Monthly Archives: September 2011

The 4 Best and 3 Worst Sweeteners to Have in Your Kitchen By Leah Zerbe, Thu, Sep 08, 2011

I got this article through email from some one in the US and I thought after my Red Velvet Cake class that was deemed as sweet to some and ok to others, well its always subjective. Wait till I finish this article I found on Trans Fat. Anyhow have a good read.  One guy asked me about Stevia in desserts, while I have used it in my tea and as a sprinkle I have not used it as a substitute for sugar…perhaps I should.

At this point, it’s common knowledge that high-fructose corn syrup and refined sugar are bad for us. But given all the marketing hype behind different “natural” alternatives, it’s hard to know which ones really are the best sweeteners. Complicating matters, new studies, like one just published in the journal Cancer Research, are finding that fructose, a sugar found in high-fructose corn syrup, agave, honey, and, in small amounts, even in fruit, actually feeds some cancers.

But don’t give up apples and oranges, or even honey, based on a single study. “Natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables—things like berries, green apples, grapefruit, kiwi—are needed to feed beneficial microflora in the gut for a healthy immune system,” explains Donna Gates, who led the movement to bring stevia, a natural sweetener, into this country more than a decade ago. “That’s why nature put a little bit of sugar in fruits and vegetables. It keeps the ecosystem alive in us,” she says, adding that the small amounts of fructose in fruits and vegetables are balanced with minerals, vitamins, and other vital nutrients.

“Our body reads it differently,” she notes.Fruits and vegetables provide a perfect sugar fix, but when you’re in need of a sweetener to add to iced tea, baked goods, or anything else, make sure you know the difference between the good guys and bad guys of the sweetener world. (Some of the not-so-sweet details could leave you gagging.)

Bad Guy #1: Aspartame

There’s conflicting evidence regarding the safety of aspartame, a common chemical sweetener used in diet soda and other low-cal or low-sugar goods, but some people report headaches or generally feeling unwell after ingesting anything containing the chemical. To make life easier for everyone, this is one instance where you may want to follow the “better safe than sorry” principle. That’s because a University of Liverpool test-tube study found that when mixed with a common food color ingredient, aspartame actually became toxic to brain cells.

Making matters worse, aspartame is used in many diet sodas, and studies have found drinking diet soda may increase your risk of developing diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Also of concern with aspartame, researchers have found that one harmful breakdown product is formaldehyde.

Sweet? We don’t think so.

Bad Guy #2: Agave

While your health food store likely stocks agave sweeteners, it may be best to keep them out of your cart. Many agave nectars consist of 70 to 80 percent fructose—that’s more than what’s found in high-fructose corn syrup! If you don’t want to give up agave, look for types that contain no more than 30 to 40 percent fructose, recommends Christine Gerbstadt, MD, PhD, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Agave is also very heavily processed in an extremely energy-intensive manner that’s similar to the way corn is converted into high-fructose corn syrup.

Bad Guy #3: Sucralose

While sucralose, better known by its brand name, Splenda, may originate with sugar, the end product is anything but natural. It’s processed using chlorine, and researchers are finding that the artificial sweetener is passing through our bodies and winding up in wastewater treatment plants, where it can’t be broken down.

Tests in Norway and Sweden found sucralose in surface water released downstream from treatment discharge sites. Scientists worry it could change organisms’ feeding habits and interfere with photosynthesis, putting the entire food chain at risk. The chemically derived artificial sweetener acesulfame K (sold under the brand name Sunett) was also detected in treated wastewater and tap water.

Good Guy #1: Stevia

“We need to be off of sugar, but we need good alternatives, and stevia is the safest sweetener there is, period,” says Gates, who coauthored The Stevia Cookbook: Cooking with Nature’s Calorie-Free Sweetener (Avery Trade, 2004).

All types of stevia are extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant, but some forms taste better than others, says Gates. People tend to overuse powders, in which the sweetness is really concentrated, so if you’ve tried powders in the past and didn’t like them, try liquid forms, explains Gates, who helped develop a liquid stevia sweetener product. Stevia contains zero calories, but its one downfall is that it doesn’t work well for baking.

Expect to see more stevia on store shelves, as Coke and Pepsi got the green light to use Truvia (a sweetener made in part from stevia) starting later this year.

Good Guy #2: Sugar alcohols

Popular sugar alcohol sweeteners include xylitol, sorbitol, and erythritol, natural sweeteners made through a fermentation process of corn or sugar cane. They contain fewer calories than sweeteners like pure sugar and honey, but more than stevia. They also leave a cooling sensation in the mouth, and have been found to prevent cavities, explains Dr. Gerbstadt.

