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On (Not) Eating in Restaurants, Videos and Virtual Friendships

[My cookbook, Sweet Freedom, will be on sale until mid-August! For more information or to order, click here. :)]


[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.

[My remake of a favorite salad at a local haunt: Insalata Roma, with mesclun mix, roasted red peppers, walnuts and “goat cheese“]

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)

Chocolate Cups:

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. 

This recipe has been submitted to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays over at Amy’s blog, Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.

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 Diet, Dessert and Dogs


40 comments to On (Not) Eating in Restaurants, Videos and Virtual Friendships

  • oh goodness, that last photo is killing me. Must raid the pantry now for chocolate.


  • Mo

    I completely agree, when it comes to blog buddies. People can fall in love on the internet (it’s happened; I used to post on IMDb [movie website] and met several people who met the person they were either married/engaged to or living with on the site) so surely people can become friends. I think it’s easier to find a friend through things like food blogging or specialized sites for things like movies, gardening, et cetera, because then the people you meet already have the same interests in you, which gives you common ground. Not everyone’s a foodie in real life, but when you’re surrounded by foodies online you’re bound to make some friends. 🙂

    The sunbutter cups look to die for… Craving chocolate really bad now haha. Oh, and congrats on the tv spot!


  • I know just what you mean about blog buddies. I’m even embarrassed when I try to explain it to people, who look at me suspiciously as I describe someone as a blog buddy. Well one of those buddies (actually my friend Claire’s blog buddy) is now a real-life friend since I’ve moved to her part of the country.

    I saw your TV clip and it was excellent. I even showed it to my husband, and he was suitably impressed. So much so that he made the walnut burgers for dinner!


  • Those sunflower cups look really good!

    And I love eating out in restaurants! I can’t believe your family only went once a year! That would have killed me as a kid!


  • Those little pieces of delight would *so* not last up to one week in my house! I can’t wait to give them a try!

    Meeting up with online friends is so much fun! I’ve done it several times, and many of them became real life friends. I only wish I could see them more often…

    Thank you for the tip about that new restaurant in Toronto. I have no clue when I’ll get to go again, but it’ll be on my list of places to visit.


  • what a great alternative to peanut butter – and sounds like you have been having a great week – if you get your clip onto youtube I will check it out for sure – funny all the little ways we bloggers get a sense of each other without meeting – but I do hope that one of these days our paths might meet in the real world as well as virtually


  • You are so innovative Ricki, you continue to astound me and yes, I so know that look. Get it a lot, although my hubby is more accepting than my friends and collegues. Now they do give me the look. Love your Israeli salad.


  • What a great post! So much to think about.

    My local friends are very wary of my blog friends as well. I love your description of feeling as though you are talking about imaginary playmates. Perfect description of my friends reaction. My hubby now understands but others don’t. Many of my blog friends have been a better support system during the cancer treatment than my local friends. Need I say more?

    Your sunbutter cups look wonderful. I make something similar for Dan with cinnamon walnut butter when he wants a sweet treat. Though mine are not ACD friendly like yours. 😉

    Congrats on your TV appearances! I am off to see if I can find the clip.

    I hope you have wonderful Wednesday,


  • It’s definitely hard for non-bloggers to comprehend blog friendships — to be honest, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around them before I started blogging, too! But as soon as one has a blog and enters the community, it all seems quite natural. And fun — how grateful I am for my blogging friends!!


  • It is great meeting with fellow online bloggers/friends in person. The Kale Eatery sounds wonderful–in Toronto? I’ll give that a try next time I’m in town (after I make a beeline for Live..love that place!). Sunflower butter chocolates? Oh! Congrats on your tv appearance!


  • I want a blog buddy!!! 😀 lol [for real!]

    can’t wait to try this recipe with the wife this weekend


  • Lisa,
    I hear you on the chocolate. These babies were great, but I went a bit overboard. . . time for a break, I think! 😉

    Absolutely, I’ve heard of marriages resulting from online connections as well. And thanks for the congrats–it was so much fun!

    How lucky for you to be close enough that you became off-line friends, too! And thanks so much for the kind words re: the video. How did you like the burgers? (Actually, they are the same recipe as my easy sausage patties–needed something quick in case I had to demo on screen!) 🙂

    Thanks! I’m sure that’s why I love restaurants so much now, in fact. Even with my ACD, the HH and I tend to eat dinner out once a week now (though I must admit I AM getting a little tired of salad and hummus) 😉

    I know what you mean–once you do get together, you have so much fun you want to do it more often! And, um, did I say that the cups lasted a week in this house? 😉

    I should have the clip up by the end of the weekend (provided I remember how to use the camera, of course). And I do hope we get to meet in person one day as well! Still saving my pennies for a trip one day. 🙂

    Thanks so much. Well, good that your hubby is on board, now, anyway! 🙂

    Vegan Epicurean,
    I guess that support is wonderful however one can find it, right? And your walnut-cinnamon cups sound heavenly. I tried another version with my walnut-carob butter, but it was too runny and wouldn’t firm up into disks (I suppose if I filled the cups the old fashioned–non-lazy–way, I could have made it work, but didn’t want to have to fuss with melted chocolate that much!) 😉

    I bet that’s true in so many cases. I had no preconceptions because I knew so little about blogging before I started–could never have imagined it would be as fulfilling as it is.

