We have all heard of butter, margarine, shortening, and oil. These are all fats of one kind or another. Some of these fats come from animals, like butter and lard. And others come from vegetables, like corn oil and canola oil. And still others come from fruit and nuts, avocado oil and grape seed oil.
Some fats are called saturated. These are typically from animals and when eaten in abundance can raise cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats typically come from plants and are better for lower cholesterol. There is a lot of chemistry involved in understanding how saturated and unsaturated fats affect the body. I'm not going to go into that here, but you can get more information at this site.
For many years we were told that eating fat is bad. Many diets insisted that no fat be eaten. Such non-fat diets actually had it wrong. While it is true that eating too much saturated fat is harmful, our bodies, in fact, need fats. Here's why:
- Fats in our diets are needed as a source of energy. This energy is vital to our life functions. The body stores extra calories for future use.
- Fatty acids are essential for growth development and cell function and must come from outside sources, more specifically from food.
- Our nerves and brains rely on myelin, which is a fatty material that wraps around the nerve cells. Our brains contain essentials fats for proper functioning.
- All of our body's cells need to contain some fats. That is an essential part of proper functioning.
- Fat is needed for transporting vitamins A, D, E and K through our bloodstream to where they are needed.
Clearly, it is quite essential that we must have fat in our diets in order for our body to function effectively and efficiently.
Now that we know just a bit about the importance of fat as part of what we consume, let's talk about cooking with fat.
I do a lot of baking and when it's time to consider what fats I use in my pie crust or cookies or anything else, I make a effort to stay away from any over processed oils. These definitely include shortening and margarine. These are commonly understood to be trans fats. Wikipedia define trans fats as: Trans fats, or trans-unsaturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, are a type of unsaturated fats that are uncommon in nature but became commonly produced industrially from vegetable fats for use in margarine, snack food, packaged baked goods and frying fast food starting in the 1950s.
In lay person terms trans fats are simply liquid vegetable fats that are processed to be solids. Hydrogen is added to the liquid oil. These oils are called hydrogenated. Here's a site that goes in-depth of what hydrogenated oils mean to consumers.
So, if I have a recipe say for cookies and the ingredients include butter and shortening, but I want to stay away from shortening, I have a decision to make. If I use all butter, which is possible, my cookie will have a crisper, harder feel to it. That's not a bad thing. I like crispy cookies.
But in the case of today's recipe, I want a softer, chewier cookie with crispy edges. My recipe calls for butter and shortening. What to do? What to do? Here's what's to do. I'll use coconut oil! Hurray!!!
The health benefits for using coconut oil are impressive.
- It can help fight diabetes.
- It helps stimulate your metabolism.
- It helps platelets function for your heart.
Just as an aside, if you want to know more about other benefits of coconut oil, go to Pam's Clairalience Blog. There's lots to learn there.
Today I am making Snickerdoodle Cookies. These are yummy cookies that are rolled in cinnamon sugar before baking. You needn't worry about the coconut oil. It won't make the cookies taste like coconut, even if you want it to. I, personally, don't care for coconut, but I love how these cookies turned out. In fact, I'm eating one as I'm typing this :)
So let's get started:
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
What you need to do:
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix 1 1/2 cup sugar, butter, coconut oil and eggs in large bowl. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture. Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or over night.
Mix together the 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Form dough into balls, about 1 1/2 inch. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat. Place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on rack.
Learn all you can about oils and how they fit into your culinary experiences. There's lots to know and enjoy.
Now, go out and make something good!