Posts Tagged ‘Coconut’

The last few months have been crazy – as a clinical clerk (senior medical student), I’m often required to be at the hospital well before sunrise.  I’ve needed a hearty breakfast to keep my energy levels up, and critically, one that easy to prepare in a semi-asleep state!  For years I was under the illusion that granola was tricky to make – thank goodness my roommate helped show me the light.

Homemade granola is simple to prep and far more delicious than any grocery store variety I’ve ever purchased.   I love how I can control what I put into it (no longer do I need to put up with raisins…) and how little sugar goes in compared to the bought variety.  This recipe is Jamie Oliver’s and its incredibly versatile: simply mix and match the nuts, seeds, and dried fruits to what’s in your cupboards and to your favourite flavours.


Toasted Granola

Toasted Granola

(makes enough to fill a large jar)



2 cups quick cook oats

1 heaped cup mixed nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, brazil nuts), coarsely chopped

1/2 cup mixed seeds (sunflower, poppy, pumpkin, sesame)

3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, cherries, prunes), coarsely chopped

5 Tbsp. maple syrup

5 Tbsp. olive oil



Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix all the dry ingredients except the dried fruit in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the maple syrup and olive oil and stir to coat evenly.  Transfer granola to a sheet pan (optional: use parchment paper). Toast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring the granola with a wooden spoon every 5-10 minutes to ensure it cooks evenly.  Remove granola from the oven when it is golden and fragrant. Mix in the dried fruit and let it cool down.

Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container.  Delicious served with milk or over a dollop of yogurt.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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Several posts ago I wrote about peanut butter-based snacks. I love peanuts and peanut butter so much. Although there is a risk of peanuts carrying aflotoxin (you know, on those really gross-tasting peanuts), the Canadian food supply keeps them at acceptable levels. Peanuts were my dietary staple in The Gambia. I’d grab a bag of roasted peanuts on the road; I’d pick them in the fields with the women and we’d carry them home in big buckets on our heads; we’d hull them on raised concrete platforms with a nut in each hand which we’d whack on the concrete and remove from the shell, with a big pile between our knees that never seemed to end. Peanuts are the way of life there. I ate them every day.

To make peanut butter, simply roast your peanuts, squeeze them in your hands to remove skins when they have cooled, and then place them in a blender or food processor or food grinder and let it spin! The longer you go, the smoother it gets. Add a teaspoon or two full of vegetable oil if it is not liquid enough – that will depend on the variety of groundnut you have! Adding a pinch of salt will bring out the flavours more if you’re interested.

Upon my return, I’ve craved peanuts big time. Thanks to my lovely host families, I had a plentiful supply, despite my distance. I quite enjoyed roasting them and turning them into peanut butter, before they were transformed into the delicious snacks and meals which I’ve already started posting including the Domoda and the Chocolate Kickers, and this childhood favourite snack of mine, these peanut butter logs.

Ingredients – three 4-inch logs (approximately)

1 cup peanut butter (I prefer the ‘just peanuts kind’, which you can buy or make yourself with a food processor or blender – simply follow the instructions under the picture)

4 Tbsp honey

5 Tbsp milk powder (or 7 Tbsp if instant), or more as needed

2-3 Tbsp desiccated coconut


Mix all ingredients together using a strong fork or whatever works for you. Place a third of the desiccated coconut on a sheet of parchment paper, and spread evenly. Form a third of the mixture into a log, and roll in the coconut. Place in parchment paper or wax paper and freeze.

Slice once frozen, and serve immediately for an energy-packed snack!

You can also add dried cranberries or mini chocolate chips for extra punch.

Hope you enjoy these!


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There was no question in my head as to which snack I should prepare for a weekend of rock climbing in Kingston at the Kingston Mills. Co-incidentally, this snack is equally well suited to my most lovely co-blogger’s current occupation: successfully summiting Mount Kilimanjaro! (congrats girl, you rock!!).

So, as a tribute to our somewhat extreme activities these days, I thought I’d post one of my very favourite outdoors snack recipes, which is loaded in energy. Keeping a tupperware with a few of these delicious bites at the top of a daypack on a long canoe trip results in instant joy and energy, even at the prospect (and then the end) of a gruelling multi-kilometer portage. Just don’t risk forgetting it in there at night, as the animals are sure to come and feast if you allow them the opportunity!

The best thing about it, aside from its delicious taste and the amount of energy it packs in, is that it’s ridiculously easy to make, totally versatile, and will last as long as your trip (well, until supplies last!).

