Ode to Stevia

I don’t know about you guys, but I know that winter is here as soon as at least five pounds of fat materializes out of thin air and is suddenly magnetized to my ass. Blame it on bulky sweaters, blame it on Mom’s brownies, blame it on whatever you want – it’s irritating. And it can be avoided. I’m about to share with you one of my not-so-secret weapons for being able to eat enough baked goods to choke a rhinoceros and still maintain a body mass less than one.

Perhaps you like to bake. Perhaps your inevitable plumpening is your own doing, because you are just that damn good at chucking a bunch of seemingly unrelated ingredients in a bowl and magically turning them into a pie. And for that, I salute you. You must be very popular. But tragically, your unparalleled talent has resulted in the undesirable acquisition of a couple inches around the middle. So what is my recommendation?

This shit.

This shit.

Stevia is, according to wikipedia a scholarly, reliable research source, the product of an herb belonging to the sunflower family. It is also a NATURALLY DERIVED, CALORIE-FREE sweetener. You read that right.

When I first heard about this stuff, I felt like it was too good to be true. I had already accepted my fate of either cancer from ingesting too much aspartame, or obesity from eating too much sugar. And you’re telling me I can, in theory, avoid both?! Surely not.

But apparently, this is all for real. Stevia has zero calories, and it comes from Mama Nature, y’all. It’s not produced in a lab somewhere by maniacally cackling, hand-wringing scientists.

How many times have I told you not to disturb  me when I'm WORKING?!

How many times have I told you not to disturb me when I’m WORKING?!

Bonus: This stuff is not particularly expensive. Five bucks’ worth will last you at least a couple of months, and that is if you bake as much as I do, which is a not inconsiderable amount. Double Extra Bonus: It is not exotic, either. My crap little grocery store doesn’t carry it, but I’ve found it at many Walmarts and Wegmans and Whole Foods and even some stores not beginning with the letter W. Awesome Triple Word Score Achievement Bonus: It measures exactly like sugar in baking. No need to do some crazy maths to figure out how much you need. One cup of sugar = one cup of stevia. There’s a catch to that one though: using stevia alone in your cookies will cause them to come out a bit flat. Something about it does not allow things to rise properly. So they recommend using half stevia, half sugar. I have upped this ratio as far as three-quarters stevia, one-quarter sugar and have not seen significantly adverse results, but I wouldn’t stretch it any farther than that. Still, you’re cutting sugar calories by up to 75%! Which is totally sweet (ha) because it allows you to eat more than the human stomach was ever designed to handle. Or perhaps you have self-control around carbohydrates. Do tell me what your life is like.

Stevia actually comes in several different forms. The one pictured above is the kind I use for baking. It’s a white, fluffy powder, rather like the one I was snorting off your mom’s chest last night. OHHH, BURN! You so didn’t even see that coming. Anyway, you have to be gentle with it when you are baking, because it weighs almost nothing and the slightest exhalation can cause it to fly everywhere, including down your throat, which is not an experience I have any desire to repeat. You’ll just have to quit breathing heavily and wildly gyrating to your Cyndi Lauper CD for a few minutes.

There is also the kind that comes in little tiny packets, just like Sweet ‘N’ Low or Equal:

packets

Warning: This stuff is MUCH SWEETER than the baking stuff. It has the same concentrated sweetness as a packet of artificial sweetener would. It’s great for dumping a little bit in your tea or coffee, or mixing it into hot cereal.

Stevia also comes in liquid form:

liquidstevia

This stuff is very sweet also. A few drops will do you for a cup of joe or whatever. So in summation: big package, not so sweet. Teeny packages, extremely sweet. Liquid form, also extremely sweet.

Now, I get the sense that this stuff hasn’t been widely available for very long. So keep in mind that I’m not a doctor. Maybe in a few years my bottom will fall off and my hair will turn into teeth and my doctors will look sadly at their charts, shaking their heads and murmuring in hushed tones, “It was the stevia… It was the stevia all along.” I just think it’s unlikely to happen that way. And in the meantime, I am enjoying low-calorie cupcakes and I want you to enjoy them as much as I do.

Disclaimer: If you do not wish to gain weight, I sincerely hope it is because you have high self-esteem and like to feel good about your body, rather than because your boyfriend told you last night that you could stand to drop a few pounds. Fuck him. Not literally. In fact, give him the ol’ Lysistrata for a few days. That’ll teach him.

Look it up.

Look it up.

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