Natural Alternatives to Refined Sugar

Are you looking for an alternative to refined white sugar? Are you confused about all the natural alternatives or just want to learn more about them? Don’t want your children or yourself to be bouncing off the walls and having a meltdown after eating sugar? If you answered yes, read on and learn more! There are answers/alternatives and I use many of them in my new cookbook, No Wheat No Dairy No Problem-see Orders page!

Many of us have made the choice to eliminate refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup(HFCS) from our diets and replace them with an array of more natural sweeteners. There are many alternatives for sweetening, but what are they and how do they differ?  Many of these alternatives have a lower glycemic index which will eliminate the highs and lows associated with refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

The research on high fructose corn syrup is mixed. However, it does suggest that consuming it can promote diabetes, obesity and  heart disease. Studies have shown a correlation between HFCS and the increased incidence of obesity and diabetes. Anyone who has eaten white sugar knows that it causes spikes in blood sugar followed by the sugar lows.

Agave nectar and palm sugar are suitable for diabetics because they are very low glycemic index. However, if you are a diabetic please consult your physician and try them in small quantities to begin. I hope they work well for you and you can have dessert again without suffering!

Many of us also experience inflammation in our bodies and get hives or feel “spacey” when we eat white sugar. Since refined sugar can be associated with inflammation, it can aggravate any pre-existing inflammation such as arthritis. I personally, cut it out of my diet many years ago and feel so much better. If I do eat some refined sugar, I break out in hives! It is very difficult to avoid it when eating out, but it is something we have complete control and choice in our own homes/kitchens. Read labels and make your own choice. It is hidden in all kinds of food, even salad dressing!

White sugar is highly processed and can be very toxic due to the chemical solutions,  bleaching and filtering with bone charcoal(not vegan). Yes, bone is used to filter sugar. This processing is not only unhealthy for our bodies, but is doing harm to the environment.

The sugar cane itself is not the  problem, but how it is processed and refined is a problem. There are less refined/processed sweeteners made from the sugar cane such as sucanat and molasses-see below.

Healthy Alternatives to refined white sugar(GI80): Available at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, health food stores, some ethnic grocery stores and online

Agave nectar: (GI 32)Tastes sweet and neutral. Extracted from the Blue Agave Cactus. Raw agave syrup has a low glycemic index and is absorbed into the body much slower than sugar. It eliminates the highs and lows experienced with eating refined sugar. Dissolves in cold liquid. Available in light and dark, use light unless recipe indicates dark.

Palm Sugar/Coconut Sugar:(GI35) One comes from the palmyra or sugar palm and the other from coconut palm, but both are produced from the sweet, watery sap that drips from cut flower buds.  The sap is boiled down to concentrate it and evaporate the moisture. Low glycemic index!

Date Sugar: (dates are about GI44, but sugar GI is not available) finely ground dried date crystals. Can be used in place of sugar. Very expensive.

Maple Syrup: (GI 54)syrup/sap from the Sugar Maple Tree that is boiled and evaporated. A flavorful sweetener.  Also dried and made into crystals, known as Maple Sugar.

Honey: (GI58)derived from the nectar of flowers gathered by bees. Available in liquid and crystal form. Sweeter than sugar. Anti-bacterial and anti-microbial. Do not feed to infants under 2 years of age.

Molasses:(GI54) use unsulfured. Cane sugar syrup, unrefined/unprocessed. Great in gingerbread/snaps.

Sucanat: (GI55)dehydrated, unprocessed sugar cane juice. Fine ground golden brown crystals. An affordable, raw sweetener with a light molasses flavor. Interchangeable with maple/date sugar.

Give these alternatives a try and find your favorite. Please post a comment on this blog and share your experience or thoughts about alternative natural sweeteners.  See Recipe of the Week to get a homemade ice “cream” recipe made with agave or honey-fabulous on top of the Summer Fruit Crisp made with agave and one of the natural sugars above!

Enjoy and Be Well, Lauren Hoover

Organic-is it really better?

Is Organic really better? If so, why?

First of all, what is organic?  Organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides or fertilizers. The process and expense a farmer has to go through in order to be certified organic is very lengthy (up to 8 years) and very expensive. It is not only the produce itself that must be free of these, but the soil must be free of any pesticides/fertilizers. There cannot be any water runoff or contamination from the farm next door either! Now we know why organic is more expensive. The organic standards and practices are very strict and much higher than conventional. Here is why it is worth it to me and I hope to you.

