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Have fun with sunflowers

Tiny sunflower seeds can perk up autumn and winter recipes in a big way.
Here are two treats-one sweet, one savory-that will have guests reaching for more: Chewy Sunflower Cookies and Sunflower Cheese Balls.

Sunflower cookies and cheeseballs

Tiny sunflower seeds can perk up autumn and winter recipes in a big way. I am a longtime fan of this American original and often add kernels to my salads and cereal. Sunflower kernels offer a uniquely mild and versatile flavor. They are a healthy addition to many snacks. American Indians used the plant, a native species to North America, as a high-energy food source. We can do the same today.

There are two types of sunflowers: oilseed and nonoilseed. Oilseeds are small black seeds high in oil content that are processed into sunflower oil and meal, and sold as bird food. Non-oilseed (confectionery sunflowers) are a larger black-and-white striped seed used in a variety of food products from snacks to bread.

Promote the goods

Several recipes from the National Sunflower Association (NSA) are featured here. NSA was organized in 1975 to promote the sunflower industry.

Demand for sunflower oil and seed continues to grow, says NSA. Sunflower oil is now the choice of many food processors as they eliminate trans fats. Both the oil and seeds are recognized for their nutrition profile.

For more recipes and information on the benefits of sunflower seeds and oil, visit www.sunflowernsa.com

Chewy Sunflower Cookies

Prep: 30 minutes Bake: 12 minutes/batch Stand: 1 minute Oven: 350° F.

  • cups all-purpose flour

  • teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup sunflower margarine (2 sticks)

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 2 cups regular rolled oats

  • 1 cup flake coconut

  • 1 cup dry roasted salted sunflower kernels

Step 1: In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set flour mixture aside.
Step 2: In a large mixing bowl beat margarine, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.
Step 3: Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in the flour mixture. Stir in oats, coconut, and sunflower kernels.
Step 4: Drop dough by slightly rounded tablespoons 3 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake in a 350° F. oven about 12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Cool on the cookie sheet for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. Makes about 48 cookies.

Nutrition facts per cookie: 123 calories, 6 g fat, 9 mg cholesterol, 93 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 2 g protein.

Sunflower Cheese Balls

Prep: 25 minutes Stand: 30 minutes
Chill: 30 minutes + 2 hours

  • 4 ounces Muenster cheese, shredded

  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce cream cheese

  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 2/3 cup dry roasted salted sunflower kernels

  • Sweet pepper strips, whole wheat crackers, and/or breadsticks

Step 1: Let cheese stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. In a food processor or mixing bowl, combine the two cheeses, process or beat with an electric mixer until blended. Beat in Worcestershire sauce, paprika, and cayenne pepper.
Step 2: Refrigerate cheese mixture, covered, for at least 30 minutes. Shape into 25 balls. Roll in sunflower kernels. Refrigerate cheese balls, covered, for at least 2 hours. Serve with pepper strips, whole wheat crackers, or breadsticks. Makes 25 cheese balls.

Nutrition facts per cheese ball: 53 calories, 5 g fat, 9 mg cholesterol, 57 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 2 g protein.

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