“DDD” = Double Dog Disaster!–and Lucky Comestible 4(1): Coconut, Begins

October 6, 2008


[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I’ll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this fourth entry, I’m focusing on Coconut. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. ]

Well, folks, it’s been quite the day here at the DDD household.  This post may be a tad longer than usual, so relax, don those fuzzy slippers, curl up by the firewall, and read on. . .

The day started out almost like any other, except that the HH, suffering from a bout of the flu, was at home.  Knowing he needed something substantial and nourishing–and fearing I might be felled as well–I cooked up a huge batch of stick-to-your-ribs, nutrient-dense, thick and creamy Baked Oatmeal.  So far, so good.

As is our habit, the HH and I ate our meal at the table, as The Girls waited in the wings (really just across the floor), like so:

Once we were done, as usual, we offered The Girls the leftovers.  In this case, it amounted to about 1/4 cup (60 ml.) cooked oatmeal each.  I scraped the oatmeal into their bowls, set them on the floor, and the enthusiastic slurping began. 

“Isn’t it cute how they hoover it up?” I mused absentmindedly to the HH.

“Yep, they really seem to like that apple-raisin combo,” he remarked.

“Ha, ha, yes, the–the WHAT?!!  Apple-raisin??!!!  RAISIN???!!!!”  How could I have missed them?? HOW COULD I BE SO IRRESPONSIBLE???!!!! RAISIN. Oh, no. . . . . . 

I swooped in to whisk the bowls out of reach–but alas, too late.  They’d both eaten several mouthfuls of raisin-infused oatmeal!  Now, as any of you with dogs already know, recent media reports have warned that raisins–for some unknown reason–can be highly toxic to dogs, sometimes causing nausea, renal failure–or worse.  Horrors!

In a panic, I called the vet to see what to do.  My mind was already reeling with unspeakable possibilities. “Bring them in immediately,” she commanded. 

And so, a few moments of carelessness led Ricki to spend half her morning chewing her nails in the vet’s office, waiting for The Girls to upchuck a few mouthfuls of cooked oatmeal, apples, and raisins. 

Thankfully, everyone came through just fine (though to tell the truth, I’m probably still a bit traumatized–but that might just be because of the size of the vet bill).

Well, after the Ordeal of the Raisins, I was in no mood to crack open a coconut, so we’ll forgo that demonstration today.  I do, however, have this yummy coconut-rich Cabbage T’horin for you, as the first entry in the Lucky Comestibles: Coconut series.  (And no dogs were harmed in the making of this side dish).  

*   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Coconut, like coffee, chocolate and wine, is a perfect example of culinary atavism: hailed as a boon to health in one generation, scorned in the next, then revived as a “health food” yet again decades later.

Given a bad rap in the past because of its high saturated fat content, what we think of as coconut, that white “meat” that’s most often eaten shredded and dried, is actually the nut of a fresh, green coconut fruit.  In recent years controversy has developed over whether or not coconut oil is or is not good for us.  Apparently considered a panacea in the tropical countries where it’s naturally abundant,  coconuts have been touted more recently in North America as well, to treat a variety of medical problems. 

In nutrition school, we learned that the saturated fats in coconut, unlike those in other foods with a high sat fat content (such as meat or butter), are considered “medium chain fatty acids,” which don’t increase cholesterol levels or contribute to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular issues.  In fact, most of the studies previously done on coconut oil focused on hydrogenated varieties, and hydrogenation renders any fats unhealthy

Some researchers also believe that coconut oil is useful for a plethora of ills, including fungal infections (caprylic acid, derived from coconut, is a primary alternative treatment for candida yeast overgrowth), viruses, parasites, digestive disorders, and a wealth of other conditions, as well as helping to prevent heart disease and promote weight loss (though I’ve never been the beneficiary of this last characteristic). 

One thing that’s indisputable is its place as first choice when you’re seeking an oil to cook with on high heat.  Because of its saturated status, coconut oil is the oil least damaged by heat, which makes it great for frying (even though I know you never fry foods, right?) or baking.  And because it’s solid at room temperature (as long as your room is below 76F), coconut oil makes a great butter substitute, and can be used interchangeably with butter. At the organic market where I used to sell my baked goods, one of the vendors was known to eat it off a spoon.  I never quite achieved that lofty accomplishment, but do use it for stir-fries and baking.  

