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In the Test Kitchen: Comfort Food

A family cook tries out diabetes-friendlier recipes

I didn’t start cooking until I became a mom eleven years ago, and since then, I’ve had to swallow my pride and admit to a lack of expertise. When I have a question, I call my mom, who is a fabulous and unfussy cook, or my husband, who has an answer to everything (and whose older brother is a professional chef). I’m happy and proud to admit that after much trial and error, I’ve become a pretty good cook. I make breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all sorts of snacks throughout the week. To me, home cooking feels healthier, since I can control the ingredients of each dish, and it is also less expensive and less stressful for our family of five. Like most kids, mine are somewhat picky about the vegetables they eat (steamed broccoli and carrots – not too mushy!), and my goal going forward is to introduce them to a wider variety of veggies.  

So I was excited to open The Diabetes Comfort Food Cookbook, Foods to Fill You Up, Not Out! by Robyn Webb, MS, published by the American Diabetes Association, and discover helpful tips and time-saving advice, as well as tasty recipes. This user-friendly cookbook promises to “not only make classic comfort foods healthier and diabetes friendly, it makes them a snap to prepare.” I found it lived up to the promise!

As someone who has lived with type 1 diabetes for twenty-six years, I was intrigued by the book’s title because the phrase “comfort food” evokes dishes I tend to avoid. I think of grilled cheese and my grandmother’s mashed potatoes, both childhood favorites which stopped agreeing with me. I was curious and excited when I leafed through this book and found a recipe for grilled cheese that contains a mere twelve grams of carbs! I couldn’t wait to give it a try.

The Testing Begins!

I tend to choose cookbooks that have many mouth-watering photographs, which helps me to decide if I want to prepare a recipe or not, and this one could have used a few more. In the end, though, it’s all about the recipes. And I’m happy to report that I folded over a dozen pages of The Diabetes Comfort Food Cookbook on my first read-through. I knew this book would be a good resource and not just sit on my shelf and gather dust! Not only are there a variety of tasty-sounding dishes, the recipes are generally uncomplicated, the directions are easy-to-follow, and even though the emphasis is on “comfort,” the end result is healthful eating.

The best part of this book for people living with diabetes is the author’s emphasis on enjoying food. In her introduction, Robyn Webb writes, “Eating well is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Health to me is more than a great checkup with your doctor or a number on a scale. Just because you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes doesn’t mean you have to be scared of comfort foods. ” Hear! Hear!

My intention was to try something new, but I went ahead and cooked the roasted vegetables recipe, because that’s one of my all-time favorite dishes. The recipe was different from the one I usually make, because it included sweet potatoes, which are relatively high in carb content. The result was delicious, looked beautiful, and got a thumbs-up from my husband and two out of three of my boys (the toddler doesn’t like much of anything except peanut butter – he’s a tough critic!). I also made the book’s version of Jamaican Chicken Thighs and, for dessert, Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies.

All three dishes were easy to make, which is an important factor in my busy day. My toddler helped with the cookies and all three boys thought they were delicious! They were also proud that they were eating “mom-approved” cookies. The cookies came in at nine grams of carb each and I appreciated the author’s position regarding dessert: “I’d rather create satisfying smaller desserts made with real ingredients, than artificially sweetening a huge portion.”

I plan to buy this book for my sister, a great cook and fellow-person living with diabetes. There are so many recipes that I look forward to preparing for my family in the next few months. As we move into fall, the next recipe on my list is Roasted Carrot Soup. Yum!

For more stories in the Test Kitchen series, visit The DX archive.

Amy Stockwell Mercer is a freelance writer with type 1 diabetes living in Charleston, SC. She blogs at re-Defining Diabetes and her work can be found in a variety of publications including Charleston Magazine, The City Paper, Diabetes Health, and Literary Mama. Amy Stockwell Mercer is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

© 2012 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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