What is the advantage of purchasing and eating organic? How is organic healthier than conventional or non-organic produce? Organic produce is significantly higher (at least 50%, sometimes 800%) in vitamins, minerals and fiber and retains the nutrients longer than conventional produce. Nutrients are absorbed best when eaten from food rather than taken in a pill form. That said, I am not suggesting we all stop taking vitamins/supplements. I am asking that we look at and consider how we can get the most amounts of nutrients from our food.

Research shows that our immune system is more able to fight off infection and disease when it is strong. Pesticides are a chemical that are toxic to our health, and the body needs to use a lot of energy to rid itself of these toxins. Therefore, we will have more energy reserved if it is not being used to constantly eliminate toxins.

Did you know the average piece of fruit contains more than 20 pesticides? Did you know that if you consumed an average apple you would be eating over 30 pesticides, even after you have washed it? So, no washing it does not solve the problem. In some cases peeling the skin can get rid of the pesticides, but how much of it has been absorbed by the remaining flesh?

Pesticides:

There are two basic types of pesticides:

· Organochlorides kill pests by attacking their central nervous systems. Linked to cancer, birth defects and genetic changes in animals. They are fat-soluble and stored in body fat. They are far more persistent than organophosphates.

· Organophosphates interfere with nerve conduction in pests. They are the most common pesticide used today. They are water-soluble and break down rapidly.

Another problem with pesticides being sprayed is that it is not only directly contaminating our food, but it is indirectly being transferred to our food supply and water supply. Yes, it is getting into the oceans, rivers which in turn are affecting our fish and seafood. It is also in the water supply that livestock (cows, pigs, chickens etc…) are drinking. Do you see the connection? If it is not in the water, most likely it is in the feed that these animals are consuming. Bottom line, it all ends up on our dinner table or in our sack lunch or on that lovely plate in a restaurant unless it is organic.

I understand that not everyone has the means or access to all organic food. Thankfully, the prices of organic food are coming down, and sometimes I find it is the same or lower than conventional! However, we can make better choices. Thank goodness, We, the consumer do influence farming and purchasing practices-Safeway and Wal Mart are now carrying organic because we, the consumer, demanded it. I am a strong advocate of shopping at farmer’s markets because it is fresh (usually picked within 1-2 days); and I feel good about supporting the local people/farmers-which directly effects the local economy.

Here is a list( you can cut out and keep in your wallet) of the most heavily sprayed produce (sometimes called the dirty dozen) that we can choose to buy organic (either at the grocery store or farmer’s markets):

Dirty Dozen

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Grapes, imported (Chili)
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Blueberries

Cleanest Produce

  • Watermelon
  • Onoions
  • Avocados
  • Sweet Corn(frozen)
  • Pineapples
  • Mangoes
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas(frozen)
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Papayas
  • Cantalope
  • Grapefruit
  • Sweet Potatoes

Other organic foods worth considering:

  • Beef
  • Dairy-milk, cheese, cream
  • Poultry

Something else to think about…our skin is actually our largest organ! Yes, it’s true, and anything put on our skin is directly absorbed into the bloodstream! Shocking, I know. So, if we are making such a conscious effort to eat healthy, shouldn’t we want to be as careful about what we put onto our skin? I choose to use organic or at least all natural soaps/creams/lotions and cosmetics. At the very least I avoid anything that is petroleum based-ingredients such as petroleum, mineral oil. And, harsh ingredients such as, sodium laurel sulfate (which can be drying) and parabens (linked to cancer). There is a lot of this kind of information available on the web, and I will continue to write about it in future articles. For those of us who are allergic to wheat and/or dairy, it is good to read labels since many body products contain wheat protein and dairy! I hope you will do your own research and share it with us on www.nowheatnodairynoproblem.com

www.nubianheritage.com

www.AvalonOrganics.com

Finally, cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops. Remember, it is not only the crop, but the reside and run off that contaminates water supplies too. I know organic cotton and clothes are very expensive, but we can buy them when possible. Personally I’d rather have less and have organic. What about you?