Fresh coconuts also confer health benefits, through the coconut “water” (the liquid inside the coconut fruit–not to be confused with coconut milk, which is made by boiling the meat of a coconut). I had the opportunity to drink some fresh coconut water extracted from one of these green coconuts a few years back when in nutrition school.  An incredibly healthy imbibement, the liquid from a fresh young coconut is said to have the same electolyte balance as our blood, so it’s a wonderful energy drink (which, according to Wikipedia, can actually be taken intravenously!) .  I must admit I wasn’t a fan. Apparently, coconut water is now being sold already flavored, so I may give it a try.

As to coconut milk, well. . . is there anything richer tasting than full fat coconut milk?  It’s the base for my soy-free vegan whipped cream (the recipe for which is being tweaked daily, with the goal of perfection by the time it appears in the upcoming cookbook) and many a creamy sauce.  I love it in desserts and use it in baking as well when I can, although again, you don’t want to overdo the sat fat. 

Finally, there’s the coconut itself.  Fresh coconut meat is unparalleled in flavor and texture, but practicality does take over most of the time when we’re cooking or baking, and dried is a fine substitute.  I’ve used freshly grated coconut meat on only a handful of occasions in cooking.  Generally, I prefer unsweetened, as I’d rather have control over the amount of sweetener in my foods (and shredded coconut is often sweetened with white sugar).  This way, as well, you need buy only one type, as it’s suitable for both cooking and baking.  For the recipes in the Lucky Comestibles series, I’ll try to include coconut meat, milk, and oil (and leave you to try fresh coconut water on your own).

Today’s recipe, the first one I made from my new cookbook, Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon, features shredded dried coconut.

According to the book, this dish hails from Kerala province in India, the very name of which means “Land of the Coconut Palms” and where “almost everything contains coconut.” I think this T’horin is testament to that sentiment–I mean, how often would you consider combining coconut with your cabbage?  And yet, it really works.

Try this out for a quick, easy, and incredibly tasty dish. Unlike many dishes with cabbage, this one stir-fries it without the addition of very much liquid, for a crisp yet fully cooked result.  I thoroughly enjoyed it as a side with dinner–and was sure it never came anywhere near the drooling mouths of The Girls.

“Thanks, Mum, we appreciate that. . . we’re still feeling a bit woozy from that weird breakfast you gave us.”

Cabbage T’horin


[Now, why would I place chopsticks in a photo of an Indian dish, you ask?  Beats me; just thought they looked nice somehow.  I did eat the T’horin with them, though.]



33 Responses to ““DDD” = Double Dog Disaster!–and Lucky Comestible 4(1): Coconut, Begins”

  1. Kiersten Says:

    I’m glad your dogs are okay! Don’t worry, it’s not your fault, it was just an accident.

  2. VeggieGirl Says:

    EEEK!!! Thank goodness The Girls are alright – hang in there!!

  3. Poor babies … and poor you!

    To think silly little raisins could cause such a ruckus. Thank goodness humans can eat them. I’ve been trying to eat them in lieu of dessert recently.

  4. bee Says:

    dear ricki, it’s a relief to hear the puppies are okay. curry leaves are usually used in thoran, but sage or oregano would be great too.

  5. I’m so glad they’re ok!!! Weirdos Molly and Henry have gotten into chocolate (more than once!) and yet not so much as a morsel has come back up. Now carrots, on the other hand? Henry can’t keep ’em down. Go figure!

  6. Diann Says:

    Sorry to hear you had such a scare. I don’t have a dog right now and I had no idea raisins were toxic. I love cabbage and coconut and true, I would have never put the two together. The recipe looks awesome. Have you ever used frozen coconut meat?

  7. Ricki Says:

    Interesting to learn that (since the original recipe didn’t mention any of these!). I think I’d have liked it with sage. 🙂

    Never seen frozen coconut, but will definitely seek it out, now!

