Learn to Grow, Make, and Use DIY Stevia Sweetener

Learn to Grow, Make, and Use DIY Stevia Sweetener

How to Use Stevia

Learn how to use stevia as a sugar substitute. Grow it, harvest it, use it, love it!

I’ve just come in from working in my garden. As I was trimming, pulling weeds and watering, I finally got to my stevia tree! I have several, but this one is about 8 feet tall! What am I going to do with all that? Lots…let me tell you!

What is Stevia?

Stevia, or stevia rebaudiana, is a tropical to semi-tropical plant that is from South America. Although fairly new to us here in the US, it has actually been used for over 1,500 years as a sweetener. You can get seeds for it, but it is just as easy to get starts from many local garden centers. I even saw it at Walmart and Lowe’s this spring!

In tropical areas it is considered a perennial, often growing a thick woody stem much like a tree trunk. In more temperate regions, such as here in Western North Carolina, it is an annual. Because it contains no calories or carbohydrates, stevia is a great alternative to sugar.

If you’ve never tried it, you’re in for a surprise: stevia can be up to 150 times sweeter than sugar! Most stevia extracts on the market are closer to 10 times what sugar holds, but it can be more. Stevia is non-flammable and non-fermentable, making it very shelf stable. It does have a slightly bitter aftertaste, so using it in small amounts is recommended.

How to Use Stevia

Learning how to use stevia is important, because sometimes it can be used like any other sweetener, other times not so much.

You can use it to sweeten tea, coffee, lemonade, or flavored water. But using in place of sugar for baking is not encouraged, since the chemical and physical structure are different. Jelly is another example of where stevia doesn’t work like sugar.

A good rule of thumb: use it to sweeten things in which sugar is not a part of the structure. For example, it wouldn’t work in baking a cake since the grains of sugar are partly what holds up the cake. But in ice cream, where the structure isn’t important, it can be added as sweetener.

There are some stevia/sugar blends available that can be used like regular sugar. (You can find a good blend here.)

Growing Stevia

Learning how to use stevia is not always simple. But growing stevia is simple… very simple!

Plant it, water it, put it in the sun, and trim it occasionally. That’s really all there is to it.

Stevia isn’t picky. I’ve grown it in plain dirt, enriched soil, and the clay that is prevalent in my area. It doesn’t like the clay as much, so I moved it to a mixed soil with mushroom compost mixed in. Now I need to chop the “tree” down!

Water is important. I’ve let mine dry out, but if it dries out too much it won’t come back from it. You can try bringing it in for the winter, but most homes are too dry and it dies after a few months.

Preserving your Stevia Harvest

There are several ways you can preserve stevia for using during the winter months.

  • Drying
  • Freezing
  • Extract-alcohol
  • Extract-glycerin
  • Extract to dried powder

Drying Stevia

To dry stevia, remove the leaves and flowers from the stems. Don’t throw the stems away, we’ll be using them in a minute. Dry as you would any other herb: with a dehydrator, oven, or on trays in a warm spot.

When they are thoroughly dry, place them in a jar and seal tightly. Watch for mold, just in case, but don’t make the mistake I did my first year. I dried some and put it in a jar. A few months later, I noticed a white substance on the leaves. Thinking it was mold, I threw it out. Later I realized that the white stuff I saw was exactly what I wanted – dried stevia juice! If you see it, keep it!

To use, place a few dried leaves in a tea bag with your regular tea blend, add to the coffee filter, or use like a seasoning in sweet dishes.

Freezing Stevia

To freeze stevia, chop into small bits and place a teaspoon or so in an ice cube tray. Cover with distilled water. Freeze.

When frozen, transfer to a freezer container. These will keep until you get a new plant in the spring.

To use, just pull out an ice cube and add to your water, tea, coffee, etc. You may find it to be too sweet, like I did. You can cut the amount of leaves back to ½ teaspoon or whatever suits your needs.

Making Stevia Extract with Alcohol

To make an extract, prepare as you would for any tincture.

Chop enough plant material to fill a pint jar ½ full. This is where you can use the stems from above. Cover with alcohol. I use a plain 40% vodka since there is no odor, taste, or color. Cap tightly and shake well.

Place in the sun for a few weeks. Shake daily if you can. After a few weeks, taste a drop or so – it should be super sweet. If not, leave it a bit longer. Strain and keep in a dark place.

To use, use a teaspoon or so in recipes that call for any other extract.

Making Stevia Extract with Glycerin

To make a glycerin extract, prepare as you would an alcohol extract (above), except use liquid vegetable glycerin instead. After straining, I place some in a small dropper bottle. Just a few drops in my iced tea and it tastes just like southern sweet tea, without all the calories!

