Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Essential Essential Oil Essentials

Way back in March, I had decided to choose one essential oil per month and discover just exactly what this particular oil is, what it’s used for, and so forth.

Well, this hasn’t happened…

So my goal in these next few posts is to catch up on these oils so that I can hopefully stick with my original goal of highlighting one essential oil per month.

Having written this blog for a short while, it seems like the “Muffins and Magnolias” mission has become…

—to begin living a healthier lifestyle and develop new habits that will simplify and improve your quality of life every single day.

I really believe that this is important, and that everyone—or at least almost everyone—wants to accomplish and learn about how to do this.

I also believe that developing the habit of using the right essential oils for the right purpose can be an important part of achieving this goal.

We began our venture into the world of essential oils with a list of the best essential oils for helping to cure insomnia. These essential oils are…

  1. Bergamot
  2. Cedarwood
  3. Frankincense
  4. Juniper Berry
  5. Lavender
  6. Marjoram
  7. Roman Chamomile
  8. Sandalwood
  9. Vetiver
  10. Ylang Ylang

This last series of posts about sugar substitutes and processed foods is starting to become to academic and serious…I need to take a short break from this topic myself, especially today while I will be preparing desserts for our 4th of July cookout tomorrow, right?!

So join me as we catch up on these essential oils that should have been included in posts from the last four months–cedarwood, frankincense, juniper berry, and lavender…and don’t feel guilty about eating that entire gallon of Blue Bell all by self tomorrow…I won’t…

 

Advertisements
Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Acacia Honey—The What?! Why?! Which?! and How?!—July 2018 Honey of the Month

Acacia honey is one of the most popular honey varieties. It is widely considered one of the best kinds of honey in the world, provided it is authentic….and is.highly sought after around the world.

Acacia honey is made from the nectar of Robinia pseudoacacia, what we here in America know as the black locust tree, or “false” Acacia…

This tree is not only native to North America, but is also found in Europe—from Northern Italy to the Ukraine, especially in Hungary—where the tree is known as the acacia, even though the honey does not actually come from true acacias.

As far as color, acacia honey is a very pale, light golden colored—much like liquid glass. Acacia honey is often jarred with the actual honeycomb visible in the jar beause the honey does have such clarity and a pale color.

As far as taste. acacia honey is one of the lightest tasting honeys in the world, having a clean, light and mildly sweet, floral taste with delicate vanilla tones and no aftertaste..

Why?!

Adding acacia honey to your diet can provide many health benefits, including…

  1. Dealing with diabetes…Acacia honey has a very low sucrose content and a high fructose level, making it the best choice for diabetics. In addition to being a good choice for diabetics, acacia honey is known for its therapeutic qualities, including…
  2. Helping boost the health of your skin…The rich supply of minerals found in every type of honey, including iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, and copper, as well as vitamin C and other antioxidants, can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, soothe inflammation, and decrease the appearance of scars, blemishes, and burns when topically applied
  3. Helping you lose weight more quickly...Honey mixed with water or milk can help satisfy your sweet tooth and make you feel full. This will possibly keep you from munching out while vegging out in front of the TV and stimulate your metabolism.
  4. Lowering your blood sugar…Although most people worry about their blood sugar being too high, acacia honey can help lower the blood sugar. Also, hypoglycemia is a dangerous condition, and eating acacia honey can deliver a concentrated burst of carbohydrates to your system that will balance your blood sugar levels
  5. Helping you deal with allergies…Acacia honey, like almost all other honeys, is great for helping you deal with allergies and other respiratory problems because of the antibacterial properties, rich nutrients, and antioxidants that it contains.
  6. Preventing chronic diseases…Acacia honey contains antioxidants that are able to seek out free radicals throughout the body and reduce the negative impacts of oxidative stress…in turn, lowering cellular mutation and reducing your risk of chronic diseases—such as cancer, arthritis and heart disease.
  7. Supporting your immune system…Acacia honey naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, a powerful antibacterial agent that can help prevent infections throughout the body and relieve strain on your immune system.

Which?!

When buying acacia honey, or any other honey, make sure that you are buying a honey that is pure, organic, authentic, raw, unprocessed, unheated and unadulterated from a responsible source with a reputation for producing “clean” honey that hasn’t been processed, heated or pasteurized in any way.

