Monday, February 28, 2011

5 Simple Ways To Use Stevia

Today is the last day to enter my NuNaturals NuStevia giveaway, so I thought I would share some more ideas with you on how to use stevia.  I wanted to write up proper recipes for some of these, but the truth is, they're so simple there's really no point in writing down amounts. With stevia, it's really a matter of figuring out how sweet you like your food, and playing around with recipes accordingly. I've only been using stevia for a month or so now, but I really can't say enough good things about it. I don't get the same cravings as I would with sugar-sweetened food, I don't get headaches or that awful tired feeling I used to get when I ate something with sugar, and it tastes great with pretty much everything. Of course, this is coming from me, and I am not picky when it comes to food. I know a lot of people don't like the flavor of stevia, so that's something you'll have to decide for yourself. But if you've been toying around with the idea of cutting down on (or completely cutting out) sugar, stevia has been practically a miracle for this sugar-sensitive foodie. Of course, being the cautious person I am, I'm half waiting for something horrible to come out in the news about stevia. But so far, I've only heard good things, and in general I just stick with what my body tells me anyway. Right now, my body's happy.


1. Stevia-sweetened sauteed chicken
  •  For this dish, I heat a pan over medium heat with olive oil, then add a chicken breast. On the side that's facing up, I sprinkle sea salt, pepper, and powdered stevia. I sprinkle the stevia in much the same way I would salt. Just a light dusting over the top. After 2-3 minutes, I turn the chicken breast over and add salt and pepper to the other side (and more stevia if I want it really sweet). If it's a thick chicken breast, I'll put a top on the pan and allow it to cook through. Once it's done, it's a perfect complement to a salad or steamed veggies and a sweet potato.
2.  Sweeten your tea with liquid stevia.
  • I use about 5-10 drops for this, and I actually think it tastes much better than honey ever did to me in tea. I can see why you might not want to sweeten your coffee with it, but for tea, it's the perfect flavor.
3.  Add stevia to your plain yogurt.

  • This is one of those dishes that feels like cheating to me. I stopped buying sweetened yogurt, and eventually plain yogurt started tasting almost sweet to me. But then I discovered how good it tastes with a sprinkling of powdered stevia or 5-10 drops of liquid stevia. Some chopped fruit and nuts would go wonderfully with this, or if you're like me and you mix strange things together, stir in a bunch of salad greens and make this your new way to get your raw veggies in.


 4. Stevia-sweetened sauteed fish.
  • This is not very different from the chicken idea, but I like to use liquid stevia for fish and powdered stevia for chicken. I'm not really sure why, but it tastes great so I'm sticking with it. For this meal, I added about 5 drops of liquid stevia to the pan before adding the fish, then added another 5 drops on top of the fish, along with salt and pepper. Then I just cooked it until it began to flake, and I have to tell you, this was the best meal I've had in ages. 
5. Finally, it's simple (and perhaps a bit obvious), but stevia is great for sweetening your oatmeal or hot cereal. Liquid and powder both work great...just start out with a small amount, stir and taste, then add more if needed.

So that's it. 5 simple ways to incorporate stevia into your diet. Of course, if you don't have a sweet tooth, just go without! But if you're like me, and you can't live without your sweets, it takes the place of sugar marvelously. I'm playing around with making stevia-sweetened baked goods, but it might be a while before I come up with something I like enough to share here. In the meantime, come back tomorrow to see who won the stevia giveaway, and come back later in the week for...whatever I come up with?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

How To Break Up With Your Binge Monster


















My binge monster and I have been together for a long time. I'd say we started dating sometime around high school, although it didn't become serious until college.  Freshman year?  That was the year we really fell in love.  We did everything together.  Played rugby, went to parties, made pizza together...ate pizza together.  We went on long walks and kissed under the moonlight.  Yes, it was a courtship for the ages.  But as all great love stories go, it was not without its difficulties.  We fought.  A lot.  My binge monster made me cry.  I'm sure I made it cry too.  Back and forth, we went.  Love and hate.  Anger and laughter.  Every time I met someone else and tried to move on, it would lure me back in with promises to change, to be different, better.  And every time, I went back.

