Liquid Stevia

So I finally broke down and bought a cute dropper bottle of my favorite stuff... I have finally got liquid Stevia! I'm very excited. It probably amounts to being more expensive, but I wanted to see what would happen if I used this in my tea instead of the powder- and save the powder for cooking.

I'm pleased so far; I have bought the "NOW" brand, from my favorite LOCAL health food store... (support local businesses!) which is Simple Enough Natural Foods in Westborough. Anyway there is no unpleasant after taste (they do claim this on the bottle, which I will say swayed my opinion) and it works quite well. The serving suggestion is 1 to 4 drops per cup of tea, but I guess I have big mugs because I require 6 drops. I went slow- literally drop by drop!- until my threshold was reached.

I wonder if I have developed a higher tolerance for the taste anyway? I can generally tolerate more than folks who I have newly introduced to it. It is an acquired taste- you have to WANT to like it; have to WANT to not be eating sugar enough to adapt to this amazing herb.

So yes- this will be my new tea regimen. I am still searching for unsweetened Almond milk and have yet to be successful. I do tolerate the one with Barley malt but I'd prefer just the straight stuff, and am too lazy to make it myself. Next on my shelf is Oat milk, which is unsweetened. Yay!
Happy tea hour!


Lara bars

I will be hitting clinics soon, and one of my worries is the comment in the handbook:

"You will be experiencing lack of sleep and a suboptimal plane of nutrition..."

So it's openly acknowledged by the school that we will be eating like crap, becoming vending machine hunter/gatherers... ugh. So many people get skinny and grey fourth year.

Most students keep stashes in their pockets and lockers- granola bars, candy, crackers, trail mix. You may have noticed, if you are on this sugar free journey, that these things are full of sugar. Granola bars look like health food, but they're really candy in disguise. (Raw rolled oats give me gas anyway- I can't do it...)

What's a sugar free girl to do?
You may have seen these new health food bars on the market, "lara bars" or "maya bars" etc. They are truly wonderful, with straightforward ingredients and so on. But horribly terribly expensive. They range from $1.25 to $2.00 a pop! That's an expensive way to keep from becoming braindead on a busy day in the clinic.

Either way I bought some to try them out, and I like them a lot. They're very calorie dense, but that will be fine if they are a rescue measure- most likely not something I will nibble as a 10:00 snack on a regular basis. But how to get them cheaper? How?
Well- I'm savvy... why not make some? I could invent a recipe, but I went online to see who has beat me to it, who's been clever and figured it out already.
check it out:


I will be experimenting today or tomorrow and let you all know what happens.
I'm very excited- especially since I can chocolate them out to my heart's content.


Holiday challenges

This time of year is the toughest time for staying sugar free. There's a lot of pressure to consume treats made by the family, and to partake in them as part of the ritual of tradition associated with all the holidays in general. If I'm going to backslide- even on purpose- it's going to be now.

My mother makes amazing cheesecakes- award winners, in fact. Aunt Judy makes lovely fudge. These things come out around this time of year, and I do in fact indulge in them. I figure it this way- once a year is appropriate to consume sugar, as a rare treat, the way sugar should be treated. At first I felt pretty guilty about it- how can I keep my status as a hardcore non-sugar freak if I sit here eating this amazing cheesecake?

Then I got to thinking. If it doesn't lead to the slippery slope (like smokers taking back up butts at parties... and then it's all downhill from there) and I stay conscious of what I am doing, then no harm done. I can stay aware, and make the choice to eat what my mother made, and go back to eating normally after the fact.

So this year I made the cheesecake. Pumpkin cheesecake, in fact. I used sucanat instead of straight white sugar- sucanat being the very stuff they strip out of the sugar when it's being processed. It still behaves as sugar in the body- eliciting a glycemic reaction, insulin release, etc... but at least it has some nutritional value (minerals). And it's just damn good cheesecake. Everyone enjoyed it, and to prevent myself from eating it every day since I brought it home, I instead brought it to a friend's house and unleashed it on a bunch of stoned grad students. Ha! A perfect way to get rid of the evidence!

