I’ve grown to appreciate lemons, to welcome them, in fact. There are so many delicious things one can make from them. The longer I’ve lived in Phoenix, the more I look forward to the shopping bags and boxes full of lemons that some of my cooking students, clients, and friends give me.
Every fall or winter I lead at least one or two citrus cooking classes where every dish we make contains lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, or tangerines. In other classes, particularly during the winter months, I make dishes that include citrus.
Luscious lemonade without sugar
In several of my January and February cooking classes, we made my favorite lemonade recipe (from my Garden of Eating Cookbook), sweetened only with stevia. No sugar, no honey, no artificial sweeteners. Just stevia. I will include the recipe below, which I’ve modified slightly from the one in my book so that it includes both liquid and powdered stevia extract. I’ve been drinking a lot of lemonade outside of classes too. It’s been unseasonably warm here and I’ve been spending almost 2 hours a week in a sauna, so lemonade seems like the perfect balance, even without ice.
Photo credit: Rachel Albert © Copyright 2009
Why waste the calories on sugar sweetened drinks that weaken your immune system and contribute to disease when you can sweeten naturally with the extract from the stevia leaf? Before you rush out and buy any stevia product you can find, know that the brand you buy does matter. Different brands vary in flavor and concentration and some are more apt to have a bitter aftertaste.
Which stevia you buy matters!
My favorite brandof stevia is Nu Naturals. Of their products, look for pure the stevia extract powder or clear stevia extract liquid without added starches for my recipes. That's best. By the way, Nu Naturals stevia tastes so much better than Truvia and other knock off brands. It doesn't have the bitter aftertaste that many associate with stevia. One of the bloggers I follow, Lauren Benning of Healthy Indulgences, wrote a long post about this recently. She was amazed that Cargill, the multi billion dollar corporation that created a genetically modified version of stevia they could patent apparently didn't taste test their product against others before releasing it on the market. I would not buy Truvia and I hope you will avoid it as well.
Note: I also like and use the pure stevia extract powder (not the product with FOS/fillers) and clear stevia liquid from Wisdom Naturals/Sweet Leaf.
Delectable lemony ice cream alternative
Once last month and once last weekend, for herb workshops at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, I made and served a knock out lemon dessert, that wowed the crowd: Lemon Ice Dream. It reminded people of gelato. They couldn’t get over how refreshing it tasted, the incredibly creamy texture it had, and that it was dairy free, naturally sweetened, and low in sugar. I made it without the optional crumbled lemon cookies since I planned to serve the frozen dessert with Rosemary Shortbread (made from blanched almond flour).
Photo credit: Rachel Albert © Copyright 2009
I sweetened my Lemon Ice Dream with both honey and stevia extract (powder and liquid work equally well but liquid stevia is dissolves more easily). The recipe comes from my Ice Dream Cookbook, a fantastic gift idea any time of year for yourself or someone you care about. Even if you don’t live somewhere warm, even if you don’t yet have an ice cream maker, and even if you don’t follow a gluten-free or dairy-free lifestyle, I think you’ll love this book. It has pleased kids and adults and helped many people tame their sweet tooth desires and upgrade to more nutritious sweets and treats.
To order a copy of the book, click here. To pick up a copy of either of my books in Tempe, AZ, visit Healing Pages Books located in the bookstore at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts in Tempe or go to Changing Hands Books in Tempe, AZ.
In a previous post on lemons I included a recipe for Lemonette, my vinegar-free twist on vinaigrette. I’ve included the link here. You will also find tips for freezing lemon juice in non-plastic containers, which are safer for your health because they don't leach toxic chemicals into your food and beverages.
Here’s my favorite lemonade recipe. I hope you try it and like it. Adjust the sweetness and tartness to your tastes.
Sweet Herb Lemonade
Prep: 10 minutes/ Yield: 1 quart + 1/3 to 1/2 cup
If you love––or once loved––lemonade but don’t want the sugar or artificial sweeteners found in conventional recipes and commerical products, try this. All the sweetness comes from the leaf of a South American herb that tastes 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar.
To avoid a bitter flavor, you need to measure carefully and use it in minscule amounts. The biggest mistake people make is using too much. Brands may differ in flavor and concentration, so always start with less than you think you need, taste, and adjust in minuscule amounts as needed.
FYI: Look for pure stevia extract powder. For cooking, baking, and all of my recipes, I recommend against brands that contain fillers that dilute the stevia making it difficult to impossible to know how much to add, particularly in cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, frozen desserts, and sauces. Note: I avoid all stevia products that contain FOS, a pre-biotic that not only dilutes the herb but adds something to feed the friendly flora in your intestines. For many people FOS causes gas and bloating. See notes above for more on this!
Caveat: If you do use Nu Naturals stevia packets (these contain a filler to make the volume of the packet like that of a sugar packet), you will have to add, taste, add, and taste to get the right amount. You might need an entire envelope for each 1/2 to 1 quart of lemonade, depending on your tastes and sweetness preferences.
4 cups filtered water (1 quart)
1/3 to 1/2 cup freshly juiced organic lemons, seeds removed (about 3 medium lemons)
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract powder or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon clear stevia extract liquid (I like Nu Naturals stevia extract powder & liquids and Wisdom Naturals/Sweet Leaf stevia liquids)
- Combine water, lemon juice, lemon pulp, if desired, and stevia in a tall glass pitcher or quart jar. Whisk well. Taste and add additional stevia, 1/16th to 1/8th teaspoon at a time, if a sweeter taste is desired. If too lemony, dilute with additional water.
- Serve over ice if desried. Cover and refrigerate. Use within 1 week.
- Sweet Herb Limeade: Replace lemons with the juice of fresh limes.
- Sweet Herb Lemon & Gingerade: In the master recipe, add 2 tablespoons juice from finely grated, squeezed fresh gingerroot or bottled ginger juice, or, replace 2 cups of water with 2 cups of strongly brewed and cooled Ginger Tea.
- Sweet Herb Orangeade: In the master recipe, replace 1 cup cold water with 1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, then reduce stevia by one-half. Taste and adjust as needed.
For more of my great recipes pick up a copy of my book, The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook (Planetary Press, 2004) and my Ice Dream Cookbook: Dairy-Free Ice Cream Alternatives with Gluten-Free Cookies, Compotes & Sauces (Planetary Press, 2008). Ordering from The Garden of Eating website gives you faster shipping and a better price on the book than Amazon offers.