Tag Archives: cooking for Type 2 diabetes

The night dinner went wrong

I’m not even going to pretend to be coy–I am not a flexible person. I am a list maker, a schedule planner, and if I have plans please don’t change them, I may freak out. Just ask Andy. I’ve gotten better since we’ve been married, but early on a simple unscheduled change to my plans would send me into a tail spin. It wasn’t pretty.

A while back I was all set to try out a new recipe–Pistachio Kebabs on rosemary skewers (from Yummy Supper) served with Middle Eastern cauli-rice pilaf. I had already made some slight changes to the initial recipe–it was the middle of February and I didn’t feel like standing outside to grill, so the “skewers” were going to become meatballs. Andy doesn’t like a lot of rosemary, so I was going to mince up just a few needles and mix it in. Everything else was the same.

I was going strong. I had plenty of time before Andy would be home and back again from his evening walk, and even though the recipe itself was new, I know how to make meatballs so I wasn’t stressed. I shelled the pistachios, chopped the herbs, cooked the onions and set them to chill, and went to grab the meat from the fridge. This is where something went horribly wrong. The meat that I had pulled out of the freezer 24+ hours ago was still frozen.

I took a deep breath. I hoped I was wrong and it was just the stiff butcher paper that wouldn’t give when I squeezed. I removed the wrapper, placed the meat in the bowl with the herbs and onions and took another deep breath. It wasn’t the paper. After the first 1/4 inch the meat was still frozen solid. I took a fork and tried to break it apart. It didn’t work. There was no way I was going to be able to make this frozen meat soft enough to make meatballs for dinner.

And this is where I should have freaked out. In the past, something like this would have been a disaster. At best, there would have been tears and anger. At worst I would have thrown the whole thing out and told Andy we were going for take out. With our current lifestyle and income, throwing out an entire meal’s worth of ingredients just isn’t an option.

I started thinking… I had already planned to make Middle Eastern cauli-rice pilaf, so what if instead of meatballs, I just sauteed the frozen ground beef with all the herbs and pistachios and mixed it into the pilaf? A Middle Eastern rice bowl if you will.

It wasn’t the meal I originally intended, but it was worth a try. Anything was better than throwing the food away. So I got to work. And you know what? It was a good meal and I discovered some things I would do differently next time, like make sure I add the pistachios after everything’s been cooked. They got a little soggy and disappeared. Also, it could have used a little extra parsley and a little more cumin.

Growing in patience is never an easy thing. I know that it’s been God’s work on my heart throughout this journey that got me to the place of acceptance and flexibility when a meal didn’t go as planned. His patience with me is abundant indeed!

I’ve only made this recipe the one time, so I know I should add it to an upcoming meal plan. If it’s as good as I remember, I’ll post it here so you can enjoy it as well.

 

Recipe: Chicken, mushroom, zucchini skillet (with bacon!)

This dinner came about through delicious happenstance. I was interested in making a sausage and veggie gratin, but that felt a little too heavy for the warm(ish) weather we’ve been having lately. I decided to lighten it up with chicken and zucchini. The bacon and mushrooms add amazing flavor, and the leftovers taste even better than right out of the oven.

Look at all that melty cheese!
Look at all that melty cheese!

1 Tablespoon oil
1 onion, diced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
4 small- to medium-sized zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
2+ chicken thighs, cooked and chopped*
4-6 ounces bacon, cooked and roughly chopped
4 ounces cheese, grated (optional)**
salt
pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and saute the onions with a pinch of salt until translucent. Stir in mushrooms and cook until they begin to brown and let off some of their water. Add zucchini and another small pinch of salt (small being key. The bacon is pretty salty on its own, and you don’t want to over do it!). Give it a good stir and let it cook until the zucchini starts to soften just a bit.

Stir the chicken and bacon into the veggies, taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed. Top with the cheese if you’re using it. Pop into the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melty and just starting to brown. Serve with a side salad if you feel you want an extra serving of veggies!

Recipe notes:
* I find that 2 chicken thighs is perfect for me and Andy. The bacon and all the veggies make this a complete meal without a huge amount of meat. If you’re serving more people, increase the chicken thighs by 1 per extra person.
** I don’t specify which type of cheese, because really melty cheese is melty cheese. I’ve made this with a hard English cheddar and it was just as good as when I used pepper jack. Check your fridge and use what you have on hand.