Tonight, to remind myself that I can return to my basic healthy way of eating, I made stevia chocolate pudding (it came out runny- sigh; it is an endless battle, this pudding, it never comes out the same way). When Yule passes and Christmas rolls around again, I will be challenged once more- but I will simply try some of my family's treats and let it go again.

When I 'fell off the wagon' a couple of years ago (as I stated in a previous post) I never figured out how to get back on. I surrendered to the urge, to the addiction of sugar, and submerged myself into the depths of it. Since I have worked so hard to climb back out, I am unwilling to jump back in, to slide down that slope once more. This is how I want to live my life.

However- until I experiment and come up with a cheesecake recipe that doesn't involve sugar (or sucanat), I will save the once-a-year indulgement and go with it. I can return to normal, as I have proved to myself.

On that note- it's hard to convert recipes! Some things are forgiving, like ice cream, pudding and PB cups... but other things, such as baked goods, are far more difficult. Removing an entire cup of dry ingredient is a true challenge- it changes the chemistry of the product, and it isn't easy. Stevia does not behave the same as sugar chemically, nor is it one for one anyway. Sugar has a wonderous set of properties that lend it to baking- melting, carmelizing, making things sticky. Stevia has none of these properties, being a powdered concentrated herb. It remains a challenge.

So- if you are on this journey with me this season, good luck! Try to stay sugar free but don't beat yourself up if a slide happens- just get back onto your path after, and be kind to yourself. Honestly, it is kindness to my mother that I do backslide- I know it's hurtful to turn it down, and it means more to me that she feel that her efforts are not wasted. I can only educate and convert so many people.




Over the past few months I have been weaning off the last of what sugar I was consuming- honey. I love honey in my tea. I prefer it over sugar anyway, and have for years; but I recognize that in terms of affect on the body, honey behaves the same as table sugar- it spikes you immediately and gives a hefty glycemic response. In August I began using Agave nectar instead of honey. Agave is pretty neat; it has a very subtle flavor, and a much lower glycemic response to it.

So why the heck haven't I been using Stevia in my tea? I guess because like eveyone else using Stevia, I am timid in my experimentation because Stevia in the wrong amount can be horrible. Exquisitely disgusting, no joke!

This fall however, I finally decided to try it. After all I am pretty nearly sugar free at this point, fruit excepted. Why bend in my morning cup of tea? Starting the day with a sugar rush- albeit a small one- is strange if you plan on not having anything else besides that the rest of the day.

I went slowly as I do with all other things Stevia, and through experimentation have discovered that the little scoop inside the bottle is plenty for a regular sized mug. When I am using a tall travel mug, I make it a heaping scoop. It seems to work well and I'm happy with the results. I get my tea (yes, it's caffiene, that I'm not giving up) but not the sugar crash from the honey.

It's a grand experiment, and I feel much healthier and happier months later now that I have committed to the lifestyle once again. It's not always easy, because sugar is such a part of our culture... but each day is a new day, and each cup of tea reminds me that I have the power to choose health over momentary taste enjoyment. Not that I am deprived of taste, no! I think my tea tastes fabulous, having adjusted to the taste of Stevia over time; tea with honey, when I drink it now and then (such as at a restaurant) hasn't got the luster that Stevia does. Perhaps I ought to carry some with me, now that I think of it.

If you are reading this and experimenting, share your thoughts! Any ideas should be shared, because Stevia is still underground and the entire idea that sugar sickens people is still not recognized... the only way to educate is to talk and share.

Gotta go... it's time for tea.


Stevia Ice Cream

One of the hardest things for me to have to give up in my journey was ice cream. I don't enjoy suffering, no matter the cause; and so for years I was making 'alternative' ice cream in my cute little Cuisnart ice cream tumbler. Alternative meaning not cane sugar but substitutes I felt were healthier such as maple syrup, brown rice syrup, barley malt and so forth.

I always recognized that these are still sugars though!

Ice cream is not an exact science and is in fact very forgiving with experimentation, so here is what I have come up with in a bold stroke of genius if I do say so myself...
(Don't forget, milk is still a sugar! But one I'm willing to live with for now)

I use a Cuisinart gel tumbler ice cream maker, you can get them for $50 these days at many stores that sell kitchen goodies.