Making Stevia Powder

Simmer some stevia on the stove for a half hour to an hour. The more plant material you have, the stronger it will be. Strain and cool.

When it has cooled, place the liquid in a glass baking dish. Leave in a warm place for the liquid to evaporate. On top of the refrigerator is a good location. Alternatively, you can put the simmered stevia directly into your glass baking dish, then slide this into a very slow oven, like 170°F for a few hours.

What you have left is the pure stevia powder that you buy in the store, except that yours is all natural. Many commercially prepared stevia powders will contain other things like anti-caking agents or malic acid. Yours will be the real thing!

Stevia is a natural alternative to sugar, so if you’re trying to cut sugar, learning how to use stevia can make life easier.

Don’t want to grow/make your own?

If you’d like to purchase a natural stevia that hasn’t been overly-processed, and/or adulterated with fillers, chemicals, or other ingredients, here are some options:

Have you tried stevia yet? Have you ever grown/made your own? Tell us about it!

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Debra Maslowski

About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Connect with Debra Maslowski on G+.

Learn to Grow, Make, and Use DIY Stevia Sweetener was written by Debra Maslowski.

Pain Relieving Massage Oil for Menstrual Cramps – by Katie Vance

Essential Oils for Menstrual Cramps

For many women, including myself, painful menstrual cramps are a monthly reality.

Sometimes the pain just won’t go away no matter what I try. I’ve tried drinking more water, over-the-counter medications, changing my diet, exercising, and still no relief.

Before having children, I could take it easy on the worst days. Now that is impossible! We are always on the go and I am always on my feet. I need relief… pronto!

I’ve also struggled with hormone imbalances since having my children. That can make each month an emotional roller coaster with the full spectrum of PMS symptoms.

Painful cramps, emotional stress, and overwhelming fatigue make me one scary mama.

That is why I turned to the experts. Believe it or not, there is a lot of research on aromatherapy massage and dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cramps). Quite a few researchers have conducted studies on the use of essential oils for menstrual cramps and cycles.

Essential Oils for Menstrual Cramps

One study used lavender (Lavandula officinalis), clary sage (Salvia sclarea), and marjoram (Origanum majorana) essential oils for menstrual cramps. Participants massaged a 3% cream on their lower abdomen starting at the end of the last menstruation continuing to the beginning of the next menstruation. Results show a significant decrease in pain. I’m not sure why this study was conducted from the end of menstruation to the beginning, but I suspect it is because the recipe includes clary sage essential oil. While some women report that clary sage essential oil can bring on a heavy menstrual cycle, there is really little to no evidence to support this claim.

Another study used a similar method with lavender, clary sage, and rose essential oils for menstrual cramps and menstruation. This study also found aromatherapy massage to be effective.

One more study used inhalation of lavender essential oil. This study found that smelling lavender essential oil can help reduce pain associated with menstrual cramps.

After reading all of these studies, it was time to put them to the test. For the past three months, I have been using the following roll-on blend and have noticed significant improvements in the severity of my PMS symptoms. I won’t call it a miracle cure because I certainly do experience some symptoms, but I have noticed that they are less intense.

Note: Of course, before using any natural remedy, you should consult a qualified healthcare practitioner. If you are experiencing difficult menstrual cycles, first consult your OB/GYN to make sure there isn’t a more serious underlying condition.

DIY Pain-Relieving Massage Oil for Menstrual Cramps

Ingredients

  • 3 drops clary sage (Salvia sclarea) essential oil
  • 2 drops lavender (lavandula angustifolia) essential oil
  • 1 drop geranium (Pelargonium x asperum) essential oil
  • 10 mL avocado oil
  • 1 – 10mL roller bottle

Instructions

  1. Add essential oils to roller bottle.
  2. Fill the rest of the way with avocado oil and secure cap.  Shake well to blend.
  3. Roll (or massage) on abdomen one time daily during menstrual cycle. (I generally start 1-2 days before my cycle or whenever I start to feel cramps).

Notes & Substitutions

This recipe is at a 3% dilution ratio because it is meant to be used for a short period of time. Up to 7 days maximum.

Another essential oil that could be substituted into this recipe is rose absolute essential oil. While it is very expensive, rose absolute works wonders for those going through menopause or who have significant mood swings.

This recipe can be used in a roller bottle or as a massage oil, but the essential oil part (clary sage, lavender, and geranium) also make a wonderful diffuser blend. Simply add the essential oils to your diffuser and enjoy for 15-30 minutes. Enjoy some quiet time, prayer time, or meditation while the oils diffuse.

