Your key to using Stevia

earl grey tea(bag) cookies

Why stevia?

This natural, no-cal sweetener from the leaf of the stevia plant is incredibly good for you. Unlike sugar, it doesn’t create an insulin response. Its sterols and antioxidants actually nourish the pancreas, the organ that regulates blood sugar.

Sugar addicts can enjoy foods sweetened with stevia without suffering all the negative effects of sugar. Risk of chronic diseases caused by too much sugar in our food, like diabetes, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, and obesity, can be reduced by using stevia to lower our sugar consumption.

coffee foam

Taste

Don’t expect stevia to taste exactly like sugar. Pure stevia extracts are 300-400 times sweeter than ordinary table sugar. A little goes a long way. Used properly, stevia sweetens food nicely. It takes the sourness out of lemons and yogurt and the bitterness from coffee. The taste is lighter and fresher than the same food sweetened with sugar, which can be cloying.

Every sweetener has its own unique taste. Honey tastes different than maple syrup. Agava syrup tastes different than brown sugar. Coconut palm sugar tastes different than corn syrup. And all these sweeteners taste quite different than ordinary table sugar. But none of these sweeteners are calorie-free or nonglycemic. Stevia is both.

Stevia

Pure stevia extract is in the small round jars, top left. All the others contain additives.

What stevia product should you buy?

Read the label. Buy a powdered product that is 100 percent pure stevia extract. Stevia powders sold in combination with fillers have diminished health properties and can cause digestive problems in some people.

Truvia is one such product, where the stevia is combined with erythritol, a sugar alcohol made from corn. You might also see stevia combined with maltodextrin, inulin, xylitol, and glycerin. These additives are included to prevent clumping, to adjust the taste closer to that of table sugar, and to lower the cost. But all this comes at a cost to your health. Pure is best.

If you only use a little stevia, to sweeten your coffee or a bowl of yogurt, for example, liquid stevia is way more convenient. Again, read the label and buy an alcohol-free, pure liquid stevia.Or make your own liquid stevia, like I do.

100% Stevia – no sugar or other additives

Using stevia

In Canada, I buy New Roots stevia white powder concentrate and I use it to make my own home-made pure liquid stevia sweetener. It’s much cheaper.

Baking  When making desserts, always add the powdered stevia to the liquid ingredients in the recipe and give it time to dissolve, as it tends to clump. Be patient. It dissolves quickly. Also, it dissolves quicker in hot liquids than cold ones.

Stevia works well with chocolate and in puddings and custards.

In recipes that need a crystalline structure to rise properly, like angel cake, souffles, or meringues, you have to use a combination of granulated sugar and stevia. Experiment with your favorite recipes to get it right. These might not be worth the effort.

Stevia-sweetened apple yogurt bowl

Snacks  My favorite snack is what I call my yogurt bowl. I buy 0% Greek plain yogurt, for more protein and less saturated animal fats. Then I add fruit and nuts, and perhaps some cinnamon or vanilla. I finish with home-made liquid stevia made from powdered concentrate to sweeten it all up. So good!

Beverages  For sweetening single cupfuls of tea, coffee, and cocktails, where only a small amount of stevia is needed, I use home-made liquid stevia made from the powdered concentrate. You can buy the liquid extract, but making your own from the powder is cheaper.

DSCN9997

Home-made liquid stevia
Makes 1/2 cup, enough to sweeten 24-36 cups of coffee

  • 1/4 teaspoon stevia white powder concentrate from New Roots
  • 1/2 cup boiling water (filtered or distilled, preferably)
  1. Pour the boiling water on the powder in a small heat-proof bowl.
  2. Gently stir until the powder dissolves. It clumps in the water initially but it quickly dissolves. Within a minute or so you have a colorless solution.
  3. With a funnel, pour it into a small dropper-style, dark-brown, glass bottle. Store the excess in a second dark-brown glass bottle. I found mine at the pharmacy and washed them well before using. Refrigerate or store in a cool place, away from light for longer shelf-life.

Stevia

I find that with time the liquid stevia gets cloudy. It doesn’t affect the taste. Just shake it well before using. But if you don’t use it often, you may want to make it up in smaller quantities. If you have enough patience to divide a 1/4 teaspoon in half, you can cut my  recipe in half.

