Go For Fresh

By 4:00 p.m. I was hungry. Dinner is later these days, we aren’t both home until about 7:00 p.m. But by later in the afternoon, even with a good lunch, I’m  sure I will waste away without a snack. But it has to be healthy, too.  I headed for the fridge for my usual snack–a red pepper. Sometimes it gets a dab of peanut butter, sometimes a smear of soft cheese. Other times, just plain. A sweet red pepper is a perfect thing.

As I reached into the crisper drawer, I noticed a wrinkled pepper, older, slowly exhaling its sweet aroma and crunchy texture in exchange for wrinkles shooting across its skin.

Automatically, I reach for the sadder pepper. Training from long ago. In my family, we were not allowed to eat the fresh, new, crisp fruit. No, we were to eat the older, mushy fruit or vegetable first. That way, nothing went to waste. We did not waste in our house. I know, I know, but you didn’t know my parents and how close they had lived to starvation for years. Waste was not a choice, it was a way to stay alive. A habit once learned is hard to break.

The result? We rarely ate tasty, just-picked fruits or vegetables. We constantly foraged for the spotted, the almost gross, and saved it from the trash by eating it, cooking it, or burying it in a casserole or soup.

I hesitated, my hand over the older pepper. I knew it would not be crunchy, and the bright red taste had faded to a tougher skin and limp texture. And then it struck me: there are omelets, soups, garnishes, juices that could benefit from the older pepper. But the firm one, the one glowing in the corner, is meant to be eaten now. While it is fresh and juicy. While it is “now” perfect. That is when I will appreciate it most, honor it best.

The older pepper can benefit from another technique, but this one? I’m celebrating it (and my taste buds) for its perfect combination of temperature, color, and happiness.

Life. Enjoy it while it’s fresh. We can’t control much, but we can control the choices we do have.

–Quinn McDonald sees big lessons in small places.

Diabetic-Friendly Snack

As a diabetic, I’m always on the lookout for a satisfying snack that can carry me through, fill me up, cut my cravings and be healthy. That’s a big order for a snack.

Nana1I like bananas, and although they are fine for diabetics, I can’t scarf down three of them in a sitting. One-half cup has 15 grams of carbs. (I eat about 25 carbs at breakfast and lunch, less at dinner.) But I’m not eating half a cup of bananas at one sitting. That’s what makes this a great snack.

Slice the banana into thin slices–about 1/4-inch thick. You don’t have to use a ruler, just make them all about the same thickness.

Place the bananas on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze for several hours. You want them to be hard, frozen all the way through. If they are still wet or slick, this technique won’t work.

Melt a high-quality chocolate (I used a Lindt bar, with 70 percent cocoa) over (not in) hot water. Here’s how you do that: take a  one-quart cooking pot, fill it 3/4 full of water and fit a stainless steel bowl onto the pot so that it fits across the top rather than floating in the water. It’s important that no water splashes into the chocolate, as it will seize and not work for the recipe.

Nana2Melt the chocolate in the stainless steel bowl. Do this slowly. The water should be hot, but not boiling. The chocolate should be smooth and glossy, not grainy.

nana3Use a fork to scoop up (not stab) a frozen slice of banana and place it in the chocolate. Coat it on both sides, then use the fork and pick up the banana slice and place it carefully on top of a plain (un-chocolated) slice.

nana4The two slices will immediately freeze together, so there is no slipping or chocolate mess. That’s the genius of this snack–it’s easy to make and produces very little mess.

nana5Once you have every plain banana slice covered with a chocolate one, put them back in the freezer until they are completely hard. Transfer to a plastic bag. Eat them frozen, it makes them last longer and you get a much better flavor of melting chocolate and banana as your mouth warms them up. I eat two (total of four banana slices) for a snack. It calms down my craving, gives me a chocolate fix, and doesn’t jerk my blood sugar around. (Test this yourself. Your results could vary.)

The rest of the chocolate in the bowl can be refrigerated and re-used next time. Or, you can eat it with a spoon while it’s still warm, but that may raise your blood sugar higher than you like.

Quinn McDonald is a diabetic who craves good chocolate.

 

 

 

Let There Be Cheesecake!

Cheesecake. I’ve had a long and sticky love affair with it. New York style, creamy, fluffy, mousse-y, chocolate, tofu (not for me), no-bake–there are as many cheesecakes as dessert lovers in the world.

