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.

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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).

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Whipped goat cheese

Whipped goat cream

Once upon a time I came across a recipe that called for whipped goat cheese. So I took my basket and headed to the grocery store, where I eventually found a small tub of the stuff at three times the cost of regular, ordinary, every-day goat cheese.

When I finally had a minute to spare I sat down and examined the label. The ingredients were goat cheese and water… and a few chemicals. It seemed I’d bought a processed food fortified with who knows what. And I thought: why can’t I make that myself – and leave out the chemicals?

Why indeed. It’s so simple, I didn’t even need a food processor. I got great results with nothing but a spoon and a bowl.

Whipped goat cheese

Goat cheese and lemon – so easy to whip up

Whipped goat cream
Makes approx 1 1/4 cups or 20 tablespoons

  • 1 cup (150 grams) goat cheese, at room temperature (mine comes in a tube)
  • 2 tablespoons yogurt from 2% goat’s milk (I make my own… You don’t? OK, use natural Greek-style yogurt instead)
  • freshly squeezed juice and finely grated zest from half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Stevia* to taste (0 calories) or 1 teaspoon honey
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons hot water, or as needed to achieve desired consistency
  1. Combine goat cheese, yogurt, sweetener,  lemon juice and zest into a bowl.
  2. Cream them together with a wide spoon until smooth, adding 1-2 tablespoons of hot water, as needed, to get a light creamy consistency. Add more if you like it runnier, as for a dip perhaps.
  3. Season to taste with a little sea salt.

*This is a great recipe in which to experiment with Stevia, because it sweetens while enhancing the lemon flavor. It works better than sugar.

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Pear taquitos with whipped goat cream

How to serve goat cream

This works great in the recipe I mentioned off the top, for pear taquitos. I make it often for special occasions, and it is always a success.

Whipped goat cheese

Whipped goat cream goes well with fruit and today I enjoyed it with sliced apple.

Use it as a low-sugar icing on cupcakes or tarts. Whipped goat cream adds moistness and tang to any chocolate, lemon, or banana treat.

Thin it out a bit more and use it as a veggie dip for carrots or turnip sticks.

Whipped goat cheese

Whipped goat cream works as a spread on crackers. I like it with Triscuits (20 calories each) but if you like bagels or toast, I’m sure it would be delicious there as a spread.

Nutrition

One tablespoon of whipped goat cream has 21 calories. It has equal amounts of fat and protein, about 1.5 grams each.

Whipped goat cream is a low-carb food, only 0.3 grams (if you use stevia to sweeten).

This food is a good source of vitamin A, niacin, riboflavin and iron.

By the way, you can reduce the amount of fat per tablespoon by adding more water. This is how manufacturers make low-fat butter and mayo. Now, you can make them too and save some money. They charge more for products with less fat because of the processing cost.

 

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