I have written about my love for agave nectar before and use it frequently in my cooking in order to reduce the amount of processed sugar in my diet. Although a 1001 opinions on the pros and cons of different sweeteners including agave exist, and I am not a nutritionist, I like the fact that that agave is a great way to sweeten foods with a natural sweetener, is relatively low on the glycemic index and is sweet enough that I can use much less agave than sugar (usually at least half and sometimes less) and get a great taste. Recently the kind folks at Xagave were nice enough to send me a free 25 oz bottle of their Xagave Agave Nectar as well as their "Delicious Meets Nutritious" Xagave cookbook to try out.
Xagave is a proprietary blend of agaves, blending the inulin, a prebiotic fiber extracted from blue agave with white. The company says this makes it the best tasting agave on the market, a better health profile and makes its cooking and baking properties superior to other brands. I did compare the Xagave with my current brand in a taste test and although I didn't notice much, if really any difference in the taste, the Xagave was lighter, clearer and poured more easily. Price-wise Xagave is very comparable with other agave syrups in the market.
The spiral bound "Delicious Meets Nutritious" cookbook was fun to read through with the history of agave, its health benefits and cooking qualities including a "sugar exchange table" with suggested replacement amounts of agave for different types of cooking and baking needs. The book includes over 130 recipes for Breakfast, Fruit Jams, Healthy Quick Breads, Appetizers, Small Plates & Side Dishes, Salads & Salad Dressings, Quick & Easy Gourmet Meals, sauces, Healthy Desserts, Kids Stuff, Beverages (Healthy Shakes and Smoothies), and Xagave After Dark, (cocktails). Many of the recipes have variations and most are accompanied by pictures. Since I am still learning to use agave as a sugar replacement in baking, it was interesting to see how they had done it throughout the different recipes. My only complaint about the book is the lack of nutritional information for each recipe which I understand has been added for the new edition of the book that they are selling now. As someone who is health and calorie conscious, having that information in invaluable. To "road test" the book, I ended up choosing a few different recipes to make; Baked Coconut Shrimp, Tangy Ketchup, Orange-Cranberry Sauce and Blueberry-Cranberry Granola Bar Muffins.
The Baked Coconut Shrimp were delicious and made me wonder why I don't bake shrimp more often. The combination of ground red pepper, unsweetened coconut and lime juice with the agave, give it that sweet-tangy-lightly spicy combination and the panko adds a nice crunch. I love the fact they are lighter and healthier than the deep-fried version but still taste like a treat. I will be making this one again.
To accompany the shrimp I tried the Tangy Ketchup which combines tomato paste with cumin, dry mustard, garlic and onion powder among other things. If you have ever read (and been scared by) the label on a bottle of commercial ketchup, it is a great alternative to be able to make your own without sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Although the ketchup was great as it was, I mixed part of mine with some curry powder to make a delicious curry ketchup that partnered beautifully with the shrimp. You can find the ketchup recipe here.
There were four recipes for cranberry sauces in the book, a Classic-Cranberry Sauce, Lemon Cranberry Sauce, Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce and an Orange Cranberry Sauce which is very similar to the one I make, (I include a bit on cinnamon in mine) so I tried it using the Xagave and it worked perfectly--sweet but still tangy. I used the leftover sauce in my Cranberry-Yogurt Cheese (featured here).
Oh my, the Blueberry-Cranberry Granola Muffins! Yum! I loved these decadent, fruit filled and very delicious muffins. You might expect something called a "granola bar muffin" and made with whole wheat flour to be dry, but the yogurt, agave and all the fruit keep this one moist. I loved the texture from the nuts and all of the oats in these. Perfect (with all the bulk, protein and fiber), for breakfast or an afternoon snack. You can get the recipe for these babies at the Xagave website here. I will be making these again and again.
In addition to these recipes, I used some of my remaining Xagave in my tea (hot and iced) and it worked well there too. I have several other recipes marked in the book that I still want to make. If you are looking to explore agave and using more of it in your cooking and diet, the Xagave website (here) is a great place to start. Both the Xagave and the cookbook are quality products and I enjoyed trying them out.
I'm curious--have you used agave in any of your cooking and baking and what did you think of it?
This is post #30 for November--so I have officially completed NaBloPoMo!! Yippee!!! It was doable since I had been posting 5-6 days a week already and it was more intimidating to think about what to post each day than to actually do it. I'll be sporting the "I Did It!" badge on my sidebar soon! Thanks to all of you who left comments to keep me going--they were much appreciated.