Here’s to being more informed so we can make the best choices for ourselves and our planet. I am off to go to the local farmers market to find all the fruit and vegetables that are in season! Delicious!

www.organicfoodinfo.net

Be Well,

Lauren

Grapeseed Oil

Grapeseed Oil is beneficial to our health and has a neutral flavor. It has a high smoke point-can be heated up to 485 degrees, so it is great for sautéing with high heat/temperature. Since the flavor is neutral it is great to use in recipes that need a delicate flavor that sometimes other oils do not possess. It is also great in skin care products since it is high in antioxidants-Caudalie, a French skincare company, uses this as one of  their main ingredients. Caudalie products are available at Sephora.com

From Wikipedia: Click on the links for indepth information on each subject!

Grape seed oil (also called grapeseed oil or grape oil) is a vegetable oil pressed from the seeds of various varieties of Vitis vinifera grapes, an abundant by-product of winemaking. Grape seed oil is used for salad dressings, marinades, deep frying, flavored oils, baking, massage oil, sunburn repair lotion, hair products, body hygiene creams, lip balm and hand creams. Most grape seed oil is produced in Italy, with other producing nations including France, Spain, and Argentina.

Resources: www.jonesandbones.com, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s

RECIPE OF THE WEEK:  Vinaigrettes to brighten your summer salads!

Alternatives to Milk!

Almond/Hazelnut Milk: High in Calcium! Water and almonds or hazelnuts blended together and used as a milk substitute. Unsweetened, Plain Rice Milk or Soy Milk can be used as a substitute if you are allergic to nuts. Buy organic almonds because they are heavily sprayed with pesticides. I prefer to make my own almond milk, but companies such as Blue Diamond and Pacific Foods make a good unsweetened version. Be sure to use the unsweetened, plain or vanilla flavor. Available at Whole Foods Market, health food stores, Trader Joe’s or online at Blue Diamond.

Almonds are very nutritious and the least acidic of all nuts. They are high in magnesium, manganese, copper, arginine, potassium, vitamins E and B2, fiber and tryptophan. They also contain high amounts of monounsaturated fat, which reduces the risk of heart disease. Almonds provide a high level of energy to our bodies. No wonder why they are often in trail mix!

Almonds come in both sweet and bitter. The sweet is most palatable. The bitter is used to make liqueurs and almond oil/extract. Raw organic almonds are the healthiest form. Nuts have an enzyme inhibitor, which make them difficult to digest. However, if you soak the raw almonds in fresh water for 12 hours and then drain them, this will break down the inhibitor making them much easier to digest. This process does make the texture a bit softer. If you are an advocate of eating raw, eat them as is-which is the healthiest. If you really need that crunch, you can heat them in a 350 degree oven until golden brown and crunchy again. For flavor, sprinkle with fine sea salt or spray with tamari (wheat-free soy sauce).

See recipe of the week page on this blog site for Fried Chicken using Almond Milk in place of Buttermilk! Learn to make your own Almond Milk too!

Hemp Milk, Sunflower Milk and Flaxseed Milk are all good too. See article on dairy alternatives for more information.

Olive Oil-A delicious and healthy alternative to Butter

Saying I don’t like olive oil is like saying I don’t like wine! Why? Olive oil has an array of flavors and characteristics similar to wine. Olive oil can range from mild and buttery tasting to strong, grassy and/or peppery. You must taste them to find one you love before claiming there is no olive oil you like.

I was not aware of this until I went to an olive oil tasting at Jones and Bones in Capitola, California with over 30 extra virgin olive oils from all over the world. Tasting more than 2 or 3 extra virgin olive oils next to each other was quite educational and my palate was exhilarated and fatigued by all the various flavors. I’d never experienced anything like this before and my eyes and taste buds were opened for further exploration along with a new found passion and love! Being a former Pastry Chef who had to give up butter, I was thrilled to find this delicious and much healthier alternative!

Here’s an idea, have all of your friends bring a bottle of olive oil over and cover them with a piece of paper and number them so everyone can participate in a blind tasting. Have everyone take notes about the flavors. Use small tasting spoons. The palate does get fatigued, so drink water in between or eat a cracker or wheat free bread.

A few facts and history about olive oil:

Production:

The olive came to California in the late 18th century, when Spanish missionaries planted olive trees at each of the 21 missions they established between San Diego and Sonoma. By the mid 19th century, there was a thriving olive oil industry in California.

Major Olive Oil producers today include: Spain, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Morocco, and California. Small quantities are made in Provence, Syria, Israel, Australia, S. Africa, Chile, and several other countries.

