Pantry All-Stars: Coconut Milk
Tell your kids that this rich, creamy liquid is almost like ice cream in a can.
Coconut milk is the creamy common denominator in lots of our favorite recipes, from tropical smoothies to savory tikka masala. Though it’s sometimes confused with coconut water, coconut milk is actually the liquid that results from shredding coconut meat. It’s incredibly rich, with a high fat content, so a little tends to go a long way. Best of all, kids love it—when it’s paired with sweet ingredients, it tastes like liquid ice cream.
Start with a weeknight curry. If you keep two ingredients on hand—curry paste and coconut milk—it’s easy to whip up a last-minute dinner miracle. Simmer together the curry and coconut milk, add a splash or two of fish sauce, then toss in whatever veggies you have on hand (we like bell peppers, zucchini, baby corn, and carrots) and some protein (think tofu, chicken breasts, or shrimp). Little Sous Tip: Start with a small amount of mild curry, then have your kid try adding drops of sriracha to dial up the flavor and spice. Looking for a fun weekend project? Go on a scavenger hunt at an international market and make your own curry paste together, a wonderful excuse to break out the mortar and pestle.
For another tasty (and largely hands-off) dinner, try a slow-cooker tikka masala. Kids can measure spices the night before, and a quick sauté in the morning means coming home to a hot, fragrant meal at the end of the day. Add a scoop of Basmati rice and dinner is on the table.
Change up your school lunch game by swapping sandwiches for savory soups. Here again, coconut milk lends velvety richness to a wide range of recipes. Both a classic tomato soup and a fragrant golden cauliflower soup will hold nicely in a thermos for a warming midday meal.
You can also use coconut milk to make dairy-free whipped cream. Simply pop an unopened can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight, then flip it upside down before you open it. The coconut milk will have separated into coconut cream and a thin liquid. Kids can pour off that liquid (save it for smoothies!) then scoop the cream into a large bowl. Ask them to beat the cream with a hand or a stand mixer and you’ll have dairy-free, fluffy whipped cream in no time.
Smoothies are a fantastic way to use up the remains of a can if you only needed a cup for a recipe—freezing leftover coconut milk in an ice cube tray is a great hack. No cubes? No problem. Ask your kitchen helpers to develop their own recipes on the fly, no measurements needed. Have them choose a combination of two or three of their favorite fruits, then add them to a blender with a handful of ice and a healthy pour of coconut milk. Cheers to a healthy smoothie—and happy, confident cooks!
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