One of my favorite holiday dishes is my mom’s sweet potato pie, a side dish from deep in the South that is resplendent in butter and sugar. Yummy—but not healthy despite the main ingredient being a very nourishing sweet potato. So I set out to create a version of the dish that was Alpha Gal friendly and with greatly reduced sugar. The final dish is every bit as wonderful—but now a guilt-free treat. This process can be applied to any of your favorite recipes, remember it’s ok to fail in the experiments —that’s how we learn!
Back to the recipe redo…. there were two main ingredients I was concerned about for health reasons: sugar and butter.
It is important to undertake this process in steps and understand a little about the “chemistry” of the dish:
The butter/fat adds to the flavor and makes the nutrients in the sweet potato more readily absorbed by the body—but 2 sticks for the size of the recipe is excessive.
Sugar isn’t just a sweetener but sometimes acts as a catalyst. For example when whipping cream—the addition of sugar helps the cream form better though less is needed than most people realize, so we cannot completely remove some ingredients without consequences to the final product!
I experimented with reducing the butter first, could I cut the butter in half and still have a good version? The answer was yes—1 stick of butter tasted identical to 2 sticks in the final product. So then I halved that again—½ stick butter—and it was a little dry (not so yummy). So I added some unsweetened apple sauce and that worked! Then I replaced the ½ stick of butter with an equal amount of coconut oil—success—no mammal and a nearly identical flavor. Next step, the sugar…
The original recipe used 2 C of sugar in total! I cut that in half…and it wasn’t noticeably less sweet, especially with the apple sauce. Next, I made it with even less (½ C) and it was a little flat compared to the original recipe.
So what to do?
I increased the cinnamon then added cardamom and clove to the mix and increased the applesauce and amount of sweet potato. The extra spices did the trick—the nature and flavor of the dish were preserved and the sugar was reduced by ¾! Now we can enjoy this dish without the sugar rush. I have also experimented with a monk fruit-based sweetener replacing the ½ C sugar making a dish that is safe in moderation even for those with diabetes! Don’t tell my mom but sprinkling some chopped nuts on top of this is a wonderful addition- pine nuts, macadamia nuts and walnuts all work beautifully with this recipe! And, nuts are good for your body and brain!
I hope this helps inspire you to take some of those family favorites and tinker with them to make them better for you. Pancakes, cookies, and pie crusts often lend themselves well to a gluten-free makeover and it’s worth the work to figure out which options work best. For example, I love shortbread and the gluten-free flour mix that rocks for pancakes but was a disaster for shortbread— but almond flour was even better than the original!
Cooking is a special kind of alchemy, one that transforms humble ingredients into nourishing and flavorful dishes. Food is the first medicine, but it doesn’t need to taste bad! If you need inspiration, check out our Facebook Group, Raja Wellness Ways to Health, and search #realfoodfast or browse the recipes on our website.
Yours in Wellness,