Friday, August 10, 2012

Let Mother Nature Help Satisfy That Sweet Tooth...

We all have a sweet tooth in some fashion, for myself it comes in the form of an Oreo Cookie Cupcake from the team over at CupCake Mojo here in town. Two of these little beauties makes for a great dinner on a weekend where it is just myself and the Mrs. While sweets are good in moderation, a steady diet of all that processed and refined sugar is a very bad thing indeed. Having written about some of those issues in the past, I decided to leave them out of today's posting. If you want to go back in time and read more about some of the harmful effects of sugar, start with this older post  To Drink Soda or Not To Drink Soda or the follow-up piece We Are What We Eat. What I did want to write about today is a natural replacement for sugar inside of everyones' diet that is a healthy alternative without the use of any chemicals. That product is Honey!!

Honey, nature's very own sweetener is a great alternative to refined sugar. It can be used in baking, grilling and even as a sweetener for everyday things like water, coffee or tea. It is a carbohydrate that contains water and a whole host of enzymes, minerals, vitamins and amino acids. It has zero added ingredients and is not broken down and processed through chemical means like table sugar. A side by side comparison of the calories in both sugar and honey yield some interesting results.

Honey, has 64 calories per tablespoon and refined or table sugar has 46 calories per tablespoon. So right out of the gate most consumers would quickly dismiss honey as being better for us than regular sugar. Honey has the advantage when you look just past the numbers, it is sweeter  then sugar which allows people to use only about a 1/3 of the amount they would typically use with sugar. Here is some calorie math to help illustrate this point. 3 tablespoons of sugar in the morning along with cereal or coffee would equal 138 calories. Using honey as the alternative gives us only 64 calories. Average that out over a day with coffee breaks, a trip on the way home for some delicious ice coffee from Dunkin Donuts and you start to see a vast difference in the intake of calories from sugar vs that of honey. In addition Honey has the vitamins B6, Thiamin, Riboflavin and Niacin as well as minerals like Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium and Potassium.

Let's get technical for a little bit when discussing honey and sugar. Both are made of Glucose & Fructose. With sugar, these two components are combined due to the refining process making the body work harder to break it down into energy. The body does this by utilizing it's own enzymes and because of this, energy is not released in a timely fashion and the sugar is converted into fat stores. Honey does not go through a refining process like sugar and the Glucose and Fructose are not combined because of an enzyme added by bees during production. Having the two being separate allows the body to absorb them more quickly converting it into energy that is delivered over a longer period and not stored as fat. The body also does not have to utilize many of its own resources to break honey down as it does with sugar. Taking a culinary journey and experimenting with honey both light and dark is a great way to have some fun and eat healthier at the same time.

Now before we get into the real fun stuff and look at some honey recipes, I went online and sifted through some Honey Facts that I wanted to share with everyone...things like singers using honey to soothe the throat have been known for many many years, while other ones are a little on the humorous side.

~  Grabbing some carrot sticks for a snack is a great idea. Some light cream cheese mixed with a few tablespoons of honey makes an amazing dip.

~  Honey is not only fat free but it has zero cholesterol.

Yup, honey is used for lots of great stuff!!
~  Looking for a way to boost the immune system? Honey has all natural antibacterial and antioxidant properties which can help improve the digestive system, help you stay healthy and help you fight off diseases and infections. Try this quick and easy cleanse each morning to keep the energy high and the body happy. 1 tablespoon of honey mixed with the juice of half a lemon along with 8 ounces of warm water.

~  Have one too many drinks last night and fighting a hangover? Honey contains a mix of natural sugars that are known to speed up the oxidation of alcohol by the liver. If you need a quick cure then try mixing 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey with 2 ounces of orange juice and 2 ounces yogurt. Mix in a blender for the ultimate hangover smoothie.

~  Having trouble sleeping? Honey and warm milk is supposed to calm you down and allow you to sleep better.

New ideas and uses come up for honey everyday and what is here really only scratches the surface. Try some of the ideas out for yourself and see if cutting back on the sugar and stirring in some honey works for you!!

~ Smashed Blueberry Bread ~

2 Cups Fresh Blueberries, rinsed and drained
1/2 Cup Honey
1/2 Cup Buttermilk, use a lower fat version if the store carries it
1/3 Cup Greek Yogurt, Plain or Vanilla
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Egg
2 1/2 Cups Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 Tbs Cinnamon
1 Tbs Orange Zest

~ Bread Glaze ~

4 Tbs Orange Juice or Lemon Juice
3 Tbs Honey

~ Baking The Bread ~

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place 1 cup of blueberries in a medium size bowl and using the back of a fork or spoon, mash the blueberries into a thick paste. Add the remaining blueberries and stir in the honey. Mix in the Buttermilk, Greek yogurt, Vanilla Extract and the egg. Set the batter aside for now.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir all of the dry ingredients until well blended. Blend in the Orange Zest last.

I came across this recipe years ago and I wish I knew where
it originally came from. It has never failed to impress and the
taste is just amazing
Pour the blueberry mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix together with a spoon or spatula. Do not over mix the batter. The goal is to have the blueberries suspended in the mix. It should take only 10 to 15 seconds of blending.

Spoon the batter into 2 or 3 (5 3/4” x 3 1/4” x 2”) greased mini loaf pans.

These can be purchased at almost any supermarket or you can invest in a ceramic type. Bake each loaf for approximately 30 to 35 minutes.

Prepare the glaze while the bread is baking.

When it is finished remove the bread and baste with the glaze. return to the oven for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Cool each loaf on a wire rack.

~ Honey & Cranberry Barbecue Sauce ~

2 Cups Fresh or Frozen Cranberries
1 1/2 Cups Honey
1 1/2 Cups Ketchup
1 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
2 Tbs Lemon Juice, fresh
1 1/2 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium to large sized sauce pot. Allow it to come to a boil, then quickly reduce the heat and cover for about 20 minutes. Continue to simmer with the cover off and allow the mixture to thicken slightly. This will take an additional 15 minutes. After it has cooled, puree the mixture until smooth. This makes for an excellent glaze over chicken or turkey

That finishes up our time in the valley of sweetness!! Hope you enjoyed the read and as always feel free to comment or make suggestions. Thanks to everyone who stops by, it is a fun ride from where I sit behind the computer and I hope that as time goes on the blog just keeps getting better and better.

1 comment:

  1. This is my favorite of your posts yet! I absolutely love honey and have a wonderful Chocolate Honey Cake recipe if you are interested. When my daughter was in elementary school her science project was about how bees make honey. It is an interesting process and if you are like me and love honey bees you will appreciate their hard work!