Coconut Palm Sugar – Friend or Foe?

Do you know about palm sugar or coconut sugar or coconut palm sugar?  I didn’t until a commenter here told me about it.  That truly is the coolest thing about blogging; the sharing of information.  I had never heard of it so I had to do a little reading up on it.  Now I am wondering how I didn’t know about this.  It’s good stuff.  It is made from the sap from the flowers of a date palm.  It is actually good for you. Here are some things I have learned.

  •  Here is a link that compares its mineral content to other sugars.  Impressive I must say.  Honey…. disappointing.
  • The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has reported that coconut palm sweeteners are the single most sustainable sweetener in the world.
  • It hasn’t yet been commercialized so it is still farmed by small farms as opposed to gigantic corporations.
  • Coconut sugar has an extremely low glycemic index.  It’s 35!!!  This is amazing.  A low GI is important for everyone, especially diabetics.  It is also helpful for weight loss.

Those are all really great things.  There are however some negatives.  You need to read a bit between the lines to see them.  The information was originally circulated by the Philippine Food and Nutrition Research Institute.  The Philippine government has a whole lot to gain by having coconut palm sugar portrayed in a positive light.  I re-read the same original research over and over on several different web sites.  They are all the exact same.  It’s like there is only one source of original information.  My concern was the amount of fructose in coconut sugar.  Fructose is what does the damage to your liver over time and that in turn causes a plethora of illnesses, namely diabetes.  If you haven’t watched the video by Dr. Robert Lustig about fructose yet, here is the link to see it.  It is sooooo worth the time.  The articles explained the fructose content like this: 

Coconut palm Sugar is naturally low on the Glycemic Index (GI), which has benefits for weight control and improving glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2).  Coconut palm sugars are rated as a GI 35.   By comparison, most commercial Agaves are GI 42, Honeys are GI 55 and Cane Sugars are GI 68.

palm-sugar1

The major component of coconut sugar is sucrose (70-79%) followed by glucose and fructose (3-9%) each.  Minor variations will occur, due to differences in primary processing, raw material source, tree age and variety of coconut.

 

Now that all sounds good, right? However, sucrose is 50% glucose and 50% fructose.  Let’s do some simple math and look at the actual fructose content. 

70/2 = 35  —–>  35 + 3 = 38%  (not too bad)

79/2 = 39.5   —–> 39.5 + 9 = 48.5% (pretty close to the same amount of fructose in table sugar)

So the actual amount of fructose can range from 38% to 48.5%  (High Fructose Corn Syrup is 55%)  In addition to the fructose content, it is not low carb.  It is a slow carb.  Unfortunately for me this means that I need to use this in moderation instead of like the free for all like I was really hoping.   While I do think it is far and away the best choice for a sweetener (I really don’t care for stevia which probably is best), it’s not the loop-hole I was hoping it was.   

How does it taste?  Awesome!  It is much like honey except less floral and more caramel.  I have been using it like I would honey by melting it a bit with some oil.  The price?  I got it at a local Asian market for about $1.40 a pound.  If you buy it online I saw it for as much as $8/lb!  Some brands from Thailand are whiter than the rest which are anywhere from brown to beige.  Check the ingredients list.  Many of the whiter ones have table sugar added to them.  It comes in hard discs or in jars.  The sweetness and flavor will vary in each batch. 

If you have more information on coconut palm sugar please post a link in the comments.  What are your thought?  Have you tried it?

How To Make Your Own Almond Flour

Can anyone tell me what makes a man tick?  Because I am at a loss.  My husband whom I think is (usually) a genius leaves me scratching my  head.  Why?  Let me tell you how my day started.  We have 2 of iPod touches, the ones that have Face to Face which is video calling.  First just let me say that I hate the idea of video calling.  I don’t want to be bothered worrying about how I look just to make a phone call.  It’s great for the kids and Grandma and for the kids and my husband or I while at work.  However it’s not great when the iPod rings at 5:20 am because my husband, who was at work, thought I would be awake and he wanted to demonstrate to a male co-worker how the thing worked.  Seriously?!  I ignored the call and tried to go back to sleep.  Then he called back at 6:30.  I had just woke up and was barely upright or even thinking yet.  I answer the call and while waiting to connect see myself on the screen and ponder what has become of me.  Can you now imagine how mortified I am when the call connects and there is Ron’s co-worker staring back at me.  Seriously, what was my husband thinking?!  Now I know better than to show my face when I answer a call.      

