So, candy. Should it have a place in your diet? Well, if you read this blog consistently, you will know that I feel candy, despite its usually terrible rep, has a place, albeit a conservatively small place, in a healthy diet. What we eat, whether we are conscious of it or not, is more than just nutrition and, in my mind, shouldn’t be restricted to the point we feel sad and deprived. Consider the little old lady and her biscuits in the Lovin’ My Biscuits post this month.
Now, I am not advocating bags of processed, sugary junk here. The candy on this blog is certainly made from whole food—my Salted Fruited Chocolate Bark and my Ground Cherry Chews, for example, are good for you, if eaten in moderation. But none of it is meant to be eaten at every meal or even every day…hence the words “special treat,” right?
If there’s no time to whip up homemade biscuits, melt chocolate bark or roll coconut chews, though, does that mean a special treat is out of the question? Not necessarily, which brings me to an exciting new product—and we are talking candy—that arrived special delivery to selected New Hope Network bloggers: Coconut Sugar Cocomels. Unlike the corn syrup-laden, artificially colored and flavored junk we typically call “candy,” Cocomels are true food—that began (not surprisingly to me) at a small stand in a Colorado farmers market.
The company that makes Cocomels was started by one guy—JJ Sweets, who began cooking as a kid (again, not surprising) and ended up creating a human- and planet-healthy treat that is now sold in over 4,000 stores across the U.S.A. According to Mr. Sweets (And isn’t that the cutest name for a candymaker???):
The idea for this company came to me in a literal dream…. I witnessed this kooky Willy Wonka-like candy man creating innovative new candies that were not only delicious but also healthier for our bodies and containing some functional benefits. They were also unique in their flavors, drawing on old recipes but infused with a modern sense of global adventurousness.
Inspired by this dream, I began experimenting with making delicious, natural sweets made from sustainably sourced, organic, healthier ingredients. Having been interested in cooking from an early age, and later being an earth scientist, professional musician and always a foodie, I soon found that the art of candy making was a perfect combination of my passions: science + art + food = candy making and bringing people moments of Joy! Done, JJ’s Sweets was born.
Cocomels have been around since about 2010 and come in several flavors, including original coconut milk caramel, sea salt, vanilla and espresso. The newest flavor is the one we are talking about here: Coconut Sugar Cocomels. All Cocomels are vegan, dairy free, gluten free and totally delicious. And, oh yes…organic, nonGMO and sustainably produced. SWEET!
And the reviews from family and friends are stellar:
- Deb: I LOVE this caramel!
- Hayley: YUM YUM!
- Heather: Can’t believe these are vegan and gluten-free! Love them.
- Don: actually, my guy didn’t say much–too busy chewing. I did finally have to take them away from him so that I had enough to share around and to (you know me) cook with!
That’s right, I just couldn’t resist working these rich, buttery (even though there’s no butter in them) caramels into a Green Gal recipe: Salted Caramel Coconut Sugar Cocomel Cream! And you can make it, too! It takes only a few minutes and can top anything from cake to biscuits to scones to ice cream. It’s pretty good right off the spoon, too!
- 10 Coconut Sugar Cocomels, unwrapped
- One tablespoon pure coconut oil
- The top cream from a full-fat 14-ounce can of coconut milk (You must have full-fat coconut milk.)
- Big pinch coarse sea salt
The day before you want to make the cream, place the can of coconut milk in the coldest part of your refrigerator so that the cream and milk separate. Try not to disturb it because it comes back together fairly easily, and you want to avoid this.
When you are ready to make the cream, heat the coconut oil in the top of a double boiler until liquid. Add the 10 unwrapped Coconut Sugar Cocomel Candies and stir with a fork or small whisk until the candies melt and are starting to work into the oil. Note that they never completely combined for me, and I ended up leaving a little of the oil behind when I added this mixture to the coconut cream. Not a worry.
Once you have the oil and candies melted and partially combined, open the can of coconut milk and scoop the top level of cream into a mixing bowl. Try to get only the cream. Reserve the milk underneath it for another purpose. Using the balloon whisk attachment on your mixer, whip the coconut cream until light and fluffy, maybe two minutes.
Remove the top of the double boiler from its base; wipe the bottom so not to drip water; then, with the mixer running, carefully and very slowly pour the warm melted candies into the whipped coconut cream. Continue whipping until all is incorporated. Sprinkle in the pinch of coarse sea salt, whip about 30 seconds longer.
What you end up with is a slightly sweet cream that is pourable and tastes amazingly like salted caramel. The taste is mild but rich and you may find very tiny flecks of solid Cocomels throughout. Again, not a worry. This decadent cream was a great topper for my gluten-free Green Tomato Cake, for instance!
The Sweet Story of Cocomels Success
From that small candy stand in Boulder to a recognized national brand, the story of Cocomels is… well… SWEET! You can get this healthy treat in several varieties—there are Chocolate Covered Cocomels, Cocomel Bites and now the new Coconut Sugar flavor. Yet, despite all the fame and fortune, JJ Sweets remains a humble good guy: “Despite our growth, the cornerstone of my company remains rooted in my original dream to develop delicious, innovative treats that bring moments of Joy without sacrificing the health of my customers or the planet. This drives everything from the ingredients we source to [how] we run our day to day operations.” Awe.
Give Cocomels a try and let us know what you think! And while you are at it, remember to savor all the simple special treats of summer. Summer is a sweet treat, too, and it’s nearly over. So pack up a few Cocomel Candies and head out on a hike, or to the beach or just out to the front porch. Here are some more ideas for ways to savor summer in pretty-picture form from The New Hope Blogger Network….
Illustration by Katie Eberts