Saturday, August 27, 2011

Healthy Habits

It's no doubt that being a baker has it's benefits - delicious goodies for the taking just about every day at my house. This, unfortunately, can be a downfall as well, particularly in raising children with healthy habits. My children are privy to all the treats that come out of my oven which is great because what kid doesn't love that! But I am constantly stressing out over how much is too much and trying to making sure they have a balanced diet.
Since I doubt I am going to stop baking anytime soon, a way to help encourage healthier eating is through the utilization of fruits and vegetables and wholesome grains in my baking. Most fruits and vegetables are great additions to breads and cakes. Whole grains and other healthy additives such as whole wheat flour, flax, oatmeal, and wheat germ provide nutrients that are essential to a healthy diet.
Recently, we have been starting to see the negative aspects of sugar. This has brought about the use of alternative, more natural forms such as stevia which is great to use in baking rather than using sucrose-based sweeteners.
My husband and I recently returned from a trip to Montreal, Canada where I had to pick up a large jar of their maple syrup. This stuff is seriously good - smooth on the tongue and bright-flavored. It's the best maple syrup we'd tasted. Upon visiting a maple syrup museum one evening, it dawned on me to use maple syrup in place of sugar to obtain a more complex flavor in my end product. As a bonus, maple syrup is undoubtedly better for you than sugar. It's got less calories than honey and contains an abundance of minerals. Some of these minerals are calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and zinc. Manganese is important in energy production as well as key antioxidant production. One ounce of maple syrup contains 22% of the FDA daily recommended allowance of manganese. Zinc is a beneficial antioxidant and is important in heart health. Proper zinc levels also promote a healthy immune system, especially in children. One teaspoon of maple syrup contains about 17 calories, 4.5 g of carbohydrates and 0 g of fat.

This week I'd like to share with you a carrot loaf recipe that is a healthier version of a traditional carrot cake. It's moist and has a deep, complex flavor. It uses maple syrup as a sweetener. It makes me feel really good that my kids can enjoy a yummy home-baked treat while getting essential nutrients, vegetables and whole grains at the same time. And trust me, you won't miss the sugar.

Healthier Carrot Loaf

3/4 c maple syrup
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 t vanilla
1 lg egg
1/2 c wheat flour
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c flax meal
1t baking soda
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground ginger
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 c grated carrots
1/2 c raisins (optional)
1/2 c walnuts (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Whisk the syrup, oil and vanilla until well combined. Add your egg and mix until incorporated. In a separate bowl, sift together the flours, flax meal, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and spices. Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined and then add the grated carrots and mix. Add the remaining dry ingredients and fold it into the batter until they are just incorporated. Do not overmix the batter. Bake in a greased loaf pan for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Let the loaf sit on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes. Then remove from the pan and serve. Enjoy!

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