Strong Bones = Poppy Seeds + Cream

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I find the best cakes to be just plain simple and bare-bones. No bells and whistles, nor frills nor froufrou. I want to celebrate the uniqueness of those few flavor agents that come with their own kicks. This fluffy loaf covers itself with the perfect slightly crunchy crust, yet stays true to keeping its poppy seed notes above all other competing flavors. The poppy seeds do not add much texture to the cake, so that the soft and crumbly true-cake qualities still greet you at every bite.

If you slice the cake into 12 pieces, then each piece contains 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds. Each cake serving contains enough calcium from the poppy seeds—about 5 percent of your daily recommended value—phosphorus, and copper to give you the right minerals to help with bone strength.  Along with another calcium-packed ingredient, this cake will be great as a sweet treat to strengthen your bones. So poppy seeds, meet whipping cream. This type of cream is a significant source of calcium. 1 tablespoon of whipping cream has about 1 percent of your daily recommended value. Bake this cake soon if you’ve got a bone to pick with the nutrition content of your desserts, and want to make them bone-friendly!

Poppy Seed Head

Poppy Seeds

Poppy Seed Pound Cake

modified from “Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Plum Pluot Compote.” Gourmet Magazine. September 2009.

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened*
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream, at room temperature

*Optional: replace 1/2 stick butter with 3/4 cup of whole flax meal for extra fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and an added nuttier taste to your cake.

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan.
  2. Whisk together flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In the bowl of stand mixer or another large bowl, add butter and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with whipping cream, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just incorporated.
  4. Spoon batter into loaf pan, smoothing top.
  5. Bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out with crumbs adhering, about 1 hour. Cool in pan 30 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert cake onto a rack. Cool completely, right side up.

Serve warm temperature, or warm with fresh butter, vanilla ice cream, or Plum Compote. Bon ap, to strong bones!

Photos courtesy of Flickr members: Auntie P; “Poppy Seed Head.” Caribooooou; “Poppy seeds.”

Strong Bones = Sunflower Seeds + Coconut

Halva BrandLooking for just a little bit of sweetness? Just a few bites at the end of the meal to satisfy the need that your sweet taste bud receptors keep sending your brain? I had vegetables, meat, bread, cheese… now, just a little sugary something! Don’t worry, I found a great fix for you (and me)!

I remember living in France with a family of farmers and herders, and they often served dessert after lunch. I was not used to this cultural culinary routine, but I asked for something light, as I didn’t want to feel weighed down for the rest of the day’s work. I have to go bail the hay and weed the fields—I just want a candied or honeyed spoonful from someone’s plate, really. Soon enough, though, they fed me halva, the sesame seed spread that is sweet and crumbly but chewy at the same time. I love it! What a discovery! Everyday, I would want to slice it in the tub like fudge, place it on my plate like a delicate piece of white cake, and eat it bit by bit, savoring the dry creaminess (if that exists), like a graham cracker crust for a pie. Now that I’m in the States and trying to eat healthy while having a 9-5, I should make my own! It’s easy to pack for lunch or eat as a small dessert after dinner before the nightly trip to the gym.

A found a gluten-free recipe in the Simply Gluten Free magazine, which is also online at Lexie’s Kitchen. She writes that her recipe is like a peanut butter spread, but after making the recipe, I found my version to be a lot more crumbly; it’s not a spread, but still a very healthy topping. The main ingredient is shredded coconut, which is rich with calcium and magnesium. If you remember from grade school, your bones store calcium. We need to keep up our calcium intake if our bones are to retain enough for itself and the rest of the body’s functions. Magnesium works in tandem with calcium in the bones, acting as a crucial force in building up mineral density levels. Let’s have a diet full of calcium and magnesium, so that our bones are healthy and strong! Sunflower seeds are another source for magnesium and other minerals that our bones cherish. So coconut, meet sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds are completely and utterly moonstruck by coconut’s high calcium content, ready to unite and task our bones with building up their mineral reserves!

The base for Lexie’s Kitchen’s spread also has sunflower seeds, so I ended up following her recipe verbatim with a little less sugar to get my crumbly topping-like snack. Here’s what to do:

Coconut Halva 

Modified from “Peanut-Free ‘Almost Like Peanut Butter’ Sunflower Coconut Nut Butter Spread”

  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp superfine or granulated sugar
  • 2 cups finely shredded desiccated coconut, unsweetened
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Toasted Coconut

  1. In a frying pan, toast sunflower seeds over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the majority of seeds are golden in color. Remove from heat and transfer to blender or food processor.
  2. Add sugar to sunflower seeds. Set aside.
  3. Add desiccated coconut to frying pan. Over medium heat warm coconut flakes until heated through and some of the shreds are golden in color. Stir constantly! Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Blend sunflower seeds until a fine powder forms.
  5. Add coconut oil and blend again, pausing to scrape sides as needed.
  6. Add 1/3 of the toasted coconut. Blend for about 15 seconds, pausing to scrape sides as needed.
  7. Repeat step six, adding half of the remaining toasted coconut. Then repeat with the last of the toasted coconut.
  8. Once all coconut has been incorporated, add salt and blend to achieve desired smoothness, about one minute more.

Sunflower Field

Since a diverse diet helps the body find a positive nutritious balance, I suggest storing the Coconut Halva in the fridge so that it can last for at least a week or two. Serve on rice crackers or on fruit to stick with gluten-free a dish, or spoon onto bread (as I do for a taste of France!), rice puddings, ice cream, oatmeal, or just right into your mouth! For the locavore, sprinkling over Ginger Boiled Pears from Daily In-a Kitchen makes for a lovely, fragrant dessert! Bon ap, to strong bones!

Photo courtesy of Flickr member AndyH68; “Sunflowers 1, Languedoc”