The wonderful pleasure of sweets is part of our heritage, as the seven species of the Land of Israel include grapes, figs, pomegranates and dates. Date honey is the source of the famous description of Israel as “The Land of Milk and Honey.”
Far away from Eretz Israel and over 1,000 years ago in South America, people enjoyed the sweetness of a plant they called “sweet grass.” European botanists discovered this in the 19th century and named it Stevia Rebaudiana.
The serrated leaves of the stevia plant contain chemicals called glycosides which are hundreds of times sweeter than table sugar, do not affect blood sugar levels and are non-glycemic. Stevia has been approved as safe by the US FDA and the European Union for many years.
Currently we have various reasons to search for low-sugar and low-carb foods while still enjoying some sweet treats. Stevia is used all over the world. The plant itself is widely available, sold as part of at-home herb gardens.
My recipe for chocolate chip mandel bread not only uses stevia, but is gluten- and white flour-free, made with almond and coconut flours. These cookies are perfect for Pesach as well! Substitutions can be made if desired. For example, one may add a little sugar (¼ cup), substitute with other flours maintaining the same amounts, use sugar-free chocolate chips or add other nuts or coconut flakes. You’ll enjoy the versatility of this recipe!
Susie Mendelsohn is an accountant and educator in Livingston with a great interest in nutrition. She can be reached at [email protected]