Ok, listen up! Sugar-free recipes are not necessarily a healthy alternative. Of course food laden with processed, bleached, intestine-destroying sugar is not ‘healthy’, but real stuff should always be preferable to artificially crafted sweeteners. I mean, why choose artificial sweeteners that have next-to-no calories, when they have next-to-no nutritional value? How does this benefit you in the long-run? If all you ate was laboratory food that was void of kilojoules to help keep you thin, you’d look ten years older from lack of nutrition. You wouldn’t be getting any vitamins and minerals, or energy, or fibre, fat, or protein. The building blocks of life. The reason we eat in the first place.
So, sweeteners. Sweet does not have to always be bad. There are many, easily accessible, ‘sweeteners’ that, despite the fact that, yes, they do contain kilojoules, are actually packed full of beneficial nutrients. Also, these sweeteners do not severely raise blood sugar levels like highly processed sugar does and, therefore, does not put excess strain on your organs.
Rapadura sugar. Pretty much the only product of sugar cane that I use here at home. Imagine sugar cane juice that has only one process applied to it. Dehydration. No heating, solvent extraction, affination, clarification or bleaching. After dehydrating the cane juice, you are left with brown crystals solely made up of organic compounds and minerals, the ‘sugar’. Rapadura sugar is low GI, high in iron, potassium, magnesium and fibre. It has a slight caramel flavour that just tastes amazing in baked goodies.
Stevia. Stevia is a herb that I have tried growing here myself. It really is a pity my dogs took a liking to digging up my pots. The thing that really astounds me about stevia is that it is so incredibly sweet! One tiny little leaf on the back of your tongue almost blows your mind with sickly sweetness. Sooo, stevia powder is a natural ingredient, but is also highly processed. I use stevia occasionally in place of castor sugar in recipes that require extreme aeration, like lemon curd, or when a brown colouration is not favourable (like that you tend to get with rapadura). I do seem to be contradicting myself here, as stevia powder is as highly processed as white sugar is, but the difference is that stevia does not put extreme strain on your organs like white sugar does. It also does not raise blood glucose levels, so food prepared with it is suitable for people with diabetes.
Honey. Everyone knows what honey is. So I won’t go too far into it now, except for, I will say that when buying honey I always opt for “raw”, i.e. honey that has not been heat treated, or processed in any way.
Maple syrup. Extracted from Maple trees. Bet you didn’t guess that, did you? Maple syrup is higher in calcium than honey (and lower in kilojoules - but I bet you don’t care about that anymore do you?), is high in zinc and a really good source of manganese (a trace mineral that is a building block for many antioxidants). It also contains the B vitamins and vitamin A. Maple syrup does not involve any processing before it reaches shop shelves, despite reduction, so is suitable for those who eat only raw foods.
Dates. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Dates do have a higher energy content than many of the other sweeteners. But that is exactly the point I am trying to make. Energy content should not be the deal-breaker. You should also consider the nutritional content of the food. And in this case, dates are a winner. Dates are extremely high in both soluble and insoluble types of fibre, and potassium. They also contain calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and the B vitamins. Combine dates with low GI foods, like nuts and yoghurt, if you are eating them as a snack as otherwise they will send your blood glucose sky high!
Fruit and vegetables. All fruit, and the ‘starchy’ type vegetable,s have varying degrees of natural sweetness. They also contain tonnes of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Most people do not get enough fruit or veg in their diet, so incorporating them in as many ways as you can I think is important. Getting a variety is also imperative, but keep it local and seasonal so your produce is likely to be fresher and thus nutritionally optimal.
Shall we carry on now?
500g almond meal
1 cup dates
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
1/4 cup cocao powder
100g 85% chocolate
Walnuts for decoration
For a vegan alternative - omit the eggs, and add more pumpkin. Choose either vegan chocolate, or instead of using chocolate, add more cocao powder.
1. Prepare the pumpkin puree at least an hour in advance. Chop the pumpkin into small pieces, then steam or boil it until soft.
2. Mash the pumpkin and then suspend it in a sieve lined with cheese cloth or something similar to drain out the liquid from the pumpkin.
3. Temper the chocolate over a bay marie, ensuring the bowl containing the chocolate is not touching the water.
4. In a saucepan, heat the dates with a dash of water.
5. After the dates ‘melt’ a little, take it off the heat, and then add the bi-carb.
7. You could either pour the mix into a lined baking tray and make a traditional brownie slice, or do what I have done here and made little individual brownies.
EDIT: I forgot to include how to cook these brownies - thanks to my lovely friend for pointing it out to me!
Cook at 160 degrees C for around 10-15mins.
8. Decorate with walnuts! (or whatever you prefer)
Moist, sweet and delicious, naturally!!