naturally sweetened chocolate, two ways

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naturally sweetened chocolate // the muffin myth

Paul and I have travelled at Christmas time every year for the past five years, and so have chosen to forego gifts in favour of experiences. This year is no exception. Last night we splurged out on a dinner out to celebrate Christmas together – dining out isn’t something we do very often, let alone on a weeknight, so it was a real treat. We’re spending Christmas apart this year for the first time ever in our decade together, so it was a bit of a bittersweet celebration, but lovely nonetheless.

When I’m not doing experiences-as-gifts, I tend to favour those that are homemade or consumable. Or better yet, homemade AND consumable.

naturally sweetened chocolate // the muffin mythThere’s always homemadevanilla extract – and hey, if you haven’t started a batch yet you could still put some vanilla beans in a pretty jar, cover them with vodka, and give the recipient instructions to strain it out a couple of months down the road. Great gift! Also in my gift giving repertoire this year is going to be little bars of homemade naturally sweetened chocolate.

You guys, making your own naturally sweetened chocolate from scratch at home is SO EASY! It’s as simple as melting cocoa butter over gentle heat, then whisking in cocoa powder (I used an organic raw cocoa powder) and a sweetener. I’m sharing two versions here, one sweetened with pureed dates and the other with honey.

naturally sweetened chocolate // the muffin myth

I sampled my first couple of batches around the office, and while everyone liked both versions the honey sweetened was the clear favourite. Still, the date version deserves attention, and if you want to make chocolate that is completely raw and vegan it’s a star. Neither version is tempered, so the chocolate is slightly softer than a conventional chocolate bar would be when at room temperature. Storing it it in the fridge easily solves this – though in my mind it’s far from a problem. 

Chocolate is a blank canvas for adding flavours you like. The chocolate in the lead photo here is flavoured with chipotle powder and fleur de sel, and I’ve added a small sprinkle of chilli flakes over the top so that the heat isn’t a surprise. I really hope you try this out, and let me know what flavour combinations you come up with!

giveaway winner

But wait! There’s more! We have a winner for the Vanilla Extract Giveaway! I entered all of the comments (not including any replies from me, just the first comment in each thread) into a random number generator and the winner is #11 – Pauline! I guess it did help to be friends with the inlaws after all!

I want to thank you all so much for entering the giveaway! The response made me wish I’d made a lot more vanilla extract so there was more to go around. I’ve already started another batch, so there will be more vanilla to come!

naturally sweetened chocolate // the muffin myth

One year ago: Spicy Chocolate Snickerdoodles
Two years ago: Cooked Eggnog

Date Sweetened Chocolate Recipe:

Print Recipe

This chocolate is delicious and I hope you try it out! The texture is a bit different since dates make up a large portion of the ingredients, but I think it’s a really lovely treat. And it melts in your mouth just like any other chocolate does! Be warned, the texture seems a bit gritty when the chocolate is fluid still, but once it sets it becomes much smoother. Make sure you get the softest possible dates – you can’t soak them in water to soften as it will make the chocolate seize up. Fresh Medjool dates have worked beautifully for me.

Adapted from My New Roots

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100g very soft pitted dates
85g cocoa butter
50g raw cocoa powder
seeds scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean (optional)
pinch of sea salt (optional)

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Line a loaf pan (narrow, if possible) with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the dates a few times and then run the food processor until they are very pureed – my dates always form a ball at this stage.

Melt the cocoa butter over a double boiler, or a heat-proof bowl over boiling water (or, real talk, I’ve melted my cocoa butter in the microwave and it works just fine). Add the melted cocoa butter, cocoa powder, vanilla, and sea salt to the dates, and run the food processor until everything is well combined and very smooth.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with any toppings you like, and set in the fridge to chill. Once the chocolate is set you can let it sit at room temperature, and use a sharp knife to slice it into little bars. Store at room temperature or in the fridge.