My binge monster and I knew we weren't right for each other.  Eventually, you both just know.  But it loved me, as I loved it.  It was never trying to hurt me; it simply wanted to love me, and to be loved in return.  But there came a day - as there will come a day for all of you who have your own binge monsters - when I realized that the life I wanted had no room in it for my binge monster.  I had a choice to make.  To live unhappily ever after or to let go.  In order to be the person I wanted to be, and to make room for a love that wouldn't hurt me, I had to release the love that only brought with it pain.

But how do you say goodbye to a love that's been with you for so long?  A love that's stuck with you through thick and thin (literally, I suppose), that's comforted you through all your tears and rejoiced with you celebration after celebration?  How do you break up with your binge monster?   

This is the eternal question for some of us.  Every time I think I've said goodbye, I inevitably find it hanging around on my doorstep, its sad puppy eyes begging to be let in.  I've already come to terms with the fact that my binge monster is not in fact a monster, at least not in the traditional sense.  So I can't kill it or hate it into oblivion.  That would be nice, wouldn't it?  If all of our exes were horrible people that we could just write off?  But no.  As with most loves, my binge monster is worthy of kindness and respect and a goodbye that reflects the years we've spent together.

So here's what I did.  I sat my binge monster down and had a talk with it.  I loved it for all it had done for me, I told it.  I appreciated how it had been there for me when I didn't even know I needed help.  And I would always care for it.  But I had to let it go.  I had moved on, I told it.  And now it needed to move on too.  While falling asleep at night, I visualized this interplay, night after night.  And I binged in my sleep, gorging myself until I was sick in my dreams.  But every day I woke up, and my binge monster moved further on down the road.  One night, in a sudden frenzy I reached for a container of sugar-laden pancakes.  I could see the binge monster smiling hopefully at my front door.  Those would taste good with butter and syrup, it cajoled.  I opened the container.  Then I stopped.  I took a deep breath and quietly told my monster, "There's no room for you here anymore.  You have to go."  I said it kindly, and with the love I still carry, but then I closed the door.  I made myself a bowl of hot cereal to appease my genuine hunger, but put away the pancakes that were simply a binge waiting to happen.  And I did it in peace.  There was no struggle, no urge to rush back and slather butter on my pancakes, barely chewing in my need to feel full. 

In my mind's eye, I could see my binge monster walking down the road, a backpack slung across its shoulders.  I had a feeling I would see it again.  But next time I would simply smile and nod my head hello.  And knowing we were over, it would smile back, and keep walking.



Thursday, February 17, 2011

Creamy Sweet Curry Salad Dressing


















I wrote a post on this salad dressing this morning.  Got up at 6am to do it.  Then blogger ate my post.  I was going to rewrite it, but I realized it wasn't that good anyway.  For those of you who like long posts, don't worry.  I've got a doozy of one coming up.  For those who really just skim and go straight to the recipes anyway, you'll like this one.

Here's the gist.  Hummus + yogurt + grapeseed oil + curry powder + fresh parsley + liquid stevia = an awesome way to dress your salads. 























Creamy Sweet Curry Salad Dressing
Print-Friendly Option

Ingredients:
1/4 cup lowfat plain yogurt
1/4 cup hummus
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. diced fresh parsley
10-20 drops liquid stevia

Directions:
  1. Whisk together everything but the stevia until completely mixed. 
  2. Stir in water one teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.  This will depend on how creamy you like your dressing, but I generally use about 2-4 teaspoons of water. 
  3. Stir in 10 drops of stevia, taste, and add more if desired. 
  4. Use immediately or can keep in fridge for days. 
Makes about 12 tablespoons of dressing. 

If you haven't entered my stevia giveaway yet, you have until February 28th!


This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

NuNaturals NuStevia Giveaway

If you're like me, you probably haven't tried stevia yet.  I don't know about you, but I was pretty wary of this newfangled sugar substitute.  It doesn't raise your blood sugar and it's supposed to be better for you than sugar, but it's expensive and it's a relatively new product.  Remember when agave nectar was all the rage?  Then it went from being the hottest thing to being just as bad for you as sugar (of course, this is debatable, but I'm staying out of it).  What if I started using stevia only to find out it was also not as good for me as I thought?  Maybe I should just wait a while before trying it out...