Recipe: Cabbage skillet casserole

Growing up my family made up names for certain foods. On Thanksgiving and Christmas my youngest brother and I would fight over the “pink stuff” (to all you mid-westerners out there, I believe you call it Jello salad) a fluffy concoction of raspberry gelatin, Cool-Whip, canned pineapple, and cottage cheese. Totally gross. Totally delicious.

My brothers’ favorite meal was Yummy Boulet (rhymes with “Goulet”, as in Robert). To the best of my recollection Yummy Boulet consisted of ground beef, tomato sauce, and elbow macaroni. It wasn’t on my top 10 list, but the name stuck.

All this being said, I’ve carried on the tradition with my own cooking, and I want to share with you what Andy and I lovingly refer to as “cabbage meat thing”. It started out by trying a recipe for deconstructed cabbage roll casserole (for the life of me I can’t find the original recipe). Basically you chop and saute cabbage with traditional stuffed cabbage ingredients and bake it like a casserole. The second inspiration for this dish was the Garbage Stir fry from Nom Nom Paleo. At first glance neither the casserole nor the Garbage Stir fry seem like much, but they were so good! I found myself making them every other week or so.

This got me thinking, if Cabbage + Meat + Onion + Sauce was such a winning combination, maybe I could branch out into other flavors to shake things up. And that’s how cabbage meat thing was born. The flavor possibilities are limitless, it’s typically less than 5 ingredients (outside of the oil, salt, and pepper), and it can be made and baked in a single skillet. All of these add up to a winning weeknight meal for us.

Here are the basic components followed by some ideas for changing up the flavors. Enjoy!

1-2 Tablespoons oil
1 onion diced
1 pound ground meat (see below for recommendations)
1 medium head of green cabbage, chopped into 1 inch pieces
2-3 teaspoons seasoning (see below for recommendations)
1 -2 cups of crushed tomatoes or sauce of your choice (See below for recommendations)
Salt
Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Heat the oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook till translucent. Add the meat with another pinch of salt and stir, breaking it apart, until brown and cooked through. Stir in your seasoning, and tomatoes or sauce if using.

In batches, add a handful or 2 of the chopped cabbage at a time, tossing everything carefully together. The cabbage will add a lot of “heft” to the dish initially, but it’ll cook down. Continue to add the cabbage and toss with the saucy meat until everything is incorporated.

Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the cabbage starts to look a little “crispy”. I like a little char. You may not. If you prefer your cabbage to be silky not crispy, start checking it at the 15 minute mark.

Recipe notes: Here are a few of our favorite flavor combinations. Use these as a jumping off point, and share if you come up with something brilliant!

– Italian: 1 pound bulk Italian sausage + dried oregano + 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
– Mexican: 1 pound ground beef (or turkey) + cumin + 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
– BBQ chorizo: 1 pound chorizo + 1 cup BBQ sauce (I typically use homemade so it’s not overly sweet. If you use bottled, you may want to cut it with some crushed tomatoes.)
– Enchilada: 1 pound cooked shredded chicken (or ground beef/turkey) + cumin + 14 ounces enchilada sauce (bought or homemade).

 

 

How I learned to cook

I am a rule follower. I can’t help it. Andy is not. Sometimes I joke that his philosophy on rules is: “I hear you giving me a rule. Now I will find a creative way to break it!” See that smirk in the image above? Yeah, that’s the look.

I’m also Type A, “technically creative” (I’ll explain my theory on creative people later), a list maker, and mentally–if not physically–organized.

When Andy and I were first married I didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen. We ate sandwiches. And take out. When I did cook, it was primarily some kind of pasta recipe I’d seen on a food blog. I wasn’t adventurous. I wasn’t creative. The food was “filling”, but not overly mind blowing. But, for the most part, Andy didn’t complain.

When I lost my first job, cooking took on a whole new meaning. I dove into food blogs and decided that if I wasn’t working I was going to cook. I started making from-scratch mac ‘n cheese, biscuits ‘n gravy, chicken ‘n dumplings (apparently I had a thing for food with an ‘n) and it was amazing. My trick to the excellent food was following the recipe. To a capital T. Chicken ‘n dumplings, in particular, was a several hours long process where you simmer a whole chicken for over an hour simultaneously creating stock and the chicken needed for the dish. Andy used to ask why I didn’t just get a rotisserie chicken and boxed stock. I told him because that’s not what the recipe called for. I didn’t cut corners.

