Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What "Sugar Free" means in Delightfully Free

In the cookbook world, "sugar free" means that the recipes are sweetened with something other than refined sugar. But what is it that makes these recipes sweet?? This is an important question.

In my cookbook, Delightfully Free, "sugar free," means that the recipes are free of all refined sugars and also free from any form of chemicals (the chief villain being aspartame) and the alcohol sugars such as maltitol and xylitol (sweeteners which always end in the letters "tol"). These sweeteners are not foods, but full-on chemicals that do harm to us in other significant ways than spiking our glycemic levels the way refined sugars do. By using these chemical sweeteners, a cookbook or a product can claim that it is "sugar free," yet the bottom line is that they are also unfortunately health free!


In many cookbooks, "sugar free" also doesn't necessarily mean that the healthiest refined sugar-free alternatives are being used. I feel very strongly that there is a definite ranking or hierarchy when it comes to healthiness, even among "natural" sweeteners. In Delightfully Free, I chose to use what I have come to believe are the very healthiest natural, low glycemic, nutritious, less refined and raw sweeteners.  

The only sweeteners I use in my cookbook are stevia and coconut palm sugar/nectar. In addition, in 7 recipes that are not heated, I use raw organic honey.

A few of the many brands of Coconut Palm Sugar, Stevia and Coconut Nectar

Stevia is a natural, plant-derived sweetener which comes in liquid or powder form. It is intensely sweet, 200-300 times more sweet than table sugar, although it is not a sugar at all, but a flavor. Something to celebrate about...stevia has no calories and a glycemic index of zero. All of this makes it probably the healthiest sweetener we can use. So, I start with stevia, but because it can have a bitter aftertaste if too much is used, I found just the right amount for each recipe without tasting bitter. This way, we cut down on even the amount of natural sugar in my recipes. Then I used coconut palm sugar, with its delicious flavor, as my secondary sweetener.

Only 4 of the many brands of Coconut Palm Sugar

Coconut palm sugar, which I've been excited about for some time now, is a granular, natural, unrefined sweetener made from the flower of the coconut palm tree. It has fewer calories than honey or agave nectar. Not only does coconut palm sugar have a low glycemic index of about 35 compared to table sugar with a glycemic index of 80, it is actually a nutrient-dense food containing vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and amino acids. It has a rich flavor, which is considered to be preferable to white or brown sugar. In cooking and baking, it behaves much like traditional sugar, and so allows for easy substitution and the same desired results. You can learn more about coconut palm sugar in my post a few years back (See, Coconut Sugar ~ It's Sweet, 2/17/11).

Coconut Secret was the first brand I found being sold in markets, but other brands are coming along

Coconut Nectar is a sweet syrup which, like coconut palm sugar, is the unprocessed "sap" of the coconut tree blossom. Although coconut nectar and coconut palm sugar come from the coconut tree, they do not have a coconut flavor. Also, like coconut palm sugar, coconut nectar is nutrient-dense, containing 17 amino acids, vitamin C, broad-spectrum B vitamins and a neutral pH. Its glycemic index is an admirable 35 and it has a delicious flavor which makes it and coconut palm sugar superior to other "natural" sweeteners in terms of flavor and health.

Raw honey, because it is unprocessed, scores between 30-40 on the glycemic index compared to processed honeys which score between 55-80.  

Regarding agave nectar, I, along with most of the health community, believed at one time that agave nectar was a solid choice for a natural sweetener. So, in the first edition of Delightfully Free, I used it as one of my sweeteners. However, In the last couple of years, I have come to believe that there are better choices of natural sweeteners than agave nectar, so in the 2nd Edition of Delightfully Free, I reworked 52 recipes, eliminating agave nectar, and enhancing all the delicious recipes people have come to know and enjoy in the book.  

When it comes to sweeteners--it's all about knowing what to use and how to use it. So,  what kinds of sugar do you use? If you cook and bake using recipes from Delightfully Free, you now know the answer. For an even broader source of healthy info about ingredients used in Delightfully Free, you can check out the section at the beginning of the book entitled "Stocking your GF DF SF Pantry".

