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Posts from the ‘Diet and Food’ Category

Plant-Based Faceplant.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve made an attempt as a family to eat more plants/eat less meat.  This is decision is rooted in a dozen different health reasons, but the end result is a move towards cutting back on the meat we’re consuming and integrating more than just a “meatless Monday” philosophy.

All well and good, right?

Except I still can’t cook.  And this is making anything “new!” a bit of a challenge.

Last summer, I worked towards a decent grasp on using our grill, making chicken and grilled vegetables and hamburgers that didn’t highlight my inability to create edible meals.  That learning curve was steep, though, and now the idea of trying to get creative in the kitchen with a renewed focus on plant-based meals is daunting as eff.

Because, as mentioned, I still can’t cook.  I’m having a plant-based face plant.

I tried to make these – sweet potato quinoa patties – and assembling the ingredients was easy enough.  I could get everything into a bowl and if I were to eat it like a salad, it would have worked out beautifully.  But the goal was to cook these on the stove top, creating a hot meal where the patties are crisped to a golden brown and cause people to put their fingertips delicately to their collarbones in delight – “My goodness – did you MAKE these?  They are DELIGHTFUL!” and then everyone gets drunk.  (This fantasy takes place post-August, when wine can re-enter the picture for me.)

Instead, I ended up with patties that didn’t ever crisp into golden perfection.  My attempt was more a lump of burned-on-one-side-barely-held-together-on-the-other-side patties, where they needed to be coaxed aggressively out of the pan and had to be eaten immediately or else they’d taste like not-awesome hash browns.

I’ve tried to make them twice now.  The first time, Chris and I had a “ho, ho, ho this is an experiment! and we’ll figure this out” response.  The second time, I was a hormonal mess and just about threw the pan across the kitchen with a pathetic sob of, “I can’t COOK I only make burnt vegetarian DOG FOOD.”  The third time, I’m afraid I will pitch a fit and then a tent in the backyard and force myself to sleep there until I can happily eat grass.

(Have I mentioned hormones?  I have them.  There are many of them.  Would you like some?  AHHHHHH!!!)

So what I’m hoping for is this:  Do you have a favorite non-meat recipe that is easy to make and that you enjoy eating?  I’m looking for recommendations to help expand my palette and my culinary skills without causing emotional chaos.  My kitchen prowess is limited, but I’m willing to try anything at least three times, and I’m really eager to reduce the amount of meat we’re eating.

Prebolusing the Sh*t Out of Things.

Now, at the halfway mark of my pregnancy, insulin resistance is becoming a bit of a thing, and is going to progress into an Actual Thing as the weeks go on, which happened last time and I’m prepared for but it still a bit whoa and this sentence is a run-on.

Which means that basal rates are creeping up ever-so-slightly (my pre-pregnancy basal total was around 13u and I’m now up to 16.2u) and my insulin:carb ratios starting to dance (pre-pregnacy was 1:10, am now 1:9 … except lunch is 1:12 because why would things be consistent?).  When I first found out I was pregnant, my endocrinologist told me that post-prandials contribute most to macrosomia, so keeping my post-meal blood sugars as in-range as possible would help mitigate that risk.  (But let’s take a look at the risk list … pre-existing diabetes?  Check.  Over 35?  Check.  Previous pregnancies?  Check.  Having a boy?  Check.  Cool.)

The plan?  Actively and aggressively pre-bolusing the shit out of my meals.

This sounds like an excellent plan, in a perfect world.  Pre-bolusing works well for me when the bolus is delivered at least 20 minutes before eating, the meal is properly carb-counted, and nothing delays the process of eating.  But one monkey wrench in that process can muck the whole mess up.

Pre-bolusing can feel spooky, like I’m tempting fate and inviting a low.  Not doing it is like opening the door for a high.  The middle ground could use some xanax.

Over the last few weeks, my pre-boluses have been executed with precision.  A few fistfuls of jellybeans have worked their way into rotation when I’ve bolused too early, but that’s to be expected.  The temp basal option on the t:slim is stupidly easy to employ, so sometimes I use a temp basal to help back me out of a mild low, but overall, I’ve seen my post-prandials come down nicely and hopefully my ultrasounds continue to show a very boring, predictable pregnancy progression.

Makes meals interesting, though.  They’ve become a game of roulette.

“Do you think we’ll get seated right away?”  Or, “I forgot to pre-heat the oven and now dinner is going to be 15 minutes later than I thought.”  Or, “Fuck.  I forgot to eat!”

I’m pre-bolusing all over the place.  Usually it works fine.  Sometimes I end up wicked low.  But every time, it’s in effort to keep my post-prandials from causing chaos in my kid.

Gimme a Beet!

Beets haven’t always been top-of-preference for my palette.  I read somewhere that people either love the taste of beets or think they taste like dirt, and I used to be in the latter camp.  But these days, beets are most desirable and I am looking for a calendar dedicated entirely to them, preferably wearing suspenders … and only suspenders.

Problem is, I had no idea how to cook them and preparing them leaves my kitchen counter looking like a game of Clue.

“It was in the kitchen!  With the carving knife!  And included spinach salad … ?”

But the Internet! This is what it was made for: Googling problems and then solving them with pixel power.  A quick search for “simple beets recipe” on Google images brought me to photos, and then to recipes, that were manageable with my limited kitchen talents.  (I prefer to search by images because if the image looks simple and easy, then the recipe hopefully is as well.  Also, images help me weed out evil food things, like weird, crumbly cheeses.)

Raw beets are what I’m craving, so a simple wash, peel, slice-and-dice plan of attack works perfectly and makes the beets easy to toss into a spinach salad.  I’ve read on several sites that cooking the beets strips away a lot of their power (read: they can’t fly and their x-ray vision goes to shit), but this salad looks awesome and I’m trying this one later today (minus the crispy toast bit).

