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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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.

 

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

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…

 

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Sugar Ain’t So Sweet After All

Another problem with processed foods in that the main ingredient in most of this processed food is a whole lot of sugar. The typical American today consumes seven tablespoons of sugar a day in processed foods, more than half as much as thirty years ago.

Grocery store shelves are crammed with all sorts of foods that contain way too much sugar. Yeah, these foods—such as sugary snacks, refined grains, pizza, canned soup, fruit drinks, canned foods, and sweetened yogurt—might taste better than healthier choices…(no, not might taste better…most actually do).

But are the possible health risks of eating too much sugar really worth that moment of decadence.

For years, nutritional guidelines have focused on saturated fats and cholesterol, but perhaps this has been one huge mistake.

We have found that in order to meet consumer expectations as far as fat content, food companies have added more and more sugar in order to make their foods still taste good. Some of these foods get about 25 percent of their calories from added sugars.

In fact, at least forty percent of the money—more than $1 trillion annually—that we as Americans spend on  healthcare each year are spent treating diseases that are directly related to the overconsumption of sugar. The sugar epidemic in the United States has gotten to the point that the FDA has set an “official” recommendation that we should all be limiting our daily sugar intake to a no more than ten percent of our daily calories.

There are actually many health risks associated with eating too much added sugar. These include…

  • Cancer….Sugar is responsible for an estimated 500,000 cancer cases worldwide each year.
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Liver Disease
  • Obesity

And remember, just because the ingredient list on any food item that you might be looking at doesn’t actually contain the word “sugar,” there may be tons of sugar in that product anyway.

Food manufacturers like to avoid the taboo word “sugar” by listing ingredients such as…

  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated Cane Sugar
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Lactose
  • Sucrose