Low-Carb Adventures with a Pizza Oven

 

Landed—in our garden, one pizza oven. Given that the pizza doesn’t feature in low-carb diets apart from in a bastardised form, what else can you do in an outdoor oven?

All kinds of things, it turns out. Yes, the pizza oven is a vegetable’s dream destination, the wood smoke turning them into delicious, charred things you want to toss into a warm salad and scoff. We’ve yet to try out a steak in there, but the vision already dances in my head.

Black lines, a crispness to the outside and then meltingly soft pinkness within, anointed with a blue cheese sauce that slowly melts into the crevices of the meat…

But for now? Chicken wings, EB! That’s what you’ll do.

Having hit upon the idea, I decided information overload was the next logical step. I headed for the internet and entered the search terms chicken wings in the pizza oven, low-carb chicken wings, best chicken wings etc., until I had far too many options in front of me.

[Does anyone else do this? I usually flip through hundreds of recipes on line before reverting to my trusted Mary Berry cook book.]

A lot of the recipes for chicken wings featured sugar, honey or flour. I found one that used a third of a cup of flour—not a lot, but I used coconut flour instead.

The coconut flour has sat in my cupboard long enough for it to go out of date. But flip, it’s so pricey I couldn’t face throwing the bag out. Now, I was going to use it. And then toss the rest as the use-by date was…

Embarrassingly long ago. Don’t do this at home, folks!

The true joy of chicken wings is the dip that goes with them. You’ll have gathered from the steak description above, blue cheese features so often in my life it’s got my number on speed dial. There are lots of variations on the blue cheese dip, but one I’ve been making for years is criminally simple—Greek yoghurt, mashed up blue cheese in proportions of about one to two parts. Add pepper if you want to be fancy.

I worried coconut flour would make the drumsticks too coconut-y. I love coconut, but the distinctive flavour doesn’t belong in a lot of places it finds itself these days. (Coconut oil for roast potatoes—I ask you!) Luckily, the spices masked the flavour. But swap the flour for cornflour and cut down the quantity to a quarter cup if you want.

Another swap was drumsticks instead of wings, seeing as Morrison’s had none of the former.

Low-Carb Chicken Drumsticks with

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 10 chicken drumsticks
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • 1tbsp paprika
  • 1tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1tbsp garlic salt
  • 1tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3tbsp rapeseed oil and one teaspoon butter
  • 250g Greek yoghurt
  • 125g blue cheese, crumbled.

Heat your oven – it needs to be about 180 degree C to cook the drumsticks. Mix the flour, paprika, pepper, garlic salt and cayenne. Add to a plastic bag.

Put half the drumstick in the bag and shake well to coat. Do the same with the rest of the drumsticks.

Line a sturdy baking tray with foil and place the oil and butter on it. Heat in the hot pizza oven for five minutes. Place the drumsticks on it and spread out. Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes, turn the drumsticks over and cook for another five minutes until crisp.

Combine the yoghurt and blue cheese and serve. You’ll need plenty of napkins as this is one messy dish.

About 10g carbs per portion and 5g fibre.

Next up—the steak. Or baba ghanoush as a pizza oven would make short work of blackening those aubergines…

And finally, does this count as food porn for we low-carbers? Here’s the pizza we made in the oven. My husband’s a pizza gourmet. He promised me this was amazing. Wood smoke does incredible things to food.

Low Carb Go-To Meals

picture of chorizo sausage, the Diabetes Diet
I’d probably eat this Every. Single. Day.

What are your go-to meals? Everyone has them, the ones you eat at least once a week or more. We choose them for their mix of taste and convenience.

When you throw diabetes into the mix, the go-to meals are usually the ones where you know the exact carb count, how much insulin you need to take with them and they’re probably quick and easy.

I go through phases too—eating one dish for weeks and weeks before getting thoroughly bored of it. I add the odd newbie into the mix occasionally, usually picking something I find online. I like simple dishes—a generous helping of protein, two of vegetables and fat in the form of mayo, cheese or nuts thrown in.

My ‘go-to’s’ are:

  • Chopped cooking chorizo fried with mushrooms on top of salad generously dressed with balsamic vinegar and a bit of chopped avocado.
  • Prawns in home-made cocktail sauce with salad leaves and broccoli
  • Low-fat cauliflower cheese with salad leaves and two eggs to give extra protein
  • Any home-made soup with boiled eggs
  • Roasted chicken legs with broccoli or cauliflower and…you guessed it, salad leaves.

For all that we post recipes giving you lots of choices for your low-carb diet, I wonder how many of you are like me? Do you too return to the same meals time after time and are they as simple (boring!) as mine?

 

Office Etiquette with Diabetes

person holding jelly babies at The Diabetes Diet
Mine, all mine!!

I waved goodbye gaily to office life in 2013, glad to embark on new adventures in freelance world.

There’s a lot to be said for freelancing, not least the ‘free’ bit. I love being in charge of my own scheduling. But the pay… ah, the moolah just isn’t to be found, folks. You’re undercut all the time by global competitors who can afford to write for tiny sums or people in your own country who do it for free as a hobby. Argh.

Anyway, I started a new part-time job in April, working in a communications role on a project at Glasgow University—a worthwhile project and the chance to add a regular income. The equal opportunities form asked if I had a disability. I ticked the ‘no’ box. It also asked if I had a chronic health condition. Er…no?

Okay, I get that I do, but until my thirties, I thought all I had was diabetes. When someone pointed out it is a chronic health condition, I was stunned. No, really. I know that sounds like a “duh” moment, but diabetes hadn’t caused me much hassle. Calling it a chronic life condition felt a bit like I was straying into hypochondriac territory.