Honey Sweetened Chocolate Recipe:

This chocolate is much darker and much more intense than the date version. I love to mix a bit of chipotle powder and sprinkle the top with a bit of sea salt, but you can take it in any direction you want. This recipe comes from my sister in law, who is my chocolate making guru.

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100g cocoa butter
100g raw cocoa powder
80g local organic honey, optionally raw
seeds scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean (optional)
1/2 tsp chipotle powder (optional)
fleur de sel and chilli flakes for sprinkling (optional)

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Line a loaf pan (narrow, if possible) with parchment paper and set aside.

Melt the cocoa butter and honey together over a double boiler, or a heat-proof bowl over boiling water (or, real talk, I’ve melted my cocoa butter in the microwave and it works just fine). Whisk in the cocoa powder, vanilla, and any mix-ins like chipotle powder.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with any toppings you like, and set in the fridge to chill. Once the chocolate is set you can let it sit at room temperature, and use a sharp knife to slice it into little bars. Store at room temperature or in the fridge.

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You’re eating chocolate! What a treat! And the best part is that it’s all natural home made chocolate without any scary additives. This is the real deal! Cocoa butter is still very high in fat, so eat this chocolate in moderation as you would with any other chocolate. Well, maybe slightly less moderation. Enjoy it! Raw Cocoa is antioxidant rich, and the flavanoid content appears to be helpful in protecting blood vessel linings and thus preventing high blood pressure.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013

what’s good around the web!

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krispy cube // the muffin myth

We hosted our annual expats and friends holiday potluck this weekend, which includes a game of ‘white elephant’ or whatever you want to call the present stealing game. My contribution was this gigantic rice krispy cube. It was awesome.

What’s good around the web is a weekly series where I share some of what I’ve been reading around the web. Each week I post links to five nutrition related articles, good recipes, and just general good reads. I hope you enjoy it! If you’ve got at article or recipe you’d like to see featured, please email me.

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1. Got milk? New study says organic, and whole, is healthier.

2. The WHO is saying that sugar limits should be halved to protect teeth. And maybe some other stuff too?

3. Young women need better support for healthy eating.

4. Part 1 of a very interesting CBC radio documentary on the science, economics, and politics of overeating. 

5. Which oil is best for cooking?

Recipe I’d like to try: those sugared pretzels were always my favourite in the Danish cookie tins. I’ve got my eye on this homemade version. 

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013

vanilla extract – update and giveaway

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homemade vanilla extract // the muffin myth

Remember that batch of vanilla extract I started back in October?

It’s done! It sat in the cupboard for a little over two months, getting a little shake every few days, and turning a deep and beautiful brown.

homemade vanilla extract // the muffin myth

The wait finally over, I strained the vanilla extract through a mesh strainer lined with a couple of paper towels (coffee filters would work well also). The spent vanilla beans got transferred into a clean jar, which I filled with granulated sugar to make vanilla sugar. It smells amazing already!

homemade vanilla extract // the muffin myth

The extract got decanted into little 50ml jars and fancied up with pretty labels. I’ve already started another batch, and I think I’m going to let this one sit and do it’s thing for six months and see if I notice a difference in the quality of vanilla.

In the mean time, I’ve got all these cute little bottles of home-made vanilla extract to give away as gifts to my foodie friends. And I want to give you one too!

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post. It’s that easy! I’ll attempt to send a bottle of vanilla extract to anyone, anywhere in the world. And, since this is the season of giving, I’ll throw in a Muffin Myth tea towel as well. Contest closes Wednesday December 18th at 9am PST.

homemade vanilla extract // the muffin myth

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013

what’s good around the web!

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data extraction // the muffin myth

This is what early mornings are looking like in my life these days – tea, a pile of academic articles, and an excel spreadsheet. I’ve reached the data extraction stage of my thesis, and I can not wait for it to be over!

What’s good around the web is a weekly series where I share some of what I’ve been reading around the web. Each week I post links to five nutrition related articles, good recipes, and just general good reads. I hope you enjoy it! If you’ve got at article or recipe you’d like to see featured, please email me.

