Healthy alternatives to refined sugar abound. Several natural sweeteners even add some nutrients. Maple syrup contains calcium and potassium, while blackstrap molasses offers calcium and iron, for example. Found in natural products stores, grain-based liquid sweeteners, including amasake from rice, rice syrup, barley malt, and sorghum syrup contain some of the nutrients found in whole grains. Fermenting bacteria in these sweeteners convert grain starches into simple and complex sugars.

Nutty Caramelcorn (Macrojacks)

8 cups organic popped corn (around 1/2 cup before popping)
¼ cup almonds, chopped
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
¼ cup peanuts
¼ cup raisins
½ to 2/3 cup brown rice syrup
Olive oil (to oil the baking pan and pop the corn)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well until the rice syrup covers everything nicely. If the rice syrup is too sticky, heat it up first or it will crush the popcorn as you are trying to mix the ingredients. Transfer mixture to a lightly oiled baking sheet and spread out in a single layer. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, and watch carefully so that it does not burn. Let cool to harden, about 5 minutes, before removing with a spatula. Soak baking sheet in hot water to remove the hardened sweetener, about 5 minutes.

Utensils: pan to pop corn, baking sheet, wooden spoon, measuring cups

Variations: Substitute puffed or flaked cereals, or crumbled rice cakes for part of the popcorn.