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Creamy Coconut Joys

If you’re reading this you might have noshed on an elegant slice of flourless chocolate cake last week. Perhaps you whisked together a last minute dark chocolate pudding and dusted it with chopped pistachios. Maybe, you received two bars of chocolate in the guise of Blueberry Lavender or Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt that you will hoard away until the moment calls for a square or two to be notched off the ends. If February 14 had a movie moniker, it would be, “There Will Be Chocolate.”

What is it with chocolate and Valentine’s Day that makes them feel indispensible, one from the other?

In the other room, the synthesized music of Mew floats into this room, over to my desk as a knife chops applewood smoked bacon for a once a year gift of homemade Carbonara. It’s become our tradition of a simple decadent dish anticipated with the fervor of turkey and dressing or any dish you might assign to a holiday. Soon, a sizzle and the wooden spoon’s nudging against the stainless steel walls will join the happy sounds coming forth from our kitchen. Then too, more chopping will commence, but a harder sound, as if knuckles rap against the front door. Twirling my fork around the noodles, watching John Cusack become Edgar Allen Poe on screen and sidled up against my love, this, this is worth remembering. And we try to etch the small moments into the trunk of our memories.

What is it with our need to complicate the very best things in life? We chase happiness like it just might be joy but that goodness can’t last. Joy, on the other hand, never ceases to surprise me. How can something so good be found in the dregs of circumstance? And maybe that’s it. Circumstance proves happiness to be so very fickle, where it cannot touch joy. Other times, we have to scratch around the dry earth of our spirits for that joy, but that does not vanquish it from existing. I think of Corrie ten Boom, a personal hero of mine who somehow found bits of joy even as she was incarcerated in a concentration camp for hiding Jews in her house during World War II or Paul singing songs in prison.

When you come down to it, joy can be hard to understand. If history has shown me anything, we don’t often chase after what we don’t understand. Instead, we try to quell it. Happiness and joy- which one are you running toward or trying to cultivate?

And this is why, after a day dedicated to chocolate and the kind of love found in small gestures or the grandiose, we come back to joy. It’s no surprise that the classic combination of almonds, coconuts and chocolate culminate in nomenclature of joy. Just as I think you will agree these Creamy Coconut Joys can present a small luscious gift whenever the occasion calls for it.  Stumbling over the ridiculously luscious St. Benoit yogurt had me clamoring for resuming my post-dinner yogurt habit. Since I trust the folks in Sonoma to not steer me wrong with yogurt, we go full fat and I’ve been told by an RD friend that yogurt from grassfed cows can give more omega’s, which is a bonus to the creamy consistency of our other favorites, Straus Organic or our love of goat’s milk yogurt from Redwood Hill Farm. Keep in mind, light yogurt equals more processing and really, when you’re keeping it simple, quality ingredients are paramount. You might find these Creamy Coconut Joys live up to their name.

We all need a bit more joy in our lives, methinks.

Creamy Coconut Joys The Food Poet

 

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CREAMY COCONUT JOYS
This recipe comes together pretty easily. I enjoyed this regularly without the coconut milk, so you can opt for that or take it over the top and make your own coconut cow’s milk yogurt. It’s your choice really. Make the yogurt hours in advance of serving and let it sit in the fridge so the flavors can coalesce. You can also toast the coconut in advance too. I find this makes for a novel, portable dessert for intimate potlucks as all items get packed into jars and are easy to transport by bus or walking.

YIELD: 4 servings

1 quart high quality full-fat plain yogurt

1 can coconut milk

4 tablespoons thick shredded unsweetened coconut

4 tablespoons raw almonds, chopped

4 tablespoons high quality bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips

In a medium sized bowl, empty contents of one quart of yogurt. Spoon coconut milk into the yogurt and stir. Cover and refrigerate.

In a pan or electric oven, toast the coconut for around 2:30 to 3 minutes on low medium heat until it starts browning but before it burns. Set aside to cool.

In the same pan or electric oven, toast the chopped almonds until they start giving off their aroma and before they burn, around 2:30 to 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.

When you’re ready to assemble the Creamy Coconut Joys, pour about 1/2 cup of the coconut yogurt into a small bowl. Scatter a tablespoon of almonds on top. Then, sprinkle a tablespoon of the toasted coconut. Lastly, dot the surface of the Joys with a tablespoon of chocolate chips or chunks.

