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Reviews: Tropical Traditions, Xagave

October 4, 2010

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!

Tropical Traditions also makes TONS of other coconut products, and they have one of the most information- and recipe-packed websites I’ve ever seen—I’d highly recommend you check it out.

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!

Easy raw chocolate hazelnut ganache:
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.

Yield: 20 servings (about 1¼ cup).
Per tablespoon: 76 calories, 4g fat (3g sat), 11.5 g carbs, 2g fiber, .6g protein.

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.

Thanks again to Tropical Traditions and Xagave for making this luscious treat possible!

Q: Do you guys have favorite brands of coconut oil or agave nectar?

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2010 2:29 pm

    As I was scrolling down this entry, I thought, “Damn! That’s some good lookin’ ganache!” But then you went and drizzled it all over that fantastic strawberry sandwich!!! Excuse me, I need to step outside and get some air after that.

    I watched Clarissa Explains It All over the weekend. And if anyone wants to debate me on the awesomeness of that show, BRING IT ON!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 4, 2010 9:44 pm

      HAHA! Could you smell the coconut-hazelnut-chocolate goodness from up north? 😛

      Wow, I have not thought about that show in AGES. Blast from the past! What was that kid’s name who used to climb in her window? Sam? Man, Clarissa had some killer early-90’s style, didn’t she? 😉

      • October 5, 2010 4:46 pm

        Yep, her BFF Sam *guitar twang* would climb up through her window. And let’s not forget her annoying brother Ferguson, or her pet alligator, Elvis.

        Clarissa Darling, on her own, pretty much represented all of ’90s fashion.

        • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
          October 5, 2010 9:19 pm

          Oh my gawd, I totally forgot Ferguson, haha!
          I confess…there were times, as a kid, when I’d pretend I was Clarissa and talk to my bathroom mirror. :X !

  2. October 4, 2010 5:39 pm

    Awesome goodies! The ganache looks amazing, I want to eat it with a spoon straight out of the jar! Why are all hot-button foods so yummy? 😀

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 4, 2010 9:45 pm

      Hehe, I’ve been doing just that since I made it…a little TOO often probably…but this is hot-button ganache! It BEGS to be consumed! 🙂

  3. October 4, 2010 6:49 pm

    I’m sorry I missed your coconut oil vs. butter debate! Really sorry. Rachelle’s commenter is inaccurate too: palm oil is a completely different oil than coconut oil: it’s a red, vitamin A-rich oil that is also finally being recognized as highly nutritious. Coconut oil, palm oil – and butter, too, got maligned when saturated fats were supposed to be the devil, but everyone now knows that that was due to confusion between sat fats and _trans_ fats, which really are evil!

    Anyway, I don’t have anything against butter for other people and think that _raw_ butter is very highly nutritious. Pasteurized butter much less so. But for myself, I eat a _lot_ of coconut oil and have a stronger aversion to butter than to any other food, except certain kinds of cheese! I just hate it, can’t stand it! But I still cook and bake with it for my husband and his family.

    Love this review and love your chocolate sauce!

    What you said about not blogging every day because it becomes an obligation rang really true for me – thanks for that,

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 4, 2010 9:48 pm

      I did try to point out to him that a) coconut oil and palm oil are different, and b) both have nutritional/health value. But I wasn’t aware it was literally red in color, and rich in vitamin A. Now I’m intrigued…I may have to get myself some!

      Gah, like we’ve said before, we are kindred spirits when it comes to dairy-disgust. I remember as a kid being grossed out when my grandma would butter my toast. She thought I was crazy! Butter, milk, and cheese = EW to me.

      Glad you like the look of the ganache!

  4. mommybowl permalink
    October 4, 2010 7:40 pm

    Mmmm….that looks delicious. What beautiful photos!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 4, 2010 9:49 pm

      Wow, thank you! I think that might be the first time anyone’s said that to me about my pictures. Score 1 for the new camera, yeah! 😀

  5. October 4, 2010 7:42 pm

    Oh my…that strawberry sandwich looks sooooo good….you even had my husband drooling!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 4, 2010 9:50 pm

      Hehe, awesome! I think that means you pretty much have to make the ganache now 😉

  6. October 4, 2010 8:44 pm

    Amber–Your breakfast looks like WOW…and it’s making me hungry despite having just finished dinner! The ganache recipe is awesome (thanks for sharing!), and I’m so intrigued by your tasty-sounding homemade bread recipe.

