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Crisco. . .coconut oil?

Crisco. . .coconut oil?

Good afternoon, Dear Readers:

Well, Houston is again the recipient of a lot of rain, courtesy of a tropical storm named Bill. After some terrifying reports from local TV stations, people were panic-buying bottled water, bread, milk and other essential supplies for riding out a storm. Neighbor K stopped at Kroger on the way home and told us what they were out of when she got there.

I wasn’t really worried–we’ve gone through this before–but I did boil some eggs just in case. Now I have 8 hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. . .I’ll use them for something. As a devotee of the blog of Houston’s Chronicle’s science writer Eric “SciGuy” Berger, I knew where to go for honest information. (He also posts on Facebook.) He’s not a meteorologist, but he is a go-to guy for weather info without the hype. We’re fine now, and Bill will be gone soon.

In the “a little good news” department, a new Starbucks is being built on my street, just a couple blocks away. Woo hoo!! If all goes well, it will open June 29th. When I passed it a couple of days ago, they were putting the stucco on the outside. But the rain may have set them back a little. We’ll see. Me and Neighbor K will take the Daft Pug for a walk and have a coffee one day soon after it opens. Maybe they’ll still have the doggie cappuccinos when we do.

You might not believe this, but Crisco, the bastion of church-lady-cooking everywhere, now sells-no kidding–coconut oil. This is not a Facebook rumor/prank, an email forwarded from five other people, and I’m not joking. They really do, and this is the picture that circulated on Facebook a while back:

Crisco's new Organic Coconut oil

Crisco’s new Organic Coconut oil

 

Crisco Coconut Oil. USDA certified organic, and sourced from The Philippines. How do I know this? Simple: I asked. Specifically, I called the company directly and asked about it. Very new, so it’s not yet available everywhere.

Two things I asked about specifically: Is it refined? Is it hydrogenated? Yes, it’s refined so there is no coconut taste. No, it is NOT hydrogenated. Thank heavens for that.

But why now?

I spoke to Don on Crisco’s consumer information line, and he said it was just the next step for Crisco. Since all their other products are vegetable in nature, coconut is something else to offer their customers. Remember–for better or worse, Crisco’s traditional shortening, in cans for scooping or sticks for measuring, is a VEGETABLE shortening, and not like animal-based lard.

Don was kind enough to send me a coupon for a free one, but. . .I can’t find it now. I had it in my purse since FEBRUARY, took it out recently, and now I don’t know what the heck I did with it. HOWEVER–I bought some Crisco Coconut Oil. If I find the coupon before it expires, I’ll go get more.

A few weeks ago, Neighbor K called me and asked, “now, what gluten-free coconut thing are you looking for and can’t find?” When I told her what it was, I got the idea to go back on Crisco’s website and look again with their product finder. EUREKA, I FOUND IT! Where?

Wal-Mart. <insert frowny face here>

Turns out that I had a reason to go into Wal-Mart–I found two undeveloped rolls of 35mm film on my desk recently, from 2007 and 2009. (Don’t ask.) However it happened, I just never got it developed, and now it’s difficult to get 35mm film done. Wal-Mart sends it out to a lab, it takes about a week, and negatives are not returned–you get a CD of digital picture files. (I couldn’t get waited on in Walgreen’s; they’ll stop developing 35mm film July 1.) So after I picked up those pictures, I went over to the grocery section and FOUND IT.

Next to the LouAna, and fifty cents more, it’s pretty much the same coconut oil you get in nearly every jar. It performs well, has no taste, and does exactly what it should. I’ve made a few batches of popcorn with it, and it’s great. I also put it to the test with the exclusive HeatCageKitchen frozen chocolate recipe.

In either soft or melted coconut oil, mix in two tablespoons of cocoa powder with a dinner fork, one at a time. If you like, drop in a little almond extract–not much, it’s pretty potent. Then sweeten it with two tablespoons of SomerSweet or your favorite natural sweetener, one tablespoon at a time with your fork. Once it’s all mixed well, stash it in the freezer (or fridge, if you’re not in a hurry.) When it hardens up, carefully cut it apart with the point of a knife, and have some tasty chocolate chunks.

