Thursday, October 25, 2007

Diabetes Fit Food

I love to cook. I don't get to cook the way I want to cook a lot of the time because I have two toddlers and a picky teenager and it's difficult to get things done, what with the whining and screaming and throwing of toys. And that's just the teenager.

A while back - actually, an embarrassingly long time back now - I was asked to review a cookbook geared towards people with diabetes. Since I'm a bit of a cookbook freak, I said I'd review it. They aren't paying me for this one. It's called Diabetes Fit Food and was compiled by Ellen Haas, founder of a website called Several celebrity chefs contributed to this cookbook, including Todd English (sorry about that cheesy music on his site) and Alice Waters.

The book is broken down into food types, like grains, vegetables, fruits and proteins. Those sections are then broken down further into things like stone fruit (peaches, plums, etc.), fall vegetables, poultry, etc. Each section gives you nutritional information as well as a bit of history and general info about the foods in question. There are then ten or twelve recipes using the featured ingredient. It's very informative without being overwhelming.

I made several recipes from the book. The first was Aztec Quinoa Salad. I'd never used quinoa before. It reminds me of bulgar wheat, only larger. The salad recipe I made was similar to tabbouleh, using cilantro and tomatoes, but the quinoa gave it a more rustic feel. The salad was excellent - I brought it to a party and there was nothing left when it was time to go home.

Next up were Whole Wheat Griddle Cakes. The recipe, as made, made a very thick, yet fluffy pancake. The whole wheat flour gives the pancakes a slightly nutty flavour. I added blueberries to half of the pancakes I made. They were delicious with and without berries. Unless you're a fan of the IHOP-style mushy, thin pancake (*cough*my husband*cough*), these will probably be right up your alley.

I lucked out one day and got a buy one, get 2 free on shrimp rings (whatta bah-gin!) and the next night, found a recipe for Lemony Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp. Oh. My. Goodness. This was delicious. My husband, who doesn't like Parmesan cheese (freak!), was practically licking the plate, he enjoyed this so much. My toddlers ate it up, too. Olivia even enjoyed it and she is the Queen Of Picky Eaters. This would make a great side dish, but is definitely enough for a main.

The only dish that I didn't care for was the South-of-the-Border Soup. It's similar to chili, only with pork tenderloin rather than ground beef. It also called for pasta, which was odd, but good. The downfall of this recipe was a lack of flavour. I loaded it up with cumin, chili powder, hot paprika and oregano and it was still kind of off. I'm not sure what it was lacking, but it was definitely lacking.

One of the nicest things about this cookbook is the nutritional information. If you make the recipe as is and serve it in the suggested portion, the nutritional information is on every recipe. You don't have to break it down - something I have a lot of trouble doing when I cook from scratch. This book does it for you. That is a huge help.

My other beef (arf!) with the book is the index. It doesn't always give recipes based on an ingredient. For the South-of-the-Border soup, for instance, you'd have to know that the recipe called for pinto beans in order to get the recipe. And if you just look up soup, you don't get anything. That, to me, is odd. You don't want to have to read an entire cook book, and remember significant ingredients, in order to be able to locate said recipe again. It's not a huge flaw, but it is pretty annoying, especially for someone like me, who likes to glance thru the index of cookbooks when I want, say, soup, just to see what recipes are there and if I have the ingredients in my pantry to make it.

Overall, though, I would recommend this cookbook. It's simple. None of the recipes call for outlandish or hard-to-find ingredients or special pans or equipment. If you have a halfway decently equipped kitchen, you can make just about anything from this cookbook. Most of the recipes are not complicated. They are laid out well, with large print and easy instructions. Having the nutritional information and the blurbs about the featured ingredients before each chapter adds a friendly touch to the book. It's food for people with diabetes, but it's not a bland, supermarket Diabetic Cookbook. It's just good, healthy food that's easy to make. And really, you can't ask for much more.

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