Coconut

Tom Kha Gai aka Chicken Coconut Soup Deliciousness

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 Kaffir lime leaves, torn
  • 3 (2)inch pieces lemongrass, bruised to help release the flavor
  • 2-3 (1)inch pieces of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1-2 Thai chili peppers, thinly chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup shiitake or oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 2 pounds chicken breasts, thinly sliced (may substitute shrimp)
  • 2-3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (optional)

How To:

1. Bring all ingredients to (including chili peppers if using) to a boil.

2. Reduce to a simmer and let it cook for about an hour or so to really get those flavors melding.

3. Add in the mushrooms and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer.

4. Add in the chicken and simmer until chicken is cooked through.

5. Finish off with some cilantro and extra chili peppers (optional) and enjoy!

Thank you to Paleo Comfort Foods for this yummy Paleo winter soup.

Coconut & Cacao Protein Bites

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed pitted Medjool dates (13-14 large)  
  • 1/4 cup hulled hemp seed
  • 1/4 cup chia seed
  • 1/4 cup sesame seed
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut  **omit if you need to avoid nuts/coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 scoop Jay Robb egg white protein powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs (or mini dark chocolate chips)

How To:

Add dates into processor and process until a chunky paste forms.

Add in the hemp, chia, sesame, cocoa, *coconut, vanilla, cinnamon, protein powder and salt. Process until thoroughly combined. Pulse in the cacao nibs. The dough should be sticky when pressed between your fingers. If it’s not sticky enough to shape into balls, add a small amount of water (a teaspoon at a time) and process until it comes together.

Shape dough into small balls (about 16) and roll the top half of each in the remaining coconut flakes.  Freeze for 20 minutes or so until firm. Store leftovers in the fridge until your next snack attack hits.

Thank you to Oh She Glows for these sweet treats!  

5 Surprising Weight Loss Foods

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No matter what popular ads might claim, processed “diet” foods don’t work in the long run. Too often, natural fats are swapped for excess sugar and calories or artificial ingredients that spur cravings…and now, more Americans are obese than ever.

So if you’re confused about what really is waistline-friendly, you’re not alone. In this article, Jarred Koch, founder of Clean Plates, shares 5 surprising foods that will help you to loose weight.

While some of the following foods may seem heavy, the key is that they’re very nutrient-dense, which makes the body feel satisfied with smaller servings or fewer calories. “A lot of cravings come from us being deficient in a particular nutrient or nutrients that we can’t decipher,” says Koch. He suggests you eat mostly low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods along with some good quality, high-calorie and nutrient-dense foods. Get started by adding the following to your diet now.

1. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is high in saturated fats and calories, but its unique medium-chain fatty acids boost metabolism and provide energy similar to blood glucose, so insulin levels aren’t impacted (meaning you won’t crash and crave sugar). Also, the fat can help you feel satiated quicker. As with all oils, use judiciously.

2. Pears

Sweet as they are, pears are a great example of a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food. Pears have more fiber than apples (be sure to eat the skin if it is organic), plus they contain pectin, which helps block fat absorption. 

3. Buckwheat

It might seem dense, but buckwheat is high in phytochemicals and fiber, which will make you feel full faster. Plus it’s free of wheat and gluten, so it causes less of the inflammation that can eventually lead to fat retention. Because of buckwheat’s specific protein profile, it can also reduce and stabilize blood sugar levels. Just be sure to check labels, as many brands of buckwheat noodles contain wheat. 

4. Beans

Though you might associate them with heavy Mexican food, beans contain cholecystokinin, a digestive hormone that acts as a natural appetite suppressant. They are also a good vegetarian source of fiber and protein. Buy dry beans in bulk and soak them before cooking for optimal assimilation.

5. Fatty fish

Have no fear of these fats. Fatty fish like salmon and sardines can be your best friends thanks to their omega-3 fatty acids, which can help fight inflammation. They can also reduce triglyceride levels. Opt for wild-caught whenever possible.

