Tag Archives: healthy eating for 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: 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).

 

 

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: Dreamsicle green smoothie

Whenever I try to tidy up my eating habits my biggest concern is how my food tastes. I’ve mentioned that I’m a picky eater, and there’s nothing worse than knowing I can’t have some of my favorite treats all the while being stuck eating bland, blechy, blah food. If my taste buds are bored, I can promise you I will cheat.

When I first started the 21 Day Sugar Detox (21DSD) back in January I played around with smoothies for about a week before I came across the combination I’m sharing today. The 21DSD allows you either 1 green-tipped banana, 1 grapefruit, or 1 Granny Smith apple a day. For this smoothie I combined 2 halves of the allowed fruit to come up with a breakfast that is easy, filling, and oh so tasty.

Classic creamsicle flavors are orange and vanilla. I’m not a huge fan of orange (unless it’s an orange cranberry scone, in which case get out of my way!), and oranges aren’t allowed on 21DSD, so I thought grapefruit might be a nice substitute. The vanilla rounds out all the flavors and the two combined give a vague hint of something tropical. The avocado and coconut milk provide enough fat to sustain me until lunch, and the greens, flax, and maca are filled with fiber that keeps my digestion happy.

1/2 green-tipped banana
1/2 ripe avocado
1 large handful of spinach, kale, or other greens
1/2 grapefruit juiced
1/2 can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, or one vanilla bean scraped
1 tablespoon flax
1 teaspoon maca powder (optional)
Water

Combine all ingredients except water in a blender* and process till smooth. Add water if the smoothie is too thick. I find that the banana, avocado, and coconut milk are thick enough without adding additional ice, but if I want the smoothie to be a little colder I throw 2-3 ice cubes in my glass as I’m drinking.

* I don’t actually have a fancy high-powered blender. I make all my smoothies with my Cuisinart immersion blender and it works just fine. Every now and then I’ll find something that didn’t get processed, but it’s never enough to really bother me.