Good news! According to the US Agricultural Department us Americans now only consume 76.7 pounds of sugar each year. I read this in an article from the NY Times from October, 2012 about the USDA’s new sugar numbers. That is down from what they say was 100 pounds of the white bad stuff. Some how or another the USDA decided to use a new methodology to compute sugar usage. Curious how they do that sort of thing since this might mean we aren’t actually eating less sugar. Regardless of how they are computing this sugar usage I believe we Americans eat too much of it, and that includes high fructose corn syrup too! It shows up in so many foods we consume on a fairly regular basis, like ketchup for instance. There was a time,quite a bit of it, when I didn’t even know there was sugar in ketchup. I used to think I ate less than 5 pounds of sugar per year until I took a closer look at all the foods that contain hidden amounts of sugar. Of course there are the obvious sources of sugar like sodas,cookies, cakes etc. We all would be well served to take a closer look at the ingredients list of everything we buy from the grocery store to know what we are putting into our bodies, and cut down on our consumption of sugar. There are many health concerns for consuming too much sugar like:
increase risk of cancer
and the list goes on and on. I don’t get to concerned on who’s study is right or wrong on the effects of sugar as there is a quite bit of conflicting information out there. For instance, the American Heart Association says the average American adult eats around 150 pounds of sugar per year. That’s quite a bit different from the USDA’s new numbers. There are numerous health studies that can confuse us too on the health effects of sugar. Why not just err on the side of caution and do what I do. I use very little white sugar. Maybe 5 pounds per year in my kitchen, but probably less. What white sugar I use is usually for gifts of baked goods for people who aren’t as health conscious as I am. When a recipe calls for sugar I’ll usually use a less refined type of sugar,( brown sugar, honey, molasses, or tubinado) and less of it. I find that most baking recipes can do with 25% less sugar than called for and still be plenty sweet. Eat more fruits for your sweet tooth, which brings us to today’s healthy and quick recipe. This is a dish I use in some variation or another often. Yesterday when I saw beautiful organic strawberries at the grocery store I knew what to do with them. Give this one a try and let me know what you think.
Fresh fruit salad
16 ounces of fresh strawberries sliced, or quartered
1 apple or pear peeled, cored and cut into bite sized pieces
1 banana sliced
juice of 1 fresh orange
1/4 cup sweetened coconut chips, or shredded coconut
In a medium size mixing bowl toss strawberries, apples, and banana with the juice of 1 orange. Chill for 30 minutes or more, and serve with in small bowls with coconut on top.
You can use fresh squeeze grapefruit instead of an orange.
Pineapple is a good fruit for this dish.
If using apples I recommend Honey Crisp, or Braeburn.
Caution, this gets a bit mushy if kept too long. I like to eat it up with in 8 hours of making it.
Where Did We Go Wrong?
Healthy recipes for baking go back centuries before the advent of white flour yet most of us have been fed little in the way of whole grains most of our lives. It was after 1870 that wheat grinding changed significantly with the advent of iron, steel or porcelain rollers instead of stone. This produced a more refined flour and the rest is history. I could go on and on, but would instead send you to http://www.grainmillandwheatgrinder.com/history-of-white-flour.html where in just a few minutes you can get the rest of the story. My story is that I use way less white flour in my baking, choosing instead whole wheat, and sometimes using oat flour, or even barley flour. I experiment using these whole grains in bread, muffins and cookies. Consider that all whole grain flours are not created equal. I like getting my whole wheat flour, and white flour from King Arthur Flour Company after I read an article about them in Smithsonian Magazine several years ago. It stated that King Arthur was the only flour the French imported from America it was that good! I get my other flours and cornmeal from the small producers like Arrowhead Mills, Red’s Mill, or Hodgson Mill. I encourage you to add more whole grains in your diet which may be a challenge at first, but if you get the book, Whole Grain Baking by King Arthur Flour you will be exposed to over 500 pages of whole grain baking recipes, and information about whole grains in general. There is a baker’s hotline included in the book that has been quite useful to me on several occasions.One of the things I learned from the hotline was to keep my whole grain flours in the freezer as whole grains can go rancid. The phone number for the hotline is 802-6493717. Not all these are healthy recipes, like the lovely Lemon-Raspberry Cake that graces the cover, but there are hundreds of recipes that are healthier than most baking recipes us Americans use. Try increasing your whole grain consumption by getting a copy of this amazing baking book, and see if you agree with me that it is the best whole grain recipe resource out there.
Almost all of my posts include my original recipes, but when I find a recipe worth sharing I change my routine for you dear readers. Today’s venture into whole grain baking took place here at the Fast and Furious test kitchen,(my home), and featured brownies from page 341 in the above mentioned baking book. I tried the applesauce version that cuts the amount of butter or oil in half. I have baked with applesauce to cut down on fat in baking recipes for years with excellent results, and recommend you give it a try too if you haven’t already. Today’s experiment is going to be a gift to the staff and volunteers of St Vincent’s Villa in Timonium, Maryland where I volunteer each Wednesday mentoring a 12 year old boy that lives there. I bet they won’t even know that these are a healthier recipe for brownies unless I decide to tell them. If you want to try this recipe, it is here by permission of the good bakers at King Arthur Flour.
Double Fudge Browines
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 t espresso powder (optional)
1 T vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups traditional whole wheat flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease a 9×13 inch pan.
Melt the butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan set over low heat. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the microwave (or heat) briefly, until it’s hot and starting to bubble. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust.
Stir in the cocoa, baking powder, salt espresso powder(if using) and vanilla. Cool the mixture until you can test it with your finger: it should feel like comfortably hot bath water. Whisk in the eggs, stirring until smooth, them add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Spoon the batter into the prepare pan.
Bake the brownies until a cake tester or sharp knife poked into the center reveals wet crumbs but not raw batter, 30 minutes. The brownies should feel set on the edges and in the center. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack: cover when cool. Let sit over night before serving: this gives the bran a chance to soften, giving the brownie a more pleasing texture.
Cut the fat by substituting 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce for 1/2 cup butter: add after the vanilla. The brownies will have a slightly milder chocolate flavor and slightly less fudgy texture.
2 organic granny smith apples
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries, sweetened or unsweetened
1-2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon butter or butter substitute like Smart Balance
Using an apple corer take out the the core of both apples with one cut each. Then take out an additional part with a half moon cut to allow the stuffing to fit. Most apple corers don’t get all the core out or leave enough room for the stuffing so it’s best to do the extra cut.
Mix walnuts and cranberries with cinnamon in a small mixing bowl, and spoon into apples just until filled to about 1/4 inch above the top of the apple. It’s OK to push the stuffing in gently. Pour honey on top of stuffing and top that with the butter. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 22-25 minutes. Makes 4 servings if cut in half or 2 big ones if left whole. Good for breakfast with oatmeal or for dinner desert.
1 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup coconut
1 stick plus 6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together, scrape bowl and mix in the egg, salt and vanilla until well blended. Add flour in two parts, then mix in coconut. Drop rounded teaspoons of cookie dough on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.