There are many processed products claiming to be acacia honey. Avoid these. After all, our goal in this “What Now?!” segment of Muffins and Magnolias blog has been to start eliminating processed foods from our diets and replace these foods with healthier alternatives.

Obviously, the best place to buy your acacia honey is directly from a beekeeper, who sources the honey directly from the beehive.

But you can also find sources of acacia honey from sites such as Organic Acacia Honey.comOlive Nation, and Savannah Bee.

How?!

Acacia honey is an excellent choice for cooking because of its mild flavor and the fact that it mixes easily in liquids and batters. Other ideas for using acacia in your kitchen include…

1. Berries…Acacia honey is a fantastic topping and the perfect complement to the natural taste of any berry—such as blueberries, blackberries and strawberries…

2. Beverages…Acacia honey is a good choice for mixing with beverages—such as tea—because it sweetens your beverage, without actually changing the taste of the drink

3. Bread…Acacia honey and creamy butter makes an excellent topping for toast.

4. Cheese…Acacia honey is great when served with hard cheeses such as Grana Padano, an Italian cheese made from unpasteurised, semi-skimmed cow’s milk that has been aged for about two years.

The word “grana” means “grainy” in Italian.

This cheese is a “grana” cheese—a fragrant, dry, crumbling cheese with a firm, thick and deeply straw-coloured rind and intensely sweet flavor…very similar to Parmigiano Reggiano, but much less expensive because more areas actually produce this type of cheese. Grana Padano is also less crumbly, milder and less complex than Parmigiano Reggiano.

5. Wine…The best wines to pair with acacia honey are

  • Barolo…such as this Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia 2013 Nebbiolo
  • Zinfandel…such as this Rombauer California Zinfandel 2016
  • Gavi…such as this Principessa Gavia Gavin 2016

6. Yogurt…Finally, acacia honey is great paired with Greek yogurt…in recipes such as the following Kiwi Smoothie.

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Monofloral Honey—The Which?!

 

IMG_4920

Oh my goodness!!! Before I started reading up on honey, I had no clue that there are SO, SO, SO many varieties…I thought honey was just something you picked up in a bear-shaped container found on the very top shelf at Walmart.

By the way, that top shelf at Walmart can be a very scary place for short people like me. One day I was on my tiptoes reaching up to get a can of canned salmon. That can fell on its edge into the top of my head. I got a concussion.

Anyway, back to the varieties of monofloral honey…

 

Monofloral honey, unlike multifloral or wildflower honey, must contain the nectar of one single predominant plant.

In theory, this sounds so easy…but in real life, this can be difficult to achieve because bees cannot be herded like cattle or trained like circus animals to go to a particular type of plant.

Producing relatively pure monofloral honey requires two things to happen—(1)the predominance of the target plant within a given radius from the hive…and (2)the timing of the introduction of the fresh hives when the target plants start producing nectar and the actual removal of the hives and extraction of the honey before any other plants within the area start blooming also.

Monofloral honey comes in hundreds, perhaps thousands of different varieties, each unique according the the specific flower that the nectar has been gathered from. Each variety of monofloral honey having its own unique characteristic flavor, texture, and aroma.

Anyway, I had originally planned on doing a quick synopsis of each type of honey and describing its unique flavor, texture, and aroma…a few recipes that can this particular type of honey can be used for…and a few of the best places to find this particular type of honey.

After discovering that at least 111 different varieties of monofloral honey exist, I’ve decided that this would be quite overwhelming, not to mention boring…

So instead—just like my posts on essential oils—I have decided to choose one particular honey each month to highlight.

The honey of the month for July is…

Acacia Honey

Join me on this journey…accomplished by a single step, or in this case, a single jar of honey.

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Honey—The Why?!

Now for the most important question about monofloral honey—or at least to me and my family at this time as we rethink our diet and learn more about nutrition…

Do we add/keep monofloral honey on our Grocery IQ app or not?!

Just like I did in previous posts on why we should all be eating avocadoes and blackstrap molasses, let’s look at the nutritional benefits of honey in a way that corresponds to the nutrition labels.

