Affairs of Living

Gluten-free, allergy-friendly, whole foods recipes

Recent Posts

Subscribe to RSS headline updates from:
Powered by FeedBurner

Site Search
Subscribe

Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

Free Shipping on Vitamix

The Vitamix is my favorite kitchen tool for blending perfectly smooth sauces and smoothies, making my own nut and seed butters, grinding fresh gluten-free flours, and more. Interested in purchasing one? Check out the great deals on reconditioned Vitamix machines, or investigate new Vitamix machine packages. Payment plans are available!

Receive FREE SHIPPING to the US and Canada when you order a Vitamix with my affiliate code 06-004943. 

Save at iherb.com

Save $5 on your first order from iHerb.com with coupon code QAB040.  Visit iHerb.com now to browse natural products and supplements. 

Love it here?

                                

« Gluten-Free, Allergy-Friendly Super Bowl Recipes | Main | January SOS Kitchen Challenge Round-Up & Giveaway Winner »
Wednesday
Feb022011

February SOS Kitchen Challenge Reveal, and a Sweet Giveaway

[How do you like our new event logo?] 

When Ricki and I discussed which ingredient to use for the SOS Kitchen  Challenge this month - the month of Valentine's Day - we both agreed that we needed something that could help showcase desserts.  After all, we wanted our ingredient to be suitable as we whip up healthy sweets for our sweethearts (which includes anyone you care about - even yourself!). 

Whether you follow a Lyme-specific diet like me,  the ACD like Ricki, or just want to reduce the amount of white sugar in your life, this month's key ingredient is a fabulous natural sweetener and a healthy alternative to sugar.  That's right - this month's SOS ingredient is none other than both Ricki's and my favorite sweetener:

STEVIA!

[source]

Stevia, an herbal sweetener dervied from the stevia rebaudiana plant (native to Paraguay) has become massively popular in the US over the past couple of years; it’s been available in Canada since 1987. (In Japan, it’s been a staple since 1971, and remains the most popular sweetener in the country–more popular than white sugar).  

Just about a year ago, Ricki devoted an entire post to this herbal sweetener.  For those of you who are new to it, here’s a recap and some updated information.

Our favorite shrub with the sweet edible leaves, stevia, was given US designation as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) in 2008. That’s why you’ve likely seen more and more foods recently that contain stevia, either in its pure form or a combination with fillers like cellulose or maltodextrin.  In Canada, stevia is still considered an herbal supplement, so while you can buy it in its pure form, you won’t find Canadian soft drinks, puddings, or diet foods sweetened with stevia. 

Stevia provides a natural sweeteness with zero calories and without raising blood sugar levels (it scores “0″ on the Glycemic Index).  When the stevia leaves are dried, the compounds stevioside and rebaudioside are extracted to give stevia its sweetness (about 250-300 times sweeter than sugar).  These resulting compounds can be dried into powder or used in liquid form; either way, they are usually augmented with fillers, since the pure extract is so sweet the amounts used would be infinitesmal.   You can also consume the fresh leaves, which are about 30-45 times sweeter than sugar. 

What Does Stevia Taste Like?

According to Chet Day on his Health and Beyond website, stevia acquires its sweetness from ”its complex stevioside molecule that is composed of glucose, sophorose and steviol. A second compound called rebaudioside, which is present in Stevia, also contributes to Stevia’s sweetness.”  I personally have never had any problems with the unique taste that stevia confers in foods, but I know that some people do consider that it has a slightly bitter aftertaste; some notice a very subtle licorice undertone. Apparently, the better the quality, the less likely you’ll notice any kind of bitterness. 

In addition, since stevia is so much sweeter than sugar, it’s important to remember that a little goes a (really) long way.  When first starting out with this natural sweetener, it’s better to err on the side of slightly less sweet than too sweet, to avoid this potential problem.

Types of Stevia and How to Use It

Stevia is available in many forms, including pure liquid, pure powder and both with added ingredients (usually fillers to render it easier to measure, since pure stevia is so sweet that the amounts needed are sometimes too small to portion accurately).  I prefer liquid stevia as the dropper makes it easy to measure, but both Ricki and I use the powdered form as well. (There are also one-for-one stevia-based sweeteners on the market that allow you to measure one cup of the mixture for one cup of sugar, but these always contain bulking agents.  While they produce a good product, they may cause digestive distress for some people). 