I decided to play around with a cheesecake recipe that’s been in my recipe box for over 25 years. The original recipe was loaded with sugar and had a crust with flour. My way of cooking is by taste and feel, so I launched into the experiment with a grin and a spatula.

cheesecakeWhen I published the photo on Facebook, I got several requests for the final recipe, so here is Version 1.4–the fourth try from the original recipe. It’s a creamy, dense, firm, tart cheesecake with a pecan crust.

About variations: Feel free to experiment. I use full-fat dairy products because low-fat contains ingredients that make products taste gummy to me. Your experience may vary.

Diabetic-Friendly Cheesecake.  Time: 3.5 hours. Active time: 30 -45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325ºF. This recipe was made in a 6-inch springform pan. Because you can’t turn out a cheesecake the way you can a regular cake, I’d suggest using a springform pan. I’ve never made it in anything else.

Crust Ingredients

  • 1 cup pecan pieces (or mix of walnut or pecans)
  • 2 tsp. cardamom seed powder
  • 1 tsp. coconut blossom sugar, a low-glycemic sugar, light brown in color
  • 2 tsp. butter

Put nuts in blender and blend on lower speed until they are the consistency of cornmeal. Do not over-blend, or you will have pecan butter. Add the rest of the ingredients except the butter and pulse to combine completely.

Melt the butter and use it to butter the bottom and sides of the pan. Leave in any excess. It helps crisp the crust.

Press the nut mass into the bottom and about 1/2-inch up the side of the pan. This seals the pan bottom to the side, so the liquid mixture won’t leak.

Put the pan on a cookie sheet and bake in a 325ºF oven for about 20 minutes. You want the crust to be slightly darker, but watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn. Remove and let cool completely. Do not add cheesecake mixture to a hot pan.

The break in the center doesn't bother me and it doesn't alter the taste.

The break in the center doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t alter the taste.

Cheesecake Mixture Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup cream cheese
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 Tbl. lemon juice, squeezed from a lemon, not bottled
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 Tbl. coconut blossom sugar
  • 2 tsp. coriander seed powder (do NOT use fresh, green coriander leaf)
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch

Put the cream cheese, lemon juice, zest and vanilla into a blender and combine to creamy consistency. Add the sugar. Blend. This sugar takes a little longer to incorporate and will turn the cake mixture a pale caramel color.

Stir the cornstarch and coriander into the yogurt, then add the yogurt to the blender. Mix at medium speed for about 15 seconds. Add the sour cream and cottage cheese, blending between each. Taste. Adjust sugar to taste if you don’t have to watch sugar intake.

Add eggs and blend until the mixture is perfectly smooth and evenly colored. Pour into the baked shell still in the pan. Put pan on cookie sheet and bake at 325ºF for about 30 minutes, or until a one-inch edge (from pan rim to center) is firm. The center will still be liquid. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another hour. Don’t peek or the oven will cool too quickly. Remove the cheesecake and allow it to cool completely. A toothpick will not come out clean, but don’t worry. Refrigerate for at least two hours. When the cake is cool, run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, release the springform ring, and cut the cake. Enjoy!

You can top the cheesecake with whipped cream or with a low calorie jam (see top photo).

Note: The cake is not a low-calorie dessert. It is diabetic friendly. Diabetes is a different disease for everyone, so watch your blood sugar, and remember that one serving is 1/8 of the cake, made in a 6-inch springform pan. I don’t know the carb count on it, all I know is that my blood sugar stays within reasonable limits if I eat if after a reasonable meal. (My reasonable meals contain 35 gr. carbs).

-Quinn McDonald loves to cook food that tastes good. She learned how to cook from her mother, and can make a wicked good gravy from scratch.

Easy Treat: Chocolate Covered Orange Peels

Note: While I can no longer eat chocolate covered orange peels, I still have an orange tree. And in hopes that someone else will enjoy these, here is the recipe.

Chocolate covered orange peels are one of my strong childhood memories–a treat for adults, with adult tastes. The orange peel was soft and slightly bitter, coated in a sugar syrup and then in dark chocolate. Aromatic, sweet and bitter, with a soft peel and brittle chocolate coating–it was always a treat.

orangepeel1Now I care for an orange tree, and the pesticide-free, organic oranges have the most amazing fragrance when they are ready to be picked–floral and dense, not at all what an orange tastes like.

