It seems like sugar has been all over the news lately. We are learning each day about more and more dangers associated with a high sugar diet. Personally, I have known I should cut back on my sugar intake for awhile, but I've never been able to commit to it (see all the cupcake recipes on the old blog) and for very good reason: sugar is addictive! Fortunately for me, my sugar 'addiction' has never manifested into any health issues, but too much sugar can lead to diabetes, obesity, food cravings, heart disease and behavior issues in children. In my opinion, one of the biggest issues with sugar today is that we aren't finding our sugar in our nightly after-dinner bowl of ice cream. No, today we're finding loads of it in our morning breakfast cereal, in that mid-morning granola bar or the soup/sandwich combo at lunch. Simply put, once you start reading the labels, you see that sugar is in nearly everything we eat. Trying to cut it out is so very, very hard. For that reason, I was super excited to find this brownie recipe that uses honey instead of white sugar!
One of my passions is teaching my young daughters how to choose healthy foods or even crave them. My older daughter is definitely my bigger challenge. She loves sweets! And lucky for her, some sort of sweet is provided to her nearly every day. She has been offered (and usually accepted) cookies/lollipops/candy/mints at more places than I can even count - school (this is a big one!), the grocery store, restaurants, CCD, story time at the book store and even boutique shops! I don't want to be the parent who always says 'NO' but I want my girls to understand that those things should be thought of as a 'sometimes treat'. If I can't control what is going on 'out there' at least I can control what I am doing 'in here'.
We recently went camping and s'mores were a requirement for my daughters. I found a more wholesome option for the chocolate and graham crackers we used to buy, but when it came down to finding better marshmallows, they just didn't exist. I did find vegan marshmallows, but they too had sugar listed as the first ingredient. What to do? Find a recipe without sugar and make them myself!
This recipe uses honey to sweeten the marshmallows. Honey has been found to have more nutrients than white sugar so it is slightly healthier, but it raises the blood sugar and is quite dense in calories so it should still be consumed in moderation. I, personally, prefer honey over sugar because it is less processed and in a more natural state than sugar.
These marshmallows were extremely well received by my two toughest critics - Jordan and Brecken! They melted nicely over the campfire and oozed out of the graham cracker just like they were supposed to! The honey flavor is very predominant, so you can have a lot of fun with different flavors of honey - orange blossom would be amazing!!
DIY (Sugar-Free) Marshmallows
1 cup water
4 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pour 1/2 cup of the water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the gelatin on top of the water. Whisk until combined.
Pour the other 1/2 cup of water into a small saucepan with the honey. Heat the mixture over medium heat until a thermometer registers 230° F - don't stir the mixture! Keep the heat at medium and 'swirl' the pan if necessary. This step could take a few minutes.
With the mixer running on low, very slowly pour the honey/water mixture into the gelatin mixture. Once the mix is incorporated, turn the mixer on high. Whisk on high for several minutes (5-10) until the mixture turns white and fluffy. Do not overmix.
Pour the mixture into an 8x11 pan lined with parchment paper. For thinner marshmallows, use a 9x13 pan. These come out pretty thick and were great for roasting over the campfire! Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.
Allow the marshmallows to set in a dry place (not the refrigerator) for at least 8 hours before cutting. Cut into squares about 1x1 inches big. A pizza cutter dipped in coconut oil would work well here. Place them on a cutting board and cover with a dry, clean dishtowel overnight so that they dry out a little more. This step allows them to become easier to handle.
Store the marshmallows in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks. If you are planning on toasting them on the campfire, try to make them at least 2 days beforehand so that are sufficiently dry to the touch.
I see endless possibilities of the fun we can have with these marshmallows! I'm planning on experimenting with all sorts of flavors of honey...maybe adding some cocoa powder to the honey mixture....maybe some fresh mint leaves around Christmastime.... let your imagination go crazy!
Adapted from An Organic Wife
Brigadeiros. Ever heard of them before? Me either until very recently. A few months ago I was watching Unique Sweets on Cooking Channel when I first heard of these and I was intrigued by them. They look like a truffle, all small and chocolatey and decorated up cute as can be. But they aren't a truffle. Hmmm...what ARE they??? According to a quick search on Wikipedia, brigadeiros are a Brazilian truffle made with sweetened condensed milk, butter and cocoa powder, unlike traditional truffles that are made with melted chocolate and heavy cream. They are a very popular candy in Brazil and Portugal and are often served at children's birthday parties. Ok, I'm even more intrigued. I would love to try them but I have no plans of going to Brazil anytime soon (though my passport is aching to be used again!) Imagine my excitement when I opened the new America's Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook and found a recipe for brigadeiros!! These were a MUST MAKE!
So, last weekend I gave them a try and found them to be ridiculously easy to make! You basically stir, stir and stir some more. Then you chill the mixture for a while before rolling into balls and decorating with the coatings of your choice. They are rich and delicious with a taste somewhere between raw brownie batter and hot fudge sauce! Yum! I found that crystallized sugar was my family's favorite topping to give them that extra little crunch. If you are still looking for a sweet treat to make for your valentine this week, you should definitely give these little gems a try!!
Makes about 30
1 14-ounce can sweetened, condensed milk
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Sprinkles, crystallized sugar, cocoa powder, etc for topping
Grease and 8-inch square baking dish. Set aside.
Combine sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is very thick. When you run a rubber spatula over the bottom of the pan it should leave a distinct trail. This will take about 20-25 minutes. Do not be tempted to turn the heat up - keep it on low or it will burn.
Once the mixture has thickened, pour into prepared baking dish. Refrigerate until cool, at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. If leaving the dish in the refrigerator overnight, cover with foil or plastic wrap. Pinch or scrape the chocolate into 1 tablespoon-sized pieces. Place the chocolates on a cookie sheet lined with a silicon baking mat or parchment paper. Place the chocolates back in the refrigerator to chill before rolling. After about 30 minutes take the pan out of the refrigerator and roll inch 1-inch balls. My candies got very soft during this process so I placed them back on the cookie sheet for another 30 minutes. Once they chill again, roll them in your desired toppings. Store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook
Pittsburgh area mom striving to provide clean, healthy, REAL food for her family!