Thursday, December 29, 2011

Grandma's Gnocchi

Hey there! Some of you may have noticed my absence. While the holidays definitely took up plenty of time, our family also had an unfortunate loss over this holiday season. My grandmother, who has been struggling with dementia for years, finally passed away on December 23rd.

I took on the responsibility of giving my grandmother's eulogy, which was no easy task. I thought I would share a portion of it with you here since it directly relates to why food really is so important to me. Try not to cry. :(

"I have always loved my grandmother's gnocchi. Ever since I was a little girl, when my mother asked what I wanted for Christmas day dinner, the answer has always been gnocchi. Besides actually loving the pasta, it also evokes a connection to grandmother. I can still remember being in the kitchen with her as she patiently rolled out the dough, floured the pans, and dropped each batch into boiling water. She always allowed me to help, no matter how much of a mess I would make. Years later, even with my mother being as wonderful a cook she is, no one's gnocchi is better then grandma's.

It’s probably what we remember most, sitting down to a table full of food surrounded by family. You gather together, eat, laugh, tell stories and love each other. And what we all knew, was that above all, your family was always there for you."

When I first read the opening lines to my friends, they joked that, of course, it had to start with food! I'm not sure if it's because we're Italian or that we come from a family of fat kids, but food has always been the thing to bring us together, whether it be holiday dinners, barbeques, or banquets. Food brings traditions and stories to the forefront of our minds in a way few other things can. Every time I make gnocchi, I will think of my grandmother and be reminded of my time with her. These last few days, I have had the urge to make gnocchi every day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Waiting Not Required

When my "Eat Local, Grow Your Own" kick started, I decided that I was going to make my own beans!

Let me clarify. I don't mean grow my own beans. More in that I would purchase dried beans and cook them myself. How that relates to eating locally and growing my own, I'm don't really know. My logic eludes me even now, but I'm sure it made perfect sense when I bought 5 pounds of dried beans! Five pounds of dried beans that have been sitting in my pantry for the last 4 months!

While there are parts of my life that can be very organized, prepping food ahead of time is not my strength. When I what to cook something, I want to cook it NOW! I don't want to wait for pre-soaking, soaking, marinating, rising...anything that requires me to wait is  a recipe I usually skip. I am the product of the immediate gratification generation!

This past weekend, I told myself that I would commit to soaking my beans! I got myself pumped for it! It was going to happen, my friends! Yes! Yes, it was! Chest bumps and high fives all around!

Then, each day passed and I didn't soak my beans. Disappointing.

Finally, I googled whether there was any other way to make these beans without having to soak them overnight and boil them for 8 hours. I came across this method and tried it with my garbanzo beans. It worked! And trust me, it is definitely worth the extra effort. These beans are much more flavorful then your usual canned ones. I measured the beans into 1 and 2 cup portions, which then went into the freezer for later use. I put a little cooking liquid in each bag to prevent them from drying out.

These are especially yummy when used in Chick(peas)'n Biscuits.

Easy Peasy Garbanzo Beans

1 1/2 lb dried garbanzo beans
1 tbsp salt
Water to cover the beans by 1 1/2 inch

Dutch oven

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
2. Put beans, salt, and water in the dutch oven and heat over medium high heat.
3. Let beans boil for 15 minutes on stove top. Make sure you start your timer once the beans have started boiling and not before.
4. Once the beans have boiled for 15 minutes, cover and put in the oven for 75 to 90 minutes or until tender. You may need to check the beans to ensure there is enough water during cooking.
5. Cool and add to ziplock bags for freezing. Will last in the fridge for 1 - 2 weeks.

Monday, December 19, 2011


I've been fantasizing. A lot.

Sadly, my fantasies have not been about fortune, fame, or men. Okay, well, at least not fantasies I'm willing to share while my mother is reading. 

I've been fantasizing about my A1c. Yes, the blood test that shows how well I've been controlling my diabetes for the last few months. I lead a wild life! I've been picturing my endocrinologist (who actually isn't hard to fantasize about) coming into his office with the results of my blood work in his hands. In my head, he looks up from my file to tell me that I have achieved a 5.9 blood sugar. Then, he pins a shiny gold star to my shirt and lets me eat a whole pie in his office!

Having been on the insulin pump for four months now, I was hoping to have a significant drop in my a1c. I decided that I would be content to stay at the same awesome 6.2, but was what my dreams were made of.

Imagine my disappointment when my endocrinologist told me today that my a1c is a 6.6! "It went up?" I said to him sadly. He explained that there is an adjustment period with the pump and that 6.6 is a great a1c result. He went through the rest of the results of the blood work, but that 6.6 just kept bouncing around my head. At one point, I said, "Yeah, but a 6.6." I can tell that he stopped short of calling me crazy and instead opted to say "These are great results! People would kill to have this a1c. I'm thrilled! You're doing great."