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1. So what do Scandinavian women eat?

2. Great post on artificial sweeteners and why you should avoid them (this also happens to be the subject of my thesis work).

3. Dietary advice for the gluttony season. 

4. New research says that healthy obese is a myth. This is a subject I’ve always been very interested in, and I’m quite surprised by this. I’ll have to dive deeper into the research before I really know what to think.

5. Do our eating habits start in the womb?

Recipe tip! Joy talks us through measuring flour in cups vs on a scale.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013

kale and butternut squash salad

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roasted kale and butternut squash salad // the muffin myth

Yesterday morning I was enjoying a champion breakfast of tea, cold pizza, and a backlog of low-quality advent calendar chocolates, when it occurred to me how unbelievably close to Christmas we are.

Between a run of epic thanksgiving dinners thrown by my American expat friends, the company Christmas party, festive drinks happenings, and holiday potlucks, I’ve been well immersed in holiday eating (and drinking) for a few weeks now.

roasted kale and butternut squash salad // the muffin myth

I have two policies regarding holiday eating. The first is that I try to eat as healthy as possible as often as possible in between the parties and the dinners. The second is that I refuse to beat myself up about it. So you had a couple of rum and eggnogs. So what? The holidays are a finite period and it’s not like you eat and drink like this all the time. Right?

I try to eat as healthy as possible about 80% of the time and indulge in treats about 20% of the time. This time of year just happens to be tipped more to that 20%. But I do believe in balance, so when I’m not eating brown sugar shortbread, I’m cramming in as many kale salads as I can.

roasted kale and butternut squash salad // the muffin myth

This kale salad is a meal in its self. Kale, lightly steamed, is tossed with roasted butternut squash and a tangy dijon vinaigrette. I added some chickpeas and a handful of wheatberries in order to make it into something more substantial, but you can leave them out for a lighter salad if you prefer. Topped with some toasted squash seeds (you know, the ones you scraped out of the middle of that squash) and a crumble of salty feta, this is one excellent meal. It’s a great breather between holiday meals, or, I dare say, good enough to serve on your holiday table. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

roasted kale and butternut squash salad // the muffin myth

One year ago: Five Minute Feel Better Miso Vegetable Soup
Two years ago: Gingersnaps
Three years ago: Poached Eggs on Crispy Polenta and Tomato Fennel Quinoa Soup

Kale and Butternut Squash Salad Recipe:

Print Recipe

Cooking the wheat berries and roasting the butternut squash are the things that make this recipe time consuming. If you’ve done that in advance the salad will come together in a flash. I like to keep cooked whole grains in my freezer in 1 cup portions for exactly this reason.

Serves 4-6 as a main.

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1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 bunch kale (400g / 5 cups) washed and de-stemmed
1 cup cooked wheatberries
1 cup cooked chickpeas
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper
crumbled feta, toasted squash seeds for serving (optional)

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Preheat your oven to 200C / 400F.

In a large bowl, toss the cubed squash with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, and a little salt and pepper. Spread the squash out in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the oven to roast for about 15 minutes. The squash should be tender, but not mushy.

While the squash is roasting, get the kale ready. De-stem and roughly chop it, then place it into a large pot with a small amount of water. Place over high heat, covered, and steam for 2-3 minutes. The kale should be bright green and slightly wilted. Drain the water from the pot, and set the kale aside to cool slightly. You may need to squeeze excess moisture from it before adding to the salad.

Whisk the remaining olive oil together with the balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard to make the dressing.

To assemble the salad place the cooled kale into a large bowl with the roasted squash, chickpeas, and wheatberries. Pour the dressing over the top, and toss well. Top with toasted squash seeds or crumbled feta if desired.

