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Sweeten your holiday desserts without sugar

 Q. I want to make sweet treats for the holidays without using sugar or synthetic sugar substitutes. Do you have any suggestions?

A. I recommend that you use stevia (stee-vee-uh), a sugarless herbal sweetener derived from a South American shrub. Stevia leaves have been used for centuries in Brazil and Paraguay to sweeten tea, and its been extensively used in Japan since the early 1970s. Popular products such as Celestial Seasonings herbal teas contain stevia, and you can find the sweetener at your local health-food store.

Stevia makes a great sugar substitute because it contains zero calories, is up to 250 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, and can be used for baking since it's stable at high temperatures.

And stevia appears to have additional benefits: In February, researchers reported in the journal "Planta Medica" that stevia extracts "were able to regulate blood glucose levels by enhancing not only insulin secretion, but also insulin utilization in insulin-deficient rats." A 2003 article in the journal "Phytochemistry" reviewed a number of studies on stevia and concluded that it is safe when used as a sweetener, safe for diabetics and safe for people who want to lose weight.

These recipes, compliments of Honolulu-based vegetarian chef Alyssa Moreau, can help you sweeten your holidays without sugar or synthetic sugar substitutes.

ROASTED SWEET POTATOES WITH MAPLE BUTTER

 

  • 6 small yams
  • 3 tablespoons nonhydrogenated margarine (such as Earth Balance)
  • 1 teaspoon maple flavor extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon powdered stevia
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

    Wash yams; in the center of each, pierce a few times with a knife. Place in a roasting pan or baking sheet and roast until tender (45 minutes to 1 hour).

    Heat margarine, maple extract and stevia in a small pan until melted. When yams are done, split and mash with a fork. Drizzle margarine mixture over each and sprinkle with the salt. Serves 6.

    PUMPKIN PIE WITH STREUSEL TOPPING

    For the pie:

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered stevia
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • One 15-oz. can pumpkin
  • One 1/2-cup condensed milk or soymilk

    For the topping:

  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup regular oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon powdered stevia
  • 3 tablespoons nonhydrogenated margarine (such as Earth Balance)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the spices, stevia, cornstarch and salt. Blend in the pumpkin and milk, then pour into a 9-inch pie crust. For topping: combine dry ingredients and then mix in the margarine with a fork until crumbly. Add the pecans and enough water (approximately 1 tablespoon) to lightly moisten. Sprinkle on top of filling and bake until set (about 45 minutes). Cool before cutting.

    Laurie Steelsmith is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist in Honolulu, as well as author of "Natural Choices for Women's Health." You can contact her and look at her past columns at www.drlauriesteelsmith.com. This column is for information only. Consult your health provider for medical advice.

    Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com

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