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Cool, creamy, and delicious! 

This recipe, adapted to use coconut cream concentrate,  was also selected for the Tropical Traditions recipe blog today!

Recipe is at the bottom of this post.

I’ve been cooking with coconut oil for about two years now.  I also use vegetable oil, olive oil, and butter, but not shortening.  The coconut oil has replaced shortening for me.  It works beautifully in pie crusts, although not so well in frosting, due to its low melting point.

If you’re worried about what you’ve heard about coconut oil, or coconut in general, being a possible health hazard, here’s what I’ve read:

The original studies on the health effects of coconut oil used partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which contains trans fats.  Natural coconut oil does not contain any trans fats.  Most of its natural fats are saturated, but don’t shrink in fear quite yet:  some of these saturated fats are in the form of  lauric acid, which raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol.  In addition to this, saturated fats in general can be broken into at least two subcategories: medium-chain fatty acids, and long-chain fatty acids.  Though they’re both solid at room temperature, they are very different from each other.  Medium-chain fatty acids serve to increase metabolism, and they seem to not recombine easily as fat in the body.  In addition to this, coconut oil helps increase thyroid function.

Several government-run nutrition bureaus strongly recommend against using large amounts of coconut oil, due to the high saturated fat content and fears that it would thus increase heart disease.   In response to this, studies done in high-coconut-oil-use populations actually show more heart disease occurring as they REDUCE the amount of coconut consumption.  The fears seem to be unfounded.

Coconut is also an excellent source of fiber.  One ounce unsweetened dried coconut (about a handful) has 5 grams of fiber  (Four times as much fiber per serving than oat bran!)  About ¾ of the total carbohydrates in coconut are fiber.  Most of this is insoluble fiber, the stuff that helps prevent blood-sugar spikes, slows down your digestion (helping your body extract more nutrients from it, and helping you feel full longer, reducing cravings), helping scrub your intestines, lowering your risk of cancer and several diseases, and providing a good environment for beneficial bacteria (probiotics).  Coconut fiber lowers the glycemic index of the food it’s in.  Some people swear by eating two coconut macaroons a day to treat Crohn’s disease, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  

Read more:

http://www.coconutoil.com/research.htm  - a list of the latest research on coconut and coconut oil

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3107/2- nutrition for several forms of coconut

http://www.livestrong.com/article/98083-coconut-fiber-diabetics/#ixzz1jrVJQkrr- effects of coconut fiber on blood sugar

http://www.earthincommon.com/coconut_02-article.htmlcoconut macaroons to treat IBS and Crohn’s!  Plus, traditional use of coconut to expel parasitic worms; for this, see also http://www.thevirgincoconutoil.com/articleitem.php?articleid=269

http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Product-Categories/Fibers-and-carbohydrates/Fiber-may-boost-pancreatic-health-Study/?c=JXuXZ2C%2B3ccDH1LSCcVFdFR3NQxnAszG&utm_source=Newsletter_Product&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Newsletter%2BProduct  - report on the latest findings on fiber in general and its effect in preventing pancreatic cancer.


Coco-cocoa Velvet Dessert 

1 1/2 c. coconut milk, divided
1 packet unflavored gelatin (2 1/2 tsp.)
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 c. honey
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 drops of orange essential oil, optional  (use food grade or better!)- OR use 1 drop lavender oil
1/2 tray's worth ice cubes (7-8 ice cubes, should be 4 oz.)

Pour 1/2 cup of the milk into a blender.  Add the gelatin, and let sit to soften.  Meanwhile, heat the remaining milk to boiling in a saucepan or microwave.  Pour the hot milk over the gelatin mixture; turn on low  to mix and dissolve.  Add  cocoa powder, honey, salt, vanilla, and essential oil.  Increase blender speed to high.  While motor is running, drop in ice cubes, one at a time.  Blend until smooth.  Pour into four or five (6-oz) ramekins, or in one (2-cup) mold.  Refrigerate until set, 3-4 hours. Serve in the containers, or dip the bottoms in hot water for 20 seconds, then invert to unmold.

If you want to unmold it, I recommend you double the amount of gelatin; I like it extra-firm anyway.

The recipe will work if you use regular milk instead; that's how I grew up eating it, but the version above is great for dairy-intolerant people.  Plus it tastes great!  You can also use chocolate chips instead of cocoa; use 1 cup of chips, and reduce honey to 3 Tbsp. 
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Chocolate and lavender taste very good together, as long as you use a very light hand with the lavender!

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Chocolate-orange...