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Kale is a nutritional powerhouse! It is extraordinarily rich in micronutrients, dietary fiber, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, and cancer fighting glucosinolates. Kale is a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, and contains nearly twice the vitamin K (essential for blood clotting and also an important anti-inflammatory agent) than any other cruciferous vegetable (broccoli, cabbage, etc).  Iron, magnesium, vitamin E, folate, and phosphorous are among the complement of vital minerals found in kale. The dietary fiber in kale is known to reduce blood cholesterol levels. One recent study showed that this benefit may be improved by lightly steaming kale for about 5 minutes before consuming.

Winter squash are rich in carotenoids, a precursor to vitamin A, and are a good source of vitamin C. It is also a very good source of dietary fiber. The seeds, when consumed in moderation, are a great source of healthy oils including linoleic acid (polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid (the same monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil).

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013

what’s good around the web!

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sunset // the muffin myth

We’ve been getting some glorious sunsets lately in Stockholm. The sun is now setting in the 2′s, and the skies have been blazing out the office window. Last week with this sky over half of the office was snapping pictures of this sky. Amazing!

What’s good around the web is a weekly series where I share some of what I’ve been reading around the web. Each week I post links to five nutrition related articles, good recipes, and just general good reads. I hope you enjoy it! If you’ve got at article or recipe you’d like to see featured, please email me.

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1. Nuts for the win!

2. Do I need a sports drink?

3. Interesting words on the “detox dilemma”

4. The microbiome and the future of artisanal gastronomy.

5. Big Soda double crosses Michelle Obama’s Drink Up Water program. 

Recipe I’d like to try: Antonia’s Chickpea-Coconut Curry. Yum!

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013

lemony roasted cauliflower

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cauliflower roasted whole with lemon and capers

Does anyone else feel like time has been speeding up lately? The weeks seem to be whipping by at breakneck speed. We’re now well into the Circle of Darkness – the period from mid-November till mid-January – where things are dark all the time here. All. The. Dang. Time.

Perhaps one explanation for my sped up sense of time is the many days this month that have seen me staying at the office until the wee hours of the morning. That, coupled with moving into the next stage of my thesis work (progress, yay!) has meant this little space has been sadly neglected.

whole cauliflower roasted with lemon and capers

I’ve been working hard to eat healthy through this madness, though if you follow me on instagram you’ll know I haven’t always been successful. They key to healthy eating during busy times is two-fold. First, plan ahead. This can be tough, but the payoff is worth the effort. Just last night I got home late, exhausted, and starving to an empty house, and the only thing that saved me from eating a frozen pizza for dinner was that I was a) too tired to walk across the street to buy one, and b) I found some healthy soup in the freezer. Thank god for the freezer. Second, have an arsenal of quick and easy healthy recipes you can bang out effortlessly.

whole cauliflower roasted with lemon and capers

This lemony roasted cauliflower is so simple you could *almost* pull it off with your eyes closed. Yet it’s fancy enough to serve to your mother-in-law. And it takes so little effort that even when you’re tired and hungry, it’s no problem to throw into the oven. Got a big crowd? No problem, just put a few cauliflowers into a big roasting pan and get it done! And the best part? The leftovers taste awesome, even if you’re eating them cold while standing in your bike gear in front of an open fridge.

What?

whole roasted cauliflower with lemon and capers

A whole roasted cauliflower is probably one of the most versatile dishes you can make. It’s like a sponge for different flavours. I really like the simplicity of this lemon roasted version, sprinkled before serving with some salty capers and crunchy pumpkin seeds for contrast. Want to do something else with cauliflower? How about this delish spicy cauliflower steak?

whole roasted cauliflower with lemon and capers

One year ago: Grated Apple and Yoghurt Breakfast Bowl and Naturally Sweetened Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Smoothie
Two years ago: Pannkakor (Swedish Pancakes) and Spicy Red Lentil Soup
Three years ago: No Sugar Banana Bran Muffins (best ever!) and Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding 

Lemony Roasted Cauliflower Recipe:

Print Recipe 

Like I said, play with this recipe as you will to make it yours. This is my favourite way to make it, but I can imagine all kinds of delicious variations. A sprinkle of red pepper flakes? A dash of cumin? Yum! Also remember, roasting times will vary depending on your oven and the size of your cauliflower.

