Ingredient Focus: Various Kinds of Coconut

Coconuts may be high in saturated fat but they are also rich in potassium and iron. Dealing with coconuts is another matter entirely and can be daunting given the tough exterior, but there are ways around it if you're looking to add some coconut zest to a recipe. Here are a number of different forms of coconut that you can use while cooking and baking. 

* Coconut oil is a healthy alternative to butter as it can enhance your immune system, improve digestion and improve your overall cholesterol ratio. Use coconut oil in recipes where an added taste of coconut will be complimentary! Try this ingredient in whole-wheat sweet potato muffins or even in a stir fry!

* Toasted coconut is an easy feat as all you need to do is throw peeled strips of coconut into a skillet and lightly brown them for about 10 minutes. The result can be sprinkled on top of your oatmeal or even tossed in with granola, nuts and dried fruit for an easy homemade trail mix.

* Grated fresh coconut is a perfect addition to a tropical fruit salad. Cut up and mix together exotic fruits like papaya, mango as well as grapefruit and banana and sprinkle coconut on top for a refreshing addition to any summertime BBQ!

* Frozen coconut milk makes for a great base for fruit popsicles or just chill coconut milk and add with ginger beer and lime for a tasty drink. Coconut juice is chock full of electrolytes so it is perfect for staying hydrated in the upcoming heat!

* Sweetened vs. Unsweetened: Both sweetened and unsweetened coconut will add a nice, chewy texture when mixed into recipes. However, sweetened coconut tends to be more moist and is obviously sweeter than its non-sweetened counterpart. Most baked goods call for sugar anyway, so using unsweetened grated coconut might be the perfect addition. Try it in a delicious Coconut Tea Bread Recipe.

What kind of coconut do you usually use?

Photo: Horia Varlan on flickr