Welcome to My Year Without
On January 1, 2008, I made a New Year's resolution to cut out refined sugar for one year. I cut out white refined sugar and corn syrups. My quest to be sugar-free evolved into political interest, public health, and letter writing to food manufacturers. Join me in sugar sleuthing, and learn more about the psychological aspects of sugar addiction, and those who push sugar on us.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I'm livid. I just found sugar where I never would have dreamed it would be: in pepper. Garlic pepper, to be exact. My husband buys our spices and experiments with them nightly. Our homemade pasta sauces are spicy and exquisite. Garlic pepper just happens to be one of the organic, high quality spices he brought home months ago. I've been using it regularly on my homemade sweet potato fries. I learned a long time ago to check the ingredients of salt, but it never occurred to me to look at the ingredients of pepper.
Last night I doctored up my batch of sweet potato fries with garlic pepper and noticed strange clumps of pepper. I wondered if this "fresh" brand of garlic pepper goes bad quickly. Then I noticed a tiny dried, green herb that I had not noticed before. That was a surprise. I had never looked closely at the bottle of garlic pepper before, but when I did I noticed a lot of the dried green herb. Funny, the bottle was just labled, "Garlic Pepper". When I examined the bottle for an ingredients list, I discovered this:
Ingredients: organic garlic, spices (organic black pepper and organic parsley), sea salt, organic onion, organic cane sugar, silicon dioxide (an anti-caking agent).
The product brand is called "Simply Organic" and the company is one of my favorite organic spice suppliers, Frontier. This company supplies many health food stores with their supply of bulk herbs and spices.
As has happened before over the last two years, my heart sank. Not only have I been eating it, it is a sad reminder that nothing is exempt from the possibility of having sugar added to it. Now when Jeff and I look for spices, we will have to bring a magnifying glass to read the tiny ingredients on each bottle.
Not only is this a tedious task (reading the labels on every grocery purchase can literally take hours) but this indicates a scary trend. It seems like every company recognizes the "value" of adding sugar to its products--it will taste better than its competitor's product. Organic, "high quality", expensive brands are apparently not exempt from lowering their standards to include sugar. If someone wants to add a sweetener to their food, it should be their choice. We should not have to strain our eyes for hidden sugars where they might be sneaked in.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
- "A cup of candy corn has fewer calories than a cup of raisins.
- Some candies, such as lollipops, candy canes, gummi bears, gum drops, licorice twists and sour balls do not contain fat or cholesterol. What's more, many of these candies are relatively low in calories."
"Want more specific help on how candy can fit into your lifestyle?"
These are exact words from the National Confectioners Association (NCA) website. I am deeply moved that someone cares enough about my sweet tooth to offer help on how to fit candy back into my life. It's exactly what I need.
After reading and scrutinizing the links and information on the NCA website, I decided to share with all of you:
Click here for the Science and Nutrition web page (This page has pictures of vegetables and candy. How nice.)
Click here for the Health Professionals web page
For a really hilarious read, go the the Food Insight web page and click on "The Truth About Sugars" PDF. I found this link through the NCA website.
It absolutely blows my mind that the sugar people are getting away with trying to make a real case for sugar. That they say sugar is not linked to obesity, heart disease or cavities is truly the icing on the cake.
One last thing.....apparently candy is not associated with ill health. Oh goody gumdrops!
"New Study Finds Candy Consumption Not Associated with Negative Health Outcomes As part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle, moderate amounts of candy and confections provide enjoyment." Read more, sweet things!
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thanks to Stop Being Sweet, I read an article in Psychology Today that presents new disturbing findings about sugar. Disturbing, yes, but not necessarily totally new information to those of us who are familiar with the affects of sugar and junk food on our brains, bodies and desires. Of course the more sugar I eat, the more sugar I need. Of course if I have cake for breakfast I'm going to want sweets the rest of the day. Of course I can justify sweets and junk foods because of their ability to comfort......
But here is the hard evidence:
"Bit by bit, experimenters, along with their sacrificial mice and rats, have built up a strong case for equating the effects of gorging on sweet, fatty fare with the effects of hard drugs.
In controlled experiments, the animals that binged on fast foods like Ho-Hos and sausages:
(1) wanted more and more (showing habituation)
(2) needed more and more to feel "normal" levels of pleasure (showing acclimatization)
(3) held out for the hard stuff, refusing nutritionally balanced rat chow even if hungry (showing distorted priorities)
(4) kept gorging on treats while receiving electric shocks to their naked little feet (showing the self-destructive over-motivation drug addicts experience)
(5) took a long time to recover their dietary equilibrium, some never making it all the way back (indicating that their neural networks -- like hard-drug addicts' -- had been radically rewired).
If loading up on sweet, rich food was merely addictive, we'd be fine, but, alas, excessive sugar intake also facilitates the onset of Alzheimer's, diabetes and not only heart-taxing weight-gain itself but, especially when combined with fat, the metabolic propensity to pack on extra pounds.
(I find this next piece most fascinating:)
Jeffrey I Gordon, M.D. director of the Center for Genome Sciences at Washington University recently recreated a human environment in the guts of "clean" (germ-free) mice, and found that switching half the mice from a plant-based diet to a fat-and-sweet "Western" one changed the animals' intestinal flora within days. Mice with the changed intestinal mix gained weight faster, even back on a low-fat diet."
The Psychology Today article is laced with references and research published in peer-reviewed journals. There are several links throughout the article, which if you have the time, take a look. They are very interesting.
Click here: (Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake) for a fascinating article with more information about sugar addiction.
According to the research, "gorging" and "excessive" intakes of sugar are the problem. I don't think too many people are concerned with a few grams of sugar here and there--but who eats this little sugar? I wish I could eat tiny amounts of sugar in moderation so I could enjoy a dark chocolate bar or a bite of ice cream but I guess I am much like a rat or a mouse. A little leads to a lot, and the craving for more.
