Mmmm Coconut!!!

Coconut Deliciousness!

I have found a new love. When I first read about coconut butter, my response was “I have never heard of it. I didn’t even know it existed!” Then I found out that it was sooo easy to make. I started researching this in the beginning of January, so not that long ago. At the time, I was experimenting with gluten/grain/dairy free baking; I was dipping my toes into baking with coconut flour using leftover coconut pulp from making coconut milk from dried unsweetened coconut flakes. Then I found myself reading up on all the amazingness of coconut!

Coconut used to be looked down upon as being bad for us. It was believed to be filled with cholesterol, but we now know that this wonderful food is actually filled with Lauric acid, which makes up about 50% of this amazing fruit.

The Coconut Research Center has this to say about coconut:

“Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is classified as a “functional food” because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. Coconut oil is of special interest because it possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Asian and Pacific populations. Pacific Islanders consider coconut oil to be the cure for all illness. The coconut palm is so highly valued by them as both a source of food and medicine that it is called “The Tree of Life.” Only recently has modern medical science unlocked the secrets to coconut’s amazing healing powers.”

So, allow me to take you on this wonderful journey that allows even you to harness the powers of coconutty goodness.

Coconut Milk

So, we will start with coconut milk. This was the first coconut product I learned. Totally simple and there are a couple of ways to do it. Fresh or Dried.

With a fresh coconut, you of course have to drain the coconut water, open the coconut, and de-meat the shell: Rawmazing.com has a wonderful tutorial on how to do this. You can use 1 coconut per 3 cups water. For thicker milk, you can add more coconuts. If you use enough (about 3 coconuts), you can make coconut cream which makes a wonderful substitute for whipped cream. (I have not yet made the coconut cream, but I plan to share it with you sometime soon!)  Then, you will need to blend it with the water.

With dried coconut, I found I prefer the dried unsweetened flakes from Bob’s Red Mill. The flakes are large but I feel the milk comes out better. Use 2 cups flakes and 4 cups hot water. (I find I prefer 3 cups water for extra thickness.) Bring water to a boil on the stove, stick the flakes in and let it sit for an hour. This helps bring out all that lovely coconut oil and softens the flakes to blend easier.

Once the coconut is blended, squeeze through a couple layers of cheesecloth (or like me, a thin linen-like kitchen towel). The remaining pulp will be used as coconut flour. I’ve heard tell that you can actually re-use the pulp by running through the milking process again with the same milk to make it that much thicker and creamier. This process will be a future post with the coconut cream.

Here are some pics from my most recent foray using fresh coconut (I’m still new to the fresh coconut, gotta get my practice in!)…

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Not the best pic, I know. Toddlers can be so difficult to photograph. They have this thing where they like to move… a lot.

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Gotta do the taste test!

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Mmm… lovely coconut bits.

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Helping keep the lid on!

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You can see my pitcher and kitchen towel setup there in the background. So fancy, I know.

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And there it is… lovely coconut milk!

Coconut Flour

So, you have this coconut pulp leftover from your coconut milk-making process. What to do with it? I often just stick it in my nifty little toaster oven and stick it on a low heat for a couple hours. Some say they do 130 F, but my big oven goes only as low as 170 F. However, I usually get too impatient to just leave it, so I often will even kick it up to 300 ish. Have to keep a keen eye on it though and stir often… we only want to dry the coconut, not toast it. Once dried, I whiz it through a food processor or blender. It won’t get as fine as the coconut flour you can purchase in a store, but I find it perfectly passable in baking. You could call it coconut meal if coconut flour confuses you. I don’t mind finding little miniscule bits of coconut in my baked goodies.

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Coconut Butter

So… the mystery of coconut butter. “What is coconut butter?” you may well be asking. It is the epitome of deliciousness, if I do say so myself. All you have to do it whiz 4 cups of dried flakes through a blender (don’t try fresh coconut! It won’t work. I may or may not have tried this myself and gave up after an egregious amount of time.) A food processor would also work, but the blender is definitely faster. You need 4 cups of the flakes so that it can rotate easier (you will need to scrape down the sides some.) This seriously doesn’t take very long. Only about 5 minutes. I came across a recipe that used 2 cups flakes and 2 cups macadamia nuts. If I could find some, I would definitely try it.

