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(post, Ania Catalano)
Although agave nectar can be used straight out of the bottle as a sweetener for drinks or as a syrup for waffles, pancakes, or oatmeal, its true beauty is revealed when it's used in a recipe, where it produces the most amazingly delicious, naturally sweetened muffins, ice creams, and more. When adapting recipes to use agave nectar, reduce other liquids by about one-third, and use 25 percent less agave nectar than sugar. Also, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees to avoid burning your masterpieces! Sometimes a little trial-and-error results in great new recipes. Agave nectar has a long shelf life, and doesn't need to be refrigerated, so it's easy to work with. [%image reference-image float=left width=350 caption="Some people like agave nectar on oatmeal." credit="Photo © Culinate"] Flavors will vary slightly by the variety of agave nectar you choose: light (the most neutral and best in baking) or amber (more caramel flavor, great out of the bottle). Some agave nectars are raw, which means they never reach 118 degrees in the manufacturing process and have many beneficial enzymes still intact. This feature is appreciated by raw foodists and health enthusiasts. The best part about using agave nectar is that you can make gourmet-tasting desserts with deep, satisfying sweetness that make you feel good after eating them, instead of giving you a sugar rush . . . and then a sugar crash. It's a perfect way to wean the kids, and the whole family, off the conventional-sugar habit.