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In the Test Kitchen

My First Cookbook Review

This is my first time reviewing a cookbook. About the only thing I do regularly in the kitchen is burn my grilled cheese sandwiches, but I’m excited to improve my cooking skills – and try a new cookbook in the process – because I recognize that being capable in the kitchen can be a real asset to blood sugar management.

I want to learn how to master a few basic dishes and then expand my dietary horizons. I also want to learn more about food and how I can use it to help manage my blood sugar and my weight. I want to get comfortable in the kitchen. What better way to start than to dive into a cookbook?

I totally cheated here and picked a dessert cookbook to review.  Hey, if I’m going to get comfortable in the kitchen, I might as well have some fun with my first official experience, right?

The Big Book of Diabetic Desserts

Enter The Big Book of Diabetic Desserts by Jackie Mills, MS, RD – a cookbook packed with all sorts of desserts, from cakes and breads to custards and puddings. While I wish the book had pictures of every dish, the photographs that are included look incredible. Those pictures were a big part of why I chose this book. I also felt less intimidated by the idea of making dessert than trying to prepare something else. I’m sure desserts don’t always land in the easy-to-cook category, but this book featured a lot of recipes that seemed very doable.

In the introduction, Mills writes, very realistically, about needing to plan and budget for these sweet treats in your diabetes meal plan. She doesn’t try to sidestep the issues of living with diabetes and a cookbook on desserts. In fact, as a registered dietician, she goes into detail about what sugar does in a recipe, and how to capitalize on the properties of ingredients like fruits, spices, nuts, and chocolate to help maximize flavor while adding as few carbohydrates as possible. In addition, Mills offers tips and tricks for making life in the kitchen easier, ranging from what to look for in kitchen tools to using parchment paper to make cleanup easier – which I’m doing all the time now!

Each recipe lists the complete nutritional information, including serving size and total servings, just like a food label, as well as information for those using the exchange system.

Making the Recipe

I chose the “Chocolate Crackles” recipe from the “Cookies & Bars” section of the book, and I picked it because the picture looked so delicious!  I also felt comfortable with the ingredient list and the straightforward cooking instructions.

I wanted this to be a fun experience for the family.  I couldn’t convince my son to trade blasting zombies for baking cookies, but my daughter was excited to be involved.  My wife was kind enough to stay nearby for moral support and coaching.

My daughter and I strapped on our aprons (I had to borrow one of hers) and got to work.  We combined, measured, mixed, beat, and whipped all of the ingredients, just as instructed.  After a bit of elbow-grease (we don’t have an electric mixer), we ended up with a bowl of delicious- looking chocolate cookie dough.

TheDX In the Test Kitchen: Dessert

Then I ran into trouble.  The instructions say, “Roll the dough into 52 balls, 2 level teaspoons each.”  But the cookie dough was sticky.  It stuck to the measuring spoon, it stuck to my fingers, it stuck to the palms of my hands as I was trying to roll it into balls. It seemed to stick to everything.

I asked my wife what she would do here.  She told my daughter and me to put some flour or confectioners’ sugar on our hands before trying to handle the dough. The recipe called for coating the cookie balls in confectioners’ sugar anyway, so it sounded like a good plan. It worked very well, though it didn’t help with measuring out the proper amount of dough to roll.

Frustrated, I ended up doing away with the measuring spoons and just estimating the amount of dough to roll. It wasn’t until I ended up with only half the cookies the recipe was supposed to yield that I even considered what I had just done to the serving size and nutritional information. What can I say? I got caught up in the joy of creating!

TheDX_ScottJohnson

This brought me back to one of the tools that Jackie mentioned in the introduction:  a cookie scoop.  She said that if you make a lot of cookies, a scoop will make the job quicker and easier.  She mentioned that it can be hard to find one that’s small enough for suitable portion control in most stores, and listed exactly what to ask for (a two-teaspoon stainless steel scoop, called a No. 100 size), but I found a number of reasonably priced options online. I’m planning on ordering one, for the next time I bake cookies. Not only does it keep cookie dough from getting all over me (and everything else), it also keeps cookie size consistent, which makes the nutritional information more accurate.

By sheer luck, I had exactly half of the cookies I was supposed to have, which meant I either cut the serving size (2 cookies) in half or double the original nutritional information – easy math for what could have been an error in judgment, and especially important for those of us living with diabetes.

I was nervous as the cookies were baking, but they turned out wonderfully! They even looked a little bit like the picture in the cookbook. After letting them cool for a bit, I took my first bite… and tasted a deep, rich chocolate that was awesome! The strong chocolate taste kept my taste buds entertained for minutes, but was not at all overpowering. Yum!

TheDX In the Test Kitchen: Chocolate Crackles

I was so proud of myself. I baked cookies – good cookies! My entire family agreed! I know it’s a small first step, but this was quite an accomplishment for me. Mills’ cookbook contains a great menu of easy and delicious choices, and I already have my eyes on the next dish I want to make (pumpkin flan!).

This book makes for a great gift, no special occasion required.  You don’t have to be a great cook or even have much experience in the kitchen to enjoy these recipes.  I’m proof of that!

Scott Johnson is living with type 1 diabetes and blogs at scottsdiabetes.com. Johnson is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

© 2012 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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