THE GRATEFUL KITCHEN specializes in natural foods and snacks, free of additives, preservatives, and factory processing. We are committed to working with organic foods and local farms. Many of our products are gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan. We change our menu weekly to ensure the freshest and finest quality products we can. We utilize recycled paperboard containers and compost our waste. Our goal is to get in your hands (and your mouth) the freshest handmade foods and snacks available, the way nature intended.

April 25, 2010

The Skinny on Agave Syrup

Here we go.

Once again, we hear about a miracle product, we all go out and buy it, and the critics start weighing in.

"Agave nectar (sometimes called agave syrup) is most often produced from the Blue Agaves that thrive in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico. Agaves are large, spikey plants that resemble cactus or yuccas in both form and habitat, but they are actually succulents similar to the familiar Aloe Vera.

To make the agave nectar, sap is extracted from the pina, filtered, and heated at a low temperature, which breaks down the carbohydrates into sugars. Lighter and darker varieties of agave nectar are made from the same plants. Because of the low temperatures used in processing many varieties (under 118°F) raw foods enthusiasts generally regard agave nectar as a raw food.

Agave makes a good substitute for sugar for a variety of reasons. Agave nectar is a real sugar, as opposed to an artificial or non-nutritive sweetener. It has properties similar to many sugars with one important exception: its glycemic index is significantly lower. This makes it a healthier alternative to many processed AND natural sweeteners, including:

* white granulated sugar
* brown sugar
* demerara or turbinado sugar
* maple sugar crystals
* dehydrated cane juice
* date sugar

Agave nectar's low glycemic index makes it suitable for some individuals on low-carb or slow-carb diets (the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet) and for a variety of weight loss/management programs. Granulated sugar has an average glycemic index in the high 60's, while agave generally scores under 30. Foods with a glycemic index lower than 55 are considered low glycemic foods. Foods lower on the scale are less likely to trigger the body's mechanisms for fat storage. While it's not a "free" food for indiscriminate consumption, many individuals on a diet or weight maintenance plan find that agave is a healthier substitute for sugar, and that moderate use of agave nectar can help them enjoy foods that otherwise might be off limits."

All this sounds great, right? Not so fast...check this out.


"Agave syrup is a manmade sweetener which has been through a complicated chemical refining process of enzymatic digestion that converts the starch and fiber into the unbound, manmade chemical fructose. While high fructose agave syrup won’t spike your blood glucose levels, the fructose in it may cause mineral depletion, liver inflammation, hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance leading to diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

If you want something sweet, eat a piece of fruit, not a candy bar labeled as a “health food.” If you want to create something sweet, use sweeteners that are known to be safer. For uncooked dishes, unheated raw honey or dates work well. For cooked dishes or sweet drinks, a good organic maple syrup, or even freshly juiced apple juice or orange juice can provide delicious and relatively safe sweetness; dehydrated cane sugar juice or maple sugar may be used in moderation in cookies and desserts that contain nutritious ingredients and good fats such as butter, egg yolks and nuts."

My take? While the spin is most definitely designed to get us to buy agave, the critics have hedged their arguments using "studies" and not revealing their methods or means of a control group, so their critique, at this point, is opinion and not fact any more than the spin is fact. ANY sweetener, man-manipulated or not, should be used in moderation. As a lower-glycemic alternative, I will continue to use agave nectar in addition to other natural sweeteners in concert with each other to achieve certain results. And lets face it-it's not the first time something has been marketed as "healthy" when it may not be as good for us as it seems. I do feel it is a better choice than corn syrup, as rejecting corn syrup could influence the way our government subsidizes food production and farming practices. Maybe they'll start encouraging us to grow actual food again! So I guess the moral of the story is take it all with a grain of salt, do your research, make up your own mind, and carry on. :)

Happy Eating!

April 16, 2010

The Mission of The Grateful Kitchen

Greetings and Salutations!

The first year of business has indeed been an adventure. At this point in our journey, we have decided to eliminate the weekly menu of hot dishes available for delivery. The purpose was to provide personal chef-type services to many clients at once utilizing a bulk expense model in efforts to keep costs down. Unfortunately, we are unable to continue this model. So it's time to get back to basics, redefine the mission, and forge new ways to serve our clients and our community. Read on for more information about our new goals and services in keeping with our ideals and why we started this whole thing to begin with...