Thank you to CleanPlates.com for this article.

8 Top Sugar Alternatives

You’ve probably heard by now that too much refined sugar (and its counterpart, high fructose corn syrup) can contribute to health problems from obesity to diabetes. But signing on for a life without another cookie, slice of birthday cake or sip of hot chocolate can sound like, well, a bitter pill to swallow.

Jared Koch, founder of Clean Plates, rounded up eight of my top alternatives to refined sugar. With fewer of the harmful qualities of refined sugar and HFCS and some bonus nutritional attributes, these are sweeter swaps.

These sweeteners still aren't health foods, and fruit is the best way to sweeten up. But when you do indulge,  try to stick to this list and you might add a little nutrition to your dessert - that's a treat!

1. Coconut Palm Sugar

Derived from coconut tree blossom nectar, this isn’t the same as palm sugar—not all palm sugars are made from coconuts. The ingredient list should say 100% coconut palm or sap. Coconut palm sugar is preferable thanks to its low glycemic index and minimal processing.

Health Benefits: Much smaller percentage of blood sugar-spiking fructose than most other sweeteners; contains B vitamins, potassium, chloride, and other vitamins, minerals and enzymes that aid in slower absorption into the bloodstream.

Flavor: Comparable to brown sugar in appearance and taste, with caramel notes.

How to Use It: Adds depth to baked goods, sauces, coffee and tea; can be used instead of brown sugar.

2. Coconut Nectar

This is a thick syrup made from coconut tree sap. Unlike maple, it doesn’t require intense heating to bring out its sweetness. This allows it to be enzymatically alive and for its naturally high amino acid profile to remain intact.

Health Benefits: Low glycemic index; high in vitamins and minerals. Also has insoluble fiber, which prevents against sugar spikes in the bloodstream, and a unique medium chain fatty acid, said to help prevent heart disease.

Flavor: Doesn't taste like coconut, but has a light, delicate sweetness.

How to Use It: In tea or coffee, in raw desserts or on top of waffles or pancakes. Can also be used in baked goods, but heat may destroy some of its nutritional profile.

3. Date Sugar

This comes from dehydrated dates that have been ground into a coarse powder. While minimally processed, date sugar isn’t one of the lower glycemic alternatives, so those with sensitivities should proceed with caution. It also has a higher fructose percentage; keep in mind that over-consumption of fructose has been linked to liver problems and weight gain.

Health Benefits: Minimal, raw processing allows for retention of dates’ natural fiber, tannins, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals.

Flavor: Less sweet than other natural sweeteners, and tastes like dates.

How to Use It: Can be substituted for sugar in baking and works well in breads, muffins and crumbles, creating delicate brown flecks. Does not melt, so blend thoroughly to avoid clumps. Also won’t dissolve in beverages; don't add to tea or coffee, but enjoy sprinkled over yogurt or oatmeal.

4. Stevia

Stevia comes from a shrub native to Latin America, and has been a popular sweetener in Asia for decades. In the U.S., it's commonly found as a clear liquid or a white powder. Look for the green powder (most health foods stores carry it), which is less processed.

Health benefits: In truly unprocessed form, provides beneficial antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Because our bodies can't digest the stevia plant, it offers essentially zero calories and has an extremely low glycemic index. Fructose count also becomes negligible, and it doesn't affect blood sugar levels.

Flavor: 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. The white form can have an anise-like or bitter aftertaste.

How to Use It: In smoothies, salad dressings, ice cream and tea.

5. Yacon Syrup

This is made from the root of the yacon plant, which grows in the Andes region of South America. Thanks to its high fructooligosaccharides level (FOS), a sugar polymer our bodies cannot digest, it has minimal impact on blood sugar levels. Shop for raw forms when possible, or flash pasteurized at a minimum.

Health Benefits: Considered a prebiotic as it aids in the absorption of calcium and other vitamins. Also promotes healthy gut flora, which is essential for good digestion. Because its primary sugar is FOS, which can't be absorbed, it's low-calorie and has a low glycemic index.