So when we eat oranges, we save the peel to make chocolate-striped peel. Here’s how it’s done:

Ingredients: sugar, clean water, orange peels, good quality dark chocolate (Belgian semi-sweet chocolate from Trader Joe’s works very well.)

Pick four large pesticide-free, organic oranges. Mine are navels. Wash and dry them. Score them from top to bottom (stem to blossom end) into four or six segments. Pull off the peel carefully.

orange2If it breaks, you can still use them. Eat the orange, this is about the peels. Cut the peels in long strips. Remove some of the white pith by using a sharp knife and cutting slowly, holding the knife flat and parallel to the cutting board. Do not remove all the pith—about half will do.

4 oranges will yield about 2 cups of loosely-packed peel.

Put 2 cups of clean water in a small saucepan–about 2 quart size. Bring to a boil. Put the orange peel in, wait for it to barely boil again. Pour out the water. Repeat for a total of three times. This removes the bitter flavor of the peel.

orange3Drain the peel. While it’s draining, make the sugar syrup. Use twice as much sugar as water. For the 2 cups of peel, about 2/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water will make a good syrup amount. Pour the sugar and water into the same saucepan as before. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add in the cooked orange peel. Stir. Keep stirring until the liquid is completely absorbed. The sugar will form crystals on the bottom of the pan.

Immediately pour the peels onto a sheet of parchment or a large platter. Using a fork, pick apart the peels into individual pieces before the sugar coating hardens. The ideal peel will be soft and have a crunchy coating. If the sugar syrup remains sticky, you can slide it into a 200-degree oven for a half hour.

orange4Melt about an ounce of chocolate (more or less to taste) by putting it in a microwave-safe container and heat it at high heat for 30 seconds. Stir to check for consistency. If it isn’t the consistency of sour cream, heat at another 10-second interval until it is. Using a small spoon pick up about half a spoon full and pour a stream over the orange peels. Using a fast back-and-forth motion, you’ll web the orange peels in chocolate. Let it dry and they are ready to eat.

And if you are diabetic or shun sugar, you can always use those yummy peels to make orange dust.

-Quinn McDonald has fond memories, which will have to be enough for now.

 

Thanksgiving for One

Today’s post is for people who are going to be alone on Thanksgiving. Dealing with a huge family fest will be posted tomorrow.

Going to be alone this Thanksgiving? No problem, unless you are dreading it. There is a cultural press to partake in some sort of perfect Norman-Rockwell-fantasy dinner, with food magically prepared and shared by a big, friendly, supportive, charming, happy family. The fact that this fantasy is exactly that–a figment of someone’s imagination–does not ease your pain. In your head, it is what you deserve, and you are feeling bad because you don’t have it.

first_thanksgivingSome years ago, I was alone at Thanksgiving. I’d moved to the Southwest ahead of my husband and was house-sitting for a friend. I didn’t want to mess up someone else’s stove, and part of me didn’t want to admit I hated being alone. But I also didn’t want to be at someone else’s table, feeling like the fifth wheel. I created a fun day for myself, and still remember it fondly. It makes me smile to think that there are many people around me who do not remember last Thanksgiving fondly, or can’t remember exactly what happened at all. And I can remember Thanksgiving 2007 with great joy.

Here are some suggestions to help make Thanksgiving a good day for you:

1. Plan ahead. Decide the kind of day you want to have and work on creating it. No Thanksgiving comes together without planning, and you don’t want to wind up standing in the grocery store aisle half an hour before the store closes.

2. You don’t have to cook an elaborate meal for 10 and eat it all by yourself. Kent McDonald, a personal chef in the Phoenix area, has some suggestions for an easy, special Thanksgiving meal you can make without a lot of fuss. Yes, Kent is my husband and he’s cooking this year.

3. Ignore it in style. Stay out of the kitchen–or the entire house–during the dinner hour. Go to the movies, take a bubble bath and give yourself a pedicure, plan that big art or craft project, take a walk with your camera, go to the library now and check out a book or DVD, and spend the time doing something appealing to you. Time to spend on yourself or your favorite pastime is precious and rare, use it with delight.

4. Plan a project. Paint the kitchen, or your bedroom. Organize your closet, your desk, your attic, your garage. Tackling a big project will make you feel organized and satisfied. Not a bad plan.

5. Make the turkey dinner happen. Let friends know you’ll be alone. Make it sound like you are available rather than desperate. Offer to help cook, clean up, bring a dish, or take the dog for a walk. Make yourself useful and you’ll be eating with a big, noisy, arguing dysfunctional family before you can say ‘turkey.’

