Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm Cocoa for Coconuts!

I think this artwork was made specifically for me!
Hethyr:  I have been a royal bitch for the last couple weeks and I’m fully willing to admit it.  For the past several years, I’ve had some health issues and until a couple of weeks ago, no one seemed to be able to figure out what is wrong with me.  I’ve been through testing for autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis to no avail.  One doctor a few years back actually told me that I was crazy and gave me a prescription for a sleeping pill.  I left her office bawling my eyes out.  After another negative test with another new doctor (this one for Celiac disease), I finally decided to say “Screw you!” to the regular doctors and see if a naturopath might be able to help me.

After visiting with Jon and me for over an hour, Dr. Restricto told me that she definitely thinks my issues are food related and drew blood for a test that tested for 96 different food allergies.  Looking back, I should have enjoyed the waiting time a little bit more than I did because three weeks later the results were back and I was told that my digestive immune system was pretty much non-existent and that I am currently sensitive/allergic to everything but the kitchen sink.  She put me on an elimination diet for a month and at the end of that month, I’ll start adding foods back into my diet one at a time to test for reactions.

No Food, Eat, or Drink Signs
My new diet
In the meantime, I have realized just how much I love good food and just how much I despise not being able to eat the things I love.  For the elimination diet, I am not allowed to have dairy, wheat (or other gluten-containing foods), cane sugar, bakers’ or brewers’ yeast, chocolate (because of the dairy and sugar), rice, quinoa, cranberries, kidney beans and black beans.  So what the hell does that leave?  Pretty much meat, vegetables, fruits and nuts.  Woo freakin’ hoo.

A trip back home to Springfield, IL last week left much to be desired in the way of good food that I could actually eat.  Thank goodness I’m a chef and for American Harvest Eatery, a new restaurant that sources fresh ingredients from local farmers.  I tried to prepare as much of my own food as possible for the trip, but let me tell you how boring tuna salad on sliced cucumbers gets after eating it for a week straight.  :/  Meh.

I'm cuckoo for coconuts!
Enter the amazing coconut.  The health benefits of coconuts are extensive, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I’ll just give you this link and you can check it out for yourself.  After two weeks of whining and complaining, I’m finally starting to figure this out.  Since I can’t have any dairy (including goats’ milk), I’d picked up a carton of coconut milk prior to leaving for Springfield so I could have it instead of my beloved raw cows’ milk.  I ate it with sliced bananas and macadamia nuts for breakfast and drank it straight when I was craving milk.  Don’t get me wrong – this is not a perfect replacement for cows’ milk but beggars can’t be choosers, right?  Unfortunately, this coconut milk costs about $4.99 for one half-gallon.  Wow.  Funny how cutting certain foods out of your diet can lead to a higher grocery bill!  Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Thanks to Leslie at Crunchy Betty, I learned that making my own coconut milk is only a fraction of the cost.  Awesome!  And you know how much I love to make my own things from scratch.  Also, her super-cool, informative site clued me in to the wonders of coconut butter (I’d never even heard of such a thing) so I made some of that.  So!  Incredibly!  Amazing!  Not sure I’ll use peanut or other nut butters very often anymore unless I really need some extra protein.  Then I started to get creative on my own…

"Necessity, who is the mother
of invention."  ~Plato
I mentioned that I’m not allowed to have dairy, cane sugar or chocolate and personally, I think that is enough to drive anyone to bitchiness.  However, I was so giddy when I figured out a loophole that I could hardly stand it.  I was in the kitchen making my coconut milk and coconut butter when I started wondering if it would be possible to make “ice cream” using only coconut milk, honey and homemade vanilla extract (vanilla bean soaked in potato vodka).  If you don’t know how much I love ice cream by now, I’m pretty sure this is your first time reading our blog.  And after two weeks of deprivation, I was ready to give my left arm for a bowl of ice cream.  Luckily that didn’t have to happen.  I pulled out my trusty ice cream maker, mixed the ingredients and in about 30 minutes, I had a fairly acceptable substitute for dairy-based ice cream. 

Then I started wondering about the chocolate stipulation.  I looked back at the chart of what I was sensitive to and cocoa bean was not one of the culprits.  The doc told me I couldn’t have chocolate because milk and sugar are usually ingredients.  It just so happens that I’ve got two pounds of organic, fair-trade Dutch cocoa powder in the pantry and it DOESN’T include dairy or sugar.Ha ha, Dr. Restricto – I found a loophole!  So now I can have chocolate “ice cream” and it fits completely within my restrictive diet guidelines.  Maybe this isn’t so bad after all.  Next I plan on making chocolate-banana.  Oh yeah.

Coconut milk on ice - so refreshing!
Coconut Milk
Makes about 4 cups

- 1/2 to 1 cup dried, unsweetened shredded coconut
- 4 cups hot water (not quite boiling)

1.  Place coconut and 1 cup of hot water in the food processor.

2.  Pulse for about 30 seconds.  Let sit for about a minute, then pulse about 10 more times.

3.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve (lined with cheesecloth or not) into a large bowl.  Press against the solids with a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.

4.  Repeat steps 1 through 3, reusing the same coconut and the additional water.

5.  Cool, pour into a quart-size jar and refrigerate.

Notes:  If you choose to use the cheesecloth when straining, the natural oils will be soaked up by the cloth.  If you choose to just use the sieve, you’ll end up with a bit of coconut oil at the top of your jar of coconut milk after you refrigerate it.  Although I haven’t used it yet, I saved the coconut oil to use as I would store-bought.  Crunchy Betty also says you can put it on your legs to make ‘em silky smooth.  You can dehydrate the leftover pulp and use like you would any dessicated coconut.  No waste!

