Jenna became a lover of coconuts a few years ago during her travels and Ellen followed, becoming a coconut convert after hearing about its nutritional and healing benefits. In this week’s post, we share our coconut stories, recipes and uses.
Two years ago, I went to Philadelphia to take Jenna out to lunch on her birthday. When I asked her which restaurant she wanted to go to, she led me to her favorite vegan lunch spot specifically because it was the only place she knew where she could order her favorite delicacy – a fresh, whole coconut! While I munched on my kale and quinoa salad, she leaned over her coconut and dug in – sipping the milky juice out of the middle and then eating all the meat. I took a sip and a spoonful and it was good, but I didn’t quite see the appeal of coconuts at that time.
A few months later, my hair stylist whispered to me that I should use coconut oil on my hair to condition it rather than buy the expensive products they sold in the salon. As she instructed, I now coat my hair with the oil when I feel it’s gotten particularly dry: You take a small amount and work it through your hair before bedtime and wash it out in your morning shower. Be sure to put a towel on your pillow so it doesn’t stain the pillowcase.
After my yoga teacher told our class that she started using coconut oil as a moisturizer on her skin, I tried it. It absorbs well and the coconut smell goes away quickly. I even use it as a nighttime moisturizer on my face once in a while.
I have some GI issues and started seeing a nutritionist this year. What do you know – among other recommendations, she suggested I mix a tablespoon of coconut oil in my morning smoothie to improve my digestion and relieve the inflammation caused by Candida. She also recommended that I drizzle coconut oil over cooked veggies to give it more flavor. It does taste yummy! (Note: Coconut oil is solid at room temperature so to use it as a cooking oil, you have to heat it first.)
Finally, Jenna makes the most amazing vegan mocha caramel bars that contain both coconut flakes and coconut oil. Her recipe is complicated, though, so I’ll also share another very easy gluten-free dessert here:
Crazy for Coconut Bars
- 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 heaping tablespoon coconut oil
- 2-4 tablespoons preferred liquid sweetener
Put 1 cup of coconut into food processor (I use my Nutri-Bullet®) and blend until the oil begins to come out and the coconut becomes more like a chunky butter; this may take several minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until fully combined. Press into the bottom of a parchment paper-lined pan and put in the fridge for an hour, or until set. Slice and enjoy! These can be stored for up to a week in the fridge.
I’ve come to love the smell, flavor and essence of coconut, and encourage you to try it out! If you want to learn more about this special ingredient, check out these sites:
My deep love for coconuts started on a trip to Ecuador where I traveled with my dear friends Aly and Talia in Ecuador (pictured below). I remember grabbing one of them roadside in a beautiful beach town on New Year’s Day – I was immediately hooked! I loved the subtle sweetness of its taste and how hydrated I felt once I finished. From there, my addiction to coconuts grew as I sipped them in between yoga teacher trainings in Bali and while I backpacked all through Thailand. During that two-month period, I consumed coconuts daily and quickly saw the benefits. My skin cleared up, my hair became silky and my stomach issues subsided.
However, I faced a major dilemma. In Southeast Asia, coconuts cost me 20 cents! Was this habit truly sustainable? I sadly let go of my coconut dream and figured I could only enjoy them occasionally in the US and during future trips outside the country.
During my time in Philly, as my mom mentioned, my biggest treat was going around the corner from my apartment to a little vegan shop where I could buy coconuts for…SIX DOLLARS! But nonetheless, when I was having a bad day and wanted to treat myself, I would make the trip. I figured it was better than other vices, right?
When my friends would come visit, I’d often take them to my little café so we could share coconuts together. And I always made sure that no coconut meat was left behind!
I love coconuts so much that my good friends almost convinced me to come with them on a return trip to Thailand – just so I could enjoy coconuts for a week!
Lucky for me, coconuts are much cheaper in Atlanta ($3 each!) and I often catch myself swinging by Sprout’s® on my way home to pick up a few. However, I still faced one major challenge – they are so difficult to open! That’s where the Coco Jack comes in: I received it as a birthday gift this year and it’s life changing. I’m happy to say that I now enjoy coconuts almost daily and am beginning to feel the benefits again.
I’m so glad my mom has recognized the tremendous benefits of coconuts too. It’s been amazing to watch our eating habits evolve over time and while we have each taken our own journeys with food, we’ve seemed to land in the same place nonetheless. We’ve both struggled with health issues and the more we learn, the more we realize how similar our bodies react to foods.
Next time she comes to visit, you bet I’ll have a fresh coconut waiting for her!