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Food trends in 2014 have consumers going nutty over coconut

Coconut oil is believed to have many health benefits
Coconut oil is believed to have many health benefitsCoconutOil.com

These days consumers are going crazy over coconut using it in cooking, cocktails, cosmetics and as a health food. Coconut goes back as early as the 1700's in Southern desserts - shredded in pies, macaroons and ambrosia. In the South, coconut cake originated as many families’ holiday tradition at Christmas. In the 19th century, poet Emily Dickinson, known for her love of baking, popularized it with her recipe of “Cocoanut Cake.”

Coconut Snowball Martini
Coconut Snowball MartiniPinterest.com

Today, coconut flavors are tasteful accents in global and eclectic cuisines. According to Darren Tristano of Technomic, “Coconut is associated with many global cuisines, including Asian, Caribbean and South American. Consumers want to try global flavors when dining out. Adding coconut to a dish or drink adds an ethnic taste without making it too intimidating for guests.”

As the Filipino adage goes, “If you could count the stars, then you could count all the ways the coconut tree serves us.” This message resounds throughout American cuisine as coconut is no longer just used in curries and tropical cocktails. In the last few years coconut water and coconut milk became popular as healthy, nutritious and dairy-free drinks; now coconut oil and coconut have raised the bar in chefs' kitchens and in the home across the country.

Coconut oil has become a favored oil of choice as a staple cooking oil due to its health benefits and tolerance of higher temperatures such as in deep frying. It is believed that the health benefits are numerous for diet, healthy skin and hair, weight loss and boosting metabolism.

Unique flavorful adult beverages are creating a hybrid market for drinks, particularly tantalizing millennials. Last month, Pernod Ricard launched Malibu Rum Sparkler, which combines Malibu rum and coconut water infused with bubbles and packaged with a cork. Coconut water is used as a simple syrup for cocktails and natural coconut is infused in vodkas making for a unique coconut martini.

Coconut water, milk and oil have become popular in vegan and dairy-free recipes as well. Try this delicious vegan recipe for a healthy veggie-packed dish from Silk.

Vegan Sage, Broccoli and Squash Risotto
Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. green onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 1/4 cup Silk Original Unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary
  • 4-5 fresh sage leaves, chopped

Directions:

  1. In a deep sauté pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add squash, broccoli and green onion, sautéing for 4-5 minutes (until softened).
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add rice and toss for one minute.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together almond milk, coconut milk, water, rosemary and sage.
  4. Add one cup of liquid mixture to rice and vegetables and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to simmer and continue mixing liquid in 1/2 cup at a time as it absorbs; stir frequently.
  6. Once all liquid is added (total cook time: 20-25 minutes), serve warm over a bowl of greens or as a side.
    Recipe from Silk.com/recipes

Coconut has not only gone global; it has gone gourmet and great for those with special dietary needs or requirements. It might become the next staple in your pantry or bar.

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