Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spicy Lentil Soup (with Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil!)

You know I'm all about delicious food, and I take care to ensure we're eating a healthy diet. We're vegetarian, and I would estimate that 90% of what we eat is homemade from scratch (we love trying new restaurants as well!). So to have a new pantry staple is pretty exciting for me, since I do the vast majority of that cooking and baking!

I was lucky enough to receive a jar of Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut oil to review. I've never used coconut oil before, and I'd been reading about the health benefits lately. The oil contains antioxidants, and (admittedly, I don't completely understand this part) apparently because the structure of the fatty acids are different than the fatty acids in the majority of fats in the North American diet, they are metabolized differently and apparently stimulate metabolism, give you more energy, and subsequently promote weight loss.

Sounds too good to be true, right? I did a little reading and learned that researchers at McGill University in Quebec did a study that showed this result (in animals). So... maybe. You can read more here, and even more here, if you're interested. I'm not convinced, myself.

For me, I'm not as interested in the weight loss idea as in the potential to reduce the amount of hydrogenated fats in our diet. We do eat butter (mainly in baking, which I do a lot), and rarely vegetable shortening. Coconut oil can raise cholesterol* - just like other saturated fats can - so, like any food, use in moderation!

Plus... I just love the flavour of coconut. I think dessicated shredded coconut is nasty (like eating sawdust!) but the flavour of coconut milk or fresh coconut is something to swoon over.

Anyway, my point is that I got this jar of coconut oil to try out. With this cold/flu/whatever that I have, I know I'm not tasting at 100% right now, but I just couldn't wait to play in the kitchen with a new ingredient. On opening it and scooping out a dollop, I was surprised by the texture. It has an almost waxy texture to it. The oil was solid (our house is at about 21 degrees - it liquefies at 24) but melted really quickly once in a pot on the stove - much faster than butter.

Coconut oil can be used as a spread (not for me, I don't spread oils on my food but if you use butter like that, this could replace it. My husband tasted some of the oil out of the jar and said he could definitely see using it as a spread!), a cooking oil, in baking, as a soothing drink when mixed with honey and hot water, and even outside the kitchen as a lip balm, skin moisturizer and hair mask! Amazing - when I mentioned I got this to review, I heard from two separate people on twitter that both said it's a great moisturizer! So I have a lot of experimenting to do.

Here's what I made with it tonight - a hearty, filling and mildly exotic soup that has rich flavour and a great texture. Plus, it's super fast (30 minutes max and most of that is just boiling on the stove). I started with this recipe from St. Margarets Kitchen, but changed it as I went. The bones are the same, but I tweaked it.

Spicy Lentil Soup

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne (or one minced jalapeno pepper)
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup grated carrot
4 cups water
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped

the ingredients (less the water & sugar!) - spices are in the pinch pot

In a medium sized pot, saute the onions and garlic in the oil until translucent. Add the spices, stir to combine, and cook another minute.Add in the lentils, carrot, brown sugar, and water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes, then add the red pepper and boil for another 5 minutes.

You can blend it if you want (let it cool a bit before pureeing in batches in a blender), but that's just another step and a blender to wash. Phooey! I found the unblended texture was quite nice as is. Plus, I think it's prettier unblended.

Just like that. Yum.
You could sprinkle it with a bit of chopped parsley if you wanted, too.

And yes, you can taste the coconut oil - it's very subtle, but adds a layer of richness.

I'm looking forward to more cooking experiments with coconut oil :) Thanks to Tropical Traditions for providing this for me to try! I can recommend their shipping wholeheartedly as well - the glass jar was packaged so well that I can't imagine it breaking in transit. The time it took to receive? Seven business days to Canada. Pretty good!

Oh, and if you decide to order from Tropical Traditions (aside from the coconut oil, they also sell a wide array of organic and natural foods and household products!) - add my user id 5687267 on your order, and you'll get a free copy of the Virgin Coconut Oil Book included with your purchase!


  1. thanks for the visit today!
    your site is great! It's nice to see someone doing Canadian giveaways, cuz that's so frustrating (at least to me! lol)

  2. Let us know if it is good for hands. I am looking for a new balm.


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