Hand picking is the preferred method of harvesting. Hand picking is labor intensive, and is just one of the reasons for the high cost of extra virgin, liquid gold, olive oil.

Freshly harvested olives are rushed from the field to the mill, where they are rinsed in fresh water, and separated from the leaves and stems. Next, the olives are ground into paste with a very large stone, approximately 4,000 pounds, and the paste is mixed to encourage the oil to separate from the surrounding vegetable matter and water. This is called cold pressing because there is no heat used in the process. Cold pressed oil retains the highest amount of nutrients and is the healthiest form. There are several levels/grades of olive oil and they are not equal. You may be buying olive oil that is actually not fit for human consumption! Please read below to educate yourself so you can make the best purchasing decision.

Another popular process is to press citrus (Blood Orange, Persian Lime, Meyer Lemon etc…) with the olive oil press/stone and combine it with the olive oil for flavor. Some of the California producers are Round Pond, Stella Cadente, and O Olive Oil. Some companies also add spices and flavors such as rosemary and or garlic to their olive oil which adds a lot of flavor to meat, poultry and vegetables. In my cookbook, No Wheat No Dairy No Problem I use these flavorful oils to enhance flavor in recipes and as a healthy alternative to dairy/butter.

Health Benefits:

Recent research has underscored the heart benefits from so-called Mediterranean diets high in unsaturated fats from vegetable oil, nuts and such fish as salmon and tuna. Mortality rates dropped by more than 50 percent among elderly Europeans who stuck to such diets and led healthy lifestyles, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (news – web sites) in September.

The North American Olive Oil Association included 88 publications to back its claim for the heart-healthy benefits of olive oil. The group wanted to make the claim for monounsaturated fats contained in just one tablespoon of olive oil per day.

The Nature Publishing Group claims that there is an Ibuprofen-like activity in extra virgin olive oil.

Storage/Shelf Life:

According to the late Betty Pustarfi, former owner of Strictly Olive Oil/Educator, “Always store extra virgin olive oil in a cool, dark place, away from heat and light. Where it will have a shelf life of 12 to 18 months from harvest. Extra Virgin Olive Oil does not age like wine — they will mellow, not become rancid, but simply lose some of their characteristics.” That said, this is only for extra virgin olive oil, other forms of olive oil can go rancid over time and if not stored properly. You will know if it is rancid, it will smell terrible and taste bad.

Resources for Olive Oils:

www.jonesandbones.com

www.cooc.com

INTERNATIONAL OLIVE COUNCIL (IOC) and

CALIFORNIA TRADE STANDARDS for OLIVE OIL

Paul Vossen

The International Olive Council (IOC) has a United Nations charter to develop quality and purity criteria for olive oil. Their main focus is regulating the legal aspects of the olive oil industry and preventing unfair competition. The standards they have developed are recognized by the vast majority of the world’s olive oil producers and marketers. The International Standards under resolution COI/T.15/NC no 3-25 (revised June 2003) lists nine grades of olive oil in two primary categories – (1) Olive Oil and (2) Olive Pomace Oil. These are the official definitions of each of the nine grades:

2.1 OLIVE OIL CATEGORY

Oil obtained solely from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europa L.) to the exclusion of oils obtained using solvents or re-esterification processes and of any mixture with oils of other kinds (seed or nut oils).

2.1.1 Virgin Olive Oils – obtained solely by mechanical or physical means under thermal conditions that do not lead to alterations in the oil; using only treatments such as washing, decantation, centrifugation, and filtration. Those fit for human consumption are as follows:

i. Extra Virgin Olive Oil – this oil, as evaluated numerically by the mean of a certified taste panel, contains zero (0) defects and greater than zero positive attributes. In other words, more than half of the tasters indicated that it is not defective and has some fruitiness. Extra-virgin oil also must have a free acidity percentage of less than 0.8 and conform to all the standards listed in its category. This is the highest quality rating for an olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil should have clear flavor characteristics that reflect the fruit from which it was made. In relation to the complex matrix of variety, fruit maturity, growing region, and extraction technique, extra virgin olive oils can be very different from one another.

ii. Virgin Olive Oil – this is oil with a sensory analysis rating of the mean of tasters, having defects from 0 to less than 2.5, a free acidity of less than 2%, and conforms to all the other standards in its category. These are oils with analytical and sensory indices that reflect slightly lower quality than extra virgin olive oil.

iii. Ordinary Virgin Olive Oil – oil with a lower organoleptic rating (defects from the mean of tasters 2.5 to less than 6.0), a free acidity of less than 3.3%, and conformity within its category for all other standards. This is inferior oil with notable defects that is not permitted to be bottled under European Union (EU) laws, so it is sent for refining. The EU has eliminated this category and other regulating agencies are likely to follow. It will simply be absorbed into the lampante category.