Adjusting the amount

Too much stevia can change the taste from sweet to metallic. You have to learn for yourself how much is just right. Choose a brand you like and experiment with your favorite recipes. Keep notes and readjust the next time. Or buy my brand and follow my guidelines. Then adjust to your own taste from there. Believe me, if you like sweet foods it is so worth the effort.

Single servings

For single servings of coffee, tea, lemonade, or cocktails, it’s easy to adjust the sweetness to the level you like best.

Start with half a dropper of home-made liquid stevia in your usual cup of coffee. Taste, and if you want it sweeter, add more, one drop at a time. Taste after each addition, until the taste is right. Too much, and the drink tastes bitter.

I’ve found that I like about 1/4 teaspoon of my home-made liquid stevia in my espresso coffee. But to each his own. This technique works for any single-serving beverage.

Sugar equivalents

Most traditional recipes are too sweet for my taste. Normally, I reduce the  sugar to half the amount called for. Then I use the following stevia substitutions:

Sugar           Stevia powdered concentrate         Home-made liquid stevia

1 cup                                       1/2 teaspoon                                       1/4 cup

1 tablespoon                         –                                                              3/4 teaspoon

1 teaspoon                            –                                                               1/4 teaspoon

Accuracy when measuring stevia is important. Over-fill the measuring spoon, then use a knife to smooth the top of the powder, pushing the excess back into the bottle. For small quantities, use the liquid option.

Experiment with each recipe to find your own sweet spot, as each recipe (and taster) is different.

Enter “stevia” into my search box to find some recipes where I’ve used stevia successfully (and one NOT so successfully).

Related

Oregano tea is good for what ails you

 

origanum_aureum

Oregano grows like crazy in my garden. I use it as an ornamental ground cover. Then I discovered you can make a tea from it that is useful in curing sore, bothersome throats. Since that is what I have, I’ve given this drink a shot. I love herbal teas and this is a pleasant one. Only time will tell as to whether it heals my sore throat.

Basildon Park, Downton Abbey - tea time

Tea is always in fashion. Why not gives yours a little extra punch?

Oregano Tea
One serving

  • 4-6 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon organic raw honey
  1. Cut the leaves to release the oil.
  2. Boil the water on the stove for 10 minutes.
  3. Add oregano leaves and allow to steep for five minutes.
  4. Strain and add the honey.
  5. Drink while hot to reap its maximum benefits.

Nutrition

Macbeth’s trio of witches likely used oregano in their many brews. Oregano has been around for thousands of years, popular in cooking and medicine.

Its potent antioxidants and anti-bacterial properties are said to be effective against respiratory tract disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, menstrual cramps, and urinary tract infections and even against dangerous microorganisms like Listeria and MRSA. Its very high concentrations of antioxidants have recently been reported in the Journal of Nutrition.

I don’t want to overwhelm you with details, but ongoing studies are continuing to verify the usefulness of oregano in treating a whole range of problems from diabetes 2 and  cancer to dandruff and acne. Read this link to learn more. You will be amazed.

Always consult your doctor before trying things out on a serious ailment. But many believe a drop or two of oregano oil or a handful of its fresh leaves can be good for whatever ails you. Pip pip!

Oregano oil and kids

Use caution when using herbals on kids. Children under 5 years old shouldn’t have oregano oil by mouth. You can rub some oil on the soles of their feet, though. For further information, read this article, then talk to your doctor.

earl grey tea(bag) cookies

Green tea biscuits enhance your cuppa oregano tea 🙂

Five foods to cure a sore throat

dscn9726_edited

Despite what the Internet says, forget about tequila as a cure for a sore throat. Snopes says it’s wishful thinking.

If you want to boost your immune system and speed recovery from a sore throat, cough, or sinus congestion, think instead about honey, vinegar, green tea, sea salt  and fiery spices. More

Yoda soda summer punch bowl

Punch bowl

May the fourth be with you!

Enjoy a replay of a recipe we posted a few years back for a summertime drink that’s as good for you as it tastes. Fresh lime juice gives this cooler its Yoda color, and sparkling water adds the bubbles. For a gourmet touch, add some lime sorbet.

Click here for the recipe.