After Andy’s Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, and even more so after we went grain-free in 2012, I realized that unless we wanted to eat nothing but salad I needed to let go a little in the kitchen. I needed to cut corners, I needed to swap this ingredient for that. And you know what? It didn’t kill me. It wasn’t easy, but it did make me more confident in the kitchen. I started using recipes as inspiration rather than as gospel. If I didn’t have a certain ingredient–an issue that in years past would have resulted in a kitchen panic, or a speedy trip to the store–I looked in the fridge and used what I did have.

Becoming more confident in the kitchen also made cooking easier. I used to make big fancy meals from celebrity chef recipes because I didn’t think I could make good food without their help. The truth is Andy and I both prefer simpler food, and as good as that chicken ‘n dumplings was (seriously, so good!), we’re much happier with cauli-rice bowls.

Don’t get me wrong, I still troll food blogs and cookbooks for ideas. And I do still cook from recipes. But if I feel like the dish needs more cumin than originally called for, I’m going to add it. If I forgot to buy cilantro from the store this week, I leave it out. And it’s not the end of the world.

Here are a few of my “relax, it’s all cool” tips for chilling in the kitchen:

– Swap out one veggie for another. If you don’t have, or like, zucchini swap it for broccoli, cauliflower, or even bell peppers. Or vice versa. Cook with what you like and you’re more likely to like what you cook.
– Only have garlic powder? Use it!
– Don’t like a particular spice? Don’t use it, and add a little more of the spices you do like!
– Use ground turkey (or chicken) instead of ground beef.
– Like the idea of a potato saffron omelet, but haven’t quite nailed the omelet “flip”? Make potato saffron scrambled eggs.
– 2 words: Crock-Pot. (Okay, one hyphenated brand name, but you get the idea.)
– Make it a salad. BLT salad is amazing. You can turn practically any type of sandwich into a salad. Cheeseburger salad anyone?

Do you have any other tips for relaxing in the kitchen? I’d love to hear them!

Grocery shopping 101: Where we shop

Some people I know shop solely at New Seasons and Whole Foods, and I totally get it. Those places are great sources for healthy food. They have beautiful produce sections, solid meat and dairy, and let’s face it, bakeries to die for. I do the bulk of my shopping at Winco, with stops at New Seasons, Trader Joe’s, and Fred Meyer to supplement what Winco doesn’t have. Why don’t I do all my shopping at these other places? Because we have a grocery budget and the way we eat now isn’t cheap.

After Andy was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes the way we shopped for groceries changed, and our weekly grocery expenses went up. Sticking to a budget has always been important to me, and I didn’t want our budget to suffer because of our health (or vice versa) in order to afford an $8/lb. bunch of asparagus. I knew we wouldn’t always be able to afford organic produce (thankfully, we have a garden full or organic veggies), but incorporating more fruit and veggies into our meals was a necessity.

I don’t want to start a political discussion about the virtues of eating locally sourced food, but I wanted to share where and how we shop for groceries because I know how expensive it can be to start living a healthy lifestyle. Good-for-you food isn’t cheap—that’s another discussion for another time. I grew up in home that didn’t have a lot of money to spare. There were weeks when I know my mom had no idea how she was going to put food on the table for a family of five. We ate a lot of beans and rice.

In this economy, not everyone can afford to shop at the local high-end natural foods market. And that’s okay. Winco’s produce isn’t always the best around, but they do have a fairly new organic section, and if you buy what’s in season you’ll be okay. Plus, they have an amazing bulk section full of dried fruits, nuts, spices, and other goodies that I have on my list on a weekly basis.

If you’re just starting out on this lifestyle journey, don’t feel that you have to take out a second mortgage to put healthy food on the table. By making small changes where you can–swapping out that bag of chips for a new vegetable to experiment with in the kitchen–and adding in the freshest ingredients possible, you’re already making a step in the right direction.

Next week, I’m going to share how I navigate the grocery store, and give you some tips and tricks for making the process easier and healthier.

Recipe: Chorizo (breakfast burrito) cauli-rice bowl

One of our favorite dinners is this chorizo rice bowl. I always get an air fist “alright” from Andy when I tell him that’s what we’re having for dinner. It’s easy, super spicy, can be dressed up or down, and has the perfect combination of protein and veggies.

When I started looking for weekend breakfast ideas, this is where my mind turned. The only real change I made to my original recipe was to top the bowl off with a few scrambled eggs. When I make this for dinner, I skip this step.

