Wrestling with my sugar demon


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One of the pitfalls of writing a food blog is weight gain.  In the past year, I have tried a couple of times to kick the sugar habit, without any lasting success.

After my husband was diagnosed with heart disease last year, we went on a health kick. We lasted a pretty long time, but I began to slip back into my habit of baking desserts and eating cookies.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was not good for me, so several months back, I decided to try to go back to eating more fruit.    I only lasted about a week before I caved.

As I have gotten to be a better cook and baker in the past two years, I have posted more and more dessert recipes on this blog.  Sugar is my demon.  I fully admit it.

We really don’t know how much sugar we are eating.  Processed foods are full of it; even those foods that don’t need to have added sugar, like bread, are loaded with it.  This is how we are kept addicted.  And then there is the controversial high fructose corn syrup. Experts differ on their opinion on HFCS, but most agree that it is not good for you at all. Sugar is sugar.  And it is poisoning us.

There are 200 grams in one cup of sugar.  The daily recommendation from the American Heart Association is 25 grams or six teaspoons for women, 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons for men.  Just for perspective, one 12 oz. can of coke contains 39 grams, well over the daily recommendation.  As you can see, it’s really easy to go over your limit very quickly.

When I bake, I usually use a 9×9 or 8×8 baking pan and cut my cakes into nine pieces. Those pieces are not always the same size.  So if I use a cup of sugar in the recipe, which is 200 grams, each piece contains about 22 grams, give or take, depending on the size of the piece.  I usually eat at least one piece of cake a day, sometimes two.   That puts me way over my daily limit, without eating anything else.

Once I started looking at sugar content of certain foods, it really surprised me to find out that my favorite frozen fruit bar contains more sugar (15 grams) than 8 gluten free cookies (10 grams).   Just because something is made with fruit, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

Speaking of fruit, eating fresh or frozen fruit is actually fine.  Because the fruit contains fiber, it offsets the natural sugar.  But can you eat too much fruit?  There are some signs that you are eating too much fruit.   If you have IBS, like I do, too much fructose can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea.   Eating too much fruit can cause blood sugar spikes as well.  It’s generally recommended to eat 2 1/2 cup portions of fruit a day.

Eating too much fruit can trigger the hunger hormone, ghrelin.  Eating that fruit with protein and fat will offset that.   Eat that apple with some peanut butter, those blueberries with some full-fat dairy free Greek yogurt (but watch out, yogurt can have high sugar content), and that peach with a handful of almonds (if you don’t have a nut allergy). The fat and protein from those additions will help dampen the effects of fructose.

All of this brings me back to that sugar demon.  Can it defeat him?  I don’t know for sure, but I am damn well going to try.

Some eggcellent facts about eggs


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Eggs are the perfect food.  They are full of protein, vitamins and minerals.  They are easy to make in a thousand different ways.  But eggs get a bad rap.  I am here to set you straight on some egg myths, courtesy of Eat this, not that!

I want to say here that if you can find a local farm that pasture raises their chickens, seek it out and get your eggs from them exclusively.  I realize this is not always an option.  But I can tell you from experience, once you taste the difference, you will never go back. Pasture raised eggs are lower in cholesterol saturated fat and contain higher levels of vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamins B9, C, and D.

Cage-free eggs may not be from cage-free hens

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Many consumers assume the “cage-free” label on egg cartons means the chickens laying these eggs have the ability to roam around a field. Unfortunately, that’s far from the truth. “Cage Free” only means hens are required to have a minimum of 120 square inches per bird, which is not even double the area of conventional battery cages. Hens often still exclusively live indoors, either in large barns known as aviaries or crammed into bigger “enriched” cages that allow for some natural habits.  

“Free-range” hens also often never step outside.  They are often provided a “small door” with limited access to the outside, and that door is often not large enough to accommodate a large flock.

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How to substitute sugar and oil in gluten free recipes


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Lately, I have been trying to kick my sugar addiction without much success.  A few months ago, I wrote about only baking once a month.  That failed utterly.   I have no control at all.

I know it’s bad for me, but I can’t seem to stay away from it. Having IBS means I can’t use any sugar substitutes.  But there are ways to cut back on the sugar and oil content in gluten-free baked goods.  You can read more about other substitutions here.

I DO NOT guarantee your outcome with any of these methods.  I do substitute butter with either grapeseed oil or Smart Balance, or Earth Balance buttery sticks in baking and cooking with no problems.