    Yes, Kale is in Toronto, on Yonge Street just north of Eglinton. And thanks for the congrats! 😀

    Thanks so much for your comment, and for reading! I don’t know how long you’ve been blogging, but it will happen in time–inevitable. 🙂 And hope you enjoy the cups!


  • Agreed on the online friends thing. In some ways I can be closer to online/blog friends because I’m very shy in “real life,” so I find it hard to speak in groups. It’s easier to type!

    I’m never able to find unsweetened sunflower butter around here. I’ve tried to make it before without much success (though I’ve had some luck with nut butters). Have you ever managed to make it yourself? ‘Cause I’d really love to try these!


  • Oh my gosh, those look so good! Just like Reese!


  • Jes

    What wonderful firsts! It’s so fun to meet a fellow blogger & how amazing to have found an ACD-friendly restaurant!! And those chocolate cups look so so so good–I’m seriously craving them now.


  • My stepmom found out earlier this year that she is allergic to chocolate and yeast. It actually made me think of you are your food restrictions, and wondered if maybe she has the same condition. At any rate, she could definitely eat these, so I’m excited to make them for her!


  • Hi Ricki,

    I appreciate the kind shout-out. I still can’t believe we bumped into that restaurant–talk about fate. I’d rather eat at Kale than a breakfast-all-day place.

    Thanks for your kind friendship and keeping in touch over the years. Now I can refer to you as my real life buddy too.


  • Thanks for the review of Kale restaurant! Given my undying affection for its namesake, I must get myself over there soon.

    And congrats on the Canada AM appearance. I’m going to look for the vid.

    As for blogging friends… I’ve only been food blogging for a few months but it’s amazing how many friendships have already developed. I’m so grateful for foodie friends!


  • You did it! Congrats on the TV appearance. I’d love to see the clip 🙂


  • Congrats on the Canada AM appearance!! that is so exciting 🙂 blog friends are great! we find each other based on our passions, so it makes sense 😉 i need to make some of these cups… asap!


  • Courtney

    Ricki! Congrats on the morning show–how cool is that?!? I wish I could have seen it. If you are able to put it up on Youtube, do let us know! I am sure you did wonderfully 🙂



  • Hi Just found you this morning! Your post really resonated for me. I have been living an alkaline lifestyle diet for almost 2 yrs now (and loving it) so eating out is a treat but can be tricky but it’s always doable. As for the blogger friend world and glazed over eyes from spouses & friends, yup! But I am so excited to be attending the Food Blogger Connect in London, England next weekend to meet a few of my favourite food bloggers and learn from some of the really seasoned ones, Yeh! The link is here if you are at all interested in the conference http://www.foodbloggerconnect.com/ Thanx for your comforting thoughts today! and your recipes look divine!


  • Oh and forgot to say big congrats on the appearance on the morning show- that’s amazing girl!


  • Hey, Congratulations Ricki! (on all three firsts, but primarily I mean the spot on Canada AM! How friggin’ cool!)

    Totally feel you (and everyone else who agrees) on the blog friendies. I think it is a rather charming way to meet people… 😀

    …And congrats on making the most delectable looking candies that I have seen in a good long time. Yum!


  • congrats on the interview! and the sun-cups look amazing!
    and yes, i’m with you, bloggy friends are real friends.


  • Leah,
    I know what you mean–I am actually shy in “real life,” too! For this recipe, I did make my own sunflower seed butter. I made it the same way as nut butter, in the food processor. Just process the seeds for a LONG time, scraping the sides down occasionally, until smooth. It takes patience, though. And if it’s really too thick, add about 1 Tbsp (15 ml) coconut oil per 1 cup (240 ml) of seeds, which will help it to soften up sooner.

    Thanks so much! Glad you like them. 🙂

    Yes, it was a pretty darned good week. 🙂

    Ordinary Vegetarian,
    Glad the recipes are useful! But note that these cups do contain chocolate. You could use carob chips, though, as an alternative.

    I agree about the Kale vs all-day breakfasts! And so nice to be able to remember the real life meeting when I think of you now. 🙂

    Thanks so much! And glad to hear that your own blogging experience has been so gratifying. 😀

    Thanks so much! I found the clip and have added it to the press page. 😀

    Yes, I agree–blogging is kind of a way of narrowing down the options when meeting new friends, so it’s no wonder we gravitate toward each other.