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1 head cauliflower
1 lemon
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
capers and pumpkin seeds to serve

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Preheat your oven to 200°C / 400°F. Rub a small amount of olive oil on the bottom of a pie plate or other oven-proof baking dish.

Wash your cauliflower and trim the leaves from the outside. Dry it well. Rub the cauliflower with the olive oil and place it in the baking dish. Drizzle the juice of 1/2 of the lemon over the top, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set in the oven and roast for 20-30 minutes, until the outside of the cauliflower is golden brown and the inside is tender (check by inserting a knife into the deepest part). If your oven has a convection setting, this is a good place to use it.

Remove the cauliflower from the oven and drizzle the remaining lemon juice over top. Scatter with capers and pumpkin seeds, then slice into thick wedges. Serve hot, or enjoy later.

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Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, in the same family as broccoli, kale, and cabbage, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits. Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. It is a great source of vitamin B5, potassium, dietary fiber, and a good source of protein, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins B1-3, and iron.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013

what’s good around the web!

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I miss being a tree // the muffin myth

You guys, I tried SO HARD to get a recipe posted this week. Clearly it didn’t happen. And I thought I could get it done today, but the few hours I had to pop into the office turned into 9 hours and the early Sunday dinner I had planned with my fella turned into pizza at the office. So, I hope you’ll forgive another week without a recipe, but I promise you’ll get one really soon! And in the mean time, so interesting food, nutrition, and health reads, and a tasty link.

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1. I wasn’t sure where I was at on the whole Lululemon ‘thigh gap’ scandal, but this article puts it into perspective nicely.

2. New research out of the University of Toronto suggests that ‘healthy’ vegetable oils may in fact increase the risk of heart disease.

3. Here are 18 things that everyone should start making time for again.

4. I’ve got a schedule packed with holiday dinners that started last weekend and keep on going all the way through Christmas. Here’s some good tips for eating as healthy as possible as we slide into the holiday season.

5. How to talk to your daughter about her body. Wise words.

Also, Erika teaches us cupcake mixology. Like, woah.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013

what’s good around the web!

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jack on the muffin myth

Last week we had the good luck to be hosting one of our favourite ever guys while his folks were away. I had some really long days at the office so snuck him to work with me late at night. Some of us were happier being at the office so late than others.

What’s good around the web is a weekly series where I share some of what I’ve been reading around the web. Each week I’ll be posting links to five nutrition related articles, good recipes, and just general good reads. I hope you enjoy it! If you’ve got at article or recipe you’d like to see featured, please email me.

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1. Interesting article on vitamins. I have mixed feelings on vitamins and take as little as possible, though I can understand good arguments in either direction. What do you think?

2. Do you know about these winter diet secrets?

3. More on the health benefits of wine? Yes please!

4. Protein rich breakfast helps to curb appetite through the morning – this is why I’ve been packing hard boiled eggs to work.

5. Gluten takes a beating from fad diets and grain giants.

Recipe I want to try: this Cashew Butter Granola from London Bakes

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013

pumpkin seed butter

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pumpkin seed butter // the muffin myth A few months ago, when it was still lovely and warm and light outside, we had some massive roadwork happen just outside our apartment. It was a bit of a mess, but really, because we drive bicycles rather than cars, we were largely unaffected. We also knew, because this work was happening one block at a time and we’d seen it happen down the street, that once it was all said and done we’d be getting trees on our street.

pumpkin seed butter // the muffin myth

The roadwork finished up, and big holes were made for the trees and their roots. We figured they would go in right away, it being the end of July and there being plenty of warmth and light to go around, but time kept ticking by. Eventually we figured they must be waiting until spring rolled around to plant the new trees, a sensible decision given the winters we have here. So you can imagine my surprise when I woke up yesterday morning, half way through my least favourite month of the year, to find a newly planted ginkgo tree outside my living room window.

