Saturday, February 28, 2009

guest blogger Cybele talks diabetes and dessert recipes

Today's post is courtesy of a special guest blogger, my friend Cybele Garcia Kohel. After I started Filthy Sucre, we discovered that we had something in common: avoiding sugar and refined white stuff. Though I'm hypoglycemic, and she is diabetic, we've found that we keep to a similar diet. In fact, a few months ago, we were both at a Saturday morning workshop that ended with lunch. Unfortunately, the lunch consisted of nothing but sandwiches on huge slices of white bread, and Cybele and I were both reduced to peeling the condiment-laden slices of lunch meat off and tossing the bread aside...without the help of a fork. It was not an elegant meal, nor was it filling, so I was glad I had brought a cheese stick and two clementines in my purse. I believe Cybele supplemented with nuts.

I hope you'll enjoy hearing about her experiences going sugar free. Take it away, Cybele!

So sugar got you down? Tell me about it! I'm diabetic. Before you get the impression that I'm a 300 pound sedentary chronic over eater, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I'm 38 years old. I'm a little over 5 feet tall and I weigh 115 pounds. I go to yoga weekly, run local errands on my bike several times a week and walk my dog twice daily. Truly, I am borderline diabetic. The diagnosis came last year, and it was devastating to me. I believe that in my case, the diabetes was stress-induced. At the time I was commuting (to my fairly stressful place of employment) on my bicycle, usually about 16 miles round trip, at least once a week. Since then I've discovered that my grandmother's sister apparently had diabetes, but other than that no one else in my family has it. So, needless to say, the diagnosis came as a shock to me, and most of my friends and family. It started a wave of dieting and gym membership among my coworkers.

Luckily I was diagnosed early, so I am able to manage the diabetes with a good diet and exercise. That means I don't have to take insulin - and I want to keep it that way. When Addie started the Filthy Sucre Blog, I was very excited to read that other people out there are avoiding simple sugars as well. While being a diabetic is really more about avoiding large quantities of simple carbs, eating balanced meals and exercising to achieve a normal blood sugar, I find that avoiding outright or hidden sugar is extremely helpful. So, like most concerned consumers, I read nutrition labels if I eat processed foods. Whenever possible, I avoid sugar, corn syrup, even honey which is basically a naturally-processed sugar (my condolences to the bees of the world). But I don't think I will ever give up eating or wanting dessert. It is a comfort that is too engrained in my lifestyle, my family culture. Not a person who enjoys chemically-produced sugar subsitutes either, I searched for a decent substitute. So far, agave nectar is my favorite. Agave is relatively cheap, and Trader Joe's carries it. Yes, it is still a sweetener of course, but much lower on the glycemic index, which is very important for anyone who is watching blood sugar levels. Use agave nectar, coupled with non-refined flours, and you've got yourself a more than just decent, low carb dessert. Take a look at all the alternative flours available at Bob's Red Mill. It really blows my mind the alternitives we have out there. Now if we could just get the rest of America to use them on occasion...

As a creative type, I'm always experimenting - this means in the kitchen I'm tweaking the sugar and refined flours out of the recipes in my books. So here are two of my no-sugar desserts for you to try at home. Enjoy!


2 bananas, ripe
1/2 cup coconut shavings (unsweetened!)
1/3 cup lime or lemon juice
agave nectar for drizzling

1. Slice the bananas thickly.
2. Squeeze juice into a bowl.
3. Spread the coconut shavings on a plate.
4. Dip each banana slice first into the juice, then into the coconut, covering them well. Set them on a plate.
5. Serve first, then drip agave to taste on them.

I initially ignored this recipe, because neither my husband or I like coconut. But I realized that what I didn't like about the coconut was the added sugar. The unsweetened coconut has a good flavor, without the sugar headache afterward. Sometime I'd like to make it with toasted coconut. It might be even better that way. Or with a peanut sauce...the experimentation continues!


8 medium apples, or 5 large (use Gala or Fuji)
1/2 cup of agave nectar
3/4 cup of uncooked rolled oats (not instant)
1/3 cup of rice flour
1/3 cup of butter, very soft
3 Tablespoons of lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of dried ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup of walnuts (optional)

1. You may remove the apple peels if you like. Clean, core and slice the apples. Lay them in a lightly greased 9x13 pan.

2. Mix oats, flour, walnuts, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon well, in a large bowl.
3. Add agave, lemon juice and butter. Mix everything well.
4. Pour mixture over the apples.
5. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes, or until a poked toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool before cutting or serving.

I omitted fruit juice from this recipe, because the nectar is a liquid instead of a powdered sugar. If you need to, add a few tablespoons of water when mixing, but not too much as it will make for a mushy result.

