“The two basic items necessary to sustain life are sunshine and coconut milk. Did you know that? That’s a fact.” — Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), Midnight Cowboy
Well, we’re a little short on sunshine here today in Chicago-land, thanks to the already famous Blizzard of ’11. But fortunately we’re well-stocked with coconut milk and other coconut products.
So what if we can’t open our front door, and the dog has tracked icy puddles all over the already freezing wooden floor? We’re cooking up the taste of the tropics.
First up is Coco-Choco Pudding. This is an adaptation of a Cooking Light recipe. The only difference is I substituted light coconut milk for dairy milk — which is actually a huge difference in terms of taste.
After that is Coconut Candy. Don’t let the word candy fool you. This is a natural treat with no added sugar. It’s a homemade version of the yummy but pricey Larabar. Recipes for this are all over the Internet; I’m going to share mine.
 In a medium saucepan, stir together 1/2 c. sugar, 3 tbsp. cornstarch, 3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa, and 1/4 tsp. salt.
 Gradually add 3 c. light coconut milk, stirring with a whisk.
 Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Then reduce heat and simmer 1 minute or until thick.
 Remove from heat. Add 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped. Stir until melted and smooth. Then stir in 1 tsp. vanilla extract.
 Pour into individual cups (4-6 servings) or into one big bowl. Cover by putting a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface (so it doesn’t form a “skin”).
 Lick the spoon (unless your chocolate-loving daughter gets to it first).
 Chill the pudding for 4 hours (if your son who didn’t get to lick the spoon can wait that long).
 Put 1/2 c. pitted dates (around 40 dates) into your food processor. (Thanks for the new food processor, Mom!) Process for a couple minutes. They’ll form a big gooey ball. Dump the big gooey ball in a bowl.
 Now put 1/4 c. flaked, unsweetened coconut and 1/4 c. raw cashews (these aren’t really raw, but by “raw” I mean “unroasted”) into the food processor. Process just as long as it takes to grind them up finely, but not so long that they turn into nut butter. Dump it into the bowl with the dates.
 Using your hands, smoosh everything together so the coconut and cashews are all completely incorporated into the dates.
 Now form the mixture into a log with your hands, and then slice into candy-size pieces.
p.s. Full disclosure: my kids love coconut (especially the chocolate-coconut combo), but they don’t love nuts. Which just means … more coconut candy for me!