Monday, March 3, 2014

My love letter to pumpkin seeds

Dear pumpkin seeds,

When I was little, I loved scooping you out of pumpkins, all bathed in slimy goop so I could carve a scary jack-o-lantern for Halloween. But it wasn't until I grew up that I realized how scrumptious you are! I love you roasted with olive oil, cayenne and salt or cinnamon, sugar and walnut oil. I can't resist sprinkling you on top of my veggie nachos and tucking you into my burritos.  And what would chocolate bark, laced with spicy cayenne and dotted with bits of candied orange peel be without some of you scattered across the surface?!  Not to mention my favorite granola and oatmeal recipes that often include you with your other seedy friends.  So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that you are packed with healthy perks!  Besides being a wonderful source of protein and fiber, you give me a healthy dose of zinc to support my immune system as well as magnesium. As an expectant mom who is warding off everything from leg cramps to constipation, I welcome you, oh delicious source of magnesium!! So in your honor, I've got a few new recipes to showcase your best features.

One of your biggest fans,

Sweet & Spicy Munching Mix (aka "no more leg cramps" magnesium mix)

This tasty mix is packed with nuts and seeds, all great sources of magnesium, including sunflower seeds and walnuts, which are also high in vitamin B6 (another leg cramp fighter). Plus, I included figs and dark chocolate, which also include magnesium, as well as cayenne, which reduces swelling and improves circulation (my legs and ankles are feeling hopeful!

In a large skillet on low medium/low heat, toast equal amounts of walnuts and pumpkin seeds with 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp each of cinnamon and cayenne (use spices to your taste; I use Saigon Cinnamon, which has a higher cinnamon oil content and is therefore stronger than standard cinnamon; remember that a little cayenne goes a long way!). 

After a few minutes of gentle stirring, add in a half portion of sunflower seeds and a half portion of slivered/sliced almonds. Stir frequently as you continue to toast. You should be able to smell the spices and the nuts as they toast. If they brown too quickly, turn down the heat and stir more often.  Once the mix is fragrant and a light brown color, drizzle on 3 - 6 T of maple syrup (enough to barely coat the mix) and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and sprinkle with a few pinches of kosher salt

As the mix cools, stir the mix a few time to separate clumps.  Add in a handful of chopped dried mission figs. When the mix has completely cooled, add in a handful of chopped, quality *dark chocolate (I used Callebaut).

*NOTE to my prenatal yoga friends: I added in the chocolate after class as an afterthought and it really kicked the mix up a notch!!

Enjoy as is or sprinkle on plain yogurt - delicious!

NEXT blog post: kale and red cabbage salad with pumpkin seeds!!