 
 
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Oatmeal is a blank slate- nothing much to look at (or taste!) by itself, but it makes a great foundation!

I've been learning about coconut, and have decided it doesn't deserve the bad rap it sometimes gets.  Yes, it's high in fat, but it seems to be the kind of fat our body recognizes and can build with.  It's also very high in fiber.  If you look at coconut flour, which is defatted, ground & dried coconut, it has 6 grams of fiber in a 2 Tbsp serving (shredded coconut has 1/2 to 1/3 that amount).  Oat bran has only 2 grams of fiber in 2 Tbsp.  All that fiber helps reduce the glycemic load of whatever you're eating, in a major way.  This fiber is also a prebiotic, meaning it encourages good intestinal probiotic growth (good bacteria in your gut, necessary to break down food and assimilate vitamins and minerals).  
Some people have severe allergies with tree nuts, and coconut is now classified by the FDA as a tree nut.  So if you're allergic to almonds, does that mean you can't have coconut?  -Most likely you'll be fine.  Check with your doctor, but the few people who have been allergic to coconut are... just allergic to coconut, not other nuts.  See FoodAllergy.org for more info.

Here's a breakfast that is filling, with a fun flavor.  Adding the macadamias gives it an especially satisfying crunch.  You can double, triple, or otherwise multiply this recipe. 

Coconut-Lime Breakfast Oatmeal

1 c. coconut milk (water or milk is OK, too)
1/2 c. rolled oats
a dash of salt (1/16 tsp.)
1 tsp. lime or lemon juice, optional
2 Tbsp. shredded coconut
2 drops lime essential oil, or 1/2 tsp. lime zest
1/4 c. macadamia nuts, optional

Combine water, coconut cream concentrate, rolled oats, and the dash of salt.  Bring to a boil; simmer and stir for two minutes.  Remove from heat, then stir in juice, coconut, and essential oil or zest.  Top with macadamia nuts.  Drizzle with a little honey if you like, but I like it without.

If you use macaroon (fine flake) coconut, it will disappear into the oatmeal, leaving only flavor.  Using sweetened shredded coconut will both sweeten it and add a little texture.  My favorite is the shaved dried coconut; it adds both flavor and crunch.

Other flavor ideas:
Use pineapple, orange, or mango juice in place of part or all of the coconut milk  or water.
Or add fresh, frozen, canned, or dried pieces of pineapple, mango, or papaya
I don't know why it is, but pineapple and macadamias go together exceptionally well.  Coconut is a natural addition here.

 
 
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If you live in or around Salt Lake City area, and would like to learn more about preparedness, you are welcome to attend an Emergency Preparedness Fair.  This fair is sponsored by an LDS stake in South Jordan and is this weekend (1/21).
 It's a free event and open to everyone!  This could be some great preparation for The Great Utah ShakeOut drill on April. 17 this year.

Time and location:
January 21, 2012 10am
LDS SunStone Building - 11543 Keystone Drive, South Jordan, Utah

Classes and Booths include:
First Aid
CPR - New Techniques
Emergency Planning
72 Hour Kits
Questar Gas
South Jordan City
Financial Planning
Water Storage
Water Reclamation and Rehydration
Sanitation
Grab & Run Ideas
Fire Safety
Storing basic foods, and cooking with them (see here for more)

For questions - contact Rich at 801-891-2710 or Rebecca at 801-859-6841
 
 
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Once you learn the whole rotating-the-pan trick, crepes are EASY.  It's actually the same batter as for German Pancakes.  How's that for a two-for-one?

I recommend making the blueberry sauce the night before, or not trying to make it until after the crepes are done.  You'll need your full attention on the crepe pans.

Crepes
3 eggs
1 c. milk
1 c. flour
butter or oil for the pan
Makes about 10-12 crepes, depending on size and thickness.

Put one or two skillets (6" or larger) on the stove; heat over high heat.  I always use two at a time for this.   Nonstick skillets are easiest to work with, since they are lightweight, and will require less-  or no-  butter.  While they're heating, make the batter:

Bowl method: Beat the eggs with half the milk, stir in all  the flour.  Beat in remaining milk, until mostly smooth. 

Blender or food processor method:  add eggs, all of the milk, and all the flour.  Process until smooth.
Cook the crepes (see below).  Leftovers may be stored in a bag or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for months (as long as they don't get freezerburn).

