Sugar - many of us have a love-hate relationship with it. We love the sweetness and comforting feeling sugar gives us, but hate the effect it has on our bodies. While it drastically improves the taste of many foods, it can mound on the pounds and cheat us of valuable and necessary nutrients. Sugar is such an integral part of our lives that to cut it out removes much of the pleasure of eating. But, it does not have to be that way. By using common sense and a few of the following suggestions, you can enjoy sugar and avoid its negative effects.
Sugar: A Carbohydrate
Research studies show that carbohydrate in the form of sugars does not raise blood sugar levels more rapidly than other types of carbohydrates. The total amount of carbohydrates eating is important, not the source. The major problem with sugar consumption is that baked goods - especially commercial ones - are often high in fat, carbohydrates and calories. Even the low fat and fat free versions are high in carbohydrates to compensate for the lack of fat.
These large amounts of sugar provide empty calories with little or no vitamins and minerals. The key is to use sugar, but in moderation and learn to incorporate sugars that contain some nutritional value. Natural sugars - those naturally a part of food, such as fructose in fruit or lactose in milk - give you carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
Cutting back on the amount of granulated sugar in your recipes and sometimes adding sweetness by using sugar substitutes will help control the carbohydrate count as well.
In baking, that "non-nutritious" granulated sugar is very important. It not only provides flavor, it affects volume, moisture, texture and color. When you bake, substituting other ingredients for sugar can cause negative results. Even when using small amounts of granulated sugar in combination with sugar substitutes, it is the combination of other ingredients that will create the successful results larger amounts of sugar normally achieve.
The cooking properties of sugar substitutes are different than those of sugar, so substitutes work best in recipes where sugar is used primarily for sweetening. To get the most natural-tasting sweetness from sugar substitutes, use them on cold items - over fruits and cereals, in lemonade and iced tea or after removing a cooked item from the heat. Prolonged cooking at high temperatures can destroy some sweetness and produce an unpleasant aftertaste. Try using half sugar substitute and half-granulated sugar when baking your favorite recipes.
Using flavor enhancers such as orange or lemon zest brings out the fruitiness in a dish and heightens the flavors of the ingredients used. Vanilla, butter flavoring, and nut flavorings produce an aroma of "fattening" sweetness and buttery nuts without the use of butter or excessive use of nuts. Sweet-enhancing spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger and nutmeg intensify flavors in a dish. Try combining several spices instead of using just one for a fresh, uplifting flavor. In chocolate recipes, substitute cold strong coffee for the liquid needed. This brings out the deep chocolate flavors. Topping baked goods with fruit, fruit spread or a generous amount of cinnamon mixed with some sugar substitute allows the flavors to be on top and tasted immediately.
Use egg whites in place of whole eggs - two egg whites equal one egg. These may be whipped to stiff peaks with an electric mixer for slightly more volume. For optimum volume, set eggs out on counter for one-half hour before separating and whipping, or put eggs in a bowl of warm water while you assemble the other ingredients.
Cookies made using sugar substitute or very little sugar will not always spread enough while baking to cook evenly. Thus, flatten the surface of each cookie before baking with a fork coated with cooking spray. The cooking spray prevents the fork from sticking to the dough.
Bake muffins and cupcakes in small mini muffin pans rather than the standard size to provide the desired shape and allow them to rise higher. Adding one-half teaspoon baking soda to a recipe helps the product to rise in a short baking period.
Reduce fruit juices to one-third of their original volume by boiling over high heat for concentrated flavors and sweetness. The use of additional vanilla also accentuates the sweetness in a dish. Dried fruits, such as plums, raisins, apples, pears, peaches, apricots, cherries and cranberries provide bursts of sweetness. Cutting each one into very small pieces helps distribute the flavors and sweetness more evenly. (On a similar note, use mini-morsels of chocolate rather than the standard size chips helps guarantee chocolate flavors in every bite).
Over ripe fruits, such as bananas, provide a tremendous amount of sweetness, moisture and flavor. Always buy fruits - especially apples - individually, not in plastic bags. The flavors and sweetness are much more intense when the fruits have not been packaged in plastic.
Sprinkling a small amount of sugar on a piecrust coated with cooking spray will create the taste and appearance of sugar while using only fresh and dried fruits in the filling.
A small amount of molasses not only provides color, but moisture and deep sweet flavor as well. When baking with sugar substitutes or recipes very low in sugar and low in fat, food may not brown properly. Sprinkling cinnamon or nutmeg on top of an item before baking gives the impression of browning. And using a small amount of dark brown sugar with fruits will give the dish an intense, buttery, rich color.
Us mashed or pureed fruits - ripe bananas, pureed baby-food pears, runes, sweet potatoes, carrots - to increase moisture in baked goods. Applesauce may be used, but the other purees seem to provide more flavor, tenderness and moisture.
Cookies and brownies will continue to cook while cooling. Remove them before they look done and allow them to cool on a rack. When baking with sugar substitutes, in particular, the baking time is shortened considerably.
Use canola oil or olive oil in place of butter or margarine in small amounts to add moisture while reducing cholesterol intake.
Add the following reduced sugar recipe to your existing collection! The blueberries are packed with sweetness, nutrients and antioxidants naturally.
Blueberry Turnovers Recipe
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, slightly thawed
12 packets sugar substitute
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 to 4 teaspoons apple juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Reduced fat pastry for a 9-inch single pie crust
2 tablespoons nonfat milk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Rinse blueberries; drain slightly and place in medium saucepan. Sprinkle berries with the 12 packets of sugar substitute and cornstarch; toss to coat. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until berries begin to release juice and form small amount of thickened sauce. Add apple juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, if bottom of saucepan becomes dry. Stir in lemon zest. Cool; refrigerate until chilled.
Roll pastry crust on floured surface to one-eight inch thickness; cut into eight 5-inch squares, re-rolling scraps as necessary. Place about two tablespoons blueberry mixture on each pastry square. Fold squares in half to form triangles and press edges together to seal. Crimp edges with tines of fork; pierce tops of pastries three or four times with tip of knife.
Brush tops of pastries lightly with nonfat milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake on wax paper lined or parchment-lined baking sheet 25 minutes or until pastries are lightly browned. Recipe makes eight turnovers.
Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 213; Total fat: 6g; Saturated fat: 1g; Carbohydrates: 23g; Cholesterol: 0; Fiber: 1g; Protein: 2g; Sodium: 134mg. Exchanges: 1 starch, 1/2 fruit, 1 fat.
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