You GOTTA Be a Star Baby, to Be on MY Plate

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Just because we have diabetes, it does NOT mean we have to eat anything that is less than scrumptious! I know a lot of you out there are unhappy about the restrictions on what you can eat and how much of what you loved and remembered will be ok to eat. Certainly this is the way I felt back eight (8) years ago. Can it really be that long?

It took a long time for my sense of loss to be turned into something positive. When I realized that if I chose to be a healthy person with diabetes, I had to find all kinds of ways of making it happen.

An early article I wrote was about salads. You know them. It was about the salad with steak, salad with chicken, salad with fish, and the salad all by itself. The gist of the piece was about making the salads in different ways each time, making the salad take the starring role on your diabetes-compatible plate. I still think it can be a good idea. However, no matter how inventive I was in creating new salad combinations and dressings, it was still salad. I felt the loss of everything else, and was fast becoming bored with SALAD.

What I forgot is that steak, chicken, fish was the natural star of the plate and the salads could be in a supporting but scrumptious role. Sometimes the supporting role can steal the show. Think Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey. She takes what she is given and runs away with it. But also think Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Jodie Foster and for those of you old enough, Bette Davis. These are actresses that take the “meat” of the role and rule with it, making each role unique and very special.

Seasoning, and the way it is cooked and presented takes your protein(s) and stands out on a plate missing some of the ”old” extras.

That being said, what I discovered is that most times the star, no matter how big the name, needs something to work with.

It is not a new idea. Any chef will tell you that the main part of a dish has to be outstanding. If you are going to plop a slab-o-meat, (chicken, fish, pork) on a plate without a little assistance, your meal is going to be pretty dull. Surprise, this is as true for people with or without diabetes. Some of us, like my buddy Jim and my aunt Kate, like “plain” food. All the “fancy” stuff is lost on them. That is until they taste it. That is IF they are willing to taste it.

As for fancy, you don’t have to start out with a beef (or any of the others) cooked in a complicated wine reduction (cooking the juices down to about half the original amount to concentrate the flavors). However, a touch of wine added to a marinade for a protein is an easy (toe in the water) way of expanding your taste buds.

I was as guilty as others. I thought I would not like a spice or an herb or a flavor added to x, y, z. Sometimes I was right. It was not the right flavor for my palate. I like thyme and rosemary well enough, but not on everything. Both are strong flavors and need some other flavors to stand up to them. Most times I was wrong. It is all about being open to it. Remember if you don’t like it, you NEVER have to eat it again. Better yet, alter it to suit your tastebuds.

Too many of us are like my late sister and aunt. “I don’t like: sausage” or “I don’t like avocado” or this or that. It was almost always because they never tried it.
One of my favorites is that many people think that red bell peppers are hotter than green. If they tried the red they would KNOW it is just the opposite. In fact, bell peppers, regardless of color, are sweet rather than hot. The point is that if you never try something, you won’t know how good or bad it tastes.

Before you sit down to your next dull meal; think about the possibilities of giving the dull thing something to work with. All of your basic proteins like a lot of flavors to work with. Meats like very herby flavors like tarragon, rosemary, thyme, as does chicken. As a rule meats don’t benefit from citrus. Even that has exceptions like lamb and veal. Chicken loves citrus flavors as well. Chicken is now so overbred it is dull (tasteless), it benefits from big flavors. Curry comes to mind. Before you decide that basil is JUST for tomato sauces, try some fresh basil on that boring old chicken. For the “ugh” fish lovers among you try citrusy flavors like lemon, dill, lemon thyme and, yes, basil.

Start out small. Give them (your foods) something to enhance their natural goodness. Each new thing you try gives you a totally new dish. Combine a few flavors in different ways and there are infinite ways to make the dull and ordinary star on you plate. In no time at all you will have helped a food “star” to be born.
When your NEW diabetes-compatible main dish gets raves from the folks at your table, don’t forget to thank the little flavors that helped it and you along the way.

Enjoy, be happy, be Healthy, BE DECADENT!

Source: Ward Alper, The Decadent Diabetic