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”


Antioxidants = Squash + Cloves

Stuffed Patty Pans

I’m sure I drink enough red wine to be comfortable with my antioxidant intake, but sometimes I might go through a dry spell, during which I’ll need to get my antioxidants elsewhere. Or sometimes there’s a flu going around the office, and I’m just a sitting duck, waiting for my turn to catch the cold and have 48 hours of misery. To take action, I’ll make a large, one-dish meal to add more antioxidants to my diet for a few days. Back off germs, you cannot get through this immune system!

So I’ve got Ikea meatballs in my freezer and they are simply amazing; only a few ingredients go a long way in creating this tasty treat. Meatballs don’t have to just go on pasta, though, nor do you have to douse them in a sugary sauce to incorporate them into your meal. Instead, chop up these little guys after cooking them and use them in stuffing! Brilliant! Use any meatballs or sausage meat for this recipe: Stuffed Patty Pan Saucers.

Patty pan squash is the perfect vegetable boat to take aboard handfuls of stuffing. These squashes come in a variety of colors, which are quite a site when corralled into a bin on the market tables. Their colorful skins are enriched with antioxidants, so make sure you do not shave off the skins of these beauties! Other squashes have similar properties, but I think that these spherical molds are perfect for holding stuffing (I recommend these scoops to help with pitting or hollowing out avocados, melons, or any other produce item). In order to boost up the antioxidant powers, the squash needs a sidekick in action. So patty pans, meet cloves! Cloves are one of the most healthiest spices for our bodies that are found as star ingredients in cuisines all around the world, from Indian to Greek. Clove oils are even used by medical experts to relieve pain and inflammation. Cloves can be added to both sweet and savory dishes, and add a burst of flavor when you use even just a little bit. In addition to the recipe below, sprinkle your cloves onto sauteed greens, potato bakes, Mexican hot chocolate, and more, to enjoy the benefits from cloves!

Get your oven mitts and baking sheet ready!

Finished Patty Pans

  • 1 1/2 lbs patty pan squash
  • 1/2 lb Ikea meatballs, or other beef meatballs or beef sausage
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon bacon grease
  • 1/2 tomato
  • 1/4 panko, or more if you like more of a crunch
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  1. Cook meatballs according to package instructions and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  3. Wash squash and slice in half lengthwise. Trim the bottoms of the squash halves so that the squash can sit flat without leaning or rolling around. Scoop out the insides and roughly chop up. Make sure that you scoop out enough so that there is only about a 1/4- to 1/2-inch shell of the patty pan squash; otherwise, the squash may not cook thoroughly in the oven. Place chopped up squash in a bowl, and place the squash shells onto a baking sheet.
  4. Chop onion and mince garlic. Heat bacon grease (or oil or butter substitute) in a pan over medium-low heat. Saute onion and garlic for about 7 minutes or until translucent. The point of this step is to add more flavor and depth to your stuffing.
  5. Roughly chop meatballs, and add to chopped up squash along with the onions and garlic. Chop tomato and add to mixture. Add 1/8 cup panko and the rest of the ingredients. Stir well.
  6. Fill the squash shells with the stuffing. I know you can put it all in the shells and use it all up! Push down on the stuffing and pack it in well… you got this! They’ll look so plump and beautiful!
  7. Top stuffing in shells with the rest of the panko. Put your picture-perfect baking sheet into the oven and set the timer for 40 minutes. If the shells are closer to 1/2-inch thick, add 5 more minutes to your baking time.

The smell of the cloves with beef and roasted vegetables will make your home smell oh so pleasant! Such a great recipe to have for guests as the shells can bake as you welcome your guests or as you prepare other items. Please remember your seasonal vegetables when creating this recipe, and feel free to adjust the stuffing accordingly. Bon ap, to antioxidants!

Fiber = Rainbow Chard + Chickpeas

Rainbow Chard

If you belong to a CSA—or you have a friend who belongs to one and they can’t seem to use up all the greens they keep receiving—then you’re bound to find bundles of these colorful greens: rainbow chard. These greens have a taste that is milder and gentler than other greens, so they work as an easy canvas with which to practice your creative culinary talents! They cook quicker than other greens, too, such as kale. Personally, it’s their leaves that attract me. The leaves are so dark and rich in color, and the texture so smooth, you could tear them off, mold them around your head, and you’d have a homemade swim cap to coordinate with your Perrier bottle by the pool. But if that doesn’t float your boat…

Use these beauties in my dish to give you a fiber kick. Rainbow chard is a great source for insoluble fiber, which helps move food through your digestive system. So if you’re feeling like your body needs some help processing the food you’re feeding it, allow this recipe to assist in your battle plan. First, rainbow chard meet chickpeas. Both of these ingredients have the common makeup of having a substantial amount of insoluble fiber. If you are looking for a quick side dish that packs a punch, or you’re vegetarian/vegan, then my Raging Rainbow Chard can also become a favorite, especially when the rainbow chard is coming right off the farm!

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 lbs rainbow chard
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 jalapeno
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 cup chickpeas (drained and rinsed if canned)
  1. In a large frying pan, pour in oil.
  2. Separate stems from leaves of the rainbow chard. Divide stems in half. Use one half for another use (making stock, compost, animal feed, etc.) and then slice the other half. the slices should be about the width of your pinky finger. Set aside (look at the color!).
  3. Slide leaves about the same width. Wash in your salad spinner or colander.
  4. Start getting your pan hot over medium heat.
  5. Chop onion, then mince garlic and jalapeno.
  6. Add sliced stems, onion, garlic, jalapeno, and 1/4 tsp salt. Stir for about 7 minutes. If the garlic starts to burn, turn down the heat or stir more often.
  7. Meanwhile, in another small frying pan, add pine nuts of low-medium heat. Shake the pan from time to time to roll the nuts so they don’t burn. Heat until you start to smell them toasting, before they turn black on any of their sides. Remove from heat and put pine nuts on your cutting board or in a bowl.
  8. Once the onions are translucent, start adding the rainbow chard strips, in two batches, about two minutes apart, stirring continuously. Add 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp salt.
  9. Add chickpeas. Stir for another minute. Add toasted pine nuts. Stir for another minute or until rainbow chard is wilted. Season to taste (very important!)

Chard in Pan

Finished Chard

Bon ap to fiber and a healthy digestive system! You’ll feel great!