Crisco Coconut Oil performed perfectly with both the popcorn and the frozen chocolate test. So, here it gets the HeatCageKitchen seal of approval. (Not quite as prestigious as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, but that’s OK.)

Now for the other reason I went to (ahem) Wal-Mart.

In one of the rolls of film were pictures of the two Cranberry, Almond and Cinnamon Tart I made for Thanksgiving in 2007. (The other roll had pictures from the Texas Renfest in 2009 or 2010, and included a couple of shots of the ex-boyfriend Voldemort. Those prints will soon be going through the shredder; I can’t remove them from the CD.) It was unique, interesting, and I knew it would be a hit. So let me tell you about that tasty dessert.

Years ago we used to do a “Buddhist Thanksgiving” at the home of a couple who were from Taiwan. I used to kid the wife that “it’s never too early to start planning Thanksgiving.” I would say this, of course, in July. In addition to roasting two turkeys, I also made something fabulous for dessert, usually from the November issue of Martha Stewart Living. I found the recipe here, but I think it’s incomplete. The Pate Sucree (sweet pie crust) doesn’t include how to make it, but I think you just use the food processor. Subscribers got the lovely tart picture you see at that link on the front cover; I think newsstand issues had a turkey picture.

A rich, delicious tart for Thanksgiving or any fall occasion (like my birthday.)

A rich, delicious tart for Thanksgiving or any fall occasion (like my birthday.)

 

Look at that picture. Wouldn’t YOU want to wow guests with that one? (No, it isn’t gluten-free.) Well, I couldn’t wait to make it for Turkey Day. Here’s what it looked like without a lot of expensive camera equipment and food styling:

 

From the November 2007 issue of Martha Stewart Living

From the November 2007 issue of Martha Stewart Living.

In order to make it, I  had to order cranberry preserves from New England Cranberry. When I called to order, the man didn’t understand the uptick in orders for that, nor why someone from Texas was ordering three jars of it. I explained it to him, and he said, “Oh, OK.” I suggested he go look for the issue on the newsstand on the way home, and go look up the recipe. Never ordered it again, but I hope he figured it out.

One of them ended up going to work with me the following Monday, because so many desserts were brought in that we all took some home. But it sure was good.

I haven’t made that one since, and the Buddhist Thanksgiving kind of went away, but at least I know I could do it.

Another tasty option was the Pear and Sour Cherry Flat Pie, also made only once, the year before this tart. Make SURE you have plenty of parchment paper, because it’s a bear to run out of it. For this flat pie, you really do need it.

So if you are interested in moving towards coconut oil, you have another option. As I mentioned in my post on the subject last year, coconut oil’s price has steadily increased, likely due to increased demand. But the versatility and health/anti-viral qualities of coconut oil are second to none.

In my recent trip to Wal-Mart, LouAna was $6.49, next to Crisco’s $6.98. In my local HEB, I think it was $5.98 last time. LouAna also has an organic coconut oil, but I haven’t tried it yet; it comes in a smaller container than the quart-sized regular type. Other outlets have their own coconut oil, including HeatCageKitchen favorites Trader Joe’s and Central Market.

And while it’s a little early, you also have a couple more options for your fall desserts Try them now before the time comes, so you’ll know they’re good and what it takes to make them. (Cranberry preserves are available year-round.)

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

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Going coconuts!

Going coconuts!

Hello, Dear Readers:

It’s been a busy week. WordPress is once again telling me to get with it, so here I go. Just so happens I have a topic that I’ve never really written about before: the humble coconut.

The humble coconut!

Delicious and tasty

You’ve seen them in the grocery stores, thinking about buying one even, but wondering about cracking it open and extracting all the tasty bits. But there’s more to it than that twiggy, fuzzy exterior and white flesh.

You might be familiar with the stuff you get in the baking aisle, too–but that’s got plenty of sugar in it, since it’s made for recipes like this one for Lamingtons, which, yes, I made many years ago. Know what? I gave my bud the GER some of them and I do seem to remember he enjoyed the heck out of them, as did the rest of the recipients. I do remember them being VERY tasty too. But I only made them once.

I’ve mentioned before my new favorite sweet, Mounds bars with dark chocolate (not Almond Joy, which has milk chocolate), but I can’t say that I consume a LOT of coconut. I like it, but I can get sick of it, too. For a while I was making some coconut “cookies” with unsweetened coconut, beaten egg whites and SomerSweet, but I soon got sick of those, particularly since they tend to soften and get gummy if you let them sit for more than a day. But the dried stuff keeps in the pantry pretty well.