Paul Vossen – University of California, Cooperative Extension – pmvossen@ucdavis.edu – 2007 1

2.1.1.2 Virgin Olive Oil – Not Fit for Human Consumption (Lampante) – Oil with severe defects (greater than 6.0) or free acidity of greater than 3.3%, and which conforms to the other standards within its category. It is not fit for human consumption and must be refined. These oils come from bad fruit or from improper handling and processing. This grade is designated as not fit for human consumption.

2.1.2 Refined Olive Oil – Not Fit for Human Consumption – Oil obtained from virgin oils by refining methods that do not alter the initial glyceride structure. It has a free acidity of less than 0.3 and must conform to the other standards within its category. Refined olive oil must not come from the solvent extraction of pomace. The refining process usually consists of treating virgin oil/lampante with sodium hydroxide to neutralize the free acidity, washing, drying, odor removal, color removal, and filtration. In the process, the oil can be heated to as high as 430oF (220oC) under a vacuum to remove all of the volatile components. Refined olive oil is usually odorless, tasteless, and colorless. It is designated as not fit for human consumption.

2.1.3 Olive Oil Oils that are a blend of refined and unrefined virgin oils. It must have a free acidity of not more than 1% and conform to the other standards within its category. This grade of oil actually represents the bulk of the oil sold to the consumer on the world market. Blends are made in proportions to create specific styles and prices. Oils in the US labeled as “Extra Light” would most likely be a blend dominated by refined olive oil. Other blends with more color and flavor would contain more virgin or extra virgin olive oil.

2.2 OLIVE POMACE OIL CATEGORY

Oil obtained by treating olive pomace with solvents. It does not include oils obtained in the re-esterification processes or any mixture with oils of other kinds (seed or nut oils).

2.2.1 Crude Olive-Pomace Oil – Not Fit for Human Consumption – This is the solvent extracted crude oil product as it comes out of the pomace extractor after distillation to separate and recover most of the solvent. EU law also defines any oil containing 300-350 mg/kg of waxes and aliphatic alcohols above 350 mg/kg to be crude pomace oil. It is designated as not fit for human consumption, but is intended for refining.

2.2.2 Refined Olive-Pomace Oil – Not Fit for Human Consumption – Oil obtained from crude pomace oil by refining methods that do not alter the initial glyceride structure. It has a free acidity of not more than 0.3% and its other characteristics must conform to the standard in its category. Refining includes the same methods used for “refined olive oil” except that the source of the raw product comes from pomace by means of solvent extraction. It is designated as not fit for human consumption.

2.2.3 Olive-Pomace Oil – A blend of refined olive-pomace oil and virgin olive oil that is fit for human consumption. It has a free acidity of not more than 1% and must conform to the other standards within its category. In no case shall this blend be called “olive oil.”

Paul Vossen – University of California, Cooperative Extension – pmvossen@ucdavis.edu – 2007 2

Telling Virgin from Refined from Pomace from Seed Oil – What is What?

A combination of over 20 laboratory tests and a sensory tasting is used to determine if an olive oil has been adulterated with seed, pomace, or refined olive oil and to classify and grade olive oils according to IOC standards. The sensory test involves the use of a trained taste panel that is recognized by the IOC. Eight tasters must confirm to a statistical model for accuracy and validity and indicate that if a sample oil is defective or not and if it is, which defect is noted and the intensity of the defect in question. If the sample is not defective, its intensity of fruitiness, bitterness, and pungency is noted. This combination of ratings by the taste panel members will classify an oil as either extra virgin, virgin, or lampante.

Extra Virgin oil: This is the good stuff, with flavor characteristics of fresh, crisp, clean, fruity olive oil. Just like anything else, the taster/consumer must become familiar with this flavor in order to recognize it. Extra virgin oils do not have any off flavors or any flavors of cooked or refined oil. They feel substantial in the mouth and are not greasy. They should have a nice fruity flavor and can have a pleasant bitterness, pungency, and astringency. Olive oils that are slightly defective in flavor that have not been refined or solvent extracted are not extra virgin, but might be graded as virgin olive oil.

