Agave nectar (Recipe: granola-filled baked apples)
- Agave nectar and agave syrup are two names for the same food.
- Pronounced ah-GAH-vay, it's a viscous product (like honey or maple syrup) derived from the blue agave, an ancient plant native to central Mexico. Blue agave gives us tequila, too, but that might not taste as good on pancakes.
- Agave nectar is higher in fructose and lower in glucose than sugar or honey, making it lower on the glycemic index -- a measure of how much your blood sugar increases after eating a specific food. For diabetics, it's a better choice of sweetener.
- The 60 calories per tablespoon of agave is roughly the same calorie load as honey.
- To substitute in a recipe, use 3/4 cup agave nectar for 1 cup of sugar. When baking, you might have to reduce the amount of liquid in the original recipe to allow for the added liquid from the agave. Reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees, too.
- Agave nectar can be combined with artificial sweeteners like Splenda to counter their aftertaste, and it dissolves more quickly than honey, making it the perfect mix-in for iced tea.
- Have you ever seen a cappuccino-flavored blue agave plant? Neither have I, but agave nectar now comes in two grades (light and amber) and half a dozen flavors, including vanilla, blueberry, Irish creme and, yes, cappuccino. The light grade is what I reach for most often, as an all-purpose sweetener. The amber, more deeply flavored, like maple syrup, makes a great topping for waffles and adds more richness to gingerbread.
- Whether you're making agave-sweetened chocolate ice cream, agave and balsamic glazed roasted buttercup squash, agave and lime salmon, black bean brownies, or fresh cranberry sorbet, you'll have fun experimenting with agave nectar in sweet and savory dishes.
- Once opened, agave can sit on the pantry shelf for 12 months or more. No need to refrigerate.
Granola-filled baked apples
With apples from the local orchard and a few items from the pantry, this dessert came together in minutes. Make one apple per person (though our eight-year-old grandson asked for seconds, so make an extra one if he's at your dinner table). Proportions aren't very important in this recipe.
1 apple per person (use firm apples, like Macoun, Cortland or Jonathan)
2 Tbsp granola per apple
1 pat of butter per apple
Pomegranate or unsweetened apple juice
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Core the apples (with an apple corer or sharp paring knife), and stand them in a high sided cake pan. Fill each apple with granola. Squirt a bit of agave nectar on the apple and the filling. Top the granola with a pat of butter, and sprinkle on a pinch of cinnamon.
Pour pomegranate or unsweetened apple juice into the pan, to a depth of 1/2 inch. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the apples are soft when pierced with a sharp knife.
Spoon some of the pan liquid on top of each apple, and serve warm. Top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if you wish.