This week, the esteemed Wall Street Journal ran a story on the benefits of coconut oil. The article called it “better than butter,” but really, that’s primarily if you’re allergic to milk, I think. I say that because both are healthy fats, and the only difference is lactose, or milk sugar, and the fact that butter must be refrigerated. So allergies not withstanding, what’s the difference, right?

I was first introduced to coconut oil about ten years ago when I was living at the GER’s house. I forwarded him an article about something and there was a popup ad from Tropical Traditions, an online purveyor of oil from The Phillippines. He didn’t read the article–he thought I was asking him to buy some, pulled out his credit card and bought a five-gallon bucket of it! Back then it was $65, now it’s doubled in price. But it has a very long shelf life and a high smoke point like olive oil.

Having read that it could replace butter, I, um, well, put it on whole wheat bread and sprinkled Splenda on top. (I know!!) But I got sick of the coconut taste very quickly and stopped doing it. Didn’t know I could fry with it, bake with it, all that, and when I moved out, all I took was a small jar to use on my hands. Not sure what the GER did with the rest of it, I guess he used it up. (I don’t have room for a five gallon bucket anyway.)

Tropical Traditions also makes a number of different personal care products, including hair care. I know this because I got some last time I went to Dr. Davis’ office in The Woodlands. Trust me, you do NOT need much of it! No odor either, so you don’t smell like a tropical drink.

You can also check out their recipe section for all kinds of ways to use coconut, coconut oil, and alternative versions of everyday foods. While I have not tried any of them yet, perhaps I need to go back and look at it again. I think it’s been a while. This one for flourless chocolate chip cookies looks good, but my guess is you’ll have to order the coconut cream concentrate from Tropical Traditions. Chocolate Orange Truffle Pie? That might be good. There’s even a section of gluten free coconut recipes. I need to go look at that soon, too.

Don’t forget, coconut oil features prominently in my favorite Yeast Free Brownies. That’s primarily why I keep it around! (SomerSweet works well in them, too.)

If you’ve heard about coconut oil here and there but don’t know if you want to try it, well, there are a number of factors to consider. This oil is solid when the temp goes below about 75 degrees–that’s why you can replace butter with it in many recipes. If you put it in the fridge for a long time, you can break a window with it. No kidding–if you’re going to cream it with sugar (or like I do, with SomerSweet), you have to let it sit out for a bit so that it’s not “frozen.”

This article really doesn’t tell a whole lot about coconut oil, just gives you a brief overview. But there’s so much more to coconuts.

Oh, and they’re not actually a real “nut.”

One thing you might not know is that coconut oil features prominently in Dr. Hotze’s Yeast Free Diet program for a couple of reasons. First, it’s plant based, so no milk sugar (lactose) to feed the yeast while you’re trying to kill it. Two, the health reasons stated in the article–medium chain fatty acids and all that. Third–something you might not know–is that coconut oil has anti-fungal properties that help with the killing of the yeast in your gut. (It also works in gluten-free cooking and baking, but more on that later.) So it’s healthy for a couple of reasons, not just the no-dairy thing.

I am not dissing dairy. Far from it. But if milk/dairy has you saying “shiver me timbers,” coconut oil can help you out. Yes, I know, unless you’re allergic to coconut.

If you’re interested in doing a yeast cleanse, you can find Dr. Hotze’s cookbook on the subject here. The book describes how and why to do a yeast cleanse, lists the prescriptions you need as well as how long to take them. You don’t need to be a guest at the Hotze Clinic to buy the book or do the program. The two prescriptions, Hypo Nystatin-A and Fluconazole, are readily available at pharmacies nationwide; you just need a doctor to write you a prescription. You’ll need a 90-day supply of the first, and 3 weeks of the second. (I had one doctor give me one month of the first and one week of the second; that’s like taking antibiotics just until you feel better, not the whole prescription.)

