Getting Healthy

Date-Sugar Sugar Cookies

Now that we know that date sugar is a healthy sweetener alternative for diabetics than standard granulated sugar…where do we find it?…how do we make it ourselves?…how do we use it in a recipe?

What are the benefits of using date sugar instead of regular granulated sugar?

  • Antioxidants…Dates contain the highest concentration of antioxidants of any dried fruits.
  • Caloric Content…Date sugar contains 288 calories per half-cup, as opposed to regular white refined sugar which has 387 calories per half-cup.
  • Energy Boost…Dates contain 29 grams of natural sugars—such as glucose, sucrose and fructose—and are one of the best snacks that you could eat to help you have more energy.
  • Intestinal Health…Dates helps increase the amount of “good” bacteria found is in the intestines and as a result help to keep you “regular” and prevent constipation.
  • Nutritional Value…Date sugar is loaded with vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, and selenium; where white sugar does not.
  • Potassium Content…Date sugar actually has more potassium per serving size than bananas do.
  • Weight Control…Date sugar is loaded with fiber, protein and carbs which make you feel full much longer. This can help to curb hunger and help prevent weight gain.

Where do we find it?

Commercial date sugar made from unsulfured, organically grown dates is typically hard to find in actual local grocery stores and even health food stores. Your best bet is to buy your date sugar online from such sources as Thrive Market, Bob’s Red Mill, and Amazon.

How do we make it ourselves?

The problem with date sugar, however, especially organic types, is that they can be very expensive.

But it is possible to save money by making your own date sugar.

Making your own date sugar is actually quite simple. Simply buy inexpensive fresh or dried dates in bulk…It is not even important that the dates that you choose to make your date sugar are  the richest, sweetest, moist varieties. Just any old date will do.

Pit and slice them, and dry them using a food dehydrator or a very low-temperature oven. Once your date slices are fully dry, pulverize them in a food processor.

How do we use it in a recipe?!

Commercial or homemade date sugar can be substituted measure for measure for both granulated white sugar and brown sugar…but many people claim that this makes their baked goods taste too sweet, and reduce the amount of date sugar to only 2/3C date sugar for every cup of sugar called for in the original recipe.

Date sugar is particularly good when baking nut or fruit breads that will also contain whole pieces or chunks of another type of fruit or nut….such as banana-nut bread or an apple-walnut bread.

Date Sugar and Liquids…Remember that date sugar does not dissolve when stirred into water or liquids. Many chefs try dissolving the date sugar in boiling water before adding to the batter. This might work if water is already an ingredient in the given recipe. I personally hate changing ratios and proportions, and leave all this to the people who actually passed college algebra the first time that they took it.

Otherwise, just be aware that date sugar may show up as distinct, sweet flecks in cake, pancake or waffle batters.

Storing Your Date Sugar

Date sugar, just like brown sugar, tends to clump together…because they both are naturally “hygroscopic”…new word of the day, simply meaning “able to readily absorbs and retains moisture.”

So be sure to store your date sugar in an airtight jar or other container…probably in your pantry with perfectly-alphabetically-lined Mason jars containing brown sugar, coconut sugar, and now date sugar…

If you want to store your date sugar in a shaker, place a saltine cracker or two in the container to absorb any moisture.

Date-Sugar Cookies

Date Filling:

  • 2C chopped dates
    1C sugar
    1C water
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 pound chopped walnuts or pecans

Combine chopped dates, sugar and water in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat to low. Simmer ten minutes. Add lemon juice and salt. Cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Dough

  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1C butter or margarine, softened
  • 3 1/2cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½tsp ground cloves
    1Tbsp baking soda
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Cream together vanilla, eggs, sugar, milk, and butter until light and fluffy.

Combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.

Add to creamed mixture.

Cover dough with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours for easier handling.

Roll out dough to 1/8″ thickness. Cut with floured 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter.

Cut out and remove 1″ round hole from center of half of the cookies. Return dough centers to remaining dough for rerolling.

Place the whole cookies on ungreased cookie sheets.

