I have never read so many food labels before in my life. I have learned a lot since embarking on a month of eating #Unprocessed, and I only started on Saturday. Unprocessed is loosely defined by the creater of this challege, Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules, as “any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.”
Since this is a personal challenge, every participant is encouraged to specifically define what, “unprocessed” means for his or her diet. For myself, I have decided it means that this month I will avoid: all grocery store items with ingredients in them that I cannot pronounce — that inclues high fructose corn syrup, even though I can pronounce that one! — refined sugars, and refined flours. (I am making personal allowances for milk, cheese, yeast, baking soda, and for enjoying a long-planned pizza party at work next week.)
So I made a lot of abrupt changes in the kitchen. I have set aside all-purpose flour in favor of alternatives such as whole wheat, buckwheat, spelt, teff, and almond flours. I am keeping the bagels we bought from Costco on reserve in the freezer, crying as I say goodbye to Nutella and the mini candy bars in the office candy bowl, and avoiding store-bought condiments like soy sauce, Italian dressing, and ketchup that are still lurking in my cabinets. It also means giving up my (former) favorite beverage, Arizona Green Tea, which wouldn’t you know has high fructose corn syrup listed as its second ingredient!
I have also hidden my sugar shaker. That was a tough one. I can’t drink a cup of coffee without a heavy dose of that snowy goodness, and I love watching, starry-eyed, as brown sugar melts into my morning oatmeal. My tastebuds dance when I bite into a slice of warm, buttery toast sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar. I love doughnuts and cookies and cake, and now is the season to start dancing around the kitchen baking them!
As a result, I thought it would be really hard to say no to sugar, but I have been pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to find alternatives. I sweetened my Sunday morning cup of coffee with pure maple syrup. I made a batch of Maple Almond Granola and sweetened the apple filling for the whole wheat breakfast pastries I made this morning with maple, too. I have always preferred drinking tea with honey, but I tend to drink a lot of tea at work, where I often settle for the readily available Sweet-N-Low packets. I have been drinking unsweetened tea at my desk so far this week, which really isn’t so bad, but I’m thinking of purchasing a honey bear to keep at the office. Date paste is another great alternative, as I learned last week in my adventures with Date Nut Muffins. I have also heard great things about using as molasses as an alternative sweetener.
But so far, I think the best sugar alternative I have come up with is Cinnamon-Ginger Honey! It is caramely and warm and sweet and spicy all at once! The recipe comes from The Herbal Kitchen by Kami McBride. I mentioned that I brewed up a batch of this honey goodness a few weeks ago after getting my hands on her book, and oh boy, was it ready just in time for this challenge!
I love it in my oatmeal!
It works just like caramel dip for apples — a great snack to take on the go.
And it is great brewed as a hot tea on its own, simply by stirring a teaspoon into a cup of hot water.
I also drizzled it on top of a cup of milky steamed Chai!
Drizzle it on ice cream! Stir it into pancake batter! Slather it on toast! Use it as a glaze on muffins… Ooh, good idea… It might even make a nice holiday gift if you dress it up with a pretty bow!
Kami McBride notes that this is a great honey to keep on the table in cooler weather seasons. It is a great digestive aid, will help fight off colds, and warm you up and get you moving in the morning.
I totally believe it. I woke up unexpectedly freezing this morning and brewed a cup of the tea. I had to gradually peel off the layers of sweaters I had thrown on as I drank it. Plus, my co-worker with whom I share very tight office quarters totally has a cold, and I so totally do not. Magic.
It feels like magic anyway, but I guess it’s just biology. As I learn more about nutrition, I am more and more amazed by the lack of it in today’s popular food culture. Here’s a cup of cinnamon-ginger tea to changing that!
I made my first brew of this honey in a 1/2 pint mason jar, which has a capactiy of about 8 fl oz, which is the equivalent of about 1 cup or about 250 ml. For some reason, Kami’s recipe calls for 1 cup of honey measured as 370 ml, which is really 1-1/2 cups. I didn’t realize this, and as a result, my honey is pretty strong! The powdered spice granules also didn’t get fully absorbed into the honey, and I think it might be because of that miscalculation. It still is awesome, and especially in tea, some granules can be expected to separate from the honey. If you go forward with the recipe using a 1/2 pint mason jar as I did, though, I suggest trying using only two-thirds of the measurements listed below.
adapted from The Herbal Kitchen by Kami McBride
1-1/2 cups (370 ml) honey
2 tablespoons (14 g) powdered cinnamon
1 tablespoon (6 g) powdered ginger
Clean and sterilize a reusable glass jar. Pour honey into a jar, then set jar in a double boiler over low heat . (I used a metal bowl set over a saucepan of water brought to a boil.) Heat until honey is warmed and becomes easy to stir, about fifteen minutes. Be careful not to boil or over heat the honey.
Stir powdered herbs into the warmed honey. Remove jar from double boiler and let cool. Store in a cool, dark place for two weeks before using. Stir occasionally to make sure all herbs are fully absorbed into the honey. Enjoy!
You can infuse honey in this manner using any combination of herbs and even dried fruit. Check out The Herbal Kitchen for more inspiration!