Wishing you health and Joy,

~ Tracy

About Delightfully Free: Delightfully Free is a gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free cookbook of 141 recipes. It includes delicious resources for autism, Celiac disease, diabetes, lactose intolerance, obesity and just plain healthy living. It contains 114 color photographs, 114 vegetarian or vegetarian compatible recipes, and 103 vegan or vegan compatible recipes.



 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Refined Sugar? No Thank You!

What are We up against with Refined Sugar?  

There are many reasons to avoid white table sugar, which is our enemy and is waging war on our health. White sugar is highly processed and refined and, therefore, has no nutritional value whatsoever and is a whopping 80 on the glycemic index--and, these are arguably its better features!! If you want to read more about the numerous negatives that come from refined sugar such as damage to organs, depletion of vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals, diabetes, hypoglycemia and more, then read what The Macrobiotic Guide has to say about the subject: http://www.macrobiotics.co.uk/sugar.htm. Pretty intense and enough to make anyone serious about their weight, health and well-being want to eliminate or dramatically curtail their consumption of refined sugar.



A big part of the problem is that many times we don't realize the massive amounts of sugar hidden in our foods. For example, let's consider a staple in the American diet--ketchup.

Did you know that when we add traditional ketchup to our plate, we are ingesting hidden sugars? High-fructose corn syrup (generally the second ingredient in Ketchup) and corn syrup (usually the forth ingredient) are detrimental to our health and are called "added sugars".

Types of "added sugars" include fructose (linked to heart disease because it raises triglycerides and cholesterol and is completely devoid of any nutrition), corn syrup (with a high glycemic index of 75 and very little nutritional value), high fructose corn syrup (with a glycemic index of 87 and believed by many health advocates to be, along with refined sugar, the biggest contributor to health ailments) and glucose (AKA dextrose) which holds the infamous distinction of a glycemic rating of 100! Believe it or not, the average American throws down 350-475 calories of added sugars a day! And that's in addition to the other sugars that they might know they are consuming. 

"Sugar Free" the Right Way 

Artificial and alcohol-based sweeteners have many negatives. We should avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame and all of the alcohol sugars such as maltitol and xylitol (sweeteners which always end in the letters "tol") because they are chemicals, not foods. Without going further into that subject here, please let me be clear on one point: You will never find refined sugar or artificial or alcohol-based sweeteners in any of the recipes in my cookbook, Delightfully Free. (I will cover what I do use to sweeten my recipes in my next post.)

Another point to be aware of is that some natural sweeteners can change as you cook or bake them, causing their glycemic index to rise. For instance, raw honey has a glycemic index of 30-40. But when honey is processed, it is heated to a high heat, causing its glycemic index to rise to 55-80. For this reason, in the few instances that I use raw honey in Delightfully Free, it is only in recipes that are not cooked or baked after the raw honey has been added.

Yes, the American diet needs some big changes when it comes to sugar. But, we're not your average Americans, are we?  No, No. Because we know the secrets of stevia and  coconut palm sugar, which are healthy, happy, natural, low glycemic sweeteners, we make baked goods and confections into amazingly delicious and surprisingly nutritious treats! So, please look for my next post which will cover the natural sweeteners in my cookbook.

Wishing you happy AND healthy eating,

~ Tracy

About Delightfully Free: Delightfully Free is a gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free cookbook of 141 recipes. It includes delicious resources for autism, Celiac disease, diabetes, lactose intolerance, obesity and just plain healthy living. It contains 114 color photographs, 114 vegetarian or vegetarian compatible recipes, and 103 vegan or vegan compatible recipes.



 

Friday, October 17, 2014

St. Louis Rams Wellness Week

What does a cookbook have to do with an NFL football team?

A lot, when the cookbook is filled with recipes that promote better health, strength & endurance, a more stable glycemic level & lots of nutrition-boosting energy derived from lean proteins, complex carbs & the important, good fats. 

