Reasons why a coconut oil obsession can be the best (and sometimes worst) thing ever:

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Admit it, about a year ago, 99% of us hadn’t even heard of coconut oil.  Upon hearing the word coconut, we usually just experienced flashbacks about the coconut rum-filled regrets from high school or the makeshift Hawaiian bras that all of us ladies have secretly (or not so secretly) tried on before.  However, nowadays we can barely go a week without hearing the word coconut oil being name-dropped by celebrities and the media as the new “miracle food.”  I’m not ashamed to confess that I am among those gals who have jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon over the past year, and I have happily used the product for many different purposes.  Unfortunately, over this past week on my last spring break, I wasn’t reminded of the numerous benefits of coconut oil, but instead of a downside to using it incorrectly.  Check out the list below, where I’ve rounded up my favorite uses of the tropical oil as well as a few pointers to make sure you’re getting the best out of your purchase and don’t make the same mistake I did!

  1. It’s great for baking yummy (and healthy) treats- it’s a great replacement for vegetable oil
  2. Put a little into your morning coffee or tea instead of creamer… it may seem scary but actually tastes GOOD
  3. Use it as a delicious-smelling body and face moisturizer- it won’t dry out your skin later since it isn’t made with water
  4. It will give your hair the tropical vacation it deserves- it’s a great conditioner for the dry ends and adds shine
  5. Use it to remove your eye makeup- super moisturizing and gentle on that delicate skin
  6. It’s a fantastic lip balm- it tastes yummy too

Tips:

  1. Yes, it does serve as a great tanning oil but it only has SPF 4 and won’t protect your skin from high-intensity sun without any other sunscreen— this is where I made my mistake on my spring break cruise, as I relied only on the oil to protect my fair skin on the first day
  2. Make sure the type you get is extra virgin, non-hydrogenated, non-bleached, unrefined, and non-deodorized (you also might as well get organic to ensure perfection)
  3. Eat it in moderation- since it IS still an oil and high in saturated fat
  4. Be aware that it liquefies when the temperature is above 76 degrees Fahrenheit, so store it depending on how you want to use it
  5. ENJOY!

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This is the kind I use!

top photo from coconutoil.com

Homemade Macarons!

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Over my Christmas break, I decided to break in my new Macaron baking kit that my parents got me for Christmas.  I knew I had a difficult task ahead of me because I’ve always read and been told that macarons are only for the expert bakers, but I figured it was worth a shot.  The kit that I used is sold by the company, Lékué, which is sold in U.S. stores such as Sur La Table or online.  It came with a recipe book for a few different macaron flavors, including the one I chose for Tiramisu Macarons.  The first difficulty I ran into in effort to make these pastries was trying to find all of the unique ingredients.  I found the icing sugar, ground almonds/almond flour, instant coffee, mascarpone, and powdered cocoa at Whole Foods, but I had to purchase the amaretto at Total Wine and the basic ingredients at Harris Teeter.  I also had to buy a sieve at Target since I didn’t have one of my own at home.  It was quite the frustrating search but I was happy to get home with everything I needed to make these delectable sweets.

The kit I used

The Macaron kit I used

Since the English recipes in the included recipe book were translated from either Spanish or French, they weren’t very clear and resulted in quite a bit of confusion while I was cooking.  For example, one of the steps asks to sieve icing sugar, which had to be done with the cheap sieve I bought from Target.  Unfortunately, the sieving was a disaster and not only did I lose a bit of the sugar, but I also had to use the unsieved sugar in hope that it wouldn’t make a big difference to the final product.  Therefore, if you try out this recipe, I urge you to invest in a really good sieve and if that doesn’t work, just nix that step because it didn’t seem to noticeably affect my macarons.  Another issue that arose from the confusing recipe was during the step that requires one to whip egg whites, sugar, and salt until it becomes a thick meringue.  I’d never made meringue before so I had no idea what it needed to look like and how long I needed to whip the ingredients.  While pouring the batter onto the baking mat, I learned that I didn’t whip the mixture enough and it came out much thinner and less airy than it should’ve.  The thinness of the mixture could’ve also been partly due to the missing icing sugar that the sieve stole from me in the recipe’s previous step.  The last mishap that I encountered in my baking adventure was associated with my purchase of instant coffee and the vagueness of the recipe.  I think that the grounds from the coffee I bought were too large and needed to be either ground more finely with a food processor or simply purchased in a finer or even liquid form.  I don’t think that the coffee issue heavily affected the flavor of the macarons, but finer grounds could’ve definitely distributed the coffee flavor more effectively.

Aside from those three recipe issues and hard-to-find ingredients, my macarons surprisingly turned out delicious and almost perfect!  The flavor of both the filling and shells was really tasty.  The only major issue was in the shells, which weren’t as fluffy and thick as they should’ve been.  If you’re a baker and have been too intimidated by the fancy ingredients and somewhat complicated process to make your own macarons, I hope this post urges you to take a chance and try them out.  I received a lot of compliments on my macarons and they were definitely worth the small mishaps and tough ingredient search.

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