The secret to having the Thanksgiving is to decide what you want and create it. Don’t let others define your joy.  Decide what you want, and make it happen, traditional or not. Celebrate yourself and allow yourself to enjoy.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who has celebrated a lot of different Thanksgivings.

–Image: The First Thanksgiving, reproduction of an oil painting by J.L.G. Ferris, early 20th century. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (neg. no. LC-USZC4-4961)

 

Take the Fresh One

It was 3:00 in the afternoon and I was hungry. That horrible mid-afternoon munchy that makes you think you are starving. I headed for the fridge for my usual snack–a red pepper. Sometimes it gets a dab of peanut butter, sometimes a smear of soft cheese. Other times, just plain. A sweet red pepper is a perfect thing.

pepperAs I reached into the crisper drawer, I noticed a wrinkled pepper, older, slowing exhaling its crunchy texture in exchange for wrinkles shooting across its skin.

Automatically, I reach for it. Training from long ago. We were not allowed to eat the fresh, new fruit. No, we were to eat the older, mushy fruit or vegetable first. That way, nothing went to waste. Waste, of course, was an epic transgression of the laws of nature. I know, I know, but you didn’t know my parents and how close they had lived to starvation for years.

The result? We never ate anything fresh. We constantly foraged for the spotted, the almost inedible, and saved it from the trash by eating it.

I hesitated, my hand over the older pepper. I knew it would not be crunchy, and the bright red taste had faded to a tougher skin and limp texture. And then it struck me: there are omelets, soups, garnishes, juices that could benefit from the older pepper. But the firm one, the one glowing in the corner is meant to be eaten now. Not broken down by cooking, but celebrated for its perfection of temperature, color, and happiness.

So, with my Mother tsk-tsking in my memory, I pulled out the fresh pepper and enjoyed every fresh, juicy, refreshing bite. Life. Enjoy it while it’s fresh.

–Quinn McDonald sees big lessons in small places.

 

Ask for What You Need

I find it almost impossible to ask for special treatment at a restaurant. I know many people ask for special diets because they need them and have real allergies. I also know that many people want attention, control or simply want to be on a popular bandwagon and demand gluten-free, dairy-free, or meat-free dishes in public, while scarfing down bread, milkshakes and wings at home.

The Local is at 3rd St. and Roosevelt in Phoenix.

The Local is at 3rd St. and Roosevelt in Phoenix.

No one pretends to be diabetic. Diabetes, popular culture informs us, is a disease of weak, fat people. It is our fault we are diabetic, never mind genetics or that every food company within reach adds sugar, artificial sugar or “natural” sugars to keep consumers addicted to the sweet taste of. . . mustard, pickles, and bacon. All of which have added sugars.

I cringe at asking serving staff if there is honey in salad dressing, red wine or sugar in the sauce, or what is used to thicken the sauce. Often the server doesn’t know, and assures me that the dish is glueten-free. Great, but I don’t have a problem with gluten. When I tell the server I’m diabetic, I get shrugs or, “Can’t you just take something for that?” In short, no. And I no longer explain why.

Last night, I decided that unless wait staff and servers are mind-readers, I have

Adam Hargett (left), manager at The Local and Chef McKinley (right).

Adam Hargett (left), manager at The Local and Chef McKinley (right).

to ask for what I need. Because it’s my health and my body.

We (two couples) were eating at The Local in Phoenix. The staff knew it was my birthday, and brought me a glass of champagne, which I accepted and passed to my right, to someone who would enjoy it.

When the menus were passed and the server asked if we had questions, I asked if I could have my dish served without potatoes. I took a deep breath and said I was diabetic and could not eat potatoes. The waiter summoned the chef out of the kitchen. I’m married to a chef, and asking for the chef’s presence at a table is a serious occasion. Still, Chef Chris McKinley appeared, smiling. I wanted to know if I could substitute something for the potatoes. After all, striking an item from the dish unbalances the flavors of the entire course.

The chef said he could substitute farro, a low-glycemic-index wheat, for the potatoes. And he could make a vinaigrette without honey for the salad. I was amazed at how generously he made the substitutions. The server placed the meal in front of me, assuring me of the substitutions, as there was another order for the original dish. Both the salad and the main course were delicious.

In fact, the entire meal was delicious. I did not feel deprived, I felt heard and valued. It may not sound like much, but I had asked for what I needed and someone listened.

