a respite from gray skies

Coconut and Lime.  A combination that brings to mind a stretch of white sand, bright hot sunshine, palm trees swaying in a warm ocean breeze, the scent of sunscreen permeating salty air.  From the vantage point of a low-seated, brightly-striped beach chair I can see the topaz water spread before me, a lovely backdrop for my fuchsia-coated toenails.  On my right a fruity cocktail with a lemon-hued umbrella waits patiently for my next sip.  In my lap rests a delightful book, set aside for a moment while I take in the view before me.

A tropical island.  Are you with me?  I hope so.  Pull up a chair, apply your sunscreen, grab a drink and settle in for a nice long chat.  We need this, don’t we?  A respite from gray skies that threaten to pour ice and snow over grass that has just recently emerged from underneath the last snowfall.  An opportunity to replace bulky sweaters, scarves and overcoats with swimsuits, gauzy tops and sandals.  An excuse to make Mojitos and Margaritas instead of Hot Toddies and Irish Coffee.

If only I could escape to such a place.  Right now.  Just hours before the first few flakes of the impending snowstorm start to fall. Unfortunately, neither my bank account nor my work schedule can afford such a jaunt to the South at a moment’s notice. Instead, I pushed my weekly grocery trip up by one day, stocking up tonight on items needed for a Saturday to be spent testing recipes as snow softly falls outside the kitchen window.

Rather than a polka-dot bikini and broad-rimmed hat I’ll be shuffling around in slippered feet and comfy sweats.  On the agenda? Spicy sausage and potato soup, some sugar cookies, a chickpea salad.  All are good cold weather fare, but I can’t help but think that maybe I should be thinking a little differently. That maybe I should be whipping up another pan of these Coconut Lime Bars that cured my Winter woes two weeks ago.

How does a tropically-themed dinner party in the middle of Winter sound?  That’s not such a bad idea, is it?  We’d gather some friends, make a pan of enchiladas, a bright salad, some guacamole, and a tangy citrus dessert. We could pull the last few limes off of our little indoor tree (the only way citrus could possibly survive a winter in Virginia) and shake up some zippy margaritas.  I’ll load the iPod with Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley and turn the heat way up.  We’ll chat about food and travel and books until the ‘ritas kick in and folks start climbing on my dining table to belt out “one love…one heart…let’s get togeeeeether and feel alllll right!” with their arm slung across their neighbors shoulder for support.  And nobody is allowed to mention the snow outside. Nobody.

Would you come?  I hope so.  These bars might just be worth your trip.

I made these gluten-free and dairy-free for a friend that shared them with us two weeks ago.  Feel free to substitute all-purpose flour and regular butter for my ingredients.

Coconut Lime Bars

adapted from Gourmet, January 1995

makes 9 bars

For Crust

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp gluten-free all-purpose blend flour (or regular all-purpose flour)
  • 3/4 stick (6 tbsp) Earth Balance vegan butter (or regular unsalted butter)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, toasted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For Custard

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour (or regular all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp fresh lime juice (from about 5 limes)
  • 1 tbsp freshly-grated lime zest (from about 2 limes)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, toasted and cooled


  1. Preheat oven to 325* and butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan, knocking out excess flour.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl blend together flour, butter substitute, 1/3-cup coconut, confectioners’ sugar and salt until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Pat mixture into prepared pan and bake in middle of oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before pouring custard in.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 300*.
  4. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs and granulated sugar until combined well.  Stir in flour, lime juice and zest.
  5. Pour mixture over crust and bake in middle of oven for 20-25 minutes until just the center of the custard is not set.  Top custard with 1/3 cup toasted coconut and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes until all of custard is just set.
  6. Cool in pan on rack for 1 hour, then chill in refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.


16 responses to “a respite from gray skies

  1. Oh yes, I would come! (In fact, beware of a 22-year-old traveling Australian showing up on your doorstep tomorrow night :P)

    Sadly circumstances prevented me getting to the grocery store before the snow today, so methinks it will be a Saturday of oatmeal, soy milk, and dreaming of these coconut bars…

  2. I’m hearing Redemption Song in my mind. I think your dinner sounds wonderful!

  3. All the snow missed us and just left us with bitter cold. These bars look like just the right cure.

  4. I wish it would have snowed here!!! These bars look SO good!!! What a nice diet-friendly touch you gave them for your friend! So sweet!

  5. Thanks for the recipe – those look great! Isn’t it funny how baked goods can remind us of something tropical? I had a similar experience last winter with a passion fruit pie…

  6. I have friends who throw a Hawaiian luau every February. We wear sundresses (cleverly hidden under sweaters and sweats during travel) and they crank the heat, serve fancy drinks and delicious treats. We play salsa music, do the limbo etc. It totally breaks up the monotony of winter. This year, maybe I’ll make these bars.

  7. Absolutely gorgeous photos. Your writing style is equally as appealing. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Oh those bars look great and I’ll try to forget how cold I am while drooling over them! 🙂

  9. I’m with you… definitely. And I really want to make those bars now. Maybe it can be an end of the month treat. Maybe.

  10. Bill loves lime/lemon bars but hates coconut. Anything I could substitute instead?

  11. Thanks, everybody!

    Kate – How fun!

    Eating Abroad – Thank you!

    Rose – I’d try pulsing some toasted, sliced almonds in a food processor a few times. Substitute those for the coconut…I bet it would be tasty! You don’t have to sprinkle anything on top, could just add the almonds to the crust for a little extra flavor. Let me know if you try it!

  12. oneordinaryday

    I made myself a big bowl of chili lime popcorn last week when I was feeling the endless blahs of winter. It brought me a little taste of summer. Sounds like your coconut lime bars did the same for you.

  13. Oh! I would be there in a heart beat if I could only leave the kiddos behind. Even though I’m here in FL its not been its sunny warm self lately and its getting old! Miss you! Love you, Steph

  14. Now that silly song is in my head… “you put the lime in the coconut and mix it all up!”

  15. Pingback: winter’s setting sun « bella eats

  16. Pingback: celebrate with citrus cupcakes | bella eats

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