Even if you "don’t like coconut”, give this a chance – it’s definitely different (and divine compared with commercially prepared coconut anything)! I never liked coconut either, until I tried the real deal.
The last time I wrote about coconut, it was about the oil. Not long ago, a friend asked me about the dangers of coconut milk, especially canned coconut milk. I am thrilled to share what I know about the benefits of coconut milk!
If you missed the Coconut Oil Kitchen Tips from a year ago, this information is worth repeating:
We were told 2 or 3 decades ago that tropical oils such as coconut, were very bad for our health. The soy and corn industry were largely responsible for scaring us into believing this hype – and that's all it was, without any scientific foundation.
It turns out that this ugly rumor has kept us from enjoying the long list of health benefits that coconuts and their Medium Chain Fatty Acids provide. For that very long list, you can visit CoconutOil.com.
Coconut milk is my go to substitute for milk in any situation. The health benefits cannot be overstated! If you don’t want the coconut flavor in your dish, that’s an easy fix. The critical point is that not all coconut milks are created equal. Not even all canned coconut milks are created equal. There is only one that can be counted on, every time, to deliver the benefits without the dangers.
My research has found that most coconuts used in commercial production are grown in areas where chemicals are not used in cultivation. However, once harvested, processing methods can and often do involve a chemical deodorization (more so with oil, thank milk).
Back to coconut milks: Many, unless labeled “organic” are likely to have any number of additives that render the milk a manufactured “food product”. This is definitely undesirable! Be sure to read the ingredients! Even one product I particularly like, So Delicious, Unsweetened Coconut Milk, has some undesirable additives, in order to make it a delicious dairy free milk substitute, just like all the other milk substitutes flooding the market today.
Even canned coconut milks that are labeled “organic” will usually have at least one additional ingredient (harmless for some people), such as guar gum, as a “stabilizer”. Generally this is used to keep the cream and water homogenized, instead of separating. Seems ridiculous to me that we can’t just learn to shake the can before opening!
The beauty of a canned product is that it is shelf stable until it’s opened. The down side is the dangerous compounds (such as BPA) most all can linings are made with (Eden brand, is one exception to this rule). It should be noted that, sadly, Eden does not offer coconut milk amongst its line of canned products.
When my friend indicated that she’d been told (canned) coconut milk should be avoided, (and since most people are not aware of the issue with can linings) I began to wonder if the high temperature a canned product is subject to, might cause a chemical change, rendering it “dangerous”.
So I went searching. I learned that canning temperatures “for a low acid fruit or vegetable” range from 240-250℉. “Raw” foods, by definition, are considered “raw” if their temperature has been kept below 104-118℉. So I guess we can agree that the lower the temperature of any produce, the more it’s natural benefits (such as enzymes and vitamins) remain viable (that is the beauty of raw).
I haven’t found any data that indicates a dangerous chemical change to coconut milk under high temperatures. That said, if we adopt the theory that “lower temps render a more viable product” we are left with a really fun, totally delicious and ultra healthy option:
1. Make your own coconut milk! (from dried, shredded unsweetened coconut meat). Temperature: Approximately 180℉
I, however, like to make mine from a fresh coconut, when available in the store. Additionally, it’s a fun family adventure (caution: sharp blades are involved) as well as a great way to take out frustrations by hammering on a coconut!
2. Make your own coconut milk! (from a whole coconut – Temperature: 70-100℉)*. AND where she tells you to smash it up under a towel? I found a better way (I ruined my towel her way) – TheCoconutTool.com and it really really works! Cut the meat into 1-2 inch pieces and blend them up with the reserve coconut water and some additional purified or natural spring water (4 cups total water) – you may need to do this in batches, depending on the size of your blender. Then I pour the liquid through a nut milk bag (or multiple layers of cheese cloth, but the nut milk bag is MUCH easier) with a bowl below and S Q U E E Z E, extracting as much liquid as the mass will give!
I like the idea of using a whole fresh coconut because I can blend it with room temperature water (and the ultra healthy, fresh coconut water) so my resulting milk is still raw AND I get to snack on some of the fresh meat – what a treat!! AND I get two products from one effort because I can use the meat (that’s left over after squeezing the water out) as flour!
Either method you choose to make coconut milk, it must be refrigerated and will stay fresh only 2-4 days. It will also separate and the great for you fat will harden, so shake it well. And though I can’t drink a quart of milk within 2-4 days, I can make ice cream with it! Storage solved!
