You may have noticed a lot of coconut oil sneaking into recipes on this blog lately. Matt's mom gave us a big jar during our recent visit and I've been taking every opportunity to try it out since. It was great in my Black Bean Brownies, added a bit of Asian flair to some beef-and-broccoli, and totally transformed a Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. The oil may seem a little pricey, but a little goes a long way - I've been able to reduce the amount of fat called for in some recipes and still have more than half a jar left!
The appeal of coconut oil isn't just it's slightly tropical flavor - it also has numerous health benefits. It's high in lauric acid, a natural antibacterial and antiviral agent which helps the body fight diseases. It also protects cardiovascular function by helping to prevent high blood pressure and cholesterol. In addition the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil are also thought to aid weight loss and thyroid function, while antioxidants keep hair, skin and nails healthy. Doesn't it sound great?
In case you're not sold on the benefits of this wonder oil just yet, there are lots of other coconut-based products that deserve a place in your diet, and your baking. Coconut milk is great in curries and makes rich desserts, coconut water is gaining popularity as an electrolyte replacement and post-workout drink, and coconut meat isn't just for macaroons anymore. There's even coconut butter (a creamy mix of the oil and meat) that is delicious when spread on fresh bread or stirred into oatmeal. Coconut oil is also a great asset to vegan baking since it substitutes easily into many traditional recipes.
Outside the kitchen, coconut oil is used in hair and skin treatments. I haven't tried this yet (I'll think I'll keep it in the kitchen since it is a little pricey) but it just shows how versatile the ingredient really is. If you haven't tried coconut oil yet, I'd encourage you to get your hands on some!