What's to love about coconut? It's rich and creamy, an addictive staple in Thai, Indian and Caribbean cuisine. Coconut is high in immunity-boosting lauric acid, which is touted (though not proven) to lower cholesterol and rev metabolism.
What's not to love? Coconut is high in saturated fat. However, your body digests it more readily than animal fats, so don't shun the coconut.
Add lushness to vegetables and whole grains with canned coconut milk. This is no sugary pina colada mix, but a solution of grated, squeezed coconut meat and water. A 1/3 -cup serving contains 120 calories and 11 fat grams (10 saturated). Choose a reduced-fat variety and cut those numbers by more than half. Thai Kitchen coconut milk ($2.59, 14 ounces) comes in regular and light, with organic versions of each.
Spectrum organic coconut oil ($9.99, 14 ounces) and other brands are extracted from copra, the dried coconut kernel. It has a long shelf life, neutral flavor and can withstand high heat, so it's saute-friendly. Like all oil, it has 120 calories per tablespoon, with 12 grams saturated fat compared with olive oil's 2.
New So Delicious coconut milk yogurt ($2.50, 6 ounces) is vegan, contains live cultures and is neither dairy nor soy. Coconut milk makes it wildly creamy but with no coconut taste. It comes in nine flavors including a delectably true-blue blueberry. One container has 140 calories and 6 grams fat (all saturated). (The downside: only 1 protein gram, compared with 8 for milk-based yogurt.)
All the above are available at natural food stores and some supermarkets, but only natural food stores carry Coconut Bliss ice cream ($5.79, 1 pint). The decadent dark chocolate contains coconut milk, agave, cocoa and vanilla - no additives.
Half a cup of this organic, dairy-free, beat-the-heat treat contains 209 calories and 14 grams fat (12 saturated) - more than dairy ice cream. It freezes rock-hard, so let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes before scooping to allow flavor and texture to shine. Then it's coconut bliss indeed. Caribbean cabbage and coconut
Makes: 4-6 servings
tablespoon canola or coconut oil
large onion, chopped
garlic cloves, chopped
medium carrots, peeled and chopped
celery ribs, chopped
jalapeno pepper, chopped
red bell pepper, chopped
medium zucchini or yellow squash, chopped
sweet potato, peeled and chopped
head cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups)
tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
cup vegetable stock
cup light coconut milk
sea salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Saute onion, garlic, carrots, celery, jalapeno, bell pepper, zucchini and potato until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in cabbage and cook a few minutes. When cabbage starts to wilt, stir in thyme, allspice and vegetable stock. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
Before serving, stir in the coconut milk and season to taste. Serve with brown rice, quinoa, millet or roti.
Per serving: 238 calories (41 percent from fat), 12 grams fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 1 milligram cholesterol, 6 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fiber, 173 milligrams sodium