impossible, thing to do. Isn’t that why being a monk requires spending hours everyday simply meditating, in peace and quiet and solitude? How can an average, city-dwelling person like me ever cultivate even a pennies worth of deep, inner contentment?

There’s no doubt that life is pretty long, one can only hope, so why not try to achieve some semblance of non-circumstantial contentment in the process? Surely the act of trying, of working that muscle day in and day out, can better the mind/heart/soul, right? Perhaps it will be no more than a soft whisper, reminding us to keep our chin up when we’re feeling ashamed or stay mindful when we’re bombarded with anxious thoughts, but with constancy on our minds (some of the time, at least), we may be able to sway ourselves away from the constant changes of appetite, style, desire, and god knows what else, that consumerism is always trying to shove down our throats. And don’t get me wrong, consumerism or capitalism or whatever else ism you can think of, are not solely to blame for our wish-washy, wavering states; we each have the agency to make ourselves conscious of the source of our unfulfilled and inconsistent desires (hint- maybe it’s us?)

There are lots of things to wake up to. There are definitely many things I am sleeping through and wary of without knowing it, but I suppose that’s part of the process of life: waking up to the truth, waking up to yourself, waking up to… challah french toast? At the moment, I’m only really certain about that last part. Maybe it’s time to take a break from the philosophical ramble and feed ourselves challah french toast!!!!

Ingredients~
Serves 2

French toast:
4 thick slices of challah
2/3 cup milk of choice (although I wouldn’t recommend soy because of its strong flavor)
2 pasture raised eggs
1 heaped tsp honey (or other liquid sweetener of choice)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Scant 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional!)
Dash of cinnamon
1/3-1/2 cup blanched almond flour

Cinnamon Sugar Apples:
1 large red apple, thinly sliced and chopped (make sure it’s a sweet variety!)
1 tbsp unsalted pasture raised butter
2-3 tsps coconut sugar
2-3 tsps water (add if your apples are looking too dry)
1/2 tsp ceylon cinnamon (perhaps a little less if using regular -cassia- cinnamon)

Salted caramel sauce: 
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup milk of choice (besides soy)
Scant 1/4 tsp kosher salt (if you’re sensitive to saltiness, start with a pinch or two and add to taste)

Optional topping: 
2-4 tbsps sliced/slivered blanched almonds

baked sweets/ breakfast

Wholegrain Raspberry Almond Scones

These scones are my attempt to love myself more. We bake delicious things for people we love and care about, so why not extend that practice to include ourselves? The past couple of weeks have not been out of the ordinary, and yet, I feel a sense of uneasiness moving along with me… it’s lurking beneath every thought or feeling I have and every action I carry out. At first, I responded to it with fear and sadness; is it general anxiety? Does it come out of no where, like a force of nature, or was it born from my lack of trust and knowing in myself? The questions can quickly stumble out of control; at some point or another, I have to remind myself that I am not a puzzle that can be put together perfectly or, for use of another helpful metaphor, I am not a box of self and soul that can simply be unpacked. Maybe there comes a time when the probing, no matter how well-intended and thoughtful, has to be put to a stop. And when the desperate search for answers ceases? Ah yes, I find myself stuck in an odd space that needs to be filled. But by what? Give me more to worry about! Give me something else to frantically dwell on and fear! I need my space to be occupied, even if it torments me!! 

It’s amazing putting those thoughts in words and laying bare the truth of the matter; I am not okay when alone myself. Being alone means I have to confront myself, stripped of the distractions and embellishments of anxiety and perfectionism. What a funny feeling it is, to simply be with oneself. I am not each thought that appears, and stubbornly lingers, in my mind. I am something else… a something that I am still learning to befriend and trust… and that is okay. Yes, it is OKAY. Let the strange, happy tears flow, wonderful human, because it will soon be time to further foster that friendship by making some heart-hugging, wholesome scones. Let that stubborn bitch in your mind go. There is no room for him or her here. Scones need attention and care in order to grow (and, yes, some baking powder)… and coincidentally, so do you!