Monday, December 7, 2009
I've been avoiding researching and writing about agave nectar.
Why? Well, one reason is because it seems increasingly difficult to find solid, unbiased research.
Following is some information I've gathered about agave nectar with sources included. If you have verifiable information about this sweetener, please forward it to me. Perhaps this will be an on-going blog-community effort.
WHAT IT IS: Agave nectar (also called agave syrup) is a sweetener commercially produced in Mexico from several species of agave, including the Blue Agave (Agave tequilana), Salmiana Agave (Agave salmiana), Green Agave, Grey Agave, Thorny Agave, and Rainbow Agave.
Agave nectar consists primarily of fructose and glucose. One source gives 92% fructose and 8% glucose; another gives 56% fructose and 20% glucose. These differences presumably reflect variation from one vendor of agave nectar to another. Due to its fructose content and the fact that the glycemic index only measures glucose levels, agave nectar is notable in that its glycemic index and glycemic load are lower than many other natural sweeteners on the market. 1
HOW IT IS PRODUCED: To produce agave nectar, juice is expressed from the core of the agave, called the piña. The juice is filtered, then heated, to hydrolyze carbohydrates into sugars. The main carbohydrate is a complex form of fructose called inulin or fructosan. The filtered, hydrolyzed juice is concentrated to a syrup-like liquid a little thinner than honey and ranges in color from light to dark depending on the degree of processing. The syrup naturally contains quantities of iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium, which contribute to the resulting color. 2
GLYCEMIC INDEX/LOAD: The glycemic index categorizes agave nectar between 11-19, and the glycemic load between 1-2. 3
DR. WEIL ON AGAVE NECTAR: Agave nectar is a natural sweetener that ranks relatively low on the glycemic load scale. It is sold in health food stores and online and has been growing in popularity in recent years. Although it provides as many calories as sucrose (table sugar), it is sweeter, so you can use less of it - say one-quarter of a cup to substitute for one cup of sugar in recipes. I like the taste of agave nectar and have started using it in my kitchen, as well as trying products that contain it.
A 2006 review of the scientific literature on agave published in HerbClip™, on the Web site of the American Botanical Council, concluded that it is safe to use agave in the amounts usually found in foods and beverages, but the reviewers cautioned that pregnant women should avoid it because some species (more than 200 have been identified) contain anordin and dinordin, steroids with contraceptive effects that could lead to miscarriage. I think this is a very low risk. I am more concerned about the sustainability of agave as a food source, because demand may soon exceed supply. 4
Recipe with agave: PCRM.org is a wonderful organization committed to nutrition, education and responsible medicine. President of PCRM and medical doctor, Dr. Neal Barnard, published Program for Reversing Diabetes that includes a recipe containing agave nectar. 5
Metabolizing Fructose: It seems like a recurring health-related issue with agave is its high levels of fructose. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states: "Most of the metabolic effects of fructose are due to its rapid utilization by the liver and it by-passing the phosphofructokinase regulatory step in glycolysis, leading to far reaching consequences to carbohydrate and lipid metabolism." Click on the link to AJCN below for more information. 6
Diabetic-Related Information Regarding Agave: Glycemic Research Institute stated that clinical trials were stopped due to severe side effects in diabetics. 7
Wall Street Journal Information about Agave: Very vague information about agave, but includes the organization that issued the warning about agave. 8
1, 2: Wikipedia
3: The Glycemic Index
4: Dr. Weil
6: Am J Clin Nutr.
7: Glycemic Research Institute
I tampered with Nourishing Apron's sugar cookie recipe. I was out of white flour and I tried agave instead of honey.
I also substituted vanilla extract for almond extract. Basically, I completely changed the sugar cookie recipe and used different ingredients except butter. I didn't measure, which I realized I should have so I could share those amounts with you, however, they were fairly close to the amounts used in Nourishing Apron's recipe.
Here is an estimate of what I used:
One and a half cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup cold, salted, organic butter
1+ tsp vanilla extract (I rarely measure--I just pour)
1/4 cup agave
I combined the butter and flour first, then slowly added the agave and vanilla. It is a pretty hard dough after you refrigerate it, which makes it nice and easy to roll out later.
I don't have a food processor, which probably would have made combining the cold butter and flour much easier. I used a hand held mixer at first but ultimately a fork to combine the butter and flour, much like you would do for pie crust. Slowly adding the agave helped combine the last remaining stubborn pieces of butter with the flour for a nice, thick dough.
After a few hours of refrigeration (or days in my case) roll out and use a cookie cutter. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes at 300 degrees F.
If you try these and use different amounts or ingredients, let me know!
IMPORTANT NOTE: There is a problem with this cookie dough. It is out of this world delicious. It is so sweet and chewy and moist with just the right amount of vanilla.....It is the ultimate comfort food. Not hard to believe when you think about it: butter and sweetly aromatic, with flour for fill, for that intoxicating fragrance and heavenly sensory experience.
Cookie dough has always been my favorite sweet snack. With the little dough I had leftover after days of snacking, I was able to make a small tray of cookies. They were delicious, too, but didn't even make it beyond the day they came out of the oven. I have to admit that even though I used a white sugar substitute, (agave) my problem with eating too much of something good still exists. I have to work on my moderation skills before I dare make these again.
One of my readers, Shanti, baked Nourishing Apron's cookies and they look beautiful. She sent me this picture:
(Shanti says no, the sprinkles are not sugar-free! Dang!)
Monday, November 30, 2009
I love cookies, don't you? Just saying the word cookie makes me happy.
Buttery, rich and chewy describe these insanely delectable cut-outs. I find them fascinating because they are truly sweet and have an excellent texture but only four ingredients.
I posted a similar recipe a long time ago, but now seems like the perfect time of year to share this recipe again. Krista uses a little almond extract in this recipe, and it's also delicious with a dollop of jam on top or a few sliced almonds. Feel free to experiment with different flavored extracts: vanilla, lemon, cinnamon, etc.
