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Old 10-30-2012, 09:19 AM   #1
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Experiments in unsweet "sweets"

I'm trying very hard to make Atkins a permanent lifestyle choice, not just for me but for my family, as well.

Part of this is eschewing processed foods and artificial sweeteners as much as possible.

"Sweet" is a hard taste to do away with COMPLETELY, especially when you have children who are exposed to other kids slurping down soda and eating ho-hos. And when you have 3 birthday parties to go to in one weekend, you can begin to feel a bit put-upon for not eating ANY cake.

So sometimes, we make treats around here. (Sometimes that treat is a Birthday Cake -- for pretty much anyone who isn't me.) I've discovered, in this process, that my perception of "sweet" has changed. When making frosting for the kids' cakes, I have to have my husband taste it. Otherwise, it won't be nearly sweet enough for the kids who will be eating it!

I've kept this in mind when making "sweets" for myself. The only sweetener I allow myself is 100% stevia. My package comes with a little scoop that is supposed to be the rough equivalent of a teaspoon. If that's all I'm doing, I usually find that aiming for 1/3 the sweetness of the original recipe gives me results I like

Sometimes, though, I can cut my stevia out almost completely.

I've discovered that certain flavors are so strongly associated with "sweets" that they trick the brain into thinking a food is sweeter than it actually is. A little vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg will "replace" a fair bit of sugar. It's not really sweet, and thus doesn't trigger cravings, but the spices make it SEEM that way.

My latest experiment is "True Lemon". It's granular lemon-flavoring made mostly from citrus oil and lemon juice. (It DOES have maltodextrin in it, so I'm using it with caution, carb-wise.)

I just added some of this to my cheesecake recipe. (Unfortuantely AFTER I'd added the stevia.) And the cake is "too sweet". Not by a lot -- but I can definitely cut back a bit, next time I do it this way!
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Old 10-30-2012, 02:51 PM   #2
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That true lemon sounds like it would be really yummy in cheesecake.

If you're trying to cut down on sweeteners, remember that a little salt can really bring out the sweetening effect of a sweetener. For that cheesecake I made the other day there was no salt called for in the recipe, so I tried to do it as it was written, and then after I tasted the batter, it was a no go, but then a smidge of salt brought the sweet and the flavor out.

I sorta wish I could go it without any *sweet* at all. I think it's a great experiment and I bet you will learn to taste sweet where the rest of us don't.

I am so torn about the kids and birthdays and all that. I wish that I could control what they eat, but you just can't (or I just can't) come up with a fix for everything. For example, at my 3 year old's montessori class, for each birthday the kid brings a "treat". It's usually not the kind of treat you'd find at a more mainstream school -- no big crazy frosting and such, but it's like a fruit juice popsicle, popcorn, banana bread. But the kids so look forward to it and it's really fun for the b'day kid and the others. I don't think I could take the idea of bringing him some alternative. Kids just hate to be singled out or made to feel different, yk? I am absolutely amazed at what I see other people say they put in their kids' lunchboxes, though. At my kids' school I'd never get away with a piece of candy or a ho ho or anything along those lines. Sometimes my older one will get a little tin with smokehouse almonds or pistachios and like 3 or 4 yogurt covered pretzels. But that's as "treat"-like as he ever gets and I don't think the other kids have anything more than something along those lines either. And omg, no juice! Not at either of their schools. Which is so nice. To keep up with the Jones' all I gotta do is put a piece of fruit in.
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Old 10-30-2012, 03:50 PM   #3
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Jayne, I love you! My kids are Montessori, too, and in our brief encounters with public schools, I've been horrified by the food choices there.

My children grew up in my house, so... they're not use to the super-sweet crap that most kids eat. For years, they'd actively REQUEST carrot-cake as their B-day cake. It was made from scratch, starting with whole carrots, contained whole grain only, and was sweetened with applejuice. (My "baby's first B-day" version used plain full-fat yogurt for frosting.)

Like you, we do Montessori, and so there are "expectations" with what foods we send. Most of them we've been to specify no candy, and discourage (to varying levels) sugary treats. As for what I send them with, I let them guide me and then use my judgement. My daughter wants cupcakes? Fine. They'll be ones I make, and as such, I control the ingredients. And it won't be nearly as "junk food" as it looks. It may not be perfect, but it's not some chem-filled bakery concoction with frosting that tastes like gasoline, either.

Thanks for the salt tip! I'll try that next time! The lemon is a real hit in this cheesecake. It's eyes-rolling-up good. lol

I'm really trying to take a homeopathic approach to sweetness: What's the smallest amount of "sweet" that will produce the desired result.
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Old 10-31-2012, 10:01 AM   #4
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Key lime cheesecake is awesome and the key lime juice is very low carb...that may work well also. And a plus is no malto dextrine...I add it to yogurt and lots of baked goods.
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Old 10-31-2012, 04:45 PM   #5
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It's amazing to me that so many things I never perceived as sweet are really naturally sweet:
Heavy cream
Brussels sprouts
Carrots
Onions
Almond butter
Etc.

I feel like my taste buds have come alive since LC. Things taste saltier, too. I like adding salt to food, but I think I now use about a quarter of the added salt that I used to, and I don't eat any processed foods so I'm not getting a load of sodium from there, either.

Kind of scary when you think just how much sugar and salt is added to processed foods because people on SAD have become so used to heavily sweetened and salted food products.
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Old 10-31-2012, 04:56 PM   #6
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Janknitz, I sometimes have trouble getting enough sodium! How crazy is that, for an American!

I grew up not really salting food. There was never a salt shaker on the table, salt was for preparation... And I didn't use much. Salt is my "forgotten seasoning", and I'm actively reminding myself to add a touch of it to certain foods, as it DOES bring out flavors so nicely.

Of course, I use freshly ground sea-salt now, not Iodized, which I think tastes SO much better.
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Old 10-31-2012, 06:18 PM   #7
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I am a very big fan of salt. And so happy that the whole anti-salt thing turned out to be just as valid as the anti-fat thing.
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