Do you ever feel like something that should be solid, reliable and unchanging is actually shifting under your feet like quicksand? This is how I feel about nutritional advice sometimes. It seems like it should be relatively simple to figure out what is good for human consumption and what isn’t. I don’t know, I am not in the business of determining these things, but it feels like almost every time we turn around, there is a reversal in thinking about what’s healthy for us. Case in point: coconut oil. If you have been paying any attention whatsoever to health food blogs, you may have noticed that coconut oil has been enjoying an huge increase in popularity lately. But it’s a saturated fat, and the FDA tells us that saturated fats are bad for us, so what gives?
I’d say that this is a classic case of tarring all saturated fats with the same brush. Upon further inspection, it would seem that this plant-derived saturated fat may actually have some significant health benefits. Much of the saturated fat content in coconut oil comes from lauric acid, which is also a major component in human breastmilk and is well known to have antioxidant and antibacterial properties. There are quite a few claims about the positive health benefits of coconut oil out there and I am not well-versed enough in the subject to determine which of these are valid and which are a bit of hype. But I have come to understand that coconut oil can, and perhaps should, be incorporated into a healthy diet. It’s a wonderful dairy-free replacement for butter and adds it’s own special coconutty flavour to a vast array of dishes, from muffins to stir fries. You can get some wonderful ideas for cooking and baking with coconut oil at coconutoilcooking.com.
Let me clarify one point, however. When I refer to coconut oil, I am only referring to the virgin non-refined variety. The overprocessed, partially hydrogenated coconut oils, like any processed, partially hydrogenated or trans fats, are still pretty junky for you, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.
I had a chance to try Kelapo Coconut Oil recently, which is not only virgin and organic but it is also fair trade certified. More and more, fair trade is gaining ground and that’s a wonderful thing. It’s all too easy to turn a blind eye to the exploitative practices that occur in other countries so that we can have cheaper food items. I am guilty of this myself sometimes, quite honestly, so I am not trying to preach here. I think it’s worth it to be mindful of what I am purchasing and whether spending a few extra cents will support fair trade practices.
I decided to use the Kelapo Coconut Oil to make some sandwich cookies I’d had in mind for a while. At first, I was only going to use coconut oil in the actual cookie part and fill the centers with something mocha flavored. But as I was in the middle of baking, I decided to go whole hog on the coconut flavour and really play it up. Why not use the coconut oil as the base for a coconut buttercream? Why not add in some flaked coconut while I’m at it? And can I even call it a buttercream if it contains no butter? Ah yes, “coconut cream” it is.
The Results: Mmmm, coconutty goodness! Soft chocolate cookies with a hint of coconut from the coconut oil, on either side of a sweet, creamy coconut filling. I loved these, as did my husband. I didn’t even offer them to my kids because it didn’t make that many cookies and I simply didn’t want to share. If you are looking for a way to work coconut oil into your low carb diet, this is a great recipe to start with.
Coconut Cream Sandwich Cookies
1 3/4 cup almond flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup granulated erythritol
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
16 drops stevia extract
Coconut Cream Filling:
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup powdered erythritol
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp coconut milk or almond milk
1/3 cup finely grated unsweetened coconut
For the cookies, preheat oven to 325F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, cocoa powder, erythritol, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum. Add egg, coconut oil, vanilla extract and stevia and stir until dough comes together.
Roll 1-inch balls between palms and place on prepared baking sheet. Using your palm, or the bottom of a flat glass covered in parchment or cling wrap, flatten each cookie to 1/4 inch thick. Bake for 8 minutes and let cool on pan.
For the filling, whisk together coconut oil and powdered erythritol. Add vanilla, coconut milk and grated coconut until smooth and thick. Spread about 1 to 2 tsp of filling on a cooled cookie and top with another cookie. Repeat with remaining filling and cookies.
Makes approx. 12 sandwich cookies. Each cookie has a total of 15g of carbs and 2.6g of fiber, but only 5.8g of carbs if you subtract erythritol.