I rolled up my sleeves and thought, if I can cultivate these scones with a loving hand, I can do the same with my Self. Maybe I should start putting as much care into my well-being as I do into my baked goods. Maybe I should encourage myself to rise as though I am a ball of yeasty dough that has the potential to become the fluffiest goddamn cinnamon rolls around. Does that not make sense? We each have the potential to be the walking, breathing visions we have of ourselves, but we often forget that such potential requires our careful and conscious molding; those cinnamon rolls won’t conjure up out of thin air and march into your mouth and belly, you have to mix and knead and roll and form and cut them, and then, of course, you have to get to (excitedly) cover them in a blanket of sweet icing. It takes a lot of work and time to get to the finger-licking icing stage.

These scones don’t require any yeast, nor do they require more than 10-15 minutes of actual hands-on work. They simply require a pair of hands that are eager to create (and, before I go down another tangent, they also require a handful of no-fuss ingredients: whole wheat flour, almond flour, unsalted butter (pasture raised is the way to go!), almond butter, and, of course, raspberries, to name a handful). Perhaps if each of us anxious, eager bakers approached ourselves with the same excitement and patience that we approached baking, things would change for us in ways we had always envisioned they should, hoped they could, but never truly believed they would.

I often find it hard to maintain a clear sense of motivation from day to day; in baking, the motivation is obvious: I want a beautiful and (most crucially) tasty scone, so I go through the motions necessary to achieve that. Outside of the realm of baking, however, my default voice often reeks of cynicism and nihilism. I know I’m not special in this regard; don’t we all speak to ourselves that way about life? Not everyday, but many more days than we’d like. And don’t most of us still choose to carry on with life? Sometimes begrudgingly, but often eagerly, as though we have an unspoken hope for ourselves and future. That innate desire to see meaning in it all, even when that meaning can’t be articulated, gives me a lot of hope. It brings on the happy tears. I may have made a mess of my words up above, but if there’s one thing I’m trying to get at it, it’s that, I think, showing yourself love is, well, super important. Reminding yourself of your meaning, your life’s meaning, or you and your life’s potential meaning, might help lift you up. Make yourself a batch of scones, and share those scones with people you like (and maybe people you don’t like, too), but make them and enjoy them and remind yourself that you are just as capable of molding yourself and your life, little by little, day in and day out, one tsp of baking powder or one tbsp of coconut sugar at a time, into an all around better scone. And no pressure if you’re not a raspberry kind of person; like us, scones are versatile and wide-ranging in their qualities and tastes.

Ingredients~
Makes 6 medium scones

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or half regular whole wheat and half all-purpose; fine spelt flour may also work)
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
2 tbsps coconut sugar or light brown sugar
3 tbsps unsalted pasture raised butter, cold and diced
2 heaped tbsps natural almond butter
2 tbsps milk of choice
1 pasture raised egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Scant 1/4 tsp almond extract (a teeny bit goes a very long way!)
1 tsp baking powder
Scant 1/4 tsp baking soda
Scant 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 heaped cup fresh raspberries (rinsed and lightly patted dry)
For serving: generous swabs of almond butter and freshly whipped cream!

390 F for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown and firmed up to the touch. Allow to cool for at least 10 or so minutes before serving!

gluten free/ mains

Spelt & Almond Flour Pesto Pizza

Ingredients~
Makes two thin 12-inch long pizzas

Dough:
1 1/2 cups wholegrain spelt flour
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/2 cup & 2-4 tbsps warm water (think baby-bottle warm)
1 heaping tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsps (4.7 g) instant yeast (a little over half a standard sachet)
Pinch or two of salt
2 tbsps cornmeal for the pan (not needed but recommended)

Pesto:
3 packed cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (preferably freshly grated from a block; plus a little more for sprinkling on top)
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tbsps pumpkin seeds
2 medium cloves garlic
3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt (or add to taste)
2-3 grinds of fresh black pepper

500 F, preheat 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the pan and dust it with cornmeal before adding the pizza bases!! Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the crust is noticeably browned but not burnt!

baked sweets

Chewy Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are chewy. So very chewy. And a little salty. A salty cookie? Yes, a satisfyingly salty sweet cookie. And lets not forget the irreplaceable nutty flavor provided by wholegrain buckwheat flour. These cookies had me bursting at the metaphorical seams with happiness and excitement. I’ve made at least half a dozen batches of chocolate chip buckwheat cookies over the past 6 months, but never quite got got my hands on a cookie I was 100% satisfied with. Until now!! These cookies are packed with a soft goodness you can taste and chew, as well as another kind of goodness your gut will thank you for: FIBER.

Until recently, the gut was just another organ. It’s where chewed up food went before being shoved along into the far less glamorous parts of the body. I’m not about to talk about those parts, but I am about to jump on the gut bandwagon. You’ve probably noticed the influx of gut-friendly food items over the last few years; from fancy ass kombucha to overpriced sauerkraut to 100-billion-capsule probiotics, it seems like the gut is the hot new thing. I always try to approach new trends with a degree of skepticism, but in my quest to find out why everyone was suddenly touting their love of sour cabbage on social media, I ended up learning a lot about gut health.

Get this– there is hard evidence that there is a link between the gut and the brain and that the state of one’s gut microbiome can influence one’s mental well-being (1). Is all depression the result of poor diet? No, of course not. But could some people’s experiences of depression or anxiety be worsened or catalyzed by poor diet? That is what some groundbreaking new findings are suggesting (2). The gut ‘microbiome’ refers to the microscopic residents of the gut, also known as the good and bad bacteria that feed on the food we consume. Some people have overgrowths of bad bacteria, maybe because they’ve never recovered from long-term use of antibiotics or because they drink liters of soda everyday, while other people, interestingly enough, don’t seem to have that issue. I know that a healthy lifestyle and wagon full of organic kale won’t cure every ailment known to mankind. The emphasis here is on the possibility that it may cure some ailments, particularly those of the mind. The rise of obesity is no new story, but the increasing amount of individuals (particularly teenagers and young adults!) with anxiety, depression, and a whole host of other mental health issues is bewildering and puzzling. Should every teenage panic attack be viewed as a technology problem? Is social media ruining everyone’s life on it’s own accord or are nasty bacteria in the gut helping in the fight?

Obviously, the increasing prevalence of screens in an adolescent’s life ought not be conflated with the topic of the gut microbiome. Of course not. I suppose I was naturally inclined to bring up both weighty topics in the same paragraph because, well, they both weigh heavily on me. One (social media) is an issue that people seem much more ready to talk about, while the other (the gut) seems to reside in a more private sphere. Food is a highly sensitive topic, and maybe rightly so.. it is a ritual of sorts, preparing food for one’s loved one’s, and thus, attached to it is a great deal of baggage (i.e. tradition!) Nonetheless, sometimes the most sensitive topics are the most deserving of attention and spotlight. The intention of this post was to shine a light on the gut microbiome; it is awfully dark in there.

These cookies come in peace with the gut… sort of. The wholegrain buckwheat and spelt flour provide a lovely depth of flavor while also offering up a good dose of gut-friendly fiber. While the buckwheat obviously can’t be substituted for another flour (seeing as these are ‘buckwheat choco chip cookies’), the 1/2 cup of wholegrain spelt could probably be replaced with fine spelt or white whole wheat flour (regular whole wheat may be a tad too flavorful/dense, but then again, I haven’ tried it and can’t say for sure!)  While these cookies do contain significantly less sugar than most (1/2 cup brown rice syrup), sugar is (sadly) still sugar at the end of the day. And lots of sugar = happy bad bacteria. My solution to the former bad news? Share, share, and share!!

My special, dreamy place is definitely stocked with these chewy buckwheat cookies. Bland white flour is no where to be found. You have to climb to the top of a very pointy mountain, overlooking the clouds, in order to get to my secret dream place. You also have to be wearing a thick, chunky sweater. Comfort is key if you want to fully enjoy the cookie eating experience. Plus, it can get very windy at the top of this mountain.