    Glad you enjoyed your weekend!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 4, 2010 9:51 pm

      Thank you! There’s always room for chocolate, right? I hope you try out the ganache; it’s too simple not to! I wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested in that bread, but maybe I should post it sometime after all 🙂

  7. October 4, 2010 8:48 pm

    That ganache looks out of control! I’m picturing it over a cupcake and just dying. Rock!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 4, 2010 9:53 pm

      Uhh, HOW did I not think of that?! I’m thinking Hostess-style chocolate cupcakes with coconut cream filling, slathered generously with this ganache…ooh!

  8. October 4, 2010 9:16 pm

    yay! props to another heart-of-the-midwest foodies with a love for vegan and raw foods. and that chocolate ganache looks divine! i do use agave nectar as a replacement for honey or sugar sometimes, but in general, i’m not a sweet lover so it takes me about 6 months to go through a bottle. i’m looking forward to reading more from the blog.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 4, 2010 9:55 pm

      Right on! I was pleased to find another KC vegan as well 🙂 Keep up the great work!

      Not a sweets lover? I honestly can’t imagine what that’s like… 😛 But it’s always good to have some agave on hand! It has its place in some savory stuff as well.

      Hope to hear more from you soon!

  9. October 4, 2010 10:18 pm

    Do you remember when I raved about Loving Earth’s raw coconut chocolate butter and despaired that it’s too expensive and heavy to send to you! I think you just made your own (albeit more-liquidy) version 😀

    And I’m so envious. The reason I haven’t been trying coconut oil and agave is the expense… and you just get sent all this stuff! *sob* 😛

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 5, 2010 8:58 am

      Yes! Ahh, if that’s the case, then I may have struck gold! If you refrigerate this ganache, it hardens like butter.

      Why must liquids/oils be so heavy and expensive to ship? I would SO send you some coco oil and agave if it were reasonable to my wallet to do so! 😦

      • October 5, 2010 7:27 pm

        It’s clearly the world telling us that we’d be better off sending ourselves than a parcel of goodies 😉

        • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
          October 5, 2010 9:20 pm

          Too true. Ourselves, covered in chocolate ganache.


  10. October 4, 2010 10:40 pm

    Wow…that looks and sounds sooo good! I bet it would be good in some sort of crepe! 🙂 The strawberry sandwich looks absolutely delicious! Yum!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 5, 2010 8:59 am

      That is an AWESOME idea! I think I know now what to make for Sunday brunch this weekend!

  11. October 5, 2010 7:38 am

    Oh, way to combine those two products into something greater than the individual ingredients! Instant chocolate sauce is always welcome in my book. 😉

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 5, 2010 9:00 am

      Aw, thank you! They definitely sing a delectable duet together. 🙂

  12. October 5, 2010 8:07 am

    I’ve never used any of those products- this is great to know!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 5, 2010 9:00 am

      I hope you get a chance to eat/use them someday! 😀

  13. Julia permalink
    October 5, 2010 10:11 pm

    Was out of town last week when the debate broke out, so it was nearly impossible to follow on my iPhone and jump into the ruckus. Later, I think you asked about other experiences with coconut oil and/or agave so I think I should be writing this elsewhere. If I have my wits about me when I finish my thought, I’ll copy and paste it back in. But right now my main coconut oil is Nutiva and they have a nice info with lots of information. I’d gotten a book or two on coconut oil by Bruce (someone, last name I forgot, and you likely referred to it in the debate above, but that scrolly version is harder for me to read). In any case I’ve tried several of Nutiva’s products – their coconut oil, hemp oil, hemp seed, etc. (I’m admittedly not as far along in the vegan path as you are). I love coconut oil in my morning cuppa tea (which is Oolong tea and the admittedly laughable Gevalia Honey Ginseng Mint tea, but I love it anyway, even if I’m a barbarian in the tea drinking societies.).

    Sorry this isn’t a terribly well-written reply…I’m a bit jetlagged… (oh I think part of my reply on previous blog (the coconut oil debate) didn’t get “copied” over here – maybe space limitations in my copy paste? but the other one got kind of scrambled up once it posted on the blog – was in different order then how it looked in my reply box before I hit “submit comment” so it’s a mess. Normally I’m a bit more coherent in my writings… or at least like to pretend that I am?!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      October 6, 2010 2:18 pm

      Haha! No problem at all; I can understand jet lag. I replied to your comment on the other post. 🙂

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