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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sweet, Sweet Nectar

Oh Agave Nectar, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Seriously. I have a really intense love affair with Agave. You know, it's all the rage these days. Of course, I knew about Agave way back before it was cool, like 2 years ago...but isn't that always the way? I swear, I was wearing ripped jeans in the 80s.

No, for real. If you haven't moved over to Team Agave, I hope this blog will inspire you to do just that.

While agave (pronounced ah-GAH-vay) is best recognized as the plant from which tequila is made, it has also been used for thousands of years as an ingredient in food. The nectar made from the plant is known in Mexico as aguamiel, or "honey water." The Aztecs prized the agave as a gift from the gods and used the liquid from its core to flavor foods and drinks. Now, due to increasing awareness of agave nectar's many beneficial properties, it is becoming the preferred sweetener of health conscious consumers, doctors, and natural foods cooks alike.

I mean, come on! It's basically tequila, right? Ha! I started using Agave a few years ago, for purely selfish reasons. It has an insanely low glycemic index, meaning it doesn't spike your blood sugar, and isn't a refined sugar. The sweetness comes mostly from something called inulin--don't ask me to explain the chemistry of it. You can do a lot of research on it, if you like. 

My point in telling you about it is that it has changed the way I eat SO many things! I'll give you a delicious breakfast recipe below using agave instead of a more common sweetener. But I use it so often it's insane. It goes in my coffee or tea instead of sugar/splenda/something else unspeakable. I bake with it, I cook with it. My mom and I make a mean cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving with it. I use it to balance out super spicy foods, I use it instead of honey in salad dressings. (I'm not knocking honey at all, but agave doesn't necessarily have a strong flavor.) Oh my goodness, and iced coffee/tea? Totally! No more crystalized sugar in the bottom of your coffee.  And the cocktail possibilities are makes a great substitute for simple sugar, in my opinion.

In addition, a lot of the recipes I give you (since obviously I use it a lot) will call for it. 

I won't lie, it can be a bit expensive. I mean, it's more than granulated white sugar, but we really shouldn't be eating that anyway. And it's about the same price as buying a good raw sugar...but the best part is that the ratio for sweetness is incredible! It's 2 to 1, sugar to agave. Meaning, you only need half as much! A bottle will really last you if you use it correctly. And I know for a fact that Trader Joe's (for those of you lucky enough to be living in an area where you actually HAVE access to a TJ--I do not) has a really good deal on it most of the time.

Do me a favor. Splurge on yourself and buy a bottle. As we move into the new year, worrying about losing the holiday weight/sluggishness/getting ourselves back on track, it's a simple change to make. You'll like it! (Mikey does...)

Jill's breakfast on the morning of 1/16/10 (and many other mornings)
1/2 cup old fashioned oats (I don't have access to steel cut oats, so I go for the next best thing)
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup water
1 TBSP vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 TBSP agave nectar
1 TBSP cinnamon (for another post, but allegedly eating cinnamon in the morning is really good for your metabolism)
Assorted fruit and nuts, if you please

Ok, I'm not telling you anything the side of the Quaker (or whatever brand of old fashioned oats you buy) isn't. But this is my method for cooking oatmeal. Oatmeal is not only delicious! It's really good for you, it is a great detoxifier for your body, and fills you up! It's also wonderful for your heart. 
In a small saucepan or pot, combine the milk, water, vanilla, and salt over medium-high heat. Bring to a small boil (basically a scald, where there are small bubbles on the side of the pan). 

Reduce the heat to low and add in the oatmeal, stirring quite regularly for 5 minutes. I find that the more I stir, the creamer the oatmeal is--which I REALLY like. It reminds me of cooking a risotto. (I don't know if there is any correlation between the way I cook oatmeal and cooking risotto, but it's what I like to tell myself so I sound smart in the morning while stirring.)

The mixture will start bubbling a bit as you're stirring. It's normal.

After 5 minutes (set your timer people) turn the heat off and cover the oatmeal for another 5 minutes. Do not touch.

When the 5 minutes are up, stir the agave and cinnamon in.

Transfer to eating vessel, add in whatever chopped fruit/nuts you may like. I particularly like strawberries and almonds, but that's just me. 

That's it! You have a delicious, nutritious, and quite quick breakfast. The agave gives the oatmeal an almost syrupy consistency, which I LOVE! 

1 comment:

  1. Mama, not only only are you one of my most favorite people but you continue to inspire me everyday. Thank you for being who you are and what you do! YEAH TEAM! Xoxo me