Refined oil: Labeled as olive oil or pure olive oil or light olive oil. This is the mediocre stuff that is usually just bland. It is usually not awful unless it has gone rancid, but frequently is not very good either. The sterol content of refined oil is lower due to the neutralization and deodorizing processes. It also has some trans isomers due to the heating process. Refined olive oils are popular for frying, because of their high smoke point and low cost.

Pomace oil: The not-very-good-at-all stuff, from solvent extraction of the fermented milling waste. It is usually quite bland in flavor. It goes through the same refining process as refined olive oil. It just had an even worse origin. It usually has a greasy feel in the mouth and possibly a slight cooked taste.

Seed oil: The cheaper alternative oil, can be from many different sources including: corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower, rape-seed (canola), peanut, flax, hazelnut, walnut, almond, grape, palm, cottonseed, wheat bran, rice bran, coconut, or tea seed. The non-seed oil fats of butter, lard and avocado oil are, at least, natural. All the others have been solvent extracted or extensively refined. Even expeller pressed “natural” oils found in the health-food stores, have been refined. Some of these oils have a specific recognizable flavor, but most are bland. Margarine is liquid seed oil that has been hydrogenated (trans isomers) to make it solid.

IOC Authenticity and Quality Standards

The IOOC standard oils must meet certain purity criteria for inclusion into specific categories. The olive oils must not be adulterated with any other type of oil, must pass a sensory analysis by a certified panel of tasters, and meet the analytical criteria. The standard indicates all the tests used to determine genuineness and purity plus the legal requirements for the label. Olive oil is defined as oil obtained solely from fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea sativa). Virgin oils further are obtained solely by mechanical means that do not lead to alterations in the oil.

How to determine what is in this bottle?

Paul Vossen – University of California, Cooperative Extension – pmvossen@ucdavis.edu – 2007

Gluten-free Flours including Oat Flour! Yep it’s true!


Oat flour has a sweet taste without any bitter aftertaste like many other wheat free flours. It is great in baking and cooking since it holds together. It is the predominant flour used in my cookbook, No Wheat No Dairy No Problem. Oats are high in protein, iron, thiamine, and fiber and low in fat. It is also cholesterol lowering and heart healthy! If you cannot eat oats, you can use other gluten-free flours such as Amaranth, Millet, Buckwheat, Sorghum,  Teff and Coconut either alone or combining them. Coconut is a bit challenging in that you need to add a lot more liquid when baking with it.  Disregard the amounts the packages say you can use as a substitute, they will work one to one/equal measure of AP/white/wheat flour. Play with these flours and see which ones you like and notice how you feel after you eat them. Each flour has a different flavor and texture so play around with them.

Oat Flour can be made by grinding rolled oats in a food processor, blender or vita mixer (best) or food mill until it is the consistency of flour. It can also be purchased in  health food stores. I highly recommend that you buy Bob’s Red Mill because they are a co-op that has dedicated gluten-free fields and facilities and they measure the ppm which is usually 5ppm or below. It is the sweetest and least bitter brand I have found too.

It is important to remember that oat flour is often processed in facilities which handle gluten-containing grains, like wheat, rye and barley. As a result, it can be contaminated with gluten, and people who are extremely sensitive to gluten may experience discomfort if they consume products made with the contaminated oat flour.

You can use it for your traditional recipes that call for all purpose flour(white/wheat flour). Start by using the same amount as your original recipe and if the texture is too wet, then add more 1/4 cup at a time until you have the right consistency. You can also use half oat flour and half of another gluten-free flours such as, Amaranth, Millet, Teff, Sorghum or Buckwheat. I like to make my own gluten-free combination of flours so I get to choose what flavor profile and what my body responds to best. You do not need to add tapioca or potato starches or xanthan gum to these especially if you use 1/2 oat flour.

I do not use much rice flour for two reasons, first it is very high in carbohydrates and turns into sugar in the body which can result in weight gain and contribute to diabetes. It does not have much nutrition either. Finally, rice and corn mimic gluten in the body! So think twice before you use or eat rice or corn. Sadly many gluten-free packages products are using rice flour and that is why I created a gluten & dairy-free Biscotti using GF Oat Flour. One final note on gluten-free Oat flour, is that about 10% of people who have Celiac Disease are sensitive to Oat flour and cannot tolerate it. That is when using the other flours listed above would be ideal.

