Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas with Maple-Glazed Pumpkin-Walnut Muffins

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone had a great Christmas and were able to stay warm and dry.

When I was in college, I thought it would be nice if I made breakfast for everyone on Christmas morning. I ordered a special pancake mix, had real maple syrup, purchased sausages and tried to find a special coffee. During those days, none of us thought much about calories, carbohydrates, fats, or...well...much of anything else. Still, the family liked it...sort of.

I still haven't given up on making breakfast for the family for Christmas morning and this year was no different.  This year, though, I decided to make muffins. Maple-glazed pumpkin-walnut muffins. I've made them before and people who love pumpkin tend to love these muffins. These muffins are incredibly easy to make and quite rich in flavor. I highly recommend them. The recipe is from the American Diabetes Association's The Big Book of Diabetic Desserts:

1/3c chopped walnuts
3/4c all-purpose flour
3/4c whole wheat flour
1/2c light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1c solid-pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/3c plain low-fat yogurt
1/4c canola oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup (REAL maple syrup preferred, NOT a low-sugar substitute or a maple-flavored syrup)

Preheat the oven to 350F (176.7C). Line muffin tin with liners and coat the liners with cooking spray, set aside. Place walnuts on baking pan, single layer, and bake until lightly toasted, about 5-8 minutes. Set aside to cool and keep oven at same temperature.

Combine the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk until well-blended. My aunt sent some organic graham flour with our Christmas presents, which I used instead of the normal whole wheat flour. It's a wonderful substitute and I highly recommend using graham flour in place of the standard whole wheat flour.

Next, combine pumpkin, yogurt, oil, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl, whisking the ingredients until smooth. Carefully add flour mixture and walnuts to the mixture and stir with wooden spoon (my preference) until just moistened. This last instruction is the key to making tender muffins. If you over-stir muffin batter, muffins will become tough.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, dividing the batter equally between each muffin and bake for 15-17 minutes or until the tops of the muffins are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes clean.
Immediately brush the tops of the muffins with the maple syrup and allow the muffins to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5-8 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely on the rack. Serve muffins warm or at room temperature. These muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen for 2 months. Makes 12 muffins or 24 mini-muffins. If making mini muffins, bake for 8-12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes clean. Watch mini muffins closely, as they can burn quickly.
Each muffin has 174 calories, 8g fat, 24g carbohydrates, and 3g protein. Because of the whole wheat flour, these muffins aren't as bright orange as most pumpkin muffins are. While the maple is brushed on the top and not baked in, it's not an overwhelming flavor. Adding extra pumpkin pie spice makes for a spicier muffin, more like a pumpkin pie, and doesn't add any calories. There are lots of ways to make these muffins your own, so don't be afraid to experiment!
Until next time, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chicken Delicious and Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of my favorite dinners when I was growing up was a roasted chicken meal my mother called "Chicken Delicious". Back then, it was made with skin-on chicken (fat), Italian pork sausage (meaning high fat), garlic salt and salt (meaning high sodium), and loads of oil (adding more fat). Chicken may be one of the "good meats", but the way this was made "back in the day" certainly leaves a lot to be desired in this day and age of limiting salt and fat intake!

So, how to make an old favorite but with less of today's "no-nos"? I made a newer version of chicken delicious tonight that reduces the fat and salt but still maintains the taste. Preheat oven to 425F (218.3C). Start with about 1.5 lbs of frozen or 1.25 lbs of fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts and 1 lb low fat Italian turkey sausage. Defrost the frozen chicken and pat dry. Peel and slice 6 medium russet potatoes and place in roasting pan or casserole dish. Mix 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in small bowl. Sprinkle half mix over potatoes. Slice turkey sausage into small pieces and place sausage and chicken on top of potatoes. Sprinkle the rest of the spices over the top of the chicken and then pour 1/4 cup of canola (or olive) oil over the chicken and sausage. Cover with either foil or lid, place in oven and cook for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove foil or lid and reduce heat to 375F (190.55C), cooking for 30 minutes or until potatoes are browned. Serve with a green salad and looks like this:

When done right, this is very good. If you overdo the oil or fail to defrost the chicken fully, the potatoes will turn to mush and it's not as good. On the other hand, if you overcook this dish, which is also easy to do, it can be dry and tasteless. When done right, the chicken is moist while the potatoes have a crisp edge. It's not the easiest to do, so I encourage people to not give up if the first try does not come out perfect.