I wouldn't have guessed that I would have the opportunity to present my cookbook, Delightfully Free, to the staff & coaches' wives of the St. Louis Rams, but that is exactly what happened! I was invited to Rams Park to be a part of the Rams' Health Fair being put on by Jody in HR last week. The goal was to promote healthy eating. In the process I met lots of great people & made so many new friends.

 



My first day at the Health Fair I met lots of really nice Rams' employees as I offered samples of my Cafe Nuts (page 125), Crunchy Snack Mix (page 125), Hummus, both plain & peperoncini, with my Gluten-Free, Corn Free Baked Tortilla Chips (page 123) & my Black Bean Brownies (p. 135).  It was rewarding to see their enthusiasm for the recipes they were tasting. I never get tired of seeing people's responses to delicious food that is surprisingly clean, healthy & guilt free! Many happy people went home with signed copies of my cookbook.

My husband Bri (who denies he was envious of my visit), said I should have been given the game ball, which I should have then had signed extensively & given to him. Oops. But what I did get was some great memories and a tour of the Rams Camp. I will tell you about what happened in day 2 (the Lunch & Learn) & day 3 (the luncheon we threw for the coach's wives) in future posts, but here are a few photos from my first day: 



The view out my window of the Rams on their practice field
At my table with my samples



 
 I borrowed some equipment from All-Pro Robert Quinn. When I got home, I got to see how it fits him, as he wore it on Monday night football!

Wishing you health and Joy,

~ Tracy

About Delightfully Free: Delightfully Free is a gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free cookbook of 141 recipes. It includes delicious resources for autism, Celiac disease, diabetes, lactose intolerance, obesity and just plain healthy living. It contains 114 color photographs, 114 vegetarian or vegetarian compatible recipes, and 103 vegan or vegan compatible recipes.



 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Your Reviews of the Book

I have had some "formal" reviews of the book, but the ones I enjoy the most come from you, the people who have bought or been gifted the book and tell me about your experiences with the recipes. I thought it would be fun to share a few. And, who knows, it may even encourage any of you who still haven't bought the book to do it now.

I think the Chocolate Cake is a good place to start since it appears on the cover of Delightfully Free:

 
Here's what I just heard from Angela about the recipe:

 "I purchased your cookbook roughly a month ago and today I used it for the first time to make the  Chocolate Cake recipe. All I can say is WOW! I have tried just about every GF cake recipe and nothing comes close to yours."

Jen from Phoenix wrote me about the Black Bean Brownies:

"I've longed for brownies that tasted chocolatey and fudgey like what I was used to having in the past. I was hesitant, due to the main ingredient, the black beans, but they came out so amazingly good! My boyfriend, who can eat anything, thinks they're great as well."


It was especially flattering to get this email from "Chris' Mom":

"I made my Starbuck's pumpkin bread addicted son a loaf of YOUR Pumpkin Bread. He thinks it is even better than your brownies(which were off the chart excellent). He said this is now his favorite dessert, 100% better than Starbucks. Coming from a dessert expert like Chris, that is a huge compliment."



And finally, lest you think that Delightfully Free is only desserts and baked goods, here's what Amber said a main course and a side dish:

" I just had a birthday dinner and my family made me the pesto pasta (Creamy Pesto Fettuccini with Chicken & Artichokes) and Asparagus with Cauliflower Cream Sauce. It was delicious! Everyone loved both the main dish and the side!"




Here's the Table of Contents to Delightfully Free which shows just how many different categories of recipes you have to choose from:



I will post more in the future and maybe it will be from someone reading this now who decides to get Delightfully Free to experience some of the 141 recipes that are not only GF, DF, SF, but are delicious and nutritious.

~Tracy

About Delightfully Free: Delightfully Free is a gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free cookbook of 141 recipes. It includes delicious resources for autism, Celiac disease, diabetes, lactose intolerance, obesity and just plain healthy living. It contains 114 color photographs, 114 vegetarian or vegetarian compatible recipes, and 103 vegan or vegan compatible recipes.