Stevia extract is one of life’s true blessings. It’s a natural plant extract that is healthy, has zero calories, has zero impact on blood sugar, and is cheaper than many other healthy sweeteners because one little bottle lasts practically forever. I was already a fan of stevia in general, and now English Toffee flavour has come along, I love it even more. The first thing you notice as soon as you open the bottle is that it’s reminiscent of a certain butterscotch flavour instant pudding that many of us loved as children.
I did wonder if it would make everything taste of butterscotch but it just adds a subtle hint, as if the dish you’ve sweetened has been carried through a grove of butterscotch trees (yes I know there is no such thing but go along with me on this…) I can’t think of anything I’d sweeten that English Toffee Stevia wouldn’t go with perfectly. It’s a no-brainer for anything with carob or chocolate in it of course, but even delicate lemon flavoured dishes benefit from it, such as Kate’s heavenly Lemon Deelite pudding. Continue reading
Medicine Flower do an amazing range of extract flavours, and having tried and loved the dark chocolate and coconut flavours, I wanted to have a go with the apricot one next. When I opened the little bottle and took a sniff I expected it to smell like that baby food apricot pudding that used to come in tiny jars. But the extract smells of real, actual apricots. Do beware though – on the label it says ‘concentrated’ and they’re not kidding – this stuff is POTENT! So what can you use it (sparingly) in? The answer is, practically anything that you want to make taste of apricot!
Try one or two drops in a glass of water kefir. Don’t be tempted to put more in without tasting it first. The first time I tried this, I put about 4 drops in and made it taste like Polish apricot brandy. But two drops gives an apricot infusion, I can practically feel the fuzz on my tongue as it goes down. I also tried putting some in my raw chocolate smoothie and as long as I only use 2 drops, it gives the deep dark taste a fruity lift reminiscent of apricot parfait chocs from a well-known high street chocolatier.
Kate has a great apricot mousse recipe that is just gagging for a few drops of Apricot Extract. Have a go at this (Kate uses fresh apricots but I imagine soaked dried ones would work well too).
Mmmm, goji berries. I love them.
We all know by now that they're little gems of nutrition: very high in vitamin C, and have all of the essential amino acids. They are also anti-inflammatory and immune-system boosting. Brilliant!
What's great about them is that they are equally at home in a sweet or savoury context, and are yummy enough to eat by the handful.
I didn't think that my adoration of these beauties could get any bigger...until I tried these Heaven Mountain goji berries.
Heaven indeed! Exceptionally soft, ridiculously moreish, utterly delicious. You know ho gojis tend to be quite hard and chewy, usually needing to be soaked for a bit to make them perfect? These are nothing like that! Dragon Herbs have found a way to keep the berries so juicy and plump, PLUS they are grown in pretty pristine conditions.
What I really really really love is that, to me, they seem to have so much more life in them that any other goji berry that I’ve tried. Positively bursting with goodness.
Basically, these take gojis to a whole new level! Totally different to all the ones that I have tried before. Problem is, I'm not sure how I'll be able to settle for any others!
There is an amazing selection of natural and raw sweeteners available to us and while it’s great to have choices, it’s helpful to have some basis on which to make those choices. For me, it comes down to taste, texture, how natural it is and most importantly, what impact it has on my blood sugar because I’m prone to candida.
For those of us with blood sugar sensitivity, the Glycaemic Index (GI) of a sweetener is a useful guide to how much trouble we’re going to be in if we use it regularly or in larger amounts. The GI scale gives an idea of how big an impact foods that contain carbohydrate have on blood sugar. As a rule of thumb, foods with a GI of 50 or less are generally considered to be ‘low glycaemic’ though I personally try to avoid anything much over 30 unless it’s for an occasional treat. It’s a personal thing though – try things for yourself and see how they affect you.
So looking at our array of goodies, what do we pick? Let’s start with honey, that most natural of sweet treats. If your blood sugar levels are robust and you’re not a strict vegan then honey is the biz. Human beings are designed to eat it, are indeed privileged to eat it – it’s full of enzymes and other good stuff and is associated with good health and longevity. The GI varies from honey to honey but it’s generally around the 50 mark so a bit high for me in my current state but I hope one day soon to be able to enjoy it regularly. It’s worth trying to get raw local honey. It helps our immune system if the honey is made from the nectar of plants in our local area.
