Raw Bounty Bars

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Oh how times change.
If you were to hand me a Bounty Bar 20 years ago, I would have looked at you like you had gone coconuts (ahem, sorry). I thought Bounty Bars were totally sick-a-tating because coconut was a vegetable in my mind, and therefore decidedly not edible even when smothered in chocolate.

I don’t know when I came to my senses, discovered that coconut was in fact a not vegetable, and also totally delicious. These days, I’ll go so far to say that I don’t know what my life would be like without dear coconut around, as I likely employ one or more of its products on a daily basis. You can imagine then, that being in Bali was quite a gas for me, as it’s dripping with coconuts, quite literally. I loved being able to get fresh coconut water every morning; mammoth orbs heavy with well over a liter of liquid gold, for under a dollar. Freshly shredded coconut at the market, coconut palm sugar by the bagful, young coconut flesh blended in smoothies… it was the business!

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Big Tree Farms -  a place where they make incredible coconut  products among other things, such as raw cacao and sea salt. As I’ve been using their delicious coconut palm sugar for a while now, it was pretty amazing to see where the magic happens and meet the sweet people behind the sweetness. I was also introduced to a new product: coconut nectar! A gorgeous, full-flavoured syrup that looks a lot like honey, but with a citric, smoky flavour that surprised and delighted me.

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Coconut Nectar of the Gods
Coconut nectar, and the coconut palm sugar that is made from it, have been produced and enjoyed for over 6,000 years. In fact, the first documented sweeteners ever used are that from coconut palms (Coco Nucifera).

Coconut nectar is made by harvesting the sap from the coconut palm blossom, which is collected twice daily by the farmers at Big Tree. They climb up each trunk in the morning, remove the vessel full of sap, slice the very tip off of each flower bundle and place an empty vessel underneath it to collect sap until the evening when they will repeat the process. The sap is then boiled down to remove all the water it naturally contains, leaving a thick, caramel-like syrup, which can then be cooled and bottled.  To make coconut sugar, that same syrup is cooled and then rubbed, creating granules of the delectable coconut sugar that I love so much. You can watch a very cool video about the whole tree to table process, here.

Coconut nectar is high in minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. It is happily low glycemic, ranking 35 on the GI scale, compared to agave at 42, honey at 55, cane sugar at 68. This is due to coconut sugar’s composition of long-chain saccharides, which are absorbed by the body at a slower rate than something like refined white sugar. Coconut sugar also contains amino acids, which are thought to slow down the rate at which the sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, acting as a “buffer” of sorts. You can read more about Big Tree Farms Coconut Nectar and Palm Sugar nutrition here.

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After visiting Big Tree, I was feeling creative and hungry for chocolate. I decided to get my Willy Wonka on and recreate a favourite treat to pay homage to my coconut adventures, and also because, let’s face it, Bounty Bars are delicious. This is my (nearly) raw version of the classic candy, a very easy and scrumptious translation using simple ingredients. They are totally rich and coconut-y, just like the “real” thing, but way better because they taste real – not like science. The chocolate is smooth, rich and decadent, and the filling is extra coconut-y due to the virgin coconut oil I use. If you have a good-quality virgin coconut oil, I suggest employing it here, as you want to emphasize the coconut flavour. This is one of the few times I use virgin coconut oil, as I usually don’t want everything tasting of the tropics, but in this case I definitely do. If you don’t have any, regular coconut oil is fine.

And if you don’t have any coconut nectar not to worry – substitute it with honey or maple syrup and the results should be almost the same. These should be stored in the freezer, especially in the height of summer when the chocolate can melt in the heat. Plus, biting into one of these is quite refreshing when the 4 o’clock summer sun hits and you need something sweet to rouse you from your nap.

These are also really fun to make – who doesn’t love a good candy project? Get your kids involved, get your friends into it, and create some candy bars that you actually won’t want to share with anyone who has helped you. You’ve been warned.