It seems like a terribly unseasonable decision, but I’ve been told the new trees will make it through the winter just fine.

pumpkin seed butter // the muffin myth

Not at all unseasonable is this delicious pumpkin-seed butter.

(how’s that for a segue?!)

I have a little notebook where I write recipe notes and ideas for things I want to make for the blog, and I have no idea how long ago I wrote pumpkin-seed butter in there. It’s taken me some time to get around to making this, but it won’t take me so long to do it again because it’s goooood!

Pumpkin seeds are attributed with all kinds of health benefits when consumed in moderation. They have anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties, along with being a rich source of zinc, magnesium, and protein. They have very low instances of allergic reactions, so if you’ve got someone in your family who is sensitive to nuts, this pumpkin seed butter could be a good alternative to peanut butter. If you live in a northern climate, like I do, peanuts probably don’t grow very near by, but pumpkins do! Check the source of your seeds, though, as I just read that China is one of the top producers of pumpkin seeds, and there are some very questionable agricultural and food safety practices coming out of that part of the world.

pumpkin seed butter // the muffin myth

I lightly toasted my pumpkin seeds to bring out the nutty flavours of the oil. They get cooled, then swirl around in a food processor for a while. If you find after a while, as I did, that the butter isn’t coming together like it should, you can add a few drops of a neutral flavoured oil or nut oil. I used a touch of almond oil, which I brought back from my recent trip to Palma. I also added a bit of smoked salt, which adds a subtle but delightful smokiness to the butter.

This stuff is great on crackers, on toast, basically in any application you’d normally use peanut butter. It’s fast and easy to make, and I think it would make a great homemade gift. I hope you give it a try!

Also delicious? This home made almond butter with vanilla and sea salt.

pumpkin seed butter // the muffin myth

One year ago: Roasted Kale and Sweet Potato Salad and Whole Wheat Spaghettini with Harissa Roasted Cauliflower 
Two years ago: Thursday Night Fry and Oat Bars (with apple butter!)
Three years ago: Curried Potato Chickpea Patties and Winter Market Soup

Pumpkin-Seed Butter Recipe:

Print Recipe

I gave my pumpkin seeds a light toasting to bring out the flavour, and it did it stove top because I was multi-tasking and wanted to keep a good eye on them. Using the oven is fine as well, the important thing is to keep the temperature low - 160-170F / 75C – for no more than 20 minutes to avoid damaging the unsaturated fats while bringing out the nutty flavour of the oils. You can, of course, leave the seeds raw if you like.

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2 cups / 350g raw pumpkin seeds
1-2 tsp neutral flavoured vegetable or nut oil, if needed
1-2 tsp coarse salt, kosher, sea, or smoked if you have it

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Start by toasting your seeds. Use a dry frying pan (no oil!) over medium heat, stirring occasionally so they don’t burn. Toast for around 15 minutes, until you see the seeds browning slightly and smell the nutty oils. Or, toast in the oven with the seeds spread out on a baking sheet, stirring occasionally. See headnote regarding the temperature. Allow the seeds to cool slightly.

Transfer the seeds into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse it a few times, then start running continuously. You’ll need to stop and scrape the sides and bottom every once in a while. At around the 5 minute mark the seeds should have gone from crumbly into a bit of a paste. Keep running and scraping until it loosens up and becomes a smooth butter. If it is still quite stiff, as mine was, add a bit of oil a half teaspoon at a time until it has reached the right consistency. Add the salt, 1 tsp at a time, and tasting between each addition.

Scrape the pumpkin-seed butter into a clean jar. You can store in the cupboard (2 weeks) or in the refrigerator (2 months).

MM_Know_Icon_FINALPumpkin seeds are a very good source of phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese, which. They are also a good source of other minerals including zinc, copper, and iron. Additionally, pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein. Pumpkin seeds have long been valued for their anti-microbial benefits, including their anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. Research points to the role of unique proteins in pumpkin seeds as the source of many antimicrobial benefits.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2013

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