Flavor: A more delicate molasses.

How to Use It: In smoothies, atop pancakes or waffles, in raw food treats or drizzled on roasted winter squash or sweet potatoes.

6. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup comes from boiling the sap of maple trees; the water evaporates, leaving concentrated syrup available in different grades, depending on color and taste. Grade B tends to be the most nutrient rich, and more affordable. Choose pure maple syrup to ensure that no HFCS or other sugars have been added (it also tastes cleaner), especially since maple syrup isn’t a low-glycemic index food on its own. While maple syrup is perceived as naturally organic, some of the processes for harvesting the sap aren't. Paraformaldehyde pellets or lead may be used, which are both poisonous. So choose organic syrup whenever possible.

Health Benefits: Excellent source of manganese and good source of zinc, which supports the immune system.

Flavor: Earthy sweetness. Grade A is a lighter color with a more delicate taste. B is darker, has a bolder flavor and shines in baked goods, sauces and cooked dishes

How to Use It: In salad dressings, sauces, on roasted meats and of course, pancakes and waffles. To substitute for sugar in baking, use a .75:1 ratio of maple syrup per cup of sugar and decrease another liquid in the recipe by two to three tablespoons.

7. Raw Honey

Bees make honey using the nectar from flowers, which determines the honey’s flavor. It's essential the honey is raw, as processed honeys can be high in fructose and have a higher glycemic index. Buying local provides the most nutrients; shipping honey long distance requires heating it, which degrades the health benefits.

Health benefits: Natural antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties; can be used to treat ulcers. Some raw honeys have a number on their labels; the higher this number, the higher the antibiotic properties. Local, raw honey may also help people with seasonal allergies.

Flavor: Takes on the flavors of the flowers the bees visited; a delicate orange blossom honey tastes wildly different than a pungent, funky chestnut honey.

How to Use It: In tea, homemade sorbet, smoothies, raw desserts, and baked goods; try drizzled on berries, fruit, roasted squash and sweet potatoes.

8. Agave Nectar

Agave nectar comes from the agave cactus. While it’s become a popular sweetener among health enthusiasts in recent years and is a popular alternative to honey among vegans, some experts question its health value due to its high fructose levels—higher, in some cases, than HFCS. Also, the popularity of agave nectar in recent years has spurred its mass production, resulting in some cases of questionable manufacturing processes that may contribute unnecessary chemicals. It’s important to know the source and buy organic and raw if you choose to use it.

Health benefits: Provides the body with several nutrients and may be beneficial for digestion. Because it's very sweet, a little goes a long way.

Flavor: Tastes similar to honey, but more neutral.

How to Use It: Can be used as a replacement for most liquid sweeteners; because of the issues above, use sparingly.

If you use a sweetener that isn’t on this list, opt for the least refined: Choose raw sugar, Sucanat or turbinado sugar, all of which are less processed than white sugar and thus retain more nutrients. Whenever you eat something sweet—even fruit—try eating a high quality fat (like nuts) at the same time; this helps to slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream.

December's Dish: GF Coconut Chicken Soup

Ingredients:                                         coconut-chicken-DSC_29141

3 cups chicken stock
1 fresh thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced into thin coins
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons agave nectar
6 ounces leftover chicken
1 cup mushrooms, rinsed, drained and sliced in half lengthwise
1 medium carrot, julienned
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced

How To:

  1. In a pot, bring chicken stock and ginger to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes
  2. Stir in coconut milk, fish sauce, agave, chicken, mushrooms and carrot
  3. Just before serving, stir in lime juice and cilantro
  4. Serve

Coconut Oil: Nature's Elixir

Searching for a way to moisturize your skin, put some shine into your hair, and add a hearty boost to your diet? And do all of this with one fabulous and economical oil? Well, take a look at the many benefits of coconut oil.  Referred to as "nature's elixir to lose weight, prevent heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and beautify skin and hair."