1. Just because a store carries organic and natural groceries does not mean they are a charity. They are a business. The markup in areas that are less populated than major coastal areas is unconscionable. This makes it nearly impossible for many who are interested in better health to buy quality groceries within their means.

2. Big Pharma is NOT on your side. They are a business, and a reactionary one at best. Instead of endorsing the idea of prevention, they charge outrageous prices to treat and/or simply mask symptoms.

3. Eating right is "elitist" or only for rich, self-righteous liberals; far too often, those of us who believe in eating right are seen as snobs, wagging our fingers in judgment at others. We shudder at the thought of $3.00/dozen free-range eggs while we pay $1.00 for a can of soda. Why? We've been carefully taught. Truth be told, the critics are often right. It's very easy to be self-righteous and say "here's what you SHOULD be doing." Instead, how about we show others what they CAN do instead of pointing out what they can't? I will always love my chili-cheese fries. I'm no saint. I don't expect that of anyone. I just like to know what I'm eating....

4. We simply don't have time. Eating used to be a fine art, a cornerstone of community and a way to bring us together. We've lost that.


To serve those with dietary restrictions and/or concerns about our food supply and distribution within the United States and the NWA area.

To educate others about how our food is produced and how proper nutrition/food selection can naturally treat physical/mental issues, both diagnosed and undiagnosed.

To de-mistify the stigma associated with healthy eating by making it accessible, affordable, and necessary not only for health, but for community.


We start with this here blog:

Every Friday will be a discussion. Current news topics (like our amazing First Lady's fight against childhood obesity); suggestions on how to inspire your kid's palate; easy ways to get better foods in your life; ideas on container gardening (for you urban folk); how to connect with and buy directly from farmers; what's in your food that you don't know about (you'll be shocked, believe me!); and so on. Regardless of where you lie on the foodie/chef spectrum, we'll have lots to talk about and share.

Cooking Classes:

You design your own class! (with a little help from me...) Some ideas include:
Revamping old favorites to fit your lifestyle, diet or budget
Broadening your horizons (learn techniques on gluten-free, raw foods, preserving the harvest, "slow" carbs vs. "low" carbs, and so on. You could also simply want to learn and prepare a four-course menu for your sweetie. It's up to you! The more the merrier! Really. Get your friends involved in the same session and cut the price by HUGE amounts. Oh, and it's a great idea for a party! Crostini and wine, anyone?

Consultations and Meal Planning Services:

Are you new to gluten-free? Just found out your child is a diabetic? I can help you get started. Allergies and other inflammations of the body are on the rise at a staggering rate. I'll help make it easier by creating meal plans, rotation diets, recipes, and even shopping lists to fit within your household budget. The best part? Those of you eligible for the Medicaid waiver can get this service (and maybe others) PAID FOR!!!

Catering Services:

I've been doing catering for years and I really really love it. Whether it's a birthday party, an elegant cocktail reception, or a several course meal for your guests, you can be sure that quality and professional are a guarantee.

Personal Chef Services:

Beginning with a free consultation, we find out how to best suit your needs. All kinds of packages are available at all ranges in price. Most personal chefs will charge for every grocery item, regardless of how much is used for you. I instead charge a pantry fee, which is a low percent of items I regularly stock. I mean, come on, are you really supposed to pay for that entire 5 lb. bag of flour? Really? You DO NOT have to be rich to afford a personal chef service. And, again, if you get your friends involved the costs can be even more affordable.

Work with farmers and local providers to ensure the highest quality of goods and services.
Commit to sustainable and fair trade practices.
Work, when possible and appropriate, with organic foods.
Vote with our business dollars every time we purchase a product.
Answer any and all questions we can. If we don't know, we'll find out.

Artificial preservatives or additives
Genetically modified foods
High-fructose corn syrup and any ingredient we can't pronounce

We hope to see you around the kitchen.
Till then, happy eating to you and yours.

Jen Kiple Mattson
The Grateful Kitchen