The chorizo I buy is super spicy. Like, clear out your sinuses for hours spicy. It’s right at the threshold of what I can handle. I’m a wimp, but it’s still hot. If you’re not into the idea of a spicy breakfast, swap the chorizo for a nice breakfast sausage and you’re good to go! One more note on chorizo–if you can, try to find a good natural source. The prepackaged stuff in the refrigerated section of your grocery store often has questionable “animal parts” ground up and that’s just icky. If you’re adventurous, you can also make your own.

For the rice:
1 cauliflower head
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 pound chorizo
Salt*
Pepper

Toppings:
Scrambled eggs (or fried, or poached …)
2 tomatoes chopped
1-2 avocados, sliced (or make guacamole, yum!)
Sour cream**
Shredded cheese**
Pickled jalapeños (our favorite!)
Salsa
Sriracha (Andy loves this, but it burns too much for my tastebuds)

Run the cauliflower through a food processor using the shredding blade, or grate it with a box grater. Set aside.

In a large skillet (I use my 10″ cast iron), heat oil over medium high heat. Add onions with a small pinch of salt and saute until onions start to get a little color. (I like a little char, I think it goes nicely with the spice.) Add the chorizo, stirring to break it apart, until browned and cooked through, 7-10 minutes.

Once the chorizo is cooked, carefully stir in the cauliflower so the chorizo is evenly distributed. My skillet has a hard time holding everything (and it’s a good-size skillet) so stir with care. Cook until the cauliflower is tender and the chorizo flavor is all soaked in. Taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary. We’re really into pepper right now so we’ve been adding it to everything.

Top with your favorite “fixins” and enjoy for breakfast or dinner!

Recipe notes:
* I try to use a light hand with salt. Just a pinch to get the onions going and maybe a little more at the very end after I’ve tasted the dish. Depending on who makes the chorizo, the dish could be salty enough, and you don’t want to over do it.
** If you can’t do dairy, the sour cream and cheese aren’t necessary. We usually don’t use them, but it is an option and the sour cream especially helps cool the spice of the chorizo.

How we eat: Weekends

By now you’ve read how Andy eats during the week. And you’ve probably hung your head in disbelief over how I eat. Neither one of these stories really covers what our weekend eating looks like, and I figured I should probably round out the “How I eat” series.

Andy likes to joke to friends that come the weekend, the kitchen is closed (please pardon the messy and slightly blurry kitchen shot above!). And in a way, he’s right. I cook dinner every night, and most days (okay, some days, though I’m trying to be more consistent) I prepare breakfast and lunch for myself. The last thing I want to do on the weekends is wake up early, make breakfast for both of us, then clean everything just to repeat the process a few hours later for lunch and then again for dinner. I like weekends. I like to do things. I just don’t always like to make involved breakfasts.

On the other hand, I’m less likely to want to make and drink a smoothie for myself on the weekends. I want something a little more special and a little more substantial. Not eating isn’t an option–I’ve tried that and nobody really liked the end result. (Hint: I got cranky.)

Andy tends to walk significantly more on the weekends and likes to have a little extra protein to compensate. So between him needing protein, and me just needing to eat, I had to come up with something that would carry us through those “closed kitchen” days. As it turns out, Andy’s kind of a crack shot when it comes to making breakfast. He’ll fry up eggs, bacon, and sometimes steak (see above about needing protein), and be a happy fella. All that protein is a bit much for me (it’s the steak that really pushes me over the edge), so I wanted to find a way to still get lots of protein, but maybe throw some veggies into the mix to lighten everything up.

We’re big fans of the whole cauli-rice trend, and I thought that some kind of burrito rice bowl might be the answer to my problems. And I was right! Well, mostly right. There are still weekends where I just can’t be bothered to go all in for breakfast (x 2) and lunch (x 2), but the rice bowl makes enough food for both of us, with plenty of leftovers for lunch and maybe even for breakfast the next day, so it’s a win-win for me.

I’ll post the recipe later this week so stay tuned!

The power of marketing

Have you walked through a grocery aisle lately? I’m not talking about rushing through the aisle as quickly as possible to cross things off your shopping list. I’m talking about just walking through and looking at stuff—in particular, labels. Both front and back.

You might be surprised.

One of the things both Andy and I started doing after his Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis was reading labels. Okay, maybe you’re one of those people who’s been doing it for years. The point is we did start looking, and found ourselves putting stuff back on the shelf on a frequent basis. To say our eyes were opened is an understatement. High fructose corn syrup is in everything. Everything! Why would you put HFCS in dill pickles of all random things? It blew our minds.