I also use coconut milk (not cream) in all of my baking and cooking with good results.  I have used applesauce in baking, as an oil substitute, not for sugar.  I have not used avocado.  I have used bananas but not as a substitute.

I am sharing these swaps for informational purposes.

I would love for you all to share your substitutions with all of us!

Unsweetened Applesauce

APPLESAUCE FOR SUGAR

You can substitute unsweetened applesauce for sugar in a 1:1 ratio in recipes, but you must reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe. Typically, reducing the liquid (milk, water, etc) by 1/4 cup will do the trick. If there is no added liquid, no need to adjust.

APPLESAUCE FOR OIL

Unsweetened applesauce can be used to replace part or all of the non-dairy butter or oil in a recipe. It can be swapped in equal quantities, so if a recipe calls for 2 cups of oil, you could replace as much of it as you’d like with applesauce, from a small amount such as 1/4 cup to the entire amount. Using all applesauce in a cake or bread will give it a lot of moisture, but also a lot of density, so consider this when choosing how much of the oil to replace in your recipe.

Avocado

Avocado for butter

You can swap equal amounts of mashed avocado for softened butter in baking recipes, and can even be used to make buttercream. Avocado will impart a flavor; it will be sweet, since adding avocado to a sweet recipe will bring out its natural sweetness, but do consider what flavors you’ll pair it with. Chocolate works beautifully with the natural sweetness of avocado.

This would be great if you are dairy free, but beware, your buttercream will be green!

Ripe Bananas

Bananas for butter

Mashed bananas replace oil measure for measure in your muffin recipe. Use overripe bananas, which are quite soft and have a high moisture content. Peel the bananas, place them in a large bowl and mash thoroughly with a potato masher or fork. Make the mixture as smooth as possible, unless you want chunks of banana noticeable in the cooked muffins.

Read more about how to use bananas for oil here.  Applesauce would be a better choice here.

Prune Puree

Prune puree for butter

Like applesauce, prune purée can be substituted in equal parts for butter in a recipe. Replace part or all of the butter in a recipe with the prunes. For an easy shortcut…buy the pre-pureed stuff in baby food form!

Sugar Reduction

Reducing the amount of sugar in a recipe

In general, you can cut down 1/4 cup of sugar in just about any cake or cookie recipes without huge consequences. I have found this to be true in my experience; so you can take that tip or leave it!

Another variation is to cut down on the sugar by 2 tablespoons per every cup of sugar and to add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.

I have tried the 2 tablespoons reduction and I did not notice a difference.  This can be tricky, especially in gluten-free baked goods.

In conclusion, I am going to try to reduce my sugar intake.  I can’t say for sure I will cut down on the baking, but maybe by cutting down on the sugar, it won’t have as much of an impact on my health.

Healthy eating is the new diet


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There’s a new kid in town, and his name is health.

Companies are trending towards removing artificial colors, dyes and additives and GMO is becoming the new four letter word.  Diet soda is no longer the norm.  People are focusing less on weight loss, and more on eating healthy foods.

Yes, there are still diets out there-360, 5:2, Paleo, but Weight watchers and Atkins are taking a back seat.  People are starting to realize that dieting just doesn’t work in the long term.  Quick results are not what we are wanting anymore-long term health is becoming more important.

I heartily agree with this new outlook.  My husband and I woke up to this truth when he was diagnosed with heart disease.  It’s nice to see that the population in general is waking up also.   You can still be healthy and gluten, dairy, and allergen free.  You don’t have to rely on pre-packaged gluten free foods.  In fact, the less you eat of these, the better.

Don’t get me wrong,  I still buy some of these, but I mostly make things from scratch.  I still buy some things pre-made, but I find that they are full of too much sugar and salt.  My tastebuds have adjusted and I just can’t tolerate them anymore.

I’m happy to see that people are finally waking up and realizing that you really are what you eat.  The American diet of high carb, high salt and high sugar foods is taking a serious toll on us.  Obesity is at an all-time high.  Change is coming, but there’s still a long way to go to provide healthy foods to every American.  There is still a very wide monetary gap. That gap needs to close once and for all.  Obesity shouldn’t be a poor person’s disease.

But, the gap is slowly closing and people are changing.  Companies are finally listening.  I am hoping that this is not just another “fad” and that healthy eating is here to stay.

 

Sometimes the cookie wins…giving into cravings


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It has been a very rough couple of months for us, what with my husband’s heart disease diagnosis and the drastic changes that had to be made.

We have been eating healthy since April, and sometimes, it gets really old.  I’ve never been a big salad person, or for that matter, a healthy diet person.  Neither has the hubby.  But if we want to keep his heart healthy, we had to make some changes.