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Recipes

Green Tea Coconut Rice

green-tea-coconut-rice

I’m a bit obsessed with Matcha green tea.

Maybe it has something to do with the bright grassy flavor that almost makes the mouth pucker. Perhaps it’s because with Matcha, you drink the entire tea leaf, not leaves infused in hot water and then removed. It could be the disarmingly green color and hear me clearly, it should be bright and bold.

The color actually reflects the quality of the tea. While there are cheap versions of Matcha out there, you’ll find them to be dull in color and flat in flavor. Spend the money and invest in good Matcha. You might find yourself newly obsessed. This Japanese green tea typically is served infused with hot water and a special whisk to froth it. Often times, and in the United States it’s become popular to whisk Matcha with hot milk for a creamy beverage.

Maybe you’ve tried Matcha and you didn’t know it. If you’ve guzzled a Green Tea Smoothie or licked and slurped Green Tea ice cream, then chances are pretty high that you too have lapped on the luxurious green tea that is Matcha.

So it’s not such a far leap to consider how that bright, grassy flavor might deepen the creamy decadence that is Coconut Rice. I give you two suggestions below: for a more subtle Green Tea Coconut Rice, use only 2 teaspoons of Matcha and you’ll find the tea will paint the rice kernels a pale green with a flavor profile that is creamy, almost sweet with a slight green tea finish. For something a bit more bold and pictured below, use 2 tablespoons of Matcha green tea and you’ll find a much more pronounced tea flavor, a bright green hue with a slight creaminess of coconut. This bolder Green Tea Coconut Rice really works well and stands up to Asian cuisine like the Thai take-out we ordered for dinner earlier in the month.

SIDE DISH RECIPES- green-tea-coconut-rice

 

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GREEN TEA COCONUT RICE

YIELD: 6-8 side servings

This is one grassy and stark green rice. If you want something a bit more subtle where you get the green tea flavor in the finish with the coconut milk playing front fiddle, use only 2 teaspoons of Matcha. I tried it this way and it is a subtle cerulean green with a creamy slightly sweet flavor that ends on a grassy bright note. I prefer mine with more tea and even found it stood up to the flavors of Thai food when we paired it with take-out earlier in the month. It’s your call. I wouldn’t suggest swapping out light coconut milk for the real deal. It’s really quite pronounced of a difference and your rice is left wanting that supple quality that the full fat milk brings to it and the mingling with tea. Also, I tried this recipe with basmati rice but found the texture to be superb with a long grain white rice which served as a great canvas for the flavors. Special thanks goes out to friend Caryl at Lotus Foods for giving me samples of their specialty Mekong Flower rice to test in the recipe. It cooked up beautifully and gave a great texture.

1 1/2 cups water

2 tablespoons Matcha green tea

2 cups long grain white rice

1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk

  1. Rinse rice twice and discard rinsing liquid. Set aside.
  2. Bring water to a gentle boil. Measure out your Matcha and place in a measuring receptacle (like my Pyrex 2 cup measuring glass), slowly whisk in the boiling water. Now this is key: while you are eventually going to add enough water to the Pyrex glass to equal that 1 ½ cups, initially during the whisking stage, you want to only pour in a little bit of water- say ½ cup as it will make whisking easier. As you notice that any large clumps or notice that your tea is without clumps, add the rest of the hot water and whisk.
  3. Add your coconut milk and whisked Matcha tea to a heavy pot and place over high heat, stirring together. Once you find that the coconut milk and Matcha have integrated well and you are beginning to have larger bubbles on the surface of the liquid, add the rinsed rice and stir.
  4. Cover your pot and turn down the heat. Simmer for 20 minutes on low heat.

 

SERVING SUGGESTIONS
This is a very versatile and unexpected side dish. The key is to pair it with foods that will not overpower the Matcha and coconut flavors.  I’ve provided a few ideas to get you started. Let me know if you come up with your own pairing suggestions.

FISH- Consider pairing with a filet of salmon or perhaps this Confetti Tilapia.

VEGETARIAN- Serve with a side of the white beans from this stew.

