Homemade coconut milk + flour - to her core

Coconut milk and flour is as popular in recipes these days as tie-die shirts in the 1990s (I owned two, if you were wondering, which were second only to my beloved Dylan McKay tshirt in terms of my favorite items of clothing). Coconut products in themselves are extremely versatile, being able to be added to both sweet and savoury dishes. They are also touted as having a whole range of health benefits, with coconut oil in particular being pushed as a leader of the superfoods pack over the past few years. These benefits include improving your heart health, increasing your metabolism and supporting your immune system (see this article to see references from scientific studies).

I started making my own coconut milk and flour at home a few years back – not only is it extremely easy, it’s far most cost effective and if you seek out organic shredded coconut to use then you’re guaranteed that there will be none of the additives that can be common especially with store-bought coconut milk.

Homemade coconut milk + flour - to her core

 Step 1 – Soak the coconut

The first step of making coconut milk is to soak the shredded coconut. I do this in my Vitamix to save on space and washing up, but you could also use a bowl or glass jar.

In terms of quantity, I use 1 cup coconut to 1 cup hot water, however you could make this slightly more or less depending on the desired consistency required. More water will make for a thinner milk, and less will make for thicker coconut milk, I usually find that 1 cup of each is a good balance. Not that if you decided to go for less water, you’ll still need enough to cover the coconut whilst soaking.

You’ll need to soak the coconut at least an hour or so. Unlike some nut milks which yield a creamier end product if you soak the milk longer, I haven’t found the same with coconut, and usually don’t bother leaving it much longer than the hour for soaking.

After the coconut has been soaked, you’ll need to strain it and then add it to a high-powered blender (if you’ve soaked your coconut in the blender, then give it a quick rinse first)

Homemade coconut milk - to her core

 Step 2 – Blend away, baby!

After you’ve soaked your coconut, the next step is to blend it. You’ll want to use the highest setting on your blender for this, and the timing will depending on how powerful your blender is. As a guide, a Vitamix/Blendtec will take about a minute, whereas in a less powerful blender you may want to blend for at least two – three minutes. The end product with be quite frothy and creamy, but will still have smaller pieces of the shredded coconut (see above picture to get a better idea of what the blended coconut/water mixture should look like).

Homemade coconut milk - to her core

Step 3 – Separate the liquid from the solids (ie strain the milk)

After you’ve finished blending, you’ll need to strain the liquid out using either a nut milk bag or some cheesecloth. 

Strain into a glass jar, which you’ll need to place over a large bowl or sink to catch any drips (alternatively, strain the milk into a larger bowl first, then pour into a glass jar for storage).

Squeeze out as much liquid as possible – the more liquid you squeeze out, the drier the leftover coconut pulp will be and the easier (and quicker) it will be to dry out.

Transfer the coconut milk to a glass jar and store in the fridge up to three days.

Homemade coconut flour - to her core

Step 4 – Dry the pulp out

Preheat the oven to a low heat – around 90 – 100 C | 195 – 210 F. Spread the strained pulp out as thinly as possible on a lined oven tray and place in the oven. You’ll need to leave the flour in the oven until it’s dried out, which will depend on how much liquid you managed to strain out. I usually leave it around an hour, then turn off the oven but leave the coconut flour on its tray in the oven until cool – this just ensures that it’s completely dry – if there is any moisture in the flour it can go mouldy quite quickly!

If you have a food dehydrator (I don’t), you could obviously use this to dry your coconut flour out – as I haven’t tried this myself, I can’t comment on method or timings, but if you have or do try this method, please let me know how you get on in the comments below.

Once the flour is dry and cool, place it back into the cleaned and dried blender, and blend 30 seconds to a minute to break up any lumps and leave you with a more flour-like consistency. 

Homemade coconut milk + flour - to her core

Homemade coconut milk + flour
Yields 1
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup organic, unsweetened shredded coconut
  2. 1 cup hot water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to around 90–100 C | 195–210 F
  2. Add shredded coconut and water to a blender and leave to soak an hour
  3. Blend at least a minute (depending on blender) until the coconut has broken down.
  4. Strain milk through a nutmilk bag into a container, making sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  5. Spread the nutmilk pulp out on a lined oven tray, and bake around an hour or until completely dried. Add to a blender and process until the texture is close to that of flour.
http://tohercore.com/

delicious raw chocolate easter eggs - to her core

Somehow, next weekend is EASTER, despite that fact that I’m pretty sure Christmas was only a few weeks ago… right? 