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Show me your bars on Instagram: #rawbountybars 

Tropical Groove Smoothies

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I just got back from the island of Gili Air, a pinprick of land off the west coast of Lombok. Being so isolated and teeny, you can imagine the food in this particular place wasn’t so high-vibe. Not a raw food, vegan buffet in sight! Gasp! Somehow, I survived, har har, but what truly got me through were the smoothies. Every single restaurant and cafe, no matter how small and unassuming, had a long list of tropical blends to enjoy. I had it made in the shade, just sippin’ on my whizzed up fruits and ice. So simple, refreshing – it reminded me that easy edibles are sometimes the best.

When I got back to civilization here in Bali, I had a serious date with my blender. Nothing fancy, just local, seasonal, simple mixes to beat the heat. I came up with these two beauties, inspired by the foods and flora around me.

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The first smoothie is a Mango Coconut Jamu. Jamu is a traditional Indonesian turmeric tonic that has been made for centuries. With endless variations, some recipes including botanical ingredients such as flowers, fruits, seeds, bark, leaves, and roots, it’s fun to be creative with exotic blends, with a touch sweetener such as honey or palm sugar to mellow out the bitter edge. My version takes advantage of the newly-in-season mango (!!!) and fresh, young coconuts which are literally falling off the trees all around me. If you don’t have access to coconuts, just use canned coconut milk instead for a decadent, tropical treat. And as for the turmeric, use as much as you can handle. The recipe calls for only half a teaspoon of fresh turmeric, but I probably put in twice that amount in my own because I’m wild about that little tuber. Dried and powdered turmeric is fine to use too, just try to find organically grown if possible.

The second smoothie I made just had to be green, because this island is so inspiringly lush and leafy! I have been digging the traditional avocado-based drinks that are actually referred to as “juice” here, even though the avocado has been blended. They are thick, creamy, cold, and not overly sweet. My juice is spiked with a hearty dose of digestive ginger and tangy lime. If you want to get things even greener, toss in a handful of tender greens, such as kale or romaine and get glowing!

Either of these shakes would make a fabulous breakfast, as they are literally a meal-in-a-glass. They also satisfy as an afternoon snack, maybe split between two people.

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How to Drink Smoothies
Is there a big question mark sitting above your head right now? How hard is it to drink a smoothie?! Even though we may think just guzzling down a big glass of food is simple enough, there are in fact some ways we can optimize the digestion of these veritable meals-in-a-glass.

Smoothies are a wonderful way to enjoy a whole host of foods easily, as the masticating has been done for us. But, it is still essential to chew your smoothies! Why? Because digestion begins in the mouth and bathing our liquefied food in saliva is very important for the enzymatic action to take place. Especially for the first few sips, chew the smoothie or swirl it around in your mouth as you would any other food. This also sends a signal to your stomach that something good is on the way down and to prepare for the work ahead. It feels a little funny at first, but your tummy will thank you for giving it some time to put things in order before your smoothie arrives.

It’s also a good idea to avoid consuming really cold smoothies, as freezing drinks actually shut down our digestive system. A cold beverage will sit in your stomach until it reaches core temperature before moving onto into the small intestine, so the colder something is to begin with, the longer it will take to digest.

Once blended, smoothies look quite small, but remember that they are still a lot of food! If you were to sit down and eat an entire coconut, mango, and half a banana, it would take you quite a while. Smoothies are caloric and condensed, so keep that in mind when blending up your meal – a lot turns into a little.

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Living a in a tropical climate and being surrounded by all this incredible fruit has inspired me to do a mini-cleanse of sorts. I’ll be eating raw for the next three days, and even though I am practically doing that anyway, this is a conscious, and very intentional move away from anything resembling the ubiquitous white rice and occasional fried tempeh I’ve been enjoying (soooo good…). I just feel like a little freshening up and finding my balance once again. If you’d like to join me on my veggie and fruit feast, eat raw for the next three days and see how you feel! I’ll be enjoying these smoothies, simple fruit and vegetable salads as well as some of the other recipes from the site (here is a link). With the warmer temperatures and sun shining, it is a perfect time to step away from the stove.

I’ll be Instagramming my food during the raw refresher, so follow along my adventures here.