CHICKEN-  Try this with roasted chicken seasoned with garlic, ginger and shallots.

green-tea-coconut-rice-toasted

DOUBLE THE COCONUT
You could dice fresh coconut and throw it into the pot for an extra punch of coconut or textural difference. You could even toast some unsweetened coconut and then sprinkle some on top of your finished fluffed rice as pictured above. I find that the rice is lovely without either of these additions, though I tried it with both. Your choice.

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Recipes

Blueberry Cream Pie Overnight Oats

Blueberry Overnight Oats

Sometimes I’m late to the party. And this would be one of those times.

Overnight oats is an online blogging creation and like all good things online, it does feel a bit crowdsourced. Some people like it with nut butter. Others with chia. I’ve been personally drooling on a variation with cacao nibs but for this particular recipe of breakfast decadence, I went the route of pie.

Blueberry cream pie.

blueberry overnight oats in a jar recipe

I’m not sure about you, but I go through spurts of ingredient obsession and this is the year smitten by blueberries. They are my sweet treat in bite-sized morsels. And sometimes they like to get dolled up.

I make my overnight oats in small mason jars and they really are the perfect take-to-work breakfast for those days when something more indulgent is called for. I’ve made it with non-fat cow’s milk yogurt and with goat’s milk yogurt, but sometimes you don’t want the tang. Sometimes you want to splurge.

And this friends, is the recipe to make my non-morning self excited to get out of bed.

You’re still getting oats and lovely probiotics from yogurt, but what makes this recipe fall in the category of decadence is sugar and fat. We’re talking whole milk yogurt here, the kind you might bypass in favor of something less fattening. Then add to that shredded coconut and coconut milk–  this is one creamy dish  to get your week started on an unexpected celebratory note.

Because let’s be honest. Monday needs a bit of oomph sometimes.

overnight oats in a jar recipe

 

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Blueberry Cream Pie Overnight Oats

(Here’s the thing. I love oatmeal by itself and most overnight oats recipe use a ratio of 1 part oats to 1 part yogurt and 1 part milk (nut / soy / cow’s). I’ve had it that way and wanted more oats. So to compensate, I let my oats and goodness gel a whole day longer and added another 1/4 cup coconut milk the next day. The result was silkiness and a ridiculously creamy texture. They might be more aptly named Double Overnight Oats but lest there are too many descriptors already, so we’re staying as is. *You can try this recipe below without the extra day factored in and using the ratio mentioned in the beginning of this pre-cursor cum diatribe if you’re wont to. )

YIELD: Makes 1 decadent little jar of goodness

  • 1/2 cup rolled organic oats
  • 1/4 cup Straus whole milk organic vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon shredded coconut, unsweetened
  • 2 tablespoons organic blueberries, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon pecans, chopped or broken by hand
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/2 sheet organic honey graham, crumbled

1. Place the oats, yogurt, 1/4 cup of coconut milk, shredded coconut, cinnamon and rinsed blueberries in your small mason jar. Stir and then seal. Let sit overnight.

2. The next morning add in 1/4 cup of coconut milk. Seal and let sit overnight.*

3. Add crumbled graham cracker and pecan bits to your oats and stir.

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Homemade Almond Joys

DESSERT RECIPES- Homemade Almond Joys 

Mom likes to remind me that I was a bit of a precocious child.

Sewn into my fabric at a young age I possessed a flair for the dramatic. Just last week, we noticed a young girl with her mother outside of a brunch eatery. She carried a princess book that matched her outfit consisting of layers of pink. Her curly blonde hair was swept into a side ponytail and affixed with a wide pink ribbon and tiny pink Crocs on her feet. She caught our eye though from twirling- in the middle of a somewhat bustling sidewalk, this girl twirled and shimmied without a care about who might watch. At some point, she noticed us and smiled a wide toothy grin. She proceeded to tell us the following:

“Today is my birthday.”

(Her mother smiled and mouthed, “No it’s not; she tells people everyday it’s her birthday.”)

“You can come over to my house and play with me and my dog.”