2 eggs
*2 cups (light) cream (you can use heavy; I prefer to make Light)
*1 cup (skim) milk (again, use what you like)
1/2 tsp Stevia
1-2 tsp extracts (optional)
4 oz unsweetened (baking) chocolate (optional)
nuts, berries, whatever...

*you can substitute soy milk or nut milks- they have enough fat that it's ok if there's no cream. There is also a great book called Vice Cream that uses Stevia, and is vegan if that's what you're after.*

Beat the eggs.... beat in the cream, then the milk... beat in the stevia. Remember to mix the stevia well, it gets funny with fatty ingredients.
I like Mint Chocolate Chip myself, so here I add 1 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp peppermint extract.

Pour the mix into the machine, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
I wait to add nuts or berries (best if prefrozen) into the mix when it's nearly ice cream (when it's churned up to the top lip of the blade and cover).

For 'chocolate chips':
Melt the chocolate before the ice cream reaches the lip. Add 1/4 tsp stevia, stir well. Add to the ice cream when it's reached the top; the chocolate should be warm enough to flow and make little blebs, but not so hot that it's turning it all back to milk- melt, wait 5 minutes, add. It takes a little finesse, and is tough to explain, sorry... I cook like my granny did...

Freeze, and enjoy!!!

Not all Stevias are created equal...

A word of caution for you new stevia users out there....
When I began my journey to be sugar free, I got great advice and guidance from a good friend who has been fighting Candida for years. She had been cooking without sugar then for some time. She advised me to buy the Kal brand of Stevia, because it has no aftertaste.

And so I did.

I think I became spoiled, complascent; people would talk about Stevia having a bitter taste and whatnot, and I would think: huh, I haven't experienced that; maybe I can't taste that?

Then people who never eat stevia would eat my peanut butter cups and exclaim that they were wonderful, they were fooled, they'd never suspect it wasn't sugar... so I guessed I wasn't crazy, Kal really is that good.

So recently, I bought a cheaper version of stevia from Trader Joe's. Let me state here that I love TJ's, love their selection and service, etc; but the stevia they got is TERRIBLE. I ruined a batch of PB cups because it was the nastiest, most bitter gross thing EVER. At least they have a good return policy! So Kal it is and shall remain.

So be careful, if you are new to it and experimenting; don't let a bad stevia experience turn you off. It takes finesse to work with it. It takes patience, adding a little at a time, tasting and tasting until it's right. There's not a lot of resources out there yet promoting it as a sweetener because of the FDA b.s., but hopefully one day we will be free of that nonsense and able to eat safe sweets.

Until then, happy cooking!



That is the word I will use to describe how I have been feeling all summer, since I have stuck to my guns and lived sugar free. I am remembering the ways to work around what is offered me, what other people are doing and eating...

Truly though, I have been feeling cleaner and rested, healthy and happy. I feel my body is more streamlined and whole. My skin feels good, I feel balanced and strong.

The challange will be when school starts again, and this will take some work; the sugar flows free here, as people use it to combat stress... not knowing how much it contributes to stress in the end. I will work hard, because my challange this year is to remain myself and rooted in my ideals: not eating sugar, being true to who I am and what I want. That is my beauty and I wish to keep it so. I will work hard! I no longer want the old ways, habits and addictions to be a part of my Self and my Psyche... so this I will do. I will be prepared and if I stumble, I will be gentle but steer back into my own Way. This is the only way I know to stay healthy and sane.


conquering addiction

Humans are habitual. We have our routines, our cycles, are paths we wear down every day. We depend on them, they keep us sane and whole. And so it is not so farfetched to imagine that we have our addictions. I think every single human alive has an addiction of one sort or another. Most are benign, which is why you don't hear of it- some people are addicted to exercise, some to tea or coffee, sugar or what have you... the ones you hear about are the ones who got snagged by something more insidious and harmful, something harder to shake like hard drugs or acohol.

