Monday, November 5, 2012

Stevia: The Miracle Sweetener & How to Use it!

Dried Stevia

"What if there were a natural sweetener that:

Was 300 times sweeter than regular sugar, with minimal aftertaste
Had no calories
Was suitable for diabetics
Appropriate for children
Did not cause cavities
Was heat stable and thus could be used for cooking and baking
Was a great alternative to synthetic sweeteners
Easily blended with other sweeteners, such as honey
And already widely and safely consumed in many countries around the world for decades.


Well, this remarkable, no-calorie sweetener called Stevia is, unfortunately, not a household name. It should be... With the availability of Stevia, there seems to be little reason to use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin."

Humans have used Stevia for centuries with no known side effects. The Japanese and others have been using it commercially to sweeten their treats for decades.  People who have little tolerance for sugar or other sweeteners can use Stevia leaf or Stevia extract. Studies suggest that Stevia has a regulating effect on the pancreas and could help stabilize blood sugar levels in the body, due possibly to its Chromium component, therefore making Stevia a better choice for people with diabetes, hypoglycemia, and those prone to Candida. Traditionally Stevia is indicated as a cardiotonic, anti-gas, and for obesity. Stevia is also used to reduce acidity (heart burn), hypertension, and to lower uric acid levels. Research suggest that Stevia will fight bacteria in the mouth. The sweetening power of Stevia extract is estimated to be 300 times that of sugar. Both leaf and extract may be used in cooking.
 
Diabetes and Hypoglycemia
Scientific research has indicated that Stevia regulates blood sugar levels, bringing it to a normal balance.

Weight Management
Stevia contains 0 calories, making it the ideal sweetener for any weight loss or weight management diets.

Cardiovascular
Studies have also shown that Stevia works as a cardiovascular tonic, lowering high blood pressure.

Bacteria
Stevia inhibits the growth and reproduction of bacteria and other infectious organisms like those that cause colds, flu and dental caries.

Skin care
Applied as a face mask, Stevia smoothes out wrinkles and is effective in healing acne and in treating seborrhea, eczema and dermatitis.

Digestion
Taken as an herbal tea, Stevia improves digestion and gastrointestinal functions and effectively soothes upset stomachs.

Raw Leaf vs. Extract


I have the fresh leaf in my garden, which of course is the cheapest to use.  However, the fresh leaf can't be substituted directly in recipes that require sugar.  I can dry it in the winter, and then powder it, of course, which is still far cheaper than the prepared forms in the health food stores.  Those have a purpose, though, too.  They are standardized, fully prepared and completely water soluble, so it might be worth paying the premium to know exactly how much you need, and not to have to filter all those darn leaves.  Easier to carry around with you to use during the day, too.

So be careful in the recipes below!  Keep in mind which concentration level of the stevia you are using is.  Raw form is of course far less powerful than extract, but the price certainly compensates for that...


Recipes and Suggestions for Use:


For teas, infuse the raw fresh or dried herb as usual in with your other black or herbal leaves.  No need for additional sweetener!
When substituting and experimenting with your stevia in cooking and baking, remember that it has no calories, so it doesn't provide the nutrients needed for rising yeast, for example. The raw or dried leaves can be made into an infusion, filtered, and directly included as the liquid component in recipes using water or milk for most purposes, though. It's far cheaper than the concentrated health food store version, if a bit more of a bother.
How to make herbal infusions:

Get inventive, and send us some of your suggestions!
Easy Ginger Ale
YIELD: 8-OUNCE SERVING

3 ounces ginger syrup (see below)
5 ounces sparkling mineral water
ice cubes

Pour the syrup into a 10-ounce glass and add the ice cubes. Slowly add the sparkling water. Stir and serve. 

Homemade Ginger SyrupYIELD: APPROXIMATELY 4 CUPS

With minimum effort, you can make this flavorful stevia-sweetened syrup to have on hand whenever you're in the mood for a refreshing glass of sparkling ginger ale.

4 cups water
4-or 5-inch piece fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon white Stevia powder
2 tablespoons vanilla flavoring
1 tablespoon lemon extract

Peel and finely chop the ginger. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the ginger and Stevia, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes. Strain the liquid into a heat proof container, and stir in the vanilla and lemon. Covered and refrigerated, this syrup will keep for several days.



