Monday, June 6, 2011

More reasons to love coconut

My sister came to visit me shortly after Lily was born with the intention of trying out a coconut shrimp recipe she’d came across recently. My sister has the same passion for cooking and baking that I do, although she normally chooses to go with the more flavorful and fatty recipes rather than the healthier ones I choose. When we made the shrimp together, she wanted to deep-fry them, and even though I rarely ever fry anything (unless you count sautéing), I didn’t protest and figured I’d treat myself to a little deep-fried naughtiness for once. Frying is also a lot faster than baking anyway, so we got to enjoy our food sooner.

They definitely came out being quite yummy, although I felt kind of gross afterwards from all the oil I consumed. We used canola oil that time and the shredded coconut had sugar added to it. We also didn’t have any dipping sauce as we were a little short on time when we actually got around to cooking the shrimp (we’d spent so much time shopping and talking prior to actually executing our original plans).

I enjoyed the recipe so much, I decided to make it myself later for my husband and I, but this time I baked them instead and they came out tasting just as good if not better than when they were fried. I also used smaller shrimp, thus dubbing them “Coconut Popcorn Shrimp” and although we didn’t have the delicious mango dipping sauce (see recipe below), we used cocktail sauce and that worked too. Recipes for both are below, but this time I suggested using coconut oil instead of canola, although either one is fine.

Coconut Popcorn Shrimp


1 lb shrimp, peeled and de-veined
½ cup flour
½ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup shredded coconut
1 egg beaten
1 tsp coconut oil

Note: you may need to add a little more of each coating ingredient as you go, so keep extras handy

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Have 2 cookie sheets greased with the coconut oil ready to place shrimp onto. Mix the breadcrumbs and coconut together. Put the breadcrumb and coconut mixture, egg, and flour each into separate dishes ideal for dipping the shrimp into. Dip each shrimp first into the flour, then the egg, then lastly into the breadcrumbs and coconut, and then place gently onto cookie sheets. Place into oven on center rack and bake 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy-looking. Serve with mango sauce for dipping.

Served with brown rice with edamame


This recipe requires all of the same amount of ingredients for baking, only you’ll need enough coconut oil so that there is about 1-2 inches of oil in the pan or wok you use for frying. Heat the oil to 350 degrees, then use the same steps you would use for coating the shrimp as you would in the baking recipe, and place each shrimp gently into the frying pan. Cook for about 2 minutes each side, or until golden brown and crispy-looking, then place on dishes or a large platted lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes then serve with mango sauce for dipping.

Each recipe variation makes 4-6 servings.

Mango Sauce

1 mango, peeled and diced
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 lime, juiced
½ tsp red pepper flake
½ tsp ginger powder or 1 tsp fresh chopped ginger

Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth with some pulp still intact.

Lily is not really into shrimp yet, so I made her a small piece of tilapia using the breadcrumbs and coconut mixture alongside the shrimp topped with some of the mango sauce. I also gave her a couple slices of fresh mango.

For baby (age 6 months+):

2 tbsp pureed mango
1 tbsp plain yogurt

Mix together and serve. Delish!!

Coconut oil is recently gaining popularity for cooking with. Also being a widely used ingredient in body products, coconut oil is a great replacement for just about any cooking oil you normally use. It is full of healthy fatty acids and vitamins E and K, as well as iron and amino acids. It’s also good for the heart, boosts immunity, and also has anti-viral, -fungal, and –bacterial properties.

Besides being good for your body, coconut oil also has a high heating threshold, which means it’s less likely to burn and become carcinogenic (do not heat higher than 350 to prevent carcinogens). I do want to point out that although coconut oil clearly has many health benefits, that does not mean it makes it ok to start deep frying everything all the time just because you’re using a healthier oil. Frying food makes it fattier no matter what oil you use, and eating burned oil will increase cancer risks no matter which oil you use. Frying foods should always be kept to a minimum to maintain a healthy diet.

You may now be wondering, but does coconut oil make everything taste coconutty? The answer is no. Coconut oil has a very delicate taste, one that is almost non-existent. That’s why it is ideal for recipes that require oil that doesn’t affect the flavor of what you’re cooking. Of course I wouldn’t recommend using coconut oil in place of olive oil for certain Italian dishes, or using it in place of peanut oil for certain Asian dishes, but I think it works particularly well with chicken, fish, and vegetables. It also isn’t too expensive, costing about the same as a good bottle of olive oil. It typically comes packaged in a jar in solid form, but it melts very quickly.

Like I said before, coconut oil is used in body products and can be applied directly onto lips and skin for an all-natural moisturizer. Only use if you have dry skin, it’s a bit too greasy for oily skin. Smells and feels great! I recently started using it for a variety of things, and I think once you try it, you just might do the same.

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