Speaking of nectar, what about agave nectar? There’s been some controversy about it within the raw food movement, about its GI and whether it’s raw. The agave generally available in health food shops and supermarkets isn’t raw unless it says so on the label, but the agave from Raw Living is of course raw, of high quality and has a GI of about 17 so I never worry about using it. I especially love the Ultimate Agave. It’s useful for when you need a clear, light syrup that doesn’t have a strong flavour of its own. For instance, I make a lime syrup that I use as a cordial with sparkling water to make a great summertime drink (see recipe below). I use the same syrup to drizzle over raw coconut ice cream.
For one large jugful of drink, mix
- ¼ cup agave nectar
- Zest of one lime
- Juice of half a lime (or more for a syrup with a tarty tang, ho ho)
- Sprigs of mint or lemon balm if you have it
Make the syrup simply by combining the zest and juice of the lemon with the agave nectar. Put some ice cubes and a couple of sprigs of lemon balm/mint into a large jug. Pour the lime syrup over the ice and then pour a bottle of chilled sparkling water over that (Pellegrino or Perrier are nice because they’re not artificially carbonated). Give it a stir and then serve in the garden to sighs of appreciation.
Next is my favourite stuff ever, yacon syrup – it’s made from a root vegetable and is full of FOS (fructooligosaccharides, can you believe I spelled that without looking it up). This means that not only is it almost zero GI, but it’s a prebiotic ie it feeds the good bacteria in your gut not the candida. Also it has a wonderful rich molasses taste. I like the purple glass bottles Raw Living put it in. Once they’re empty, I wash them and can then be seen swigging my Adya-treated water from them all day long because I read somewhere that the colour blue gives the water good energetic vibes or something. So, just in case…anyway. Yacon flour is brilliant too if you don’t want it in syrup form. You’d use it in a similar way to Peruvian carob, another tasty natural raw powdered sweetener, though yacon flour is sweeter so you’d need to use less. Lucuma is a third contender in this category and absolutely delicious, to me it tastes like powdered apricot custard. I don’t know the GI ratings of either mesquite or lucuma though neither ever seem to give me a candida flare-up as long as I use them in moderation.
A surprise big hitter among the natural sweeteners is xylitol. I say surprise because it looks and tastes like sugar so to see it as a healthy sweetener is maybe counter-intuitive. I don’t think it’s raw (someone correct me if I’m wrong) but it is natural ie made from fermented birch bark, and it has a very low GI of only 7. It’s good to use when you need a sprinkly sweetener ie on raw pancakes, on cereal or as a coating for home made sweets and truffles. This makes it so easy to avoid using sugar, even for someone with a pathologically sweet tooth like me.
Other products worth a mention include stevia and coconut nectar. These can be harder to get hold of in this country. For instance, there is stevia extract which is zero GI, zero calories, is virtually tasteless and you only need a few drops at a time. Here’s the crazy part though – while stevia is completely safe and there’s never been any record of it causing an atom of harm to anyone, and while the UK government expresses concern at the epidemic levels of obesity and diabetes, stevia is banned for use as a sweetener in this country. Why? Well, it’s not hard to work it out. As Deep Throat said in the film ‘All the Presidents Men,’ follow the money… You can get stevia leaf powder but I find the goaty flavour off-putting. The only annoying thing for me about stevia extract is that I never know how to pronounce it. Is it STEEvia or is it STEVia to rhyme with heavier. Any academic types out there who know this? Answers on a postcard please. The coconut nectar deserves a mention, even though there’s less of it about and it has a mid-range GI of about 35 but as a truly raw product and truly yummy it’s worth considering depending on your priorities.
I feel so grateful to have access to these products because I wouldn’t be able to stay raw without them, I have to be able to feed my face with sweet-tasting goodies. I celebrate them all and hope that they gain more mainstream acceptance because heaven knows, they’re desperately needed.
Do you remember that children’s poem?
Here we go round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush.
Here we go round the mulberry bush
On a cold and frosty morning.
Funny cos mulberries don’t grow on bushes they grow on trees!