Keeping quiet out of fear makes no more sense than speaking up out of privilege. Health issues are not easy to discuss, but taking a calm stand makes it possible for others to know what you want and to help if they can. Asking for what you need is a step in the direction of self-care. And not expecting others to care for you more than you do for yourself.

Quinn McDonald will be back at The Local, because the food is excellent and the service attentive. The sticky toffee pudding, shared by the others at the table, comes highly recommended. The Local was named the best new restaurant in Phoenix by New Times magazine.

 

 

Diabetic-Friendly Power Bars

Having discovered the book Power Hungry: The Ultimate Energy Bar Cookbook by Camilla V. Saulsbury,  I am experimenting with diabetic-friendly (good taste, low carb) treats. The book is not for diabetics, but with very little trouble, many of the recipes can be converted to tasty treats that don’t spike your blood sugar and taste great.

The first thing I learned was that what the author calls “pucks” are baked in a muffin tin for a reason–they are moist and fall apart easily. I stubbornly baked them in brownie pans and lived to regret that choice. I now bake all my power bars in lined muffin tins for practical reasons:

  • You can vary the cooking time to make sure they come out to your liking–soft or chewy.
  • They unmold really easily from the muffin tin and no wash-up! (Big plus for me.)
  • They become portable if you leave them in the liner paper. I don’t fill up the muffin cups, so the paper can be folded over them successfully.
  • No clean up–very important

If you are going to make a lot of your own power bars, buy a silicon muffin tin, both in large and small sizes. They are easy to clean, you don’t need to spray them, and they work every time. Since we had regular muffin tins, I bought paper inserts to use.

My two success stories. Both are altered somewhat from the book. I also used Viva Lab products in the recipes: chia seeds, flax seed powder, cocoa powder and coconut sugar. For diabetics, the low-glycemic index coconut sugar may be the best discovery ever. I’m careful with sugar, but this is the real taste, real baking power low-glycemic ingredient that I’m crazy about.

Chewy Cherry Rounds

  • 2/3 cup ground flaxseed meal
  • 1/2 cup natural, unsweetened almond butter
  • 1/3 cup milk (you can use soy or almond milk)
  • 1/3 cup Viva coconut sugar (you can use coconut nectar)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla flavoring (you can use almond extract0
  • 2/3 cup dried cherries. (I used sour cherries, bulk)

cherrysnackPreheat oven to 325ºF  (160ºC)
Line the muffin tin with paper liners.

Soak the cherries in warm water to cover for three minutes. Discard the water. Press the cherries gently till all water is gone. I know they process them with sugar, so I needed to rinse it off. (If you are not diabetic, skip this step)

Thoroughly mix all ingredients except the cherries. Add them and stir just to incorporate.

Divide the mixture into the 12 muffin tins. It will not fill up the tins, just the bottom 1/4 will be covered.

Bake in preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes. Do NOT overbake. Take out of oven, let cool and turn out the rounds in their paper. Fold over the paper and store in zipper plastic bag in fridge.

Per round: 161 calories, 16.2g carbs, 4.3 g fiber

Alternatives:

  1. Add a Tablespoon of Viva organic cacao powder for a richer taste.
  2. Substitute dried, chopped apricots for cherries. If you use unsulfered apricots, soak them to plump them up, but drain and squeeze.

*     *     *     *     *

Whole Grain Apricot Bars

  • 1 cup health-food store cooking cereal that combines spelt,
    PowerBar

    I didn’t use muffin tins for this one. I should have.

    amaranth, quinoa flakes, or rolled oats. (In any combination). It should all look like rolled oats, not like corn flakes.

  • 1 cup pecan pieces (can use shelled hemp seeds, sunflower seeds or walnuts)
  • 1 bar ( 1.65 oz) Trader Joe’s dark (72 percent) chocolate, cut into bits
  • 1/2 cup almond butter (unsweetened) use a no-stir brand for consistent results
  • 1/3 cup Viva coconut sugar (or coconut nectar)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
  • 2 Tablespoons ground flax seed
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325ºF  (160ºC)
Line the muffin tin with paper liners.
Rinse and squeeze out the apricots.

Chop the pecan pieces, chocolate and apricots into very fine, small pieces. Combine with the rest of the ingredients, stirring until it is all combined completely. You can use a blender, but do not turn it into paste or your taste buds will regret it.

