Coconut…the new miracle food? Oh, and an awesome quick dinner recipe…

My pantry and fridge have always had some amount of coconut products in them. (Oh, I forgot the Coconut Bliss Ice Cream for the picture, so add that mentally.) This is no doubt due in large part to the fact I am eating a vegan diet most of the time and my daughter prefers a gluten free and dairy free diet. She doesn’t have ‘allergies’ per se, but she sure feels better when they are not part of her diet.

Coconut is versatile and tasty. Coconut milk is rich and creamy. Coconut fiber bulks up and adds substance to baked goods while adding tons of good for your gut dietary fiber. Coconut oil makes for an unbelievably good frosting. Look around the store and you’ll see coconut everywhere these days. I’ve heard all sorts of rumors about the health benefits of coconut, and I’m more than a little skeptical about it all. Googling for information about food and health claims takes some creativity to get a balanced picture. There are a bazillion places selling coconut products on the web, and all of them make various claims for their products that border on snake oil sales. It’s just a bit too much to be believed.

There does seem to be evidence that the study done four decades ago showing how bad coconut oil is for you was flawed–it used hydrogenated coconut oil. I don’t think anyone disputes how unhealthy hydrogenated anything is for us. So, the negatives drawn from that study are more likely from the hydrogenated fat and not the saturated coconut fat. But fat, any kind of fat, isn’t GOOD in large quantities. My mom was a Registered Dietician, and she used to pull her hair out with every new study and say, “Everything in moderation…”

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Coconut Frosting and Shredded Coconut

Coconut has always been one of my favorite foods. Like many people, my first taste of coconut was sweet. I am betting it was the frosting of a German’s Chocolate cake. I was in my twenties before I had it in a curry or soup. I started subbing coconut fiber for wheat flour because it has a great glycemic index number, and it’s gluten free a couple of years ago. The amount of coconut in our diet has gone up over the last few years, and my cholesterol level has gone down dramatically. I’ve also lost a bunch of weight and I exercise a LOT. The combination of all that is probably the cause of the good numbers, so there’s no way to make a direct correlation between my improved health and eating more coconut. But, I’m not going to avoid it just because it’s saturated fat.

And for the recipe. I recently joined a cookbook club, and one of the recipes shared last week at our first meeting was a chicken, cauliflower and garbanzo bean coconut milk curry. I liked the flavors of the curry an awful lot. I was then flipping through my “Four Ingredient Vegan” cookbook and came across a rather boring looking recipe for squash ravioli in coconut cream sauce with broccoli. I decided to merge the two and add a twist or two of my own to see what would happen. The result was a winner. My non-coconut loving son had two helpings and there were no leftovers.

Quick Curry Pasta and Broccoli
For Six:
2 tbsp. coconut oil (or canola)
one bunch scallions, white parts only thinly sliced
one large shallot, minced or pressed through garlic press
two cloves garlic, mined or pressed through garlic press
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 tsp or more crushed red chili to taste
1 tsp salt (more to taste)
Two cans Thai Lite Coconut Milk
2 10 oz bags broccoli florets/pieces frozen
3 packages (or six servings worth) frozen butternut squash ravioli
Cilantro, chopped for garnish
lime, cut into wedges for garnish

Heat the coconut oil, add the scallion, garlic, shallot and ginger and cook until just soft about two minutes. Stir in curry powder, chili and salt stir for one minute or so until the spices are fragrant. Pour in the coconut milk, stirring slowly to incorporate the spices into the milk. Bring to a gentle boil. Pour in the frozen ravioli and then frozen broccoli (Yes! Straight from their packages.) Cover and simmer about ten minutes. I let the broccoli float on top of the sauce and ravioli and it seemed to steam on top pretty well. When the ravioli seemed done, I stirred it all in together (gently to not break the ravioli) to coat the broccoli with the sauce. It ended up being very thick and creamy and we used forks to eat it. Serve the cilantro and lime on the side, encouraging people to try a bit of each before covering their whole dish with it. Not everyone liked the whole combo, but I liked the way the lime brightened the ravioli.

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