It’s been a long time since my last post and I think that in that time, just about every day it seems, I’ve gotten a question from someone wanting to improve their nutrition but they just can’t give up sugar.  Typically, people know they should give up the obvious stuff like Sweet-n-lo, Little Debbie Snack cakes and Swedish fish, but what about the category I call ‘transitional sweeteners’? Agave nectar, maple syrup, Xylitol, Stevia, etc?  I’m not a big fan of using any of these products on a regular basis and I know from experience that the more alkaline you get your body by cutting processed sugars, dairy & meat from your diet and adding foods like raw greens, the less your body will crave processed sweets.  But, if you are still in ‘transition mode’, I believe these comparatively less-processed sweeteners are a better choice, if used in moderation.  If you are reading this and asking ‘why should I give up my Little Debbie’s?’ or ‘what’s the harm in a little Cap’n Crunch now and then?’, and you don’t yet believe that processed sugars just wreck your body, inside & out, then please check out this April 2011 NYTimes article my friend Margo sent me last year; there are definitely some gaps in the data, but highly compelling nonetheless:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

I wish I had more time to spend on the topic of sugar, but in the meantime, if you are becoming increasingly frustrated by how little energy you have or how wrinkles have taken up residency on your face or how every activity in which your children are involved incorporates sweets as a reward, know you are not alone: sugar is the culprit.  I’ve basically decided that sugar is a tool of the Devil, but, again, I’ll make that case another day!  For now, let’s look at some recipes that will not just curb your sweet tooth, but will actually give you some good nutrition.  These recipes include dried fruits; remember to always increase your water intake to replace the natural liquid lost in the dehydration process of the fruits.

This first recipe is technically the least healthy of the bunch; but, if you are trying to eliminate gluten & processed sugars and need a better substitute for your morning carbohydrate fix, look no further!  This recipe is one that I adapted a bit from the CLEAN Program’s website.  They are gluten-free & vegan.  I had to stop baking them because I can literally eat the entire batch in one day.  If you are following the CLEAN Program, these technically shouldn’t be legal, because the gluten-free flour called for contains potato starch & the chocolate has a little cane sugar, but if your ok with that, then have at it.

Chocolate Walnut Scones

Yield: 12 small scones

1/2 cup coconut oil (melted just to a liquid state)

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup organic, pitted Medjool dates

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

about 1 1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mills gluten-free all purpose flour

Pinch sea salt

1 whole 3.5 ounce bar organic dark chocolate (I like Green & Black’s 85% cacao variety; use about 1/2 a bar to cut the sugar content)

1/2 cup organic, raw walnuts coarsely chopped

1. preheat oven to 350 degrees

2.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (if you don’t have parchment paper, very lightly grease your pan with coconut oil)

3. Combine the baking powder, baking soda, flour, salt, chocolate & walnuts in a large bowl.

4. In a separate bowl, mash the dates to make a thick paste.

5. Add coconut oil, vanilla and water to date paste.

6.  Add the date mixture to the dry ingredients and mix gently until just combined.  The dough should just hold together.

7. VERY LIGHTLY flour a cutting board.  Form the dough into a round ‘ball’, place on the cutting board and cut in half then make each half round again.

8. Cut each round into 6 small, wedge-shaped pieces and carefully place onto the cookie sheet (I like to use a large knife for cutting, then slide the knife under each wedge to place it gently on the cookie sheet as I slide it off the knife).

9. Bake for 8 minutes; rotate the pan and bake another 8 minutes.  Cool and devour.

Many of you who ask about raw foods ask about raw desserts specifically.  If you are just discovering the benefits of raw and live foods, I suggest you read a book by Ann Wigmore (who founded the Hippocrates Health Institute) entitled The Hippocrates Diet and Health Program.  I guess many would call it a little ‘old school’ at this point, but it’s filled with tons of currently applicable information regarding wheatgrass, sprouting and juicing, topped off with some great raw recipes.  Here are two of my favorite desserts, tweaked just a bit from her originals; both call for the same pie ‘crust’ and both will take you about 10 minutes from start to finish.  If you like Larabars, you will love these.  And if you are accustomed to desserts that are laden with artificial (read: ‘TOXIC’) sweeteners, colorings and preservatives, and expect this to fill that exact void, you will be disappointed.  If, however, you are willing to allow your taste buds to ‘re-set’ from their current, adulterated form, then this is a good starting place.  I think my friend Margo said it best: ‘when trying a new vegan and/or raw food, you have to look at it as a new food rather than as an equivalent’.  In other words, don’t expect these to taste like Little Debbie’s!

Basic Pie Crust

1 cup raw, organic almonds

1 cup dried organic figs

about 1/4 teaspoon coconut oil for greasing pie pan

1. Grind almonds & figs in a food processor until mixture forms a sort of ‘ball’.

2. Press into a pie plate that has been oiled to form a ‘crust’

Coconut Banana ‘Cream’ Pie

1. 4 ripe, organic bananas

1 cup grated organic coconut

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Mash bananas; stir in coconut & vanilla

2. Scrape into prepared pie crust (see Basic Pie Crust recipe above)

Pecan Pie

1 cup raw, organic pecans, plus about kept whole 15 for topping

1 cup dried figs

1 or 2 ripe bananas (about 1 cup total) mashed (in a large bowl)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Process pecans and figs in a food processor until it forms a ‘ball’

2. In a large bowl, combine pecan/nut mixture with mashed bananas and spices.

3.  Scrape into prepared pie crust (see Basic Pie Crust recipe above)

4.  Top with whole pecans

Enjoy!

If you like these, keep your eye out for my next post: Samuel-approved-raw brownies and Banana/Apple ‘cookies’.  I’m also going to give you some suggestions for snacks you can buy to keep in your purse or bag when you don’t have time to do your own prep work.  Remember not to be overwhelmed and remember THE VALUE OF ONE!  One change in the right direction does not equal zero; one positive change each day adds up to seven positive changes in a week…you get the idea!  Adopting a totally raw lifestyle is a fantastic goal; 80% raw is probably ideal for most people.  And although I know eating totally raw makes me feel like a million bucks, it’s a little tough for me to do every day as I am feeding a variety of sometimes finicky palates.  You can always do a ‘raw day’ or a ‘raw week’ or just a raw fast once a month.  So, even if you don’t go TOTALLY raw (which I think is just about impossible for the average person) or TOTALLY gluten-free or whatever it is YOU are working toward , simply adding one raw food item and removing one processed item a day WILL have an impact.