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Posts tagged ‘food’

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.

Feed Me.

“I spent [insert slightly obscene amount of money] at the grocery store this afternoon … again,” I said as I put the grocery bags on the kitchen floor.

Chris looked over and assessed the content of the bags.  “It goes into our bodies.  This is what we should be spending our money on.”

Food is an important topic in our house, ranging from its complicated relationship with my diabetes, its influence and  role in my daughter’s health, and overall how society pushes a confusing food agendaFood is a reward.  Food is a punishment.  Food is confusing as fuck and I’d rather just view it as food.

But as much as I’d like to say that I follow all the “rules” and do right by my body at all times, I slip a lot.  Unhealthy food habits creep their way into my regimen almost unnoticed at times.  (Sneaky little bastards.)  For example, about a year ago, I actively tried to cut back on the amount of coffee I was drinking, but after a few months of half-decaf and picking water over iced coffee, I found myself reintroducing that second, and then third cup of caffeinated awesomeness.  (Because that’s a huge problem for me – coffee is awesome, and I like it very much.)  But despite how much I might want to snuggle up with a giant iced coffee, it’s bad news to consume so much of the stuff.  I need to scale back.

I also have a tendency to defer to things like prepackaged and pre-measured yogurt in order to take a crack at keeping blood sugars from going nuts.  If I need a snack, it’s easier to reach for something already carb-counted, but that’s not always the best plan because I’d much rather avoid pre-packaged, if I can.

I won’t even mention the gluten-free journey, because that’s been an exercise in dedication and frustration all unto itself.

Basically, I’ve worked hard to cut out some bad eating habits, and some of them are working their way back in.  This trend needs to be met with an “Oh hell no” because I work too hard at being healthy to derail efforts by something as daily as food.  I need to revisit food logging, even for just a few days, to realign my brain with my mouth and hands.

In the past, I used an app to log food choices, but this time, I have a sharpie marker, a piece of printer paper, and a firm resolve.  I need to see my choices in black-and-white (or, specifically, teal-and-white, as the teal sharpie marker is really lovely) so I can make better choices.  Otherwise, I’ll end up swimming in an endless pool of iced coffee and protein bars.

… which kind of sounds delicious, aside from the whole “protein bars looking like poop” thing.  I think I need to stop this post now, because it just derailed.

Spinach and Mushroom Fritatta.

I can’t cook.  Except when I can.

Turns out following a recipe is a helpful way to make a graceful transition between “fridge full of ingredients” and “actual, edible outcome.”  And a recipe that’s reasonably low in carbs, high in eggs (I frigging love eggs), and tastes good works for me.  Stolen from AllRecipes, I tweaked my version of this mushroom and spinach fritatta a little bit based on what was in the house and what I wanted in my face:


  • 3/4 cup of fresh, chopped spinach
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped scallions
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings
  • salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl (preferably one that the cats haven’t been eating from), whisk the eggs and ricotta cheese together until smooth.  Then mix in the seasonings, then the spinach, and then the mushrooms.  The whole bowl sholud become a weird, pudding-ish mixture of breakfast bits.

Coat a 9-inch pie plate with a little bit of olive oil to keep the fritatta from sticking and then pour in the egg and spinach mixture.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the top is solid.  For me, it took 32 minutes to cook in full, and I let it sit for half an hour before we cut it and served it.  (I think if we cut it up any earlier, it wouldn’t have settled and had been a little soggy.)

Carb-wise (and according to the AllRecipes version), this dish serves up about 6 grams of carbs per slice.

The verdict at the brunch we hosted was that this spinach and mushroom fritatta was a hit.  “It’s delicious,” said one of our friends.  And that’s when I refused to tell them I made it, because I didn’t want my reputation to cause them to second guess their taste buds.



Looking Back: Dining Out.

I love going out on the town for the night
And having a meal by a soft candlelight
(Because I know, at a restaurant, meals are yummy;
For the food isn’t prepped, touched, or cooked by me.)
But to dine with type 1 can be quite complex,
Because restaurant food has a whole set of specs
That require some SWAG’ing; carbs seem to inflate
As you wonder what’s really down there on your plate.

“Excuse me, but does the salmon have a glaze?
Is it covered in sugary, caramelized haze?”
I ask of the waiter, tuning in as he states
That the glaze can be brought on the side of my plate.
My soda arrives, and I ask, “Is this diet?”
As I bring the glass up to my lips just to try it.
“It is,” he responds, and he watches my face
As I try to assess the fizzy soda’s taste.

Moments later, I notice that something is wrong.
I’m not sure my thoughts are where they belong.
My brain is all foggy, my hands feel so weak,
I’m having some trouble with words while I speak.
Did I bolus too early?  Did I miscount the carbs?
Is it something I did to make Dex go on guard?
There are glucose tabs right here in my purse,
But I know that I’ll feel better if I have juice first.

My husband is almost up, quick as a blink
To go to the bar to grab something to drink.
But it’s not a big deal; I chomp tabs while I wait
For the waiter to come back and fill up our plates.
He comes back for our order, but I’m not quite ready.
My Dex shows my numbers as slightly unsteady,
With double-down arrows beaming; so unkind.
“Can I have an orange juice, if you don’t mind?”

I see his confusion. The gears start to grind.
I hear the thoughts churning inside of his mind.
“She didn’t want glaze, and her soda was diet.
The bread was right here, but she didn’t try it.
What’s up with this girl? Selective sweet tooth?
Whatever. My job is to bring her the juice.”
He walks off to the bar to bring back something sweeter
While I quickly confirm the Dex trend with my meter.

“Here you go,” and I down it in one giant gulp,
Not caring for class, or a straw, or the pulp.
“Thank you so very much,” I reply with a smile
And try to regain some semblance of my mind.
My husband distracts me with soft, gentle chatter
While the orange juice fixes the thing that’s the matter.
And the moments that pass are quick in real life
But it’s hard for him, watching a low change his wife.

A few minutes later, things are as they were.
I’m no longer sounding all drunk, with a slur.
The waiter comes back with his menu pad out
And we tell him the entrees we’d like to try out.
Our date night moves forward without any trouble.
(The waiter’s confused, but i don’t burst his bubble.)
It’s not a big deal; it was just a quick thing.
But it’s always a riddle, what diabetes will bring.

(This poem was originally published back in January 2012.  It’s from the past.  And I am in Canada, where the poutine lives.)


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