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Shredded Coconut Bars

08 July

coconut blog image

My mom will be the first to point out that it’s a miracle that I’m even admitting to having shredded coconut on my pantry shelves, much less writing a blog post about it. I was the kid who couldn’t handle juice with pulp or shredded coconut because I’d be struck with instant gag factor.

But it turns out that I’m not lying to my daughter when I tell her she should re-try foods every so often because tastebuds can change. For me, it started in Hawaii when I had toasted, shredded coconut sprinkled over plain yogurt that was scooped into half of a papaya, and I actually enjoyed the texture.

Since then, I’ve been experimenting with different ways to enjoy shredded coconut without gagging, and I’ve found quite a few {scroll down if you want to get straight to my current favorite recipe}.  This shredded coconut quest of mine can be a little touch-and-go, because some recipes sound awesome but just don’t work in my mouth, while others are surprisingly good!  I’m just never quite sure until the moment of truth – the first bite!

It’s like the many conflicting reports out there about what is “healthy” for you. For instance, I just spent an hour bouncing from blog post to scientific abstract and back reading how refined sugar isn’t actually all that bad for you, or how it’s ok in moderation, or how sugar is ok from fruit and milk but not refined.

Shredded CoconutNot only did it distract me from writing about unsweetened, shredded coconut, it made me a little panicky. First off, at GRUB, we encourage folks to get off of the refined sugar train. Our own case studies from GRUB’s Sugar Workshop include people experiencing weight loss, less anxiety, and improvements in their type 2 diabetes issues.

And while we certainly don’t know everything about food and nutrition, we definitely don’t want to be spreading unhelpful, outdated, or just plain difficult information!

Secondly, I started to doubt what happened in my own body when I stopped eating refined sugar every day: less anger, less anxiety, more energy. In the face of the “professional facts”, I worried that I was just fooling myself.

But just like I absolutely know that I won’t be able to choke down a macaroon, no matter how lovingly it was baked, I realized that I absolutely know the changes that happened in my body when I quit eating refined sugar. And I also realized that I didn’t just quit sugar, I started using “nourishment” as the frame for my food choices.

The voices in my head shifted from a monologue:
“Mmmm, put in mouth, more, more.”

To a dialogue:
Liz: “I really want that ice cream.”
New Liz: “But then I won’t be able to sleep.”
Liz: “But I am a little peckish.”
New Liz: “What else can I eat that’s sweet but will make me feel good?”

To me, that’s what nourishment is: what can I eat that will fulfill the craving I’m having AND will make my body feel good? It’s not far from some wisdom I read by Thich Naht Hahn, the Vietnamese monk, when I was quitting smoking {I’m paraphrasing here}:

Don’t think of it as denying yourself what you want; ask yourself, will this make me happy?

This is what Rye and I mean when we say, “Nourishment in every bite.” Happiness, contentment, joy, for us, comes from delicious food that we can feel is truly feeding our bodies. Like a naturally sweetened treat that also has fiber, healthy fats, and iron {yep, that’s thanks to the unsweetened, shredded coconut in it, and the recipe is at the end of this post!  If you make the Coconut Date Bars, you’re getting even more nourishment in the minerals that the dates deliver}.

And when you can feel what is working in your body, you can take the latest nutrition information with a grain of salt {or sugar}; maybe there’s a seed there that will be helpful further on your path, maybe not, just keep inhabiting YOUR body, and trust its wisdom.

If you could use some help to stop eating refined sugar every day, and you want to try substituting some naturally sweet treats, we’ve got a recipe here for you.IMG_2403

If refined sugar doesn’t feel like a problem for you, you can add the easy recipe below to your arsenal when it’s time for a treat, and enjoy some nourishment AND sweetness.

And if you need to just stay away from the sweets to kick the addiction, we dig it, and we’re proud of you for listening to your body!

Also, since I’m still new to shredded coconut, please share below in the Comments: how do you like to use it best?


Date Coconut Bars
{a moderately sweet treat}

1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/4 cup pitted dates, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes
1 Tb coconut oil, melted
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
1 Tb cacao nibs {optional}

1. Drain the dates and add them, shredded coconut, coconut oil, vanilla & salt to the bowl of your food processor*.
2. Process for 1 minute, stopping the blade to scrape the mixture down a few times.
3. Scoop mixture into a parchment paper-lined loaf pan, or muffin tins, and press flat with your hands.  If using, sprinkle the cacao nibs over the top, and press them into the mixture.
4. Place flattened mixture into the freezer for 20-30 minutes.  Cut into bars, and enjoy!
5. Store uneaten bars in the freezer for up to a week.
* This will work in a high-powered blender, too, but it’s a pain to scoop out from under the blades!

Coconut Bars
{super-sweet, inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie}

1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
2 Tb maple syrup
1 Tb coconut oil, melted
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt
1 – 2 Tb slivered almonds, chocolate chips, or raisins, optional

1. Put all ingredients into the bowl of your food processor, and process for 1 minute.  Scraping down the mixture occasionally.
2. Press mixture into a parchment paper-lined loaf pan or muffin tins, sprinkle any optional ingredients on top, and press into the mixture. 3. Place in freezer for 20-30 minutes.
4. Cut into bars, and enjoy!
4. Store uneaten bars in the freezer for up to a week.

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Liz Flint-Somerville, Nutritional Consultant

Liz was a partner in Grub for 3 amazing years and helped author many of our most beloved recipes and posts. She is now dedicating her time to caring for her family, writing poetry, and continuing to cook delicious Real Foods.

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4 Responses to “Shredded Coconut Bars”

  1. Shelley July 9, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    I was just thinking about trying to make something “sweet” without using sugar, have been sugar free for 9 days now. so…this was just in the nick of time! Thank you!

    • Liz Flint-Somerville July 9, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

      Yay, Shelley! And congrats on 9 days without sugar – that is quite an accomplishment! Let us know how you like the recipe.

  2. Lania July 10, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    I can’t wait to try, I lived the one we learned in class. I made it and brought it to work, everyone loved it.

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