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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Coconut Oil - Healthy Alternative



Coconut Cranberry Oat White Chip Cookies
Whether used in the kitchen for cooking or in your collection of skin and hair care products, coconut oil has made a major comeback. Because it is a saturated fat we were told to steer away from it in our diets. We now know that not all saturated fats are the same.
According to Marisa Moore, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association,
“Different types of saturated fats behave differently.
The main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid. Lauric acid increases levels of good HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, and bad LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, in the blood, but is not thought to negatively affect the overall ratio of the two."
According to an article in the Health section of the New York Times:
"Two groups have helped give coconut oil its sparkly new makeover. One is made up of scientists, many of whom are backtracking on the worst accusations against coconut oil. And the other is the growing number of vegans, who rely on it as a sweet vegetable fat that is solid at room temperature and can create flaky pie crusts, crumbly scones and fluffy cupcake icings, all without butter."
 Most cookie recipes call for either shortening or butter.
We know that shortening is a trans fat known as hydrogenated vegetable oil, and although we are aware how harmful it can be, we often use it for our baked goodies simply because that is what the recipe calls for.
Butter makes for delicious cookies but may not be an option for people trying to avoid dairy.
Now that we know that coconut oil is, in fact, a healthy addition to our diets, using it as a butter or shortening substitute in our cooking and baking is wonderful.

For those who like the coconut taste and enjoy how it can enhance a recipe, they can purchase extra virgin coconut oil. For those who don't want to taste coconut, they are to use the refined or deodorized coconut oil. Be aware though that extra virgin coconut oil may only be found at health food stores and probably will cost more than the refined coconut oil, which can be found at many supermarkets.

Keep in mind that coconut oil is solid at room temperature but will melt at temperatures above 76 degrees F.

Note: The butter or shortening ratio to coconut oil isn't exactly a 1:1 ratio. There is no water content in coconut oil, so being more dense use slightly less. So if the recipe calls for 2/3 cup or 5 oz. of butter or shortening, use 4 oz. of coconut oil.

Here is a very nutritious, high fiber cookie recipe from Ocean Spray made even healthier with a few substitutions: Both versions are below:

OATMEAL CRANBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients
2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened   or  slightly less than 2/3 cup coconut oil, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups flour    or   3/4 cup flour and 3/4 cup oat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup white chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Beat softened butter or coconut oil and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl till light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

In another bowl, combine the flour or flours, baking soda, salt and sift together. Add the oats.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the oil, sugar and egg mixture and mix well.
Stir in the dried cranberries and the white chocolate chips.
Batter will be stiff.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Baked for 10 - 12 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.


 So, if you want an excellent alternative to butter or shortening and don't mind paying a bit more in comparison, then coconut oil just may become a staple in your pantry.