It's simple: flour, butter, extract and honey.
I will be trying it with my new favorite flour, white whole wheat flour, and we'll see how it turns out. It seems like the only modification you need when using this flour as a substitute to white flour, is to increase liquids by a little bit. For me, this means honey of course.
Visit Nourishing Apron's blog for more mouth-watering, no refined sugar recipes.
(I "borrowed" the sugar cookie picture until I have one of my own. This one contains sugar but looks similar to the sugar-free cookie.)
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I hope this finds you warm and well.
I thought I would put together a consortium of blogs, recipes and ideas for the upcoming day of feasting--now only two days away. Thanksgiving has always been exciting in my family because of the foods, desserts and ultimate relaxation. I have to admit that this year, though, I am doing something quite non-traditional--homemade pizza--but for the masses seeking ideas for a more traditional Thanksgiving fare, I hope you can use something here:
The Nourishing Apron offers a sugar-free pumpkin bread recipe using honey, maple syrup and orange juice concentrate to sweeten with.
Treat yourself to a delectable, dessert-like cranberry salad, brought to you by the Nourishing Gourmet.
The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen couple have several Thanksgiving recipes, beginning with the Butternut Squash & Bean Casserole with Sage and Shallots. Scroll down for a nice list of T-Day recipes, including desserts.
Over at the Spunky Coconut you will find a mouth-watering recipe for Pumpkin Spice Cake, made with white beans! What I like about this particular post is that all her Thanksgiving recipes are gluten-free, caesin-free and sugar-free.
Still not enough ideas? Over at Diet, Dessert and Dogs, Ricki has provided quite an exhausting list of recipe ideas that look incredible.
For the morning after, try this applesauce-inspired French toast recipe with maple syrup or sauteed apples.
Whatever you do, I hope it turns out wonderful. One little piece of advice in case a cooking experiment goes awry, is always have a nice box of tea and jar of honey ready to give your host if all else fails. When it comes time for dessert, there will then be something sugar-free for you to have.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Today's article focuses on inflammation; what it is, diseases it's linked to, and an "Anti-Inflammatory Plan" to help you get started. One of the steps to reducing inflammation is giving sugar the boot, of course. "Reduce or eliminate refined sugars and carbohydrates. Refined sugar disrupts immune and digestive function, which contributes to inflammation."
I'd also like to note that the "blog posse" is totally worth reading. These are the contributors, with short, very interesting bios on each person. This is a fascinating, well-rounded blog worth your time.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Not to pick on other grocery stores, but TJ's seems to really know and care who their customers are--not who they imagine them to be.
Here are some examples of sugar-free groceries I've been able to get at TJ's over the last few years: crackers, chips, bread, muffins, cereal, salad dressings and other sauces, marinara sauce, pasta, peanut butters, etc. (Albeit, you must check labels.) I've been able to get more sugarless foods here than most any other health food store (which seem to think that if their sugar is organic, it's okay). TJ's has a plethora of natural sweeteners, also: 100% fruit juices, a great selection of honeys, dried fruit (you must check these labels), molasses, etc. Their organic selection has grown considerably, also, since I first began shopping here years ago. Within the last year or so I noticed they also started carrying sprouted wheat bread, in their bakery section, fresh.
I was able to buy a box of Barbara's cereal for about $3.50 at TJ's....at WF a box half the size was over $4 if I'm remembering correctly. TJ's also has an interesting variety of non-dairy milks. There are several with no added sugars, organic and cheap. Also, TJ's is where I first discovered white whole wheat flour, and cheap. This flour is great in baking and more wholesome than white flour. I found packages of organic tempeh for $1.50, which go for over $3 at most health food stores. To really treat my sweet tooth, I load up on dried fruit leathers and keep my pantry stocked. They are delicious and just fruit!
Not to mention the fabulous wine selection, decadent foreign chocolates for my husband and guests (don't get the sugar-free versions.....maltitol!) and even affordable dog treats. (I should be making my own...)
I'm probably leaving out plenty of other groceries, but I just wanted to emphasize that TJ's has quite an impressive selection, somehow tucked in their little stores, and very affordable.
Friday, November 6, 2009
I have no idea why one would use tofu in cookies, but I thought I'd see what it was all about. I thought I would bring this strange goody to a potluck tonight. As it turns out, the recipe is completely vegan and I turned it into sugar-free.
I had to delete the entire recipe after the first batch came out of the oven. These are not potluck-worthy. Shoot! I wonder if by substituting white whole wheat flour for regular flour they got heavier? They are okay, but really not very sweet and kind of cakey and dry. If anything, by substituting honey for sugar, I expected them to be quite moist.
I enjoy using organic tofu once in a while, but I'm going to use it as a main ingredient for now on, not a cookie ingredient.
If you are interested in an 80's tofu cookbook, this one seems to have some pretty interesting recipes, many of which I would like to try sometime. I just wouldn't recommend tofu cookies.
(I would love it if someone out there proved me wrong and provided a delicious tofu cookie recipe!)
Cookbook: Tofu Cookery, by Louise Hagler
I was sitting at a restaurant the other day and an interesting commercial came on the big, annoying screen above the bar. Click here for the link to the commercial. It was another silly skit defending high fructose corn syrup. First of all, I could care less whether HFCS is exactly the same or different from white table sugar! Does that in any way excuse it from wreaking havoc on our health? Ironically, the only thing the corn people can say about their beloved HFCS is that it's the same as sugar--as if that solves the problem. The problem is that it exists in the first place, is needlessly but highly prevalent in foods and beverages and is linked to obesity. But I am getting off subject.
As I watched the commercial, I noticed this in the lower part of the screen: PAID FOR BY THE CENTER FOR CONSUMER FREEDOM. I thought to myself, Hm. That sounds legitimate. Perhaps we are blowing this HFCS-thing out of proportion?