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This was only about 3 cups.

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This was after maybe about a minute of blending. It didn’t want to circulate so I added about a cup of cashews. You can see some of the bigger chunks are the cashews.

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Very nearly there…

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Voila.

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Just look how it pours! If using just coconut, it is suggested to store it at room temp. However, since I used nuts I stuck it in the fridge. It will go solid at room temp, just microwave it a bit to soften.

What can coconut butter be used for? All kinds of things… oatmeal, coffee, glaze for cakes, on pancakes, eaten on a spoon (which I may or may not have done the most often…), use as a magic shell on ice cream,  dip fruit in it and stick it in the fridge to harden. Coconut butter is completely decadent in flavor and totally good for you.

Here I used some as a glaze for my paleo zucchini brownies… Good while soft and gooey, and even better as a thick crust. Yumm!

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Coconut Butter Balls

Thought I was done raving about coconut butter, did you? Well, here it is again! Had a chocolate craving (you know when Aunt Flo comes to visit… those cravings hit hard!), and so I took some plain coconut butter, mixed it with some plain almond butter and, being warm, was pliable like dough. Perfect for forming into small balls. Which I did. Flew those babies into the freezer and took out my bag of lovely chocolate chips, dumped a good amount in a small bowl, and melted it up in the microwave. Those little balls were right cold so I rolled them through the luscious chocolate and forked them back to the plate and back to the freezer. Where they didn’t wait 5 minutes. Cuz I couldn’t wait 5 minutes. Gotta taste those babies!

Some pics!

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My silly camera didn’t want to focus on the chocolate in my hand, but the chocolates on the plate instead. But… you get the idea. Totally. Scrumptious. Deliciousness.

By the way, I did try it out with my coconut/cashew butter and was just as good, though a tad gooey-er on the outside and not quite as pliable. Still oh-so-tasty though.

Have you had coconut butter before? How did you first hear about it?

I think next time I make these balls, I’ll stick an almond in the middle and it will be like an almond joy. Oh the joy… J

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Paleo Zucchini Brownies

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You ever wake up in the morning desiring to eat something that would be a sinful dessert, let alone breakfast? Well, that was me this morning. While I’m not Paleo, I do find I enjoy playing around with paleo recipes. I like the feeling I’m getting more nutrition out of it than the usual fare. Today I woke thinking about brownies, so I made some Paleo Zucchini Brownies. I found a recipe on DelightedMomma.com. I adapted it some, here is what I came up with…

1 cup of almond butter
1 ½ cup of grated zucchini. (I just chopped and whizzed them through my food processor.) I used 2 small summer zucchini. Being roughly chopped came to about 1 1/2 cup. I was concerned about it not being enough once it was whizzed down to a paste so I added and extra 1/4 cup applesauce.
1/3 cup raw honey
1 egg (or flax egg)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
3 tbs cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg

*optional: 1 cup chocolate chips. I actually used roughly ½ cup and it was sufficient. Even sprinkled some on top. I’m sure walnuts would work great too.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 9×9 pan (I actually used a loaf pan ‘cuz I discovered I loaned my 9×9 out.) I whizzed everything in a food processor (except the chocolate chips). Added the chips, mixed quick, and poured into the pan. I topped with a sprinkle of chocolate chips. Bake for 35-45 minutes.

And here is the chocolatey goodness! You can’t even tell there is zucchini in it, in texture, appearance or flavor. Yay! Came out velvety fudgy. I think if I did it in the 9×9 it would have the more chewier texture I prefer.

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It sunk in the middle because I tried taking it out too early. 😛 Toothpick test doesn’t work for this.

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Kid approved!

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Just had to add this in again. Was totally scrumptiously divine with some homemade coconut butter drizzled on top!

How do you like your brownies?