FRESH MILK FROM NATURE ##FRESH COCONUT MILK

We all have (well, many of us) super busy lives. And, as a result, when it comes to our dietary needs, it makes it very challenging to sometime go the wholesome and healthy routes. It is quite easy and convenient to visit our respective neighborhood store and buy the ready-made food products on hand.

And, that’s the case with coconut milk. The marketplace is loaded with different brands of coconut milk packed in cans. Some of the popular names out there are: Grace Kennedy, Ocho Rios, Goya and more.  I like to keep a few on hand for when I’m strapped for precious time or run out of the fresh type.

However, I often opt for the fresh one as much as I can because it reminds me of my island domain, Jamaica. Coconut is a staple here and over 89 countries around the world. Top producers are India, Indonesia, Philippines and others. Studies have shown that coconut is loaded with essential nutrients that are beneficial for heart health, great energy source for the body, and many more pluses.

As a result, I do try to stock the pressed milk in my freezer in tupper wares. Thanks to my South Florida location, coconut trees flourish very well in this locale. As such, supermarkets and farmers markets stock the wholesome coconut in its shell. I always try to purchase one. I bring it home and use a hammer to break through the shell and this is what’s inside:

WHITE FLESH OF FRESH COCONUT
WHITE FLESH OF FRESH COCONUT

I use a sharp knife to cut these in sizable pieces to accommodate my standing blender. Water is poured on same and then coconut is blended to a beautiful white finish. All is need to be done it use a strainer to separate the milky liquid from the remnants of the coconut.

This coconut milk can be used in: smoothies, rice and beans, curried chicken/or goat or in any other dish that calls for milk. It will provide enormous flavors that will enhance these dishes.

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I’M IN A NEW ENGLAND STATE OF MIND #HAM CHOWDER WITH A CARIBBEAN/MEDITERRANAN FLAVORS

This time of the year brings on a ‘mixed-bag’ of weather patterns. The past few days have been very dark, cool, and precipitous in South Florida. The sun has disappeared for a few days and makes me feel like I’m in a Maine or New Hampshire territory.

With days like these, one can’t help but to crave warm and comforting dishes like a clam chowder. Well, I’m not a lover of clam, so my culinary mind went to the my freezer. Inside this freezer, tucked in the rear are some left-over servings of baked ham from past Christmas(have to use that up). So, instead of clam, I made yours truly ham chowder with a Caribbean and a Mediterranean twist.

The main ingredients for Ham Chowder
The main ingredients for Ham Chowder

Ingredients:

  • Left-over Ham (1/4 cup)diced
  • Crispy bacon (2 strips)
  • Irish potato (1 large) diced
  • Cauliflower (3/4 cup)
  • Celery (2 stalks) diced
  • Loose corn (1/2 cup)
  • Onion (Med.) diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Coconut milk (1 cup)
  • Paprika (1/4 tsp)
  • Cumin (pinch)
  • Curry powder (pinch)
  • Corn starch (1 tsp)
  • Water (3 cups)
  • All spice (pimento) (1/4 tsp)
  • Thyme (1 tsp)
  • Parsley (garnish)

Method:

  1. In a sturdy stock pot, render bacon slices and set aside.
  2. Drain excess bacon fat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and add diced onions, celery,  chopped cauliflower, loose corn, etc. and slowly stir removing all the bits.
  3. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, and other seasonings along with thyme.
  4. Add Coconut milk and water.
  5. Place lid on pot and allow to simmer until tender.
  6. Mix corn starch (if needed) to provide extra thickness).
  7. Few minutes to completion of dish add diced left-over ham.
    Ham Chowder and baguette
    Ham Chowder and baguette

    Ham Chowder simmering in stock pot
    Ham Chowder simmering in stock pot

I served my Caribbean/Mediterranean ham chowder with a garnish of parsley and bacon bits along with a generous and warm piece of crusty baguette. The flavors were bold, flavorful and super delicious. I was over the moon as I watched the ducks did their dips.

What do you know? On this cool and marvelous Florida day, the sun has chosen to raise its brilliant head. Now, it’s perfect. Guys, be kind to your loved ones as well as your beautiful palates.