Maybe it’s imperative that your dream place has wagons full of vanilla rice pudding or towers of macaroons or maybe it doesn’t have any sweet baked goods at all. Maybe you’re a little lost and found your way to my blog for some reason other than to find recipes for delicious wholegrain sweet things. Either way, you get the point. These cookies are on my list. I’m not trying to convince you to scribble them onto yours. I’m only trying to convey how truly delightful and special they are to me, with the intention of simply putting them out into the universe for anyone and everyone or no one at all.

Ingredients~
Makes 12 large or 18 regular cookies 

3/4 cup wholegrain buckwheat flour
1/2 cup wholegrain spelt flour
1/2 cup brown rice syrup (or honey for noticeably sweeter cookies, though I haven’t tried this substitute myself)
1/3 cup unsalted pasture raised butter, melted
2 tbsps unrefined coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
Two pinches of cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp kosher salt (plus a little more for sprinkling on top of the cookies)
3/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate or chips of choice (65-70% cacao)
1/3 cup chopped pecans, almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts or a combination of varieties

Bake at 350F for 12-14 minutes, until crisped up and sturdier around the edges but still a bit soft looking in the center. The cookies will be dotted with little pools of melted chocolate should you go the pan smacking route. Pretty divine looking, huh? You’ll want to allow the cookies to cool for 1-2 minutes on the pan and then another 10 minutes or so (or not) on a wire rack before digging in as they are fragile when fresh from the oven and need time to chill and get chewy!

 

breakfast/ gluten free

Grain Free Almond Pancakes

The bigger and fluffier the pancakes, the better in my book. Or that’s how my book usually reads. Some days my usual cravings flip a switch, and I find myself as I do right now, craving almond pancakes… grain free almond pancakes to be more precise. That’s pretty unusual for me. I don’t want any regular flour in my flapjacks (buckwheat, I still adore you), instead, I want the slightly sweet, nuttiness of ground almonds. Do you ever have those days? Where you surprise yourself with a new craving; you yearn for a food or flavor you don’t often taste? I wonder why that happens. Maybe my body is craving novelty. Maybe my body is cravings healthy fats. Either way, since my body (or mind, depending on how you see it) is blasting the almond pancakes stereo, I’m going to listen to it. I mean, I did listen to it, clearly, given the photos. And I will listen to that song again when it comes on.

Ingredients~
Makes 8 small pancakes (serves two hungry individuals)

1 cup blanched almond flour
2 pasture raised eggs
1/4-1/3 cup water or milk of choice (add based on desired pancake thickness)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
Dash or two of cinnamon (optional)
For sweeter pancakes add 1-3 tsps coconut sugar or other granulated sugar

gluten free/ vegan

Healthy Date & Oat Truffles

Ingredients~
Makes 16 balls 

1 heaped cup dates (soaked for 10-15 min in hot water if not using gooey medjool dates)
3/4 cup rolled oats, blended into a fine flour (measured before blending)
1/2 cup walnuts or other nut of choice, ground or chopped until very fine (measured whole)
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3 heaped tbsps natural peanut butter (or any nut butter you fancy)
4 tsps chia seeds
4 tsps hulled hemp seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt

For coating the balls:
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds

baked sweets

Chewy Whole Wheat Gingersnap Cookies

I stumbled upon The Violet Bakery cookbook at the massive Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon. I went in with no desire to buy a cookbook (the internet is essentially one huge one anyway), but after pulling multiple baking books off the shelves only to find them boring and uninspiring, I magically grabbed ahold of Claire Ptak’s beautiful book. After a few moments of admiring the cover and flipping through the bright and clean pages, I was off to the cash register, book full of unknown recipes in tow and mind and body bubbling with excitement. I went home, plopped myself on a bed, and devoured the words and pictures in a couple of hours. I then proceeded to doze off into a nice little slumber and awoke with the urge to bake and bake and bake. Since my first day owning this book I’ve filled it with a thick wad of cute post-it notes; some shaped like butterflies, others like polar bears; it makes the recipe perusing experience all the more fun. One of the first recipes that had me head over heels in awe was the chewy gingersnap cookies. Molasses and ginger plus butter and dark sugar equals a divine revelation.

