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Artichoke & Sunflower Spread

Today's post is dedicated to new friends and old, those who support us through all the tough times in life. Those who believe in us, and see something in us that makes them want to hang with us (or just eat our delicious food, I am totally fine with either or both). Friendships are special, as folks are busy and time is tight.

This recipe was recently inspired by the creamy texture of canned artichoke hearts. Blended together with a few winners like the protein-loaded sunflower seed and made rich & sophisticated by the addition of roasted pepper, this spread is dressed to impress - it can be made totally vegan as the cheese is optional - and is full of delicious and healthy ingredients!

Artichoke & Sunflower Spread

(1) cup raw sunflower seeds
(2/3) cup olive oil
(1) clove garlic
(1) tsp salt
(1) tbsp fresh thyme
(1/2) bunch chives (about 2 tbsp)
(1) red pepper, roasted, charred and peeled
(4) tbsp fresh lemon juice
(1) 398 ml can un-marinated artichoke hearts (5 each)
(1/4) cup good parmesan cheese (totally optional!)

    Begin by roasting the red pepper - this is so easy and fun! Turn the oven on to broil and prepare the pepper by washing it and slicing it in half (no need to do anything else!). Without any oil, add the pepper halves, seed side down, to a flat cookie sheet and pop into the hot oven, on the second rack from the top. The pepper will start to char in the skin after 10 minutes or so - keep roasting under the broiler for 25 minutes or so until the skin is black and has popped off the flesh. Your pepper should begin to smell wonderful too at the finish of this process - enjoy! Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cool, remove the skins, the top, and the seeds with your hands. They will just fall off easily as the pepper will be well cooked and ready to use!

    Next, toast (or roast) about a 1/3 of the sunflower seeds either in the warm oven for a few minutes or in a dry skillet on the stove top. Add the remaining raw seeds to your blender along with the lemon juice, chives, thyme leaves, garlic, and the roasted pepper flesh. Drain the artichokes and save the liquid from the can. Add artichokes to the blender along with the oil, salt, and optional cheese. Once the seeds are toasted perfectly, add them (still warm) to the mixture. Blend all on a pulsing blend and stop here and there to agitate the mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon. Do not do what I do and put it in while it runs! Ooooops! Blend until thick and well incorporated, using additional artichoke water if you need to facilitate better blending. Transfer to your favourite container (this recipe makes a generous amount) and refrigerate. This will keep at least 5 days in the fridge and makes a generous portion!

    Enjoy this yummy spread as a base for your next sandwich, as a dip for your next celery snack attack, or to start an evening or gathering with friends and family off on the right foot! We enjoyed this week with a bit of broiled toast - just drizzle a few pieces of old toast with olive oil and pop under the broiler until brown. Another great way to jazz up stale bread! However, you choose to enjoy it, do it well, do it with friends or loved ones, and enjoy!

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