Hello friends! Christmas is upon us! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and the ones you love! As I write, I have a beautiful fragrant Christmas tree lit up in my living room and Christmas music playing in the background. I got to thinking about Christmas cookies and wanted to share a recipe with you the way I like to bake: lightly sweetened (reduced/low sugar). Nervous if you will enjoy a cookie with not as much sweetness? Read on. If you are just stopping by for the recipe and not further information on reduced sugar baking and how I came to bake this way, scroll right to the bottom of the post.
I am not sure if it is the amount of years I have had diabetes (25 years in February, 2012) or the age I currently am, (36), but cane sugar and I are just not pals anymore. This includes white granulated sugar at the top of my list, but also powdered sugar and brown sugar. Throw a “bakery baked” full sugar pastry, cake, cookie or whatever in front of me, and if I eat it, my blood sugar can raise 100-200 points within 30 minutes to 1 hour. I’m talking 250’s – 300’s (100 mg/dL is normal) here no problem! As I have grown older, married a husband I adore and want to grow old in years with, my focus on good self care has really intensified. The temporary satisfaction I receive from eating sweets is just not worth the possible near and long term complications of diabetes. This is not to say I never indulge in a sweet but I try to eat most of my baked goods in the form of reduced sugar ones that I bake myself. Keep in mind this is easier for me because I am on a gluten and corn free diet. The majority of sweets we are surrounded and constantly bombarded by – I cannot consume! I am also not able to eat over 1/2 of the gluten free bakery items available because of my corn allergy as typical baking powder has corn starch in it.
Am I now just more aware that my sugars are getting high after eating sugary confections, or am I really reacting more severely to cane sugar? Perhaps a little of both. I am not sure quite how long (2-3 years?) it has been now that I have worn a Dexcom CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor), but it really helps me be in tune with exactly what is happening to my blood sugars with every event in my life. Over the last few years I have been experimenting more with alternate sweeteners and seeing what kind of effect they have on my blood sugars. Baking has been a passion of mine since I was a child and it was not something I wanted to give up. I have found consumption of alternative sugars vs. cane sugar dramatically helps me avoid rapid hyperglycemic excursions (high blood sugars). Alternative sugars can include: Agave, Maple Syrup, Honey, Stevia, Coconut Palm Sugar and Dates & Date Sugar. Stevia is a natural herb and I love using it to sweeten my foods while having no upward effect on my blood sugars. This is the first Stevia product I bought at my local Co-op, and I love it. It also does not have the adverse effects associated with it like Aspartame (NutraSweet) or Splenda.
This recipe for peanut butter cookies features palm sugar (which has 1/2 the glycemic index of cane sugar and also less than agave & honey) and Stevia. I love that palm sugar does not have the overly sweet taste that white sugar does. If you do not currently have these ingredients in your kitchen, regular white sugar will suffice. One thing to keep in mind is most of us are eating WAY too much sugar. Whether living with diabetes or not, sugar is not good for any of us. Did you know that on average Americans are swallowing 22 teaspoons of sugar each day!!! Most of it coming from soda and candy. Here is a link to an article discussing this unhealthy trend among Americans and an article the New York Times featured on the toxicity of sugar. I have been doing all my baking with approximately 1/2 the sugar the recipe calls for since starting to bake after diagnosis at age 11.
A recent victory for me was when my husband Jaim came home and reported that he had eaten some cake at a work function that day. When I asked how it was, his response was, “It was WAY too sweet, not very good.” Hearing this was music to my ears. He can take down or shall I say “inhale” a dessert like nobody’s business. Just ask his Dad sometime to tell you some stories of Jaim and his love affair with sweets that started as a very young boy. Let me just share one story of Jaim from childhood that makes me smile every time I hear it. Growing up, his mother Nancy lovingly made homemade chocolate covered cherries for her husband Chan for special occasions; they were his favorite. Once when Jaim was 4-5 years old and playing downstairs, he looked up and there was a whole tray of chocolate covered cherries in front of his eyes! Nancy had put them down there to cool. Jaim simply took one and ate it. Right off the middle of the baking sheet, not trying to be discreet or hide his consumption at all! We all love that story of our sweet Jaim.
Here is the recipe and what you came for! I originally got this recipe this off the Whole Foods Market web site featuring a woman making these cookies in a video. They are naturally gluten free as they do not contain flour. The recipe below is an adjustment from the original recipe making it reduced/low sugar. You may use Peanut Butter if you do not have a peanut allergy. I have an allergy to most nuts including peanuts, but thankfully not almonds! I substituted Barney Butter (made with almonds) in this recipe for the peanut butter. They turned out great. As the original recipe features peanut butter, there are no worries that the recipe will turn out if made with peanut butter and not Barney Butter. Barney Butter is made to taste more like regular peanut butter and is in my opinion far superior in taste to regular almond butter. I found it at my local Whole Foods store but you can order it online by clicking on the link. It does have added sugar (to give it more of a peanut buttery taste) but I have not noticed an impact on my blood sugars.
Keep in mind as you try to reduce sugar intake in your diet that you may want to play around with the sugar amounts if you are used to eating “full sugar” baked goods. Try experimenting with just a few tablespoons less sugar than the recipe calls for as you start out and work your way down from there. As you experiment, you may want to taste the dough and add back some sugar if needed to suit your desired taste. Just like someone put on a reduced sodium diet eventually becomes accustomed to less salt, it is possible to get used to the taste of less sugar. Friends and family all rave about my baked goods; most of them not realizing how much healthier they are for them! Stevia and palm sugar are not necessary to make these cookies. As I mentioned earlier, you may substitute white cane sugar if you desire and adjust the amount as needed to suit your taste. For variation: Add a Hershey Kiss to the top for the popular Christmas cookie, “Peanut Butter Blossoms!” Or add some chocolate chips to to make “Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies!”
Lightly Sweetened & Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies (Peanut free depending on ingredient choice for nut butter)
* 1 large egg (organic free-range if possible)
* 1/4 cup palm sugar (original recipe calls for 3/4 cup white sugar)
* 5-10 drops stevia depending on level of sweetness desired (optional: original recipe did not use stevia)
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 cup peanut butter or for peanut allergy: Barney Butter
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional: add if you would like to make peanut butter chocolate chip cookies)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. Put into bowl: egg, sugar, stevia (if using), baking soda, peanut butter and vanilla. Mix well. If desired, fold in chocolate chips. Place teaspoon sized mounds on baking sheet and make criss-cross shapes with the back of a fork. Bake for 10-12 minutes depending on desired texture and firmness of cookie. Remember they may be slightly soft when removing from oven but they firm up as they cool. Let cool and eat!
I hope you enjoy this recipe and that it is a positive experience for you with a lightly sweetened treat. Surprise someone with diabetes in your life by presenting them with a wrapped gift of these “healthier” Christmas cookies that came straight from the heart. Remember you may need to watch how your blood sugar responds before bolusing the amount of insulin you would for a typical cookie. I am hoping you will need less insulin and have much happier blood sugars! Enjoy!
We love comments and feedback! Please leave a comment below sharing your thoughts on reduced sugar baking and any experience you have with alternative sweeteners. How do your blood sugars respond to a “bakery baked” full sugar pastry, cake or cookie?
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Blessings, light & love,