I have heard a few times the theory that alcoholics are sugar addicts who find their sugar in a bottle instead of a candy bar. It makes a lot of sense to me. There is also the companion theory that alcoholism runs in families; runs in mine, in fact. That's something everyone knows. Now think about sugar. That addiction runs in families too. Runs in mine. Take a deeper look and you'll see that both of them, sugar and alcohol, run in the same families all the time. There are people in alcoholic families that refuse to drink... but they hit up dunkin' donuts every day, prove me wrong! I'm one of those; I refuse to drink- so Johnny Walker was no friend of mine, but I invited Ben and Jerry over all the time.

Think about it. What do alcoholics do when they are trying to quit? The eat candy. They suck on suckers, chew on gum, eat ice cream and snickers, whatever they can to keep their blood sugar up, keep their mouths working... it is all the same demon. Only no one talks about sugar addiction because no one thinks it's a problem.

I do.

It was a problem for me. Is it a problem for everyone? Probably not. But I think sometimes how 'hangry' I get when I am crashing off sugar; how much road rage are we seeing? How much teen violence, domestic abuse, the list goes on and on- society is raging, and why? I have a lot of questions and ideas; is it because they are all crashing off sugar? Is it because they have nothing to believe in? Is it because we are working so hard and getting nowhere? I have no answers; all I can say is, you can control what you do to your body and your environment; your own actions, reactions, and so forth- so you might as well make what you are given as good as you can. As healthy as you can. So you can deal with the rest...


Meena's Stevia Peanut Butter Cups

I made this one up myself... after a vegetarian 'natural sugar' recipe, that I have broken down over the years. They are rich, the chocolate is intense, so you may want to use mini-cupcake liners for a tinier taste sensation.
I don't usually measure anything, but I'll do my best for your benefit, you will find you won't need to measure either. Have fun!

Stevia powder
18 liners in muffin tins (more if you use mini)
6 oz unsweetened chocolate (I prefer Ghiardelhi, Baker's sucks, Hershey's is ok)
1/2 to 3/4 cup plain old peanut butter (natural, no additives, no sugar)
Almond or hazelnut meal (ground up nuts, I found mine at Trader Joe's); 1/4 cup?
little bit o butter, one pat or so

Do it:
Melt 3 oz of the chocolate on a double boiler/ small pot over LOW heat.
Stir well!! Add Stevia to taste; I use the little tiny spoon it came with, and usually use 4 or 5 of those... between 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Go slow... keep tasting until you like it. Should be smoothly sweet.
Pour a little into each liner, enough to coat the bottom of each of them.

In another little pot, melt a little butter (for lube sakes) and throw in the PB. Use whichever amount you like, want em full and gooey? use more then. Sorry, but I cook instinctually... like a granny, you know?
This is where you add Stevia to the PB mix; again, go for your taste, go slow, a little bit at a time. Cooking should be about tasting as you go, so here's your chance.
Add the nut meal slowly until the consistency is mushy, like cookie dough.
Yank those little guys out of the freezer and spoon a little of the PB mix on top of the chocolate, spread it out a little with your pinkie.

Make some more of the chocolate, same as before.
Ooze that chocolate on top of the PB cups, yum!
I put them in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up, so I can eat one right away. Why wait?

You need to store them in the fridge, they will melt like mad at room temp (you have some finger licking ahead of you) because real chocolate melts in your hand you know... enjoy!
Send me some feedback if you try this out.

Stevia, my dear...

When I realized that I had merely traded a white sugar addiction for a 'natural' sugar addiction, I became interested in kicking the whole deal altogether. But how could I possibly live without chocolate? Wasn't it enough that I was suffering the cruel fate of not being able to handle sweets like some other folks could?

So I was turned on to Stevia. It was so mysterious- still is; cloaked in a sordid past because of how this country is run- by beaurocrats who don't know their asses from their elbows, much less what the good of the commonfolk might be. How is it that a powerful lobby of chemical sweeteners could dump the health of the american people into the garbage by making claims that something proven to cause cancer in lab rats is SAFER than something indigenous peoples have been using for over a thousand years? All those Japanese can't be wrong... Stevia is not the big bad boogey man, that evil little blue or pink packet is.

