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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Simple Low Carb Soups II - Asparagus

My Simple Spargelsuppe. 

I call it that because I never ate asparagus soup until I wandered around Germany in spargel season in 2003. I wasn't sure I'd like it, but one day we stopped in a village where it was the only thing on the lunch menu, with crusty bread. I discovered I loved it. We don't get those big whitish German asparagus, but our local green ones with the purplish heads aren't bad either.

This is very similar in technique to the mushroom soup. I usually buy my asparagus in small bunches, which is the way they appear in our supermarkets:

I buy three bunches, eat a couple and reserve one for soup. Soup preparation is almost identical to the mushroom soup. This makes two or three serves.

Fry an onion in olive oil and butter until caramelising. Add the roughly chopped asparagus spears, reserving the tender tips, and cook until they start to sweat. Add about a litre/quart of stock (chicken or vegetable) and simmer for about 30 minutes. If you aren't sure how much stock to use, begin with a little less. You can always add more later. Season with salt and grated pepper.

When the asparagus is tender purée the soup and return the reserved tips to it. Return the soup to the stove for five minutes to cook the tips, stirring if necessary to ensure the thicker soup does not stick. Adjust for consistency; second time around you will know exactly how much stock to use.

I am a parsimonious type that hates waste. When I eat the other bunches I snap off the "woody" ends. I keep those woody stubs in the fridge for the soup. When I make the soup I slice off and discard the really woody ends from the stubs and simmer the slightly softer remainders in some chicken stock while preparing the main soup. Just before I return the reserved asparagus tips I purée the "woody" part thoroughly so that any stringy bits disappear. I add that purée to the main pot.

Add a dollop of cream to each bowl when serving.

I have a few variants of this recipe. My favourite is to add an equal portion of broccoli, reserving some small florettes in the same way that I reserve the asparagus tips, for an asparagus and broccoli soup. I adjust the stock quantity accordingly. I also vary flavour using nutmeg and/or garlic.

Cheers, Alan, T2, Australia.
Everything in Moderation - Except Laughter 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Simple Low Carb Soups I - Mushroom

Mushroom Soup

This is based on about 250gm or 8oz mushrooms. It's hard to be precise on the quantity, because I usually make soup when the mushrooms have been left in the fridge or pantry too long and have dried out, so they weigh less than when bought. If they aren't dried out, they become a breakfast omelette instead. I make soup with leftovers as I don't like waste.

For soup I don't bother peeling the mushrooms. If the mushrooms are very dry, soak them in enough chicken stock to cover them for a while until they are soft again; if not don't bother. Strain the liquid off and retain it.

Fry a medium/large sliced onion in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a nob of butter until just starting to caramelise. Sometimes I add a clove of garlic, but not always. Chop the mushrooms roughly and add to the onions, frying gently. Cook briefly, then add about a litre/quart of chicken stock (including any reserved liquid) and bring to a simmer. Season with salt (mushrooms need a little extra salt), grated black pepper and the secret ingredient: some grated nutmeg to taste.  Simmer for about half an hour; longer if the mushrooms were originally very dry. I like some texture; before I use the stick blender I strain out about a half cup of the mushrooms and reserve them.

I blend the soup, not quite to puree, and return the lumpy bits. If the result is too thick, add more stock and cook it in for a little while. If it is too thin, simmer a bit longer to reduce it. When serving add a large dollop of real cream in the centre of the soup in each bowl.

The only significant carb content is the onion. That allows me to have a slice of buttered bread with it. 

Cheers, Alan, T2, Australia.
Everything in Moderation - Except Laughter 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tammy's Story

Occasionally I come across inspirational stories on forums. I like these stories because I am sure they help new people believe that the light at the end of the tunnel is not necessarily a train heading their way.

Tammy posted her story last month on the ADA forum. I received her permission to post it here. I hope it helps someone who has stumbled across this blog, newly diagnosed, scared and wondering what lies in their future.

My Story: Tammy 

I will never forget that morning. It was Tuesday, May 29th, 2013 and was two days before my 42nd birthday. My doctor called to tell me I had diabetes and I needed to see my endocrinologist right away. My A1C was 10.7 and this could not wait. My heart was racing, and I really don't remember driving home. I cried all the way home in a complete state of panic.

My name is Tammy and I am a registered nurse, having spent most of my career working in ICU. Two years ago I started working per diem, once I was accepted into grad school. It is stressful! I am in my last year of the nurse practitioner program and am so excited to be graduating next year!

