Thursday, March 31, 2011

Swift and Simple Meals

Everyone is busy.  Add to that the need to eat a healthy diet and you sometimes hit a brick wall.  There will always be those days when you just don’t feel like cooking, traffic held you up and you got home later than expected or you discover that you forgot to thaw the chicken for tonight’s dinner.  In those situations it’s so easy to eat something less healthy; to grab some fast food or pizza.  A better idea is to have some quick and easy healthy recipes in your arsenal that you can throw together in a snap.  I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.

Open-face Tuna Melt Sandwich

This is a very simple meal that can be made a variety of ways.  The nutritional values will depend on how you tweak this recipe to meet your own tastes.  For an example, I will list my tuna salad recipe along with the nutritional values for the type of bread etc that I use.  Your mileage may vary.

2 cans tuna packed in water,drained 
1/3 C celery, finely chopped
3 Tbsp fat free mayo
1 Tbsp dill pickle relish 
1 tsp onion powder
4 slices 2% sharp cheddar cheese slices
4 slices whole wheat bread 
Roasted red peppers from jar, patted dry

Mix the tuna, celery, pickle relish, onion powder and mayo until thoroughly mixed.  Toast the whole wheat bread. Place each slice on a cookie sheet.  Divide the tuna mixture between each piece of toast and spread to edges.  Top each sandwich with roasted red peppers placing a slice of cheese on top.

Place the cookie sheet under the broiler (4-5 inches away from flame) and cook approximately 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Serves 4

Per serving: 208 calories, 5.75 g fat (2.5 saturated), 407 mg sodium, 18.5 carbs, 22 g protein

Variation: Replace the red peppers with tomato slices.
Serve with a salad or dipping veggies and ranch dressing.

Asian Chicken Stir Fry

3 oz Asian Rice Noodles (about ½ package)*
1/3 cup bottled fat free Sweet Ginger Teriyaki sauce
1 cup Sugar Snap Peas
1 medium red sweet pepper, cut into bite-size strips
8 oz mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 ½ cup cooked chicken breast**
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped cashews, peanuts or sliced almonds (optional)

Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.  Meanwhile, spray a large skillet with cooking spray and place over medium-high heat.  Add onion, red pepper and sugar snap peas.  Cook stirring until onions and peppers are beginning to soften.  Add mushrooms, chicken and teriyaki sauce.  Continue cooking until heated through.  Add cooked noodles and nuts, if desired.  Stir until the sauce is well distributed.  Serves 4

Per serving: 175 calories, .5 g fat, 412 mg sodium, 29.5 carbs, 9 g protein 

*You can substitute other Chinese noodles or pasta as desired.  Be sure to check the nutrition label. 
**You can substitute canned chicken breast.  Look for 98% fat free packed in water.

Cincinnati Chili
1 lb lean ground beef
½ cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
½ cup onion, finely chopped
1 pkg burrito seasoning mix
1 Tbsp chili powder, optional (my husband likes it spicier)
1 ¼ cup water
6 oz spaghetti, dry (3 servings, roughly ½ pkg)  (the nutritional values are calculated with Dreamfield brand)
Parmesan cheese, optional

Cook spaghetti per package directions.  Drain and set aside.  Meanwhile, brown ground beef in skillet.  Drain grease and set aside.  Let skillet cool slightly then spray with cooking spray. Add onions and peppers to the skillet and sauté until softened. Return ground beef to skillet with vegetables.  Add burrito seasoning mix, chili powder and water.  Stir and simmer 5 minutes or so, just until well mixed and heated through.  Add cooked pasta and stir.  Top with parmesan cheese if desired.  Serves 6 (makes great leftovers)

Calories 312, fat, 16 g (6 saturated), sodium 258 mg, carbs 24, protein 17

Other meal ideas (not recipes) are:

Gorton’s Grilled Salmon Fillets w/rice and veggies.  These fillets cook up quickly in your oven straight from the freezer.  I use Success Boil-in-bag Whole Grain Brown Rice when I'm in a hurry.


