Playing Favourites: Thai Kitchen coconut milk

Thai Kitchen premium coconut milk

I’ve never been to Asia. I’ve never even wanted to go to Asia. Then, Johnathan spent three months backpacking through Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, and the Philippines last year, and informs me that I must go back with him someday, that it was gorgeous (especially southern Philippines), and so perhaps one day I shall actually travel to Asia.

I do know that I like Asian food. That is, I like the North American versions of Asian food: sushi (though I’m still not brave enough to try real raw fish sushi: I stick to smoked salmon and crab and deep-fried shrimp and vegetarian rolls), Thai curry, Indian curry √° la British pub, Thai food of any sort, Chinese buffet… you get the idea.

Since doing the Whole30 earlier this year, coconut milk, which was for me previously only an ingredient in Thai curry, has become a staple. While avoiding dairy for two months, I began to put coconut milk in my coffee, and lo and behold I no longer enjoy half and half. Go figure. Coffee is a staple for me, ergo so is coconut milk.

Coffee with coconut milk

But not just any coconut milk. The Whole30 taught me that not all coconut milks are created equal.

For instance, many cheaper (and often imported from Asia) versions of canned (canned is the best) coconut milk contain sulfites, which is an additive that has what the Whole9Life people call “potentially nasty side effects.” It is often used as a preservative, but you can usually find versions of whatever you’re looking for (dried fruit, balsamic vinegar, etc.) that either doesn’t have preservatives or uses something more natural instead.

In the case of coconut milk, the premium version (don’t even look at the low-fat version: you want full fat, and besides, it’s cheaper!) of the Thai Kitchen brand uses something called guar gum as a stabilizer, not a preservative.

If you’re thinking about removing dairy and/or adding some good fat to your diet, grab a can of this coconut milk and add it to your coffee, tea, smoothies, curries, baked goods, etc. And let me save you the trouble of reading all of the labels of all of the other varieties you might find in your local grocery stores: Thai Kitchen is the best, with the fewest and most trustworthy ingredients.

And yes, they really should compensate me for this post. ūüėČ


Edit: The National Post posted a story (from @TheAppetizer) that breaks down the discrepancy between “coconut water,” “coconut cream,” “coconut milk,” and other products with similar names. Check out the delicious-looking recipe for Coconut-Lime Pulled Chicken Tacos!


Breakfast Smoothie Extraordinaire

(Update July 4, 2013. I removed “a la Whole30” from the title of this post because I keep finding it on Pinterest, with comments from Whole30-ers cautioning against consuming smoothies during a Whole30. Is this still a good recipe? I think so, yes. Is it “Whole30”? Not quite. If you’re doing a Whole30, consider this as an occasional treat rather than as a key nutritional go-to.)

(Update March 27, 2012. In a recent conversation with Melissa Hartwig, co-founder of the Whole30, I learned that smoothies are less than ideal for the Whole30 program for a few reasons: 1) the spotlight tends to be on the fruit rather than the veggies or protein; 2) almond butter is classified as a fat that should be consumed occasionally, not a protein that should be consumed daily; 3) flax seeds are on the “limit” list for fats; and 4) liquid foods are easier to overeat than solid foods. That being said, make the adjustments you need to for your Whole30 and enjoy!)

In the 21 days since I started my (first) Whole30, I’ve become increasingly competent in the art of the breakfast smoothie.

The smoothie that I blogged about week before last has evolved past the alpha stage into a more complex, flavorful, and healthy version. Each morning, I look forward to my smoothie with greater anticipation.

I start with coconut milk

I start with coconut milk

Then I add some almond butter

Then I add some almond butter

A cut-up banana is next

A cut-up banana is next

...followed by a handful of spinach

…followed by a handful of spinach

...some flax seed

…some ground flax seed

And, to make it pretty and round out the flavour, frozen blueberries

And, to make it pretty and round out the flavour, frozen blueberries

I know I have not reached the level of Smoothie Expert yet, but I am sufficiently satisfied with this stage to submit it to you for beta testing.

Please give it a go and let me know what you think my next step should be.

Sarah’s Whole30 Paleo Smoothie, Beta Version

  • 1/3 cup high-fat coconut milk (read the labels and choose one that uses only guar gum as a “stabilizer”, and has about a 30% fat content. Good fat, remember!)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 banana, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup (or as much as you think you would enjoy) organic spinach or kale (you might want to blend the kale first before adding the other ingredients: I chewed each mouthful of this morning’s smoothie!)
  • 1 Tablespoon flax seeds (I use a version that is already pre-ground) (flax is a great source of Omega fatty acids)
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • A couple splashes of orange juice¬†(sweetener and consistency regulator: my coconut milk tends to be¬†thick, and adding OJ makes it pourable)

I made it to Day 7! (and the breakfast smoothie that made today possible)

Status report: I feel energetic, I feel nourished, I think my taste buds are changing, and I am doing things with food that otherwise I never would have.

Today is day 7 of the super-strict diet I have embarked on for 30 days.

After posting my introduction to the diet last week, and using the term “Paleo” to describe the diet, I have realized just how significant the differences are between Paleo and what I’m doing.

For instance, people on the Paleo diet can have (fresh, raw, etc.) dairy. They can have (raw) honey and other “natural sweeteners” like agave syrup and stevia. They can eat legumes (peanuts and all peanut products, kidney beans, peas, etc.). They can have soy products.

It’s okay for them to “Paleo-ify” recipes like breads and desserts, using almond or coconut flours and natural sweeteners.

They. can have CHOCOLATE!!

Super-dark chocolate, but still.

I can’t have or do any of those things. For 30 days.

The first couple of days were okay. I was kind of excited to get going, and so I bought a pile of fruit and vegetables.

By the end of Day Two, I think I made a rookie mistake in not eating enough. Either that or I caught a bug of some kind. I stayed up too late working on something, without nourishing myself. By the time I went to bed, I was exhausted and felt sick.

Day Three was the worst. I woke up feeling sick. I got the sweats and actually threw up. Unpleasant. I didn’t feel like eating but I made myself eat some raw almonds and took my usual Reductionist Americano with me on my way to spend the day with two of my nieces.

I have a deal with my nieces that, instead of presents on their birthday, I take them for a “date”. I was already a month late for Jaida’s date, so I didn’t want to reschedule. (Zuriel just had her birthday, and the girls decided they wanted to go together on their date. Hence nieces.)

It wasn’t until after lunch (for me, boiled eggs & clementines) that I started to feel more like myself. That night, I made myself a big salad (with homemade balsamic vinaigrette), and then felt like I needed the day to be over. At 8:00 pm.

I rarely go to sleep in the same calendar day as I wake up. Clearly, something was wrong.

The next day, things remained a little off… but that was the end of it.

Today, day 7, I feel great! I have lots of energy, and I feel like I could go for a run at any time! I also regret not doing the Jackknife ab workout on the Wii Fit today…

Not to make this the longest post ever, but yesterday, I ran out of the eggs that I had been counting on to feed me at breakfast-time every day. So today, my first day of school after Reading Week, I had to get creative. Much Internet-researching and friend-asking later, I realized just how simple it was: coconut milk, almond butter, and berries, all blended together in a lovely healthy, filling shake.

That baby got me from 7:30 to 1:30 without needing anything else to eat!

That smoothie deserves a medal.

Can’t wait til tomorrow morning!

A healthy breakfast smoothie

A healthy breakfast smoothie

Coconut milk

Coconut milk - pretty much any kind will do

smoothie in a cup

almond butter

Almond Butter - my new protein genie!