When using flour to thicken sauces the gluten-free Oat works very well, and you can also use various thickeners like arrowroot and tapioca.

Give these flours a try and I know you will fall in love with them as much as I have and will expand your repitore to broaden the range of your customers and loved ones who can enjoy your delicious cooking after you make it gluten-free!


Nuts about Coconuts!

Have you ever had the pleasure of eating a fresh Thai coconut? The first time I enjoyed one was in Costa Rica, and I thought I was in heaven. It has a sweet, soft, gelatinous flesh surrounded by refreshingly clear water with the exotic taste of coconut! Delicious!

Did you know coconuts have lots of health benefits?

Coconut milk: Coconut milk is the combination of coconut water and coconut oil. Light is available which has half the fat and calories of regular. Coconut water is very hydrating due to naturally occurring electrolytes, enzymes and vitamins; and is used in place of blood plasma in some countries. The water filters itself through the tree for nine months which makes it a sterile source of hydration. Coconut milk contains No Trans fat or cholesterol, and actually helps to balance cholesterol levels. Some sources recommend it be eaten in moderation, and others say it’s abundant with healthy properties including breaking up accumulated fats in the system and metabolize them. This oil contains the highest amount of lauric acid next to mother’s milk, which is anti-viral and anti-microbial! See website links for more information.

Coconut oil: Coconut oil is a raw saturated fat containing mostly medium-chain fatty acids, which the body can metabolize efficiently and convert to energy quickly. The refined coconut oil has a more neutral flavor than the unrefined which has a distinctive coconut flavor. See website links for more information.

According to recent scientific studies coconut can be beneficial for heart disease,lower cholesterol is anti-microbial/anti-viral.

http://www.westonaprice.org/knowyourfats/coconut-oil-studies.html

Another publshised articles shows that coconut is rich in antioxidants/anti-aging, promotes thyroid function, promotes weight loss and protects against cancer.

http://www.aja.org.br/oleos/coconut_oil_good_saturated_fat.pdf

Many recipes contain coconut milk in my cookbook, No Wheat No Dairy No Problem, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in mid-June 2009.  See Recipe of the week on this blog site for a Strawberry/Fruit Smoothie containing coconut milk!

Enjoy and Be Well, Lauren

Agave Nectar Article in the News!

Hi Everyone,

The San Jose Mercury had an article in SVLife today on agave.

One problem I saw was the price was wrong. Whole Foods sells a 23.5 ounce bottle for $5-$6, a fraction of the cost the newspaper mentioned. Enjoy the article. I placed a Summer Fruit Crisp made with agave onto my blog site for this week. Hope you will give it a try and let us all know how you liked it. Be Well, Lauren

Blue Agave Cactus-produces Tequila and a low glycemic natural sweetener!

Yes, agave is known for making tequila, but it is also a wonderful natural sweetener! White sugar can have many negative effects on our bodies including the highs and lows associated with it.  Now there is a great low glycemic alternative called Agave Nectar. And, many diabetics can tolerate agave too, but check with your physician first. So far it is only available in a liquid state, which can be used in place of sugar. It is a bit sweeter than sugar so you can use a little less than sugar. Did you know that sugar is actually a liquid although it comes in dry granules? Yes, in baking it is considered a liquid. Therefore, agave being a liquid is fine. It can be a little tricky when converting a baking recipe. I will be placing a space on my blog site soon where you can submit recipes for conversion. Keep an eye on the blog…or click on the subscribe button to get automatic updates via email.

Agave nectar: Tastes sweet and neutral. Extracted from the Blue Agave Cactus. Raw agave syrup has a low glycemic index and is absorbed into the body much slower than sugar. It eliminates the highs and lows experienced with eating refined sugar. Dissolves in cold liquid. Available in light and dark, use light unless recipe indicates dark. Dark has a molasses flavor and the light is very neutral and mild. Madhava is also making flavored agave that can be stirred into hot or iced coffee: Vanilla, Hazelnut, Amaretto and Cappuccino.

Enjoy!

Available at Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and local health food stores or online at http://www.madhava.com, it is on sale at http://www.vitacost.com now