[A sweet treat to celebrate the firsts: sunflower butter cups–recipe below]
I hope everyone here in Canada had a great Victoria Day weekend!
It seems as if this past week has been filled with a few exciting firsts for me (hmm, that sounds rather like a post-virginal confession, somehow, doesn’t it? True, I was what you’d call a late bloomer, but even I am too old for that kind of “first.”). No, the firsts to which I refer involved a high profile TV appearance; a meetup with a fellow blogger, and happening upon a new ACD-friendly restaurant–all within three days.
First Number One (aka “First First”): Those of you who follow me on twitter already know that I appeared on Canada AM this past Thursday morning (and thanks for all the good wishes, everyone!). The show is the Canuck equivalent of Good Morning America or the Today Show in the US (it bills itself as “Canada’s most watched national morning show”) so I was beyond excited to be a guest!
I chatted about healthy eating and a few items from Sweet Freedom. It was very gratifying to see the show’s host express genuine delight (and, perhaps, surprise) after tasting some of the goodies. The clip was available last week on the Canada AM main page, but it appears it’s been usurped by more recent ones now; I’ll try to get it up on YouTube if I can.
First Number Two (“Second First”): I’m sure many of you have experienced this: you relate an anecdote about a fellow blogger, or wax enthusiastic about a food blog recipe you tried, and before you know it your husband/ significant other / friend/ relative’s eyes glaze over. Their expression combines equal parts disdain and pity. And without a sound, they arre able to communicate that, in their world, blog friendships couldn’t possibly be “real.” Like the HH, most of my friends perceive blog buddies on par with imaginary BFFs, as if I were a five year-old child recounting her vacant-chair tea party, or Jimmy Stewart in Harvey.
Now, anyone who writes or reads a blog with any regularity, anyone who has enjoyed a lively exchange of ideas in a comments queue, anyone who has shared a series of friendly emails with another blogger, or anyone who has participated in a blog exchange will know just how misguided such judgments are.
Last week, I had the unique pleasure of meeting one of my favorite “blogging buddies” in person: Amanda (of Still Life in Southeast Asia) was in Toronto and we met up for lunch. What a total delight it was to meet with her! I’ve been following Amanda’s blog ever since she lived in Buenos Aires, and have always admired her poet, evocative writing style and enchanting photographs. I learned a lot about the different places in which she’s lived (and there have been many) and vicariously enjoyed some of the local attractions through her posts.
Although we’d never set eyes on each other before that moment, we hugged each other warmly and immediately began chattering like Saturday morning regulars at the local beauty salon. To onlookers, we must have appeared like old room mates or relatives reunited. Because of our blog connection, we were able to dispense with so much of the usual introductions; and I didn’t have to explain about my dietary restrictions or the need for an ACD-friendly restaurant.
Have I mentioned before how much I love eating in restaurants? I’m guessing my predilection is partly inherited from my mom (who felt the same way), and partly as a reaction against my dad, who abhorred any food that wasn’t cooked at home. In fact, when my sisters and I were growing up, our family unit would eat in a restaurant perhaps once a year. (No, that’s not a typo: ONCE a YEAR).
Why this aversion on his part? It may have had something to do with the fact that my dad grew up on a farm and was accustomed to made-from-scratch foods. Or perhaps it was a consequence of his discovery, on an early date with my mom in Montreal’s Chinatown, of a matchstick (previously unlit) sharing space with the bean sprouts in his eggroll. Possibly, it was related to his work as a butcher, as he’d regularly share stories about local restaurants purchasing meat for daily specials from his store ; the meat was, he noted, barely a step above (and sometimes, below) dog food. In fact, I was basically forbidden from ever ordering hamburger in a restaurant.
[My version of my regular order at our local Middle Eastern resto: Israeli salad, with diced tomato, cucumber, red onion and avocado (and my addition of mixed lentil sprouts) with lemon-olive oil dressing.]
As for me, I rebelled against my father’s restaurant reluctance as soon as I was able to pay for my own food. With my forays to eating establishments decidedly restricted over the past fourteen months (fourteen months on the ACD? What kind of insanity is that?), I’ve resigned myself to meals in the same three places, over and over, with very limited choices from each menu. So I wasn’t quite sure where Amanda and I would end up. Which leads me to. . .
First Number Three (“Third First”): Almost as soon as we started walking, however, Amanda pointed to a new café (I’d never seen it before) called Kale Organic Eatery. A small, quaint and cosy spot that exuded warmth and welcome, it offered a limited but varied buffet of both cold and hot dishes. And everything on the menu was vegan–with many ACD-friendly options! Whoo-hoo! There was also a terrific selection of homemade desserts (it’s okay; I averted my eyes).
Talking almost nonstop between bites of beets, steamed greens, tamari-marinated tempeh and brown rice with nori, we breezed through two hours of animated chatter and before we knew it, I had to leave for an appointment. The company, the chat, the serendipitous restaurant find–it was a positive, energizing and fun way to spend an afternoon. Thanks so much, Amanda!
By the time I got home, I’d been thinking quite a bit about those desserts I couldn’t eat. I decided to whip up these sunbutter cups, a sugar-free, allergen free, ACD-friendly version of the classic with peanut butter. Of course, you can use whatever nut or seed butter you like, but I thought the sunflower seed butter offered a nice change of pace. The recipe is fairly small–just enough to share with a friend, whether virtual or otherwise.
Crunchy Sunbutter Chocolate Cups (ACD friendly Phase II and beyond)
Of course, you can fill these cups with whatever filling you choose; almond butter is ACD-friendly and would compliment the chocolate beautifully, as would walnut-cacao butter. I chose sunbutter so that the cups would be allergy-friendly as well–and they tasted terrific!
about 1/4 cup (60 ml) crunchy sunflower seed butter (or use 3 Tbsp/45 ml smooth butter and stir in 1 Tbsp (15 ml) coarsely ground sunflower seeds)
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
15-25 drops stevia, to taste (or use about 1 Tbsp/15 ml agave nectar)
2 oz (60 g) good quality unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) carob powder
1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut oil, preferably organic
35-45 drops chocolate, vanilla, or plain stevia liquid (to taste)
Line 4 muffin cups with paper liners. Set aside.
Prepare the filling: In a small bowl, mix together the sunflower butter, salt, vanilla and stevia to taste. Line a plate with plastic wrap and, using about 1 Tbsp (15 ml) for each, drop mounds of the mixture onto the plastic and place in the freezer until firm.
Prepare the chocolate cups: In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the chocolate, carob powder and coconut oil. Stir constantly over very low heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the stevia and stir to combine well. Using about 2 tsp of the mixture for each cup, cover the bottom of the cups with chocolate. Place the cups in the freezer until firm, about 5 minutes.
Once the sunflower butter mixture is firm, shape each mound into a flat disk that is just smaller in diameter than the bottom of each chocolate cup. Place one disk in each cup (it should almost cover the surface of the chocolate, leaving a very thin border of chocolate showing all around the disk). Then, using about 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of chocolate per cup, pour the melted chocolate over sunflower filling, allowing it to flow into the edges and cover the top, effectively effectively encasing the filling in chocolate.
Return the cups to the freezer until all the chocolate is firm. Peel off paper and enjoy. Makes 4 cups. May be stored, wrapped in plastic, in refrigerator up to one week.
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Last Year at This Time: The Ultimate Slow Food: Lupini Beans with Garlic and Olive Oil
Two Years Ago: You Say Potato Curry, I Say Aloo Masala
© 2010 Ricki Heller