However, it wasn't until I got into the car that I started to process everything else the doctor had said to me. Like that my kidneys, liver, and thyroid are all functioning perfectly. Go organs! My cholesterol was actually lower then it had been several months ago. And the big one is that I have reduced the number of hypoglycemic episodes from 5 - 7 times a week to maybe one every once in a while. All while learning how to manage diabetes with an insulin pump.

Despite the increase, this result and my reaction shows me how much progress I really have made in the past several months. If I had this increase 6 months, I would have been an absolute mess, so upset and disappointed. While it motivates me to be a little more mindful of my eating and blood sugar testing, I have also come to accept that diabetes is a work in progress, constantly changing, but something I have a better grasp on understanding every day.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Effectiveness of Marketing

Have you seen the Denny's commercial for their Holiday Breakfast Menu? Or IHOP's new limited time specialty pancakes? While the plates of plastic eggs and spam are definitely not appealing, the description of Egg Nog and Pumpkin Spice pancakes definitely catch my fat kid attention. In fact, every time I see one of those commericals, I have to stop myself from getting in the car and finding the nearest Denny's (which is probably in Binghamton).

Usually, I'm not a pancake kind of girl. Fluffy carb cakes covered in liquid sugar isn't exactly a diabetic's breakfast! But I will make the occasional exception.

This weekend, having endured the torture of Denny's and IHOP long enough, I finally broke down and made myself Pumpkin Walnut Pancakes! This recipe makes a rather large batch. You can actually cook the pancakes, cool them and freeze them to be enjoyed at some later date.

Pumpkin Walnut Pancakes

1 1/4 c whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
5 tsp brown sugar (those with functional pancreai can add more)
2 - 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 - 1 1/4 c milk
3/4 c pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c chopped walnuts

1. Add all the dry ingredients together.
2. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl until well mixed.
3. Add dry to wet and mix well. Stir in walnuts. You may need to add a little extra milk depending on the consistency of the batter. This tends to be a rather thick batter because of the pumpkin puree. If you leave it too thick, the pancakes won't cook all the way through...unless you prefer your cakes partially charred.
4.  Heat a pan over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Pour 1/3 cup of batter onto the hot pan. Repeat twice more to cook three pancakes at a time.
5. Pancakes are ready to flip once you see air bubbles coming to the surface of the pancake. Flip and cook for a few minutes longer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


What do you think of when you hear the word "honeymoon?" That happy time when love is in the air! Butterflies in the stomach. Infinite patience. Anticipation to see each other. Doing the nasty ALL THE TIME!

Ah, honeymoons.

However, there is another kind of honeymoon that I've become accustomed to. The pancreatic honeymoon. Certainly not as fun, but does leave you feeling less sore. 

After initial diagnosis, when you start injecting insulin to live, your dumb ass pancreas remembers to do it's friggin' job and starts to produce insulin once more. This period of time can last any amount of time from three weeks to three years. For some time now, I thought I was out of my honeymoon period. However, lately, I'm thinking my pancreas may be producing some insulin again.

Overall, my blood sugar is well controlled, but there are times when I may under-insulin for a meal, preparing to go to the gym, and will end up hypoglycemic! Or I'll check my blood sugar, expecting it to be high, only for my numbers to be right on point! The topper was this weekend, after an entertaining night, when I forgot to re-connect my pump before falling asleep and still woke up with a 130 blood sugar.

My pancreas is like one of those characters in an awful B movie that twitches through their prolonged death scene, pushing you to point where you're screaming at the screen "Just die already!!!" He (meaning my pancreas) is trying to pump through his last bit of insulin producing power before crapping out completely. My endocrinologist says that I want functionality in my pancreas for as long as possible as it will reduce the risk of future complications. That it's a good thing I'm still honeymooning!


If only it was the same as doing the nasty all the time. :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

I'm Baaaacccckkkk!

It's been a WHOLE week of no posting! Did you miss me?! I know you did. It's okay. You don't have to say it. We're just that connected. 

The last few weeks have been INSANE! This last one especially. My very busy work week was followed by a very busy weekend, which included lots of booze, a Christmas Sing-a-Long, karaoking, and dressing up like Santa to meander around Manhattan! While this weekend provided hours of endless entertainment, it also wore me down a bit.

My plan for this week (and the weekend) is to take it easy, get back on a regular sleeping/eating/exercising schedule, and avoid anything related to tequila! I figured a good way to start the week was to make myself a good, comforting meal that would carry me through to Friday.

