Feel Good About SWEET PALMS, Healthy Breakfasts

granola-with-palm-sugar-healthy-breakfastNut, Seed & Fruit Granola with Palm Sugar

I’m always on the prowl for new unrefined sweeteners – not only are they a healthier alternative to heavily processed white sugar, unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup and honey have flavor instead of just being super-sweet. It’s fun to play with flavor pairings to see which sweetener you like with what. (I think honey is a natural fit for cornbread and blueberry muffins; maple syrup is delicious with chocolate. Date sugar is wonderful sprinkled onto fruit and cobblers.) And since unrefined sweeteners retain more of their complex nutrients than refined sugar does, unrefined sweeteners contain fewer calories per teaspoon. Once again, taking the quality approach addresses the quantity one.

My latest unrefined sweetener find is palm sugar. It’s made from the sap of a palm tree in a process that’s much like making maple syrup: tap the tree, collect the sap, and boil it down to a thick liquid. The difference is that the palm sugar is more of a gritty, thick paste than a pourable syrup. Some palm sugars – including coconut sugar – are then poured into molds to dry and wind up being sold in blocks. (Jaggery is an Indian sweetener typically made of palm sap or sugarcane juice and sold in hardened blocks or swirls. Latin versions are made from sugarcane and are known by various names, including rapadura and piloncillo. They’re often sold as cones.)

Despite palm sugar having less than a quarter of the calories of white sugar (10 per tablespoon instead of 45), palm sugar is surprisingly sweet! It also has a very faint caramel flavor. So far, I’ve stirred it into hot chocolate and made a sweetened granola with it, and I’ve really enjoyed the results. You could also use it in baked goods that work well with liquid sweeteners, like cakes and muffins and quick breads. (Cookies would be too thin and would spread out too much if you used a liquid sweetener in them – I use sucanat and date sugar for my cookies.) I found palm sugar at Whole Foods, but you can probably find it at other natural-foods-oriented groceries as well. And since palm sugar is often used in Thai cookery and other southeastern Asian cuisines, Asian grocery stores tend to stock it.

Nut, Seed & Fruit Granola with Palm Sugar

You can use any combination of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, grains, or other trail-mix-friendly ingredients in your granola. If you use salted roasted nuts, you don’t need to add any sea salt to the recipe, but if you use unsalted nuts, you might want to sprinkle in some sea salt to taste.

2/3 cups roasted pistachios

1/3 cup roasted peanuts

3/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

2 cups unsweetened puffed brown rice OR puffed millet

1 1/4 cups rolled oats (make sure to get gluten-free oats if you’d like gluten-free granola)

2 T. roasted sesame seeds

1/4 cup cocoa nibs, optional

Pinch of sea salt, optional

3/4 cup palm sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

Mix all ingredients except for the final three together in a large bowl. Gently heat the palm sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla in a small pot on the stove. It should only take a minute or two of stirring over the low heat to get the palm sugar to fully liquefy.

Drizzle palm sugar over the granola mix and stir well with a wooden spoon. Spread the mixture out on an ungreased baking sheet to dry, then store in an airtight container when cool. (If you’re going to keep it for more than three or four days, refrigerate it.) You can eat the granola as it is for a snack or for breakfast, or you can pour it into a bowl and add your choice of milk to make a traditional bowl of cereal.

Enjoy!

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