  1. Serving Size…Honestly how much honey you eat at one time is totally up to you—how sticky do you want your toast to be—how sweet do you want your hot tea to be…but for our purpose, we’re gonna look at the nutritional value of 1Tbsp.
  2. Calories…Each tablespoon of honey contains about sixty-five calories.
  3. Basic Nutrients…Now as for those specific nutrients contained in monofloral honey—such as carbohydrates, fat, protein, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar—that all of us typically eat in adequate amounts….honey contains little fat (zero grams), dietary fiber (.2grams), or protein(.3grams).
  4. Vitamins and Minerals…Monofloral honey actually contains very few vitamins and minerals, but let’s take a look at how much honey does contain…
    • Folate (B9)…1%…2 μg
    • Iron…3%…0.42 mg
    • Calcium…1%…6 mg
    • Magnesium…1%…2 mg
    • Niacin (B3)…1%… 0.121 mg
    • Pantothenic acid (B5)…1%…0.068 mg
    • Phosphorus…1%…4 mg
    • Potassium…1%…52 mg
    • Riboflavin (B2)…3%…0.038 mg
    • Sodium…0%…4 mg
    • Vitamin B6…2%…0.024 mg
    • Vitamin C…1%…0.5 mg
    • Zinc…2%…0.22 mg

There are benefits of honey in general—such as being a natural antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and antibiotic—but monofloral honey not only provide these benefits, but also many other benefits and unique properties that make them even more beneficial.

These benefits are related to the following conditions…

    1. Acid reflux…Monofloral honey can help reverse acid reflux damage.
    2. Infection…Monofloral honey often contain strong antibacterial elements—such as hydrogen peroxide and antioxidants.
    3. Cancer…Monofloral honey controls the side effects of radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
    4. Digestive conditions…Monofloral honeys are good for stomach health. They  have prebiotic benefits that help to improves digestive health, such as helping to soothe an upset stomach or constipation. These honeys can also encourage the stomach to regenerate itself, helping heal gastritis naturally.
    5. Fatigue…Monofloral honeys can give you more energy and help you combats fatigue and hypoglycemia.
    6. Immunity…Monofloral honeys, especially those produced from local sources, make your immune system more effective.
    7. Respiratory conditions…Monofloral honey helps you recover from respiratory infections more quickly, as well as helping you deal with seasonal allergies due to pollen.
    8. Skin conditions…Monofloral honeys are good for all skin types. They help prevent acne by reducing bacteria and the excess sebum that these bacteria feed on and by calming skin irritation. As far as dry skin, monofloral honey nourishes, hydrates, and restores radiance.
    9. Sleep…Monofloral honeys can help you fall asleep faster.
    10. Sore throat…Monofloral honey is good for sore throat and cough, common cold and tonsillitis.
Getting Healthy

Honey—The What?!

Honey is so familiar to almost all of us as Americans, that there’s really no reason to go into a in-depth explanation of what honey actually is…most of us already know that honey is primarily produced by bees gathering nectar from nearby flowers and storing it in wax structures called honeycombs.

And the 20,000 to 40,000 female worker bees and seasonally variable number of male drone bees available to “fertilize” new queens all work together with one goal in mind—to keep the one and only single female queen bee happy.

Kinda like the bride preparing for a wedding…right, Bridezilla?!

 

 

But a few interesting facts about honey that I recently learned include…

  • It typically requires drinking the nectar of over a thousand flowers over a timespan of more than an hour to gather the average of 3Tbsp that the bee gathers before returning to the hive.
  • The amount of nectar that he gathers is about half of the bee’s initial weight.
  • Once the forager bees return to the hive, they transfer nectar to the hive bees by regurgitating it. Then the hive bees “share” this nectar between themselves in a process that typically takes as long as twenty minutes.
  • There is a specific bird called a “honeyguide bird” that leads beekeepers to wild bee nests.
  • Beekeepers use the smoke that you typically imagine them using mainly to pacify the bees and make them think that there is an actual fire that requires them to attempt to save the hive and obscures the pheromones the bees use to communicate.

 

But even more interesting to me is the myriad of honey found on the market and knowing which one(s) to actually buy.

High-quality honey varies and can be distinguished by a number of factors—including absence of defects, clarity, color, natural sugar and microorganism content, water content, flavor, aroma, pH, additives used, strain of yeast used to process the honey, and consistency.

 

1. Quality...First of all there are differences in the quality of the honey available.

Although the USDA does actually require inspection and grading in actual honey manufacturing places to ensure that honey meets specific USDA standards. a grading system is accepted by these manufacturers to help consumers know the quality of the honey that they are purchasing.