You’ll find pure stevia liquid in purified water, glycerin, or food grade alcohol.  While the alcohol helps to preserve it longer, it’s not always suitable for those of us on the anti candida diet.  The powder in its pure form is extremely potent, so it’s often mixed with fillers such as cellulose or maltodextrin.  Again, if you’re sensitive to any of those ingredients, you’ll want to opt for pure stevia.

I tried my hand at growing my own stevia herb last year in my garden, which was a lot of fun. I ended up with a lot of stevia leaves, which I added to the tea pot with fresh lemon balm, peppermint, and lemon verbena for a lovely, sweet, digestive system-friendly tea. I also dried some of the leaves and made my own natural stevia powder. That stuff is intense. 

If you’d like to try stevia for this challenge, keep in mind that the most difficult substitutions occur in baking, where both the wet and dry ratios of ingredients will be altered; it’s difficult to replace 1/2 cup of maple syrup with only 1/2 tsp of powder.  If you’re just starting out, you might prefer to try any one of the following types of recipe:

  • salad dressings
  • syrups
  • puddings or custards
  • oatmeal
  • smoothies or other beverages
  • sauces
  • fruit-based desserts
  • any other items that use very little sugar (pie crust, savory baking, pasta sauces, etc.)

If you type “stevia” into the search box at the right of this page, you’ll find a plethora of recipe ideas you can try.  Remember, your entry to the SOS Challenge doesn’t have to be an original recipe–so feel free to use one of Ricki's or mine if you’re new to stevia!

AND PLEASE NOTE: For this month’s Challenge, you can combine stevia with other natural sweeteners (maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar, etc.) for your recipe(s).  There is no need to create a recipe that uses stevia-only! That will also make a transition to cooking with stevia a little smoother for many of you. 

Health Benefits of Stevia 

Several studies have shown that stevia in its pure form (not processed products like Truvia or PureVia) may confer many types of health benefits.  It’s been shown to be safe without containing toxins or producing side effects in those who consume it. And because it’s zero calorie and doesn’t spike blood glucose, it’s a great sweetener for diabetics or others with blood sugar issues.  Recent research suggests it may help to stabilize insulin levels as well, and some studies even suggest that it can regulate blood pressure. A Japanese study (where stevia is immensely popular) found that stevia can help to prevent plaque buildup on teeth. In addition, stevia (like all plants) contains antioxidants, known to help fight free radicals that can lead to chronic conditions and cancer.

[Some of the many products offered by NuNaturals]

And Now. . . Some Stevia for Four of You!

This month, the amazing folks at NuNaturals (often described as the only “non-bitter” stevia extract) have offered a fabulous giveaway prize for our SOS Kitchen Challenge!  By submitting a recipe to this month’s Challenge, you enter to win one of four prizes. (For full Challenge guidelines, please see this post).  And remember, it’s perfectly fine to combine the stevia with other natural sweeteners in the recipe–no need to use stevia all on its own!  

I just recently had the opportunity to try NuNaturals products, and their stevia has risen to the top of my "favorite stevia brands" list. The flavor is great.

Each prize contains:

At the end of the month, Ricki and I will choose the four winners at random and ask that you send us your full names and shipping addresses–so be sure to come back here and check if you won at the beginning of next month!

We’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm and incredible creativity you’ve all shown over the past Challenges.  So put those (sugar-free) thinking caps on, and start cooking with stevia this month!  We can’t wait to see what sweet things you develop for our February Challenge!  :D  

 

February SOS Kitchen Challenge: Stevia

 

 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (4)

Okay, stevia has been chasing me for a while now. And here you girls are having it as your ingredient for Feb. Looks like I'm going to have to give it a shot! Thanks for all of the great info!

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

I found your wonderful blog doing a search for lemon poppyseed bread made with coconut flour. It is beautiful and I have enjoyed browsing. I printed off a few recipes to try and will be back!

February 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

I'm totally entering! I know exactly what I'm making. Yay, my first SOS Kitchen Challenge :)

February 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Awesome info. Thanks for sharing.

Vita Logic Vitamins

April 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVita Logic Vitamins
Sorry, no comments/questions allowed right now.
Hi reader! My schedule as full-time grad student with two part-time jobs doesn't allow me the time to manage comments. I hope you enjoy what you find and can figure out answers to any questions you may have. xo