Thursday, March 21, 2013

100% Naturally Tinted Coconut "Grass" - Just in time for Easter


I was recently asked to make cupcakes for the Easter party that my daughter's class was having.  Besides myself, there are quite a few parents who keep their children gluten and dairy free, and limit artificial colors and sugar laden foods as much as possible.  Having experience in this area already, I was up for the challenge.

My original idea was to put green tinted coconut on top of the cupcakes as "grass" but, traditional food coloring was not an option.  So I set out for our local health food store to get natural food coloring.  No luck... they are a newer store and they have not orderd it yet.  It was already too late in the day for me to drag 2 kiddos out to a different store that's not even remotely close to my house just for food coloring.  Plus, I still had to go to Super Target for other key grocery items.  What to do, what to do?

I walked around the store racking my brain for something that might work and then it suddenly hit me.  Literally out of no where.  I came up with the idea to use... wait for it... SPINACH(shhhhh... don't tell the kids!).  You may be wondering at this point if I lost my mind.  But, somehow, I just knew deep down that it would work.  But, the coconut I was using was unsweetened so, I was definitely going to have to sweeten it up to mask any spinach flavor.  Not wanting to use traditional sugar, I decided I would make a fruit juice reduction to puree the spinach with and then fold it all into the coconut (which is pretty dry).  This was my plan.  So when I was at Target later that day, I grabbed some 100% white grape juice and organic baby spinach leaves and set for home.

The end result was more than perfect!  I can't believe how well it turned out with just my first guesses at ratios.  The puree added the perfect amount of moisture to the coconut to make it soft and fluffy, the juice reduction sweetened it just right.  Not too sweet.  And the spinach provided the perfect shade of green and nothing more...you could not tell in the least that there was spinach in there.  It tastes like sweet, moist coconut and nothing more.  And the best part is, it's REALLY easy to make!  (Cupcake & frosting recipe will be blogged soon).

Ingredients:

2 C of 100% White Grape Juice
1 1/3 C Shredded Unsweetened Coconut (I like the Let's Do Organic brand)
1 C Packed Baby Spinach Leaves

Directions:

 1.  First make a juice reduction by boiling the 2 cups of juice on high heat until reduced down to about 1/2 cup.  (Stir occasionally).  You can see in the photo how much darker the juice reduction gets...
2. Place the juice reduction in the freezer for 15-20 min to cool completely.  (You don't want to "cook" the spinach leaves).

3.  Add spinach leaves and ONLY 1/4 of the juice reduction to a blender.  (I tried my food processor first but it just kept getting spit off to the sides...my blended did the job faster and more efficiently).

4. Puree for 2-3 min total, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides.  Puree mixture should look frothy and almost creamy.

5. Place coconut in a mixing bowl and fold the puree into the coconut until very well blended.

6.  Let sit, covered for about 10 min so the coconut gets nice and soft.

Enjoy!  :)

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