At the end of last semester I started having panic attacks with chest pain during finals and I was always tired - always! That’s part of working and going back to school, right? Wrong!

After my finals were over, I went to the cardiologist - my exam was fine, my EKG was fine. He wanted me to come back for an echocardiogram and sent me for tons of blood work, including an A1C.  I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was about 20 yrs old, which is basically a hormonal imbalance (simplified), which causes irregular periods and CAN predispose you to diabetes. I told my doctor that my endocrinologist told me two years ago I was insulin resistant and my fasting glucose was 114.

I was always afraid of getting diabetes but really never thought it would happen. Diabetes doesn't run in my family. My parents are both healthy, I exercised off and on, and although I loved carbs, I ate a lot of fruits and vegetables and considered myself mostly healthy.

That same day I made an appointment with a nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator, and saw my endocrinologist. He started me on Metformin 500 mg two times a day and said, "You need to lose 20 or 30 pounds and then you can come off the medication.” He gave me a prescription for another A1c to repeat in eight weeks.

Nothing made any sense to me. The only symptom other than the fatigue was a dry mouth. That’s it. I had such minor symptoms that it could have been ANYTHING!

The nutritionist changed my life. I began exercising consistently and writing down every single thing I put in my mouth. I began Googling everything I could find on diabetes, causes, symptoms, and of course, complications. I came across the ADA Forum, this wonderful website, where I read stories for hours, and I never imagined I would learn this much from complete strangers. It is such a wonderful feeling to be among others who share your story, who relate to your concerns and who understand your pain.

In eight weeks I lost 25 pounds and my A1C went to 6.5. I am now exercising daily, four miles on the treadmill, and eating lots of veggies. To date, my A1C is 6.0, I have lost 40 pounds, and although I am not yet at my goal, I am close. What keeps me going is not the weight loss but the desire to be healthy. I have never looked or felt better!

It is a very scary diagnosis, but here I am four months later and I'm doing what I need to do! What I have learned throughout this ordeal is that we have a lot more power than we realize when it comes to managing this illness. I refused to take on the "poor me" attitude at diagnosis. I said to myself "Ok, I've got this, and I am going to learn as much as I can to stay on top of things and live a long and healthy life." Of course there are days where you just want to give up, but I just let those feelings pass on by and I keep on moving forward.

When I saw my endocrinologist a few weeks ago, he gave me the option of going off the Metformin, but we agreed that since Metformin treats PCOS and I've done so well on it, we are going to decide together when I see him in three months if I should continue or just try to manage it with diet and exercise. Either way, I am very proud of what I have accomplished in a short time.

If I can do it, you can do it too! (Believe me) Best of luck in your journey, we can all do this together
Thanks Tammy.

Cheers, Alan, T2, Australia.
Everything in Moderation - Except Laughter 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Konjac and Shiritaki Noodles

I have heard and read this question many times: "what food can I eat to lower my blood glucose levels?"

My standard answer has always been to advise that there is no such food and the dietary way to lower blood glucose levels is to select carbohydrate portions that do not raise blood glucose levels excessively. 

I may have to add a caveat to that response in future. For the past three years I have been making occasional experiments with an unusual food called Konjac. This food has several other names in different parts of the world.

Scientific: Amorphophallus konjac. Also known as:
  • Konjac
  • shiritaki
  • Glucomann
  • devil's tongue
  • voodoo lily
  • snake palm
  • elephant yam
You can read more about the plant and its variants here on wiki: Konjac and Shiritaki noodles.There are several forms: powder, noodles, gel and cake. The version available locally to me is noodles, which are packaged in a brine solution.

The noodles look like pasta but are quite different in texture. After draining, separating and rinsing to remove the slightly fishy odour they have a slippery feel and are more chewy than the equivalent spaghetti or fettucine. They do not soak up sauce juices in the same way as pasta, consequently I have learned to reduce my sauces more when preparing konjac dishes.

Despite those differences, my experiments show that for me they are a taste worth acquiring.  These are extracts from posts on the ADA forum since I started experimenting with konjac. 

I rinsed 120gm (4oz) Konjac several times and then let it drain in a sieve for 30 minutes. In my wok I stir-fried 2/3 cup of shredded cabbage and half a medium sliced onion in a splash of peanut oil. When the onion was starting to caramelise I added 50gm shredded ham, warmed it through and then transferred the ham and veges mix to my serving bowl.