The American scale for grading honey is basically as follows…

  • Good—”has a good, normal flavor and aroma for the predominant floral source or, when blended, a good flavor for the blend of floral sources and the honey is free from caramelized flavor or objectionable flavor caused by fermentation, smoke, chemicals, or other causes with the exception of the predominant floral source”
  • Practically free—”contains practically no defects that affect the appearance or edibility of the product”…Clear—”may contain air bubbles which do not materially affect the appearance of the product and may contain a trace of pollen grains or other finely divided particles of suspended material which do not affect the appearance of the product”…B…≥ 81.4%…
  • Reasonably good—”has a reasonably good, normal flavor and aroma for the predominant floral source or, when blended, a reasonably good flavor for the blend of floral sources and the honey is practically free from caramelized flavor and is free from objectionable flavor caused by fermentation, smoke, chemicals, or other causes with the exception of the predominant floral source”…
  • Reasonably free—”may contain defects which do not materially affect the appearance or edibility of the product”
  • Reasonably clear—”may contain air bubbles, pollen grains, or other finely divided particles of suspended material which do not materially affect the appearance of the product”…C…≥ 80.0%…
  • Fairly good—”has a fairly good, normal flavor and aroma for the predominant floral source or, when blended, a fairly good flavor for the blend of floral sources and the honey is reasonably free from caramelized flavor and is free from objectionable flavor caused by fermentation, smoke, chemicals, or other causes with the exception of the predominant floral source”…
  • Fairly free—”may contain defects which do not seriously affect the appearance or edibility of the product”…
  • Fairly clear—”may contain air bubbles, pollen grains, or other finely divided particles of suspended material which do not seriously affect the appearance of the product”
  • Substandard…Fails Grade C

 

2. Color…Next there are differences in the colors of various honey. The USDA has established a Pfund scale which set standards for grading honey based on its color and optical density…such as 0 for “water white” honey to more than 114 for “dark amber” honey.

 

3. Form…Next there are other forms of honey available, other than the typically expected liquid form of honey, based on how the honey has been processed. These include…

  • Chunk honey…widemouth containers consisting of one or more pieces of comb honey immersed in extracted liquid
  • Comb honey…honey that is still in the honeybees’ wax comb by cutting out chunks of honey from the wooded frames used in beekeeping.
  • Creamed honey, (also called whipped honey, spun honey, churned honey, honey fondant, and set honey)…honey that has been processed to control crystallization. Creamed honey contains a large number of small crystals, which prevent the formation of larger crystals that can occur in unprocessed honey and produces a honey with a smooth, spreadable consistency.
  • Crystallized honey, also called granulated honey or candied honey…honey that has had some of the glucose crystallized
  • Dried honey…honey that has had the moisture extracted from liquid honey to create completely solid, nonsticky granules….typically used in baked goods and for garnishing desserts.
  • Filtered honey…honey that has been filtered so that all or most of the fine particles, pollen grains, air bubbles, or other materials normally found in suspension, have been removed. Thi process typically involves heating the honey to 150–170 °F. Filtered honey is very clear and will not crystallize as quickly, making it preferred by the supermarket trade.
  • Pasteurized honey…honey that has been heated in a pasteurization process which requires temperatures of 161 °F or higher in order to destroy any yeast cells and liquefy any microcrystals.
  • Raw honey…honey that still remains as it was when first collected—without any other processing involved…Raw honey contains some pollen and may contain small particles of wax
  • Strained honey…honey that has been passed through a mesh material to remove particulate material—including pieces of wax, propolis, and other defects—without removing pollen, minerals, or enzymes
  • Ultrasonicated honey…honey that has been processed by ultrasonication, a nonthermal processing alternative that destroys most of the yeast cells originally found in the honey, reduces the rate of honey fermentation substantially, eliminates existing crystals, and inhibits further crystallization.

 

4. Source…But the main difference between the different types of honey available is the major plant source of nectar that the bees have used to make the honey.

Basically there are two types of honey based on source—

  • Polyfloral honey, also known as wildflower honey, is derived from the nectar of many types of flowers. The taste, aroma, and flavor may vary from year to year, depending on which flowers are most available for the bees to gather nectar from.
  • Monofloral honey, on the other hand, is made primarily from the nectar of one specific type of flower. These different honeys each have its own different, distinctive flavor and color because of differences between their principal nectar sources.

In the next post, we will look at the different monofloral honeys available and the uses and qualities of each…

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.

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.