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”