I’ve done the yeast-free diet many times. The first time had me swearing, because I was so hungry! But–that was because I didn’t have the instruction book and wasn’t ready for it. I know I need to do it when I start getting heartburn. I don’t GET heartburn from eating stuff like tomato sauce and chili. If you do have that problem, or other alimentary issues, consider it. And, actually, Dr. Hotze’s website has this quick primer on yeast overgrowth so you can learn more and see if it would work for you.

It probably can’t hurt. I say that as someone who has done a couple of rounds of yeast free successfully; those prescriptions aren’t harmful, either. Anyway. . . .

I can’t personally vouch for this, but there is a lady who began giving her husband coconut oil when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Dr. Mary Newport gave her husband coconut oil, and quickly improved. That’s not to say it’s a definite CURE for Alzheimer’s (or anything else, for that matter), but if you go to her home page and scroll down to the bottom, you’ll see her husband’s “clock test” and how he improved in 37 days from coconut oil. Unless you are allergic to coconut, this probably couldn’t hurt–but it’s a matter of using your own judgment.

Remember, I’m not a doctor/nurse/medical person, just a patient who reads and pays attention. I only present information, and it’s up to you to review it before use. I present info because there might be one person somewhere who happens to read it and it was the very thing they were looking for. Happened to me once or twice, too.

Anyway. . . .

I’d forgotten about Dr. Newport until I read the comments in the WSJ article, which are quite interesting. (No funny stuff this time.) However, be forewarned that many doctors still ascribe to the “all fat is bad” mantra, which explains many modern illnesses.  Don’t get me started. I don’t follow the “healthy new trends” anymore because many are bogus and none seem to be particularly helpful. I’m someone who used to eat white flour pasta because it was “healthy and low fat,” OK? Guess what? Healthy, it ain’t.

Anyway. . .

Now, some time ago I bought a bag of coconut flour for one of the Babycakes recipes, and have only used it for a couple of things (including the infamous Pineapple Upside Down Cake.) One of my writer friends told me about a book specifically for coconut flour and gluten free stuff, called Cooking with Coconut Flour: A Delicious Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Alternative to Wheat by Bruce Fife. There is actually a second book by Bruce Fife, but I don’t yet have either one of them. However, the friend raved about it, since she’s also diabetic, and interested in solutions.

When I put the first book on my wish list, I also found this one, since I’m also a fan of almond flour. Oh, and there’s one by the same author for just cupcakes. I don’t have either one of those yet, either. One day.

Oh, wait–this wasn’t supposed to be a gluten free blog post. It was supposed to be about coconuts. OOOPS.

I have only once had a can of coconut milk in my pantry, used for a slow-cooker recipe from Everyday Food. It was a curry or something. Made it once, never again.

I have also seen coconut water, but I dunno what that is or what it’s for. There are so many beverages with all kinds of things thrown in that I don’t want anything but a cup of tea, for heaven’s sake.

Now, if you’re wondering about the cost of coconut oil, well, it’s not like Wesson’s hydrogenated oil, the trans-fat kind of thing. I was in HEB a couple of days ago and can show you this:

Two different brands, two different prices.

Two different brands, two different prices.

I’ve been buying LouAna’s coconut oil for several years. I called the company one day and it is NOT hydrogenated, although it has no coconut taste. When I started buying it, the price was, no kidding, $1.98 a quart. As its popularity has grown, so has the tab. I mean, overnight the price kept going up to where it is now. I’ve seen it as much as $7 a quart in Kroger.

Remember too that the one next to the LouAna is the kind that you get in a health food store–extra virgin organic, and all that. Central Market has its own brand, as does Kroger, but it may be repackaged Tropical Traditions for all I know. With more and more people looking for healthier options and alternate ingredients, it’s available in more and more places, as well as online. Even if you live out in the middle of nowhere, if you can get mail or UPS, you can get some.

And you thought coconuts were just for tropical drinks!

Now you know more than you did before on the benefits of coconut. Next week there might be a new weight loss pill made from coconut, but I’d rather just eat it.

Oh, I forgot about them coconut-breaded shrimp at Joe’s Crab Shack, too. Those were really good. (It was a long time ago.)

So there you have it, Ladies and Gentlemen, a quick primer on the various uses and benefits of coconut–beyond what the Wall Street Journal told you. It’s not just for candy and daiquiris anymore, so enjoy some when you can, if not for sweetness, for its health benefits.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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