Vinny’s on Yum Goggle

Ile de Re: Fish market

Vinny’s been updating older posts recently and putting them up on Yum Goggle. Yum Goggle features food photography from contributors around the world. The photos whet your appetite for the recipes you can get simply by clicking on the pictures or the words GET THE RECIPE. It’s a great site and we’re proud to be a part of the team. More

Drink Agua de Valencia for some Spanish sparkle

Spanish tapas dinner party

Spanish tapas dinner party

It’s that wonderful time of year when we host our annual gourmet dinner, which has been going on for a very long time now. We never get tired of trying out new recipes for our friends.

This year we chose a Spanish tapas theme, with the hope that we could prepare many of the dishes ahead of time and just enjoy ourselves on the evening.

To welcome our guests, we served a cocktail originating from Valencia, where oranges reign supreme. More

Watermelon cheers us up with coolers and salads

Watermelon

Watermelon is a mood food

As most of my friends fly south for the winter, I thought I’d inject a little sun into my own life with watermelon. Deep into February as we are, a food to lift our spirits seems in order.

I’ve covered some of this before, but for newer readers, are you surprised to learn that watermelon is a good source of  the mood vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B6 (pyridoxine)? I was. Turns out thiamine is important for maintaining electrolytes and transmitting nervous-system signals throughout the body. Pyridoxine works with enzymes that convert food into cellular energy.

Who needs warm weather… Let’s party!

Watermelon

Watermelon pepo

Watermelon is a berry

Another surprising fact about watermelon… its fruit is a pepo, a special kind of berry with a thick rind and fleshy center.

Watermelon pepos offer the most nutrition per calorie of any common food.

Red is the give-away. Bright colors signal a big pay-off in  lycopene, an antioxidant repeatedly studied in humans and found to protect  against a whole slew of cancers…  prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and colorectal, for starters.

Watermelon offers lots of  beta-carotene and another antioxidant, vitamin C. Besides helping lycopene to ward off cancer, these vitamins also battle heart disease, arthritis, and asthma.

Then there is the mineral potassium, guardian of our cardiovascular system, brain, and kidneys.

Finally, watermelon provides lots of the master mineral magnesium. Magnesium  is the big boss for over 300 cellular metabolic functions. Poor soils make magnesium scarce in today’s foods. Lack of magnesium is related to irritability, tension, sleep disorders, and muscular cramping, including the heart muscle (attack!).

How to enjoy watermelon

Watermelons retain most of their nutrition even after being cut and stored in the fridge. But watermelon is best eaten at room temperature when the flavor, plus the phytonutrient capacity, is at its best.

Watermelon

Eat plain

Just quarter a large watermelon berry and slice off slabs. Eat the flesh right off the rind and spit out the seeds.

Watermelon salad

 

Watermelon salad
Serves one

  • one cup watermelon cubes
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • one cup kale, ribs removed and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon avocado oil
  • 1 ounce goat cheese
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Chop the flesh into bite-sized chunks.
  2. Drizzle them with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or vodka. Let them soak it up for a few minutes.
  3. Use them to top a plateful of greens, kale in my photo, which I drizzled with  avocado oil and massaged well.
  4. Top with crumbled feta cheese or, my favorite, goat cheese.

 

Watermelon fizz cocktail

Vinny’s pink watermelon cooler
Serves four

  • 2  cups watermelon cubes, frozen
  • 4 ice cubes
  • Juice of one fresh lemon (1/4 cup)
  • Juice of one fresh lime (2 tablespoons)
  • 2-4 tablespoons of any sugar syrup you have. I used home-made red-current couli, But any fruit syrup, even grenadine (from pomegranates) or maple syrup, will do. I use an equivalent amount of stevia unless it’s a special occasion.
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 pinches of black pepper
  • 3-4 ounces raspberry vodka (optional)
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup club soda, depending on whether you add alcohol or not and the size of your glass
  1. Blend the whole works except for the club soda for a few seconds.
  2. If you want to serve some of the cocktails without alcohol, leave the vodka out and add it back to the glasses of  the folks who want it.
  3. Fill each glass about halfway with the watermelon fizz. Add 1 ounce alcohol to each glass if you didn’t include it in the mix. Top up with club soda. Adjust flavor with more lemon juice if needed.
  4. Spoon some of the pink foam into each glass and top with a raspberry or a mint leaf to garnish.
Watermelon

Watermelon

When the winter blahs get you down, break out some watermelon and smile :).