Blueberry Sauce

1 Tbsp. cornstarch OR 2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 c. sugar or honey
1/4 c. water
2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries, divided
a pinch of salt
1-2 drops lemon or orange oil OR 1/8 tsp. lemon extract, OR 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, optional

In a microwaveable bowl or a small saucepan, stir together the cornstarch/flour and sugar or honey. Stir in the water and half of the blueberries.  Bring to a boil, stirring often if you’re using the stove.  Once it boils and thickens, stir again, then mix in the remaining berries.  Makes about two cups.  Serve warm or cold.  If it's not sweet enough for you, add 1Tbsp. sugar, taste it, and repeat as needed.  If you want it thicker next time, double the cornstarch.  

Keep any leftover covered tightly in the refrigerator.  Leftovers can be thinned with water to make a pancake syrup, added to smoothies, stirred into plain yogurt to sweeten it, used as a topping for cake or cheesecake, as a filling for tarts or pies, or stirred in to muffin batter.

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Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan, or a tablespoon if it's nonstick.  Pick up a skillet with one hand, tip it to one side, and pour about 2-4 tablespoons of batter into the hot pan.  Quickly rotate your wrist to make the batter spread in a thin layer completely around the pan.  Put it back on the stove (and pour batter into the second pan, if you're using it). 

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When the edges curl up a little and/or turn brown, work a spatula underneath the crepe and flip it to the other side.  This first side should take 30-60 seconds to cook. 

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The second side is even faster; once it's completely set, with just a few golden spots, slide or flip it out of the pan onto a waiting plate.  (see next photo)

You don't need to add butter to the pan every time, only if the crepes start sticking.


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When all the batter has been cooked, cover with a clean kitchen towel to keep warm.

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You can fill crepes with a thin layer of something strong (like jam, lemon curd, or cream cheese), or with about 1/4" cup of any filling. 
Some ideas:
-Bananas (sliced, whole, cooked, or raw) with a little brown sugar or caramel
-Apples, sauteed or microwaved until soft- add brown sugar and cinnamon to taste
-Pie filling- blueberry, apple, cherry, apricot, or whatever else
-Pudding
For savory crepes, use the crepes are manicotti shells, tortillas, or egg roll wrappers.  Fill with anything you'd put in those.  Or make a sandwich wrap with them.


 
 
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Clean, tidy, with no crumbs or sticky spots...

This will be a no-brainer for some people, but it took me until about five years ago to figure this out.

To keep your kitchen (or any other area) clean, you don't have to take a whole day, or week, to do it.  That's hard to schedule anyway, and usually overwhelming.   Yet there are some deeper cleaning things that need done- like cleaning out kitchen (or bathroom) drawers, wiping the tops of the cabinet doors, or cleaning the nooks and crannies in them.  Here's what I do now:

Every now and then, when I open a drawer, I notice there are crumbs in the corner.  Or in one of the organizing baskets.  Or maybe there's some sticky line where a child spilled their juice down the front of the cabinet.  If it's a two-minute job or less, I clean it right then.  Most of these things are.  If it's done then,  it doesn't have to be added to my already-huge "To Do" list in the back of my head.   That takes a load off me.  Dumping out the whole drawer, wiping it out, and putting everything back will take only a couple minutes more.  If I happen to have extra time, I may go on to the next drawer. If I'm wiping a cabinet, I usually finish wiping all the cabinets on that side of the kitchen. 

It doesn't all have to be done at once.  Just clean little bits as you notice them.  2-5 minutes a day gets the job done in a hurry, without leaving you frazzled! 
 
 
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Pumpkin-Orange Muffins- made using essential oils!

Recipe is at the bottom of this page.

My friend's sister sells essential oils, and has had a lot of people ask how much to use if they want to cook with them.  She asked if I would play around with the oils if she provided them,  and come up with some guidelines and recipes.  Here's the start of that.  As I add more recipes, I'll add them to an indexed pdf so they're easy to access.   (More on that another time.)

First of all, please make sure that you're using pure oils that don't have any chemical residues or other nasty things.  In other words, use Grade A/Therapeutic Grade oils, or Grade B/Food Grade oils.    The label should tell you what grade it is.  There are four grades, see here for more on this.  Several sources say not to ever ingest essential oils, see more about why I disagree with thathere.

Second of all, realize this is not going to be an exact science.  Several things will affect how much oil to use in a recipe:
-What brand you use- some are better quality than others
-How old the oil is (they lose potency over time; these are strongest when under a year old)
-What the growing season was like that year for the plants
-How big your bottle is- see below for an explanation
-And how strong of a flavor YOU prefer!

