Firstly and most obviously, this is because I am particularly fond of its flavor. But I am also excited about the health benefits of coconuts and coconut products such as coconut milk and coconut oil.
Coconut milk contains lauric acid, a nutrient that is also present in breast milk: in fact, coconut milk and breast milk are among the richest sources of lauric acid, and have very similar amounts of this nutrient. Lauric acid has anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties, and is just one reason why breast-feeding offers so many health benefits to infants. When you consume coconut milk or coconut oil, you are providing your body with this nutrient, which your body transforms into monolaurin: monolaurin provides significant strengthening to your body’s immune system, and many people swear by taking monolaurin supplements as an alternative to antibiotics and antiviral medications.
According to the Coconut Research Center (an organization which I admit I have not researched), “In traditional medicine around the world coconut is used to treat a wide variety of health problems including the following: abscesses, asthma, baldness, bronchitis, bruises, burns, colds, constipation, cough, dropsy, dysentery, earache, fever, flu, gingivitis, gonorrhea, irregular or painful menstruation, jaundice, kidney stones, lice, malnutrition, nausea, rash, scabies, scurvy, skin infections, sore throat, swelling, syphilis, toothache, tuberculosis, tumors, typhoid, ulcers, upset stomach, weakness, and wounds.” That’s a lot of potential for healing from one delicious food item.
Coconut milk is also replete with electrolytes, making it a wonderful preventative of dehydration. If you are sick or an avid exerciser, you could do worse than taking in some coconut milk!
I also happen to be a strictly amateur proponent of Ayurvedic eating and living (to those who are unfamiliar with Ayurveda, I highly recommend the book Ayurveda: A Life of Balance by Maya Tiwari). The people who know me well won’t be surprised to learn that my primary dosha is pitta, the dosha associated with fire. As a result, I put some effort and mindfulness towards taking in cooling foods so as to bring my body-mind into ever deeper balance. Furthermore, one of the tastes best suited to bring pittas into deeper balance is sweet (along with bitter and astringent), which happens to be coconut’s primary taste. Coconut is one of the classic cooling, healing foods in Ayurveda, and I indulge in it fairly regularly.
An easy way to tell if you are carrying a bit too much off-balance pitta within yourself: if you are feeling impatient, critical, perfectionistic, frustrated, prone towards being a workaholic and/or towards insomnia, overly demanding of yourself and others, or stressed, you are probably full of fire. Take a deep breath, relax a minute, eat some of this ice cream, and all will be well.
Another Ayurvedic suggestion that I adhere to for maintaining a healthy balance of pitta energy is the coconut oil massage. Once a week, give yourself a foot-to-head self-massage with coconut oil before your bath or shower. This is incredibly nourishing for skin, hair, and nails, and is a relaxing ritual that I have enjoyed integrating into my life.
But back to food… The following recipe is an absolute delight, and I couldn’t be more happy with how it turned out.
If you are severely lactose intolerant, do be mindful of what chocolate chips you get: although dark chocolate itself is dairy-free, it is often made in close proximity or with the same equipment as milk chocolate. When in doubt, consult one of the various “Is it dairy free?” books or websites, or get your chocolate chips from a local natural foods store, where it can be easier to identify which products are truly dairy-free.
Also, the recipe uses a lot of vanilla extract. Please feel free to substitute artificial vanilla extract to avoid the high level of alcohol in pure vanilla extract.
I also imagine that this ice cream would also be delicious with some shredded, lightly toasted coconut sprinkled over it. Unfortunately, I don’t have any shredded coconut right now, but I may have to go acquire some so I can test this theory.
Dairy-Free Coconut Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
- 2 (13.5 oz) cans coconut milk
- 2 T vanilla extract
- 1/4 t sea salt
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 to 3/4 c coconut palm sugar
- 1 c dark chocolate chips
- Place coconut milk, vanilla, and salt in a food processor and blend thoroughly. Place in a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized saucepan and heat to just below boiling. Remove from heat.
- Put the eggs and 1/2 c of the coconut palm sugar in the food processor and mix on low until well combined. Pour in 1 cup of the coconut milk mixture in a thin stream while the food processor is still running, and then mix into the saucepan with the remaining coconut milk mixture.
- Cook over low heat (stirring constantly!) until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Taste for desired level of sweetness, and adjust according to your preferences. Strain through a fine sieve into a metal bowl, cover, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Stir to combine, and chill another 30 minutes.
- Wash the food processor bowl, and place the ice cream base back into the food processor. Add the chocolate chips and pulse a bit to break some of the chips into smaller pieces.
- Return the ice cream base to the metal bowl, cover, and chill for another 1-2 hours, stirring every half hour, until the mixture has thoroughly cooled.
- Process according to the directions of your ice cream maker (or, if you don’t have an ice cream maker, follow the guidelines given in the introduction to my previous post on green tea ice cream, https://transgustatory.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/dairy-free-green-tea-ice-cream/).
- Fold the ice cream by hand a bit to ensure that the chocolate chips are incorporated evenly (they have a tendency to settle to the bottom of the canister). Decant into airtight Tupperware container for storage in your freezer.