Place tilapia fillets under the broiler for about 4 minutes.  Top with a paste made with margarine, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and seasonings.  Return to the broiler for another 4-5 minutes or until topping starts to bubble and brown.  Watch carefully so the topping doesn't burn. Serve with quinoa or rice and veggies.  Also works well with salmon fillets but longer cooking time needed.

You can find recipes for Chicken Tortellini Soup and Salmon Alfredo in another of my posts: A Few of my Favorite Recipes.  Those are also Swift and Simple meals!

Bon Appetit!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ah Spring!

Spring has sprung, the grass is green.  I wonder where the flowers have been?

It is finally a beautiful day in my neighborhood.  It’s sunny and supposed to be near 60 degrees.  I heard tell that it might hit 70 by week’s end!  YES!!  I’m about to go outside and work in my yard.  Lots of raking to do and I’m going to dig up and move some day lilies that are becoming overcrowded.

I can’t tell you how nice it will be to get some much needed exercise outside instead of in the house.  We should be moving every day!  Does that mean we have to be a slave to our stationary bike or sweat to the oldies til we drop?  I say, NO!  Get outside and go for a walk.  Dig in the dirt.  Dust off your bicycle.  There are so many ways that we can get some exercise that are fun.  Let’s do it!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Hello, my name is Kate and I’m a food-aholic.  I’ve been addicted to food since, well, forever.  Maybe it was that first taste of ice cream my mother gave me in my highchair or those potato chips nestled beside my PBJ that got me hooked.  I can’t say for sure but there it is.  

I’ve tried stopping food cold turkey (mmmm…doesn’t that sound good?) but failed miserably.  So now I’m on the “food in moderation” plan but it can be so difficult!  Do you know that everywhere you look there’s food?  Just try watching tv without seeing a commercial that includes some scrumptious food item that you simply HAVE to try!  Have you been to the store lately?  The dang thing is chock full of FOOD!  Those people should be arrested.  I’ve secretly began calling the local Safeway manager “pusher”.  She seems like a nice lady but underneath that sweet exterior is the face of the devil!  How in the world do they expect me to kick this habit if they keep throwing it in my face? (that brings to mind a pie in the face game at the fair.  I think I’ll sign up)

Now before someone gets their panties in a twist about how I’m belittling true addictions, let me just say that I’m fully aware of how horrible an addiction can be.  I’ve seen alcoholism up close and personal (no, not me) and it’s not a pretty sight. We’ve all read articles and seen shows that depict drug addiction and how it can ruin a person’s life.  I feel for these people and can imagine what a horrible life that must be, but you know what?  I almost feel sorrier for us food-aholics! Think about it; an alcoholic can eventually live without booze.  Once the habit is kicked, they never again have to drink alcohol.  They may want to for the rest of their lives, but if they don’t drink they won’t die.  A food-aholic on the other hand can’t live without food!  Just try it, I dare you.  I predict that you won’t succeed in this lifetime. (haha).  I wish I didn’t think about food all the time. 

My mother has never driven a car.  Soon after I graduated from high school she gave me the down payment on my first car (a sweet, used VW bug).  There was a catch: I had to drive her to town whenever she wanted to go.  (We are required to drive 30 miles in order to get our shopping fix).  There we were, heading up the hill out of town.  We’d look at each other and in unison say: “Where shall we have lunch!?” I tell you, it’s a curse.  

Please don’t feel bad for me.  There’s hope!  You see, I would very much like to live to a ripe old age.  Not only that, I want to be as healthy as possible with all my appendages intact.  I’d like to be able to read a book and go for a walk with my great-grandchildren.  I want to sit on the deck with my sweet husband and watch the sunset. (note to self: build that deck.)  Therefore, I’m committed to living with my addiction.  I will browse the veggie section of my local store and curb my cravings for cookies.  I will envision little horns on top of each cake in the bakery department (even the angel food for now).   I know that I can have a small treat now and then.  I know that I can have most things in moderation.  For now I need to keep it simple and keep it healthy.  You know that commercial for Lay's potato chips, "No one can eat just one!"  that would be me.  I suck at stopping at just one of anything that I shouldn't over indulge in.  I can do this! Food-aholics unite!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Don’t become complacent

