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The Trick to Using Natural Sweeteners in Baking

The Trick to Using Natural Sweeteners in Baking

It’s great fun to make your own baked goods. Your family and guests are impressed, and you’re saving money by cooking at home rather than buying cakes and tarts at the store. The only problem is the health concerns that arise when you’re eating these scrumptious goodies.

I’m always looking for new techniques to make my baking healthier. To date, the simplest way I’ve found is to replace the sugar with a good-quality, natural sweetener. Just try it with your favorite recipe such as the banana bread below, and you’ll be surprised at the results! However, the trick is finding the right natural sweetener.

Which natural sweeteners should you use?

When it comes to choosing the best natural sweetener, you’ll likely find the most success with a blend of both erythritol and stevia.

Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that provides the physical properties of sugar, but it isn’t as sweet. It occurs naturally in small amounts in some fruits, and in larger amounts in certain mushrooms and other fungi and in fermented foods such as wine and soy sauce. Stevia is an extract from a herb, and is much sweeter than sugar. The thing to note with stevia is that a little goes a long way! It is often used to sweeten smoothies, sauces, frostings, icings and glazes.

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How much should you use?

The ideal amount will vary from recipe to recipe. I’ve had the most success by replacing half the sugar by weight with an erythritol/stevia blend.

For example, in the banana bread recipe below, I’d use 7oz (200g) sugar or 3.5oz (100g) erythritol/stevia blend.

There are three different options for finding an erythritol/stevia blend:

  1. Your local supermarket or health food store. Check the ingredients list to make sure it contains erythritol and stevia.
  2. Online. A quick search on the internet should help you locate a blend you can purchase easily.
  3. Make your own. This is the most cost-effective option. Just buy erythritol and stevia separately either online or at the store. Then combine 6 1/3oz (180g) or 1 cup of erythritol with half a teaspoon of stevia.

Are there any negatives?

Be careful with the natural sweetener agave syrup or nectar. Although it’s a natural product made from cactus, it contains high levels of fructose. This means it is like a more natural form of high-fructose corn syrup – not the healthy alternative sweetener it initially appears to be!

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You may, however, find that the only downside to using natural sweeteners is the cost. With sugar so cheap, stevia/erythritol blends are rather expensive by comparison. But remember, you’ll only be using half as much, so it’s not as drastic as it seems! If you think about the long-term savings to your health, you’ll see that it will really pay off.

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    ‘Paleo’ Banana Bread Recipe

    Makes about 8 slices

    This banana bread is super moist and really more at the cake end of the spectrum – but don’t let that stop you having a slice toasted with fresh ricotta for breakfast.

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    The brand of natural sweetener I’ve been using is called Natvia and it’s a blend of stevia and erythritol. If you can’t find, it you could use plain erythritol and a few drops of liquid stevia.

    Ingredients:

    2 bananas

    5oz (150g) butter, melted

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    6 eggs

    3.5oz (100g) erythritol/stevia blend

    2.25oz (65g) coconut flour

    1 teaspoon baking powder

    Method:

    1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line a small loaf pan with parchment paper.
    2. Peel and mash bananas. Combine with butter, eggs and the erythritol/stevia blend.
    3. Whisk in the coconut flour and baking powder. Transfer to your prepared loaf pan.
    4. Bake for 40 minutes or until the ‘bread’ is well browned and feels firm and springy.

    Featured photo credit: Jules Clancy via flic.kr

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

    Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

    your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

      Why You Need a Vision

      Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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      How to Create Your Life Vision

      Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

      What Do You Want?

      The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

      It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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      Some tips to guide you:

      • Remember to ask why you want certain things
      • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
      • Give yourself permission to dream.
      • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
      • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

      Some questions to start your exploration:

      • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
      • What would you like to have more of in your life?
      • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
      • What are your secret passions and dreams?
      • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
      • What do you want your relationships to be like?
      • What qualities would you like to develop?
      • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
      • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
      • What would you most like to accomplish?
      • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

      It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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      What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

      Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

      A few prompts to get you started:

      • What will you have accomplished already?
      • How will you feel about yourself?
      • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
      • What does your ideal day look like?
      • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
      • What would you be doing?
      • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
      • How are you dressed?
      • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
      • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
      • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

      It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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      Plan Backwards

      It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

      • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
      • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
      • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
      • What important actions would you have had to take?
      • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
      • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
      • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
      • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
      • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

      Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

      It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

      Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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