Diabetes Diet #36: Diabetes and Happiness

Diabetes Recipes:

Tomato Salsa with Pita Chips
Whole Wheat Pita Bread
Lean Burgers
Spaghetti Marinara

At Tai Chi class this morning we did a series of movements called the “Nine Temple” exercises adopted from a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. The movements are easy to perform. They are both graceful and invigorating. Afterward we did some “qui gong” breathing which is a series of slow deliberate movements matching nasal breathing with gentle stretching. At the end of class, we stood like trees with arms outstretched as though wrapped around a huge tree trunk, in other words, we became tree huggers. We held the pose for 8 minutes, following even inhalations and exhalations. When we finished I found myself grinning with an almost giddy smile. I was very happy.

And what was this burst of happiness all about? It was the simple realization that after 44 years of living with diabetes, things were going very well. With the exception of occasional blood sugar excursions that come with the territory and the one complication of retinopathy that occurred in the mid-seventies and never returned, diabetes has been an ally and companion. It’s all about following the recipe.

Exercise is a major ingredient in the recipe. Finding something that you really enjoy, look forward to each day and have a good time doing is the obvious secret to this very good addiction. I have run down many different trails imagining myself a marathon runner, ballerina, mountain biker, even an Irish step dancer. They all fizzled out, once I realized that it was like going to a job. Over time the activities I have stuck with are distance walking, dance and tai chi. Each one brings particular joy and happiness into a day. Another ingredient in the mix is medication or insulin. In the last 10-15 years, science and technology have stepped up to the plate in developing more and better ways to manage diabetes. I have been on an insulin pump for about 8 years. It was John Walsh, webmaster of this site who said something that triggered my conversion to pump therapy. I had been quite cocky in an attitude that nothing could be better than the 5 daily combination of shots I was on. He asked me a simple question that reverberated in my psyche “When are you getting out of the 18-wheeler and jumping into a Mazaratti?” He asked with a beckoning smile and rakish twinkle. Oh boy! It was time to make a change. Insulin pump therapy and all the care that goes along with it have made a healthy and positive difference in my diabetes management and wellbeing. Thanks, John! The third ingredient in the recipe for living well with diabetes is food, my favorite subject. Having been in and around the food business for years, it is interesting and sometimes a bit daunting, to see all the changes from fad diets, carbohydrate and fat controversies, the waxing and waning of culinary stars and charlatans only to return to the good, solid basics of, from earth to table. At our CYBER KITCHEN table, we’ll prepare some classic basics that are simple, reliable, fresh and flavorful, as all good food should be.

Cyber Kitchen Recipes

After taking an unscientific study among friends and associates on favorite classic recipes, these are the ones people seem to like most and feel comfortable whipping up in the home kitchen.

Tomato Salsa with Pita Chips
This is a terrific last-minute summer dessert to throw on the grill with no fuss at all.

2 fresh ripe tomatoes cut into small chunks
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green chili pepper or jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 T. each: chopped flat-leaf parsley and cilantro
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 t. fresh lime juice and grated zest from 1 lime
½ t. ground cumin

  1. Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and let stand for ½ hour before serving in order to allow flavors to develop.

Nutritional Value: ¼ cup = 20 cal, 3 carb grams, 0 fat, 0 protein, 1.5 grams fiber

Whole Wheat Pita Bread
You can buy whole wheat pita bread in any market, BUT why not be a little adventurous in the kitchen and try your hand at making your own. It is quite easy and, there is a lot to be said about the difference between homemade and store-bought……

2 ¼ cups unbleached flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 t. salt
1 pkg. dry yeast
1 t. honey

  1. In a small bowl add yeast and honey to 1 cup warm water (115 degrees). Let sit until foamy.
  2. Meanwhile, mix flours and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add yeast mix. Stir vigorously to form a ball.
  3. Knead dough until smooth, then spray a mixing bowl with oil and place dough in a bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rest for 1- 2 hours.
  4. Punch dough down and divide it into 12 small balls. On floured board, roll each ball out to flatten to a 5″ circle. Cover and let rest for ½ hour.
  5. Place on cookie sheets and bake in 500° oven for 5 minutes. Any leftover bread may be stored airtight in the fridge.

Nutritional Value: 1 pita = 110 cal, 3 grams protein, 22 carb grams, 1.5 fiber

Quesadillas as so popular because they taste great and are so easy to prepare.

2 8″ flour tortillas
3/4 cup shredded spicy Jack cheese
½ cup of salsa
2 T. chopped cilantro

  1. Spray an 8″ or 9″ pan with cooking spray. Warm pan over medium heat and place 1 tortilla in the pan. Spread cheese over evenly. Same with ½ of salsa. Weigh down by pressing another tortilla on top.
  2. Cook for about 3-4 minutes and turn. Finish cooking the same way on the flip side.
  3. Cut into 8 wedges and top each with remaining salsa and garnish of fresh cilantro.

Nutritional Value: 4 wedges = 290 cal, 12 grams protein, 24 carb grams, 18 fat grams

Lean Burgers
Yes, indeed we all love a juicy thick burger once in a while. Please be very sure to choose the leanest possible meat you can find.

1 lb very lean ground beef
1 small minced yellow onion
1 t. minced jalapeno pepper
¼ t. ground cumin
1 T. shredded cheddar per burger
fresh sliced tomato
toasted whole wheat English muffin
optional: salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Mix all ingredients and form into 4 thick patties. Grill or broil 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Top with cheese. Allow cheese to melt for a few seconds, place burger on English muffin half, add sliced tomato and top with another half of muffin for a delectable treat.

Nutritional Value: 1 burger = 290 cal, 20 grams protein, 29 carb grams, 12 fat grams

Spaghetti Marinara (4 Servings)
Who on the planet doesn’t love a bowl of spaghetti with a zesty tomato sauce? Sure, there are some excellent bottled sauces on the market at specialty food shops, but making your own sauce is part of the earth to table process that connects you with the foods you eat.

1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small shallots, finely chopped
4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 T. rinsed and drained capers
¼ cup fresh or 2 t. dried: oregano, basil, parsley
salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste
1 T. grated parmesan cheese, freshly grated if possible
½ lb. spaghetti or linguine

  1. Over low heat in a skillet, warm oil, add garlic and shallots. Cook until soft but not brown.
  2. Add tomatoes, capers, herbs, and spices. Cook, stirring regularly for 15 minutes. The sauce will be chunky. If you prefer a smooth sauce, simply run it through the food processor for a minute. Keep warm on the stove while pasta cooks.
  3. Cook spaghetti in plenty of rapidly boiling water. If you are not salt-sensitive add a T. of salt to cooking water for flavor. Drain well and divide evenly into 4 pasta bowls. Top with sauce and sprinkle with cheese. How perfect!

Nutritional Value: 1 ½ cup serving = 270 cal, 45 carb grams, 5 grams fat, 8 grams protein, 3 grams fiber