I have a background in marketing so I’m very familiar with “spin”. Ever look at a movie poster and wonder what those ellipses (…) might be omitting? That’s spin! In the food industry spin is all over the packaging—from the flashy color labels that distract you from what’s really in the product, to the word burstss that proclaim: Fat Free! Sugar Free! All Natural! Organic!

The fact of the matter is, you can’t really trust the front of the label. I wish you could. It would make shopping so much easier. The only way to truly know what’s going into your body is to turn the product over and read through the ingredients list on the back. You’d be amazed at what they like to hide in that fine print. A while back, someone gave us a bottle of salsa that had both chicken and beef paste in the ingredient list. Meat paste. In salsa. Bummer dude.

If you’re just starting out on your own lifestyle obstacle course, I encourage you to start peeking at those food labels. Yes, it does require some work, and you’ll probably start putting some of your favorite foods back on the shelf when you realize what they’ve been sneaking into your body. The more we read, the more we realized the only “real” food we ate came out of our own kitchen. Even those awesome, time saving, rotisserie chickens from the grocery store have questionable ingredients.

I’m not saying you have to avoid all boxed food, but I encourage you to, at the very least, turn the box over and look at the ingredients list so you know what you’re getting into with your eyes wide open.

May 1st: Weekly meal plan

Let me tell you, being sick is no fun! Especially when it sucks all your energy. Even though I’m feeling better, I wanted to stick with fairly easy dinners for the week ahead. I’m trying a few new recipes–the world of food blogs is a wonderful thing!–and falling back on a few favorites to round everything out.

Thanks for your patience with my lack of posts this week, hope you have a great one.

Oh! I almost forgot the grocery list

– Chicken salad stuffed tomatoes
Broccoli pancakes and fried eggs
– Chorizo rice bowl (recipe coming soon!)
– Biryani rice bowl and fried eggs (based on this recipe.)
– Stuffed sweet potatoes
Pesto chicken spaghetti squash “bake”
– Hodge Podge

Recipe: Texy Mexy skillet

After Andy’s Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, we had to relearn how to eat. No longer could Friday nights involve 2 large pizzas (1 for each of us! Don’t judge. There were leftovers. Sometimes.), and we couldn’t pop into the 24 hour donut place down the street at midnight on Saturdays just because “we felt like it”.

At first we struggled. Veggies just didn’t hit the spot the way a blueberry cake donut did. But we adjusted out of necessity, and then out of actually wanting to adjust. We realized that as our lifestyle changes took effect, we felt better than we ever did before. Not to mention the weight loss and blood sugar numbers coming down.

I read a lot of food blogs and there’s a lot of food out there that Andy and I can’t eat. I’ve learned how to take the idea of a recipe and update it with ingredients that Andy and I love. This recipe–based on this recipe from The Kitchn–is a testament to how our eating habits have evolved. The original recipe includes rice, corn, and beans–a classic Tex Mex combination–all things that Andy and I avoid, or at least try to keep to a bare minimum. I knew that I could add extra peppers, onions, and swap the rice for cauil-rice and have a great meal. And indeed it is!

You’ll notice the lack of protein in this dish–Andy and I typically eat this with fried eggs and salsa on top.

1 head cauliflower
1-2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil (I use avocado)
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, chopped
1-2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon chile powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained of as much juice as possible
4-6 ounces grated cheese (optional)
salt
pepper
sliced avocado
salsa

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Run the cauliflower through your food processor with the shredding blade attached. Alternatively, grate the cauliflower until it is the size of rice. Set aside.

In an oven-proof skillet saute the onions and both peppers with a healthy pinch of salt until onions are translucent. Add the spices, stir to combine, and let cook for a minute or two until everything smells “toasty”. Add the tomatoes and stir again.

Stir in the cauliflower with another large pinch of salt and a few grinds of the peppermill. Make sure all the onions and peppers are distributed and the cauliflower is fully coated with the spices. If you’re adding cheese stir it in now and pop the entire skillet into the oven for 20-25 minutes until brown and the cheese has melted thoroughly. I like ours with little charred bits of cauliflower on top. If you’re not of that persuasion, keep an eye on it around the 15 minute mark.

Serve with eggs (fried or scrambled), sliced avocado, and copious amounts of your favorite salsa or hot sauce.

If you’re curious about the name “Texy Mexy”, it’s an inside family joke. Ask me about it in person sometime and I’ll tell you.