I waited a long time, but eventually I caved and bought myself some powdered stevia.  It was truly the best cooking/baking investment I've made in a while.  I've mentioned before that unrefined sugar (such as maple syrup, molasses, and dates) seems to have the same effect on me as refined cane sugar.  I go a little bonkers, get all mood-swingy, and eat way more than my stomach can handle.  There's usually some tears involved too (I guess that's only to be expected when you put mood swings and bonkers in the same sentence).  Completely cutting out sugar was always too difficult for me though.  Until I bought stevia.  Since I've been using stevia, I haven't experienced any of the mood-swings or cravings that traditionally happen when I eat sugar, nor do I get headaches or any other physical symptoms.  I succeeded in having my first Thanksgiving and Christmas completely sugar-free (although there might have been some molasses cookies sandwiched in between there), and I've been steadily sugar-free since.  Of course, I'm hoping that I'll be able to experiment with more unrefined sugars in the future, but for now, stevia and I are best buddies and I'm pretty happy with that.

So why am I telling you all this?  Just so I can say that I've been sugar-free for months?  Um...no.  When I find a product I believe in, I want to share it with all of you, and thanks to NuNaturals, I get to do that.  Although I bought my own stevia a few months back, I recently won a NuNaturals NuStevia giveaway from City|Life|Eats.  I was so excited that I had won that I had to share my thanks with the company.  They thanked me back by offering not one, but four of my readers a giveaway.  So four of you will receive a gift pack that includes a box of 50 NuStevia Packets and a bottle of NuNaturals Vanilla Liquid Stevia.  In addition, if you don't win (or even if you do), NuNaturals is also offering free samples of their NuStevia packets.  You can read more about that by clicking here.  And from now until February 28th, you can also get 15% off your order from NuNaturals.com by using this code, BLG228, at checkout.  Okay, so...you have a lot of ways now to try stevia out without too much commitment.  In the next couple of weeks, I'll be sharing some stevia recipes of my own to help you get started (or keep you going if you already use stevia).

How can you win this giveaway? Let me count the ways: 
  1. Leave a comment letting me know if you've tried stevia before and what you think. 
  2. Post about this giveaway on your blog, on facebook, or on twitter. You can tweet daily for more entries.
  3. Stumble or Digg this giveaway.  I should admit here that I'm not positive what Digging is, but I assume it's the same as stumbling, so if you know how to do it, go for it! 
  4. Do anything else you want to do, and let me know you did it. :)
This contest is only open to readers in the Continental U.S. Sorry, my Canadian readers! You'll have until the end of the month, which should give me plenty of time to come up with more stevia recipes for you.  Leave a separate comment for everything you do, and as always, leave your e-mail address when you comment.  You can't win if I can't contact you, right? 

Come back later this week for two of my favorite ways to use stevia: a simple take on maple-glazed chicken, and a sweet curry salad dressing!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Adopt A Gluten-Free Blogger: Simply Gluten-Free

Carol Kicinski is not like Martha Stewart. Or so she claims. But let me tell you a little about this beautiful woman. She cooks, she bakes, she has her own cupcake cookbook coming out, she has a gluten-free cooking segment on Daytime TV, and she has her own all-purpose flour blend. I have a feeling she does a lot more too, but let's stop there and call it a day. Are you intimidated yet? I know I am. But Carol is also one of the most down-to-earth women I know. For all her fame, she is always present with a kind word on twitter, a comment on my posts, or an encouraging nudge to submit my photos to her monthly contest. And, well... I just have to show you one of her many amazing food photos. Oh, did I mention she's a great photographer too? I think, in my perfect world, I would get to take photography lessons from her while she baked cupcakes for me daily. For her cupcakes, I would conveniently forget that I'm sugar-free. Not Martha Stewart? No, she's better than that because she does it all gluten-free!

Shirley Temple Cupcakes at Simply Gluten-Free























Carol sent me a package of her gluten-free flour blend a while back, and I wanted to write a post on it. However, I was so busy having fun experimenting that I ran out of flour before I perfected any recipes. Well, that and the photos I took looked horrendous. I can't even find them, which leads me to believe I probably deleted them in disgust. Carol's blend is perfect for desserts though, and it's a great flour for converting your old recipes to gluten-free.

This month, a friend and I tried out one of Carol's recipes for homemade pasta. As part of Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger, there were so many other recipes I wanted to make, but time got in the way, so I'll share with you my pasta experience, and leave you with links to the recipes I would have made if time (and in some cases, food sensitivities) permitted.


















