Thursday, September 29, 2011

Strawberry Ice Cream

It has been so hot here where I live in Southern California that I haven't been baking much lately -- I've been making ice cream.  Also, my daughter reminded me I have an ice cream maker I haven't used in years, ever since I've been following a vegan diet.

So I dug out my ice cream maker and did some research on the Internet into vegan ice cream recipes.  I discovered vegan ice creams are usually made with soy creamer and soy milk.  The soy creamer is needed to provide more fat in the recipe to give the mouth feel of a real ice cream.  Since I avoid soy products for health reasons I had to come up with another ingredient in place of soy.

Luckily, I also discovered coconut milk can be used to make delicious ice cream.  A ratio of 2 cups coconut milk with 1 cup almond milk works well to create a standard ice cream base.  Throw in some vanilla extract and some flavorings and you have a great ice cream.  Of course a sweetener is also needed.  All my recipes are sweetened with medjool dates--the healthiest and tastiest sugar substitute.

Things get a little more complicated when adding fresh fruit.  Here is the fresh strawberry ice cream recipe I developed.

Strawberry Ice Cream

9 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Using a blender, puree dates, coconut milk and vanilla. 
Stir in chopped strawberries and pulse blender until strawberry pieces are size desired.

Place blender in freezer for 30 minutes. Turn on ice cream maker; pour mixture into frozen freezer bowl and let mix until thickened, about 25 minutes.   

For a firmer consistence, transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours.  Remove ice cream from freezer for about 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving:  201 calories; 3 g fat; 2.5 g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 76 mg sodium; 465 mg potassium; 46 g carbohydrates; 5 g fiber; 36 g sugar; 1 g protein.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Baking Tips

Some tips for baking with dates:
  1. If the dates are dry soak them in the liquid ingredients for 5-10 minutes before pureeing in blender.
  2. Don't use an electric mixer because the ingredients should be mixed as little as possible for tenderness.
  3. Make well in dry ingredients before adding date / sour almond milk mixture.
  4. Stir as little as possible, just until dry ingredients are incorporated into the batter.
  5. All the baked goods taste better cold, so refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dates Are So Good for You

I had the pleasure of speaking with Charlene Rainey of the Date Research Institute a few days ago.  Charlene told me there are only 14 date handlers in California, all family owned farms, making the date industry the smallest micro industry in California.

Charlene also told me about some of the health benefits of dates.  Dates are high in antioxidant polyphenols, which protect against inflammation that cause damage to your body. Antioxidant polyphenols destroy free radicals that can cause heart disease and other chronic diseases.

Dates are also good for heart health.  Laboratory tests show dates reduce the LDL cholesterol.  Clinical trial shows dates reduce triglyceride levels.

For more information about the health benefits of consuming dates, see the Date Research Institute's web site, their protects your heart handout, and their weight management handout.

FYI:  The Date Research Institute is sponsored by the California Date Commission, a private organization of California date growers.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sugar, Honey and Agave Nectar

I avoid refined sugar, honey, or agave nectar, all of which have a high glycemic index.  These sweeteners cause spikes in blood sugar levels and add little nutritional value.   Dates, although high in sugar, have a low glycemic index and do not adversely affect blood sugar levels.

I also find that the high fructose content of honey and agave nectar cause problems for my digestive system.

I've tried baking with Stevia, a natural herb with
up to 300 times the sweetness sugar.  But I didn't like the bitter after taste.

That's why I developed the "bake with dates" technique.  The baked goods in my cookbook Bake With Dates do not taste like dates; the dates are used merely as a sugar substitute.  For example, the Strawberry Pie tastes like strawberries, not dates.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners

"People who use artificial sweeteners are heavier, more likely to have diabetes, and more likely to be insulin-resistant compared with nonusers, according to data presented at ENDO 2009, the 91st annual meeting of The Endocrine Society", (Abstract P2-478. Presented June 11, 2009)   Source:  

To quote Kristofer S. Gravenstein, one of the study's authors:  "we cannot say that artificial sweetener use causes obesity, we can say it is associated with it."

Dr. Joel Fuhrman recommends using dates rather than artificial sweeteners to satisfy your sweet tooth.   

Dates are high in fiber and help promote a healthy digestive system.  Dates are an excellent source of potassium, a nutrient needed to maintain a healthy nervous system.  Dates contain many vitamins like A, B1, B2 and nicotinic acid (niacin) that help maintain a healthy body by metabolizing carbohydrates and maintaining blood glucose levels.  Dates have higher percentages of potassium, phosphorous and iron than other fruits.  Dates also contain a higher percentage of protein than other fruits.  Dates are free of fat and cholesterol and are low in sodium.

For optimum health, I use dates to sweeten baked goods, not artificial sweeteners.