Just don’t overdo it—too much can cause GI distress.

Good Guy #3: Organic, raw local honey

While honey does boast higher fructose levels, it also contains a bounty of cancer-defending antioxidants, and local honey has been said to help alleviate allergy symptoms. Don’t limit raw honey’s use to your tea, either. Use it to speed healing on burns, and as a natural antiseptic on cuts and scrapes. Honey also has a low glycemic index, so adding it to your tea or yogurt won’t lead to energy-busting blood sugar drops later in the day.

Good Guy #4: Blackstrap molasses

Although heavy on the calorie content, blackstrap is rich in iron, potassium, and calcium, making it a healthier choice than nutritionally defunct artificial sweeteners or even regular refined sugar, despite the fact that blackstrap and refined sugar both come from sugar cane. (Dr. Gerbstadt says calorie-containing sweeteners are not recommended for people with diabetes.) We like the organic, Fair Trade Certified version of blackstrap molasses from Wholesome Sweeteners.

Gather Your Pals and Get Your Hands Dirty at the Chocolate Indulgence Class With Nicholas Pillai, Making Delectable Chocolate Treats Like Chocolate Lava Cake, Decadent Chocolate Cookies, Chocolate Muffins and Rich Chocolate Brownies for Only RM88 Instead of RM189


  • Learn to make delectable chocolate treats like chocolate lava cake, rich chocolate chip cookies, chocolate muffins and brownies
  • Nicholas Pillai is an experienced chef who’s also a food writer, recipe contributor and food stylist for various publications
  • An informal home-based baking class, so do dress comfortably
  • Classes are conducted in small groups, up to 9 participants per class, so everyone gets a chance to get the their hands dirty
  • Take home your self-made chocolate treats, but remember to bring your own container!

The Fine Print

  • Certificate valid from Sep 22, 2011 to Oct 22, 2011
  • Limited to one certificate per customer
  • May purchase multiple certificates as gifts
  • Not valid with other offers
  • Valid on weekends and public holidays
  • Lessons will be conducted in groups of 3, up to 3 groups per class
  • Participants are required to book their preferred slots
  • Bookings have to be made at least 1 week before the class via as classes run on a first come first serve basis
  • Cancellations should be done 3 days prior to the booked slot
  • Classes schedule is on:
  • 24th September 2 to 5 pm
  • 25th September 10 to 1
  • 30th September 7 to 10 pm
  • 1st October 2 to 5 pm
  • 8th October 10 to 1pm
  • 9th October 2 to 5pm
  • 16th October 2 to 5 pm


During the Mayan civilization, a 1.5oz milk chocolate bar can probably buy you a rabbit or more. Since we don’t need that kind of currencies these days, we might as well turn it into yummilicious chocolate treats with today’s deal: RM88 instead of RM189 for a chocolate indulgence class.

At this fun and entertaining hands on classes, Chef Nicholas Pillai, a food writer, recipe contributor and food stylist for various publications, will be sharing the techniques and demonstrating step by step the art of making chocolaty treats including chocolate lava cakes, decadent chocolate cookies, chocolate muffins and rich chocolate brownies. And the best part of his class is, you’ll be able to enjoy the yummy treats you made and bring them home and brag to your mates about it!

The Company

Cooking With Nicholas

70, Jalan 14/24 , , Petaling Jaya , Selangor 46100
016 – 682 7465

Arun and Amilee’s Wedding Cake

I made this wedding cake two weeks ago along with 80 trays of chocolate brownies. The cake was a daunting task, more so because it was my own silliness, however, bride and bridegroom was happy with the end result and only the top two cakes survived for their first wedding anniversary. The rest of the cake has been eaten up by just the aunties and close family.

Initially it was suppose to be red roses then Amilee suddenly had this brainchild of utilizing green carnations with red berries and so the mad rush began to find someone to be able to get me those carnations.

The Bottom Tier - Semolina Cake and Carrot and Mixed Nuts

The bottom tier is Semolina Cake, the next is Carrot and Mixed Nuts, third tier was the headache of them all, Chocolate Cake!

Top Three Tiers Rich Fruit Cake

I swear I will never do chocolate cake again because the chocolate cake recipe I have is too soft to be tiered so I had to use 8 pillars to hold the next 14 kilos of Fruit Cake which made up the rest of the cake. I prayed so hard the cake would not fall and even told the dancers who were jumping on the stage off because everytime she jumped and moved wildly, so did the wedding cake. Alas all went well.

All the best Arun and Amilee.