Thursday, March 10, 2016

Superfood or Crazy Hairy Monster?

In the latest edition of Bon Appetit, they declared coconut as the next cult superfood, proclaiming "Coconut is the next quinoa." I have always loved coconut and decided to look into its health benefits. After perusing various sources, coconut is touted to increase energy, aid in weight loss, prevent infection from bacteria, viruses, and fungi, lower cholesterol, stabilize insulin, and even halt the symptoms of Alzheimer's. Wow! Sounds good, right? Maybe not. According to an article by the New York Daily News, "Coconut is bad for you." Gasp! The article also stated that coconut "is loaded with heart-damaging saturated fat, sugar and calories that hide behind its healthy, food co-op image." In addition, a dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic's Heart and Vascular Institute stated that she cautioned "patients with high cholesterol or a history of heart disease" not to even toy with coconuts at all. Aw...

At this age of what I consider mass dietary dysfunction, the key to anything is moderation. Good or bad, I will not give up my coconut! Why not try this lighter version of  "Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken Soup" from Cooking Light: The New Way to Cook Light. It is fresh, spicy, and quick! Serve it with steamed rice and sauteed sugar snap peas for a fantastic weeknight meal! Coconut ice cream would be the perfect ending!

Spicy Thai Coconut Chicken (or shrimp) Soup

Serves 4

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
4 teaspoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (3-inch) stalk lemongrass, halved lengthwise and tied together with kitchen twine
2 teaspoons sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
3 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth (if using shrimp, substitute seafood stock)
1 1/4 cups light coconut milk
4 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken (about 8 ounces) (can substitute cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp, if desired)
1/2 cup diagonally sliced green onions
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms and next 4 ingredients (through lemongrass) to pan; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chile paste, and cook 1 minute. Add broth, milk, fish sauce, and sugar; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes. Add chicken to pan; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Discard the lemongrass. Stir in onions, cilantro, and juice.

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