What a busy weekend! A birthday dinner for my dad, a new camera, a detailed foodie debate, and lots of prepping, cooking, baking, and dehydrating filled up my days and evenings. What did you do all weekend?
Speaking of that debate, I don’t think there could possibly have been a better segway into today’s post. And it was all coincidental! I found myself arguing the merits of coconut oil against a dude who advocated using butter instead. And it just so happens that coconut oil + controversy = today’s reviews! I’m going to show you Tropical Traditions coconut oil, the star ingredient of said debate, and Xagave agave nectar, currently the most controversial sweetener in the natural foods world. YAY for hot-button topics!
Tropical Traditions has to be one of the most well-known brand names in the food blogosphere. I’m sure you’ve seen their products reviewed elsewhere, or have maybe even reviewed them yourself! They kindly sent me a quart-size jar of their Gold Label virgin coconut oil to experiment with. Yay!
Extensive research has been done on the health benefits of coconut, many of which I ran through in the debate. I already use coconut oil quite a bit in my kitchen, so it was great to have a new brand to play around with. The first thing I noticed when I opened the jar was the strong aroma of coconut that wafted up. I’ve never experienced a coconut oil, even other unrefined brands, with such true coconut scent or flavor. Good sign!
I also received a package from Xagave containing a 25-oz. bottle of their raw agave nectar and a very nice, full-color, 160-page “Delicious Meets Nutritious” cookbook!
You may remember this past spring when an article by the well-known Dr. Mercola seemingly “blew the lid off” agave nectar, declaring its status as a health food to be pure marketing myth. Much debate has occurred since then (which I’m sure you can find summarized elsewhere), but agave is obviously still widely used. I myself was never convinced one way or the other, so I’ve continued to include it in my liquid sweetener arsenal.
What’s cool about Xagave is that not only does it boast agave’s widely-known low glycemic index, but it’s also USDA certified organic (which many agave nectars are not), and it’s composed of a unique blend of nectars derived from the agave Tequiliana (blue agave) and agave Salmiana (white agave) plants. Xagave claims that this proprietary blend makes their product the best tasting, most versatile, and healthiest agave on the market. No other agave nectar contains the same concentration of calcium and inulin (a water-soluble prebiotic dietary fiber) that Xagave does. Unlike other raw blue-agave-based nectars, which tend to be pretty dark and strongly-flavored, Xagave’s sweetness has a very neutral taste that I enjoyed from the start.
So what’s a girl with giant containers of coconut oil and agave nectar to do? Why, make a raw chocolate sauce, of course!
- 3/4 cup raw cacao powder
- 3/4 cup raw agave nectar (like Xagave)
- 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil (like Tropical Traditions), melted
- 2 tsp hazelnut liqueur (like Frangelico)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- Combine all ingredients in a blender. (If you don’t want to use liqueur, feel free to substitute ½ tsp hazelnut extract or 1 tsp vanilla extract. On the other hand, if you “accidentally” double the amount of Frangelico, I won’t tell anyone!)
- Process until very smooth and emulsified.
- Transfer to an airtight container (I recommend a glass jar).
- You can store this at room temperature for a week or so, or in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. If you refrigerate it, re-melt it before using by submerging the jar in warm water or placing it in the dehydrator for a few minutes.
Use this ganache in any way your sweet tooth can dream up! Pour it over ice cream (it’s especially great on banana soft serve!), dip fruit in it (strawberries are a perfect pairing), pour it over a fudge brownie for an extra-decadent dessert, or (shh) eat it with a spoon.
I treated myself yesterday to a Sunday morning strawberry sandwich.
I’d made a raw flaxseed-sunflower seed bread last week, so I took a piece of that and spread it with almond butter. I thinly sliced two or three strawberries and arranged them on top.
Finally, I drizzled on some of my raw chocolate-hazelnut ganache.
::Swoon:: Are words even necessary here?! I think not.
Q: Do you guys have favorite brands of coconut oil or agave nectar?