My biggest surprise with this fresh pasta was that it was really as easy to make as Carol said. Now to be fair, I didn't really do the work. My friend made them while I sauteed veggies. But I watched, and it looked really easy. Note all the plastic wrap in this photo? That was my suggestion for minimizing gluten contamination in a gluten-filled house. I loved the process of making and eating a meal like this completely from scratch. How many people can say they've made their own pasta? It's certainly not something I would have even considered before being gluten-free opened up so many new cooking avenues for me.


















My only issue with the pasta was that it was a bit rubbery, but that was not Carol's fault. She explicitly says in her recipe to cook the pasta for 2-5 minutes and not to overcook it. I definitely left it in the pot too long, so I'll take the blame for that one. But the structure, the flavor...it was all there, and I know I'll be making this recipe again, being sure to follow Carol's instructions to the letter the next time!

Now, if I could plan a perfect day, here's what I would like to eat:

I would start with a hearty breakfast of mini-frittatas and ricotta lemon pancakes. Since breakfast was filling, I'd have a light morning snack of salt and vinegar roasted kale chips with roasted red pepper and sundried tomato dip. After playing a rousing game of soccer with my friends (this is my perfect day after all), I'd be plenty hungry for a lunch of grilled vegetable salad and grown-up tomato soup and grilled cheese. Then I'd get to read my book in the sunroom with warm heat lulling me to sleep until I was awakened by the scent of peanut butter banana muffins coming out of the oven. I'd take a muffin and savor it slowly, the afternoon sun creating a warm glow in the kitchen. Then I'd be off for a light hike on the mountain in my backyard (who says you can't have a mountain in the backyard?), coming home just in time for the supper bell to ring. Dinner would begin with a light cold shrimp with tropical fruit salad, then I would enjoy grilled pizza with a side of quick roasted beet salad. And then finally, when I was sure I could eat no more, out would come that most glorious of meals. Dessert. And I would swoon at the array in front of me, sure I could not choose just one, so I must have a bite of each pecan tassie, cherry brownie bite, strawberry cheesecake pie, and chocolate pavlova heart. Finally, I would sleep in contentment, sure that no more satisfying day could be had.

Okay. Are you hungry yet? Good! Head on over to Simply Gluten-Free, and get cooking!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bursting With Butter Corn Muffins (Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, Sugar-Free)






















Have you ever noticed your taste buds changing? Like when you were little and you didn't like brussel sprouts, and then suddenly you realized you eat them all the time? Or the shift when you cut out sugar and notice that apples start tasting like dessert? I had a client once who told me she didn't like fruit because it wasn't sweet enough. It seems our taste buds can adapt to whatever diet we're eating. That client ate a lot of sugary processed foods. Her taste buds were so saturated with refined sugar that she couldn't taste subtle hints of sweetness. On the other hand, with my sugar-free diet (and that means no honey, maple syrup or agave, among other things), I find that I'll think something's sweet when it probably doesn't taste that way to most others. That seemed to be the case with these muffins. I gobbled up my first batch, but exercised a little more restraint the second time around so my friends could try. Unfortunately, their response left much to be desired. They both felt they needed to be sweeter. I thought about making them again with added stevia to satisfy my taste testers' desires. But in the end, I decided to stick with these. Honestly, I adore them. The only sweetener they contain is unsweetened apple juice, but they're literally bursting with butter. If you want to add a hint of sweetness, you might try a couple tablespoons of honey or perhaps a layer of apricot jam baked in the middle. 




















Bursting with Butter Corn Muffins
Print-Friendly Option
(Happily adapted from this recipe at Gluten-Free Easily to be sugar-free and egg-free)


Ingredients:

2/3 cup sorghum flour (substitutions: brown rice flour, millet flour)
1/3 cup potato starch (substitutions: corn starch, tapioca starch)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Hot Cereal (substitution: cornmeal)
7 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. flaxseed meal with 3 Tbsp. water
1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease mini-muffin tins.
  2. Mix flour, starch, baking powder, and salt. Stir in cornmeal.
  3. In a separate bowl mix flaxseed meal and water. Stir in juice, yogurt, and butter.  
  4. Stir liquid mix into dry.
  5. *Fill greased mini-muffin tins to top and bake for 10 minutes. 
  6. Eat warm or reheat leftover muffins. 
*You'll want to fill these to the top but not overflowing or they will be too crumbly. My guess is that regular sized muffins would also break apart easily, but you could always crumble them into soup, an idea I got from the original recipe I adapted these from. 

Makes approximately 16 corn muffins

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Gluten-Free Wednesdays

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