I fried the Konjac in a tablespoon of peanut oil until the noodles started to separate and dry out and occasionally "popped". They never went hard or dry, but became a little more springy and less moist. I returned the veges and ham to the mix. I continued to stir as I cooked for a couple of minutes until the veges were softened and thoroughly mixed with the noodles. I transferred it to the bowl, adding 15gm (1/2 oz) of shredded cheddar and a splash of cream, stirring it well. 

It was surprisingly good. The noodles shape was similar to thin spaghetti but the texture was chewier and springy. The noodles seemed to have no flavour of their own but took on the flavours of the other foods in the recipe.

Here comes the good news.
  • Pre-meal: 5.8 mmol/L (105 mg/dl)
  • 45 minutes post-meal: 5.3 mmol/L (96 mg/dl)
  • 75 minutes post-meal: 5.3 mmol/L (96 mg/dl)
The post-meal numbers may have been aided by 150ml (5oz) of Shiraz between the end of the meal and the 45 minute test.

The next experiment with Konjac was not quite as successful. But it was educational.

I made up my usual bolognaise sauce, using some mince steak (ground beef to the trans-Pacificans). I browned the meat, then added a cup of my Napoli Sauce and cooked it for a while to incorporate it. When used as a sauce with pasta it is delicious with a dusting of grated parmesan.

I prepared 200 gm of the Konjac noodles in the same way, rinsing, draining, separating and lightly frying in olive oil. However, when I added the sauce and tried to “cook it in” as I usually do with wheat pasta the mixture stayed too liquid. Unlike pasta, Konjac noodles do not absorb the sauce liquid.

The result was edible but chewy and not terribly appetising. Next time I will cook the Konjac longer and reduce the sauce a lot more, to thicken it and remove a lot of the liquid. After the meal I drank my usual glass of Shiraz.

On the other hand, the good news was:
  • Pre-meal: 5.7 (103)
  • 1hr post-meal: 5.5 (99)
Two days earlier I bought a Thai green Chicken curry for dinner. It was a large serve and I only ate half of it, followed by my usual glass of wine post-dinner. I was 5.4(97) pre-meal and 6.9(124) after. I expected that because there is always some starch in the local Thai curries.
We decided to have the leftover Asian meals for dinner two nights later. This time I prepared about 125gm of Konjac noodles first by rinsing, draining and pan-frying until they were dried out but still supple. I added them to the re-heated Thai chicken curry, which was exactly the same size as the previous serve. The resulting dish was quite tasty, although I still prefer other noodles for taste and texture at the moment. 
I was a little high before the meal at 7(126); I can't recall why but presumably had a forgotten snack. Or maybe it was gremlins. Here is the surprise:
  • 1hr: 5.8 (105)
  • 2hr: 6.3 (114)
Continuing the trial...

I had leftover meatball casserole for lunch. It is a fairly low-carb recipe, but I had it on a slice of toast which added about 15gms of carb. On past experiments at that time of day I would have expected that combination to raise me from my usual pre-meal of 5.5-6 (100-108) to somewhere between 7(126) and 8(144).

I added 120 gm of Konjac noodles, preparing them in the same way as before.

  • Pre-meal: 5.8 (105)
  • 1hr Post-meal: 6.8 (123)

I still can't form any definite conclusions, beyond the fact that Konjac definitely does not increase my blood glucose levels and may limit or even decrease the effects of other foods. But still only "may".

Since those early experiments I have continued to use konjac once or twice a month together with low-carb ingredients. In almost every case my post-meal blood glucose was equal to or lower than my pre-meal. 

Last night I ate the same recipe as experiment #1, using 150gm of chopped bacon instead of ham. I also added a few strands of my wife's wheat fettucine to provide a better texture; probably about 15gms of extra carb. I probably made the portions too large, we were very "full" when we finished the meal. My pre-meal level was a little high at 7.6 (134) as I had indulged in a cookie half an hour earlier. My one-hour post-meal was 6.7 (120).

I emphasise that these experiments were personal and may only apply to me. My only recommendation is to do your own experiments if you are interested in trying this food. I have no commercial interest in any firm selling konjac in any of its various forms.

Cheers, Alan, T2, Australia.
Everything in Moderation - Except Laughter