I also found a recipe for Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies that I decided to try from Diabetic Cooking magazine. It looked good and we finished the Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies I made last week, so I figured I'd give it a try. It calls for:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Splenda
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa or dark cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons skim milk
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 375F (190.55C). Beat margarine, sugar and sugar substitute with electric mixer on medium speed. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk to the margarine-sugar mix and beat until well-blended. Stir in chocolate chips and drop by teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, baking for 7-9 minutes, until just set. Remove to wire rack and cool completely.

I found that if you use an actual teaspoon measure and scoop the batter out by a level teaspoon, you can make nearly 6 dozen cookies as opposed to the 3 dozen the recipe says it makes. That means 4 cookies would constitute a serving and have 107 calories, 6g fat, 25mg cholesterol, 11g carbohydrate, 1g dietary fiber, 2g protein, and 57mg sodium. After baking, if you don't flatten them out, they look like this:

This batch had a light texture that I like -- kind of like a meringue cookie, though they are definitely a drop cookie. I had barely gotten the cookies out of the oven when my brother started eating them, so I would say they are definitely going to stay on my list of cookies to make.

Hope everyone out there is enjoying their holidays and, if you're in the path of some nasty winter weather, staying warm and dry!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Holiday Baking

Twenty years ago was my first year with diabetes, and it was my first Christmas with diabetes. Like most people in their first year of diagnosis, I was finding the holidays very difficult, since I felt as if I couldn't have any of the traditional favorites, including cookies. It was in that frame of mind that I went to a holiday open house/holiday party at a local hospital for people with diabetes. Three things happened: (1) I was able to sample some delicious desserts that were appropriate for people with diabetes and get the recipes for them, (2) I won a copy of The Art of Cooking for the Diabetic, and (3) I bought the ADA's Holiday Cookbook. That helped me to believe that, yes indeed, I could have holiday treats and still manage my diabetes.

So, here we are, once again in the holiday season and on the only decent day this weekend, and I decided to make cookies. Specifically, I made Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies -- a double batch. This recipe was originally published in the November/December 2008 issue of Diabetes Cooking. The ingredients are as follows:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon shortening
4 squares (1 oz each) semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons molasses
1 egg
Prepared icing (optional)

It's a fairly standard cut-out cookie recipe. Essentially, you combine the dry ingredients: flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, ginger, baking soda, ground cinnamon, salt, and ground black pepper in a bowl and sift together, resulting in this:

Next, beat the butter, both sugars, and shortening in a large bowl with mixer set on a medium speed until creamy. Add the chocolate and beat again until blended, then add the molasses and egg, beat a third time until this is well blended.

I made several substitutions in this recipe, some more radical than others. For instance, I substituted margarine for the butter (usually not a big deal, except for those who like the true butter flavor). I also substituted margarine for the shortening, since we do not have shortening in the house. I also found out that we did not have any semisweet chocolate squares in the house, so instead of the squares, I used semisweet mini chocolate chips:

FYI: I melt chocolate on the stove, not in the microwave. I've found that melting chocolate in the microwave gives it a funny consistency, and as long as you stir the chocolate consistently while it's melting, I find I like chocolate that's been melted on the stove better.

I also didn't have any molasses and that is a much bigger problem. It's a liquid, which is needed to be able to form the cookies. It has a specific flavor, so you can't just use any old substitute. What I did was substitute brown sugar and water for the molasses. Brown sugar has its color and flavor from (get this) molasses, so it makes sense to use it. It also has the same number of calories and carbohydrates per tablespoon. So, I used 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (per batch) and 1 1/2 tablespoons water to create a syrup. I've done this before and it works quite well.

After mixing the dry and wet ingredients together thoroughly, divide the dough in half and make each half into a disc shape. Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

When ready, preheat the oven to 350F and roll out 1 of the discs between sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4" thickness. Cut into shapes, place on ungreased cookie sheet and then refrigerate once again for at least 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are set. Cool on sheet for 5 minutes and then place on rack to cool completely. Decorate with icing if desired.