Ptak’s recipe calls for white flour and brown sugar, but I made my usual swap and used whole wheat flour and coconut sugar. Why whole wheat flour? Well, it’s packed with a whole lot more fiber and protein. And that means a whole lot more good stuff for your gut. I prefer using coconut sugar in place of most granulated sugars for less factual reasons; some people tout coconut sugar as a superfood or something worthy of consuming everyday, but I stay clear of that pseudoscience. Besides providing a hint of delicious butterscotch (which is honestly the main reason I purchased it), coconut sugar isn’t a whole lot better for you than brown sugar. Let me break it down in the most un-scientific way possible: brown sugar is a teeny bit more nutritious than refined white sugar (because of the molasses used to color it) and coconut sugar is a teeny bit more nutritious than brown sugar, so that leaves us with coconut sugar at the top of the granulated sugar food pyramid, but only by a teeny teeny bit.

Simply put, coconut sugar isn’t as processed as conventional white sugar, and thus, it isn’t stripped of its minerals and vitamins. Just as real maple syrup contains a bit of manganese per serving, coconut sugar contains zinc, iron, and calcium (1). Sure, using a sweetener that contains trace amounts of minerals and vitamins is better than one that contains none at all, but that doesn’t mean you ought to start eating coconut sugar by the spoonful. Keep sugar low, always. However, when the chewy gingersnap cookies come a-calling, toss in the whole wheat flour and coconut sugar (or brown sugar!) and happily munch away. I don’t eat cookies because they are a health food; salad and roasted veggies reign supreme in that arena; cookies, on the other hand, reign in my heart and soul. Let’s keep it that way.

Ingredients~
Makes 12 large or 16 medium cookies

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar (plus more for rolling the cookies; or light brown sugar)
1/2 cup unsalted pasture raised butter
1/3 cup & 1 tbsp dark molasses
2 tsps ground ginger
1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
Pinch or two of paprika
1 tsp baking soda
Scant 1/4 tsp fine salt
1 1/2 tsps boiling water

baked sweets/ gluten free

Flourless Sunflower Butter Brownie Cookies

I used to equate sunflower seeds to bird food. I wasn’t a bird, so they weren’t for me. However, over the last two years, when I finally started dabbling in ‘adult’ life, i.e. making my own money and paying for my own rent, I would occasionally buy sunflower seeds if they were on sale. The internet was buzzing about chia, hemp, and flax seeds, so I didn’t give sunflower seeds a second thought. In fact, they were quite literally my second thought; I only ever tossed them into salads or breads as an after thought. Well, a lot has changed since my ‘I’m too cool to eat pet food’ days. I am now the proud owner of a 2 pound bag of hulled sunflower seeds. My attitude towards the little fellas has flip-sided (and it’s not just because they turn into wonderfully fudgy cookies when you politely ask them too). I pressed a button on Amazon and the baby-sized bag of seeds turned up at my doorstep the next day. Now, I generously sprinkle a few tbsps over my morning oats and toss them into my post-run lake-water-esque smoothies (yum!). My new sunflower seedy life did not happen on a whim, but was a culminating act to nearly two years of developing a better, and more thoughtful, relationship with food. Let me tell you about that.

Simply put, the main reason I stocked up on sunflower seeds is because of their high vitamin E content. During my move to more health-conscientious eating, I would occasionally track my food for the day. I didn’t have a concern for calories, but I was curious about what I was getting from all of the food I ate, especially the foods (oatmeal, nut butters, legumes) I ate every single day. I very quickly noticed a trend: my calcium and vitamin E levels never met the daily recommended amounts (eek!), and my omega 3’s, iron, and complete protein levels occasionally didn’t meet the mark. It’s true that I was eating mostly plant based, but my insufficient iron and protein levels were a result of my lack of knowledge about nutrition, not a result of not eating many animal products. By paying attention to what I was eating at such a meticulous level everyday, I set myself up to learn a LOT.