I originally found this recipe in the trailside cookbook, and this snack was called Chocolate Kickers. Since that fateful day where I first tried these I’ve taken the recipe and made a few changes, but it’s pretty much the same idea. It won’t take you more than 30 minutes to prepare, 15 of which are resting time. Ready? Go ahead, you’ll be done in no time. You probably can even make it at the camp site, but they’re so easy to make I’d just bring them fully made from home and keep the campsite cooking time for other delicious adventures like baked stuffed apples or blueberry pie.

Ingredients – makes about 20-25 bites of energy

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

1.5 cups crunchy peanutbutter

1 cup dark chocolate chips

2/3 cup powdered milk

1/2 cup to 1 cup dried cranberries or desiccated coconut

1-2 Tbsp water (approximately)


Put all ingredients together in a bowl. Mix well with two forks and probably your hands. Shape into bite-sized balls or press to 2/3 inch thick sheet and cut out with your favourite cookie cutter.

Let the chocolate kickers rest for 15 minutes, then pack into tupperware or airtight bags.

Hope you enjoy these!


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My grandmother’s carrot cake is to die for.  Moist and beautifully textured with nuts and coconut, it is unsurprising that our family often requests this cake for birthdays.  I only discovered a few weeks ago that her secret is to follow Silverpalate‘s carrot cake recipe.  Written by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, their recipes are classic, perfect for special occasions.

About 18 months ago, I made a bet with my friend Leslie.  We agreed that the loser would have to bake the other their favourite cake.  I promptly lost the bet, and ever since we have jokingly agreed that I better remit sooner rather than later.  Last night, I finally had the chance to pay out my debt, so I decided to cook the most sumptuous carrot cake I had tasted, this Silverpalate recipe.

This cake spares no frills (and is sadly not for a calorie-watching individual), decently filled with walnuts, coconut, and pineapple.  Surprisingly there is less carrots than coconut!  The cream-cheese frosting is smooth and tangy, a beautiful complement to the spiced carrot cake.  Leslie decided that this cake was more than worth the cake – although she is now threatening that due to the 18 month delay in remittance, I owe her a second carrot cake from the interest!


Carrot Cake

(10 to 12 slices)




3 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cup canola oil

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

1 1/3 cups puréed cooked carrots

3/4 cups drained crushed pineapple



8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

6 tablespoons sweet butter, at room temperature

3 cups icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract



Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two 9-inch layer cake pans lined with wax paper.

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl.  Add oil, eggs and vanilla.  Beat well.  Fold in walnuts, cocount, carrots and pineapple.

Pour batter into prepared pans.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until edges have pulled away from sides and cake tester comes out clean.  Cool on a cake rack for 3 hours.

Meanwhile, cream together cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl.  Slowly sift in icing sugar and continue beaing until fully incorporated and frosting is smooth.  Stir in vanilla.

Fill cake and frost sides with cream-cheese frosting.  Dust top with icing sugar.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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Coconut turnovers

I have gone coconut crazy. I guess that means nostalgia has kicked in. These days I can’t wait to get home and play in the kitchen, recreating what I learned and experienced not long ago throughout Central America. Today, I took a holiday back in Hopkins, Belize, which spontaneously came up after I began what I thought would become a raspberry tart, but ended up as a most delicious coconut turnover. If you’re in Belize looking for these coconut turnovers, you’ll have to ask  for Coconut Crusts instead, as they’re known locally.

These dainty snacks are made by mothers and grandmothers throughout Belize. In Hopkins, Coconut Crusts often came my way by young girls who would fill up a big tub with their mothers’ pastries, place them on their heads, and come through the village purposefully looking for anyone vulnerable to their sweet-tooth. In me, they quickly found a loyal customer, and those girls were great saleswomen. After they sold me my first pastry, they had my name down flawlessly, and greeted me every day thereafter with a joke. It was the best thing I tasted all day, and from that day forth, I looked forward to seeing that large tub walking towards me, on top of a small girl, with a huge grin on her friendly face.

The lore of Coconut turnovers does not stop there. After all, where do they come from, and how are they made? I discovered that these were not found in the village of Hopkins, Belize, but also elsewhere as well. I must say, however, that even though I tried a good number more, I was never able to find any as good as those from Hopkins, which were always warm out of the oven, over-stuffed, and sold with friendly smiles.

