So, I've been posting on this blog for a couple of months now, and it's high time I talked about molasses. Seriously, if you're looking for a natural sweetener with nutrition value, look no further. Blackstrap molasses is one sweetener that is well and truly good for you.
A tangential rave about its benefits one night to my amazing editor-friend Meghan made molasses the focus of my very first short assignment for Natural Solutions. Looking back, my enthusiasm was drenched in naivete. When asked for an official pitch, I sent this 3-page long monologue riddled with cliches on the viscous dark stuff; poor Meghan must have split her sides laughing. To me, however, she was clear and competently kind when she e-mailed back her "revised pitch", featuring my 3 pages distilled into about 3 sentences.
Although I've learned a ton since about proper pitch etiquette (along with the logical meaning of a "short"), I still can't help but go wordy and eager when it comes to the benefits of molasses. A byproduct created during the process of refining sugar from cane, or beet, there are several forms of molasses. To create table sugar, plants are boiled to syrup. The crystals are extracted and boiled two times more. The healthiest molasses, blackstrap, is the product of the third boiling, literally the dregs of the barrel. Before dismissing molasses as waste product, however, devote a moment briefly to note its awe-inspiring richness: as noted in The Nutrition Almanac by John D. Kirschman with Nutrition Search, Inc, 2007, blackstrap molasses has “more calcium than milk, more iron than many eggs, more potassium than any food, and is an excellent source of B vitamins.” Other nutrients contained in molasses include copper, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, panothenetic acid, inositol, and vitamin E.
Given its credentials, it's no wonder blackstrap molasses is reputed to be a useful supplement in treating many ailments and diseases, including varicose veins, arthritis, ulcers, dementia, eczema, hair damage, anemia, psoriasis, constipation and more. In fact, our incredible super-human pro-cyclist friend Tom Zirbel (who recently signed with Garmin) was once advised by a coach to include molasses in his diet. At least, that's what I remember; Dave begs to differ, so I'll have to check that out. Just wanted an excuse to throw out at little plug and shout to Tom, who makes me very happy by reading this blog, though modest as he is, he may choose not to unless I promise not to include any more embarrassing digressions such as this one. Anyway, there's more exciting molasses news yet: as a copper deficiency is considered a possible cause for prematurely graying hair, it has even been suggested that molasses can help delay this part of aging; some even claim molasses has reversed the trend! Tell me that's not sweet!
Here are some easy ways to sweeten with molasses. Remember, a little can go a long way, so cut back and alter as suits you!
- Substitute 2 tablespoons of molasses for ½ cup of sugar in breads.
- Baste chicken or turkey, or use as a glaze or marinade for pork or meaty fish, such as wild salmon and tuna. .
- Whip up a teaspoon molasses with cream, or heat with apple cider and spices .
- Bake with fruit, like apples, pears, and raisins.
My favorite molasses cookies
Note, depending on the occasion, you may want to go with all white flour, or increase sugar to a cup and include the whole stick of melted butter. This is one of those recipes that can change significantly each time you make it, and with each little tweak, but it's always been good!
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 7 tablespoons melted butter
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup white flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar, optional
Combine brown sugar and butter in a large bowl. Add molasses and egg; beat well. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and all remaining ingredients except for granulated sugar. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; mix until blended. Shape dough into balls and dip in sugar. Place balls, sugar side up, 1 inch apart, on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 8 minutes.