Flourless/Sugarless Chocolate Cake (non-vegan)
Ingredients:
14 oz semi-sweet chocolate chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 TBS. unsalted butter
10 egg yolks
1 tsp. Stevia
1 TBS. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon juice
10 egg whites
1/2 tsp. Stevia
2 cups heavy cream, whipped

Instructions:

Melt chocolate and butter in top of double boiler, or in microwave. Set aside to cool slightly. Beat yolks and the Stevia until smooth; stir in vanilla and lemon juice. Blend in chocolate mixture. Beat egg whites in large mixer bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 tsp. Stevia, beating until stiff peaks form. Stir 1 cup whites into chocolate mixture, then fold in remaining whites. Pour batter into a 10 or 12-inch pan which has been greased and floured and lined with wax paper. Bake in a preheated over at 250 F for 2 1/2 hours. Cool COMPLETELY on a rack before removing from pan. Serve with whipped cream.



Grandma’s Apple Pie
Yields a 9 inch pie

Pastry for a 9 inch, 2 crust pie
6 cups peeled and thinly sliced pie apples
1 or 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Stevia Extract Powder
2 to 3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of cloves or allspice
2 tablespoons butter

Fit bottom pastry into a pie dish. In a large mixing bowl sprinkle lemon juice over apples and stir to mix. Using a cup or small bowl stir together Stevia, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves or allspice. Sprinkle spice mixture over apples and carefully stir to coat apples. Pile apples into crust. Dot with butter.

With water, moisten the outer rim of the lower crust. Place upper crust on pie and crimp edges together. Slit top of pie to allow steam to escape. Place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees in a preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes. Aluminum foil can be placed over the pie during the last 15 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Cool on a rack, cover and leave at room temperature overnight or refrigerate if you like. This pie is delicious at any temperature.



Pesto SauceYields 1 cup sauce

This unique herbal sauce freezes well for later use. Goes on sandwiches, salads and pasta dishes or by itself on bread or crackers.

1/2 cup parsley leaves, stems removed
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil (olive oil if you prefer)
1/16 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon Green Stevia Powder
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3 1/2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese or Parmesan style soy cheese

Process in a blender the parsley, garlic, oil, salt and Stevia. Push down the sauce with a rubber spatula as needed. Add remaining ingredients and blend. The sauce need not be entirely smooth. Refrigerate in a covered jar.



Stevia face masque/ Stevia liquid
Ingredients:

Green Stevia powder

Instructions:

Brew like tea. Mix residue with extra virgin olive oil. I keep it in the fridge. When this is smoothed on the skin, it is like a cool breeze blowing on your face. Let it dry. When it has dried, rinse off. Your face will feel sooooo smooth and soft. Took 5 years off my face, even a friend noticed how relaxed I looked!! Nothing like "recycling" your Stevia leaf. Extra paste can also be stored in the fridge for two or three days.



Lemon Ice Cream 
Sweet cream with a lemon zing.Yields 6 servings

1/2 teaspoon Stevia Extract Powder OR 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons Green Stevia Powder
1 cup milk, skim or whole
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract

Combine Stevia, milk, and cream in a small, deep mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve Stevia. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze 1 or 2 hours until solid around the edges.

Remove from freezer. Add lemon juice and extract. Beat thoroughly and replace the plastic wrap. Return to freezer.

After 2 hours beat again. Freeze some more until consistency is firm but still soft enough to dip. This entire process requires about 6 hours and very little effort.

For leftovers, remove from freezer about 1/2 hour before serving to allow for softening. Whip again if desired.


Variations:

The amount of Stevia and lemon extract can be varied according to taste. Equal amounts of lemon extract and vanilla extract can be use.

Vegan: In place of dairy milk use soy milk.


Vegan Noggin
2 10 oz pkgs. silken tofu
16 oz vanilla soymilk
1 TBS. plus 1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
2 TBS. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 to 1 cup brandy or rum
nutmeg to taste

Combine everything except nutmeg in blender; blend 'til smooth. Serve chilled and dusted with nutmeg.