To make these, I learned, you need a coconut of certain ripeness. Then you must crack it open, enjoy the water, and begin shredding the flesh carefully, not touching any of the brown bits near the husk. It is of absolute importance that this be done carefully, I was told. So I took notes feverishly, hoping that one day I could attempt this recipe again.

Although my equipment  and ingredient were not at all adequate (my kitchen lacks a proper coconut grater), I managed to make-due. The result: these absolutely delicious coconut turnovers, as well as coconut tarts which I made with the left-overs.  Both of these recipes are inspired by what I learned about cooking in Hopkins, although they are mostly my own renditions. If you are looking for some Caribbean love, or just a unique dessert to take to a dinner party, I highly recommend these.

Coconut Turnovers


-1/2 quantity of sweet shortcrust or  puff pastry
-1 whole coconut
-1/3 cup mixed brown and white sugar
-2/3 cups cold water
-1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 egg yolk
-1 tsp milk


Make the pastry in advance, and refrigerate as a rolled-out sheet. In the meantime, grab a large and heavy knife and unwrap the coconut. Holding the coconut firmly on its side over a bowl, hit the coconut forcefully on its middle with the back of the knife (not the sharp side). Do this a few times, slowly rotating the coconut, until it cracks. Drain the coconut water and enjoy. After the coconut water break, continue cracking the coconut with the back of the knife until it basically breaks apart along its middle. Using a sharp but strong knife, slice into the flesh and remove it in chunks. Rinse any debris.

Peel the skin off the coconut flesh, and grate the coconut into a bowl (a microplane is best, when a true grater is not available). After this, heat the water, sugar, and vanilla in a frying pan and bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Add the shredded coconut, stir, and then turn the heat off.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Roll the pastry out to 1/8 inch thick. Cut 12 circles about 3 to 4 inches in diameter (or use a round cookie-cutter or large mug), and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place one spoonful of the coconut mixture on one side of each pastry circle. Fold the circle in half, and pinch the edges like a dumpling to hold the filling in.

Separate the egg yolk into a small bowl (I always reserve my eggwhites by keeping a jar of frozen whites in the freezer and then I make meringue). Add the milk to the yolk, and stir. Brush the tops of the Coconut Crusts with this mixture, and then cook for 20 minutes approximately, or until golden on top.

Cool on a rack and serve warm with a glass of milk or a ginger soda.

Coconut tarts

To make the tarts, simply follow the instructions for coconut turnovers up to where you roll the dough out in circles. At this point, place each circle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and then use a scrap of dough to make a border around the outside of the small tarts. Then place a spoonfull or two of the coconut mixture on top, and brush the egg-yolk mixture on top of the pastry border. Bake for around 20 minutes.

These tarts are also amazing with puff pastry instead of shortcrust pastry. I have been working on making it at home, but it’s not perfected yet and is definitely easier to just use store-bought puff pastry.

I hope you enjoy this bite of Belize!


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Coconut Veggie Curry

I arrived home the other night to an absolutely empty fridge – a few moldy vegetables here and there, but nothing really appetizing.  I desperately wanted some comfort food, and nothing previously frozen.  Rummaging in my cupboard, I happened across a can of coconut milk, and decided that I would make curry.

Assembling odds and ends from my fridge (1/2 can of chickpeas, what was salvageable from a moldy sweet potato, 1/3 of a cauliflower, 2 half onions) I threw together a curry in about 15 minutes, and was it ever delicious – really, how could the mixture of curry paste and coconut milk not be?  I cooked some rice as the curry simmered away, and within 15 minutes had nice comfort food on the table!

If you like your curry a little hotter, throw in some more red pepper flakes, and if you need more protein than chickpeas, just fry up some chicken with the onions and garlic.  And if like me you have some veggies lying around, chuck them in – this curry is super forgiving and loves new flavours.


Coconut Veggie Curry

(3 servings)



2 teaspoons canola oil

1 onion, diced

1 sweet potato, in 1 cm cubes

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon cumin

½ can chickpeas, rinsed

1/3 head of cauliflower, broken into florets

4 tablespoons curry paste

1 can coconut milk

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes


Basmati rice



Saute the onions, garlic, and sweet potato in the oil until soft.  Stir in the cumin, chickpeas, cauliflower, and curry paste and cook until the spices are fragrant.  Add the coconut milk and red pepper flakes and cook for 10 or so minutes, until the veggies are cooked and the sauce is slightly thickened.

Meanwhile cook the basmati rice.  Pour the curry over the rice, and serve!

–       Catherine

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