I am the worst offender.  I’ve been working on this diabetic lifestyle for nearly 6 years now.  I’ve muddled through and learned so much.  Hey, I’ve got this stuff down pat!  I’m so confident that I feel like I can give advice to people who are newly diagnosed.  Again, I’m not the all-knowing diabetic but I’ve been there and felt what these people are feeling.  Where do I start?  How do I know how many carbs I should have?  What’s the best margarine to use?  I can answer those things and more.  Follow your doctor’s advice, READ as much as you can find on the subject, talk to a dietician or find guidelines online and here’s what I buy in the margarine aisle.  Just this morning I answered a question on the Diabetic Living’s Facebook page.  Someone was asking about salad dressings.  I told her what some of my favorites are and advised that she read the labels looking for low fat/fat free and see how many carbs per serving.  Just figure those carbs into your food plan.  Wait a minute Kate!  When was the last time you actually calculated how many carbs you’re consuming in each meal? Um, well…..<insert sheepish grin here>.  The short answer is; I don’t….ever.  I have never seen a dietician.  My first doctor never suggested it or even mentioned it.  She said, “Yep, you have diabetes.  Just watch what you eat and exercise regularly.”  Hmmmm.  I started with the ADA website and read anything I could get my hands on.  I figured out what I should do and began doing it.  I’ve used the plate method and eyeballed portions but I have never, EVER, measured or calculated how many carbs were on my plate.
I am the Queen of label reading.  I’m very good at reading labels to determine if the food is something I can eat and how much of it I should have.  I carefully determine the nutritional values of recipes I prepare and know how many carbs etc are in each serving, however, do I carefully make certain that I’m only eating a serving?  Um, well…..<insert sheepish grin here>, no.

Today I’ve had an epiphany and it kinda hurts.  I’ve been working at losing weight by keeping a food diary.  It’s working to some extent because I’ve slowly lost 10 lbs (YEA!) but I haven’t really watched what I ate.  I’ve been bitc…complaining about my higher numbers in the morning worrying that maybe I’m beginning that upward trend that will change my meds or worse.  My A1c was still good but have I really done anything to fix this?  No.  I took my doctor’s advice when she said that my higher numbers were probably hormone related and we’ll just wait and see how your next A1c looks.  I say, HECK NO!  I’m not waiting 3 months to see if things are worsening!  I’m making some changes now.  I’ve become complacent and I think my eyeballs need recalibrating.   

Starting today, I intend to dust off my measuring cups and really pay attention to how much I’m eating.  I will only eat 1/6 of that tamale pie and I will measure how much salad dressing I put on my salad.  It’s time for Kate to wake up and smell the diabetic-friendly, low sugar snickerdoodles! I will not remain complacent.  I will not assume that my plate contains the correct amount of carbs.  I will measure.  I plan to do whatever I can to maintain good glucose readings and I will lose more weight!!  Wish me luck.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rut or cabin fever?

Lately, I’ve been feeling unsettled.  I’m edgy and bored at times.  It has been more and more difficult to entertain myself.  I’m slightly depressed.  I don’t feel much like reading, which I love to do; movies don’t sound interesting and worst of all, food is boring!  When I try to think of something to eat, nothing much interests me. Now that may sound like a good thing but it’s not.  When I’m bored with food it usually means that there’s nothing readily available that I want to eat.  Instead of making a low fat wrap or healthful salad, I fantasize about a stuffed-crust veggie supreme pizza or a greasy cheeseburger with fries.  I tend to munch on snacks too much and generally eat poorly.  This has got to stop! So what is causing this recent funk?  It could be one of two things: I’m suffering from cabin fever or I’m in a rut.

Ruts are interesting things.  We’ve all heard it said,  "I’m stuck in a rut".  There are probably some young city dwellers out there who don’t even know where that saying originated!  Not too many ruts to be found in urban areas, but I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by national forest where I live.  Just a five minute drive from my home and I might get stuck in an actual rut!  I won’t bore you with a history lesson here.  If you truly don’t know what a rut is, you can Google it for yourself.  The thing is that saying you’re in a rut implies that there’s nothing you can do about it.  Not true.  Of course you can escape a rut!  A rut is just another habit and habits can be changed or broken.  Maybe I’m suffering from a food rut and just need to shake up the menu a bit.  (I have to say that “food rut” brings to mind a long, deep furrow lined with food.  I can’t decide if that’s tempting or disturbing. hmmmm, I'm not sure that I'll ponder that for too long.) 