With Easter inevitably comes a lot of egg or bunny-shaped chocolate, wrapped in shiny foil. While I do have a weak spot for certain shiny-wrapped egg-shaped chocolate (as not-so-subtly hinted last Easter), most conventionally made chocolate is filled with a lot of junk – additives and preservatives, artificial flavourings and a TON of sugar. Traditionally, chocolate is made by roasting and fermenting cacao beans which are then ground, sweetened, and tempered to make chocolate. In addition to this, the chocolate that we buy in the supermarket usually has milk solids and/or condensed milk added to make “dairy milk” chocolate.

painting eggs - to her core

raw chocolate easter eggs - to her core

I decided this year to try my hand at making some homemade raw chocolate for Easter, which is made with raw cacao butter and cacao powder, and then sweetened and flavoured to your liking.  Raw chocolate products – ie the cacao butter and powder – are either cold-pressed or naturally-dried as opposed to the traditional process which heats the beans to very high temperatures thus losing some of the nutrients which occur naturally within the cacao beans. This means that raw chocolate products not only contain more nutrients, but they are also higher in antioxidants AND contain so called “bliss chemicals” (aka anandamide and phenylethylamine) which have been shown can help in lifting mood and making you feel generally happy – so eating this chocolate will literally make you happy whichever way you look at it!

Raw chocolate is a both a little easier to work with but also a little more difficult than using conventional chocolate. Confused? Let me explain further – conventional chocolate that you melt down yourself can be a little fussy; overheat it and you’ll ruin it beyond repair! That said, if you get it right, it’s thick and glossy texture makes it perfect for lining Easter egg moulds, whereas raw chocolate is extremely thin and runny and if you want to coat an Easter egg mould to create a hollow egg, it will take a lot of patience and about 38 layers of chocolate. I found that out the hard way… If however all you fancy is a solid little eggy that’s far healthier than it’s conventional cousin, then you are going to LOVE raw chocolate! The taste is a little richer than what you may be used too, but this means that  you’ll be satisfied after only a few, rather than being able to eat a million of them and not stopping until you feel sick (I also speak from experience here sadly).  If you aren’t a huge fan of dark chocolate, then I suggest you try the coconut milk version below, it’s a little creamier and sweeter than the first method, making it a little more palatable.

Raw chocolate easter eggs - to her core

raw chocolate pot - to her core

To keep the chocolate “raw”, make sure you heat it over the lowest possible heat, and as soon as its melted turn the hotplate off. I used a candy thermometer to make sure it didn’t go above 46 and managed to keep it well below. Alternatively, you could use a double boiler instead, however if you go this way just make sure that you don’t get any water in the mixture as it will spoil it. Likewise, make sure you use a metal spoon or whisk to stir the chocolate mixture as wooden utensils can hold water in them which can then seep into the chocolate. 

As with regular store-bought chocolate, there are endless options for what you can do with this. Add shredded coconut, chopped nuts, dried fruit, puffed wholegrain cereal – or get really creative and try something a little left-field – like some spices or some crushed herbs. 

Along with this dark chocolate, I also played around with making which chocolate – I made a gorgeous white chocolate egg marbled with raspberry and blueberry flavoured chocolate… though unfortunately the whole thing broke when I tried to get it out of its shell so while it still tasted great, the whole “Easter egg” thing didn’t quite go to plan. I may have to keep working on that one I think…

And lastly, a note on the moulds – I looked everywhere I could think of to find some standard egg-shaped moulds, but after being told “we don’t have any egg shapes sorry, how about a cute bunny?” a dozen or so times, I finally resorted to online shopping (sorry cute bunnies!) Amazon have a few or for those in Australia I bought mine here

Raw chocolate easter eggs - to her core

raw salted chocolate easter eggs - to her core

Raw chocolate Easter eggs
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Ingredients
  1. Dark chocolate eggs;
  2. 100g raw cacao butter
  3. 75g raw cacao powder
  4. 30g raw honey or maple syrup
  5. 1/8 tsp sea salt
  6. Coconut cream chocolate eggs;
  7. 100g cacao butter
  8. 20g raw cacao powder
  9. 45g raw honey
  10. 3 Tbsp coconut cream
  11. 1/8 tsp sea salt
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients for whichever chocolate you choose to make into a small sauce pan over the lowest possible heat. Stir with a metal spoon until all melted together and smooth.
  2. Remove from heat and pour into moulds, reserving a few tablespoons of the mixture.
  3. Set in the freezer at least 20 minutes.
  4. Once completely set, remove from the freezer and heat the leftover chocolate again over low heat. Using a brush, paint a small amount of chocolate over the flat side of an egg half, and then stick to the flat side of another egg half. Continue this process until all egg halfs are combined and you have a set of whole eggs. Place back in the freezer to set, and then store in the fridge.
Notes
  1. The dark chocolate version is my favorite - though it's very "dark" and bordering on bitter. If you prefer a sweeter style chocolate, add a little extra sweetener, or try the coconut cream version instead.
http://tohercore.com/
raw wholefood chocolate easter eggs - to her core

 

Sweet potato and lentil soup with charred corn and rosemary || to her core
Despite my occasional whinging about the weather (sorry B!) I do love that we live somewhere that’s lucky enough to experience all four seasons. I love each for different reasons, but I particularly love the change between each season.