Some articles of interest:

"America's Diet: Too Sweet By the Spoonful" The New York Times
"Is America Too Sweet on Sugar" CBS News

- Cybele Garcia Kohel

Monday, February 23, 2009

don't eat cardboard peaches

Lately, every time I go to Trader Joe's I get annoyed. It's not the insane crowd of people blocking the aisles, it's not the teeny tiny parking's the #*@! peaches from Chile. Earth to Trader Joe's: It is February. Not that it's just Trader Joe's, but why should they use their tiny (and incomplete) produce section for out-of-season fruit that isn't up to thier thrify gourmet standards of quality?

Who needs rock-hard, flavorless peaches that you have to cut with a knife and that crunch when you eat them? Is the need so great for cardboard-tasting supposed fruit that bounces like a tennis ball because it logged more than 5,587.57 miles in its weeks-long trip from the farm to the store?

It's like opening Christmas presents in April. Biking across the ocean. Shaving with your toothbrush. Cheering for Texas. You get the picture - it's just wrong.

The thing is, during the summer, we can get delicious, juicy peaches from right here in California. Peaches are such a quintessential summer thing for me that it just bothers me to see these fake ones around in the winter. It siphons off the fun and anticipation of those first peaches arriving in June or July, kind of in the same way that the holiday spirit is dampened when all the retail halls are decked right after Labor Day.

I doubt there would be any demand for these things if the stores weren't taking it upon themselves to provide all produce year 'round. I mean, I know not everyone lives in California, and we are lucky to have such a variety of fruits and veggies growing here all year. But still, think of the ridiculous carbon footprint left by a peach from Chile - its journey to the grocery store in LA is roughly equivalent to the mileage I put on my car in five months. It makes life bland if everything is available all the time, and we've got plenty to enjoy right now with a zillion varieties of citrus finishing up their season in the spotlight. OK, enough ranting...

In other news, Mike and I had the chance to go to the Farmers Market yesterday for the first time since we moved to the Valley. We decided to check out the market in Encino, and it was really good. There were hints of spring appearing: asparagus, artichokes, cute baby eggplants, snow peas...yay spring!! More recipes soon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

in search of mocklate, chapter 1: brownies

Introducing...a new thread all about sweets! I'm calling it "In Search of Mocklate," and I will be periodically posting ideas for ways to get around that whole not-eating-sugar thing, because it's not as if I don't like dessert. For my first foray in search of mocklate, I chose to experiment with brownies. The adventure culminated at a party we attended Sunday evening, where friends unwittingly taste-tested a whole bunch of sugar-free, flour-free treats. Before I get too far, I would also like to mention that certain tasters (Lacey!) had some great ideas for the title of this post: "Brownies You Could Eat for Breakfast," or "Brownies with a Secret Ingredient (no, not that)."

I started this experiment innocently enough with an internet search for suitable brownie recipes. I Googled "diabetic brownies," "sugar free brownies," "hypoglycemia brownies," (that one didn't come up with much) and "low carb brownies." I am somewhat dismayed to report that the first recipe that came up in my search for diabetic-friendly brownies was this one with regular ol' white flour - yikes! Then there was this one, which was in the same vein, but has the remarkable distinction of requiring 60 packets of Sweet & Low. Ewww. And, I wish someone could explain to me how this one, entitlted "Not So Guilty Brownies" by Diabetic Gourmet is supposed to be eaten without causing a huge blood sugar swing. (Let's just pause for a sec to remember that the issue here is not guilt, but illness.) Needless to say, I kept looking.

Eventually, I settled upon two recipes to test in a weekend baking frenzy. The first, found on is low-carb, and uses lots of cream cheese, almond meal instead of flour, and Splenda instead of sugar. (I didn't modify it at all, so I won't re-type the recipe since you can just follow the link.) The recipe was easy, and the brownies were delicious! The texture was slightly less cakey than regular brownies would be, but good in thier own way with the almond meal making it surprisingly fluffy and (not surprisingly) nutty. You can get almond meal at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and in the specialty/organic aisle of most grocery stores. Definitely give this one a try - our fellow party-goers were clueless about the lack of sugar and flour.

The second recipe is the one with the more counter-intuitive set of ingredients, and the one I had the most fun watching people try. The secret? Black beans! And, no, this is not some kind of weird "savory brownie" thing served with salsa on top - it tastes like honest-to-god brownies, and I swear you would never know there are beans in it. Mike HATES beans, but he totally dug these brownies.

I found the black bean brownie recipe on 101 Cookbooks, and did not adapt it, so click the link to check it out. They passed the party test with flying colors, even though they came out pretty soft and were hard to cut into squares. I highly recommend trying this, because they taste decadent, are excitingly unlike anything else you've probably tried, and are a hilarious way to mess with your friends while feeding them a sweet and healthy treat. Just wait until they've had a few bites to reveal your secret.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

another reason not to click on those male enhancement drug offers in your spam box

I couldn't resist posting this. Apparently, some counterfeit Cialis and other male (ahem) enhancement drugs have been circulating in Singapore - but that's the only funny part of this story. You see, these fake remedies were tainted with a diabetes drug that caused a hospital trip for over 150 people due to severe low blood sugar. Four died, seven are still in a coma. Death from hypoglycemia is rare, but it is possible.