One of my favorite blogs is Elana’s Pantry.  Nearly everything this woman posts looks great.  For me the problem is that she uses a lot of almond flour.  I love almond flour, just not the price.  She recommends one particular brand, Honeyville Blanched Almond Flour.  While I’m sure it is a great product, I just can’t see myself spending that kind of money on flour.  As I have said before on this blog, we grind a lot of our own flours.  We grind amaranth, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, rice and corn.  We save a TON of  money doing it this way.  Since I am leaning toward a grain free diet lately it got me wondering if I could make my own almond flour.   Turns out that yes, I can.  It’s quick and easy.  I have used this almond flour for cookies, muffins and pancakes.  So far everything I have tried with it has worked out great.  I have never purchased almond flour so I guess I have nothing to compare mine too but I expect that mine is moister so I need to use a bit less oil in whatever recipe I am using if the recipe calls for commercial almond flour.  The only things you need to make this is a coffee grinder (preferably not one that you use coffee beans for) and a wire mesh sieve.   

Here’s how I do it.  

Larger Pieces Sifted Out

Add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of whole raw almonds to the coffee grinder.  Grind until you have a fine meal.  When you hear the grinder make a different noise and the almond meal inside is not moving well anymore, stop.  If you continue you will be making chunky almond butter.  Pour the almond meal into a sieve which is sitting in a large bowl.  Shake out the almond flour into the bowl.  The larger meal and some bigger pieces will be left over.  Just leave them in the bowl for now and repeat the process until you have the amount you need.  Then add back into the grinder all those small pieces and the courser meal and grind again.   

Closer Look

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I must get at my day now.  The kids found the small head of a salamander in the living room this morning.  I have got to locate the rest of him.  Yup, that’s desert life!

Balsamic Salad Dressing

Since going GF I have become accustomed to reading the label for everything we buy. If you don’t have any diet restrictions you maybe haven’t done this. It’s an eye opener. There are some things that have so much stuff in them that don’t seem to resemble food. I try to eat with the thought in mind: “if it’s not food then don’t eat it.” Over time I have noticed that my tastes have changed. One item that always has lots and lots of stuff in it is bottled salad dressing. I can not stand the taste of it now. The vast majority of them have soybean oil in them as a base. I really dislike anything with soy. I think it tastes funky. So I always make my own salad dressings. The variety and possibilities are endless. It is a fraction of the cost of buying it. You can make small amounts so you don’t have to worry about it expiring. Then there is the whole thing with buying more things that will eventually cause more trash. Best of all, homemade salad dressings taste way way way better than bought!!! And it only takes a minute to make them. Here is one of my favorites.

Balsamic Salad Dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt
pinch of celery seed
2 tsp raw  honey
fresh ground pepper

These are approximate measurements. I never measure when making salad dressings. Just wing it and adjust to your tastes. Mix everything in a mason jar and your good to go!

Ditching TV Among Other Things

In the last week of December Ron and I made a decision to discontinue our satellite service. This is something that I have been wanting to do for some time and I had suggested it more than once. But like most North Amercians, we are a teeny bit addicted to TV so Ron nixed the idea. I let it go. Then in the beginning of December it became his idea. Then of course it turned into a great idea. I was fully supportive of “his” idea but really didn’t think he would do it. First he started with the TVs. We had an embarrassing 6 flat screen TVs. One in nearly every room and even in the kids rooms (which we had always said we wouldn’t do). He started selling them off on Craigslist. I love Craigslist. Soon enough we had just one left. The he cancelled the satellite service. I was stunned and more than a little impressed. First he kicks gluten without even a flinch, then dairy, then aspartame, then TV and now he is working on soda in general. Since he has no other “real” vices he is on a fast track to becoming perfect. So you might be asking yourself, why would we do this? No, we’re not starving or having trouble paying the bills. This is really all just a part of a bigger picture. There is a lot to gain by ditching TV. First, the most obvious, is the cash you dish out every month for 7000 stations (and none of them are worth your time). Then there are the countless hours you can reclaim that can go to important things, like your family. We find we are spending more time as a family. We are playing games together, reading, making things, building things, going for walks, cooking, hanging out outside etc. Ron and I are talking more. Ron has started reading again. Him and I are both getting more sleep. Both of us had the habit of turning on the TV when we are tired to “just watch a couple of minutes.” Hours later we are still staring blankly at the TV. Then we wake up tired the next day and our patience is short with the kids and sometimes with each other. Then we’d miserable and lazy and only want to, guess what’s coming… watch TV. The TV was on in the background all the time whether or not anyone was watching. Since it has been off there is a beautiful calm in the house. I am enjoying the lack of the constant din. The girls are more often playing with each other. They are pretending, creating, learning and running. None of those things are done in front of the TV. We are spending more time outside and our attention is more fully on the present moment. How many times have I wished that the kids would just be quiet for a bit so I could hear or see something on the TV… TV is an escape, a drug, a diversion. I don’t want to be diverted from my life. I want to live it. At the end of our lives, will we look back and think “wow, I remeber that one TV show….”? We want our kids to have great memories of the time we spent together. Memories aren’t made waching TV. Life is so short and I want to be present for all of it. I don’t want to waste my precious time being told how I should look or what I should want (also why I don’t buy magazines anymore). I really don’t care what the Hollywood stars are doing, saying or wearing. I love the fact that my kids have no idea what a BRATZ doll is or who Hannah Montana is or what High School Musical is. I love that they adored the castle that Ron made for them at Christmas and that it wasn’t MADE IN CHINA or made from plastic. As I get older I find myself deploring the consumerism that defines American life. Everything is disposable, everything is about appearances and having the right car, handbag, hairstyle, jewelry, cell phone, clothing, body shape and bra size. I think that we have all lost sight of what really matters. Have have have get get get buy buy buy does not make us happier. Maybe it feels good for a minute but why? Because we have one upped the Jones’, or because we are one step closer to looking just so? In the last few months we have tried to reverse our years of that mindset of having and getting. We are constantly selling stuff we don’t use or need. Our entire focus is probably the exact opposite of most people here in Scottsdale. And you know what? It feels good. Really really good. We aren’t just selling stuff but we are giving stuff away too. I have discovered freecycle. This is an online group (probably one near you) that is all about the giving and receiving of free stuff in an effort to keep things out of the landfills a while longer. Right before Christmas we went through the kids toys and gave away everything that they didn’t use regularly. The whole lot of it went to a foster mom of 3 girls for their Christmas gifts. Even Sage felt good about that. So, to those of our friends and family who know about us ditching our TVs and selling all of our stuff: No, we are not starving or even having financial difficulties we are just trying to make the most of our lives.

