Coconut adds freshness to special dishes

A coconut is not such a hard nut to crack if you follow this simple procedure. First, pick out one that sounds quite full of milk when you shake it. This is an indication of maturity and freshness.

Heat the coconut in a 350-degree F. oven for 15 to 20 minutes - no longer - and then cool to handling temperature. Pierce the three ''eyes'' with an ice pick or Phillips screwdriver and drain the milk.

There should be 1/2 to 1 cupful. Save the liquid if you enjoy drinking it. Put through a small strainer to remove any minute fibrous particles, refrigerate , and use within 24 hours.

Wrap the coconut in a towel. Locate a good solid surface and give the coconut a few brisk whacks with a hammer. This will crack the outer shell and loosen the inner meat.

Unwrap from the towel and separate the white meat from the shell and remove the brown membrane with a potato peeler.

Refrigerate a few large pieces of the meat to be grated for baking use. Cut up the rest into chunks about 1/2 by 1 inch to be eaten as a sweet.

Cover these smaller pieces with coconut milk and refrigerate to keep fresh and moist and use as a snack-type food or a good dessert variation.

Grate amounts of coconut as you need it and use in macaroons, cakes, cookies, candies, or pies.

Cover cupcakes with boiled or seven-minute frosting and roll in plain, tinted , or toasted coconut. Cover a layer cake with the same frosting and coat lavishly, top and sides, with the grated product.

Coconut can also be added to cookie or cake batter, penuche or chocolate fudge. Or sprinkle grated coconut on individual fruit cups, or on top of a fruit salad bowl or ambrosia.

Add to pancake batter and homemade granola. Try coconut-orange and coconut-carrot bread. Extra, fresh-grated coconut can be mixed with coconut milk and frozen in small containers for future use.

To toast coconut, grate the meat and spread it in a shallow pan, placing it in a moderate oven until golden brown, stirring frequently.

Cool, refrigerate, and use as a sprinkled or dipped topping. To color coconut , add a drop or two of coloring to an empty jar, plus a few drops of water.

Add the grated coconut and cover and shake it until all is evenly tinted - you can make absolutely any color of coconut you wish and in just the amount you need.

If you've never tried fresh coconut, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the distinct difference in taste as compared with the commercially prepared item.

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