Eat Well: Sunflower Power

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, Mom!
Every January I write the same thing—that it takes me some time to jump-start myself into the New Year, especially after the joy of the whole family being home for the holidays. It’s hard to switch back into my life after being The Mom again for several weeks, even though January is one of my busiest work months.  But I think a lot of the problem is that my body feels like a truck ran over it since my normal eating habits took a vacation while pumpkin pies and gingerbread, English toffee and blueberry pancakes took over—not to mention the heavier, richer meals. For someone who eats practically no sugar, this deluge of sweet foods takes a toll on my whole being and I have to be patient with myself as I get back on track.

So…I am back to no (or as little as possible) sugar (although one of my students gave me HOME MADE cookies the other day and I just COULDN’T RESIST AHHHHHHHHH). I am also trying to cut down on white flours.  One problem with being gluten-free is that most of the gluten-free flours—and therefore the breads—aren’t whole grain.  They also have a lot of sugar in them.  But over break, Rachel introduced me to Canyon Bakehouse 7-Grain bread. I am wild about and it is made from 100% WHOLE GRAIN!!  It only has 2 grams of sugar per slice, too, which is very low for bread (the sugar is from agave and molasses, so it isn’t processed sugar).

I am a big believer in listening to your body.  It has a lot to say when we tune into it, and my body has been telling me that my customary breakfast of oat groats or steel-cut oats doesn’t feel right at the present time.  In fact, breakfast has been a real challenge for me lately.  I tried having just a piece of toast, made from my new favorite bread, but that doesn’t hold me very long when I am teaching.  And then I remembered eating David and Alyssa’s yummy nut butters on toast for breakfast at their wedding (this is Alyssa’s breakfast of choice).  And for now, sunflower butter on toast (or spread on apple slices) is my favorite breakfast.

Because sunflower seeds are high in protein and fat, a few tablespoons of the butter in the morning turns out to be the perfect energy food to start your day. The fat and protein can also help cleanse your body when you are detoxing from sugar.  Sunflower seeds are unbelievably nutritious as well as anti-inflammatory and healthy for your heart.  And they're non-allergic, so anyone who has nut allergies can indulge.

There are several manufacturers of sunflower butter out there.  Trader Joes has one, but it has added sugar, unfortunately, and isn’t organic.  I have bought several other varieties. Maranatha is delicious, but isn’t organic and has a little salt in it. The best one I have found is SunButter Sunflower Organic Spread, which is organic and has no added sugar or added salt. However, it is a lot cheaper—and more reliable—to make your own sunflower seed butter. (1 lb of organic sunflower seeds is around $2, but a 1 lb jar of organic sunflower butter is about $8.)  Because of their high fat content, sunflower seeds, if not fresh, can go rancid.  David and Alyssa buy their nuts and seeds for making butter already toasted at Trader Joes (watch out—some of these are salted). But I have found that sometimes the sunflower seeds bought this way are slightly rancid and as a “super-taster,” I abhor that flavor, so I like to buy raw organic sunflower seeds in bulk—and I always taste them before I toast them.

Making seed/nut butters is fun. Kids will love watching the seeds and/or nuts change from “sand” to a creamy butter after about 10 minutes of processing.  You can experiment around with different combinations of seed and nuts, and flavorings, and come up with your own favorite.  (This can me a fun at home cooking/science experiment for your children.) David and Alyssa make theirs with 2 cups peanuts, 2 cups almonds, 1 cup pumpkin seeds, and 1 cup sunflower seeds.  But I personally love just plain sunflower seed butter, which, if you are on a budget, is the cheapest way to go.

Sunflower Butter

- 1 lb of shelled, raw organic sunflower seeds
- Optional flavorings—1 tsp. vanilla, ½ teaspoon salt, 3 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1 tablespoon maple syrup (if sugar isn’t a concern), or a combination of any of these.


Roast sunflower seeds in a rimmed baking pan in a preheated 325˚ oven until golden brown, stirring frequently (about 15 minutes).
Check often and don’t overcook or they will turn bitter. Let cool for 10 minutes.  Pour seeds in food processor and process. 
It will first look like sand.:
Next it will clump together. 
At this point, stop frequently to redistribute in bottom of processor bowl.  Eventually, after about 10 minutes, the clump will start to even out again and the oil in the seeds will be released. 
Process until smooth and creamy. If you are adding any optional flavors, such as vanilla, maple syrup or cinnamon, add them at this point and process for another minute or two. 
Enjoy on toast, or with sliced apples, bananas, or carrot sticks. Makes 16 oz.