Spoon 1tsp cooled filling onto center of each whole cookie.

Top with dough ring. Press the edges of each filled cookie together with the tip of a fork to seal.

Bake for ten minutes. Let cool on pans two minutes. Remove from pans. Let cool completely.

Let cool. Dust with sifted confectioners’ sugar.

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Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Date Sugar—What?! Why?! How?!

The What?!

  • Another natural sugar substitute that’s popular among raw food enthusiasts.
  • Date sugar is simply made by dehydrating and finely grinding whole dates into a granular powder and requires no processing whatsoever.
  • Date sugar has a lightly sweet, caramel-like flavor and the consistency of brown sugar.

 

The Why?!

  • Even though dates contain tons of fructose by ratio to their weight…about six times more sugar and calories than most other fruits….for example, five small apples have the same amount of sugar as four dates….dates also contain many important nutrients—especially fiber and potassium.
  • As far as sugar substitutes, date sugar has the highest nutritional value.
  • Fiber…Fiber is important for slowing down the absorption of sugar to your liver and regulating insulin. Fiber also fills you up faster.
  • Potassium…Potassium is important for flushing out toxins and balancing electrolytes.

The How?!

  • Date sugar is not a good substitute for sweetening beverages because it remains grainy and does not dissolve well just placed in hot liquids, such as coffee or tea.
  • Even though date sugar doesn’t dissolve in hot liquids or baked goods, date sugar can still be a great one-to-one replacement for granulated or brown sugar in baking recipes.
  • Dates can be used as a binder for cookies and bars, turned into caramel, and also used as a sweetener for smoothies and salad dressings as long as the ingredients are blended well.
  • Date Syrup…You can also turn raw dates into a date syrup by boiling the dates and reducing the liquid until it’s the consistency of honey. This is actually a much better option than using date sugar when baking.
  • When using date syrup to replace granulated sugar in a baking recipe, be sure to use less date syrup than the amount of granulated sugar that the recipe calls for—about 2/3 cup date syrup for every one cup of sugar called for in the original recipe…as well as making sure than you reduce the amount of liquids called for in the original recipe.
  • Because dates have a low glycemic index, dates are actually a great sugar substitute for diabetics and for prediabetics who hope to keep their blood sugar in check….so, yes, adding this to my upcoming grocery list.
Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Blackstrap Molasses—The How?!

  1. So these last few posts have been about blackstrap molasses—what blackstrap molasses are and why we need to consider adding blackstrap molasses to our family grocery lists.

    But I thought it would be more fun to start talking about a few ways to use these blackstrap molasses once we do purchase them.

    One way to use blackstrap molasses is by making baked beans.

    Being from the Deep South, I grew up eating lots and lots of baked beans, with lots and lots of bacon and onion added to the beans…still one of my favorite foods and a welcome addition to any picnic or barbecue.

2C dried navy or white beans…(could also use canned equivalent)

1/2 lb sliced bacon

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, pressed

1/4 cup Golden Barrel Light Brown Sugar

1/4 cup Golden Barrel Blackstap Molasses

1/2 cup ketchup

2 TBSP apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)

4 cans (15-16 oz each) pork and beans, undrained

2 cans (15.5 oz each) dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. dried mustard
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

 

Preparing Dried Beans…Soak 2 cups of dried navy or white beans in water overnight.The next day, drain the beans, put them in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes (or until the skins break when you blow on them). Drain the beans and put them in a large ovenproof pot or bean crock.

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon to paper towels. Reserve 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet. Cut cooked bacon into bite-sized pieces; set aside.
Sautee onion in drippings over medium heat 3-4 minutes or until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.
Press garlic into skillet, cook and stir 1 minute.

Add salt, dry mustard, pepper, brown sugar, molasses, vinegar, bacon, ketchup, and

beans to skillet.

 

Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbly.

Add the beans, cooked onions, bacon, and 2C water.

Bring mixture to a boil; remove skillet from heat.

Add 2 cups water to cover beans and stir to combine.

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Black Strap Molasses—The Why?!