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Lauric Acid, which makes up nearly half of the fat content in coconut oil, is a medium chain fatty acid. And size does matter for fatty acids: the smaller the better. Long-chain fatty acids are processed slower because they need to undergo a longer process before being available for use. However, small-chain and medium-chain fatty acids are immediately available for your body to use. And our bodies convert lauric acid to monolaurin which fights viruses and bacteria. 

Dr. Bronner's whole kernel organic virgin coconut oil (VCO) is a personal favorite. This pure, certified organic, raw, unrefined, virgin coconut oil is untouched by heat or chemical treatment before, during or after pressing. Left in its raw state, every living enzyme and nutrient is left intact to nourish the body.

 

Uses for coconut oil:

  • EAT: Coconut oil is an excellent addition for a healthy diet. Virgin coconut oil improves blood cholesterol by increasing ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol due to medium chain fatty acids (the healthier fatty acid). It is the most stable oil to cook with, especially at higher heats. Coconut oil is a terrific alternative to butter and other oils for sauteing vegetables, cooking and baking. Eating coconut oil also contributes to stimulating metabolism and improving thyroid function. In addition, populations that consume coconut oil regularly have lower rates of heart disease due to the oil's anti-viral and anti-microbial characteristics. Because coconut oil is composed primarily of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that are burned almost immediately for energy production,  "it's like putting high octane fuel into your car. The car runs more smoothly and gets better gas mileage. Likewise, with MCFAs, your body performs better because it has more energy and greater endurance”, according to author Bruce Fife, of The Coconut Miracle. AND MORE, coconut oil won't produce free-radicals upon heating like other vegetable oils do and it's highly resistant to spoilage so you can expect a long shelf life. Source of vitamins E and K and the mineral iron.
  • SKIN: As a basic ingredient in many soaps, lotions and creams, this multi-purpose and economical moisturizer prevents dryness and flaking of skin. It also works wonders with wrinkles, sagging skin and on age spots. Use it as an after shave or after sunburns for soothing relief, as a diaper slave in place of petroleum-based vaseline, for removal of make-up, to prevent stretch marks and chapped lips. Mix it with baking soda for a natural deodorant and use with sugar in a body scrub for wonderfully smooth skin.
  • HAIR: Extensively used in Ayurvedic medicine, coconut oil is highly effective for treating dry and damaged hair, preventing dandruff and lice and promoting re-growth of hair. Massage scalp with a small amount of oil before washing hair or as a hair mask for several hours for a deep conditioning treatment. Be careful to avoid oil stains on furniture or linens! Also a good way to treat cradle cap and frizzy hair.
  • HEAL: Use as an aid to protect cuts from dust or bacteria and to help spped up the healing process. Coconut oil is also a good natural remedy for bug bites as it helps to stop the itching. For bug repellent, try a mixture of coconut oil and peppermint essential oil to keep insects at bay. Also effective on bruises as it speeds up the healing process by repairing damaged tissues.
  • DIGESTION: The saturated fats in coconut oil have anti microbial properties and help to aid in digestion, soothe acid reflux and help with the absorbtion of vitamins and minerals. The anti-inflammatory and healing effects of coconut oil also play a role in soothing inflammation and healing the digestive tract.

And if that's not enough, coconut oil is ideal to season cast iron pans, maintain the smooth surface of wooden cutting boards or butcher block counters and if you're in a pinch, use it as a gum or goo remover instead of a harsh chemical.

February's Dish: Gluten Free Coconut Bars

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Ingredients:

3 eggs
1 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. Stevia
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1 tbsp. coconut flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 tsp. celtic sea salt

How to:

Mix eggs, coconut milk, oil, honey, vanilla and stevia in a food processor. Pulse in almond flour, coconut flour, shredded coconut and sea salt. Transfer ingredients into an 8×8 inch Pyrex baking dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Cool for one hour, then place in refrigerator and serve when chilled. Makes 24 bars.

Thank you to Elana's Pantry for this delicious recipe.