The change from summer to autumn (“fall” for those of you in the States) has already started – the crispness of the evenings and early mornings, the colour of the leaves starting to turn. The slightly cooler temperatures are just the right balance where it’s not unbearably cold but still cool enough to warrant snuggling up on the couch with a cup of chai and a good movie on the weekends. One of my favorite places to see the change in season is a walking track near where I used to live. It’s right in the city, but the perfect balance of urban and country. The city behind you, the mountain (sometimes snow-capped) in front, and a rivulet winds along the track dotted with deciduous trees in their most beautiful time of year.

rosemary and corn collage - to her core
We have been going for a walk along that track quite a bit lately, and the other week we took Maggie for a walk there one day after work. Maggie has always been headstrong with a sense of entitlement – I swear she think we are her humans, rather than her being our dog – and when she first came into our lives as a young puppy, she was utterly fearless as well. She would bound over to the other – much larger – dogs at the park despite her small size, until one day one of the larger dogs she was playing with accidentally trod on her and the incident scarred her for life. We refer to this dog as Maggie’s Arch Nemesis, and even though “the incident” occurred nearly 18 months ago, Maggie still holds a grudge. When her Arch Nemisis walks past our house these days, Maggie kicks off and barks ferociously at the poor dog trying to enjoy an afternoon walk with his human. On our walk the other night however, Maggie met another little dog similar to her age and size named Roger and played happily with no “incidents” for a good few minutes until Roger’s human threw an apple into the rivulet. Roger bounded in after it – apparently he has a fondness for both water and apples. Maggie – who is a bit precious and hates water, sulking when it rains, and only eats fruit if its hand-fed to her – looked on disappointed that her new friend had found something more interesting than her. Not being the centre of attention is definitely not something Maggie is used too. 

sweet potato, lentil, corn, rosemary soup - to her core

The other thing I love about autumn is the change in food. Our bodies are smart and if we learn to listen to them, they will crave the foods we need depending on the season or other factors such as if we’re run down or unwell and need foods to nourish us more than normal. The cooler temperatures over the weekend and the slightly hint of a cold had me yearning for a warm bowl of comforting soup, which is exactly what I have to share with you today. I first made this soup last winter and loved it, so I jotted it down to make again once the cooler weather set in. The soup is thick, rich and filling, but it’s the topping that really makes it so I definitely recommend you go the extra step and fry/grill the corn and make the Savoury Seed Granola for the topping. The sweetness and juiciness of the corn, the slightly salty and crispy granola, the rich velvety coconut cream and the fragrant rosemary really take this from being “just a soup” to being something a lot more special.

Sweet potato and lentil soup with charred corn and rosemary
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 large onion, diced
  2. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  3. 1 Tbsp olive oil
  4. 1/2 Tbsp minced rosemary
  5. 1/2 Tbsp smoked paprika
  6. 1 cup red lentils, washed
  7. 1 large sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped
  8. 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
  9. 4 cups vegetable stock
  10. 1 cup water
  11. 3 cobs corn, kernels removed (or 1 cup frozen corn kernels)
  12. 2 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  13. Coconut cream, to serve
  14. Chopped fresh rosemary, to serve
  15. Savoury Seed Granola, or toasted mixed seeds, to serve
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and fry a few minutes until the onion starts to soften and become translucent and then add the rosemary and paprika. Stir well to coat, another minute or so.
  2. Add the lentils, sweet potato and carrot and stir to coat and then pour in the liquid, stirring to combine. Bring to a simmer and then cook for 15 minutes. Add half the corn and the tomatoes, and cook another 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. In the mean time, heat a skillet over high heat. Once hot, add the corn kernels, and cook, stirring occasionally until they start to brown on the outside. Make sure to watch the whole time to ensure they don't burn.
  5. Using either a blender or hand blender, puree the soup, and then serve hot topped with the corn, coconut cream, fresh rosemary and the savoury granola.
Notes
  1. You could chargrill the corn on the cob instead here by cooking the shucked corn over a flame (ie on the BBQ grill) for 10 minutes or so, until the edges are charred with a wonderfully nutty aroma.
http://tohercore.com/

sweet potato, lentil soup with charred corn, rosemary 2 - to her core