Spoon the mixture evenly into muffin cups. They will be about 1/3 full. Cook for 20 minutes, checking in at 18 so you don’t overcook. Look for the edges to separate from the paper.

Take out of the oven, let cool, and store in the paper cups.

Alternatives:

  • Substitute dried sour cherries for the apricots
  • Use cashew or sunflower nut butter
  • Add 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut shreds

Per bar: 180 calories, 20.8 carbs, 2.4 fiber. For me, that means eating them after a meal of salad and fish. Worth it!

–Quinn McDonald is an experimenter. Diabetic foods are her specialty.

Bread for Diabetics

A few days ago, I saw a recipe for a loaf of bread that was vegan, gluten-free and made with seeds and nuts. It sounded yummy, but a bit severe.  I wondered if I could make some changes and keep it delicious for diabetics, too. After baking the original and making several changes, here’s what I came up with.

loafCutEndIngredients:

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seeds (don’t use whole seeds, you can’t digest them)
  • 1/ cup hazelnuts. (You can substitute almonds or walnuts)
  • 1-1/2 cups rolled oats (6-grain, whole-grain mix is OK, no steel-cut oats)
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots or dried black figs
  • 2 Tsp. chia seeds
  • 4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks
  • 1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
  • 3 T coconut nectar or agave syrup
  • 3 T butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups milk

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Chop hazelnuts and dried fruit into a rough chop. Combine all dry ingredients and fruit in a large bowl. In a medium saucepan, heat milk, vanilla and butter until the butter melts. You do not want to boil the milk. Allow to cool until the mixture is below 110 degrees F.

Loaf1Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. If mixture becomes too thick to stir, add a tablespoon of water at a time. Pour the mixture into a greased loaf pan. Let sit for two hours. You can also make this in the evening and leave it in the fridge overnight.

Bake bread for 20 minutes, then remove bread from pan, place the bare loaf upside down, directly on the oven rack, bake for another 30 to 40 minutes until it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing.

It’s not a bread that can be used for sandwiches, but it is great with cream cheese, or with gruyere melted onto it. Also good plain or with nut butter.

* * *
No, I’m not starting to write a food blog. But I’ve found very few really good diabetic breads or snacks. Creativity includes cooking and self care.

Quinn McDonald misses cinnamon rolls more than anything else, but is getting over it.

Full Flavor, No Sugar

Flavor without sugar. It’s what diabetics want and it’s hard to find. Most “sugar-free” foods are loaded with either fat or fake sugars. And I don’t do well with fake sugars. (See the reviews on the 5-lb bag of sugar-free gummi bears on Amazon.)

Peel

So I’m after big, bold flavor. Spicy, deep, rich–foods with flavor is a diabetic’s Holy Grail.

Here’s a quick fix: dried orange peel. Yes, dried. Not chocolate covered, not sugar soaked, although I did love those for a long time, too.

It couldn’t be easier. Peel an orange. Remove some pith, although you don’t have to make yourself crazy getting it all off. Cut peel in strips. Put in 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 C) oven on a parchment covered sheet pan.  After 10 minutes, toss. Leave in for another 10 minutes. Check to make sure the peel doesn’t turn too dark. Cool. They should be crispy.

Put in a ziplock back and run a rolling pin over them till they are dust. Or put them through a spice grinder or a small blender. Done!

  • How can you use orange peel dust?
  • Sprinkle on cappuccino instead of (or with) cinnamon
  • Sprinkle on unflavored, unsweetened yogurt
  • Dust over oatmeal and skip the sugar
  • Add to tea with the tea leaves before brewing
  • Add 1/2 tsp. to diabetic-friendly chewy almond bars to change the flavor completely
  • Melt Black and Green dark chocolate (never tastes sour or bitter) add chopped nuts and a bit of the orange dust. Yum.
  • Mix into Greek yogurt and use it as a dip for apples and pears
  • Stir into whipped cream cheese and fill celery sticks
  • Blend a bit with 2 tsp of vanilla and cut into a cup of whipped cream. Use as a topping over fresh fruit.

Be very careful–a little goes a long way. Use less than you think. It’s easier to add more. You can do the same thing with lemon, lime and grapefruit peel. The lemon and lime make a great addition to salad dressing and sauces you put over fish and poultry.

Quinn McDonald is married to Kent, a personal chef who cooks interesting food that tastes good. Eating his diabetic-friendly food helped her lose 65 pounds in a year.