The next thing I know, Jeff is busy Googling the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) on his iPhone. Annoying!
But I'm glad he did, because he shared with me what this Center is all about, and we laughed like little kids. What an appealing, creative, deceitful title. What a load of @!!#.
After looking at their website, I have to say that I probably disagree with EVERYTHING they say. It's not that surprising when you learn that the Center is supported by over 100 companies, including "the restaurant industry, food companies and individual donors. The forerunner to the CCF was the Guest Choice Network, which was organized in 1995 by Richard Berman, executive director of the public affairs firm Berman and Company, with $600,000 from the Philip Morris tobacco company, 'to unite the restaurant and hospitality industries in a campaign to defend their consumers and marketing programs against attacks from anti-smoking, anti-drinking, anti-meat, etc. activists ...'"
Do you know what a "front group" is? It's an "organization that purports to represent one agenda while in reality it serves some other party or interest whose sponsorship is hidden or rarely mentioned. The front group is perhaps the most easily recognized use of the third party technique."
Beware of the CCF: "For example, Rick Berman's Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) claims that its mission is to defend the rights of consumers to choose to eat, drink and smoke as they please. In reality, CCF is a front group for the tobacco, restaurant and alcoholic beverage industries, which provide all or most of its funding." (sourcewatch.org)
Go to the CCF website and see for yourself all the incredible health and wellness groups and activites they speak against! They attack preventative medicine, treating animals with respect, organic food, eating healthy and more. I went to their "About Us" section and almost choked on my tongue.
Here are some snippets:
- "Consumer freedom is the right of adults and parents to choose how they live their lives, what they eat and drink, how they manage their finances, and how they enjoy themselves.
- Unfortunately, Americans have been force-fed a diet of bloated statistics hyping the problem of obesity. Those statistics have been used by Big Brother government bureaucrats and greedy trial lawyers to justify a host of noxious "solutions," like extra taxes on certain foods and lawsuits against anyone who grows, makes, or serves anything tasty.
- A growing cabal of activists has meddled in Americans’ lives in recent years. They include self-anointed "food police," health campaigners, trial lawyers, personal-finance do-gooders, animal-rights misanthropes, and meddling bureaucrats."
The name of their HFCS commercial is "sweetscam.com". The real scam is that when people see the commercial, they may make the same mistake I did, but without investigating who the Center for Consumer Freedom really is--a front group who wants us to throw away our money and health on their food.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Imagine running an animal rights organization, and having slaughterhouses fund your research. Seriously, that would be absurd.
"But wait, if they are offering money for research, why not take it?"
It seems like some of the worst decisions ever made are because of money. But in this case (see below), I can't help but wonder if there is more on the line.
Academy CEO Dr. Douglas Henley said Wednesday that the deal won't influence the group's public health messages, and that the company will have no control over editorial content. He said the new online information will include research linking soft drinks with obesity and will focus on sugar-free alternatives.
But critics say the Coke deal will water down the advice.
'Coca-Cola, like other sodas, causes enormous suffering and premature death by increasing the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, gout, and cavities,' Harvard University nutrition expert Dr. Walter Willett said in an e-mail.
He said the academy 'should be a loud critic of these products and practices, but by signing with Coke their voice has almost surely been muzzled.'
Dr. William Walker, public health officer for Contra Costa County near San Francisco, likened the alliance with ads decades ago in which physicians said mild cigarettes are safe,
Walker has been a member of the academy for 25 years but quit last week. He said 20 other doctors who work with his local medical practice also quit because of the Coke deal."
I discovered this disappointing information in several articles, the original source being the Associated Press. The above quote was found in the Topeka Capital-Journal online.
(However, the most thorough article I've found is Huffington Post. Posted after my initial post!)
I had to check out the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). AAFP website
The AAFP claims to represent "more than 94,600 physicians and medical students nationwide." Does this mean Coca-Cola Co. just hired 94,600 physicians and medical students?
I will repeat the words of world-renowned researcher, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and chairman of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard's School of Public Health, Dr. Walter Willett, "Coca-Cola, like other sodas, causes enormous suffering and premature death by increasing the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, gout, and cavities."
By Coke's dangerous nature and the fact that it provides us with nothing but health risks, these physicians have no business making alliances with Coca-Cola. These physicians are the very people who have the science to know better. What new information about Coke could we possibly benefit from? It's never going to be a product with nutrients we need.
Contact Information for Coca-Cola Co.
Friday, October 30, 2009
I experimented again.
This time, I split the giant mound No-Knead Artisan bread dough in two. To one I added cinnamon and raisins, and to the other I didn't do anything different. Except bake each one in a smaller ceramic pot.
They both turned out perfect, and when I want something a little more sweet, I go for the cinnamon bread, although it's not really sweeter, but I associate cinnamon with sweet so it seems sweeter.
These handy little loaves make perfect gifts, wrapped in a piece of material and tied with string, or just to put out when friends are over.
It would be just as easy to add olives or rosemary or pepper to the loaves, as well. The only thing I would do differently next time is to add these ingredients to the dough before it rises.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
**These cinnamon rolls are my favorite of all the sugarless baked goodies I've been making over the past almost 2 years. They are incredibly sweet and perfect.**
As I write this, a sweet fragrance lingers in my kitchen and has visited me in my living room work space. It is the smell of pineapple juice, which my dates have been cooked in and soaking in for the past few hours. Today is a perfect day to make cinnamon rolls. It is rainy and foggy--my usual view of the Capitol is covered in layers of beautiful fog. The leaves are the only colorful thing I see out my window--reds, oranges, yellow and still a lot of green.
