Friday, May 01, 2009

Nibbling on nature's candy

Okay, so I confess that whenever I eat trail mix, I tend to eat the M&Ms first. Yummy chocolate goodness wins every time! However, the raisins are always a close second. Seriously, I love me some nature's candy. Always have, always will, I suppose. So how fortunate that raisins - despite the sweet taste - are a low-fat, healthy food snack.
For those unaware, raisins are an antioxidant-rich fruit that can help cleanse the blood and prevent oxygen-based damage to cells in the body. They are also said to promote bone density, as well as healthy gums and teeth. In addition, just like carrots, raisins are seen as a preventative measure for macular degeneration. In other words, parents, please feed your children raisins if you want to improve their chances of having good eyesight.
Moving on...here's a little food for thought for all you trivia buffs.
* Raisins were produced in Persia and Egypt as early as 2,000 BC, with one of their first mentions being in the Old Testament. Murals from prehistoric times show that raisins were consumed and used as decorations in the Mediterranean region of Europe during that era. Raisins were also highly prized by the ancient Romans, who adorned their places of worships with them and used them as barter currency and as prizes for the winners of sporting events. In addition, raisins were oftentimes an integral item on the menus at Bacchanalian feasts. From ancient Rome, the practice of drying grapes into raisins subsequently spread throughout the world.
* Currently, the largest commercial producer of raisins is California in a region known as the San Joaquin valley where raisins have been cultivated since the 19th century. The tale told of their introduction and subsequent popularity in California and the United States involves one enterprising grape grower who creatively responded to the forces of Nature. In 1873, when a heat wave destroyed the grape harvest, the grower took the dried grapes, the raisins, to a grocer in San Francisco whose attempts to sell this ancient delicacy were met with great response and demand, beginning the rise in popularity of the raisin in America.
* Australia, Turkey, Greece, Iran and Chile are the other leading commercial producers of raisins.

And here are a few sucralose-sweetened, raisin-filled recipes, courtesy of www.Splenda.com.

Crispy-Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Banana Pecan Waffles with Rum Raisin Syrup

Cinna-Raisin Rice Pudding

Almond-Raisin Biscotti

Finally, for a little Friday fun, does anyone else remember the old-school California Raisins ads featuring the Motown-singing claymation raisins? I used to love those commercials. Brings back memories! Happy weekend, y'all.

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