    Aw, thanks so much! You can see it on my Press page. 😀

    Thanks so much, and for your kind words! And lucky you to be attending the conference. Congrats! Have a fabulous time. 🙂

    Thanks so much! I had so much fun. 🙂 The candies were pretty darned good, too. 😉

    Glad to hear it, from one blog buddy to another 😉


  • your post contains so much fantasticalness i don’t know where to start, Ricki! getting to meet Amanda (i’m gonna have to check out her blog) and enjoy a delicious meal in an all vegan restaurant with ACD-frindly food AND your Canada AM appearance is THE BEST! i would love to see your clip if ya find it – w00t!

    my grandfather on my dad’s side was never a fan of going out for dinner either. while he wasn’t a butcher nor did he grow up on a farm, his parents and my grandmother made everything from scratch as well – he also had 6 kids of his own, so going out with the family was quite the event. growing up my mom made dinner almost every night (every other saturday was pizza night though) although we did go out to dinner about once a month. for me, going out these days is a mixed bag. it’s nice to have someone cook for you (and that you don’t have to do the dishes either!), but so often the vegan options are kinda “eh” and something i could just as easily make at home. there are some places around here dan and i enjoy though – i’d say we dine out about once a week. once a year for you growing up – wow! it makes sense though – and think of all the money saved, too!

    your Israeli salad is so colorful – i love the sprouted lentils – they’re so cute! i still need to get off my butt and make some nut cheeze some day, and the sunbutter cups – oh my!!!!! they wouldn’t last an hour in our home. ah ha ha!


  • Congrats on your TV appearance! And on finding a vegan restaurant that was so enjoyable. 🙂 It is a definitely a challenge to find an vegan food that is as good as homemade here in Nashville. Only a couple have any dishes that are “designed” without animal products.

    Thanks for this addictive-looking recipe for nut butter cups!


  • Jessy,
    Can I just tell you how much I love reading your comments? Your positive energy and enthusiasm never fail to bring a smile to my face. Thank you so much! I loved hearing about your grandfather and your own restaurant experiences, too. I know what you mean about the food not living up to what you could do at home! And you really should try the nut cheese; it’s totally delicious. 🙂

    Thanks so much! I hadn’t thought of the restaurants that way, but it’s true–if all you get is food made for meat eaters with the meat removed, it’s not exactly delectable. Then again, the sunbutter cups are! 😉


  • Ricki – I have a question about stevia and unsweetened chocolate. Everytime I try to mix them it tastes awful. The stevia has a strong after taste that even I can’t stand. I use a great brand of stevia that isn’t bitter but for some reason this happens every time.

    I use stevia all of the time in other dishes and even baked goods. Seriously could use your help on this one.


  • Oh boo I missed you on Canada AM!! 🙁 Sounds like an amazing meetup with your blog friend! How nice you were able to meet in person. And even better that they inspired these sunbutter cups! I love that you made “crunchy” sunflower seed butter.


  • Katheirne

    Have you ever tried the sweetener xylitol? I just got some, and although my hopes were high, I wasn’t expecting it to taste *just* like sugar (even by itself). It’s quite good for your teeth, bones, and blood sugar, and has antifungal properties…it’s basically the exact opposite of sugar, nutritionally. And it’s allowed (even encouraged) on ACD 🙂 I’m definitely trying it in some of the desserts on your blog, and if you like I can let you know how it goes.

    Seriously, Ricki, props for putting together all these delectable-looking recipes…I can’t decide which one to try first.


  • angela

    Hi! Everything looks so good! Just wondering,is the reason the chocolate in the sunbutter cups is ok is because it’s unsweetened chocolate?i’m on day 9 of my candida cleanse so this is all still new to me..But I would LOVE to be able to make those cups!


  • Ricki, I’m in trouble now, I don’t know if I can wait for phase two. I need those chocolate cups now!! Bring on phase two, i have a feeling its going to be much more fun 😀


  • […] Sensitivity (Peanut Butter Shortbread Cookies)25. Jason@JLHealthTulsa (GF Breakfast Casserole)26. Ricki @ Diet Dessert & Dogs–Sunbutter Chocolate Cups27. Jess @ ATX Gluten-Free- Roasted Trio of […]

  • Love these chocolate cups with sun butter 🙂 Will be linking to them on Monday.


  • Sophia

    I was wondering where you bought your mold from and what brand it is? I have been looking for one similar in shape to regular peanut butter cups and yours are shaped perfectly and look amazing! Can’t wait to try your recipe, thanks for sharing! 🙂


    Ricki Reply:

    Sophia, for those cups, I just bought mettalic miniature muffin liners (the silver and gold ones you can buy in kitchen stores, or even at our local Walmart, I think). Then when the cups were dry, I peeled off the paper. 🙂 Hope you enjoy!


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