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JESSICA KARLEY: Cooking with coconut

Coconut Curry Beef is a delicious way to enjoy coconut in a main dish. (Jessica Karley/Forum News Service)1 / 2
Coconut Cream Bundt Cake is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. (Jessica Karley/Forum News Service)2 / 2

There is one ingredient in my house we all agree we love. Instead of the “how many bites do I have to eat?” question or the “I am not eating!” statement, I only hear sounds of joy. “Oh, my gosh! This is good!” or my personal favorite “Mmm!” That one amazing ingredient is coconut.

This can be used many different ways and in many different dishes. It can be in both sweet desserts or in savory, spicy main courses.

One of my favorite savory dishes is coconut curry. It doesn’t matter so much to me what the meat or vegetable combinations in the curry are, as long as the rich, creamy, spicy, sweet coconut sauce is served with it.

Today, I’m going to share my recipe for Coconut Beef Curry. It is a delicious gluten-free meal and can be made from any cut of beef — even the wallet-friendly ones — because it’s cut up into bite-sized or “stew meat” pieces. If you have a multi-cooker, which is one of my favorite kitchen tools, this dish can be made in just one dish, but if not, just brown your meat ahead of time in a sauté pan and add it to your regular Crock Pot.

To begin making this dish, the raw beef is coated in coconut flour, curry powder, salt and pepper, and fried in coconut or olive oil. Once the beef pieces are golden brown, they are covered in a delicious sauce of creamy coconut milk, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, brown sugar and just enough spice to keep your taste buds happy. Add your favorite vegetables and serve it over hot rice.

I prefer basmati, but whatever plain rice you have in the pantry will work just fine. Either way, the coconut beef is sure to impress. Garnish it with fresh chopped cilantro, basil and toasted coconut flakes and try not to eat the entire batch in one sitting.

I couldn’t write about coconut and leave out a dessert recipe. I decided to do some experimenting with cake mixes the other day and came up with a delicious recipe for Creamy Coconut Bundt Cake. The cake draws a lot more praises from the little ones in my house than the curry, but just serve both recipes in one night and everyone will be happy.

I admit, some may say I cheated on this dessert.

It’s true, but it’s what I have time for! I used butter pecan cake mix and instant French vanilla pudding to give my cake a delicious head start. I then added eggs, melted coconut oil, and, of course, coconut flakes. Once the cake is baked, cover it with a vanilla glaze and top with toasted coconut flakes. The result is amazing, and in my house it ended with the best of praise. Mmm!  

Coconut Beef Curry


2 pounds of cubed beef stew meat

1 tablespoon curry powder

¼ cup coconut flour (or all-purpose flour if you like)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

3 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)


2  13.5-ounce cans of lite coconut milk

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon curry powder

2 tablespoons fresh ginger

2 tablespoons fresh garlic

2 tablespoons red curry paste

1 teaspoon kosher salt


1 medium yellow onion, cut into strips

1 red bell pepper, cut into strips

1 orange bell pepper, cut into strips

¼ cup cornstarch

¼ cup water

1  8-ounce bag of sugar snap peas

1/3 cup toasted coconut flakes

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

In large re-sealable bag, combine beef cubes, coconut flour, curry powder, first amount of salt and pepper. Seal and shake until evenly coated. In large bowl, combine sauce ingredients and whisk until smooth. Set aside. Turn multi-cooker to high or sear and add coconut oil. When fragrant and hot, add beef and sear until golden brown. Add peppers and onion, cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour sauce over top, turn cooker to slow cook on high heat, place lid on top and let cook for 2-3 hours. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup cornstarch with ¼ cup water and add to Crock Pot. Stir in pea pods and cook for an additional hour. Serve over hot rice and garnish with toasted coconut flakes and freshly chopped herbs.

Coconut Cream Bundt Cake

1  16-ounce package Butter Pecan cake mix

1  4-ounce package French Vanilla instant pudding mix

3 eggs

¾ cup coconut oil, melted

1 cup water

1½ cups coconut flakes


1½ cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ teaspoon butter flavoring

1/4 cup water

½ cup toasted coconut flakes

Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil and water in mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add coconut flakes. Pour into a prepared bundt pan and bake for 35 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes before inverting onto cake plate. Spread glaze (directions follow) and top with toasted coconut. FOR GLAZE: Combine powdered sugar, vanilla extract, butter flavoring, and water. Whisk until smooth. Add more powdered sugar or water as needed. 

Karley can be reached at Read her food blog at