My son just turned 7 last Thursday, so I experimented with 4 kinds of brownies. My older daughter will be 9 tomorrow, so I made an angel food cake today with raw honey. I found a handy substitution guide that's working well for me so far at: http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/guides/tips_sweeteners.html
It's great to use local foods as much as possible. For Lancaster, our local natural sweeteners are definitely honey, maple syrup, and local fruits and fruit juices. Of this list, I like raw honey because it is the least processed and contains enzymes that help digest carbohydrates. The substitution guide above says to use 1/2 c. honey wherever a recipe calls for 1 c. sugar, then reduce the liquid content of the recipe by 1/8, reduce oven temp. by 25 degrees, and bake a bit longer. This worked well for my angel food cake today.
Reminder: Don't give raw honey to kids under the age of 2 because their digestive tracts are not mature enough to deactivate the bacteria spores. As for the rest of us - enjoy!
Regarding cane sugar forms, I'll list them in order of least processed (which contain the most nutrients) to most processed (which contain the least nutrients): muscovado, rapadura, sucanat, turbinado, demerara, sugar in the raw, brown sugar, and white sugar. If you see the terminology "evaporated cane juice," this doesn't really tell you anything specific because all of these are some form of that. Muscovado and rapadura are the two forms of evaporated cane juice which do not have the molasses separated out of them. This is good because the molasses contains the trace minerals and nutrients you want like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. It also has a toffee like flavor, which is much deeper than the neutral flavor of white sugar, so you need to be aware of the difference and decide how you like it. (I like the toffee flavor, but not full-strength, so I cut it by using honey or agave nectar with rapadura in many baked goods and homemade icecream.) To see the nutrition info. on rapadura, go to an old post of mine at http://foodfromgod.blogspot.com/2010/02/sugar-cane.html
Sucanat also has some molasses, and although it contains less than the aforementioned, it still has some worthwhile trace minerals and nutrients while delivering a milder flavor than rapadura.
The rest of the "brown" sugars are turbinado, demerara, sugar in the raw, and brown sugar. Am I missing any? Probably... cuz there are various brand names that are some form of those listed. And in each of these, all the molasses is removed and then a very small amount is put back in. It's such a small amount that it's nutritional content is pretty close to white sugar which is devoid of nutrients altogether. But it can be used as a bridge if you are trying to get used to sucanat or rapadura. Since it has some of the molasses flavor, it will help your taste buds become accustomed to something new.
I was just at Miller's Natural Foods today (on Miller Lane in Bird-in-Hand, PA) and wrote down some prices of sweeteners on their shelves. Everything listed is price per pound unless otherwise specified:
Organic Rapadura $2.65
Unrefined Demerara $0.79
Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar $0.75
Evaporated Cane Juice (white) $0.67
Maple Sugar $10.00
Stevia powder $54.64
Stevia herb powder $22.00
Date Sugar $5.95/ 11 oz.
Raw honey $9.80/ 2.5 lbs.
Liquid Stevia $18.75/ 4 oz.
Organic Raw Blue Agave Nectar $9.26/44 oz.
Pure Maple Syrup $13.20/32 oz.
Xylitol $12.49/ 2.5 lbs.
Let me know if you have any questions! And thank you Melissa for writing to me about it.