It frustrates the hell out of me! What it comes down to is this: you want to avoid sugar, you either have no sweet nothings (tough call if you were raised on Oreos, like me), or you eat cancer powder in the form of "Lite" or "Sugar Free!" (which, by the way, is not healthier... they have to kick up the fat content to make that crap edible... 'why am I fat, when I eat diet cookies?'). Can you have a Stevia cookie? Nope! You can buy Stevia as a dietary supplement, which means YES you CAN consume it, but you can't buy it as a sweetner... I mean, come on! Who are they fooling!

The down side of all this crappy red tape is that yes, it's out there and amazing, but does anyone really efficiently know how to use it? No, because the market has stayed tiny as a result! And boy is it easy to screw up Stevia cooking. Just ask me. I have one cookbook, by Jeoffrey Goet?something, and the peanut butter cookies came out like dog buscuits. I have heard somthing like Stevia concentrates are better now than they were, so you have to use more or something, can't remember... either way... you almost have to cook on instinct. I have been experimenting, slowly and carefully for a couple of years; I will post my success stories here. But man-0-man it is easy to make it taste like ass!

So do like I did, research Stevia on the 'net, it's out there and all over the place. I like the "Kal" brand (red and white bottle) of powder, they have none/barely any aftertaste. I am keen to try the others and compare. I want more recipe books, I want to be free to buy products marketed with it as it is meant to be- a non caloric, safe sweetener!
Fuck the man. That's all for tonight.


Focus and clarity...

One of the best parts of eating well is how I feel. Your food intake is the way you alter your body chemically every single day. The way I am eating now means I am clear and focused, a huge bonus for me to get through vet school and retain something.

I think it's amazing that you can personally modulate your heath and mood just with what you put into your body. So many people in this world just don't know that and when I look around and see the general state of ill health and sadness, I know that it comes down largely to the fact that people are increadibly disconnected; to the earth, to their people, to their own bodies! How can you be so disconnected to your own body that you ignore the warning signs?

But we do, I did, we all do these days. We lost our connection so long ago that most people don't even have it as part of their culture anymore. And those that did- the Native Americans- are losing it as well (think of the alcoholism in that culture now, as a result of what has happened to their social structure...) Wherever we go we bring our poison, and leave a trail of ill health, ill feelings and ill being.

Is it any wonder?

I have almost magically relinquished a lot of the phantom sadness that has plagued me for so long. Could it really be that simply eating better can have this much of an effect on me? It can. No amount of chemically produced candy can give the kind of happiness and high that just feeling good can. Now granted a lot of this is hidden under the stress and strain of the unnatural vet school vibe I reside in... but when summer comes, and I can enjoy the heath and wellbeing I have crafted, I am certain that I will bask in the good times to come.


Sugar poison in my history...

I decided to create a new blog solely for my pursuit of health and happiness; that way what I need to rant about doesn't interfere with all the fun loving stuff I have been doing elsewhere...

My life experience thus far has been one long argument with my body chemistry, and it has been an exhausting ride. I hope that what I have learned along the way can be of help to someone else.

I grew up eating crap. "Cereal" consisting of processed flours with sugar is the first or second ingredients. What you eat as a child is forever part of your psyche as a positive and calming thing; I have a deep fondness for Count Chocula, Honeycomb, Lucky Charms... all for breakfast! It's no wonder I learned nothing in math class and couldn't pay attention... I was crashing off that shit after an hour.
I ate a lot of Wonder bread, Oreos, all that stuff... when I was a teen trying to eat better, I ate sugared yogurts, white crackers, soda, juice... on and on.

When I was in my teens and early twenties, I fought my attitude big time. I knew I was way too sensitive, defensive, crabby, and had intense mood swings. I began to try and figure out why, and realized as early as 17 or 18 that I had a sugar addiction and that it couldn't be good. It didn't make sense then to try and stop. I ruined relationship after relationship with wacky mood swings, bouts of intense anger and sadness; when you experience such a strong emotion, you have to find a reason or go mad. So unfortunately I always chose boyfriends to blame the emotions on, and didn't learn to have a good functional relationship for a long long time.

