Monday, January 27, 2014

Dark Chocolate Sunflower Butter Candy Cups (with Coconut Butter Variation as well)

You know what else you can do with your sunflower seed butter? You can make it into CANDY! Heck YES! These are basically Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, only homemade, so with less weird crap. And if you aren't allergic to every other nut and seed out there, you can of course substitute any other kind of nut or seed butter that you like. I'm sure pretty much every other nut butter would taste even better than sunflower seed butter, given my hazy memory of how delicious almonds and hazelnuts and pistachios once were, circa 1994, but it certainly did the job! We also did a version with coconut butter (sometimes called "coconut manna", which is sort of goofy to me), and they were super delicious too, sort of like mini Mounds bars. I don't have tons to say about the process here because it's v. straightforward and easy, particularly if you have a silicon mini-muffin pan. If you don't have a silicon muffin pan (mini or otherwise), just use a regular muffin tin but be sure to use paper liners of some sort as the candy cups will be difficult to remove from the tin after they've set.

Here is a video to get you inspired. Beckett doesn't use v. many consonants, but what he's trying to tell you is that he's a spatula. I am not sure why he thinks he's a spatula, but I think it's cute.


1. We used a mix of chocolates that I'm going to assume was about 60-70% chocolate. I would NOT go darker, and I'm a lover of crazy dark chocolate.

2. If you have or know any children, you should make these with them. There is nothing quite as awesome as chocolate-covered tiny face.


3. Again, crucial: paper liners or a silicon mini muffin mold for easy candy removal.


Here's what the process looks like:


Do you see how clever I am? I put coconut flakes on the coconut ones so we could distinguish between the two kinds. I put Golden Fig's Chocolate Salt on both kinds because, dang. Here's what the finished products look like, with two eager candy-consumers in the background...


3. We made these twice in one week because they are so good.

I love you too.

Dark Chocolate Sunflower Butter/Coconut Butter Candy Cups
Yield: 24 mini candies, 12 large
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

9 oz. dark chocolate (~70%) (you could use milk chocolate or semi-sweet too - I'm making some white chocolate ones later tonight), broken into small chunks
Golden Fig Chocolate Salt or sea salt flakes for topping

For sunflower butter filling
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter or other nut or seed butter*
1 heaping tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

* If you use unsalted, unsweetened sunflower or other nut/seed butter, add an additional tablespoon honey + 1/4 teaspoon salt to filling mixture.

For coconut butter filling
1/2 cup coconut butter (I used Artisana brand), softened a bit in microwave
2 tablespoons agave nectar (or other liquid sweetener of choice)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or the modern way, microwaving it for 30 seconds, stirring it a bit, repeat, until chocolate is smooth. Spoon about a teaspoon of chocolate into each cup in your mini-muffin or muffin tin. Scoop up about a teaspoon of filling, roll it into a small ball in your hands, flatten it out so that its circumference is just a bit less than the muffin cup, and center it on top of the chocolate puddle. Repeat with remaining filling. Top each candy cup with another half or full teaspoon of chocolate. Sprinkle with some salt. Place mold or tin in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes so candies can set. They can be kept in refrigerator or at room temperature, though they are easiest to eat when brought to room temperature.

Monday, January 20, 2014

I Told You: Sunflower-Miso Soup with Brown Rice and Sweet Potatoes

Remember when I told you I was probably going to make all four of those soups that I'd seen on the internet the previous week? Well, one down, three to go.

Speaking of X down, Y to go: we have seen some huge improvements in my son's allergies. Only a token few food items are still out:

tree nuts
sesame seeds
cured meats (it's probably a nitrate or other preservative that he's allergic to; we don't really know the culprit, and for that reason it is the trickiest to avoid and has been the food he has most often reacted to in his allergic little life)

On the home front, unless and until Beckett develops an allergy to sunflower seeds, substitutions are a breeze at this point. Like the substitution I made to figure out this soup: sunflower butter as a replacement for tahini.


This is a replacement I make often, and I think it's a good one because I actually prefer sunflower seed butter to tahini. (I do not prefer it to peanut butter, however, although Trader Joe's highly seasoned (read: super sugary, super salty) version is pretty great. I used Once Again's unsalted, unsweetened kind in this soup.) I also substituted sweet potato and carrot for the squash and turnip, because I don't have any squash and I don't care for turnips. Why was I even drawn to this soup, given how many changes I made? Answer: MISO. I love miso, and I love a simple soup flavored generously with miso and something nutty. Add my favorite veggie (sweet potatoes), my favorite flavoring (lemon), and my favorite herb (fresh cilantro), and, well, hello soup, so nice to meet you.


Sunflower-Miso Soup with Brown Rice and Sweet Potatoes
Yields: 4 big servings

1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-1/2-inch pieces
1 large carrot (or 2 smaller), scrubbed and cut into a 1/4-inch dice
4 cups water
3-4 tablespoons white miso (see note below)
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter (see note below)
Zest of 1 lemon (then slice the lemon into wedges and serve alongside soup)
~2-3 cups of cooked brown rice, quinoa, or other chewy grain (e.g. farro, wheat berries)
Half a bunch of cilantro, minced

Add the chopped sweet potato and carrot to a large pot, cover with the water, and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Place miso, sunflower butter, and lemon zest in a large (2 cup at least) measuring cup. Ladle into the measuring cup about 1 cup of the hot cooking water and whisk water, miso, zest, and sunflower butter until smooth. Add mixture back into the pot. At this point, taste, and adjust the broth to your liking, it might need a bit more miso (for saltiness)...or more sunflower butter (see note at bottom). Stir in most of the minced cilantro, reserving a little for garnish.