Okay, I will step down from my soap box now.

Vegetarianism Too??

Yesterday I finally read about the number one cause of green house gasses. I had heard about this before and didn’t want to believe it or even really think about it. Now it is really bugging me. I love beef. Really, I love all meat. I was raised on meat and potatoes. While I really like lentils and beans, a meal without meat leaves me feeling unsatisfied. I can easily scarf down a pound of beef steak, mmmm prime rib! I hate the idea that I am knowingly contributing to global warming. Yes, we are already doing a lot to reduce our carbon footprint, probably a lot more than most. We use those cfl’s instead of regular light bulbs, and try to use as little electricity as possibly by turning off any unused lights, TV’s appliances and fans, we keep our house warmer in the summer than some of our friends can tolerate, I make all my own cleaning supplies, I will be starting to line dry our clothes as soon as Ron can rig up a line for me, we raise our own chickens for eggs, we cloth diaper, breastfeed, avoid the impulse to buy buy buy, avoid plastic anything when possible, avoid buying bottled water, we have only one car and it is a Prius, we white trash up our house by blocking out the summer sun by covering the windows, we let it mellow if it’s yellow, we buy and sell used clothing, we buy used and sell nearly everything we can, we are currently trying to downsize our “stuff”, we have a garden, we compost, we stopped competing with the Jones’s long ago and we rarely eat out. I should feel no guilt about eating meat but I do. So much to Ron’s dismay he is going to start seeing more meatless meals. Besides the whole greenhouse gasses thing it will be better for us too. Maybe we can even shed a few pounds, lower our cholesterol and our risk for heart disease and cancer. So that said, does anyone have any great meatless recipes they would like to share??

Cloth Diapers

I started cloth diapering Justus when he was 3 weeks old, I think. I went in clueless. I was just feeling so guilty about the whole waste thing. So I did some reading about it. Turns out there are a lot of reasons to use cloth diapers. Just for the record, I am not trying to convince anyone to do it. I think that everyone needs to come to this conclusion on their own. Although, what a better world this would be if everyone did it. Turns out cloth diapering is pretty addictive. They are so darn cute and there are thousands and thousands to choose from. I like to buy from WAHM’s (work at home moms), then I can actually feel good about buying diapers. There is no more guilt. I just wish I would have started this when I had baby #1, then diapers for #2 and #3 would be free. Even though I just started, I can already see how this is much, much cheaper over the long run. And it is cheaper in ways I didn’t even anticipate. I can’t tell you how many times one of the kids pooped and it shot all the way up their back to their shoulders. It really sucked when this happened in public and I was left trying to get the clothing off without covering their hair in poo. Assuming I was at home I would take the outfit off and usually start the whole scrubbing and soaking process. Sometimes I would look at the piece of clothing and think, “well I didn’t really like this anyway,” or “this is almost too small” and then just chuck it. More than once I just cut it off. This is what I love most about cloth diapers. Ya I love them for selfish reasons. Ever since getting the bugs worked out of the whole cloth diapering learning curve, I haven’t had a single blow out. While we were on vacation I used disposables. I came home with several articles of ruined clothing and a new appreciation for my beloved cloth diapers. As for the care of cloth diapers… Really no big deal. I put them in the washer before bed every couple days and then put them in the drier in the morning. The days of rinsing large squares of fabric in the toilet, safety pins and plastic pants are long gone. It’s better for baby, better for mom, better for the wallet and better for everyone else. I would encourage all new moms to do a little research and keep an open mind. It really is not anymore difficult or anymore work than disposables.