I know. This picture is awful.
But I figured it's better then having no picture at all!
Chick(peas)'n Biscuits 

For chickpea mixture:
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
3 carrots, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
1 handful mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ c chickpeas
1 c peas
1 c vegetarian gravy (see below)
1 c veggie broth
salt and pepper
olive oil

For biscuits:
1 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
½ c milk

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sauté onions through mushrooms in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat until onions are translucent and other veggies are starting to soften.
  3. While the veggies cook, mix the biscuit ingredients together. This mixture is rather thick.
  4. Add chickpeas and peas. Sauté a few minutes longer. Salt and pepper.
  5. Add gravy and broth to vegetable mixture, coating the vegetables well.
  6. Drop biscuit mixture into ¼ c balls onto vegetable mixture.
  7. Place in oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or when biscuits look fully cooked. 
Vegetarian Gravy
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup organic milk
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Sauté onion, thyme, and garlic over medium heat until translucent.
  2. Remove from heat and add flour, yeast, and soy sauce.
  3. Return to heat and slowly whisk in vegetable broth, trying to breakdown any clumps.
  4. Once ingredients are incorporated and beginning to thicken, add milk, salt and pepper. Whisk together. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hell Week

I am bracing myself for the week ahead! 

Lists have been made. Schedules have been arranged. The apartment has been cleaned. A week's worth of meals have been prepared. I had to stop myself from laying out all of my clothes! Thank goodness I still have those underwear with the days of the week on them!

This Friday, I am coordinating a half-day conference for professionals that has been several months of hard work in the making. Organizing a conference has been a professional goal for the last three years. While I'm expecting this to be tough work week on top of an already insane work load, I feel proud to finally accomplish it!

With that said, a girl's got to eat! 

I know I'm not going to have a lot of time (or motivation) to come home after a long day and make myself dinner. In preparing for this week, I decided to make several meals ahead of time. While they are all delicious now, I'm sure by the time Thursday rolls around, I'll never want to eat them again! Until then, let's eat!

Recipes Prepared:
Reversed Apple Crumble
Millet-Veggie Bake
Sweet Potato, Mushroom, & Farro Soup
Oyster Mushrooms, Rockefeller-style

Recipe for you now:

Photo credit to E. Gordon!

Sweet Potato, Mushroom, & Farro Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme
1 pad butter
1 very large sweet potato, diced
1 8 oz container cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cups vegetable broth, plus more for adding
1/2 c farro
salt and pepper

1. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and thyme. Saute for several minutes. 
2. Add the butter and sweet potato. Cook for several more minutes. Salt and pepper.
3. Add mushrooms. Cook for several more minutes. 
4. Add veggie broth and farro. Let soup simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until farro is cooked through. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Childhood Memories

Cynthia Martieri was my best friend in the 3rd grade. She was a very sweet girl who always had the best lunches. Her mother was from Italy and would send Cynthia to school with thermos of warm soups, couscous in broth, and kick-ass snacks! Plus, Cynthia had an "in" with the teachers as she went to the teachers' lounge WHENEVER she wanted to! She also had special containers of orange juice in their fridge. The perks of being her friend were awesome!

Had I realized then the reason for her special teachers' lounge privileges, I probably wouldn't have peer pressured her into sharing her lunch and orange juice with me quite so often. I am a fat kid, after all. Cynthia was a type 1 diabetic. But one of those normal ones, whose pancreas never really worked to begin with. Unlike mine, who decided to claim work-related disability and retire earlier. Lazy fucker. 

I can remember going to the teachers' lounge with her before lunch so that she could take her blood sugar. She was squeeze a huge glob of blood out onto a strip and wait 2 minutes before a color (much like an acidity test) would appear. She would then compare the color of the strip to the color code on the bottle to find out what range her blood sugar was in. I don't remember her taking any insulin shots. Funny how one blocks out things out. 

I can also remember one morning after a sleep over, Cynthia testing her blood sugar. Her mother was disappointed and said in her broken English, "Too many sweets last night." We had attended a neighborhood birthday party the night before where Cynthia and her family weren't quite as diligent in monitoring her eating. I distinctly remember blue and white iced birthday cake.

Remembering back to Cynthia actually makes me grateful for the advances in diabetes care. I can find out my blood sugar levels in 5 seconds from a .5 milligram of blood. I have a pump that can provide me with the insulin I need to .10 of a unit. There's no guess work or waiting involved. I can take a blood test that can let me know how well I am controlling my diabetes for the PAST THREE MONTHS! How incredible is that!

Diabetes sucks no matter when your pancreas decides to crap out. But I really am so grateful to be diabetic at this point in time where the technology has come so far and continues to only get better.