I have not eaten a cookie in over three months.  That may not seem like such a long time, but to a carb and dessert addict, it is an eternity.   I can tell you that if there is a package of cookies in the house, I will eat them all in two days.  I have no self control whenever they are within 20 feet of me.

It’s been a bit hard on me; this caregiver’s role I had to slip into, so I decided to follow my own advice of “once in awhile is ok” and I bought a package of gluten free brownie chocolate chip cookies today.  It’s time to treat myself.

We eat fruit and veggies every day, and we try to avoid a lot of sugar and saturated fat. Notice I said try-we refuse to be fanatical.  That’s no way to live.

You will read all kinds of conflicting information on whether to “cheat” or not.  But is is really cheating?  I mean, how is treating the soul and the heart to a little pleasure cheating?   Where do we draw the line?  And who is the judge and jury, anyway?

I recently read an article on the worst 10 salad dressings.  Yes, they are full of things that are not exactly “good” for me, but if putting a tablespoon of “bad” dressing helps me to eat that salad, then I say, why not?   Mary Poppins had the right idea.

What I’m trying to say is, whatever you need to do to find a way to be more healthy, do it. Not just physically, but mentally. Eat a cookie once in awhile, or a piece of chocolate-drink a glass of wine.  We are on this planet for such a short while-enjoy life as much as you possibly can. Moderation is key here, but if I should eat that whole box of cookies by tomorrow, I won’t feel the least bit guilty.  Life is too short, my friends; life is too short.

Going local-supporting local farms


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Our local farmers market here in White House, TN, opened up last month.  We have never experienced fresh produce and meat right from the farm before.

While the local Kroger has pretty good produce and meats, there is nothing like fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables and meats.

It is a bit of a challenge, when you are able to get almost any produce you want year round at the supermarket, to realize that what is available locally goes by growing seasons.  We have to keep this in mind when we want specific items, like spinach.

It rained every time for the first several weeks on market day, but yesterday, they had some luck and the weather was beautiful.  The farmers set up at the local library parking lot every Wednesday from 3:30-7:00.

There are farmers who sell eggs and chicken, beef, pork, etc., and those who only sell vegetables.  Some sell jams and honey.  There are even food vendor trucks each week.

The farm fresh eggs are incredible, with bright orange yolks.  The chicken is not full of antibiotics, and not raised inhumanely.  You can really taste the difference.

The veggies we have bought are at the peak of ripeness, and very tasty.   The local farmers answer any questions you might have on the raising of live stock.

I only wish that these locally grown veggies and meats were more affordable.  It’s a shame that farmers have to charge such high prices to make a profit.  But that is why it is so important to support local farmers.

So go and find a local farm stand, market, or farm and taste some of that unspoiled goodness.  Support your local farmers!

Gluten free summer berry cobbler


 

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You all know I’m all about dessert-but after falling off the healthy wagon last week by eating almost an entire dairy free cheesecake, it’s time to reign it in.

Summer is a great time for fresh berries.  But berries, especially strawberries, bought in a supermarket are not always sweet enough to eat on their own.  So, I decided to make a gluten free fruit cobbler.   I’m hoping for some riper fruit at our local farmers market this year.

I came across the recipe this morning.  As always, I made it my own.   This couldn’t be any easier to throw together.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Gluten-Free Bisquick
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup coconut milk stirred together with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (almond milk won’t work here, it will curdle)
1/4 cup unflavored coconut oil, liquefied
1 1/2 pounds (about 6 cups) mixed berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries (quartered)
1 cup cherries, pitted or dried cherries
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and grease a 9-inch pie plate. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar and the baking powder. Mix in the coconut milk mixture and coconut oil until just combined.

In another medium bowl, toss together the berries, cherries, remaining 2 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons sugar.

Spoon the fruit into the prepared dish and dollop the dough over the fruit in 8 spoonfuls; sprinkle with sugar. Bake until the juices are bubbling and the biscuits are golden, about 35 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

I used gluten free Bisquick, but still added the two teaspoons of baking powder.  I used dried cherries (left over), blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.  I think doubling the biscuit dough would be a good idea here, depending on how much biscuit you want.  This recipe is just sweet enough.  You could sprinkle the fruit with a bit of extra sugar if you like.  Sprinkling the fruit with the Bisquick also makes it nice and thick, like a pie filling.

So take advantage of those summer berries-serve this gluten free cobbler at your next summer gathering.  It’s sure to be a hit!

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