  8. ttfn300 Says:

    i had no idea raisins were toxic, either! Glad the girls are ok!! this looks great, very intriguing in the flavor combination 🙂

  9. Celine Says:

    crap! good to hear the pups are okay, but meep. I would have freaked out something fierce.

  10. Johanna Says:

    Glad the girls are ok – they look so angelic lying patiently while you eat!

    That info on coconut is most useful – I wondered if you had come across copha in your coconut research – I mentioned coconut butter to a friend who said it is copha – used in a few unhealthy kiddie treats in Australia (like chocolate crackles) when I was young but barely seen now – I wondered if it was one of the hydrogenated varieties????

  11. Sue Says:

    Ah, poor you and poor girls! What a shock for you all – sounds like a real ordeal. So glad to hear they’re ok.

    Recipes are coming thick and fast girl! You must be in a flurry of excitement re the book.

    Fingers crossed you don’t get sick 🙂

  12. shellyfish Says:

    I am so glad you posted this – though not that you had to deal with it. I had no idea that raisins were dangerous for puppies! So glad everything is ok!
    I agree, the chopsticks look loverly, it’s fusion food, right?

  13. mihl Says:

    I am sorry that you had to go though that and really glad to hear the dogs are okay!
    Thank you very much for all that info on coconut, the Cabbage T’horin looks really, really good with all that shredded coconut on top.

  14. vegancowgirl Says:

    Hey! I love this post. Great photos, and the cabbage dish sounds/looks fantastic. I adore anything coconut.
    Thanks for the thoughtful comments on my blog.

  15. so glad to hear that the girls are fine! they really are too cute.

    how’d ya know I had a cabbage and was waiting for inspiration? I will try your recipe this week!

  16. Barbara Says:

    thanks for all the great info in this post…
    i am glad your puppies are okay…
    i had no idea about the whole raisin thing…i passed the word along to my parents already….
    and the coconutty goodness steals my heart….

  17. Ricki Says:

    I haven’t heard of copha, but I’ve recently learned of a coconut butter that ISN’T just the oil (I’ve always been told that the terms “oil” and “butter” were interchangeable here). Apparently, the new coconut BUTTER is made from coconut flesh as well as oil–you can check it out here.

    Thanks for the crossed fingers–me, too! I’m pedalling as fast as I can. . . 😉

    Love it; fusion! I never did get in on that trend the first time–so I’m happy to do so now! 🙂

  18. evestirs Says:

    glad the doggies are ok….didnt know that about raisins so thanks for the heads up

  19. Lizzie Says:

    Ricki, I totally feel your pain. Henry stole some brownies off of the counter before and I was a complete mess until (after feeding him a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide mixed in peanut butter as directed from the vet) he threw up the brownies. I cried happy tears as soon as he did that.

    And I’m glad the girls are doing well. Raisans are one of those foods that I need to remind myself are not good for dogs (whereas chocolate seems to be ingrained in my mind).

    Anyway, the recipe looks great and I already have all the ingredients. I can’t wait to make it!

  20. My Lily Bean landed herself in the doggy ER for 3 days this year after she got into my cabinet and ate some granola bars and raisins. I knwe they were poisonous but so many people don’t know. A few mos later my 16 lb pug then ate FOUR avocados. Now I’m one paranoid mom.

    When I tell people about Lily’s experience they remark “i thought only chocolate killed dogs” nope. raisins, grapes, caffiene, booze, onions, garlic…

  21. Maureen Says:

    Oh my gosh, that must have been the most horrifying moment once you realized what you did!! But seriously, who wouldn’t melt under those looks in the first picture and just give the Girls anything they wanted?

  22. Courtney Says:

    Oh my goodness–I am so glad the dogs are okay! Once my dog ate a whole HUGE chocolate bar–eek! Luckily it all worked out okay, but I hear ya on the vet bill. Ouch!

    Take care of those girls and treat them to a little extra TLC tonight!