One thing that helped the doctors figure out what was causing this: of the 150 people in the hospital, all but one were male. Remember, guys - low blood sugar isn't very macho, so maybe we shouldn't be taking drugs we don't need.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

a nutcase tip for hypoglycemic types

We hypoglycemics always have to carry snacks. Cheese sticks can only be kept in your purse for so long before they lose their allure, which is why nuts are the go-to protein source in a pinch. My personal innovation: save the case from your Altoids gum (sugar free, of course), and keep almonds in it. They are more protected from the other contents of your bag when kept in a little metal case than they would be in a ziploc, and you get to make jokes about carrying around a "nutcase." Win win.

If you get tired of almonds (I do), maybe try some of the more exotic nuts from this link, which has nuts I've never heard of, and some very entertaining synonyms for common nuts. Quiz: which nut is also known as a monkey nut or a goober? Try that one at your next party. Seriously, with this information, you could contend with Harlan Pepper from Best in Show in an epic naming-nuts-face-off.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

rain or shine red lentil soup

I am a soup person. I eat it no matter how hot it is outside, because I just find a warm bowl of soup so much more satisfying to eat than a sandwich or something cold. I think it makes me feel fuller, which is nice since I'm always hungry. This red lentil soup has become one of my all-time favorites since I first got addicted to it at Arda's, a little lunch spot in downtown LA. Now that I don't work close by, I have to make my own. This recipe is kind of a composite of several that I found in my online quest to duplicate this soup, and it's almost as good as the original. And this way, I get a whole big pot of it!

I thought of this recipe today because it's been cloudy and drizzly here in Los Angeles for the past few days, and when we have to carry umbrellas and wear long sleeves, we know it is the dead of winter. Time to cozy up with some soup and a blanket. This recipe is like a natural sunshine substitute with its copious amounts of lemon juice and the bright orange color of the lentils. You must squeeze the juice out of fresh lemons - don't be tempted to use anything out of a plastic, yellow lemon-shaped container.

Also, one note about red lentils. You may not have had them before, because they are not as ubiquitous as the brown and green ones, but they are hands down my favorite lentils because they break down more like a bean when you cook them. The other lentils retain their individual pebbly shapes, but the red ones make a spectacular soup because they get smooth and creamy and blend with your other ingredients. And, I just learned from Wikipedia that lentils, one of mankind's oldest cultivated foods, are the third highest plant source of protein after soybeans and hemp (really, hemp?). So, this high protein soup is especially good for hypoglycemics - no wonder I like it so much. If you have trouble finding red lentils, check the dry foods bins at Whole Foods.


2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, very finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 1/2 carrots, very finely chopped
1 3/4 cups dry red lentils (don't pre-soak)
1 1/2 cartons veggie broth (Each carton is 32 oz.)
1 cup of water
1/4 cup lemon juice
lemon wedges for each bowl

1. Make sure you chop the onion and carrots really finely, because you don't want a chunky texture in this soup. The lentils get so smooth from the cooking, that I used to think that Arda's must be running it through a food processor. In fact, that isn't necessary.

2. Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onions become translucent. Add the cumin and coriander to the pan, letting the spices heat briefly. Enjoy the aroma! After a minute or so, add the carrots, the lentils and the broth.

3. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer. Continue to let it cook for 45 minutes or more, until the lentils have softened.

4. Stir in the cup of water to smooth the soup, then remove from heat and stir in the fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Taste for seasoning, and add a little salt and pepper, as well as more cumin and (especially) coriander at this point.

5. Serve with additional lemon wedges for squeezing into your individual bowls. Yummmm.

Lentils on Foodista

Friday, February 6, 2009

find this at the farmer's market this weekend: jerusalem artichokes

Hey, I'm back! We are moved in, if not unpacked, up here in (like, totally) the Valley. That means all new farmers markets to know and love...

If you are looking for something new to try this weekend, and you're baffled by all those mysterious rooty-looking winter items at the market, pick up some Jerusalem Artichokes (aka "sunchokes"). They are not really artichokes at all, but are kind of like a cross between a potato and a water chestnut in texture, crunchy on the outside and creamy in the middle. We roasted some recently, along with chopped carrots and bite-sized potatoes and some red wine, herbs and beef. You don't need to work hard to peel them - the farmer who sold them to us suggested scrubbing them with a brillo pad or coarse sponge to remove some of the skin. The rest, as he said, is good for you, so don't worry about getting it totally naked.

You could get creative with these and try them steamed, or au gratin, or in some soup...