I found that a double batch made 5 1/4 dozen (63) cookies -- a LOT of cookies! These cookies are neighbor-approved: My friend and neighbor, Pam (who is not diabetic, but whose mother is diabetic), taste tested these cookies this evening and she thought they were quite good, though not as sweet as she usually makes. That's fine, since I do not have as big a sweet tooth as I did before I developed diabetes. Here's the final result:

Very tasty cookies, even without icing! If you're stuck at home because of the weather and want something to do, these cookies are fairly easy to make and I enjoy them. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I will be going to visit family for Thanksgiving, starting tomorrow, so I have been busy baking pies for the big day. That way, I will have the desserts made and on Thursday, I'll be able to focus solely on the dinner. Naturally, I made my classic low calorie pumpkin pie, this time with Stevia sweetener instead of Splenda. I've never baked with Stevia, so Thursday will be a bit of a new experience for me, too! Here's a shot of my pumpkin pie:

It's a little darker than in the past, but I used brown sugar for this pie instead of regular sugar, which does add a little more color. The recipe is here.

The other "pie" I made was a cranberry-apple crumble. I like fresh fruit desserts and this is one that is loaded with flavor, though far less calories than a traditional crumble.  I used about 2 lbs of peeled, chopped apples and 1 1/2 cups of cranberries for the fruit, tossing them with 1/2 cup sugar, 8 packets Stevia, 2 Tbs lemon juice, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp clove, and 1/2 tsp ginger. Pour the entire mix into a pie tin sprayed with nonstick spray, cover with foil and bake in a 375F oven for 45 minutes. To make the crumble, combine 1/4c flour, 1/2c brown sugar, 2 Tbs light stick margarine, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Blend margarine into the mix until crumbly and then add 1/4c quick cook oats. When the first 45 minutes is up, uncover the fruit and sprinkle the crumble on top. Return to oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until the crumble is golden brown. It looks like this:

I got the basic recipe from the ADA's book Diabetes Meals On $7 a Day -- Or Less! I recommend this book, as it has a number of very basic and easy recipes that can be modified without much work.

With my modifications, 1/9 of this recipe has 167 calories and approximately 32g of carbohydrates per serving -- only 4g carbohydrates more than the original! Personally, I would have half of the recommended serving or even less, so I could have a taste of that and a taste of the pie without blowing my blood sugars through the roof.

With that, let me say happy Thanksgiving to all my friends! Eat well and remember that even with diabetes, you can still eat deliciously!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tonight: Chili!

Toward the end of last week, it started raining and didn't quit for two days.  That is normally not a problem and certainly should not have been a problem now, since my area was more than 4 inches (15.24cm) under for normal precipitation for the year. Well, in two days, we received more than 11 inches (27.94cm) of rain and are ahead of the normal year-to-date totals by 6 inches! The garden has finally dried out and when I thought about what I wanted for dinner, I decided to make chili with some of the fresh vegetables that are still growing.

With the exception of the onion, all the vegetables pictured here were grown in my backyard! That does include the celery, which, as I found is very difficult to  grow.

My chili recipe is fairly simple, though not for those who like sweeter chilis. Chop celery, pepper, and onion small and place in pan coated with nonstick spray.  Add 1 lb ground beef, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and, if desired, garlic powder (use fresh minced garlic for a fresher flavor).  Cook beef thoroughly and make sure vegetables are tender.

While the beef and vegetables are cooking, drain and rinse 1 can of kidney beans. This step is important for people with diabetes!! Most canned kidney beans on the market are canned in heavy syrup and draining and rinsing removes the vast majority of the syrup, which lessens both the calories and carbohydrate counts.  So PLEASE do not skip this step! 

Transfer the beef and vegetables to a soup pot, add the beans, and add a can of diced tomatoes. Then, add 1 cup of beef broth -- this helps replace the liquid lost from draining the kidney beans. Add 1 Tablespoon chili powder, 1 Teaspoon garlic powder, 1 Teaspoon oregano, 2 Tablespoons dried parsley, 1 Teaspoon salt, 1 Teaspoon black pepper, and 1/8 Teaspoon ground red pepper to the pot. Bring to near boil on medium high heat, turn down and simmer for about an hour before serving.