 

 

 

Treat Christmas headaches with ginger tea

Mrs. Claus serves a soothing cup 'a tea

Mrs. Claus serves a soothing cup of tea.

Santa felt poorly. He was dead tired after his epic night’s ride around the world. Too many chimneys to climb. Too many sherries to gulp down. He sneezed into his cottony white hanky and sighed.

Mrs. Claus settled him by the fire and helped him get his dusty leather boots off his aching feet. By and by, she brought him a steaming-hot pot of tea and a warm cup. “Something to bring you around,” she said with a smile and gave him a gentle hug.

But as you can imagine it wasn’t a pot of English breakfast tea. Oh no. It had honey and lemon and ginger, oh my! More

War-time treats from Redwall Abbey

Redwall_abbey

Redwall Abbey – A child’s delight

To honor the people who gave their all in the Great Wars, I’m reposting some recipes I first brought to you in 2012. These traditional recipes were in vogue during the scarce years of the Second World War… but many probably go back much farther than that, handed down by mothers and mother’s mothers in Britain ever since they began to grow potatoes and cabbages… and gooseberries! More

Lighten up with lavender blue lemonade

lavender lemonade

Lavender distillate

Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly
Rosemary’s green
I’ll be your king dilly dilly
If you’ll be my queen…

Relax with lavender and this pretty little song from England, dating back at least 300 years. Originally this ditty was not for kids. Early words made it more a bawdy or drinking song for the purposes of wooing a lady into bed. More

Cinque Terre cocktail

Cinque terre cocktail - chartreuse

Cinque terre cocktail – chartreuse

Vinny is taking an extended break, now that summer is nearly upon us :). To celebrate, he’s sharing a drink with you from the World Heritage site Cinque Terre in Italy, which he hopes to visit some day soon.

More

Frozen Blues: cocktail of the hour

Blue Hawaians

Bols Blue Curaçao

We just got back from a heavenly warm trip to the Caribbean, to find ourselves in the depths of our cold Canadian winter… and just in time to host our annual gourmet dinner. So we built a meal around the theme, ” Frozen in Ottawa.” More

How to cook eggs for raw-egg recipes

Dovecote sees the light

Dali’s hen house

 

Raw eggs

In my previous post, I talked about making eggnog from scratch using fresh clean unbroken eggs, cracking them carefully, and allowing them to cure in sugar and alcohol. Raw eggs are generally safe for healthy people.

If you are cooking for young children, pregnant mamas, the elderly, or people with weak immune systems, though, you won’t want to risk serving them raw eggs. But hey, you don’t have to ditch your favorite recipes. More

Eggnog Grog

Cup of good cheer comes at a price

Cup of good cheer comes at a price

Raising chickens

I’ve just read Mike Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. Eye-roll.  Will I ever eat again?

Eggs and chicken are mainstays of my diet. But Pollan has lifted the curtain for me on the often shocking truths behind industrially raised chickens. They’re jammed into spaces so small, the poor animals try to peck each other to death. The answer, according to chicken producers? Off with their beaks. More

Let’s party! Portuguese sangria, perhaps?

Spring gourmet - Portuguese sangria cup

Last week I posted a menu for a special dinner party. We started our Mediterranean evening off with a pretty wine cocktail hailing from Portugal. Choose a good quality wine, preferably from that country and preferably red (called Tinto in Portuguese). Pair it up with a dry Porto. Throw in a few swigs of  More

Vinny cooks up an Internet dinner

Gourmet dinner - red theme

Our annual dinner party

Vinny and I have made new friends since we’ve been blogging. Many of them are great cooks!

When it was our turn to host a dinner party this spring, Vinny thought it would be fun to showcase recipes he’s found on-line. It was such a hard choice seeing as there’s only so much food you can take in on any given evening… and there are so many wonderful dishes to choose from. Thank goodness for Pinterest, where a foodie can save and sort favorite recipes found on the Internet. For this particular evening, Vinny picked the following dishes, based on Mediterranean small plates. More

Watermelon cooler… It’s the berries!

Watermelon fizz cocktail

Cool off with fizzy watermelon

Click  for an up-dated version, with more photos and a new recipe.