We walked away from this child with presence beyond her years and Mom said, “that’s exactly how you were as a child” before proceeding into a story of me singing and entertaining the godparents over dinner one night. Ah, childhood. You feel unstoppable.

homemade almond joys recipe

It’s no real surprise given my demeanor at six years of age that a few years later into adolescence I would choose to bake and compete in the Church Bake Sale.

homemade almond joys recipe

homemade almond joys recipe

To set the record straight, this was no ordinary church bake sale. After all, we lived in Texas where purportedly (and accurately) everything is bigger. At this time, the church could be easily called a mega church before the term even existed. Droves of home bakers entered and at 12, I wanted to bake and I wanted to win one of the awards.

homemade almond joys recipe

We scoured through Mom’s recipe box with the painted flowers on it and pulled out the recipe below, which I have since slightly tweaked. Written in Mom’s round and voluptuous cursive script, the recipe for “Barbara Walter’s Chocolate Coconut Cookies” held our attention and made it into the grocery list.

homemade almond joys recipe

Mom participated in baking but mostly, she supportively watched me melt, stir and mix. The house smelled of chocolate and coconut- two ingredients that seem made for each other. We plated them, wrapped them and readied ourselves for competition.

homemade almond joys recipe

Sometimes things happen you can’t exactly explain. A man began announcing into the microphone winners for the different categories: best pie, best cake, best cookie, best candy and so on. Let me tell you- the place was chock full of delectable entries. As they continued working their way through the list and dissemination of ribbons, I listened intently. Best candy came and went without a stuttering of name-calling, thus making me hang my head. And then came the announcement for Grand Prize winner, shortly followed by an all too familiar pause and name butchering. I won! They presented me with a red, blue and gold wrapped ribbon that gleamed of satin and looked like a giant sunflower on three legs. Mom laughed and threw her arms around me, so proud, so happy, so surprised! I basked in the unbelievable, giddy and on cloud nine for days. That bake sale taught me to dream big and go for it. For many years that grand prize ribbon hung on a wall in a place of honor in my room until later it got moved and removed in lieu of Teen Bop posters.

As you get older, sometimes that bit of cheeky shoulder to the world gets thrown back and you lose your swagger. You need the help of a child to set you right. That way of looking at the world- that wonder and creativity- children help us adults remember what it looks like to twirl as if no one else is watching, to bake and enter an adult bake sale because why wouldn’t you, to sing loudly even if off-pitch. And sometimes to pull a faded and crumpled prize ribbon out of a box and remember you can because you have.

I’ve said it before and I’ll invite you again. The cause is that important. The reason is that good. 17 million children last year in the United States lived in food unstable homes. That ability to dream and create and experiment in the kitchen that was so much a part of my childhood food memory building is not at their disposal. Share our Strength is working to ensure “No Kid Hungry” in the United States. And I’m trying to do my part and inviting you to join me and many others.

homemade almond joys recipe

So this weekend if you are in San Francisco, head on over to 18 Reasons on Guerrero and 18th from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. or to Kiehl’s on Fillmore from noon – 6 p.m. and purchase home baked goods from your local San Francisco Food Bloggers Bake Sale. All baked goods are hand made with time, energy and thoughtfulness baked in. All proceeds of the sale go to Share our Strength. Organized by Gaby Dalkin, the Food Bloggers Bake Sale is taking place on Saturday around the United States, letting food bloggers like Aggie in Central Florida, Laura in Alaska, Maggy in NYC, and Keren in Seattle do what they do best: bake for other people & for a sweet cause. For more local San Francisco food bloggers participating in Saturday’s bake sale, click on the frosty pink cupcake button.

homemade almond joys recipe

 

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Homemade Almond Joys

Adapted from “Barbara Walter’s Chocolate Coconut Cookie” recipe in Global Cookbook

Here’s the thing. Trying these now, they have more of a candy like consistency than cookie. The flavor is reminiscent of a grown up adult version of the popular candy bar. Using dark chocolate makes them rich and cuts down on the sweetness. Also, I think the thicker cut coconut just looks sexier. The fine shred coconut makes the candy resemble more of a bird’s nest.

YIELD: 1 dozen

  • 1 cup sweetened condensed lowfat milk
  • 4 ounces unsweetened dark baking chocolate
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup almonds, minced
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In top of double broiler, combine lowfat milk, chocolate and salt. Cook over boiling water, stirring frequently, till chocolate melts and thickens.
  2. Remove from heat, stir in remaining ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 min.

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