Since I started this journey toward creating a healthier lifestyle for my family, I have begun actually looking at nutrition labels before chunking anything and everything into my grocery cart, especially processed foods. My goal has been to create a Master Grocery List based on what I have learned as I go along.

Just like I did in a previous post on why we should all be eating avocado, this post will highlight the nutritional benefits of blackstrap molasses in a way that corresponds to these labels.

For years blackstrap molasses has appeared on almost every list of superfoods and been sold on health food store shelves for its many health benefits—including relieving PMS symptoms, stabilizing blood sugar levels, improving bone health, treating symptoms of ADHD,  preventing blood clotting, relieving menstrual cramps, maintaining the health of uterine muscles, combatting stress and anxiety, boosting skin health, promoting the growth of healthy tissues, serving as a natural wound healer, and helping you maintain clear and healthy skin.

So let’s take a quick run-through of the nutritional benefits of blackstrap molasses based on the elements that make up the nutrition label before we all place blackstrap molasses on our Instacart grocery lists.

 

1. The Serving Size…Obviously blackstrap molasses is actually an ingredient or condiment, not an actual food in and of itself…so you can’t really say what a typical serving should be…but the following statistics are based on 100 grams, or about 1/2C.

 

2.  Calories…One hundred grams of blackstrap molasses contains 290 calories, making it a food with an “average” or moderate caloric content.

 

 

3. Basic Nutrients…Now as for those specific nutrients contained in blackstrap molasses—such as carbohydrates, fat, protein, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar—that all of us typically eat in adequate amounts….blackstrap molasses provides the following percentages of these recommended nutrients to your daily diet…

 

 

a.  Fats…Blackstrap molasses contains zero fat.

 

b. Protein…Unless a food item makes a claim regarding its protein content—such as being “high in protein” or is marketed specifically for infants and children under four years old, this nutrient is often now shown. This is not a big deal because studies show that most of us actually do get enough protein in our diets already…zero protein

 

c. Fiber…Blackstrap molasses contains no fiber.

 

4.  Vitamins and Minerals…Blackstrap molasses has been sold as a dietary supplement for years and finds its way on almost every “official” list of superfoods…because one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses provides up to  20% of the recommended daily value of many important nutrients—including iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B, and manganese.

 

a.  Iron…Blackstrap molasses contains 95% DV of iron per 1/4C. Not having enough iron in your red blood cells can make you feel tired, weak, crabby, lethargic, unmotivated, depressed, and anxious…definitely not something you want to be when you’re fifty years old chasing a “resident four year old.”

 

b.  Calcium…Blackstrap molasses contains a large amount of calcium, which is vital for maintaining strong and healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis.

 

c.  Copper...Copper is important for strengthening  your bones and blood vessels, keeping your nerves healthy, and boosting your immune system.

 

d. Magnesium…1/4C blackstrap molasses contains approximately 68% DV of magnesium. Adequate levels of magnesium are also crucial in preventing diseases like osteoporosis and asthma along with others that can affect your blood and heart

 

e.  PotassiumTwo teaspoons of blackstrap molasses contains 10% DV of potassium. Potassium important for strengthening bone density, helping your blood vessels and arteries to relax, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, cleansing your liver, keeping the body hydrated, and reducing your risk of circulatory problems—such as blood clotting, heart attacks, hypertension, high blood pressure, strokes.

 

f.  Vitamin B6…1/4C of blackstrap molasses provides 34% DV of Vitamin B6. This is important for helping to fight and avoid many health conditions—including morning sickness, depression, fatigue, stress,

 

g.  Chromium…Blackstrap molasses also contains a high level of chromium—an essential nutrient involved in controlling insulin, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels.

 

Finally blackstrap molasses proves to be a great source of organic compounds—such as antioxidants, lactic acid, carotenoids, and flavonoids.

a. Antioxidants…Blackstrap molasses contains many antioxidants, substances that help neutralize the effects of free radicals that have been linked to various health conditions—including cancer, cardiovascular disease, vision problems, premature aging, and cognitive disorders.

b.  Anti-inflammatory…The anti-inflammatory properties in blackstrap molasses are important for relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

 

 

So does blackstrap molasses earn a spot in my grocery shopping app, or not?!