Delicious breakfast - banana with
coconut butter
and toasted coconut
Coconut Butter
Yield varies

- Dried, unsweetened shredded coconut (I used about 2 cups to yield about 3/4 cup coconut butter)

1.  Place coconut in food processor and process on high for about 15 minutes.  You may need to scrape down the sides occasionally.

2.  Store in a jar at room temperature.  Due to the stability of the healthy fatty acids, refrigeration is not necessary, even after opening.

Dessert - chocolate coconut milk "ice cream"
topped with coconut butter and macadamia nuts
Chocolate Coconut Milk “Ice Cream”
Makes 1 1/2 quarts

- 3 cups coconut milk (homemade – see recipe above – or store-bought)
- 1/2 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup Dutch cocoa powder

1.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients with a hand mixer or stick (immersion) blender until smooth.

2.  Pour into ice cream maker freezer bowl and follow instructions for your maker.  With mine, it usually takes about 25-30 minutes.  Once finished, “ripen” in the freezer for a couple of hours before devouring like you’ve never eaten ice cream before.
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Jon:  As many of you already know, I usually hang out down here at the end of the blog.  I consider myself a bottom-feeder of sorts… the flounder resting on the deep dark floor of the Blog Sea.  Up above in the clear blue waters of the respectable part of the blog, Hethyr talks about all sorts of interesting and relevant topics, provides helpful information and advice, and offers delicious recipes for all sorts of incredible edibles.  As my nephew J.D. would say, her part of the blog is totally classy.  Meanwhile, I lurk down in the mud making smart-ass comments and rambling on about 80’s game shows, bee beards, poultry proctology, dirty hippies, cantaloupe breasts, parachute pants, muffin tops… I’m pretty sure there was even a sexually explicit haiku about mushrooms at some point.  The list certainly is long and undistinguished.

While I pride myself on my ability to give my beautiful wife epic amounts of childish sarcasm on a daily basis, I feel an overwhelming need to reverse course in this post and talk about what a bad-ass she is in the kitchen.  If someone told me I had to give up dairy, sugar and wheat, you’d find me huddled in the corner of the bathroom in the fetal position crying like a hungry baby.  Hethyr, on the other hand, has used her skillful creativity to find amazing detours around these dietary roadblocks.  The deliciousness of our meals has not diminished one bit despite the fact that she is unable to consume the majority of the items in our kitchen and pantry.  I’d throw her in the ring against any of those millionaire television chefs and totally bet on her.  Who could possibly find a way to make and eat chocolate ice cream after being told that she couldn’t have dairy or sugar?  Seriously?  There are only two words to describe that…

Mad Skills.


  1. Hethyr, you're amazing!! My daughter is visiting and is dairy sensitive. I've never been a fan of soy milk, so my fridge is currently housing coconut milk AND coconut creamer (it's actually pretty good). I'm trying your "chocolate coconut ice cream" cream today. THANKS!!

  2. LadyKaren, thanks for the comment! I *LOVE* that I am already able to help others with similar issues. I hope your daughter enjoys the "ice cream!" =)

  3. I think you are both so amazing...Hethyr, I actually have really bad allergies that I know are tied to food and I have just ignored it and hoped it would go away; however, you have inspired me to go get tested and figure out what is really going on and if I have to give up stuff I love I know that I can turn to you for delicious alternatives. Jon, I am so glad Hethyr has you to support her and eat her delicious food ;) Much love to you both!

  4. Mrs. K, I was in complete denial for a couple of years... Jon and I suspected gluten intolerance or Celiac but it honestly took me at least 2 years to finally decide to get tested. I so dreaded not being able to have beer, bread, pasta, etc. It finally got to the point that missing out on those things was worth feeling better. What I DIDN'T suspect was all of the other things, but at least now I know what's been going on! And I'm always up for a challenge in the kitchen. If nothing else, this diet has definitely been that. ;) Please keep me updated on what you find out and I would be more than happy to help you out with ideas. And, as always, thanks so much for being such a supportive reader! ♥

  5. Wow. Poor thing! I have to say that the elimination will be worth it! Once your digestive system gets taken care of, or heals, you will notice a huge difference! Thank you for a loop hole - I am on the coconut ice cream --yummers!!

  6. Staci, thanks for the sympathy! ;) I have my next appointment with Dr. Restricto next week, so we'll see how it goes. Hope you enjoy the coconut ice cream!

  7. As always, these recipes are amazing and inspiring! Way to go, both of you... this blog never ceases to amuse and inspire me. Hethyr, I wish for you strength and courage to get through the next few weeks (and Jon, tons of stamina and patience as well).. it'll be a bit tough, but you can do it! It's worth it, and YOU are worth it!

  8. Thanks, Jodie! =) It will be such a relief if this actually helps... years of not knowing what was wrong has been very frustrating, to say the least. If I can feel better by just changing my diet, then it will be completely worth the challenges. And hopefully I'll be able to help others with similar issues through this blog!

  9. I am so impressed! I just added coconut to my grocery list -- gotta give some of those ideas a try!

    And Jon, your comments always make me laugh. :-) Love this blog!!!

  10. Organic coconut flour is very cheap here, by the way... can I put in a request for some gluten-free bread recipes using coconut flour?? I will scour your past blog entries to see if you've used it before, but I was so excited about the fact that ONE organic thing was cheaper here than in Vancouver... I had to tell you!

  11. Jodie, I'm just starting to experiment with coconut flour myself. I will let you know how it goes and share any good recipes I come across or come up with on my own! =)