I’m sure you’ve heard about Ricki Heller’s new book, Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free because the vegan bloggers (like me) just can’t stop talking about it. Ricki is also well known for her blog full of wonderful allergy friendly recipes.
(Below) Ricki tells us all kinds of information on coconut oil and shares a delicious recipe from her book.
Why I love to bake and cook with Coconut Oil!
Even though I’ve been baking since I was a child (with help from Mom, of course), I had never really tried coconut oil before I learned about it nutrition school. After all, I was from that generation that was warned about how bad coconut oil is for us—I mean, it’s a saturated fat, right? Well, armed with better knowledge (and better quality oils) these days, more and more cooks are embracing coconut oil as a healthy fat. Yippee, I say!
Unlike its predecessor (hydrogenated coconut oil), the organic, extra virgin varieties that abound on store shelves nowadays aren’t antithetical to your health. In fact, the opposite may be true. When we examine traditional cultures that use coconut oil regularly, they almost never suffer the same chronic diseases that we do in the west, and they almost always use oil that hasn’t been highly processed the way we used to do. Is there a connection? I’ll let you decide for yourself.
Here’s why I love coconut oil—and why I think you should give it a try:
Coconut oil is actually good for you.
- As a plant-based food, coconut oil is entirely cholesterol-free. If you’re someone who has to watch the amount of cholesterol you ingest, switch to coconut oil and enjoy food without adding to the total cholesterol levels of your meals.
- Although it’s a saturated fat, coconut oil is comprised of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) while most other saturated fats (such as in animal products) are long-chain fatty acids. The MCFAs are metabolized directly through the liver and converted to energy more quickly, thereby aiding in weight control.
- Coconut oil has been shown to help improve thyroid function and boost immune function.
- Unlike other saturated fats, coconut oil may actually support heart health. It contains an unusual compound, lauric acid, which helps to lower HDL (bad cholesterol) levels, thereby helping to improve cholesterol levels overall.
- Coconut oil is a natural anti-microbial. The lauric acid mentioned above is an anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial agent. For me personally, this fact makes it indispensable, since consumption of coconut oil can help treat fungal conditions such as candida overgrowth in the body (a condition with which I live).
It’s a great ingredient for cooking and baking, too!
- Most importantly, coconut oil is delicious! If you haven’t tried it, the flavor tastes very subtly of coconut, and also adds a richness to foods that is incomparable.
- Like dairy butter, coconut oil is solid at room temperature (it melts at 76F /24.5C). In other words, it’s a perfect substitute for solid butter or lard in recipes like pie crust, biscuits, cookies, and so on. If a recipe calls for liquid oil, you can simply melt the coconut oil first.
- As a saturated fat, coconut oil is very stable, which means it doesn’t require refrigeration. Unlike liquid vegetable oils that are sold in glass bottles, coconut oil isn’t prone to free radical damage from heat, light, or air. This also means you can cook with it at higher temperatures, such as when you bake or sauté, without worrying about damaging your health.
- ⅓ cup (45 g) coconut sugar
- ½ cup (65 g) natural raw walnut pieces
- ½ cup (80 g) natural raw skin-on almonds, preferable organic
- ⅓ cup (50 g) coconut flour
- ¼ cup (40 g) potato starch
- 1 Tbsp (30 ml) ground cinnamon
- Generous pinch fine sea salt
- 3 Tbsp (45 ml) coconut oil, at room temperature, preferably organic
- 30 drops pure plain or vanilla stevia liquid, or to taste
- 1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
- 3 Tbsp (45 ml) water
- 2 medium pears, washed, cored, and diced, peeled or unpeeled
- 2 medium sweet apples, washed, cored, and diced, peeled or unpeeled
- 1 cup (115 g) fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 tsp (5 ml) ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp (1 ml) ground ginger
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) coconut sugar
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ¼ tsp (1 ml) pure stevia powder or ½ tsp (2.5 ml) pure plain or vanilla stevia liquid, or to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 9-inch (22.5- cm) square pan or a 6-cup (1.4-L) casserole or soufflé dish with nonstick spray or coconut oil.
- Make the topping: Place the coconut sugar, walnuts, almonds, coconut flour, potato starch, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture resembles a fine meal with no pieces of nuts visible.
- In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the coconut oil.
- Whisk in the stevia, vanilla, and water.
- Pour the coconut oil mixture in a ring around the dry ingredients in the processor and pulse until it all comes together. It should look like moist clumps. Set aside.
- Make the filling: In a large bowl, toss the pear, apple, and cranberries together with the cinnamon and ginger. In a small bowl, mix together the coconut sugar, lemon juice, and stevia, and stir until the sugar begins to dissolve.
- Drizzle over the fruit and then toss again to coat evenly.
- Assemble and bake the crumble: Turn the fruit mixture into the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with the topping. Press down gently on the topping.
- Bake for 40 to 60 minutes (depending on the depth of your pan, you will need more or less time for the fruit to cook), rotating the dish about halfway through baking, until the crumble topping is deeply browned and the fruit is soft.
- Serve immediately or at room temperature with a little Coconut Whipped Cream.
About Ricki Heller
Using only whole foods ingredients, a generous pinch of humor and input from her two chatty canines, Ricki shares gluten-free, allergy-friendly and sugar-free recipes on her blog, RickiHeller.com
Ricki’s second cookbook, Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free, became an instant amazon.com bestseller on its first day of sales. Her first book, Sweet Freedom, is one of only three cookbooks recommended by Ellen DeGeneres on her website. Ricki is also Associate Editor for Simply Gluten-Free Magazine and has written for Clean Eating magazine, Allergic Living, Living Without, VegNews, and many other publications.
Ricki lives near Toronto, Canada with her husband and two dogs.
[Disclaimer from Ricki Heller: I am neither a physician or a health care professional. Information for this post was obtained from a variety of resources, including medical and nutritional publications and is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or to replace the advice or attention of your physician. Please consult with your practitioner before making changes to your diet, supplements, exercise program, diagnosis or treatment of illness or injuries and for advice regarding medications.]