I was given this recipe for date cinnamon rolls a while back but have waited for that perfect chunk of time to dawdle in my kitchen, listen to music and leisurely play with yeast dough. As usual, I have tampered with the recipe quite a bit, to try and make my existing ingredients work instead of having to go out to buy new. The original recipe also called for refined sugar and larger amounts of ingredients than I needed to use. I substituted pineapple juice for apple juice and the smell is amazing. As I was taking the pits out of my dates, I looked at the nutritional value and thought it was interesting:
Date Nutrition Information:
Serving Size: 5-6 dates
Potassium 240 mg
Total Carb. 31 g (10% daily recommended value)
Fiber 3 g (14% daily recommended value)
Sugars 29 g
Protein 1 g
Calcium 2% daily recommended value
Iron 2% daily recommended value
Here is my recipe:
Date Walnut Cinnamon Rolls
1/2 C. pineapple juice
2 packets active dry yeast
2 tablespoons honey
2 eggs, beaten
3 C. white whole wheat flour
1/2 C. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsps. cinnamon
1 C. pitted dates
2 C. pineapple juice
1 C. raisins
2/3 C. chopped walnuts/pecans
1/2 C. sour cream
2 tablespoons honey
1 tsp. vanilla
Step 1: Warm pineapple juice in a small pan. Transfer to large mixing bowl and add one packet of yeast and honey. Stir and set aside for 5 minutes. Add eggs and enough flour to form a thin batter (about 1 cup). Beat until smooth. Clean down sides of bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let dough rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 30 minutes. In another bowl, add yeast packet, 1 tablespoon flour and about 1/8 C. tepid water. Cover and let rise about 30 minutes.
Step 2: While dough is rising, make filling. Place dates in small pan and cover with pineapple juice. Heat to a simmer, cover and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20-30 minutes. Let cool. Puree in blender and set aside.
Step 3: Place raisins in a bowl and cover with hot water. Soaking them will plump them.
Step 4: Return to dough. Add small bowl of dough to large. Beat in butter, salt, vanilla and cinnamon. Begin adding flour to yeast mixture. When it is too hard to stir, place on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Clean and oil bowl. Place dough in it, cover with plastic wrap, then a towel, and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half the dough into a rectangle. Spread half the date puree, strained raisins and nuts on the dough. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll up from the side like a jelly roll. Cut into 1-inch slices and place cut-side-up on an oiled cookie sheet or in muffin tins. Repeat with other half of the ingredients. Bake for 15 minutes.
While rolls are baking, place all ingredients for icing in small bowl and whisk together well. When rolls have baked 15 minutes, spoon some of the icing on top of each roll and bake another 10-15 minutes.
Funny, I forgot to puree the dates, but it didn't really seem to matter at all. I don't think it's necessary now that I've forgotten, especially since this would save one messy step. I also forgot to sprinkle cinnamon on the dough before rolling them up, but it didn't thwart things at all. I didn't realize I missed this step until I began to type out the recipe.
I froze half the batch, so I'll see how those turn out when I have guests over or I can't wait any longer for more for myself. I've had three for lunch today with lots of added icing. They are absolutely heavenly. I can't wait to try them out with my morning mug of joe tomorrow.
-Original recipe courtesy of: www.feedingfamily.com
Monday, October 26, 2009
I found an incredible bread recipe that I had torn out of an old newspaper.....months ago? Years ago? I can't remember, but as I looked over the recipe and the pictures, I decided to try it out. Although I really enjoy kneading dough, I was curious what it would be like to make a yeast bread that required no kneading. Would it be less intimidating?
One of the main things that caught my eye with this recipe is that it calls for yeast but does not call for sugar. The only reason, I believe, that sugar was ever added to bread recipes is that it causes bread to rise faster. Anyway, although yeast digests sugars until they are transformed into carbon dioxide and ethanol, and I will eat yeast breads and drink beer, I still can't use sugar in my own baking.
Although this recipe calls for white flour, I tried it with half white flour and half white whole wheat flour. It turned out amazing. Since then, I've made it entirely with white whole wheat. It was dense but still incredibly chewy inside with a perfectly hard crust. I've learned the secret to chewy inside-crusty outside is baking in a cast iron or ceramic pot with the lid on and then with the lid off for the last 15 minutes or so.
Although to make this bread you will have to plan about 24 hours ahead of time, it's worth the time logistics. It sits by itself for the first 18 hours, anyway.
Artisan No-Knead Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour OR one and 1/2 C. all-purpose flour and one and 1/2 C. white whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. instant yeast (use RapidRise yeast)
2 1/2 tsp. salt (less if you use sea salt)
One and a half cups plus 2 tablespoons tepid water
*cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and very sticky.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18 hours, at warm room temperature. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
Turn dough out on a lightly floured work surface; sprinkle dough with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously dust a cotton (not terry cloth) kitchen towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal.
Cover with another kitchen towel and let rise for 2 to 3 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
At least 30 minutes before dough is ready, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put a heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, or ceramic; anywhere from 3 and a half quarts to 6 or 8 quarts) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that's OK. shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is nicely browned. Cool on rack.
Enjoy! Great with many different fixings: butter, hummus, fig jam, as bruschetta, toast, honey etc., or by itself.
(-Courtesy of The Oregonian printing the Sullivan Street Bakery recipe, New York City)
Saturday, October 24, 2009
I happened to be craving something sweet. Something familiar. Something that would take me back to my carefree days of youth. I found myself face to face with wafer cookies. The rectangular shaped, flaky cookies filled with cream that just melt in your mouth instantly. They are like chips in that you can never eat just one. I wanted to abandon myself to that feeling of eating sweets carelessly so I made the first mistake of pausing in the cookie aisle.....all the while knowing EXACTLY what I was doing.....what I was going to do. I knew I would walk out the door with a package of sugar-free cookies. In the moment of tension and temptation, I gave myself over to my instincts: The sweeter, the better--take advantage of the now.
I picked up dozens of packages of "sugar-free" cookies, knowing exactly what I would be facing: artificial ingredients and a world of guilt for eating them. I decided on a package of vanilla wafer cookies. On the front of the package "Splenda" greeted my eyes, printed in royal blue font. I was suspicious because Splenda wasn't the only artificial ingredient in the cookies. I didn't care. I wanted to get home and devour. I had not abandoned myself to anything like this in a very long time. I was ready to sit down on the couch and throw down. I decided this was an excellent idea because I could still be sugar-free. I was not happy to be ingesting artificial ingredients, but I would deal with that guilt later. There was something about that week, that day, that moment that ultimately led me to let myself eat this crap. I still can't pinpoint what it was, but it will never happen again--here's why:
Even though I read the ingredients and wasn't happy about eating maltitol and Splenda, I needed these cookies. So, okay, a few won't hurt. After all, the asterisk next to "maltitol*" told me only that "Excessive consumption may have a laxative effect." Easy! I did not need to consume an excessive amount...just three light little wafers.
I got sick. Bubbles formed and pressure and instense stabbing pains dominated my abdomen. The next morning after I felt better, I decided that three must be excessive, so I decided to have two. That must be excessive also, because the pains from the night before were re-created so I threw out the rest of the cookies.
What in the world does "excessive" mean? It happens to be a subjective term, deemed appropriate for food manufacturer's to use on their labels as a justification for putting a terrible ingredient in our food supply. The dictionary's definition of excessive is: "exceeding what is usual, proper, necessary or normal." How is that for vague?
Not to mention I didn't feel like I was abandoning myself at all when I was eating them. I am much too aware of ingredients and consequences to just let myself go. The taste was nothing memorable, and I know I won't be buying them ever again.
Do you have an interesting story about this ingredient? I've heard that some people are extra sensitive to maltitol, but I've always taken pride in having a stomach-of-steel. I didn't think I had anything to worry about. Now I know I will never recommend any food with maltitol. I'm pretty sure sugar is a better option!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Thinking about using natural sweeteners to replace sugar? Here some benefits to consider:
- Molasses is high in nutrients like potassium, calcium and iron. Its rich flavor works well in sauces and baked goods.
- Brown Rice Syrup contains complex carbohydrates as opposed to simple sugars and has a low glycemic index.
- Date sugar is made by grinding dehydrated dates. Minimal processing means that all the nutrients and fiber remain intact. Date sugar contains folic acid and potassium.
- Barley Malt is made from sprouted barley and is high in fiber, complex carbohydrates and potassium, and has a low glycemic index.
- Maple sugar is dehydrated maple syrup, which contains amino acids, potassium, calcium, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Lately, I've been experimenting with biscotti. I love dunking something sweet in my morning joe, and because donut holes and apple fritters are still out of the question, I have had to get creative. Toast just gets soggy--not that it stops me.
I came up with this recipe with fall in mind. This time of year I revisit spices that have been pushed to the back of my cupboard: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, etc. I added all three of these to this recipe, as well as molasses and applesauce for sweeteners. I've been experimenting with different flours, too. Feel free to do the same. Let me know how yours turns out, especially if you tweak the ingredients.
The key to making biscotti is cooking time and temperature. Think low temperature, long bake time.
Ginger Almond Raisin Biscotti
One and 1/4 C. brown rice flour
One and 1/4 C. white whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 C. sliced almonds
1/2 C. raisins
1/4 C. molasses
1/2 C. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 C. oil
2 tablespoons water
Mix dry ingredients together and then add wet. Mix well. Dough will be thick and heavy. Form into giant patties and press flat.
Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Then, remove from oven and turn oven down to 300 degrees F. Slice patties into strips, spread apart on baking sheet and return to oven. Bake for 15-20 on each side. This is the only way to ensure nice, hard biscotti cookies.
Once mine were done baking, I left them in the oven overnight to dry out. If you put them in a sealed container, especially if they are still warm, they will retain moisture. Dry them out for best results. Also, for a sweeter cookie, add more raisins and/or honey to the dough. I prefer mine semi-sweet, as this recipe reflects.
Dunk in a hot cup of coffee and enjoy!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
There is no way I will be able to catch up on world sugar-related news anytime soon, so to share from the latest (and extremely important!) Food Politics blog, here I present to you, Another Sad Partnership Story: AAFP and Coca-Cola. The comments following the post are rather interesting, as well.
Hope to be back in the saddle by next week, though I've done a ton of writing on paper recently and was reminded how very much I enjoy writing exercises by hand...
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Nourishing Gourmet has a homemade version of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I tried it out, but instead of using coconut oil, I tried a little bit of organic shortening in the chocolate part, and cocoa instead of hard chocolate, which didn't work out at all. It was worse than terrible. The clumpy mixture had to be chucked. I'm sure Nourishing Gourmet's version was great. The reason I wanted to forgo coconut oil is because it gets so sticky and melty so soon after taking it out of the freezer and I didn't want my peanut butter cups tasting anything like coconut.
I decided to make up my own version of peanut butter cups. Fortunately, mine ended up simple, easy and delicious.
The only problem is that the smell of peanut butter and melting chocolate attracted a small crowd (think teeny, tiny East Coast kitchen apartment). The next thing I know, Jeff is next to me with his Skippy peanut butter and our dog Annie is hanging out giving me her special adorable eyes, patiently waiting for a glob of peanut butter to drop to the floor.
Here is the how-to for these tasty, sweet treats. If you love chocolate and peanut butter together, then you'll love these and never need another Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. If you really want decadence, when these have finished solidifying, cut them into small pieces and add to ice cream-sugarless of course!
Easy Peanut Butter Cups
1 C peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tblsp honey - depending on your sweet tooth
2-3 ounces unsweetened chocolate bar, broken up into bits
2-4 tblsp honey - to your sweetness requirement
Mix peanut butter with vanilla and honey. Press spoonfuls into mini cupcake pans, filling each about halfway.
Next, I put the chocolate bits in a glass measuring cup in a small pan of simmering water. Stir in the honey and keep stirring until the chocolate is melted.
Next, have your camera ready for when you catch your partner sneaking peanut butter to the dog.
Lastly, if you have family members who poo-poo your naturally sweetened goodies like I have in my family, save a couple cupcake spots for them. Jeff was quick to fill his spots with peanut butter and chocolate chips when he saw that there was room.
I don't know if I'll ever convert his sweet tooth to naturally sweetened goodies. He seems dead-set against it and I don't push it on him, too much.
I put the cupcake pan in the freezer to get the peanut butter cups to solidify and it worked great. They pop out easily and still manage to melt in your mouth right out of the freezer.
My palate has changed so much over the past year and a half that even the smallest amount of sweetener satisfies. Keep in mind that the honey amount in this recipe can be altered, depending on your sweet tooth. If you are looking to cut down on calories, use a low-fat peanut butter and consider using a different sweetener than honey. It has more calories than white sugar.
This little recipe is incredibly easy, quick, and produces very little mess.
Monday, September 14, 2009
At some point this past year, having been purposefully unemployed, my husband and I decided to make a big change in our environment. More than a year ago we quit our jobs and sold our house in Portland, Oregon in search of a joint purpose. What we anticipated to include a lot of traveling, did, but our time off included a lot of other experiences as well. We visited a plethora of cities and small towns and it became obvious to both of us that the Washington, D.C. area held the most opportunity for our interests. So we are here successfully pursuing our dreams in this land of opportunity.
This weekend I volunteered at D.C.'s first ever VegFest and it was a blast. The only problem is that my only exposure to anything sugarless were little samples of Larabar's (which the peanut butter flavor really rocked my world). Other than that, I was quite frustrated at the beautiful, delicious-looking pastries because none that I asked about were sweetened naturally. There are a million places I want to explore here in the city, and I know local, naturally sweetened goodies must exist somewhere out here.
So far, my favorite place to grocery shop for naturally sweetened items is MOM's (My Organic Market), which is both more affordable than most health food stores and within two miles of where I live.
Looking forward to exploring and discovering everything this area has to offer, and sharing with you here.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I don't want to slander or pick on a company, so I am currently trying to decide how to present the info. Coke, if you are reading this, I would love a comment from a representative on this one.
I've given myself some time to think it over, and I think my role as a "sugar" blogger, is to be objective in this case and just share the information. Actually, what I am about to share will speak for itself.
For those of you who are health nuts and are very careful about what you eat and drink, this information may not be meaningful to you, however, I believe the implications are extremely important.
Dare I draw this out and make you wait any longer?
Okay, here is what I discovered accidentally while researching some things online this morning:
Coca-Cola does not list "sugars" or "high fructose corn syrup" in its "Soft Drink Nutrition Information For Carbonated Beverages" pdf. on their home website. I looked elsewhere on their website for information about sugars and found Q&A about sweeteners in general, but I was after finding out how much sugar is in a Coke Classic. (Why I wanted to know is a different story!) Finally, discouraged by their website giving me the run-around without producing information on this, I bought a Coke from the vending machine downstairs in my building, feeling extremely guilty the entire time. I read the nutrition information on the can and left it sitting next to my computer. A few hours later it disappeared. Jeff? Ah well......
Here is what The Coca-Cola Company does list under nutrition information: Calories, Carbohydrates, Sodium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Caffeine, Saccharin, Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium, and Sucralose [which is generic Splenda].
Sorry, I realized I can't just share this information without commenting on it...
What I find fascinating is that "Phosphorus" is listed, for example, but not "sugars". Why Phosphorus? Who in the world is interested in knowing the amount of Phosphorus in their drink?
Also, I find it quite interesting that they provide a listing of the various artificial sweeteners, yet no "sugars". Now, to be fair, they do list "carbohydrates" and sugar obviously falls under this category, but they do not specifically label this category "sugars". On the can they do list "sugars" but not on their website.
I feel as though The Coca-Cola Company is not being transparent. If I was selling a nutrition-less product, at 39 grams of sugars per 12 ounces, I might not want to share all this information, either.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The title says it all. The author, Naturopathic doctor Scott Olson, compares eating sugar to smoking cigarettes...in the first part of the book. The entire book is full of great information, research, comparisons, reasons to cut out the white stuff, and how to do it.
As you read, you get the idea right away that Dr. Olson is very motivated to help people eat healthier and achieve overall balance and health. It was his patients' struggles with sugar addictions that eventually led him to write Sugarettes.
My favorite chapter is "Let's Talk Carbs" where Dr. Olson describes the differences between simple and complex carbohydrates. He discusses carbs at a molecular level, using simple drawings, which greatly enhances the learning curve. Carbs can be a little confusing, but rest assured you'll feel quite educated by the end of the chapter. You will understand why "white bread and white sugar increase your blood sugar identically." You'll want to read more.
Dr. Olson is passionate about sugar. He is passionate about helping his reader understand all aspects of sugar: history, carbohydrates, addictions, insulin, high blood sugar, glycemic index, artificial sweeteners, sugar and disease and lastly, an entire chapter dedicated to "Surviving in Carbo-Land".
Dr. Olson taps into facts and figures about sugar that are science-based but underestimated in the medical community. He opens a pandora's box of questions, accusations and ultimately what we the consumer can do about our own addiction to sugar.
Although I have remained sugar-free since I gave it up a year and a half ago, I know that if I was still eating sugar and read this book, I would be very motivated to quit.
Sugarettes is an easy read, packed full of important information and motivating tips for how and why to quit eating and drinking sugar.
Thank you Dr. Olson for providing a great book dedicated to the topic of sugar!
To view Dr. Olson's website click here.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Did you know that there is a naturally occurring "sugar" in milk, called lactose? Lactase is an enzyme in our bodies that allows us to digest this milk sugar.
Ever heard of an allergy to milk? Apparently, it's not an allergy after all because there is, "not an immune response". (USA Today)
A milk "allergy"is more correctly defined as lactose intolerance: "Lactose intolerance is the inability to metabolize lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products, because the required enzyme lactase is absent in the intestinal system or its availability is lowered. It is estimated that 75% of adults worldwide show some decrease in lactase activity during adulthood."
I came across an interesting article about milk sugar that discusses this in more detail:
"People who are lactose intolerant can't digest the main sugar -lactose- found in milk. In normal humans, the enzyme that does so -lactase- stops being produced when the person is between two and five years old. The undigested sugars end up in the colon, where they begin to ferment, producing gas that can cause cramping, bloating, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea."
For more information than you ever wanted to know about lactase, the enzyme (that we don't all have, and have in differing amounts) allowing us to digest milk products, check out this article in the European Journal of Human Genetics. "Most people cannot drink milk as adults without the symptoms of lactose intolerance, and most lactose intolerance is due to absence of the lactase enzyme in the gut."
I'll continue to get my "natural" sugars elsewhere.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
- High intake of added sugars is implicated in numerous poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
- Added sugars and solid fats in food, as well as alcoholic beverages are categorized as “discretionary calories” and should be eaten sparingly.
- Most American women should consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars per day; most men, no more than 150 calories.
- Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages are the number one source of added sugars in the American diet.
For women, this means cutting back our sugar intake by 73%.
Here's a pie chart to illustrate just how much the AHA is recommending we cut back.
This huge percentage is a sign that sugar has wedged itself as an all too common ingredient in people's diets. The data is interesting; the average daily intake is from a report dated 2001-2004. We are probably eating more sugar now than then, but that is the current data we have.
Not only do we have to make a change, the AHA is suggesting we make a drastic change. Our health and the health of our children depends on it. Cutting our sugar consumption in half is not enough.
As we enter into the "Age of Transparency" cutting down on sugar should become easier. As we, the consumer, demand more nutritious foods and less sugary junk food, the food producers will scramble to satisfy our demand. This is not going to happen overnight, but I have high hopes that the pendulum will swing in favor of health food. For the AHA to make such a giant statement about sugar, it is a sign that we are already heading in that direction, or my blog must be very convincing.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
What I find interesting is that Junk Food "A" may talk very highly about their product, but have something terrible to say about Junk Food "B". The sugar people will go off about alternative sweeteners, and the alternative sweetener folks will go off about both HFCS and sugar. All the while, each company's product is touted to be quite superior. If each of the junk food companies has something legitimate to say about the other junk food company's products, isn't this a sure sign that it's all....JUNK?!
Here are some examples:
What the Sugar Association has to say: "HFCS does not exist in nature. It is a highly processed product that requires the ingenuity and efforts of man for its creation, and was unknown to the world until the 1970s. Sugar is all-natural and has been the primary sweetening ingredient worldwide for thousands of years and still is the predominate sweetener in every country, except the United States. Sugar exists naturally in almost every fruit and vegetable but most abundantly in sugar cane and sugar beets."
The Sugar Association has gone so far as to create a website called The Truth About Splenda which further disparages another competitor.
Here is what SPLENDA has to say: "SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener may be used as part of a healthy diet that includes a variety of nutritious foods in moderate portions. Because SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener tastes like sugar and can be used for cooking and baking, it helps meet consumer demand for good-tasting foods and beverages without all the empty calories of sugar."
"Although sucralose (generic term for SPLENDA) is made from a process that begins with sugar, the body does not recognize it as sugar or a carbohydrate. It is not metabolized by the body for energy, so it is calorie-free.....it passes through the body without being broken down for energy, so it has no calories, and the body does not recognize it as a carbohydrate. " This is saying that SPLENDA is not recognized by the body as a food, which in my opinion means we have no business putting it in our bodies!!
The NutraSweet Company is proud of their product because of its lack of calories: "Aspartame has many benefits. Aspartame can reduce or replace the sugar and calories in foods and beverages while maintaining great taste. Thus, aspartame offers one simple step in helping people move closer to achieving a more healthful diet." That's funny.
Saccharin comes right out and says, "Although the totality of the available research indicates saccharin is safe for human consumption, there has been controversy over its safety. The basis for the controversy rests primarily on findings of bladder tumors in some male rats fed high doses of sodium saccharin." Oh, woops. Just bladder tumors. No worries. Then I wonder why convenient stores have saccharin warning signs in their store windows?
Again, healthy whole foods will never be controversial. We don't need science to tell us what our common sense leads us to believe about healthy foods....that an apple is good nutrition, for example. If there is any controversy about a food you are eating, I would suggest you consider eating something that has never been controversial.
You can't go wrong by eating whole foods, keeping in mind portion sizes. You might go wrong by eating JUNK. To me, it's not worth risking what I don't know.
Lastly, I include with the Corn Refiner's Association take on their product HFCS, because it is so funny to me: "Mention corn syrups and consumers think of the sweetness and energy they offer--outstanding characteristics--" More like mention corn syrup and watch people roll their eyes. The press, the commercials and the lobbying is just ridiculous. I can't imagine anyone going to such great lengths to lobby for steel cut oats or lima beans.
Here is an interesting article about HFCS, with quotes from the president of the Corn Refiner's Association, Audrae Erickson. HFCS or sugar? Sugar or HFCS?
The press on this right now is downright silly. We have companies responding to consumer demand by taking HFCS out of their products and going back to using sugar. Hooray? Really? To me this is the silliest battle between highly processed junk foods that we should eat less of altogether. I don't eat either one, and it's difficult to avoid because most packaged products have one or the other. I usually end up eating fruit, darnit.
My point is that no matter how ignorant we might want to feign to be, it's obvious what is healthy whole food and what is not. I don't believe that the "foods" created in the laboratories were made to improve our health, although many of the artificial sweetener producers would argue and say that they are providing a low-calorie sweetener alternative. What good does it do to put a low-calorie sweetener in a product that is loaded with junk and many other types of calories?