To serve, place a generous scoop of rice in each bowl along with some of the sweet potato and carrot. Ladle broth over the vegetables and garnish with remaining cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges.


1. The original recipe called for avocado to serve. I think that would be wonderful. Next time!

2. I enjoyed the soup with exactly 1/4 cup each of sunflower seed butter and miso. It was subtle, not usually my thing, but felt really perfect for a late lunch on a cold, windy day. My husband ate it that night for dinner and wanted more of both. (Though, his way of saying that was: "I wanted more of whatever made it salty and nutty.") So have a little extra on hand and season to taste. Some freshly ground pepper, or even red pepper flakes or a splash of Sriracha might be a nice finish too.

3. If [you're Heidi Swanson and do everything right in life], and you have leftovers and need to reheat the soup, you'll want to do so gently, over low heat, to preserve the qualities of the miso. If you're me, you just reheat it in the microwave for a couple minutes and enjoy it promptly. The rice will be a little plumper, the soup will be a little thicker, the flavors will be a little better.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jumping on the Bandwagon: Minestronish Soup

It's soup season, isn't it? As if the double-digit-subzero-temperatures, statewide shutdown of schools on account of severe weather, and tomorrow's anticipated blizzard conditions weren't enough to get ye to yer stock pot, the food internets are abuzz with soup recipes like it's going out of style. Smitten Kitchen and 101 Cookbooks each featured two recipes in the last couple weeks, all of which I can't wait to try: Miso Tahini, Persian Yogurt, Chicken Phở, and Brothy Kale and White Bean Soup. I will probably make all of those in the next few weeks. If you beat me to any of them, let me know how it goes.

Or instead, you could make this Minestronish Soup, which I made with my Mambo Italiano class on Sunday. It's nothing new or wild, but I did some experimentation before sharing it with my class (as you do), and I believe I achieved the perfect acid-zip-savory balance with this one. Its strengths: the inclusion of fresh basil as well as dried herbs to give it a couple layers of herbaceous-ness; the brightness of lemon zest, kick of red pepper, and subtle sweetness of the winter squash to smooth out the parmesan's saltiness. I give it an unbiased 5 Stars.


But why Minestronish and not Minestrone?! Well, I'm no purist, you see. And I don't want someone to google "Minestrone" and end up here to find something so nontraditional. Delicata squash and parsnips aren't your typical minestrone stars. Also, I ditched the pasta. We don't need no stinkin' pasta. We've got legumes! So go chop some veggies and warm up with a cuppa.


P.S. Yes, that is some chicken in the soup. I added some roasted chicken from Lucia's to this soup's encore performance. It gets better on days 2 and 3, with or without chicken.

P.P.S. I used a can of kidney beans plus a cup of cooked chickpeas I had in my refrigerator.

Minestron(ish) Soup
Yield: 6 generous servings

Some notes: Don't chop the veggies too small, a la mire poix. Let the larger pieces sweat for a while over low heat and they'll add a good amount of flavor while providing you a heartier, chunkier soup at the end.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 large carrot or parsnip, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil*
Zest of 1 lemon*
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 delicata squash, seeds and membranes removed, chopped as finely as you can bother (no larger than ½” pieces - hey, guess what! no need to peel!) (could also substitute 2 cups peeled, cubed butternut or other winter squash)
1-2 large cans/jars of diced, crushed or whole tomatoes (depending on how tomatoey you like it; I go big myself)
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 ½ cups cooked kidney, cannellini, borlotti, or garbanzo beans (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
¼ - ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper (start by setting aside ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper – we can always add more later)

* Could substitute Golden Fig Dynamite Herbs for both basil and lemon zest. 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Over medium heat, preheat a large soup pot for minute or two. Add olive oil and turn pan so that oil coats entire bottom. Once olive oil is shiny, add onion, celery, and carrot or parsnip and a big pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are starting to soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic, dried herbs, lemon zest, freshly ground pepper, red pepper flakes (if using), and another pinch of salt and cook for 1 minute. Add squash and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, chicken or vegetable broth, and 2 cups water. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, until the soup boils. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. If soup seems too thick, add remaining 1 cup of water. Add beans and continue to cook until beans are warmed through and vegetables are tender, about 10 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I Heart My QWM Class Participants

Dear Colleen, Bridget, Stephanie, Susan, Lynn, Kae, Cheryl, Richard, Michael, Mary Jo, Mike, Jay, Christine, Jason, and Rachel:

I don't have a recipe at present. I just wanted to tell you that I had a super great time with you tonight! This week has been sort of exhausting and emotionally charged - not a bad week, just intense, involving an unexpected, invigorating-but-taxing roller coaster ride. Heading downtown to teach this evening, I felt like I didn't have the energy I needed to offer you the entertainment and instruction you all deserved (and paid for). On the contrary, I had the energy I needed to take a nap. Lo and behold! You collectively brought all the energy and enthusiasm we needed - and then some - to have a great evening together. Thank you so much! I love my job, mostly because I get to spend it with wonderful people like yourselves.

After I explained to you that my search widget is broken, I realized that I'm depriving far too many Minnesotans of my quesadilla recipe, making it so tricky to find. So - it's HERE - but I'm also making a permanent link on the right side bar of my blog, and will tell all future classes that they can find it there. Enjoy! And thank you for being so fun and engaged tonight. Great questions, great conversation, great quesadillas. I hope to see you again soon. In the meantime, go make some peanut sauce.

Love and sweet potatoes,