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Show me your smoothies on Instagram: #tropicalgroovesmoothies 

Bali Bliss Papaya Salad

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Bali is bliss. It’s not hard to believe we’ve already been here for a couple weeks, as I’ve clearly sunken into a new, slower rhythm and just allowing the days to unfold at their languid pace. I haven’t been this relaxed in…well, I can’t even remember when to be honest. It feels amazing to not have a schedule to follow, to not have any major deadlines looming, no calls to answer. I’ve had to travel halfway across planet earth to find this solace, but I also don’t mind being surrounded by tropical jungle, dazzling green rice fields, rivers, and volcanoes, and sparkling starry skies.

Bali has a kind of beauty to it, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It is rich, mesmeric, mysterious. Everywhere you go, you are greeted with wafts of burning incense, floral offerings, and the sounds of flowing water. Spirituality and everyday life are intertwined, and god seems to be truly in the details.

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The food? As wonderful as it is to eat at restaurants (don’t do much of that in Copenhagen), I’ve actually been cooking a lot. Surprise! We’ve rented a house with a rather makeshift, but functioning kitchen, and the one-burner hot plate and I have become well acquainted during my experiments with all of the local produce. My family and I head out around 7am to the morning market, and for pennies fill our bags with all sorts of unusual fruits and veggies, then head home to play with it all.

The other groovy thing about where we are staying is the front yard full of fruit trees and coconut palms. There are papaya growing – no, bulging – off of their trunks. Fruit larger then my six-month-old baby (and he’s a big boy). The housekeeper picked one for me upon my request and it sat ripening on my counter for a couple days until I knew it was time. Total. Bliss-fest. You couldn’t take me to the fanciest restaurant and see me more excited than eating that silly, homegrown papaya. Truly.

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As much as papaya is perfect all on its own, the flavours around me beg to be enjoyed. This was a simple breakfast I tossed together with fresh ingredients I had just picked up at the market: kaffir lime, ginger, and freshly grated coconut (wow, nothing like it!). It is all together sweet, citric, spicy and rich – a delicious combination for starting your day on the right foot, or maybe an afternoon pick-me-up.

Papaya Paradise Party
Papaya are buttery, rich, satisfying, and a delicious taste of the tropics, but are available in most grocery stores throughout the year.

Papayas contain a cornucopia of nutrients, its most unique being papain. Papain is a digestive enzyme that helps digest proteins, similar to the bromelain found in pineapple. If you take digestive supplements, yours will likely contain papain.

Papaya is rich in antioxdants, such as carotenes, vitamin C and flavanoids, folic and pantothenic acid, as well as the minerals copper, potassium and magnesium. These nutrients all add up to major cardiovascular protection, due to their ability to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. Papaya’s vitamins, minerals and antioxidants also provide immune support, promote digestive health, and protect against macular degeneration and rheumatoid arthritis.

Much like bananas, papaya contains a substance called chitinase, which is associated with the latex-fruit allergy syndrome. If you have a latex allergy, you should avoid eating papaya (and banana too).

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If you cannot find kaffir limes, regular lime would be fine of course. Kaffir limes tend to be smaller, so if you are using regular lime, just one would likely be enough for the recipe below. And if you can’t get yourself to a Balinese market and have someone grind your coconut for you this morning, no worries, just use shredded desiccated coconut in its place. You can even lightly toast it if your heart desires.

The recipe for this salad is rather loose. I’ve added some rough measurements, but the dressing here depends greatly on the size of your papaya, so just use the ingredients below as a guideline and make the dish to suit your taste. If you like a more citric flavour, go heavy on the limejuice; if you like it spicy, add more ginger, etc. I also drizzled in some local virgin coconut oil, which had the most incredible coconut taste, but this is entirely up to you. Keep in mind that the fat in the coconut and coconut oil will only help in absorbing the carotenes in the papaya.
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This salad is just a little warm-up here – I thought a slow work up to the more complicated and technique-intensive dishes I plan on making would be best. For now, it’s time to just relax and enjoy the simple and blissful flavours of Bali, unwind, breathe. Find a corner of your home to curl up with this dish, light a stick of incense and drift away on a papaya cloud…I’ll meet you in paradise.