Definitely…Blackstrap molasses is definitely a more nutritious alternative to refined sugar.

Blackstrap molasses has a low glycemic index, which is very important for people with diabetes. Blackstrap molasses helps stabilize blood sugar levels, increases glucose tolerance, balance blood glucose levels, and give us stable energy.

Blackstrap molasses has also been proven to help treat the symptoms of ADD/ADHD…which is very important when you have a “resident four year old” to take care of.

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Barley Malt Syrup

Barley Malt Syrup—The What?!

Barley malt syrup is an all-natural dark brown, thick and sticky liquid sweetening product that is only half as sweet as sugar and with its own strong distinctive flavor. The consistency of barley malt syrup is similar to molasses and golden syrup.

Barley malt syrup is made by drying and then cooking sprouted barley malt, and then filtering and reducing down the liquid that has developed until it reaches the desiered consistency.

Barley malt syrup is not refined in any way. Nor does barley malt syrup contain any chemicals. The enzymes that turn the carbohydrates in the barley into sugar are found already in the grain, instead of having to be added.

Any store specializing in wine or beer making is likely to sell barley malt syrup, but be careful to make sure that you only get the true barley malt syrup, not high fructose corn syrup with flavoring added.

Barley Malt Syrup—The Why?!

Even though barley malt syrup contains almost no fructose or sucrose, it contains about sixty percent maltose. Maltose, also known as malt sugar, is much less sweet than sucrose, so it will take more barley malt syrup to make a food taste as sweet.

One tablespoon of barley malt syrup contains sixty calories, sixteen grams of carbohydrates, eight grams of sugars, one gram of protein, and sixty-five milligrams of potassium…at the same time, barley malt syrup contains none of the following—fat, sodium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium or iron.

Barley malt syrup does contain some minerals and vitamins, but is not a good source of minerals and vitamins in general, as compared to some of the other sugar substitutes available.

Barley malt syrup is also a good source of soluble fiber, and does have a glycemic index of about forty, which is lower than table sugar.

Barley Malt Syrup—The How?!

Barley malt syrup has a nice flavor and goes well in certain recipes—such as barbecue sauces, raw desserts, baked beans, and cakes. As far as “home remedies” are concerned, barley malt syrup is useful in treating irritable bowel syndrome…(very important at our house for my spouse).

Barley malt syrup is sometimes used as an ingredient in home brewing wine or beer. Barley malt syrup is also a common substitute for molasses or honey on bread or pancakes.

Speaking of bread and beer, later in the post there is a whole-grain bread recipe that I found that involves using barley malt syrup in combination with beer—combinations of sweeteners being used along with barley malt syrup being quite common is baking, by the way.

Barley Malt Syrup—Grocery IQ Master List or Not?!

As far as my choosing barley malt syrup as the new healthy alternative sweetener in our house, I don’t think that this is a good idea.

My husband is a type 2 diabetic, and barley malt syrup is not the ideal sweetener for helping to control your blood sugar because of its high maltose content. The health risks associated with a high consumption of barley malt syrup clearly outweigh its potential health benefits.

Also because barley malt syrup is less sweet than table sugar, we would have to use more of it, which affects not only blood sugar levels, but our food budget perhaps.

Finally, note that barley malt syrup also contains gluten, making it unsuitable for those following a strict gluten-free diet.

Malted Guinness Beer Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup malted wheat flakes
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 ounces Guinness Stout, at room temperature
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup

Topping:

2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon malted wheat flakes

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease an 8″ x 4″ loaf pan.

Place all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly pour in the Guinness and add the barley malt syrup. Use a wooden spoon to stir until no dry patches remain.

Scoop the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Pour the melted butter over the top, then scatter the malted wheat flakes over it.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the crust is browned and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes; turn the loaf out of the pan and finish cooling.