Menu Plan Monday: Choosing the Right Cooking Oil


There was a time in my life when when my brain immediately equated cooking oil with the golden yellow concoction known as vegetable oil. Sure, I used olive oil too, but I never really used it right. If you are anything like I was back then, you may find the handy cooking guide from Whole Foods (below) helpful.

Over the years though I've cut out the processed oil and explored the wondrous flavors of food cooked with a variety fats and oils. I adore sesame and coconut oils and fresh tallow for french fries. 

It just so happens that I have a fresh jar of coconut oil and sweet potatoes from the Farm Bus to add to our menu this week too!

Our Menu for the Week

I'm trying really hard to stick to a grocery budget these days and that means actually making (and sticking to) meal plans again. So far, we've kept the grocery (this includes household & pet items too) budget under $500 this month for our family of five. Considering we've been spending $900 :::cough, ugh we have issues, cough::: and more a month, I'm thrilled! 

Breakfast Options

We have cold cereal, oatmeal, grits, pancakes, fresh fruit and smoothies available. Maybe a tasty baked good or biscuit if my coffee kicks in fast enough.

Lunch Options

Leftovers, soup, salad, sandwich. We don't get really creative here.

Dinner Menu

Monday - Chicken Alfredo and salad

Tuesday - Burrito Bowls with toppings bar

Wednesday - Tuna Casserole & broccoli

Thursday - Roasted chicken, peas and the Coconut Roasted Sweet Potatoes from the oil guide.

Friday - Leftover Buffet

Saturday - Chili

Sunday - Baked Potatoes & Salad

For more menu ideas be sure to stop by the Menu Plan Monday link-up at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

A Guide to Cooking Oils

How to use different oils when cooking?

Extra-virgin olive oil is ideal in spreads, sauces, pesto and dressings that don’t require cooking. You can, however, use it on low to medium heat, but be aware it has a low flashpoint and will burn very quickly. Drizzle over fresh crusty bread or this Onion Focaccia, or a salad of cheese and tomatoes. Consider using your best and most flavorful extra-virgin olive oils for drizzling over dishes to finish, and milder everyday ones for cooking.

              Coconut Roasted Sweet Potatoes

             Coconut Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Coconut oil has become very popular in recent years. Organic virgin is best, but if you don’t care for a strong coconut flavor, flavorless and odorless organic refined coconut oil will do just fine. Use coconut oil for sautéing vegetables, baking, and using in Asian recipes. Use unrefined coconut oil for low to medium heat and refined coconut oil for medium-high-heat cooking. Coconut Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Coconut Crumb Cake are made with coconut oil.

Ghee is made from simmering butter and separating the milk solids from the pure butter oil. It’s unsurpassed in flavor and because it is virtually milk-free, it’s stable (similar to coconut oil) at room temperature and can be used at high temperatures. It is absolutely wonderful for sautéing, baking and more. Golden, rich ghee is best known in Indian cuisine but is equally revered in parts of Egypt, Africa, Morocco and Fiji. Bangladesh pastries called Kusli Cakes and Swiss Chard Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Rice are made with ghee.

                      Endive, Pear and Walnut Salad

                     Endive, Pear and Walnut Salad

Walnut and pumpkin seed oils are two of my favorites for salad dressings, spreads, dips and drizzling. You may find roasted varieties, which are delicious for dipping and making salad dressing. For a treat, spoon a bit over hummus or add to pesto along with olive oil. Use these oils in raw dishes only. Endive, Pear and Walnut Salad is a must-have cool-weather salad made with roasted walnut oil and Bosc pears. Substitute a couple of tablespoons of pumpkin seed oil for olive oil in this  recipe.

Peanut oil is available either unrefined or refined. The unrefined version gives a wonderful “peanutty” flavor to foods like stir-fries, marinades and sauces. Unrefined peanut oil is fine for low to medium-heat cooking but refined peanut oil really stands up well to high heat. Peanut oil along with cayenne pepper, onions, carrots and eggplant helps flavor this Senegalese Rice and Fish recipe.

Sesame oil is amazing in Asian foods. You can purchase unrefined, refined, toasted or hot-pepper sesame oil. Try the toasted oil drizzled over hot sticky rice and the unrefined in an Asian-style stir-fry with broccoli or bok choy. Unrefined sesame oil is fine for low to medium-heat cooking. Refined sesame oil is great for high heat cooking. Taste toasted sesame oil in Sesame Orange Greens with Potstickers and hot-pepper sesame oil in our Spicy Noodle Salad.

Canola oil is from the rapeseed, which is part of the mustard family. Similar to high-heat sunflower and safflower oils, it’s ideal for dishes where you don’t want to taste the oil. They’re good for raw and cooked foods, baking, stir-frying, frying and sautéing. If you have questions or concerns about canola oil, check out this blog post on Canola Oil at Whole Foods Market.

What is your favorite cooking oil and recipe that you use it with?