Wednesday, September 1, 2010

SweetLeaf & Israeli Couscous

My biggest vice in life comes in a bottle. Not a beer bottle, nor a wine bottle - a Snapple bottle.  I love Snapple iced tea.  I love most bottled ice tea. I've been addicted to bottled iced tea for a minimum of 20 years.  I'd walk to school past the corner bagel store and pick up a Raspberry Snapple on the way, and then again on the way home.  By the time high school was over I was up to 4 or more bottles a day.  As a "grown up" I got a membership to one of those big bulk stores, you know the kind that sells cases of Snapple Iced tea for dirt cheap.  Oh god did I buy tons of the junk!  Until recently bottled iced tea's still remained the greatest source of empty calories in my diet.  I am finally happy to report that I've just about kicked my bottled iced tea addiction! Don't get me wrong, I'm still addicted to iced tea.  Only now I make my iced tea at home and I sweeten it with SweetLeaf stevia. 

When I sat down and really reviewed my diet I had no choice but to come to terms with the fact that the bottled iced teas had to go.  But what to replace them with?  I drink water but sometimes you need something more then just water.  Anything with chemical sweeteners was completely out of the question!  I'd rather be overweight then load myself up with aspartame.  I like the taste of Agave nectar, but some research indicates that Agave nectar isn't much better for you then high fructose corn syrup; therefore making Agave nectar seem like too much of a lateral move to be worthwhile.

That brings me to Stevia.  Stevia is an all natural plant derived sugar substitute with zero calories and zero carbohydrates. Stevia doesn't adversely affect blood glucose levels and may be used freely by diabetics. There are several commercial brands of stevia on the market now, but be careful - not all stevia products are equal. 
SweetLeaf is the only pure stevia product that you can purchase in packets, shaker or tablets.  The other two major Stevia brands are loaded with fillers like cellulose powder and undisclosed natural flavors.  They also contain processed ingredients such as Erythritol and isomaltulose. Erythritol has been associated with digestive upset, diarrhea, and bloating.  Isomaltulose (sometimes know as Palatinose) is a disaccharide that is commercially manufactured enzymatically from sucrose via bacterial fermentation. (In other words, they're a Frankenstein like concoction pushed through the FDA by the two major soda manufacturers Pepsi and Coca Cola as a knee jerk reaction to the growing concern over findings linking chemical sweeteners and various cancers.)   Some of the reported side effects of Isomaltulose are similar to those associated with a Candida (yeast) overgrowth such as mouth soars, a thickening of the tongue, upset stomach, diarrhea and in some extreme cases full blown yeast infections.  SweetLeaf on the other hand has two ingredients, inulin soluble fiber and stevia leaf extract.  The side effects are typical as with any natural herbal supplement.  If you have allergies to various herbs then maybe Stevia isn't the sweetener for you.  But in it's purest form (such as SweetLeaf) Stevia can be a invaluable tool when trying to lighten up your caloric intake. Plus it tastes great in fruited teas and lemonades!

Orange Iced Tea is my favorite with Strawberry Lemonade a close second. The girls are head over heals in love with Iced Green Tea with Mint.  Mint leaves added to any Lemonade or Tea is super refreshing. The best thing about using Stevia as your sweetener (as if being an all natural zero calorie sweetener could be topped) is that a little goes a long way. Three teaspoons sweeten two whole quarts!
You can find more information about stevia, Sweetleaf and other stevia products (including recipes) by visiting the follow links:
Before I end this post I wanted to share with you a salad that I've become obsessed with this summer. It's an Israeli couscous salad that combines slivered almonds, dried cranberries, parsley and a raspberry vinaigrette.  It can be served chilled or as I prefer at room temperature. 

Israeli Couscous Salad
2 1/2 Cups Vegetable Broth
2 Cups Israeli Couscous
2tsp turmeric
1tsp salt
1 cup Slivered Almonds
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
1 Small bunch of Italian Parsley finely chopped

Raspberry Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
*1/2 cup raspberry infused white balsamic vinegar
1tsp garlic powder
1tsp dried oregano
2tbs pure maple syrup (agave nectar is also good)
sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
optional:  2tbs prepared dijon mustard

* If you can't get your hands on raspberry infused white balsamic vinegar you can use either of the following substitutions:
 1/3 cup raspberry juice and 1/2 white vinegar
3tbs seedless raspberry preserves mixed with 1/2 c apple cider vinegar

Prepare Raspberry Vinaigrette and set aside
Bring vegetable broth, turmeric and salt to boil
Stir in Israeli Couscous and let simmer for 8-10 min (or until all water is absorbed)
In a separate large bowl mix together slivered almonds, chopped parsley and dried cranberries
Add  prepared couscous to bowl with almonds,parsley and cranberries
pour in raspberry vinaigrette and mix well
chill stirring occasionally until salad has cooled to desired temperature


  1. I'm not a fan of bottled drinks, and making your own iced tea seems like a brilliant idea!

    I can't wait for the recipe of the salad, it sounds great!

  2. They look beautiful in the bottles. These would be super cute and festive for any party!

  3. It seems that the weather is nice... And your bottled drinks look very tasty - I like to come around and test! =)

  4. sounds good ajh! Anne-Marie, sliced fruit and fresh herbs always look so pretty floating in clear glass bottles of stuff, even oils. Pili, the salad is really good. I promise! If you make it let me know what you think of it.

    Thank you all so much for actually reading the post!

  5. What a wonderful recipe ... looks so yummy n inviting !!!

    - Smita
    (food ideas to feed picky eaters)