The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 24, 2013

Amanda Stone: Coconut gets new respect

By Amanda Stone
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Coconut isn't just for amazing, high-calorie desserts anymore. After years of being shunned as one of those infuriatingly fatty pieces of produce, coconut is finally getting some respect. It's about time. We just have to open our minds to the idea of what the almighty coconut can do for us.

Coconut oil has started showing up in lots of healthy recipes. When compared with olive oil, coconut oil has more saturated fat, but plenty of people no longer think that's a terrible thing. Be mindful that the hype surrounding coconut oil may be fueled by folks who don't consume many other sources of saturated fat, namely animal products.

One of coconut oil's big selling points is that it is solid at room temperature, so it can be used in place of shortening or butter. Or it can be melted and used like oil. It has a high smoke point, making it great for stir-fry or popcorn.

Besides cooking, coconut oil has lots of surprising uses. It's great for dry skin, diaper rash, and eye-makeup removal. It's supposed to be good for the scalp and aids in stimulating hair growth. You can season your cast-iron skillet, de-frizz your split ends, soothe poison ivy and shave your legs all with a tub of coconut oil. I wonder if it comes in a 5-gallon bucket?

My first memory of a real, whole coconut, hair and all, is my brother choosing one as a treat at the grocery store. After lots of effort, he poked a hole in it and drained the coconut water. What a letdown. I was expecting something sweet and creamy, like a fancy tropical drink from the movies. No, it's just water with a hint of nuttiness. Coconut milk and coconut cream come from the expressed juice of the actual coconut meat. They're not very sweet at all, but they're so good at adding creaminess to savory dishes. You can find them in a can in the Asian section of most grocery stores.

I've always known coconut to be sweetened, shredded and sold in a plastic bag. We all know how amazing it is in desserts. If you're a coconut fan, you'll also love the unsweetened variety served in your dinner. It's harder to find, but health food stores usually carry it. Track some down and try it in a curry sauce or throw some in your next wok of stir-fry. Try the following recipes for a different twist on how to use coconut.


Coconut ginger shrimp

2 tablespoons coconut oil

4 scallions, white parts thinly sliced; dark green parts sliced and reserved

2 tablespoons peeled ginger, finely chopped

2 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 pound large shrimp, shelled

1/2 teaspoon fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon fresh orange juice

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Lime wedges, for serving

Cooked brown rice or quinoa, for serving

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. Add the white scallion slices, ginger, coconut and garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the cumin and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and the fish sauce. Cook, tossing occasionally, until shrimp are opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the green scallion pieces and cook until just wilted, 10 to 15 seconds. Season with lime, orange juice and black pepper. Serve with lime wedges over rice or quinoa.

Adapted from


Chicken coconut curry

11/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size cubes

6 teaspoons curry powder, divided

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 14-ounce can "light" coconut milk

1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth

4 cups 1-inch chunks Yukon Gold potatoes

1 cup sliced carrots

1/2 cup chopped celery

3/4 cup frozen peas

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

Place chicken in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon curry powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring once or twice, until mostly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the pot and add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the onion starts to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in the remaining 5 teaspoons curry powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add coconut milk, broth, potatoes, carrots, celery and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and carrots are tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pot and add peas. Increase heat to high and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in cilantro and brown sugar.



Whipped coconut oil body butter

1 cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil

A few drops of your favorite essential oil, for fragrance (I like using lavender)

Put all ingredients in a bowl. Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, mix for 6 to 7 minutes or until light and airy. Spoon the whipped oil into a jar and cover tightly. Smooth onto dry skin.



Exfoliating pumpkin pie sugar scrub

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon Vitamin E oil

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon

Mix well and store in a jar, tightly covered. Use in the shower for exfoliating. Smells amazing.


Have questions? Email them to or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.