Who would have thought the common watermelon is a berry? Botanists call its fruit a pepo, a special kind of berry with a thick rind and fleshy center.

Like other berries we love, the watermelon is packed with goodness. It has the most nutrition per calorie of any common food. Click the link for the latest info. More

Using pomegranates in drinks and salads

Rita Borger - pomegranate

Last time, I told you about the powerful benefits offered by the lovely Pomegranate.

Here I focus on how to use this wonderful fruit. First and foremost,  let’s see how to get past the blushing hard skin to the juicy seeds, or arils, inside. More

Pomegranate, Goddess of Love, offers a summer cooler

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Pomegranate lore

It’s summer time and love is in the air. Alas, humidity and heat are also abundant. What to do! We need ways to stay cool and fit. Enter Lady Pomegranate.

Pomegranates have played a role in both our spiritual and physical lives for thousands of years. The blood-red seeds spilling forth when you cut into the thick skin appeals to people on a primal level. More

Lemon water and lemon curd magic

lemons

Lemony Snicket!

 Daily cup of warm water with lemon… a Miracle Worker?

I don’t like sour. But Dr. Mike of 17-day diet fame advises a glass of warm water spiked with the juice of half a lemon every morning…the minute we get up.

At first this sounded dire… like voodoo… a magic-potion sort of thing straight out of the pages of Lemony Snicket. But in the interests of scientific experimentation, I gave it a shot.

More

Saint Paddy Revisited

I’ve never tried reblogging before, but thought I’d give it a try this 17th of March. It’s St. Paddy’s day! Vinny’s Irish tea party from last year has lots of great links to recipes, songs and stories to help you celebrate the day with your family. Erin go bragh!

Cook Up a Story

“It’s Saint Paddy’s day tomorrow,” says Vinny, “Let’s throw an Irish tea party! Get out your top hats and Irish bowlers, invite Tiger and Firefox,  and set the table.

“But what should we serve?” ask Will and Isla.

View original post 741 more words

Green tea for two plus tea trivia galore

Green Tea makes for strong hearts.

 

Green Tea comes with benefits

Host a green tea party for two and do your hearts a favor. A beautiful smile, fresh breath and glowing skin are some other ways green tea can improve your love life.

Even better is the boost it gives your memory, as well as your metabolic rate. All that should earn you some brownie points with your heart’s desire! More

Stevia’s a real sweetheart

Princess of sweet

Once upon a time, there lived  a magical sweetener, named Stevia. Cousin of Chrysanthemum and sister of Sunflower, Stevia was incredibly sweet. The truth is Stevia was 300 times sweeter than her ugly stepmother, Sugar. Better yet, Stevia was  sweet without any added calories. And best of all, Stevia was so much kinder than any of her catty artificial friends, who promise the same calorie-free hit but deliver nothing but trouble. More

Cook up a treat from Redwall Abbey

Cooking up stories from Redwall Abbey

These traditional recipes were born during the scarce years of the Second World War… but many probably go back much farther than that, handed down by mothers and mother’s mothers in Britain ever since they began to grow potatoes and cabbages. More

Mad-Cap Irish Tea Party

Tiger and Firefox turn two!

Tiger and Firefox come to the party!

“It’s Saint Paddy’s day tomorrow,” says Vinny, “Let’s throw an Irish tea party! Get out your top hats and Irish bowlers, invite Tiger and Firefox,  and set the table.

“But what should we serve?” ask Will and Isla. More

Diet Soda: Cause for Concern?

http://mocoloco.com/art/archives/002884.php

Danger!

Too much sugar’s bad for us, but sugar-free soda could be even worse. It’s not proof positive, but new research raises concern about diet soda.  Studies find higher risks for stroke and heart attack among people who drink sugar-free soda every day versus those who drink no soda at all.

The findings should be “a wakeup call to pay attention to diet sodas,” More

Yoda soda

Copyright Tim Ketzer

What a lovely limey shade!—Yoda image from Tim Ketzer, as used in “Star Wars”

Soda might taste good but the science cannot be ignored.  It’s bad for your innards. Drink water, instead.

For those good times when you want something special, though, here’s a recipe you might like. It’s perfect for the hot weather (should it ever arrive…). Or mix up a big bowlful for Christmas… Yoda Soda is as lovely a shade of Yule-tide green as Yoda’s complexion!

More

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