  23. Vegetation Says:

    I’m so glad your babies are okay! I don’t blame you for still being shaken. Take heart though, it happens to the best of us. I unthinkingly left a needle (with thread) attached to my daughters hat on the dining room table one day and went out. We noticed over the next 24 hours that the kitty (Charlotte) wasn’t eating. A trip to the vet revealed she’d swallowed the needle (probably playing with the thread that I hadn’t missed yet) and it had lodged in the back of her throat, it was horrible!

    Hope you and the girls feel better soon!

  24. giz Says:

    Oh gawd Rikki – you must have been out of your mind. This is pretty near and dear to me since my sister left her black lab with me when she went to Aruba and the dog hadn’t been well a couple of days prior. She gave it Ibuprofen – also very well known for exactly the same reaction (i.e. renal failure etc). The dog didn’t stop vomitting and after 4 hours at the emerg clinic in Aurora, the threat of having to take her to Guelph for further examination and a vet bill of $963., Kodi was fine. The blessing is/was, yours are bigger dogs – a smaller dog might not have fared as well.

  25. Hello! What a beautiful post about the health benefits of coconuts, coconut oil in particular! I must say I really enjoyed reading this one.

    Thank you for mentioning about medium chain fatty acids (MCFA). Coconut oil is predominantly MCFAs unlike almost all other dietary fats and oils which are mainly long chain fatty acids (LCFA). MCFAs behave very differently from LCFAs. MCFAs don’t travel your bloodstream like LCFAs do. MCFA-rich coconut oil is sent straight to your liver to help power metabolism. MCFAs are PRO-Energy, NOT Pro-Fat!

    Too often, when people talk about coconut oil, they only mention it is bad because it’s high in saturated fat like lard and beef tallow. What they almost always forget to say or simple don’t know is that coconut oil is unique because of the high MCFA content. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of MCFAs.

    Once again, thank you for mentioning about coconut oil’s MCFAs. This truly is the KEY to understanding the remarkable health benefits coconut oil is offering each and everyone of us.

    Your Drugstore in a Bottle

  26. Ricki Says:

    Sounds like yours was quite the scare, too! I didn’t know about the hydrogen peroxide–thanks for the tip (wish I could have done that before spending a fortune at the vets!)

    Happy Herbivore,
    Yikes! Poor thing. And are you telling me that avocados are ALSO toxic?? No no, please. . . but I did know about the rest of the list.

    That must have been scary, too! And yes, we definitely gave them lots of lovin’ after the ordeal!

    Sounds like your experience was even worse than mine–poor kitty! Glad it turned out okay (at least, I HOPE it turned out okay–??)

    Oh, my. Poor doggie! And what a horrific thing to happen! I am so glad the dog’s okay. I would NEVER give human medication to The Girls–lucky for us, our vet is only about 10 minutes away, so I always call first whenever there’s any question about anything.

    Thanks so much for your comment, and glad you liked the info! Yes, I have to agree that coconut oil has been given a bad reputation in the past, and I’m really glad it’s as healthy as it is (though of course I still try not to overdo the saturated fats).

  27. bex Says:

    I love coconuts and the oil is so awesome for high heat cooking.

    I’ve heard that raisins are no good for cats, I didn’t realize that translated to dogs too (cats are so weird anyway). Luckily Mac is ridiculously snooty about food.

  28. meg wolff Says:

    I didn’t realize that raisins had a toxic effect on dogs. I’ve heard this about chocolate though. Glad the girls were OK.

  29. Susan Says:

    Poor girls! Poor you! Everyone hates going to the vet in this house. My husband has to bring our boy for the annual check up. My nerves can’t stand it. : |

    Thoran looks wonderful. It’s such an excellent stir-fry.

  30. Andrea Says:

    Wow. I didn’t realize that so few raisins could be such a problem! I wonder how many raisins does it actually takes to poison a dog. What an ordeal.

  31. Hi Ricki,
    I just made this, and I like it! I wasn’t sure what to expect, since I’d never had T’horin, but it was mild and very comfort food-ish.

  32. Ashley Says:

    Hey I would be honoured if you were to add my coconut baked item added to your list. =) http://www.eatmedelicious.com/2008/10/oatmeal-coconut-chocolate-pecan-squares.html

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