Initially, I ignored the nagging voice that told me I needed to sit down, buckle up, and do a whole lotta research, but gradually, I began excitedly accumulating information about food that I’d never known before; dark leafy greens are a good source of calcium and walnuts are the brain’s favorite nut! It was, and still is, a slow process; you mostly learn from others, but you also learn from experience (not all ‘healthy’ foods have the same positive results in each individual). At times it was frustrating and overwhelming; all l I had previously known about being ‘healthy’ was turned upside down and violently shaken. But despite the many hair-wrenching moments, there were countless aha moments that projected me forward (and lets not forget the frequent omg, wtf moments). It’s been two years since I made the decision to scrap what I thought I knew and learn, and I finally feel like I have part of a tapestry to show for it.

Food is meant to fuel and nourish. White bread fuels, but it doesn’t nourish. Sunflower seeds fuel in a less efficient way (because they aren’t as readily utilized for energy like carbs and sugar), but they are densely packed with nourishment. Sunflower seeds are also cheaper than their counterparts pumpkin, chia, flax, and hemp. The former seeds are each unique, and it doesn’t help to compare them too much, but when it comes to cost, sunflower seeds reign the most affordable. If you are like me, and had to crack open your unhulled sunflower seeds as a kid, the sight of a 2 pound bag of tiny hulled seeds may startle you. It’s a sight of abundance and it’s awesome.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like vitamin E should be difficult to get enough of. The foods with the highest concentration of vitamin E tend to be fatty foods, namely nut and seed oils. Most individuals eating a standard American diet (S.A.D.) probably get their vitamin E in the form of palm, sunflower, and olive oil, but if you avoid palm oil because it is a leading driver of deforestation in Indonesia, and you don’t consumer sunflower or olive oil daily because good quality, trusted brands are expensive and cheap brands are sketchy, you may find that you’re not consuming enough vitamin E! Or so I wasn’t. So… why should you care? Or rather, why did I care enough to write these series of paragraphs?

In a far too simple, underrated response: vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps prevent against oxidation, a stress on the body (or more specifically, our cells) that is brought on by the attack of free radicals. It’s believed that the more free radicals a cell accumulates, the quicker it will age. Unless you wan’t your insides (and also your outsides!) to age fast, that’s not good. We breathe in free radicals as air pollution and we generate them through intense endurance exercise (1), and they ultimately occur in our bodies as a natural reaction to the food we ingest, so unless you live in a hamster home, there is no way of escaping them (on second thought, most average Joe hamsters are probably exposed to eyebrow-raising chemicals in their cheap, China-made plastic homes, so hamster or not, free radicals are a pervasive part of life).

While there haven’t been studies proving a swift and clean correlation between specifically eating more antioxidant rich foods and living a longer, more mind-in-tact life, there is no denying that whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds (as well as many other foods), are good for us and can add years to our lives. Are sunflower seeds the end all be all to cancer and heart disease? No, of course not, but we can form our best judgement with the information and legitimate studies we do have; sunflower seeds are certainly packed with more healthy goodness than white bread, there is no denying that. When combined with a variety of other nutritious, whole foods, sunflower seeds will definitely give you a bang for your buck. Health is a matrix, not a one-word answer or single ingredient. If sunflower seeds aren’t your thing you could also increase your vitamin E intake with almonds, avocados, wheat germ/wheat germ oil, or check out this cool link for more options. And to be fair, since I’ve been picking on white bread a lot in this post, I ought to acknowledge that it is packed with a certain kind of goodness; not a goodness of nutrients like sunflower seeds, but a special goodness for the soul that is only found in the fluffy white interior of sliced carbs. If there is such a thing as healthy balance, it’s sunflower seed butter swabbed on thick white toast or, in keeping with the title of this post, sunflower seed butter brownie cookies.

I had tried twice, with mixed results, to make flourless cookies with sunflower seed butter, but it wasn’t until I came across My New Root’s sunbutter chocolate cookies that I realized I was missing (a now for obvious key ingredient) chocolate!!! My recipe is heavily based off of hers, but with a few adjustments; I used coconut sugar instead of a liquid sweetener, upped the vanilla extract for flavor and the baking soda due to the increase in acidity, and used cacao powder instead of cocoa. I also reduced the total amount of ingredients so that my hands weren’t overflowing with deliciously decadent sunbutter cookies the day before Thanksgiving… any other day, however, I wouldn’t have blinked an eye at a two dozen batch of sunbutter chocolate cookies (that’s your cue to double this recipe).