*If you’re using a high powered blender such as a Vitamix, remember that the longer you blend, the warmer it gets. If immunity is compromised, you could use method #2 with water that's been heated to 180℉ OR let the milk blend long enough to bring it up to at least 165℉ to reduce the possibility of bacterial contamination.
Post your comments and questions below!!
We have come to call it a gluten free grain, but ancient amaranth (cultivated as a grain for some 8,000 years), is actually the seeds from an herb.
In many places around the globe, the leaves and roots of amaranth are eaten as vegetables. It was also widely used by the Chinese for its healing chemicals, curing illnesses such as infections, rashes, and migraines1. I’m just talking seeds here, as a gluten free baking option.
And since the Hopi are my neighbors, I thought it interesting to note: “The flowers of the 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth were used by the Hopi (a [Native American] tribe in the western United States) as the source of a deep red dye. There is also a synthetic dye that has been named "amaranth" for its similarity in color to the natural amaranth … known as Red No. 2 in North America”2
I digress. I want to tell you about using amaranth (the seed) as a gluten free grain, but did you know that amaranth contains Lysine, an essential amino acid not present in most grains? Lysine helps to quell herpes simplex outbreaks, including cold sores and shingles.
The bad news: Apparently there is strong evidence that some strains of amaranth contain “anti-nutritional and toxic factors” but that “thermal processing in a moist environment” (my translation: cooking) “may be a promising way to reduce the adverse effects of amaranth's anti-nutritional and toxic factors”. 3 Yikes! More evidence that a diet should consist of a broad range of whole foods, rather than relying heavily on a few fall backs!
The good news: Studies have shown that regular consumption of amaranth (the seed – and presuming it's been cooked) reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels!
Here’s a a great resource for more info and a list of ways you can use amaranth in your kitchen:
- Toasted or popped, then added to salads or used as a gluten free “breading”
- Polenta or porridge style
- As a flour
- In soups
I’m going to the test kitchen right now, to try a batch of Amaranth Ginger Muffins! Look – there they are!
How about you? Have you had amaranth? How have you prepared it – breakfast cereal, flour substitute, others? Please add your comments below!
So just what exactly is Welsh rarebit, you may well ask? For those concerned with bunnies and the approach of Easter, it does NOT contain rabbit or any other meat, for that matter. Though it was initially called Welsh rabbit in the 1700’s, the origin of Welsh rarebit is not clearly known. Wikipedia offers this:
It may be an ironic name coined in the days when the Welsh were notoriously poor: only better-off people could afford butcher's meat, and while in England rabbit was the poor man's meat, in Wales the poor man's meat was cheese. It might also be understood as a slur against the Welsh: if a Welshman went rabbit hunting, rarebit would be his supper.
It is also possible that the dish was attributed to Wales because the Welsh were considered particularly fond of cheese
So what it IS, is nothing more than a seasoned cheese sauce over toast, and might well be the predecessor to Macaroni and Cheese. According to the Food Lover’s Companion, Welsh rarebit is often served as a main course or for high tea (like supper or an after school snack).
Now, lest you think “cheese over toast” to be overrated, consider its mirror image, a grilled cheese sandwich. Was this a favorite of yours? How about mac n' cheese? Does the thought of it take you back to your childhood? For someone unable to enjoy this great American comfort food, but remembers it fondly and with longing, what a treat it would be to enjoy the flavors, the memories, without guilt or (negative) physical reaction!
People who do not (or should not) eat dairy, such as those with Autism or those who are lactose intolerant (this article reports that 60% of Americans are lactose intolerant)! Even someone who has chosen to reduce or eliminate dietary animal products for health or personal reasons can still enjoy the delight of long denied comfort foods, if they use “safe” ingredients.
If you’re still reading this post, then you unquestionably deserve the gift I am about to share: Dairy free (Vegan) cheese sauce for Welsh rarebit (or Mac n’ Cheese) that tastes like the real deal.
Holistic Kitchen Welsh Rarebit (suitable for Mac n' Cheese)
Yield: 1 cup vegan "cheese" sauce
- 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp Bragg's apple cider (or coconut water) vinegar
- 1/2 tsp minced dried onion
- 1/2 cup shredded Daiya brand cheese alternative
Add coconut milk, vinegar and onion bits to a small saucepan. Heat gently until just bubbling. Add shredded Diaya and stir constantly until fully melted and smooth.
Toss with 2-3 cups of cooked elbow macaroni or pour over toast in a shallow, oven-proof dish. Broil for 5-10 minutes, if desired, until optional topping browns.
Please share your experience with comments below!!