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1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chia seeds
3/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw cashews, roughly chopped
1 cup dried fruit, diced (I used chopped dates and apricots)

1. Preheat oven to 250 F.
2. In a small sauce pan, whisk together oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, and salt. Heat over medium-low heat until sugar and salt dissolve.
3. In a large bowl, combine oats, seeds, and cashews.
4. Pour the oil mixture over the oat mixture and stir to coat.
5. Spread evenly on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
6. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes.
7. Combine granola with dried fruit and cool, stirring occasionally to break into smaller clusters.

Notes: decrease both oil and chia seeds to 1/4 cup each. Otherwise, flavor was great and texture was what I had hoped: crunchy with some larger clusters throughout. Yum. Could probably decrease sweetness (try 1/4 cup maple syrup).

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Adapted from a Bob’s Red Mill recipe for Raspberry Oatmeal Bars, I made it vegan by swapping coconut oil for the butter. I didn’t have oat flour on hand and instead used whole wheat pastry flour, so it is not gluten-free. The reviews stated that the recipe was on the sweet side, so I used a bit less sugar than called for in the recipe.

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
Scant 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup superfruit jam or preserves (or any flavor you prefer)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously grease an 8×8-inch pan with coconut oil.
2. In medium bowl, combine melted coconut oil and vanilla. Stir in flour, oats, sunflower seeds, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt until thoroughly blended.
3. Press 1 cup of oat mixture firmly into bottom of the prepared pan. Spread jam evenly on top.
4. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture over jam, then gently press.
5. Bake 20-25 minutes or until top is lightly browned and firm. Cool bars in pan for 30 minutes on wire rack. Cut into 16 squares and serve at room temperature.

Makes 16 bars.

Notes: for some strange reason, these bars tasted better as they sat. The coconut flavor mellowed and it somehow tasted sweeter a few days later.

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Served alongside crispy avocado fries, and adapted from this recipe for Broccoli Carpaccio with Grapes and Watercress, from Food & Wine magazine. Bright, tangy, crisp. Got leftovers? Just stir it all together and the broccoli will soften slightly and make for a great lunch the next day.

For the dressing:
3/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt (not Greek–you want it to be thin enough to drizzle)
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the salad:
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1 cup seedless red grapes
1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

1. To make the dressing, combine all ingredients and set aside.
2. For the salad, thinly slice broccoli florets and arrange on 4 plates or a large platter.
3. Cut half of the grapes in half, and then divide among the plates, or scatter on top of the platter.
4. Sprinkle the salad with seeds, and then drizzle with the dressing.

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(Or, my first attempt at homemade nut milk.)

I’ve been hurtin’ for a blender for a while now (though, if you’d ask my boyfriend, he’d say, “We need another blending device?”). I finally invested in a Ninja, and damn! if it’s not one of the most fun tools I have played with in a while. I mean, come on–there are THREE BLADES, people! Two more blades to injure myself on (I am notoriously clumsy), but it makes for a pretty lethal toy for anything that enters the vessel.

The main motivator behind this purchase, besides the smoothie appeal (an immersion blender is only useful for blending soft things, and I was growing tired of banana-only beverages), was to make homemade nut milk. No, I do not consider myself one of “Those People” (though I do consider myself “hippie chic”). But the allure of making things at home that one would normally purchase is exciting to me. Sure, it’s a totally over-involved process, and does not save you an exorbitant amount money when it comes down to it, but it’s a great DIY project that beefs up your culinary chops. So why not give it a whirl (ha)?

1 cup sunflower seeds
3 Medjool dates, pits removed
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch kosher salt

Makes 1 quart (4 cups)

1. Cover sunflower seeds with cold water by 2 inches and soak overnight in the refrigerator.
2. Drain and discard the soaking water and place seeds in the blender.
3. Blend on high for 2 minutes, or until completely pureed.
4. Add dates, vanilla, and salt and whirl for another minute.
5. Strain the nut milk using a nut milk bag (I don’t have one of these…yet…so I used a fine mesh strainer, which worked okay–left a bunch of small bits. You can also try a few layers of cheesecloth)

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I chose to start with sunflower seeds because they were the least expensive nut/seed I could find. They have a nice flavor, almost vegetal, which is great on its own, but I had fresh dates on hand and was in that kind of a mood. The end result was mildly sweet, which worked well with the hint of vanilla. Since the fine-mesh strainer wasn’t the greatest option (the little bits were strange, floating around in my coffee), I used the sunflower seed milk in my morning smoothies.

Many people bake the leftover strained meal (in most cases, almond) to use later in baked goods in place of flour. So I spread the sunflower seed meal onto a baking sheet and baked on very low for a very long time. It smelled gross. It looked strange. I must have done something terribly wrong.

Let’s see. Christmas was nine months ago, which makes right about now the perfect time to return my mom’s Christmas cookie tins. This leaves her three solid months to bake me cookies for this year’s holiday season.

I’ll spare you the “I’m no baker” speech and just get to it already. The biscotti recipe I used can be found here. I swapped the almond extract for vanilla extract, and used one cup of roasted sunflower seeds left whole (buy raw and roast yourself for a better, fresher taste) in place of the cup and a half of chopped almonds.

What will that get you?

Oh yes. There they are. Merry Christmas, Mama. Keep your pants on.