The Diabetic-Compatible Un-potato

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This guest post was written by type 2 diabetic and chef Ward Alper. It originally appeared on his website, The Decadent Diabetic, and was republished on Information About Diabetes with permission.

A few months ago, one of my favorite personalities from the entertainment world passed away. No, not from diabetes.

Geoffrey Holder was a dancer, actor, stage director, choreographer, painter and, for me and millions of others of a certain age, The Un-Cola Man. He was the spokesman for a popular soft drink that was not made from cola nuts. Bigger than life, he sat in a straw fan chair and spoke about the delights of this soft drink. He spoke about it not as a substitute or replacement for something better, but as something “maaahvalous,” and that was followed by his Caribbean baritone laugh. The “un-cola” was not a poor substitute for something else, but something wonderful on its own merits.

The Un-potato

In the spirit of Geoffrey Holder, I want to once again “hawk” the wonders of cauliflower – not as a substitute for potatoes or rice but as something “maaahvalous” on its own merit.

It is not that we can’t have potatoes; a small portion of well- seasoned potatoes is possible for most of us with diabetes. It can be a very satisfying (if small) side dish. A 4-6 ounce portion of my oven "smashed spuds" is enough to satisfy most appetites, especially if there are other things on the plate in larger quantities.

However, if you use the same recipe for cauliflower that I do for the potatoes, you can have at least twice as much. Does it taste the same? No! It tastes different. It might be what I would call the un- smashed spuds. It has a rich flavor all its own.

Cooking with Cauliflower

One of my readers, Sue H., calls me the “Cauliflower ambassador to the world.” I happily accept that title.

Recently I took an old recipe for potato and ham casserole and again used cauliflower instead of white potatoes. The result was not only different from the original recipe but also much better. Forgetting that there are less carbohydrates and more vitamins, minerals and FIBER, this dish stands on its own flavor value. It does not need to cook as long to soften the cauliflower as it does to soften the potato, so it tastes somehow fresher. You adjust the “crunchiness” to your own preferences (and those of the kids).

Making cauliflower salad is another way to make use of the un-potato. I had a teenager taste one of my salads, and he declared it better than potato salad. He said it is more interesting. It was my same old recipe from years ago with the one change to cauliflower, AND I had a pile of it on my plate for less carbohydrates than the NON-un-potato.

I am a wild fan of bacon and blue cheese. I use those two items anytime I can find a way to work them into a recipe. For the fun of it, I added bacon, blue cheese and sour cream (another favorite) to cauliflower and baked it in the oven as a side dish (recipe below) for a simple baked fish recipe. My whole plate just sang. OK, don’t beat me up for using the fatty and processed bacon; it is a personal choice. Hate blue cheese? Use Swiss cheese instead or even muenster cheese. I wanted something soft as the side dish, so I covered the baking dish. When I want something crunchier, I will leave it uncovered.

I can’t walk away from this subject without mentioning “riced” cauliflower. I am a huge fan of rice. For some dishes (especially Asian and Latin flavors), it had to be rice. Grating up the cauliflower and sautéing it with a little onion and chicken broth gives you a similar texture to rice. It is still a neutral flavor to balance the sharp flavors in the protein, and again more on your plate with all the benefits of – dare I say it – a vegetable. Mix in some peppers, garlic or herbs you like, sundried tomatoes or even nuts, and make it “maaahvalous.”

Enjoy, be happy, be healthy, be creative, and BE DECADENT!

Click here for Ward's Cauliflower, Bacon & Blue recipe!

Get more nutrition tips and recipe ideas from Ward Alper, the Decadent Diabetic, on his website.