Desperately, this morning I sliced and ate a beet on top of toast with cream cheese.  Which might read as disgusting and vile, but slap some olives on the side and chase it with a decaf iced coffee and that meal fast becomes a breakfast my pregnant-self craves, while my pre-pregnancy self shudders in the corner and makes faces of disgust.

Olive You.

“You don’t like seafood?!”

This wasn’t ever issued like a real question, but more an accusation, a verbal finger pointed at my face.  “You live in Rhode Island and you don’t like seafood like at all?”

Usually I’d say, “I just don’t care for it very much,” but I am really thinking, “EW! It’s weird and it smells terrible and ew.”

And then, back in 2009, I found myself pregnant with Birdy and all of a sudden, my taste buds changed in ways I could never have predicted.  I wanted salmon.  I wanted white fish.  Calamari?  Bring it.  Shrimp?  Sure.  Scallops?  Yes, please.

Chris looked at me like I had seven heads, a seafood-craving hydra.  “You want what?”

Even after my Bird was born, the seafood thing stuck.  Over the years, my food preferences have given way to other additions, like mushrooms (once viewed as a horror movie on a plate), brie cheese (previously categorized alongside cheeses with scents that can ease the paint off a wall), and oysters (tried for the first time over the summer and I didn’t die).  It’s taken six plus years, but my palette is finally maturing past tomatoes and grilled chicken, and I’m no longer afraid of crabs (unless they are unexpectedly underfoot, or secretly carbs).

I wonder, at times, if diabetes helped to keep my preferences muted.  Growing up, my mother went to great lengths to make sure my food was healthy, consistent, and carefully measured.  Food “risks” were not generally encouraged at the time, with even spices and condiments raising eyebrows and blood sugars.  The “diabetic friendly” cookbooks touted the benefits of the bland and unadventurous, and my mother took her adherence to the dog-eared cookbook recommendations very seriously.

Basically, boring meant better.

But, over time, diabetes education and insulin improved, and “approved diets” expanded to include more than just one aisle at the grocery store.  Meals weren’t diluted down to the American Diabetes Association exchange program.  Food could be healthy and taste like something other than “meh.”

And it took me even longer to break out of my own decades worth of habits.  Which explains the wasabi on my salmon sashimi.  And the oysters on my plate.  And the introduction of olives – once viewed as “EW the GROSSEST!” – into the circuit of deliciousness.

Olive you, new and strange foods.  Olive you a lot.

Gluten-Free Bread Showcase.

For those who are unaccustomed, gluten-free bread is kind of terrible.  It’s like the bread can’t commit to being bread.  It starts out strong – looks good, smells good – but once you try to make a sandwich out of that sucker, it falls apart into a crumbly mess in a matter of milliseconds.  For the last year, I’ve been entirely gluten-free (and I feel better for it – more here on the how and why), and over the course of my gluten-free adventures, I miss proper bread the most.

There are some decent options, though, and they’ve been tested by adults (Chris and I) and kids (Birdy) alike.  Here are some of the top contenders in the Sparling household:

Udi’s is the first kind of gluten-free bread I’ve ever tried, and I want to like it more than I actually do.  It’s not bad, but it’s my least-favorite option.  The pieces of bread themselves are tiny, the bread can’t hold up unless it’s toasted, and when it comes into contact with peanut butter, it becomes sludgy almost immediately.  But it will do in a pinch, and the other Udi’s options are infinitely better than their actual bread.  (Like the hamburger buns.  Those are legitimately awesome.)

Rudi’s is slightly better than Udi’s, but the similarity in names confuses the hell out of me.  Are Rudi and Udi brothers fraught with conflict who once had a unified bakery but then split off and created their own gluten-free fortresses?  Whatever the case,  Rudi’s bread is slightly studier than Udi’s but with the same “better when toasted” consistency.  The pieces of bread seem slightly bigger than Udi’s on the whole.  This brand is a little better but only marginally.

Three Bakers was my favorite bread until two weeks ago (more on that in a second).  This bread is decent in size, better than Udi’s or Rudi’s in consistency, and doesn’t have to be toasted in order to be tolerated.  This bread can hold up to cold cuts and doesn’t shrink and die when touched by condiments.  Three Bakers hold up pretty well when compared to the other kinds.  And it makes bangin’ French Toast.

 

For a long time, the frustrating fragility of gluten-free bread had me baking my own bread, and the preferred bread mix was Pamela’s.  While I’ve made my own bread from scratch before, it takes a reasonable amount of time, and Pamela’s mix on the gluten-free setting for the breadmaker works really well.  It’s thicker and more moist (worst word ever but it applies here) than the store-bought breads, but it falls apart pretty easily when not toasted.  (Sensing a theme here?)

Two weeks ago, though, I found a real winner.  A REAL WINNER.  The Schar brand of bread popped up in the gluten-free section of our local grocery store and holy shit, this stuff seems legit.  It can hold up without being toasted, which is the first kind of GF bread I’ve found capable of unlocking that achievement.  It has a consistency and texture closest to regular bread (in my opinion) and it stood up to the sandwich-in-a-cooler-on-the-beach-for-five-hours test.  I realize I’m holding this stuff up against a strange standard of failure (“This bread sucks the LEAST!”), but it’s been the most successful substitution I’ve found in my 12+ months going gluten-free.

The main drawback to all of these options?  They are pricey.  $5 or $6 for a loaf of bread is ridiculous, which prompts us to buy less of it and embrace other non-bready options more.  But the gluten-free world keeps expanding, and as someone who dove in headfirst and ditched a year’s worth of bellyaches, I’m wicked grateful for these options.

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