Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Magical Coconut Bars

A story about coconut appeared in the Omaha World-Herald a few weeks ago. (It even mentions MSPI!)

So the gist of the story? Basically, coconut is now the big "it" ingredient. Well, I've been enjoying the wonders of coconut for several years now, and I don't even like coconut -- at least not the dried coconut found in the baking aisle at the grocery store. I love coconut milk -- both the canned variety and the beverage. My mom waxes poetic about the wonders of coconut oil.

I must admit though, that dried coconut is beginning to grow on me, especially when it's used in yummy recipes like this one. The recipe was included in the article, but I've seen it before over at the Post Punk Kitchen. Seeing it in the paper reminded me to make it, and boy was I glad I did. It is decadent and oh-so good! After reading some reader comments about the recipe over at PPK, I changed the directions slightly, so this is my slightly altered version.

Magical Coconut Bars
Source: Slightly adapted from Post Punk Kitchen

1 14-oz. can (regular or lite) coconut milk
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups MSPI-friendly graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup MSPI-friendly margarine or coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp. sugar
1-1/2 cups MSPI-friendly chocolate chips
2 cups flaked, sweetened coconut
1 cup slivered almonds, walnuts or pecans, chopped

In a large saucepan, whisk together coconut milk and brown sugar over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mixture may form a thin skin on the surface; just stir it back into the liquid. Remove from heat and let cool while preparing the crust.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with parchment paper or foil. In a large bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, melted margarine or coconut oil and sugar; mix well to moisten crumbs completely. Firmly press mixture into prepared pan, pressing evenly from center to sides of pan. Place pan in oven for 8 minutes. Remove from oven.

Top base with an even layer of chocolate chips and flaked coconut. Pour warm coconut milk mixture evenly over toppings. Firmly pat everything down then sprinkle nuts evenly over the top.

Bake for 28-30 minutes or until coconut is deeply golden and filling is bubbling, remove from oven and let entire pan cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Transfer pan to the refrigerator to completely cool and firm up for at least 4 hours, even better overnight or until very firm. 

Use a sharp, heavy knife to run along the edges of bars, slide bars on parchment paper or foil out of pan onto a cutting board then to slice into 24 squares. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator. These also freeze well, tightly wrapped.

Tip: If you are crushing MSPI-friendly graham crackers to make your crumbs, it would likely take about two sleeves of graham crackers to make two cups of finely crushed crumbs. Measure after you crush the crackers to get the right amount.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chili Mac

Although my seasonal allergies are starting to drive me crazy, I am more than willing to put up with them because it means fall is in the air! Yay for cooler weather and trips to the orchard and the pumpkin patch! I am so ready for autumn and all the wonderful activities it brings. And I'm ready for fall comfort food.

The next time you need something warm and filling, curl up with a bowl of this. Your tummy will thank you!

Chili Mac
Source: MSPI Mama

½ lb. lean ground beef or turkey
½ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. canola oil
8 oz. elbow macaroni
1 16-oz. can kidney or pinto beans, undrained
1 cup frozen corn
1 16-oz. can plain tomato sauce
1 cup water, plus more as needed
1 tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large skillet coated with the oil, brown ground meat, onion and garlic. Drain off any extra fat and return pan to the burner. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Once boiling, turn heat down, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid noodles sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add additional water, ½ cup at a time, until macaroni is properly cooked and to make sauce thinner, as needed. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Tip: Do yourself a favor and go ahead and cook a full pound of ground beef/turkey and double the onions and garlic. Once cooked, set aside half the mixture to cool while you continue with the rest of the recipe. Once the extra meat mixture has cooled, package it, label it, and pop it in the freezer. Next time you go to make Chili Mac, half the work will already be done!

Vegetarian: Skip the meat and double the beans. You also might want to add extra veggies, such as bell pepper, zucchini or whatever strikes your fancy.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes.