Pantry Staples…Maple Syrup — May 30, 2021

Pantry Staples…Maple Syrup

These days more and more people are switching to sugar alternatives, choosing to enjoy a lifestyle of less processed foods, embracing the concept of “green living,” and choosing to pursue such diets as paleo, vegan, and so forth.

But which alternative should you choose…especially given the fact that every single out there naturally produces some sort of sugar as a result of the sun simply shining down on that plant.

This sugar is important for the health of the plant because the plant uses this sugar as a source of energy for their growth of their roots.

For centuries the syrup from the maple tree syrup.

The Indians living in North America thousands of years ago were the first to collect the sap from the maple trees and process it into maple syrup. They used for this maple syrup for both medical and cultural purposes…seeing it as source of energy and nutrition and combining it with other herbs—such as juniper berry, catnip and ginger.

They introduced it to early European settlers, who quickly began improving the technology involved in gathering the sap from the trees. These Europeans began combining the maple syrup with herbs, teas, lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar to improve insulin sensitivity, help combat metabolic disorders such as diabetes, improve digestion, and increase immunity against colds and respiratory issues.

Many people today…including Elf from the movie Elf…still choose maple syrup as their sweetener of choice….making it one of the most popular sugar alternatives out there.

Maple syrup is perhaps one of the least processed of the sugar alternatives out there.

Maple syrup is a very “low preservative” food…meaning that it is not highly processed but sold just like God made it.

Maple syrup, like fruits and veggies, is a seasonal product.

In the summer, maple trees—including the red maple trees store sugar in its root as starch its roots…and then in the winter, people put either “taps” or tubes into the trees to gather the sap in a bucket….then in the spring when the temperature gets warmer, the sap goes through a cycle of freezing and thawing which builds up pressure within the trees and causes the sap from the tap into the buckets.

The process of gathering sap takes anywhere from four to six weeks, usually during the month of March and April….depending on the changes in daily temperature.

Once the sap is gathered, the sap is boiled down to make syrup.

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Making Maple Syrup

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One gallon of maple syrup requires forty gallons of sap.

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Nutritional Value

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Although maple syrup is high in sugar, specifically sucrose, maple syrup is still a better option than refined cane sugar or corn syrup or agave nectar because it contains more antioxidants and vitamins.

Maple syrup contains up to twenty-four different antioxidants

In fact, the better options for sugar—maple syrup, brown sugar, dark and blackstrap molasses, honey, and maple syrup—all have more antioxidants than the sugar that most of us use every day to sweeten our coffee and cook with.

Maple syrup also provices fairly high amount of nutrients—including zinc, manganese, potassium and calcium. 

One tablespoon of maple syrup contains…

  • Calories…52.2
  • Carbohydrates…13.4 grams
  • Calcium…13.4mg…1%DV
  • Iron…0.2mg…1% DV
  • Magnesium…2.8mg…1% DV
  • Manganese…0.7mg…33% DV
  • Potassium…40.8mg…1%DV
  • Zinc…0.8mg…6% DV

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Health Benefits

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Antioxidants...As mentioned above, maple syrup contains antioxidants.

But what do these antioxidants do…(in case your head has been buried under a rock for the last decade or you’ve never read a single blog post of mine before)…

Antioxidants help prevent cancer, fight inflammation, protect the health of your skin, slave off Alzheimer’s, and prevent neurodegenerative diseases, arthritis, IBS or heart disease.

Diabetes...Maple syrup high a lower gylecmic index than sucrose and may keep you from experiencing the rollercoaster of “sugar highs” followed by “sugar crash.” Just remember that consuming too much of any sweetening product out there will not be so sweet if you overuse of it causes health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Digestion…Replacing the refined sugars or artificial sweeteners in your diet with natural sweeteners is good for your digestive system because it can help prevent digestive system disorders—such as indigestion, gas, bloating, cramping, constipation, candida, IBS, and leaky gut syndrome

Natural sweeteners such as maple syrup are a much better alternative to the sugar typically used in baked goods, yogurt, oatmeal or smoothies because these sweeteners keep the digestive tract in healthy and free from chemicals and the damage that result from a high-sugar diet, 

Immune System…Maple syrup is good for your immune system because the zinc that maple syrup contains helps fight inflammation and illnesses—including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer—and keep your level of white blood cells up. Maple syrup also contains manganese, which is important for fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, blood sugar regulation…as well as brain and nerve function.

Skin…Supposedly applying a mask containing maple syrup directly onto your skin may help lower skin inflammation, redness, blemishes and dryness, hydrate the skin, and reduce bacteria and signs of irritation.

One simple mask recipe is to simply microwave 1-½Tbsp 100% maple syrup for about twenty seconds and then add 3Tbsp plain oatmeal or rolled oats and 1-½Tbsp milk or milk alternative. After applying the face mask with your hands or a brush, wait fifteen minutes and then rinse the mask off with warm water.

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Maple Syrup vs. Artificial Sweeteners

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Of course, we can probably all figure out that sugar is bad for us…our parents have been telling us that from generation to generation to generation to generation to come.

But what about all the other stuff that we could be using instead of sugar?

When it comes to sweeteners other than sugar, there are basically two carpools…

The first carpool is for all the refined products out there—including sugar itself, Splenda, sucralose, agave, and aspartame.

Artficial sweeteners may be calorie-free, yet they can be the cause of many health problems—including weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, learning disabilities and short-term memory loss…as well as making these problems worse if they already exist.

Not only that artificial sweeteners do pretty much nothing as far as weight management goes because the sweeteners could be addicting and make you want to even eat more.

Table sugar has absolutely no nutrients…let me say that again…table sugar has NO nutrients at all…so why even bother putting forth the effort to lift a spoon and add it to your coffee, cereal, or whatever.

And probably the most important factor to me—artificial sweeteners are just that…artificial…processed…

Making the sugar that most of us simply take for granted actually requires a long, complicated process of mechanically harvesting, cleaning, washing, milling, extracting, juicing, filtering, purifying, vacuuming and condensing sugar cane stalks and beets.

Making maple syrup is a much more natural process that pretty much requires simply gathering the sap from the trees,

In others words, something…if not the one thing…that anyone who might possibly be interested in reading this blog wants to eliminate in his or her diet as much as possible.

The second carpool is for natural sweeteners such as honey, molasses, and maple syrup

The second carpool is obviouisly the better choice.

Unlike table sugar, maple syrup and most other natural sweeteners do contain nutrients—such as antioxidants and minerals.

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Maple Syrup vs. Other Natural Sweeteners

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Raw honey and blackstrap molasses are also more nutritious than table sugar and have health benefits—such as acting as natural antibacterial agents.

If you’re shopping for honey, look for honey that is pure, unfiltered and unpasteurized. These types of honey maintain their nutritional value…unlike their processed cousins.

Dark molasses is the fluid that remains after fully extracting of sugar from raw sugar cane and has the highest concentration of antioxidants of all sweeteners…as well as many nutrients—including vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron and selenium. 

However, molasses does require more mechanical and chemical processing that making honey or maple syrup.

There are several different standards of maple syrup—based the grade and place of origin.

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The Which

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Grade…In order for maple syrup to be considered “pure,” at least 66% percent of the sugar it contains must be sucrose.

Pure maple syrup is classified as either “grade A” or “grade B.” Either of these grades is a good choice as long as the syrups are actually pure and free of preservatives, artificial dyes and flavors…but grade B maple syrup typically contains more antioxidants.

The darker the maple syrup is…the later in the year the sap was harvested, the stronger the flavor will be, and the more nutritional value it will offer.

But buyers beware…most maple syrups at your local grocery store will actually not be the “real stuff”…but instead basically an imposters or a highly refined syrup made with maple syrup flavoring. Like almost everything else, you get what you pay for.

In order for a syrup to be regarded as “pure” maple syrup, the only…or at least the primary…ingredient…must be maple syrup instead of refined cane/beet sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Buy organic maple syrup if and when you can find it so that you can be assured that the maple trees were not treated with any chemicals during the manufacturing process.

Place of Origin…Most, if not all, maple syrup production here in America is done in the New England states—such as Vermont…but Canada supplies over 80% of the world’s maple syrup.

Maple syrup is a great natural substitute for sugar—both for sweetening your sweet tea or whatever…and for cooking, making marinades and glazes, incuding in salad dressings, and baking.

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The How

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If you are planning you baking with maple syrup as a substitute for the sugar originally called for in a recipe for “baked goods,” use the same amount of maple syrup as you would have used if you had used sugar but reduce the amount of liquid by about a half-cup so that you can create the perfect amount of sweetness without adding too much moisture or diminishing the texture you’re looking for.

On the other hand, if you are planning on using the maple sugar as a sugar substitute In smoothies, salad dressings or other liquids, use the same amount originally called for and don’t worry about changing the measurements for any other ingredients also.

Making the Perfect Chutney — May 23, 2021

Making the Perfect Chutney

While we’re on the topic of mango and Indian food, there is no way that I could even think about not bringing up mango chutney…the standard Indian condiment…as standard to that cuisine as ketchup…(or catsup…really, people(?!))is to ours here in America.

The word “chutney” derives from the Hindi word meaning ‘to lick’ or ‘to eat with appetite’…and the Hindi people must really have a great appetite for chutney because in India, chutney is as common as ketchup is here in America. They served chutney a dipping sauce for naan, a condiment for curry, spread it on toast…kinda like vegemite and Australia.

Chutneys have actually been concocted as far back as 500BC….where the people in India began to grind down any medicinal plants, plants that they believed to have health benefits, into chutneys…adding spices to the ground down plants…making a wet paste with the mixture…and sauteeing it in oil…in order to keep the overabundance of fruits and veggies from going bad…

But first of all…what exactly is chutney…and what’s the difference between a relish, a chutney, a marmalade…

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Chutney…The What

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Chutney are savory condiments that can be made from a variety of fruits and veggies—such as coconut, mango, tamarind, apples, rhubarb—that have been slow-cooked along with vinegar and spices.

The idea of making chutney originated in India, but over the centuries has expanded to the point where today almost every country has its own interpretation of this versatile condiment.

Chutneys found in India typically consist of roasted dried lentils, spices—such as coriander, ginger, garlic and cumin, dates, coconut, onions, prunes, tomatoes, chili peppers, limes, mango, and peanuts.

Chutneys from South Africa feature apricots.

Chutneys from England feature apples and vinegar.

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Chutney or Jam

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Chutney differs from jam because jams and jellies are sweet…while chutney is savory because of the spices and vinegar that have been added to the fruit.

Recipes for jams often require pectin in order to creates a thick texture….whereas chutney recipes never call for added pectin.

Chutney is typically chunky and full of pieces of dried fruit and raisins whereas jams are typically blended until smooth.

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Chutney or Relish

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The difference between chutney and relish are not as clear. Perhaps the main difference is the fact that chutneys combine various fruits…whereas relishes typically focus on one primary ingredient.

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Making Chutney

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You can easily make your own chutneys by slow-cooking fruit or vegetables with other ingredients—such as garlic, chil peppers, and vinegar. Then you can use your chutney as a unique, flavorful condiment served along various entrees and appetizers that your guests will be sure to remember.

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Types of Chutney

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As talked about briefly earlier, once the concept of making chutneys found its way out of India and into other countries and regions around the world, this condiment came to no longer be a recipe, but a conglomeration of any and all sorts of ingredients…more of a concept, rather than an actual recipe.

Today perhaps the four most common chutneys are Major Grey’s Chutney, mango chutney, mint chutney, and tomato chutney.

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Major Grey’s Chutney

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Major Grey’s Chutney…This type of chutney is very similar to mango chutney, but milder…and with two more key ingredients—raisins and lime juice. Typical ingredients of Major Grey’s chutney include mango, raisins, vinegar, lime juice, onion…some sort of sweetener…and some blend of spices.

Supposedly the recipe for this variety of chutney was first created by a British Army officer…(probably named Major Grey…go figure)…and is the most popular type of chutney here in America today.

Two brands of Major Grey’s Mango available for sale in the US and Canada are Patak’s, Sharwood’s and Crosse & Blackwell…(the last of which if owned by Smucker.

  • 5 firm mango, about 3C
  • 1C sugar, brown sugar, or other sweetener
  • 1C vinegar—apple cider or white
  • 1C seedless raisins
  • Fruits/Veggies—2 small onions, chopped fine…1/3C cup fresh ginger, grated or chopped fine…1/2″ piece Mexican lime, little, thin skin…3/4″ piece serrano chile, small…one large onion, chopped
  • Spices…
  • 1tsp each—salt, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • Other…
  • 1/2C slivered almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard 
  • Peel mangoes. Cut into 1/2″ segments. Put the vinegar in a heavy kettle. Tie the spices in a muslin bag large enough to allow swelling. Add this bag of spices and sugar. Simmer gently 30min, stirring often. Add fruits/veggies/other and half of the mango. Simmer two hours, stirring and watching carefully. Add the rest of the mangoes. Simmer two more hours. Remove the spice bag. Pour mixture into hot sterilized jars. Seal. Let set in a cool place for several weeks before using. This chutney can be kept for years.

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Mango Chutney

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Mango Chutney…Mango chutney is very similar to Major Grey’s chutney, but milder and sweeter. Here is Alton Brown’s recipe for mango chutney…

4# fresh mangos, peeled

3Tbsp vegetable oil

Spices…1tsp chili powder…1-1/2Tbsp curry powder…salt and pepper

Fruits/Veggies…1/4C minced fresh ginger…1C red bell pepper, diced…1/2Craisins

Other…8oz unsweetened pineapple juice…4oz cider vinegar…1/2C brown sugar…1/2C macadamia nuts, roughly chopped and toasted

Cube the mango. Heat the oil in skillet. Add spices, onion, and bell pepper. Saute 2min. Add mango. Cook for one more minute. Combine pineapple juice, vinegar, sugar, and curry powder in a separate bowl. Add this mixture to the skillet. Stir to combine. Simmer for about thirty minutes, stirring frequently. Add raisins and nuts. Season with salt and pepper.

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Mint Chutney

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  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1-½C fresh mint leaves
  • 1 green chile pepper
  • ½tsp salt
  • 1 medium onion, cut into chunks 
  • 1Tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼C water
  • Combine cilantro, mint leaves, chile pepper, salt, onion and lemon juice. Process to a fine paste, adding enough water to achieve a thick sauce.

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Tomato Chutney

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Instead of serving plain ketchup, try a zesty tomato chutney with your burgers and french fries…such as the following recipe…

  • 8 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2C apple cider vinegar
  • 2Tbsp olive oil
  • Spices…2 garlic cloves, minced…1tsp cumin…1tsp cumin…1 tsp dry mustard…1/2tsp turmeric…1tsp chili powder…2Tbsp brown sugar…1/4tsp salt
  • Fruits/Veggies…2 green chilies, finely chopped with seeds removed
  • Add the olive oil to a saute pan over medium heat. Add spices, chilies, and garlic. Cook for one minute. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Simmer over medium heat, uncovered, for about twenty minutes.
33 Different Kinds of Coffee to Keep Even the Barista Confused — May 22, 2021

33 Different Kinds of Coffee to Keep Even the Barista Confused

 

 

 

I am a simple person. I have dwindled my wardrobe into a 52-piece capsule wardrobe, organized my spice cabinet alphabetically, and cleaned/organized every single room in my house this year in my quest for minimalism and a better lifestyle in general for my family.

So it’s probably not a big shock that I “like my coffee like I do my men—strong, dark, and steamy”…or whatever that expression is.

 

But rumor tells me that there are so many perhaps better alternatives to this black coffee, options such as…

 

1. Affogato–a single or dual shot of espresso mixed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream

2. Americano—a single or double shot of espresso diluted with hot water

3. Bicerin Coffee—a shot of espresso, chocolate drink, and milk or cream all layered in a glass

4. Black Coffee—coffee with no dairy products such as milk or cream added

5. Bulletproof Coffee—a buttered coffee drink that supposedly helps you lose weight

6. Cappuccino—very similar to a café latte, but the foam and the chocolate sprinkles are more on the top than already mixed in

7. Cafe Latte—coffee with steamed milk froth and the micro-foam on top

8. Cold Brew—coffee beans steeped in water for twelve hours or more

9. Cortado—a Spanish beverage that contains coffee with a generous amount of warm milk

10. Cuban Espresso—a sweetened dark-roasted espresso shot with an addition of demerara sugar

11. Decaf Coffee—coffee that has some of the caffeine taken out

12. Double Espresso—two shots of espresso

13. Espresso—a single shot of espresso

14. Flat White— a single shot of espresso served with steamed milk

15. Galao Coffee—a Portuguese milky sweet coffee

16. Green Coffee—coffee that is made with coffee beans that haven’t been roasted to that familiar brown color that we all expect, supposedly great for those who are trying to lose weight

17. Iced Coffee—coffee with ice in it…(as if you couldn’t  figure that out already)

18. Instant Coffee—coffee powder that is prepared by making fine grains from already roasted coffee

19. Irish Coffee—black coffee with whiskey and sugar added and topped with cream

20. Kopi Luwak—a premium coffee type prepared in Asia that requires collecting coffee beans that have been crapped out by a Civet…(sorry, I think that I’ll pass on this one.)…

21. Kopi Tubruk—an Indonesian coffee drink that is made by dissolving coffee beans directly into the boiling water

22. Long Black Coffee—a single shot of espresso with 70% hot water added

23. Long Macchiato—a double shot of espresso with a layer of cream and foam added on the top

24. Mocha—a single shot of espresso with a spoonful of chocolate powder, steamed milk froth and microfoam, and them more chocolate powder on the very top.

25. Mushroom Coffee…regular coffee that has been infused with medicinal mushroom extracts…(see next post, you know, the one that I haven’t even written yet(?!)…

26. Piccolo Latte—a shot of espresso or Ristretto served in a demitasse cup with steamed milk and a little foam on top

27. Ristretto—a single shot of espresso with the same amount of coffee beans but the half amount of water

28. Short Macchiato-–a single shot of espresso with a layer of cream and foam added on the top

29. Sweet Coffee—coffee that contains some sort of sweetener

30. Turkish Coffee—a stronger and more aromatic Turkish beverage made by using coffee beans that have been ground so fine that it doesn’t even need filtering

31. Vienna Coffee—a type of black coffee served with a whopping amount of cream on the top

32. White Coffee—a mild version of traditional coffee with less brewing and less intense taste

33. Yuanyang Coffee—a popular beverage from Hong Kong that is prepared by combining both the coffee and tea

Making the Perfect Cup of Hot Tea — May 21, 2021

Making the Perfect Cup of Hot Tea

Okay, so I realize that not everybody has had the privilege of growing up in the Deep South where people don’t even bother to take drink orders, but simply pass around huge glasses filled with ice tea as soon as your butt hits the restaurant dining table chairs…

 

 

So how do you make that Mississippi nectar that is the pride of the hospitality state?

Sure lots and lots of sugar is important, but many other factors are important also—such as the technique/process you will be using, the quality of the water used, temperatures, and time.

But there are many factors that go into making the perfect cup of tea, including…

 

 

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The Method

What method you use when making your tea is a personal preference, but here are a few options…

 

French Press…The same French press that you use to make coffee can also be used to make tea. Using a French press allows you to brew several cups of tea at one time. A French press also allows you to steep and serve your tea in the same vessel. However, you could easily over-steeping your tea since the tea leaves simply sit at the bottom of the press after you make the tea, instead of being taken out.

 

Tea Ball Infuser...Tea ball infusers are basically teabags that you fill yourself with whatever loose tea you would like and then steep in your tea until you get the strength of tea that you would like. These hinged mesh spheres are obviously more “environmentally friendly.”

 

Tea Brewing Strainers…Tea brewing strainers are small mesh baskets that you fill with loose leaf  tea and then pour hot water on top of the leaves. As the hot water passes over the loose tea leaves, your tea is “brewed,” but this is probably not your best option because you can’t is not very popular and control how long your tea brews.

 

Teabags...Of course you already know what a teabag is, and this is the most common method of making tea. This method is the most convenient, even though not the most “environmentally friendly.”

 

TeapotTeaposts are always a great choice, but not all teapots will deliver the same results. Two factors to consider when choosing a teapot are whether or not the teapost has a built-in strainer to help infuse the tea or requires use of a separate straining device….and what  material your teapot is made from so that you can know that the brewing temperature is ideal or not for the type of tea which you will most likely be making.

 

 

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The Temperature

Even though most of us would assume that in order to make tea, you must bring your water to a rolling boil, this is not always the case. In fact, different types of tea require different temperatures. Bringing your water to a rolling boil can actually keep your tea from reaching its fullest flavor potential.

As a general rule, white tea and green tea should be made with the lowest temperature, about 175 degrees. Oolong and black tea should be made with a medium temperature, about 200 degrees. And mate, rooibos, and other types of herbal tea should be made with the highest temperature, about 210 degrees.

Bringing your water to a full rolling boil and then letting the tea cool down to the ideal temperature also will negatively impact the flavor of your tea.

 

 

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The Time

Time can also affect the flavor of the tea. Different steeping times will create subtle flavor differences that you may or may not like. The best thing to do is to take the time to steep any new type of tea that you may be trying in thirty second intervals until you find the steeping time for that particular tea that you like best.

 

 

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The Water

Water is obviously a very important ingredient to a great glass of tea, almost as important as the sugar. Only use water that is fresh and cold.  Avoid using tap water that has been sitting in stagnant in your kettle for any length of time or that has already been boiled previously. Always use cold water instead of hot water. Hot tap water tends to carry more minerals—such as calcium and lime—and can mess up the flavor of your tea.

Herbal Tea…The What —

Herbal Tea…The What

Agave Nectar —

Agave Nectar

Once I learned that my husband had been diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes, my first thought…well, not my first…but anyway…I immediately felt like adding agave nectar to my instacart order from Sprouts…

But what I’ve been reading lately has made me wonder about adding this agave nectar to my Muffins and Magnolias Master Grocery List altogether…and to get consume any agave through tequila instead.

 

What is agave nectar anyway?!

The agave plant is native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico and the Southwestern United States, and some tropical areas of South America. The plant is sometimes referred to as the “century plant” because the plants must grow to heights of about thirty feet before ever blooming. But once an agave plant does bloom, it will produce several pounds of edible flowers. After this, the plant will die.

When an agave plant has been growing from seven to ten years old, the leaves of the plant are cut off, revealing the core of the plant (called the “pina”). When harvested, the pina resembles a giant pineapple and can weigh in at 50 to 150 pounds.

There are many different species of agave, but the most common one is the blue agave. Blue agave is the species of agage used to make tequila. In order for a tequila to be classified as a 100% blue agave tequila, the tequila must be made only from the Agave tequilana ‘Weber’s Blue’ agave plant and only in certain Mexican states, according to an agreement made in 2001 between the Mexican Government and European Union.

The Aztecs prized the agave as a gift from the gods. The Aztecs and Navajo Indians have used every part of the agave plant—including the flowers, the leaves, the stalks, and the sap for just about everything–including meat, drink, clothing, and writing materials.

  • Flowers…The flower head can be baked and then boiled to make an edible paste used by itself or made into soup. The flower heads can be baked and sundried to extend the shelf life. Dried slices of the flower stem can be used to make all-natural razor strops.
  • Leaves…The leaves may be collected in winter and spring, when the plants are rich in sap, for eating and making sisal or hemp. The expressed juice of the leaves lathers in water like soap. The leaves are also used to make a tea that is used specificaxlly for treating constipation and arthritis.
  • Stalks…The stalks can be roasted and chewed right before the flower blooms to extract the sweet sap, called argamiel, much like sugarcane. The stalks can also be dried out and used to make didgeridoos.
  • Sap…The sap from the flower shoot is often collected, fermented, and distilled to make alcholic drinks called mezcal, which we Americans mostly know  in the shot glasses called tequila. The sap can also be boiled to make a sweetener that the Mexicans refer to as miel de agave.

Agave nectar is a sweetener derived from the sap of the agave plant

 

Agave Nectar—The Why or Why Not?!

Agave sweeteners come from the blue agave plant, the same plant that you get tequile from. Agave nectar is said to be about 1.5 times sweeter than sugar….and is often used instead of sugar, honey, or maple syrup. The taste of agave nectar is comparable, though not identical, to honey. Many people who do not like the taste of honey find agave a more palatable choice. It also has none of the bitter aftertaste associated with artificial sweeteners.

Agave has about sixty calories per tablespoon, compared to forty calories for the same amount of table sugar. But you should be able to get the same effect from less agage nectar because the agave is sweeter.

Agave claims to be an especially good sugar replacement for diabetics because it is low on the glycemic index. But at the same time, agave nectar has an extremely amount of fructose. And the agave nectar that you find as a consumer has been highly processed, much like high-fructose corn syrup.

Sweeteners containing fructose, as opposed to those containing glucose, can claim to be “healthy” or “diabetic friendly” because they typically have a very low GI and do not  raise your blood sugar or insulin levels in the short-term.Yet the high amount of fructose found in agave nectar can be detrimental to your health. For one thing, the liver is the only organ that can metabolize significant amounts of fructose. Eating, or drinking, an extreme amount of  fructose causes the liver to work too hard, resulting in kidney disease and cirhossis of the liver seen in many alcoholics

The nectar made from the plant is known in Mexico as aguamiel, or “honey water.”

Even though Mexicans boil the sap to make a sweetener referred to as miel de agave, the agave nectar sold on American shelves has very little in common with this traditional sweetener made by the Mexicans because agave nectar that is sold on our shelves has been made by treating the sugars with heat and enzymes, which destroys all the beneficial health effects of the agave plant…resulting in a highly refined, unhealthy syrup–just as the processing does to any other fruit or vegetable.

In its original, natural form extracts from the agave plant contain strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but none of these beneficial elements are present in the agave that we see in the stores.

To make the agave nectar as we know it, sap is extracted from the pina, filtered, and heated at a low temperature, which breaks down the carbohydrates into sugars.

Even though agave nectar has been targeted as a healthy sugar alternative for people concerned about their blood sugar levels, agave nectar contains very high levels of fructose….and fructose, even though found in whole foods that are on my permanent shopping list, actually can have long-term effects on our health—including heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes.

Agave nectar is about 85% fructose, which is much higher than plain sugar.

Consuming too much fructose can also cause your body to become resistent to insulin, causing major increases in long-term blood sugar and insulin levels and strongly raising your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Agave actually contains more fructose than the supposed demon called high-fructose corn syrup that we all know that we should be avoiding

Agave is not healthier than honey, sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or any other type of sweetener. Agave syrup (nectar) is basically high-fructose corn syrup masquerading as a health food.

So my verdict on using agave nectar as a substitute for table sugar, based on what I have been reading, is a definite no….

 

Let’s all just shoot blue agave tequila instead!!!

Sw

  • highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener on the market
Let’s All Get Sassy and Go Watch Lassie While Drinking a Lassi — May 19, 2021

Let’s All Get Sassy and Go Watch Lassie While Drinking a Lassi

Lassi is a popular yogurt-based drink in India, Pakistan and Indian restaurants here in America. This simple blend of yogurt, water, spices, and perhaps fruit are similar to milkshakes, bit thinner and much more frothy.

Two of the most common varieties of lassi here in America are mango and strawberries. Making mango lassi is especially easy and especially satisfying.

Even though, we may see the word “lassi” and automatically read it as if were Lassie the Dog…(unless you’re younger than how many years old and have no clue what Lassie is)…the word is actually pronounced “luh-see,” as the beginning of the word “luscious.”

Although Indian lassi can come in a variety of flavors—sweet, salty, minty, spicy—we are on the topic of mango and fruit here lately, so I want to stick to making the perfect mango lassi.

The perfect mango (or strawberry) lassi has a perfectly dreamy consistency…is packed with good-for-you wholesome ingredients like fresh strawberries mango or strawberries and Greek yogurt.

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Benefits of Lassi

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As far as nutrition, lassi contains is rich in Vitamin D, lactic acid, powerful antioxidants, fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, potassium, and calcium…

Yet is low in sodium and fat…and contains fourteen grams of carbs and no added sugar.

As far as health benefits, lassi is amazing for your immune system…very beneficial to your digestive health because it helps support bacterial balance…great is maintaining the health of your bones…enhances the function of blood vessels and improve blood pressure.

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Ingredients

Mango lassi is made with just three ingredients—mango, some sort of dairy or dairy alternative, and sugar or a sugar substitute—and is ready in only ten minutes…and yogurt is the “star of the show,” even though you can make lassi using yogurt, cream, milk, or even ice cream.

The colder your ingredients are to start off with, the better your lassi will be.

The Yogurt…2C…The yogurt that you use could be your choice of plain, fresh, or homemade…(more on making yogurt at home later)…

Greek yogurt will give your lassi a heavenly creaminess of Greek yogurt and extra protein…as well as help the lassi to be more “filling.” If your lassi seems too thick, thin it down with some milk or water.

Feel free to add up to 1C milk or water, until you get the texture that you are going for.

The Mango…2-1/2C fresh mangoes or mango pulp

You can almost always find juicy, ripe mango at the grocery store or on Instacart, but you can also find it at your local Indian grocery store…(that is if you can even find a local Indian grocery store)…

As with anything else you make, your finished product will only be as good as the most basic ingredients. So use the best quality mangoes that you can find…mangos that are sweet, juicy, and non-fibrous…such as the Ataulfo, Kent, or Keitt variety.

You can also find canned mango pulp to use as a delicious substitute…and this can often be even sweeter and more decadent than fresh mango….or frozen mango cubes.

The Sweetener...Use whatever sweetener you choose if you want your lassi to taste even sweeter…such as 1Tbsp sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, or stevia.

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Instructions

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As with smoothies, you probably don’t even need a recipe per se in order to make this…just throw it all in the blender and let the blender do the work for you. Blend for about two minutes.

Adding ice to your blender will make your lassi more like a milkshake consistency and will be greatly appreciated in the hot Texas summer days that are quickly approaching.

Blend until your lassi has the same consistency as thick pancake batter.

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Variations

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A few more ideas for making lassi are…

  • Banana…Blend in one banana instead of the mango.
  • Mint…Add 1/2tsp dried mint.
  • Papaya…Substitute 1C papaya chunks.
  • Savory…Add 1/2tsp cumin.
  • Spicy…Add ginger, chili powder, cilantro, and lime or lemon juice.
  • Strawberry...Replace the mango with 2-1/2C fresh strawberries.
How to Find a Healthy Sugar Substitute — May 18, 2021

How to Find a Healthy Sugar Substitute

 

One of the best places to start swapping refined foods for more natural products is by swapping out refined sugars—such as white and brown sugars—and cutting back our sugar consumption to the ten  percent of our daily calories as suggested by the FDA’s daily recommended values.

Refined sugars can affect out health in many ways, including…

  • affecting pancreas and liver
  • causing allergies, both seasonal and food allergies
  • feeding fungus, bacteria, viruses, and other parasites that stress the whole body
  • radically lowering the body’s immune system

A new term that I have had to learn ever since my husband was diagnosed as having diabetes is “glycemic Index.” From what I have learned over the last few months since this diagnosis, the glycemic index shows how much glucose is released by a particular food over a two to three-hour period. The more quickly a food releases glucose  the higher that food is according to the glycemic index.

Foods that rank lower on the GI scale release glucose slower and more steadily, without causing a sudden spike of glucose in the blood, which in turn results is a large release of insulin, resulting in the excess glucose being stored as fat instead of causing us to have more energy….not to mention often resulting in a rapid drop in blood sugar and making us hungry.

So recently I have been trying to find the best natural sweeteners that I can use,  both for baking or cooking, as well as adding to my morning coffee.

I have been trying to find sugar that will be easier for to digest and process, and have the most health benefits….something to replace the “regular” sugar that I normally use…the sugar that  actually comes from genetically modified beets and GMO corn…which means they’re processed in and of themselves.

Some of the best natural and “healthier” sweeteners that I have found to be recommended include…

 

  • Acesulfame Potassium (Acesulfame-K or Ace-K)…
  • Agave
  • Apple Juice
  • Amazake
  • Aspartame
  • Barley Malt Syrup
  • Black Strap Molasses
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Coconut Palm Sugar
  • Date Sugar and Dried Dates
  • Equal
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Lactitol
  • Maltodextrin
  • Lactose
  • Maple Syrup
  • Maltose
  • Organic Sugar
  • Raw Sugar
  • Refined Table Sugar
  • Saccharin
  • Splenda
  • Stevia
  • Sucralose
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar Alcohols or Polyols—such as maltitol, maltitol syrup, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol
  • Sugar Cane Juice
  • Sweet N’ Low
  • Turbinado

Join me in this next set of posts about some of these sugar options, and which ones we should keep on our grocery list and which ones we should completely cross off…and then wait for my Muffins and Magnolias Master Grocery List in the Making…

It will be sweet…

 

Swapping Out Refined Sugars —

Swapping Out Refined Sugars

One of the best places to start swapping refined foods for more natural products is by swapping out refined sugars—such as white and brown sugars—and cutting back our sugar consumption to the ten  percent of our daily calories as suggested by the FDA’s daily recommended values.

Refined sugars can affect out health in many ways, including…

  • affecting pancreas and liver
  • causing allergies, both seasonal and food allergies
  • feeding fungus, bacteria, viruses, and other parasites that stress the whole body
  • radically lowering the body’s immune system

A new term that I have had to learn ever since my husband was diagnosed as having diabetes is “glycemic Index.” From what I have learned over the last few months since this diagnosis, the glycemic index shows how much glucose is released by a particular food over a two to three-hour period. The more quickly a food releases glucose  the higher that food is according to the glycemic index.

Foods that rank lower on the GI scale release glucose slower and more steadily, without causing a sudden spike of glucose in the blood, which in turn results is a large release of insulin, resulting in the excess glucose being stored as fat instead of causing us to have more energy….not to mention often resulting in a rapid drop in blood sugar and making us hungry.

So recently I have been trying to find the best natural sweeteners that I can use,  both for baking or cooking, as well as adding to my morning coffee.

I have been trying to find sugar that will be easier for to digest and process, and have the most health benefits….something to replace the “regular” sugar that I normally use…the sugar that  actually comes from genetically modified beets and GMO corn…which means they’re processed in and of themselves.

Some of the best natural and “healthier” sweeteners that I have found to be recommended include…

  • Acesulfame Potassium (Acesulfame-K or Ace-K)…
  • Agave
  • Apple Juice
  • Amazake
  • Aspartame
  • Barley Malt Syrup
  • Black Strap Molasses
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Coconut Palm Sugar
  • Date Sugar and Dried Dates
  • Equal
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Lactitol
  • Maltodextrin
  • Lactose
  • Maple Syrup
  • Maltose
  • Organic Sugar
  • Raw Sugar
  • Refined Table Sugar
  • Saccharin
  • Splenda
  • Stevia
  • Sucralose
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar Alcohols or Polyols—such as maltitol, maltitol syrup, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol
  • Sugar Cane Juice
  • Sweet N’ Low
  • Turbinado

Join me in this next set of posts about some of these sugar options, and which ones we should keep on our grocery list and which ones we should completely cross off…and then wait for my Muffins and Magnolias Master Grocery List in the Making…

It will be sweet…

Making the Perfect Iced Tea Even More Beau-tee-fuller… — May 16, 2021

Making the Perfect Iced Tea Even More Beau-tee-fuller…

Even though homemade iced tea is an essential part of summer…(and thank goodness summer will soon be here)…there are times when just plain tea is boring.

Times when you want something more…something more tasteful…something more satisfying…something more flavorful.

Here are some great ways to “kick it up a notch” and enjoy your perfect glass of iced tea ever more perfecter.

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Apricot…Add lemonade concentrate and apricot nectar to tea…Stir until it blends. Server over ice and enjoy

Blackberry…Purée 2# blackberries in blender or food processor. Strain through fine sieve. Discard pulp and seeds. Stir into the tea. Serve garnished with 1/4C crushed mint leaves and a couple of blackberries

Blueberry… Bring 1# fresh or frozen blueberries and 1/2C lemon juice to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, using the back of a spoon to squeeze out the juice. Stir 3/4C sugar and the blueberry mixture into the tea.

Cherry…Add limeade concentrate juice to the tea…Serve over ice with lime wedges and cherries.

Citrus…Boil your tea with one stick cinnamon and 6Tbsp honey or sugar. Remove the cinnamon stick once the tea has cooled down. Add lemon juice and sliced lemons and oranges.

Green Tea…Brew your tea using green tea teabags instead of black…duh?!

Jolly Rancher…Brew the tea along with four Jolly Ranchers, any flavor.

Lime...Add 1-1/2C sugar and the juice from six limes per four cups brewed tea. Use fresh mint or raspberries for extra flavor and a cute garnish

Orange...Place one sliced orange in the bottom of a pitcher. Add 1tsp vanilla and a dash of cinnamon. Pour the tea into the pitcher while still hot so the sugar dissolves and top off with water.

Peach…Add 11oz peach nectar.

Raspberry…Mash together 1# raspberries. 4C water, 3/4C sugar, 1tsp lemon juice, and 1tsp basil. Pour mixture into large saucepan. Cook for five minutes. Remove from heat. Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, using the back of a spoon to squeeze out the juice. Add mixture to your prepared tea.

Strawberry…Boil 4C fresh or frozen strawberries, 1-1/2C sugar or sweetener of choice, and 1-1/2C water. Lower the heat. Simmer 15min. Cool slightly. Pour syrup through a fine mesh sieve into a gallon pitcher. Pour the tea into the pitcher with the syrup. Stir.