Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Add a tropical touch to your cooking while waiting for winter to pack it in

By JANINE GILBERTSON March 07. 2018 12:04AM
Two tropical ingredients — red bananas and coconut cream — combine in a delicious warm dessert. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

With melting snow, longer days and milder temperatures, I’ve had this perception lately that the worst of winter is over.

It’s not. A winter storm, threatening to dump more snow on the Granite State, is supposed to hit today.

Good thing I’ve been experimenting with some tropical coconut ingredients to brighten things up.

I picked up a package of maple toasted coconut flakes at the market, and they’ve become my new favorite. I love it so much that when supplies run low, I panic and head right out to the store to stock up.

Around my house, the toasted coconut is mixed in with cookies, sprinkled on hot cereal, stirred into snack mixes and used to coat chicken for baking. It’s addictive.

I also picked up a can of coconut cream at the store and experimented with it. I used it to thicken up a stir fry; I whisked it in after cooking the chicken and vegetables and it made a delicious, creamy sauce.

You can also whip chilled coconut cream and use it as you would regular homemade whipped cream. I spooned some over yet another new tropical discovery — red bananas. (You can find them in the supermarket; they tend to be softer and sweeter than their yellow cousins.)

I sautéed the red bananas like you would plantains and paired them with the coconut whipped cream. Delicious.

Coconut cream is a good choice as a replacement for regular cream for anyone who is lactose intolerant, and it has more nutritional benefits than regular cream. I imagine it’s an excellent ingredient for curry dishes, which is on my radar for another cooking experiment.

The coconut cream was incredible when made into an ice cream; just blend the cream with sweetener (I used maple syrup) and freeze. If you have an ice cream maker add the mixture to the machine and freeze it that way. If you don’t have one, you can freeze the mixture in ice cube trays and then add them to a food processor and blend them together to make them into a larger serving.

Of course, you can also toss those frozen coconut cubes into your favorite rum based tropical cocktail on a snowy night and dream of balmy Caribbean breezes and warm beach under your feet. It just may tide you over until winter finally comes to an end.

Red Bananas and Whipped Coconut Cream

5 oz can coconut cream, refrigerated for 24 hours

1-3 tbsp powdered sugar (added to taste)

1 tsp vanilla extract, store-bought or homemade

2 tbsp olive oil

4 red bananas, peeled

Place a mixing bowl in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to chill, then add the coconut cream. 

Using the whisk attachment on a mixer, beat the coconut cream for about 3 minutes, until the cream becomes light and fluffy. 

Beat in the vanilla and the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the cream reaches the desired sweetness. 

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat, then add the bananas. Cook on each side for 2 to 3 minutes, until bananas begin to brown. 

Remove bananas from the skillet and set on a plate; drizzle with coconut cream before serving. 
Maple toasted coconut chicken. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Maple Toasted Coconut Chicken 

1 1/2 lbs chicken breast, cut into tenders or large chunks

1 cup maple toasted coconut flakes

3/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 eggs

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. 

Add the cornstarch to a shallow bowl or plate and mix in the salt and pepper. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Add the shredded coconut to a plate and set aside. 

Dredge the chicken in the cornstarch, then dip in the egg mixture then coat with the coconut. Set on a parchment lined baking sheet and set in an oven preheated to 375 degrees. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the coconut is lightly browned and the chicken is cooked in the center. Remove from oven and serve.
Coconut cream and coconut milk can be used for many purposes just like the dairy versions. This coconut “ice cream” is actually made with full-fat coconut milk. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Maple Coconut Ice Cream

2 cups canned coconut milk (full fat)

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tbsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir. 

If you have an ice cream maker, transfer the mixture to your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. If you do not have an ice cream maker, freeze the mixture in ice cube trays. 

Once frozen, add the cubes to a blender or food processor and process until smooth, then serve.


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