Welcome to the new year, and to the first SOS Kitchen Challenge of 2011! Ricki and I are both refreshed from a relaxing holiday season, and ready and rarin' to kick off this year's challenges with a bang.
Our featured ingredient this month is something that both of us use almost daily in our kitchens. In fact, we're both so coconuts for it that we want to share some with one lucky participant through a giveaway at the end of the month. This ingredient is versatile for cooking, baking, and bath and body applications, and has some impressive nutritional and medicinal characteristics. It is a solid at some temperatures, and a liquid at others. And it smells like the tropics.
What could it be? Drum roll please...
Coconut oil is the oil extracted from the meat of the coconut. High in lauric acid, caprylic acid, capric acid, medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), antioxidants, vitamin E, and vitamin K, coconut oil is definitely at the top of the "healthy fat" category. Don't worry about the high saturated fat content - the high concentration of medium chain triglycerides are supposed to assimilate well to the body and convert to energy.
Although we can't technically say that coconut oil has specific medicinal or curative properties, keep in mind that many of the naturally occurring properties of coconut oil - such as lauric acid, caprylic acid, and capric acid - function as natural antimicrobial agents, and may help strengthen the immune system. Coconut oil is also very versatile for health and body applications - it can be used for oil pulling, topically a moisturizer or massage oil, as a carrier oil for essential oils, and as a hair treatment.
Unlike olive oil or other popular plant oils like flax, sunflower, or canola, coconut oil is NOT destroyed or changed chemically in any way when used with medium or low heat. This makes coconut oil one of the best oils to use in cooking and baking, because it does not break down easily. It can be used as a replacement for butter in any recipe, since it often behaves much like butter since it is solid at room temperature and liquid when hot. It is also wonderful spread it on bread or muffins instead of butter, add a dollop to smoothies or hot chocolate, or melt it over cooked vegetables or grains. The uses are endless!
Since many of Ricki's and my readers have food allergies or sensitivies, we want to share a note regarding the allergenic potential of coconut. Coconut must be labeled on food packaging as a tree nut, according to regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. On the other hand, neither the EU nor Canada considers coconut as a tree nut for food labeling purposes. Botanically, coconuts come from coconut palm trees, are not closely related to most other tree nuts, and technically, they are the seed of a fruit - not a nut. While you can't simply rely on botanical relationships to determine the potential cross-reactivity between two foods, those foods who are close biological relatives generally share related allergenic proteins (like cashews, mangos, and pistachios). That being said, there is some evidence of cross-reactivity between coconuts and hazelnuts and between coconuts and walnuts, which is strange, because those trees are not at all closely related. However, allergies to coconuts are believed to be far less common than allergies to many true tree nuts, such as walnuts, cashews and almonds, a point to which the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network agrees. A June 2007 study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology indicated cross-reactivity between coconuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts in one patient. Your allergist can advise you on the suitability of coconut for your diet. I am allergic to most tree nuts, but tolerate coconut just fine, but I know that many readers have commented on previous recipes that they have allergies to coconut and require substitutions. It will be different for everyone! But for many of us with dietary restrictions, coconut is a nourishing addition to our diet, and it makes an excellent substitute for dairy in most recipes. [see References at bottom of post for sources]
This Month's Giveaway
DISCLAIMER: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.
While there are many brands of coconut oil available, my favorite is made by Tropical Traditions. I love the fresh flavor, good texture, and high quality of this unrefined, natural oil. Tropical Traditions creates their Gold Label Coconut Oil from fresh organic coconuts, grown by dedicated family farms in the Phillipines. The oil is produced in small batches and tested for quality, ensuring that you receive the freshest, highest quality coconut oil possible. I feel confident that when I'm using this oil, I'm supporting a good company and getting the most nutrition possible for my money.
To share in the coconut oil love, Tropical Traditions is generously offering to giveaway 1 32-oz jar of their Gold Label Coconut Oil to someone that enters the SOS Kitchen Challenge!
RULES FOR Participating in the Challenge and ENTERING THE GIVEAWAY
- Make a recipe using coconut oil, then post it to your blog - NEW recipe posts only please, do not reuse old posts. Then share the link to your recipe in the Linky below by January 31 at 11:59 PM CST. Make sure your recipe follows the SOS Kitchen Challenge rules listed here- if it does not, it will be removed from the Linky and you will not be eligible for the giveaway. NOTE: If you do not have a blog, e-mail your name and recipe by the deadline to email@example.com. We will post it for you on our blogs and enter it in the Linky, which will enter you in the giveaway.
- BONUS ENTRY: subscribe to the Tropical Traditions email Sales Newsletter, and leave a comment at the bottom of this post saying that you did. To subscribe: http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/subscribe_for_special_sales.cfm.
- After the deadline, we will pick a name randomly from recipe submissions and the bonus entry comments, and will announce the winner in our recipe roundup. We will share your contact information with Tropical Traditions, who will then send you the 32-oz coconut oil jar.