For Your Aromatherapy Oils go to The Green Lady Eco Store www:thegreenladyecostore.co.uk

Katie Vance

  • About Katie Vance

Katie is a wife, mother, blogger, aromatherapist, soapmaker, and lover of all things DIY. She blogs at The Wise Wife. You can also find Katie on Google+.

Pain Relieving Massage Oil for Menstrual Cramps was written by Katie Vance.

Frozen Mint Lemonade

Frozen Mint Lemonade

This frozen mint lemonade recipe is super refreshing and easy to make! cookieandkate.com

Meet your summer refresher! When I found this frozen mint lemonade on a menu, I couldn’t resist. I knew on first sip that I would have to recreate it for you.

This ice cold drink is the epitome of refreshing. It’s infused with fresh mint flavor and offers a light, balanced blend of tartness and sweetness. It’s also super easy to whip up in your blender.

mint and lemons

If you’re wondering if this frozen treat tastes good with a splash of bourbon, a) I like you, and b) I can confirm that it does indeed. I think it would also be great with vodka or gin.

If you’re looking for more recipes, check out my summer potluck roundup and July recipe picks!

Continue to the recipe…

The post Frozen Mint Lemonade appeared first on Cookie and Kate.

Solar tower generates electricity from molten salt, even when it’s dark

crescent dunes

It’s a bird (igniting in mid-air), it’s a (solar-powered) plane, it’s a new innovation in the world’s solar power repertoire: The Crescent Dunes solar energy plant, the world’s first utility-scale facility that stores solar power in molten salt, can supply electricity even when the sun don’t shine. This super-plant can even supply 10 hours of it, enough to power 75,000 homes.

Read more

Vegetarian Picnic Eggs

Vegetarian Picnic Eggs

You may be surprised to see an egg recipe as most of my recipes are vegan these days. While we mostly eat a vegan diet, Cooper and I are veggie. So vegans look away.

Cooper does enjoy eggs. He particularly likes a cheese omelette, which he’s a dab hand at making (I just flip it for him). He’s gone off quiche recently, but he still loves dippy egg and soldiers (soft boiled egg with toast fingers) for breakfast.

He does likes these picnic eggs, although my child loves anything that sounds like it might be a part of buffet or picnic. He loves to be presented with a spread of tasty food so he can help himself to something from each dish.

He recently admitted to us that he only likes movie night on a rainy Sunday afternoon because of the buffet. He says he isn’t bothered about the movies. He leave us speechless sometimes.

Vegetarian picnic eggs also known as vegetarian Scotch eggs. This traditional picnic food is brought up to date with a filling of veggie haggis, oats, peanut butter and spices. Perfect for a picnic or buffet.

These vegetarian picnic eggs are a breeze to make. The filling that wraps itself around the egg like a hug is made with veggie haggis, oats, peanut butter and spices.

The filling is mixed together in a bowl then wrapped around hard boiled eggs and rolled in oats before being baking until crisp.

If you don’t manage to have a picnic, why not serve these for lunch with a dressed green salad or serve them simply with some chutney?

These picnic eggs will keep happily in the fridge for a few days.

Vegetarian Picnic Eggs
Vegetarian picnic eggs also known as vegetarian Scotch eggs. This traditional picnic food is brought up to date with a filling of veggie haggis, oats, peanut butter and spices. Perfect for a picnic or buffet.
Ingredients
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, quickly cooled in cold water, then shells removed
  • 150g veggie haggis
  • 25g porridge oats, plus more for coating
  • 3 tsp flax seeds
  • 3 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried coriander
  • a good grinding of black pepper
  • 1 egg, whisked
Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 220c/200c fan/425f/gas mark 7.2. In a large bowl mix together the veggie haggis, peanut butter and spices, then season with black pepper.3. Pour in the whisked egg and bring together into a sausage-style mixture.4. Take a hard boiled egg and wrap it firmly in the sausage mix, then roll it in oats. Do this with all the eggs.5. Place on a baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp.6. Enjoy!
Details

Total time: 35 mins
Yield: Serves 4

If you’re having trouble finding veggie haggis, check the meat aisles. It often sits beside the traditional haggis. You can also buy it from
Macsween or Simon Howie.

Here are a few more veggie haggis ideas:

Red Peppers Stuffed with Veggie Haggis & Mushrooms – Planet Veggie
Veggie Haggis, Mash & Baked Bean Pasties – Tinned Tomatoes
Vegan Haggis Burgers – Allotment 2 Kitchen
Vegetarian Haggis Wellington – Inside the Wendy House
Vegan Haggis & Red Lentil Loaf – Tinned Tomatoes
Vegan Beer Battered Haggis Bites – Tinned Tomatoes
Moroccan Vegetarian Haggis Scotch Eggs – Farmersgirl Cook

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