Thursday, May 12, 2016

Coconut oil, butter, and other oily issues...

I enjoy cooking with simple, natural ingredients whenever possible and that includes the oils I use in my baked goods. My favorites are olive oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, and of course the ever-present butter. Nutritional and health-related opinions abound for every sort of oil these days, with advice evolving as researchers understand more and more the effects of certain fats on our physical health. I have been using a blend of butter and coconut oil for many of my cooking and baking needs, more on that in just a minute.
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Now, I am neither a chemist nor a cardiologist but I do understand the difference between fats that the human body recognizes and knows how to metabolize, and altered/manufactured fats that are foreign to our basic chemistry and are not designed to be ingested by living creatures.

I will spare you my rather disturbing description of the discovery of margarine for example, and how it stopped being used as the food source for which it was designed because the creatures it was designed to feed kept dying when they ate it. Pretty icky stuff. If you really want to know, we can discuss it.

For now I just try to stick to oils that occur all on their own in nature and actually seem to provide benefits to our health.

But here's the thing! Butter tastes great, but have you seen the price of it lately? It sells for as much as $5/pound...OUCH! The organic coconut oil we buy works out to about $3/pound, which is not only less expensive but also carries numerous health benefits. Aside from cooking with it we also use it in our toothpaste, lotion, hair conditioner, and is very versatile stuff, so good to have on hand anyway.

Also remember that certain oils work well for different purposes. For example, oils such as olive, grapeseed, avocado, sesame, coconut, and canola oil all reach their smoke point between 350 and 400 degrees. Whole butter's smoke point is considered to be 350 degrees. So none of these oils are ideal for high temperature frying. Peanut oil, soybean oil, and safflower oil all reach their smoke point at 450 degrees or higher, making them much more suited to high temperature cooking but along with canola oil they are now produced largely from GMO crops, a fact important for those trying to avoid GMO foods.

But let's get back to that idea of blending butter with coconut oil. Both are saturated fats, which means that at room temperature (generally considered to be 60 degrees) they are solid. I simply melt one cup of butter and one cup of coconut oil together in a saucepan over low heat, then pour it into a lidded container to cool. The two blend together perfectly when melted and then re-solidify as they cool.

So the next time you shop for butter and oil, remember three things to protect: your health, your palate, and your pocketbook. Real butter and coconut oil work for all three, and I think you will enjoy the results!

As always, I welcome your comments!

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