I have had a long and tenuous relationship with coconut. Growing up, I despised it and never understood why one would willingly add it to a dessert. I still have hesitations with its texture but I now recognize its value across the board, from sweets to curries and soups.
I rarely buy smoothies but recently found myself craving a healthy breakfast alternative while on the run, so I popped into a Juice Generation. It was difficult to overcome the initial shock of juices priced at over $10 a pop. And the sight of a mom feeding her toddler a green juice shot, then spending nearly $50 on two bottles of juice and a healthy snack. Welcome to New York in 2014. Anyways, I opted for the cheapest item on the menu – a Smooth Strawberry Smoothie. I was expecting a bland flavor but was taken aback by the taste of coconut…and how much I enjoyed it; it wasn’t overwhelming but gave every sip added depth. I glanced at the ingredients (coconut milk was listed) and knew that my next Trader Joe’s purchase would be coconut milk for at-home smoothies.
As I brainstormed a granola flavor last night, I decided to sub the usual liquid options (oil, butter, water) for unsweetened coconut milk. With some sweetened shredded coconut, chopped almonds, and a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips (Trader Joe’s chips are vegan), I whipped up a batch of crunchy “Almond Joy” granola. Never would have guessed I’d be brainstorming coconut recipes but life is full of (yummy) surprises.
1 and 1/2 cups of rolled oats
2 tablespoons of ground flax seed meal
1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut milk
1 spoonful of brown sugar
1/4 cup of roasted almonds
2 tablespoons of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons of shredded coconut (I used sweetened coconut shreds)
A pinch of cinnamon and allspice
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine oats, flax seed meal, and shredded coconut in a large bowl.
Coarsely chop the almonds and chocolate chips and add to the bowl. For a sweeter granola, double the amount of chocolate chips or add two spoonfuls of brown sugar (below). Add in a shake or two or cinnamon and allspice. Stir together with a large spoon.
Place a small saute pan on low heat and add the coconut milk, vanilla extract, and brown sugar. Using a spoon, combine all of the ingredients until the sugar has dissolved. Pour this liquid into the mixing bowl of dry ingredients and stir everything together until the liquid is evenly dispersed.
Line a baking sheet with foil and pour the mixture out evenly onto the foil. Use a spoon to make the oats as thinly layered as possible.
Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the oats have turned golden (careful – the difference between burning them is only a minute or two), stirring every 5-10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet until fully room temperature. The chips should have melted and spread and there will be clusters of crunchy coconuty goodness!