by Julie Morris, Beaming Culinary Director and Superfood Author
One of the wonderful things about Halloween is we get an opportunity to play with our food – YEAH! Desserts get turned green, purple and black; snacks are turned into things that look like spiders or mummy fingers; and pumpkin gets a turn at being the featured flavor for just about anything. But in our zest to create all things spooky and creepy, too often the real scary stuff is hidden inside the mixing bowl. Yes, we’re talking about empty-calorie sugars – with excesses of cane sugar and corn syrup being the creepiest of all.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting offering nothing but apples at a Halloween party or giving out toothbrushes on Halloween eve (who does that?!). Instead, I propose simply making the treats we serve at Halloween festivities out of smarter sweeteners – forms of sugar that aren’t simply empty calories, but instead offer a few benefits at the same time! Here’s some some of the best sweeteners to stock up on for your Halloween treat endeavors:
Coconut sugar – With half the glycemic index of cane sugar as well as a spectrum of trace minerals, coconut sugar is an immediate, easy upgrade to cane sugar. Use it as a 1:1 replacement for anywhere that you would normally need sugar.
Yacon syrup – You’d never know yacon was a root! This incredible liquid sweetener acts almost like a molasses with a slight apple undertone. In addition to a low glycemic index, yacon’s sugars are composed primarily of fructooligiosaccharides (FOS), a type of indigestible carbohydrate that acts like sugar to the taste buds, but is indigestible by the body. It’s no wonder yacon is so often used in South America as a choice sweetener for diabetics!
Dates – They may not be low glycemic, but as a whole fruit, dates are an exceptional way to sweeten sweets naturally. In addition to their caramel-like flavor, dates offer fiber and many trace minerals, such as three times the potassium of bananas! They’re a wonderful way to sweeten “with benefits.”
Stevia – A wildly sweet leaf, stevia has all the potency of an artificial sugar, with none of the side effects (plus stevia is truly natural). Though stevia tastes hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, it contains no calories, no carbohydrates, and has a GI of zero. Although stevia’s flavor can sometimes register a little sharp if used on its own in desserts, it is a great way to “extend” the sweetness of other sweeteners when used in conjunction with them, allowing for less sugar to be used in a recipe overall.
Agave Syrup – Extracted from a cactus and highly sweet, agave is an inexpensive sweetener that boasts a low glycemic index. Though, like any sweetener it should be consumed in limited quantities, it has the ability to boost sweets very efficiently, and is a good natural choice in moderation. Those who don’t want to use agave can also use maple syrup as a 1:1 substitute.
Ready to try? Here’s a great recipe for decadent Brownie Truffles, sweetened with nothing more than dates, agave, and natural sweet Beaming Superfood Protein Powder (sweetened with stevia)!
Makes 1½ dozen
The real trick of these treats is all the hidden superfoods stashed away amongst a craveably soft texture and melt-in-your mouth brownie flavor.
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons cacao powder, divided
1/3 cup Medjool dates, pits removed (about 5-6)
¼ cup smooth almond butter
¼ cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons agave syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Set aside 2 tablespoons of cacao powder in a small bowl. In a food processor, blend all the remaining ingredients along with a big pinch of sea salt into a smooth mixture. You may have to stop the machine several times to scrape down the sides, ensuring all the ingredients are incorporated evenly. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour to partially solidify.
Once chilled and pliable, remove the truffle mixture from the refrigerator. Measuring a scant tablespoon at a time, form the dough into a smooth ball with your hands. Roll in the reserved cacao powder to lightly dust the exterior, and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining dough. Return the truffles to the refrigerator for one more hour, or until fully solidified.
Truffles are best served chilled; for long-term storage, store in the refrigerator in an airtight container, where they will keep for about 4 weeks.
Recipe by: Julie Morris, Culinary Director at Beaming