Flourless Sunflower Butter Brownie Cookies

Print Recipe
Serves: 12-14 cookies Cooking Time: 7-8 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sunflower seed butter*
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 2 pasture raised eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
  • Scant tsp baking soda 
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt 
  • 1/3-1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (I used 70% cacao)
  • 3-4 tbsps hulled sunflower seeds for topping the cookies

Notes

*I used store-bought roasted sunflower seed butter, but homemade/raw seed butter should work swimmingly! Also, if your store bought butter contains sugar, you may want to reduce the added amount by a few tsps.

gluten free/ vegan

Salted Date Caramel & Pretzel Dark Chocolate Cups

Salted caramel makes me swoon. And cry tears of conflicted joy. Conflicted because I simultaneously recognize the perfection and fleeting nature of salted caramel. All salted caramel gets eaten… eventually… that’s a fact of life. It’s not meant to last forever. If it did, well, it would be McDonalds french fries and that certainly would not be worth writing to you about. Instead, here I am, eagerly writing to you about the mmmm-inducing tastiness that is salted date caramel. Yes, dates. Gooey medjool dates with not a trace of white sugar in sight. Instead of swabbing away at the date caramel with my grubby fingers until it was all gone, I managed to gather up some self-control and whisk together melted cocoa butter and cacao powder. And a little pinch of salt because it somehow brings everything together, doesn’t it? Or maybe I just enjoy sprinkling it a little too much. Either way, I encased the sweet umami caramel in the bittersweet chocolate mixture and allowed the little creations to chill in the freezer for less than half an hour. It’s really that easy. You do a little mixing and a little pouring and maybe a little dancing, and as if that isn’t all fun enough, you get to top each treat with a cute little pretzel. And a pinch of flaky salt, if that’s your thing.

I get super excited by the idea of caramel. Knee-jerking, cavity-inducing caramel used to catch my eye, but I’ve since found a better caramel pal who actually has my health and happiness in their best interest. If you didn’t already know, dates are gooey caramel in whole fruit form. I had to learn to say no to a lot of tasty things when I made the transition to healthier, more whole foods based eating, but I’ve since learned that caramel does not have to be one of those things. There is caramel that tastes like pure white sugar, and then there is caramel that’s a little softer around the edges, allowing you to enjoy the sweetness indicative of caramel without feeling overwhelmed by it.

Dates are packed with fiber and a host of other nutrients, but they also offer up a unique, subtle flavor that can’t be found in conventional caramel. Sure, the shade of date caramel might not be as mouth-gapingly wonderful as ‘caramel colored’ caramel, but if you approach it with wide-stretched arms, it may hug you back! I truly hope it hugs you back. And that your embrace lingers for a little longer than you had anticipated. There are very few things more enjoyable than being struck by a wave of amazing flavors. When a chocolate caramel cup contains the perfect balance of sweet and salty, it’s impossible not to lose yourself (if only for a handful of seconds) in a state of wonderful stupor. And when those seconds are over, and you’re about to indulge in bittersweetness (in both senses of the word), you quickly realize that you intelligently made 5 cups, not a lonely single one, and you find yourself in a caramel umami dream all over again. And you see me there, too! It’s nice to finally meet you.

Ingredients~
Makes 5 regular sized cups or 8-10 mini ones 

Cups:
1/2 cup cocoa butter, melted
1/2 cup cacao powder
2 tbsps brown rice syrup or other liquid sweetener of choice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Filling:
1/2 heaped cup chopped medjool dates
1 tbsp coconut sugar
1-2 tbsps milk or liquid sweetener of choice (for slightly thinning the date paste)
1/2 tsp red miso paste
Handful of small pretzels (gf if necessary)
Pinch or two of flaky salt to top