I grew tired of crashing eventually. I started looking for answers. I read a few books, started talking to people; I started with Protein Power and learned about hypoglycemia. I began to realize that if I couldn't control the hypoglycemia and mood swings, at least I could see them coming and utilize food to help me get it under some sort of control. I helped my friends and boyfriends recognize the signs of a 'hangry' person. They could see the crash pattern and know that when I was silent and unable to talk, unable to choose what to eat or even cranky and not wanting to eat, that eat was exactly what I needed to do.
I was scared... diabetes is right around the corner from that stuff!!

I was frustrated and trapped.
Then one day, after laying on my bed alone with Ben and Jerry, a friend came to visit; one of those amazing earthy crunchy folks that I love so much. He said, why are you eating that poison? And recommended the book Sugar Blues by William Dufty.
It changed what I thought forever.
I had already been moving towards living and eating more naturally; I was vegetarian, even vegan for a time; this pushed me to a new dimension, but even so I was still not ready.
I took the first step, which was to replace all the shit in my life with natural alternatives- I took out white sugar and white flour, and began to experiment with whole grains and alternatives like barley malt, brown rice syrup, maple syrup and so on. I learned through the invaluable advice of friends how to make my own ice cream, among other things.
The thing to realize though, was that I was still eating sugar. Oh, it was healthier sugar, but sugar nonetheless... and still leading to the road called Diabetes, eventually.
It did help the hypoglycemia though. The crashes were less, and not as bad. I was eating alternatives, and in general trying to cut down.

I discovered Stevia after a while. At first, it was a frustrating experience, because it is unwieldy and difficult to use; but I have been getting the hang of it. I went completely sugar free for a few months; no alternative sugars at all. It was amazing!

Then I fell off the wagon, so to speak. I got into vet school, and discovered the worst stress of my life. Sugar, white sugar, was copious and free, all over campus.
Now, I am the worst chocolate fiend that ever was. This made the fight intense and tiring. Not to mention that I had left where I was living, a place where alternative lifestyles are supported and even expected; and moved to a place where it is tough to find the resources I need to feel comfortable and free to maintain myself in my own version of health. So I took a huge backslide, back beyond 4 years... all undone... I was still using alternatives, but dipping into the white stuff like a crack addict.

It came to a head this spring. I was just wild with Christmas, Valentines, and Easter candy. It was like I was reliving that dream I used to have as a kid- the one where I had a giant goblet of candy in my room that was never empty no matter how much I ate, and that I could eat chocolate for every meal and never get sick.


Oh it made me sick alright. So sick. It crept up, and I barely noticed. My skin went wild, I broke out like a teen; my normally slender frame started bulking up; I was puffy, soft, my belly hurt, I was a bitch and a basket case- crying all the time, upset, unable to stay focused and calm. I tried a few times to kick, this is the amazing thing! I tried, and COULDN'T! It was pretty stunning... because I know better. But the siren song of sugar was so strong.

I had to wait and hit bottom, so to speak. It finally happened, and I knew in my exhaustion that it was time. I went to the library and took out Sugar Blues again for inspiration. I got rid of the crap in my kitchen and went shopping. I was gentle with myself, forgiving, understanding...
Detox was intense. I was unconciously tricking myself- Oh, so what if I have a little? We can resume this experiment tomorrow... but at last, I persevered. I have won, I have conquered the monster again.
But I have come to realize that this is not a battle you fight once and win. It is inexorably part of my being, something I will always have to guard against. Addictions and nervous behaviour run in my family, and this is meaningful; I can't drop an addiction without something to fill the vaccuum or void that it leaves behind. Something must be there to fill the space or else it is all for naught.
So, obsess with being the anti sugar nazi I once was... I was there, I can do it again, and I am determined this time.

If you have held on and read this whole thing, good for you; I hope that I can inspire someone else. Stick around, I will be posting all sorts of goodies and tidbits, tips and encouragement... in hopes that someone else wants to do away with this widespread drug and poison that is in everything in diets these days.

blessed be.