I’m sitting at my desk on the second day of spring watching it snow.  Just last week I was cleaning out my flower beds and looking forward to planting and generally playing in the dirt.  Cabin fever may very well be what I’m suffering from.  I don’t mind winter and thoroughly enjoy the changing of the seasons, but enough is enough!  Time for the season to change!  Hello, are you listening?  It’s not unusual for us to get a decent snow in March.  The nice thing about storms this time of year is that they don’t stick around too long.  The snow will probably be gone by the weekend.  Then, before long, I’ll be out there transplanting my day lilies and thinking about what new plants to buy.  Next thing I know I’ll be planning my vegetable garden and dreaming of succulent tomatoes and ginormous zucchinis!  Wow, I feel better already.  I think I’ll look through my recipes and find something different to make for dinner tonight.  Rut or cabin fever, it doesn’t matter.  All I need to do is DO something about it and stop moping around.  A good talking-to does wonders.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Save Me From the Self Righteous

I just read on article online at the NPR website that talked about a study that indicated that diet may have some effect on children with ADHD.  In other words, changing a child’s diet may have as much effect on their condition as medication does.  Although the article was vague about details I thought it was interesting and exciting for those parents who are dealing with this.  I went on to read some of the comments people left after the article.  I should know better.  Anytime I read comments on pretty much any website I get upset.  Some people can be so stupid and thoughtless.  “If parents would just feed their children healthy food, take away their tv and cell phones and make them get outside and exercise, they wouldn’t have a problem.”  Excuse me?  I will agree that our society has developed into a people who spend too much time at leisure and not enough time being active, but to point fingers and say that these parents have caused the child’s ADHD is ludicrous! 

It’s the same with Type 2 diabetes.  I’ve never had anyone say to my face, “gosh, if you just hadn’t gained all that weight you probably wouldn’t be a diabetic” but I can almost hear them whispering, can you?  (I guess the people I know are either too polite or two-faced)  There is a stigma surrounding Type 2 diabetes.  Too much has been published and discussed about how diet and lifestyle has caused an epidemic of this disease.  That’s all true, but to hear people say that “all you have to do” is eat a healthier diet and exercise and you’ll get better really pisses me off. Or, “You poor thing, too bad you can’t eat some cake.”  It makes me want to scream sometimes.  Of course I can eat cake, dammit!  I just have to pay attention and adjust what else I’m eating.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve beaten myself up thinking that maybe I did do this to myself.  That certainly doesn’t do me any good.  I can’t change what has happened in the past, I can only deal with it now in an intelligent and thoughtful way.  You know what?  My grandmother had diabetes very late in her life.  She was a petite, thin woman.  She wasn’t overweight or unhealthy.  She lived most of her adult life on a farm in Wisconsin.  Farmers are not couch potatoes (but she did love to watch Dark Shadows).  Ok, so maybe all that cheese and butter didn’t do her much good but she was active and NOT heavy.  I’m the “lucky one” in the family who was probably pre-disposed to diabetes.  My unhealthy lifestyle just brought it on sooner rather than later.  Maybe I’m wrong but that’s what I choose to believe.

So what’s the point of this post (other than the fact that it felt GOOD to rant a bit)?  It’s my wish that people would be more compassionate; that they would educate themselves about a topic before making assumptions and opening their big traps.  Think about what life would be like if you had to deal with a child who has ADHD.  Be concerned that your friend has diabetes and needs to keep strict control but don’t pity them or look down your nose at them like it’s their fault.  You can’t know everything about someone’s life; what factors may have put them where they are now.  Don’t assume that they “did this to themselves”.  If you’re a thin, healthy person who has never had the misfortune of contracting a disease and whose children are perfect in every way…..wait, I don’t think people like that really exist.  I guess I’m fantasizing.