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Friday, May 2, 2014

The multiple uses of a can of coconut milk plus reflections on social media

For a long time I refused to join Facebook, but when I started blogging, it became a necessary tool to stay in touch. I often wish we still lived in a social media free world. Our time yielded more (at least mine did) in those days. From a refuser, I've become an addict: one of those people who get a nervous tic if their fingers are not typing on the impalpable keyboard of their phone, emailing, texting, facebooking, instagraming, pinning, tweeting, and I'm sure there are many more verbs for doing things in social media, but I'm too old to know about them yet!

Nevertheless, there are some perks. In general I'm really bad at staying in touch, and since I moved out of my native country and live in a city where people come and go, social media has allowed me to at least know a bit about people who are very dear to me, but who live far away.

Where is this story going (before my ADD hits in)? A couple of weeks ago, I posted on Fabebook a picture of my favorite brand of  coconut milk, which is packaged in a BPA (a hormonal disruptor)-free can and that doesn't have any thickeners. Basically, it's only coconut and water, the way it should be--but is not if you read the ingredients of any other coconut milk can label. 

Unfortunately, I haven't found it in stores, so I've been ordering in amazon. My dear friend, and perinatal and pediatric nutritionist & lactation counselor, and blogger Debra Waldocks (do yourself a favor and subscribe to her blog, just click on her name), asked, from Israel, for inspiration on coconut milk uses, and tadah! this blog post was born... 

Bottom line: social media has some good things, but just as with dessert: it may cause addiction, so it should be consumed mindfully (this as I type a post that will go out on FB, twitter and instagram)!!!

Please read this post I wrote a while back about coconut derived products, if you want to learn more about the perks of this amazing tropical fruit. Briefly, I'll just mention that it's quite rich (60% of the total fat in coconut oil) in medium chain triglycerides, which--as renown integrative doctor Dr. Frank Lipman explains--are easily digested fatty acids that are used as energy rapidly, and metabolized quickly in the liver without being stored as fat. Don't think I'm recommending to gulp down gallons of coconut milk a day, but it's a great ingredient to include in your repertoire.

Coconut milk is an amazing option to dairy. It's not an exact substitute, as coconut milk has some different qualities: it's more dense and fatty, contains about half the amount of protein that dairy milk contains, it's sweeter and more luscious, and it does have a characteristic flavor, but this often works to its advantage. Both vegans and Paleo (Primal) lifestyle followers use it quite often .  
Warning: I love coconut milk. However, some people not only don't like the coconut flavor, but actually can't stand it, so I recommend you always ask if you are sharing! 

The very best coconut milk is the freshly made one, but I'll just suggest you some ways of using the canned one and you might get inspired to make your own, but et's take it a few steps at a time. 

Here are my favorite 5 uses, and would love to know if you come up with more ideas!

1. Add it to your soups and stews.
Coconut milk adds a delicious texture, creaminess and a bit of exoticism to soups, stews and purees. You can make kosher and/or Paleo beef Stroganoff with coconut milk en lieu of cream, or even add some into your cholent. Carrot, lentil, sweet potato, mushroom, squash, you name the soup, just add some! Here's a soup recipe my friend Sarah shared with me from a magazine, and it's absolutely delicious and packed with nutrition!
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 2. Whip it.
I've been making whipped coconut cream for a couple of years already, and I still can't get over the amazement every time the stiff peaks form. I love adding a tiny bit of coconut nectar or yacon syrup and the scrapings of 1/2 vanilla bean. Use it as you would whipped cream. 
To make it: Refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut milk (not light) overnight in the back of the fridge (where it's cooler). The can should still be closed. When ready to use, open the can of coconut milk and place the creamy, more solid part that has separated, into the bowl of a standing mixer, preferably using a silicone spatula (you could even whip it by hand in a bowl using a wire whisk).Whip coconut cream with the whisk attachment of a standing mixer until stiff peaks form. 
Don't discard the remaining liquidy part! Add it to soups, smoothies or as a cooking liquid for grains or beans.

3. Freeze it. 
Its higher fat content, richness and sweetness make coconut milk an ideal liquid to churn into ice cream or making popsicles. Try this: Do the refrigerator trick explained above. When ready to make, melt 3 ounces of dark chocolate (70% cacao content). Once melted, add the coconut cream (the denser portion after separation in the fridge), 1/4 cup (100g) coconut nectar (OR pure maple syrup, raw honey, xylitol, or yacon syrup), a pinch of unrefined salt, the scrapings of a vanilla bean pod and blend with either an immersion blender or a power blender. Let cool for a couple of minutes and add the flesh of 1/2 of a very ripe avocado. Blend until compeltely smooth. Portion into Popsicle molds and freeze or, if you have an ice cream machine, cool the liquid, covered in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. 
  • If you are rushing or don't feel like turning on the stove, use 3 tablespoons of cacao powder (I like using raw) instead of melted chocolate and the additional cocoa.
  • Add some drops of mint extract or essential oil (just do very few drops at a time, as both are very concentrated)
  • Forgo the chocolate and the cocoa and add 3 tablespoons (or to taste) freshly squeezed lemon juice (plus the zest, if you please) and/or add your favorite fruit. Particularly easy if the fruit is frozen: from bananas to berries, pineapples or mango. Just blend all the ingredients together and play around. Mix and match! You don't even have to measure, just taste as you go and adjust as you'd like.

4. Culture it. 
I've spoken about coyo (coconut yogurt) before, and it's pure yummyness! I make water kefir at home (a post on that in the works), and by adding 2 tablespoons of prepared water kefir into 2 cups of coconut milk and letting it culture at room temperature for 24 hours, I make a lovely coconut kefir. If you have a yogurt maker or are thinking of purchasing one, you can get a vegan yogurt starter and make some pretty easily. Cultures for Health is a great source for cultures and equipment. 
For recipes:
This one is great from; and this other one from is a bit of a cheater's version that is super easy and doesn't require you to wait for the milk to ferment. I hope they get you inspired!

5. Sub dairy.
Ideal for vegans, Paleo, lactose-intolerants, kosher keepers or anyone else avoiding dairy, a can of coconut milk can open a world of possibilities.  Use coconut milk as a substitute for:
  • milk (although it will result in a richer concoction).
  • heavy cream: do the refrigerator trick explained under "whip it," but don't whip it, just use the separated part.
  • buttermilk: place 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup and fill up to one cup with coconut milk. This can be used to substitute 1 cup of buttermilk in a recipe.   
  • Sour cream: Combine the heavy cream and the buttermilk methods.

Coconut milk loves being paired with vanilla, chocolate as well as with sour flavors that cut through its richness, that's why it's such a good friend of fruits, especially the tropical ones (such as mango and pineapple) that tend to grow in the same soil as coconut.

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