Diabetes Cooking Made Easier

Pot for Cooking

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.

I want to be absolutely clear that I know that most of the people reading along here find that cooking foods that work to manage your diabetes is a royal pain in the backside. I also want you to know that six years ago, I felt EXACTLY the same. I always say it will get easier, and I truly believe that it did.

For me it got easier faster than most because I not only like to cook, but am interested in cooking. For me food preparation is no different than being interested in say, sports (something I am terrible at) or any pastime you enjoy. If you tried to get me to play a round of golf you would get the same kind of response I get from a lot of readers. Golf may be great exercise and a super social pastime, but not for me. Oh, it is too much ….. For some of you, many recipes have too many ingredients or too many steps. For me I see it as no different than deciding what club to use or checking out the lay of the land for that last putt into the hole.

Cooking for some and golf for some can also be about the 19th hole. That great satisfaction of a game well played or a recipe well cooked. It is the time to celebrate or bemoan the events of the day. That great shot or the sand trap. That luscious dinner or the burnt cabbage. It is all a part of life. You can take lessons or practice to improve your game and you can read recipes and practice to improve your dinner.

It's in the Small Things

Every chef I have ever seen or met has taught me something. Usually it is something very small that makes everything else easier. Ina Garten is big on doing it ahead. She is right. If you can do some of it a day in advance, it makes the finish easier. Many of my recipes for meats and chicken involve marinating in a flavored liquid. To quote Ina: “how easy is that?” Making the crust for a tart the day before makes it a snap to fill and put into the oven. I make the “flour” for my cakes a day in advance by combining ALL the dry ingredients together and keeping them in an air tight container. The next day I add the wet ingredients, mix and pop it into the oven.

I am the king of the freezer. I see no reason to make soups, stews, and casseroles for only one meal. I make them in big batches and freeze the rest. Bottom line, they are better for the freezing and defrosting. My one exception to this is fish. The freezer forms ice crystals in the fish and in defrosting, the crystals break down the flesh.

Simplify Your Recipes

Master one recipe and apply it to others. If you come up with a recipe or a method for one dish, apply it to others. It usually works as well for one as it does for another. For example: In the winter, I like to cook my steaks on top of the stove to seal in the juices and then finish them off in a HOT oven. It also works great for pork chops and meaty fish like tuna and swordfish. In truth, it’s as easy as cooking on the grill. The best part is you don’t have to stomp through the snow. What works for the steak works for the pork and the fish.

One of my best desserts is a flavored crème. It came from Giada De Laurentis. It is basically sweetened ricotta cheese (think cheesecake or cannoli). Hers is flavored with espresso; I do them in vanilla, chocolate, berry and lemon.
Another example is my favorite marinade of olive oil, sherry, and mustard. I use it for everything. Great on chicken, steak, pork or, with a little lemon added, fish. And that addition of lemon also works for chicken.

Substitutions Can Be Awesome

If you are watching your sodium intake as many of us are, it is probably a good idea to seek out a lower sodium option for say, the chicken broth you use in your recipes. The same is true for finding replacements for some of the starchy foods, such as pasta and potatoes. You can use whipped cauliflower as a replacement (notice I did NOT say substitute) for mashed potatoes. Once you realize how good that is, DON’T stop. Cauliflower makes great gratins, cold salads for picnics, and even a version of tater tots. And I have not even mentioned cauliflower as a replacement for rice. It works really well, especially in my recipe below for fried “riced” cauliflower and shrimp.

The world is yours, go out and cook. Me…well I am thinking about learning to play golf. Do I HAVE to wear plaid pants????

ENJOY!!! Be happy, be healthy, be creative, and BE DECADENT! –w!

Click here for Ward's Fried "Riced" Cauliflower with Shrimp recipe!

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

Photo credit: CileSuns92 on Flickr