I find that while this is very tasty the same day, its heat increases the next day. One serving is approximately 3/4 cup. The combination of tomatoes, onions, peppers, and celery gives this version nearly a full serving of vegetables, the beans have about 15 grams carbs and if you use 90% lean ground beef, this is a low fat, high fiber, tasty meal that, on a cool fall day, will warm your insides!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tonight's Dinner: Chicken and Wine Sauce

I know it's been a while, but while I was making dinner today, I decided to see how well my new camera takes food pictures. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the photos turned out! They are much better than my old camera. So, without further ado, here's tonight's dinner: Chicken and Wine Sauce.

The recipe comes from the cookbook, Diabetic Living: Our Best Diabetic Living Recipes.  It's one I've made before and I think it's quite good. A lower fat and carbohydrate-controlled version of a classic chicken stew, it's a great meal as the weather turns cooler. Here's a shot of the recipe:

As written, the recipe calls for skinned chicken thighs or drumsticks. While those are a great option for those on a budget, since I like ease, I used frozen skinless, boneless chicken breast tenderloins.  No skinning, no removing bones, just good eating later. Next, I substituted frozen, crinkle cut carrots for fresh carrots, since I didn't have fresh on-hand. It also cuts down on the work, since there's no cutting. Instead of 4 medium red potatoes, I used 2 large russet potatoes. Yes, I know there's a huge difference in the taste of red potatoes and russet potatoes, but from a personal standpoint, I can deal with the difference. Personally, I would say use your favorite potato. Remember that potatoes have approximately 15-18 grams of carbohydrates per 70 gram (~2.5 ounce) serving, so use that when you are calculating your carbs.

Now, while the recipe is called Chicken and wine sauce, unfortunately, I do not have dry white wine in the house. Extra chicken broth makes an easy substitute, though, and if you do not drink or do not happen to have wine available, adding an extra 1/2 cup of chicken broth is a simple way to ensure you have enough liquid in the pot while still having flavor. We also do not use fresh garlic in this house, as there are some who are sensitive to it, so instead of fresh garlic, I used 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder. During the summer, we grow our own parsley, both Italian flat leaf and regular curled parsley, so the parsley in this pot was REALLY fresh! Some thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper round out the seasonings. Here is the pot just before I turned it on to cook for the 4 hours:

After it's cooked and the gravy made, I'll take another picture and post it here. Look for an update soon!

UPDATE, 10:18 PM, 9/14/2013:

 Dinner is finished and consumed! After cooking for about 4 1/2 hours, I removed the vegetables and meat from the pot in order to make the gravy. It's a simple gravy, just 3 tablespoons of margarine and flour each plus the liquid from the pot. Melt the margarine, add the flour, cook for 1 minute and add the liquid, cook for 2 minutes. Easy, right? Well, check out this picture of the gravy:

Note the lumps. Equal parts margarine and flour with heat seem to clump up and when I added the liquid, the clumps remained. It took a lot of wisking to rid the gravy of the lumps. I should have simply melted the margarine, added that to the liquid, and then added the flour while wisking the gravy. Oh well, live and learn.

The vegetables and chicken turned out fine:

I cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, so it was served like a stew. Put the vegetables on the plate, add the chicken, then put a small amount of gravy on top of both the chicken and veggies. Since I served myself only 70g of potatoes and 3 ounces of chicken, I was able to allow myself a small roll with light margarine.
So, if you make this, watch the gravy base. Not only can it easily burn, but if you aren't careful, you could end up with lumpy gravy. Also, make sure you evenly distribute the spices throughout the pot while cooking (should be a no-duh, but sometimes one can forget to stir the pot). Number of carbohydrates in the picture: 17 from roll, 16 from potatoes, ~ 6 from carrots, celery, and onions -- 39 total. Add 15 additional carbohydrate grams for dessert for a total of 54 grams and 3 units of insulin. Not bad for dinner!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the eating!