Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 19, 2010

Grandma's Kitchen: Discovering stevia

By EDNA SHAFFER

April is the wonderful month of enchantment and contradictions. Mother Nature trots out her new spring wardrobe with beautiful warm colors to dazzle us after the long dark, drab winter. I saw my first daffodil in Bear Lake around April 1. What a brave little flower, arriving just in time to wear a crown of snow.

Our bright sunshine and blue skies have thawed our frozen spirits. They have also exposed our dirty windows and other projects waiting for spring, prompting a cleaning frenzy or guilt, whichever suits us at the time. We celebrate Earth Day on Thursday, April 22, and my birthday shortly after. Some days I think we share the same age!

There is so much we can do to respect and preserve our planet. We can teach our children and grandchildren reverence for our natural world. I know many of you do that every day. The example we set is stronger than any spoken word. Keep up the good work.

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The last month has flown by. We've had more fun experimenting. First it was homemade, natural laundry soap. We use it every day and like it even more as time goes on. I enjoyed the memories you shared of soap making when you were young. I especially enjoyed one reader's recollection of nearly causing her mother heart failure when she ate a bite of lye soap. The soap was sitting in a crock, waiting to set up so it could be cut into bars. She thought it was cake batter, sticking her fingers in for a taste. Just as her mother re-entered the room, she was caught licking her fingers. Her mom about keeled over thinking the lye would be fatal. The liquid soap we make has no lye in it and produces fresh, clean-smelling laundry for about 1 cent per load. It's a BIG money saver.

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Because Molly and I are trying to support each other in sticking to our healthy eating plan, our newest caper involves stevia, an all-natural, non-caloric sweetener produced by a plant of the same name. It also has zero carbs and rates a zero on the glycemic index. There is much information regarding it on the Internet. I also called a dietician at the Munson Diabetic Clinic. She assured me it was perfectly safe as a sugar substitute for calorie control or for diabetics.

Stevia works well in baking and cooking, and withstands freezing.

The ratio of substitution varies according to manufacturer, as all stevia is not processed the same.

If the ratio is not on the package, find the manufacturer's Web site and read that particular information.

We purchased our stevia at Oryana. It is a pure, organic, powdered extract. It is said to be 300 times sweeter than sugar.

Because of this, the ratio of conversion is an amazing: 1/4 teaspoon stevia to replace 1 whole cup of sugar! In other words, 1 cup of stevia would be equivalent to 192 cups of sugar.

When you are buying stevia, be informed that the purer the extract, the less you have to use when substituting.

To date we have prepared apple pies, a cherry pie, banana nut bread, custard and a crockpot cake -- all using no sweetener but stevia.

Everyone, especially diabetics, would benefit from using whole-wheat pie crust and whole-wheat flour in place of white flour.

Some of our recipes are newly designed around stevia as the sweetener, while others are old family favorites modified to include this new wonder.

Molly and I are enjoying our fun times in the kitchen together working on new recipes or trying to find new ways to jazz up some of the old ones. I would be very interested in hearing how your experiments turn out and how you like this new sweetener.

We feel like we've found gold.

Apple Pie

6 c. sliced apples

1/2 t.. stevia

21/2 T. cornstarch

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. nutmeg

1/2 t. ginger

1 T. butter

Prepare pastry for double pie crust (we use whole wheat). Combine stevia, cornstarch and spices. Add to apples and mix well. Place in bottom pie crust and dab with butter. Place remaining pie crust over top and vent. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 45 minutes. Bake until center filling is bubbling.

Black and Blue Cobbler (slow cooker)

1 c. flour (preferably whole wheat)

1/4 t. stevia

1 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

1/4 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. nutmeg

2 eggs, beaten

2 T. milk

2 T. vegetable oil

2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries

2 c. fresh or frozen blackberries

3/4 c. water

1 t. grated orange peel

1/4 t. stevia

Combine flour, stevia, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk and oil. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until moistened. Spread the batter evenly in the bottom of greased 5-quart crockpot.

In saucepan combine berries, water, orange peel and stevia. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over batter. Cover with lid. Cook on high for 2 to 21/2 hours, or until toothpick inserted into batter comes out clean. Turn off the cooker. Uncover and let stand 30 minutes before serving. Spoon from cooker and serve with whipped cream, ice cream or just plain.

Baked Custard

6 well-beaten eggs

1/4 t. stevia

1 t. salt

4 c. milk, scalded

1 t. vanilla

Combine eggs, stevia, and salt. Slowly stir in slightly cooled milk and vanilla. Place glass casserole bowl in shallow pan on oven rack Pour hot water in the pan, about 1 inch deep. Pour custard into glass casserole bowl. Sprinkle surface of custard with cinnamon. Bake in slow oven (325 degrees) for 45 minutes, or until knife inserted off-center comes out clean. Serve warm or chilled.

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A big Mother's Day hug to all you moms out there, young and old. You have held on to hope so many times in your life you probably don't realize what an inspiration you are to everyone who knows you.

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Parting Shot: "Hope begins in the dark. The stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work; and don't give up." -- Anne Lamott

Edna Shaffer is a local mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who writes about cooking from the perspective of an older adult. She can be reached at coachngrandma@charter.net. For more Grandma's Kitchen columns by Edna Shaffer, log on to record-eagle.com/ednashaffer.