Anyway, I want to tell you about these little beauties. Black Mulberries – as it says on the packet, these are the dried fruit for Goths. But even if you're not a Goth and hold no Goth-aspirations, you will still LOVE these!
Mulberries are a popular medicinal herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and are thought to support the kidney and liver.
These berries are multi-coloured geniuses. When young, they are anything from white or green to pale yellow with pink edges! When they are ripening they turn red and then slowly go from dark purple to black.
Rich in nutrients such as Vitamins C and K, iron, calcium, and fibre, black mulberries are an excellent superfood. They are also full of antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory properties and are huge in the antioxidant anthocyanin. Wow that’s a lot of ants isn’t it?
Black mulberries have a really incredible texture and taste. They do look a little teeny bit like rabbit droppings but definitely don’t taste like it even though I don’t know what rabbit droppings taste like…they might even taste nice?
Moving on, they’re very like raisins but certainly not as sweet. The taste is still sweet but not sickly sweet like raisins can be. They’d be great to use in recipes as an alternative to dates, raisins or any other sweetener. However I just eat them straight from the bag. I’m not massive on dried fruit but I have to say I’ve been going back for just another handful since I opened the bag!
The great news is that black mulberries also have an antihyperglycemic effect which means they won’t mess about with your blood sugar levels. This makes them even more ideal and my favourite snacky type snack thing to snack on for snacking purposes.
I also plopped a big handful in my chia pudding this morning and it was delicious!
Following on from my earlier blog about blackcurrant powder, I thought I'd share another wee recipe I've made using this marvellously fruity curranty mix
3 cups of hemp milk (you can use whatever milk you prefer)
1 TBSP blackcurrant powder
1 TBSP lecithin
1 TBSP lucuma
1 tsp vanilla powder
1 tsp purple corn
1 TBSP sweetner of choice (honey, agave, xylitol)
Blend and enjoy whilst marvelling at how purple it all is :)
The following is a true story, names have not been changed to protect the ecstatic!
I was reading the Donna Gates Body Ecology book the other day and it was talking about things to eat to combat candida. If you haven't already read the book it recommends cutting out sweet fruits with the exception of lemons, limes, cranberries and blackcurrants. So I thought to myself, the last time I had blackcurrants was in a carton of Ribena about ten years ago, how on earth will I find any blackcurrants? I don't think I've even seen a real-life blackcurrant since I was a little girl! Raw Living to the rescue (I swear I manifested this) with their magical blackcurrant powder!
Black currants are rich in many phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, essential fatty acids and minerals
In particular, they are renowned for their high content in Vitamin C, Omega-6 and potassium. They have twice the potassium of bananas, four times the vitamin C of oranges, and twice the antioxidants of blueberries!
The powder itself is very concentrated in flavour so you only need a little bit. I decided to make a blackcurrant chia pudding, which I'm calling Ri-chia. You can also add it to smoothies, cakes and chocolates for a fruity punch, it does pack a real KaPow!
Soak 2 TBSP of chia in 1 cup of pure water overnight, the next morning add:
1 TBSP Blackcurrant Powder
1 TBSP Lucuma
Add more water if you want to make a runnier pudding! Top with goji berries if desired
Raw Living’s raw orange blossom honey is simply divine. When I got my delivery I couldn’t wait to open it up, first things first... Put my finger in and........ yum! I don’t usually stick my finger in honey pots but this honey tastes like no other. It’s solid in the jar and melts in the mouth. With a subtle hint of orange it is very morish. My favourite way of eating it is to get a Brazil nut, dip it in the pot, scoop out a lashing of honey and pop it in my little mouth.
I’m sure you are aware that bees are dying off! We need to do our best to keep this from happening as bees keep our agriculture alive. Without bees we wouldn’t be able to pollinate crops. Buying raw helps provide a good life for free-range bees that are not treated badly for their precious honey. Raw honey provides good quality, enzyme-rich, medicinal, powerful food. David Wolfe raves about honey and the medicinal properties of honey; buying raw guarantees you that quality. There have been strong supportive scientific studies conducted on the different types of honey collected and the different medicinal qualities they provide for different ailments.
Raw Living’s honey is such good value at £5.99 a jar! Practically the same for a high street jar of honey. They also sell heather, chestnut and multifloral honey.
I am now hooked on honey – raw of course....