I've discovered that your bottle size makes a huge difference on the size of the drops that come out.  The 15mL bottles I have require only 16 drops of oil to equal 1/8 teaspoon.  The dram-sized bottles (the kind with a stopper and a little hole in the middle of it) give out teeny-tiny drops- it takes about 64 of these drops to fill 1/8 teaspoon!  (Yes, I did crazy things like measure all of this....) If you're going to cook with your oils, I actually recommend putting your cooking-herb oils in this smaller size; so little is needed that the smaller drops are perfect.  Oils in this category would include oregano, thyme, coriander, rosemary, lavender, and marjoram.  To get a drop out, tip the bottle over the food you're adding it to, and gently rap the bottom of the bottle once.  Watch closely; it's hard to see when it comes out.  A little goes a LONG way!  The oils I've been using are from doTERRA. 
Below are the general guidelines I've learned.

When your recipe calls for herbs:
1/2 tsp. dried herb leaves =  1 1/2 tsp. (1/2 Tbsp.) fresh herb = 1/4 tsp. powdered herb = 1 tiny drop essential oil
1/2 tsp. powdered herb leaves = 1 tsp. dried herb leaves = 1 Tbsp. fresh herbs= 2 tiny drops essential oil
1 tsp. powdered herb = 2 tsp. dried herb leaves = 2 Tbsp. fresh herbs = 2 tiny drops, or 1 regular-sized drop

Using citrus oils:
1 tsp. lemon extract = 1/8 tsp. lemon essential oil = 16 drops
1 Tbsp. lemon zest = 1/16 tsp. lemon essential oil = 8 drops

So if your favorite spaghetti recipe calls for 2 tsp. powdered oregano, you can use one regular-sized drop of essential oil instead, or 4 tiny drops.

The herb ratios also seem to hold true for spices like cinnamon and ginger.  I especially love the flavor of cinnamon oil- it's a pure, clean flavor reminiscent of red hots.  I put two tiny drops in a half-pint of cream, along with 2 Tbsp. sugar and a bit of vanilla,  before whipping it-  Cinnamon Whipped Cream- delicious!  We had it on pumpkin pie, for breakfast.   The pumpkin pie itself also used essential oils for its spices.

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Pan-Fried Fish

For 1 lb. boneless fish (I used tilapia):
Cut the fish into serving-sized chunks.  if there are any thin ends, tuck them under.  Pat dry with a paper towel, prinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Breading: Combine on a plate:
2/3 c. flour, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, crushed potato chips, potato flakes, or whatever!  (I used 1/3 c. each flour and cornmeal)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Dipping mixture: combine in a wide dish:
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. buttermilk, yogurt, or mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. mustard (either Dijon or regular is great)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder, or 1 tiny drop garlic essential oil
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. thyme, or 2 tiny drops thyme oil- I used rosemary instead
4 regular drops any citrus oil, optional (lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit)

Heat a 12" skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil; at least 2 Tbsp. or up to 1/2 " deep, depending on how "fried" you want this.  While it's heating, drop a piece of fish into the dipping mixture; turn to coat.  Lift out, then put it in the breading.  Flip it over with a fork to coat it, then put it in the hot oil.  Repeat with other pieces until the pan is fairly full, but pieces are not crowded or touching.  Fry 2-4 minutes, until bottom is dark golden brown.  Flip, and cook other side until the thickest piece is opaque inside and starts to flake when poked open.  Serve hot, with tartar sauce or lemon wedges.

I always have leftover breading and dipping mixture.  Instead of throwing it out, I turn it into Hushpuppies:  To however much breading is left, add that much fresh flour (breading is very salty!) If you now have a cup of this dry mixture, add 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder.  If you have less or more flour/breading, use less or more baking powder!  Add whatever dipping mixture is left.  Add water if you need, to be able to get a soft dough that more or less holds its shape.  Drop by spoonfuls into the hot oil.  Fry until golden ( a couple minutes), turning them over once.



Pumpkin-Orange Muffins- makes 12
2 c. flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon, or 1 regular-sized drop cinnamon essential oil
3/4 c. sugar (or 1/2 c. honey)
1 c. buttermilk or sour milk
8-16 drops orange essential oil (1/16 to 1/8 tsp.)- this is distinctly orange-flavored!
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 beaten egg
1/4 c. oil or melted butter
1/2 c. chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 12 muffin cups, or line them with cupcake papers.  Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and sugar.  Add the wet ingredients all at once: buttermilk, orange oil, pumpkin, egg, and oil.  Stir just until combined.  Spoon into muffin tins, then sprinkle with the nuts.  Bake about 16-18 minutes, or until lightly golden and the top of a muffin springs back when touched.