Back to my new office job. I decided to be a grown-up and tell my colleagues about my condition, instead of sneakily eating jelly babies at my desk and hoping they didn’t notice. It’s not that I don’t want to tell folks; I just I hate drawing attention to it.

I introduced the subject at a team meeting in a round-about way. Did my new colleagues know of anywhere on the campus where I could offload spare medical gear , I asked. (And benefit others at the same time by recycling my stuff. See what I did there?)

They suggested places. I’d told them I was a diabetic by default.

Job done.

Next up—the hypo talk, where I explain what a hypo looks like and why I’m a stingy jelly baby hogger, instead of offering them around.

Low Carb Diet Study

diabetes diet
You don’t want to know what’s going in here…

So, you get to take all sorts of measurements and I need to answer lots of questions about what I eat? Sign me up!

Reader, I adore a study and even more so when it relates to lifestyle. I started work at Glasgow University in April and spotted a poster looking for participants in a low-carb study.

“Aha!” I said to myself. “I’m your woman! A low-carber for years, diabetic to boot and a person well-versed in the filling in of a form.”

While certain aspects of the low-carbohydrate diet have been well researched, such as weight loss, there has been little focus on testing how this way of eating affects micronutrient levels in the body. The Glasgow Uni study, Nutritional and Cardiovascular Risk Factors associated with Long-Term Adherence to Low-Carbohydrate/Gluten-Avoidance Diets, funded by the Faculty of Medicine, Prince of Songkla University, Thailand, concentrates on this.

What is the purpose of the study? Low carbohydrate diets (LCD) such as the Atkins Diet have become common dietary approaches for weight management, and aiming to avoid starchy foods such as bread, cereals, pasta, rice and potatoes which are major dietary sources of B-vitamins, magnesium, and fibre.

The researcher is investigating the contribution of starchy / sweet foods in body composition, micronutrient status and cardiovascular risk factors. To do this, they seek people who either exclude or include these foods in their diet.

I’m not one hundred percent low-carb compliant. Who is? But when I filled in the forms for the study, I realised that I follow a low-carb diet much more closely than I thought. How often do I eat potatoes, rice and pasta, the survey wanted to know—the answer, never or less than once a month for rice and pasta and about twice a month for potatoes.

I eat bread more often (LOVE bread), and ditto chocolate, but I don’t bother with most of the other high-carb foods listed in the questionnaire.

The outline of the survey had said they’d do urine testing. I assumed that meant a sample in one of those little tubes. Not so! The doctor sent me off with two large flasks (pictured) and asked me to collect all my pee over a 24-hour period.

TBH, I wasn’t sure the two flasks would be enough. We diabetics tend to wee more than ordinary folks, anyway. When you add in my daily diet coke, water and peppermint tea intake, a lot of fluid swishes around inside me.

And what goes in must come out!

The survey will be followed up in six months’ time, then another six months after that and so on until two years are up.

At the time of writing, the researchers hadn’t found that many people to take part—nine out of a necessary eighty. If you live in the Glasgow area and follow a low-carb diet (you don’t need to be diabetic and you don’t have to follow it all the time), then they’d love to hear from you—lowcarbstudy@gmail.com

Running and Diabetes Part 2

Shoes and mini eggs. The Diabetes Diet
Yes, yes, I’ve been RUNNING, therefore I need carbs.

Runners don’t smile at you when you pass them—a sign, I always thought, of why you shouldn’t add running to your life.

Aye, that painful grimace tells you all you need to know… Running is a fool’s game; its rewards are not worth the pain. If you’re not built for distance slogging—i.e. Kenyan skinny—give anything other than a dash for the bus a miss.

Some foolish notion, however, made me take running up once more at the end of last year. And it was okay. I didn’t grin madly at people, but I got the runner’s high. Albeit, the buzz doesn’t last long enough to justify the effort you put in.

And I got to listen to a lot of podcasts. “This is learning by osmosis, EB!” I said to myself. I picked worthy ones, such as those designed to help me improve my writing career. If I just listened to what the gurus told me why bother putting any of it in place? The lessons would all filter through subconsciously. Sales would result! [Spoiler alert—not so far.]

Then I thought entering the Glasgow half-marathon would be fun. Which it was, in January—y’know, when it was months away. And now the end of April hurtles ever nearer and I’m no further forward than eight and a half kilometres (five miles), less than half the distance. Woe!

I’ve upped my game. The five miles feels like an achievement, seeing as I haven’t pushed beyond three in years. My training plan, thus, is add one kilometre every week to the big run and run another two 5ks a week. Do Pilates once a week to stop self seizing up.

As for tempo training, HIIT stuff and dragging myself up and down hills and all that other serious runner stuff, forget it.

Goal? Half-marathon completion, even if it means walking some of the distance.

Running with type 1 diabetes is challenging. Any endurance exercise is. As well as dealing with breathing, effort, aching legs and all that, we battle see-sawing blood sugars not only during the run but afterwards too.

Blood sugar levels that are too high make you tired and exercise will often send them soaring higher. When your sugar levels dip too low, tiredness happens too, you’re at risk of collapsing and you need to eat.

Picture of a Hike bar. The Diabetes Diet
Hike bars–great running fuel.

Here’s what I’ve learned…

  • The best runs are when I’ve had level blood sugars all day.
  • Hike bars—the Aldi cheap version of a protein bar—are brilliant running fuel. I have half of one before, half afterwards. The raspberry one is nicer than the cocoa one.
  • I’ve a talent for finding routes that are treadmill flat. And sticking to them.
  • A runner’s backpack is worth buying. I ran my last half-marathon, clutching a bag of jelly babies and my blood sugar equipment in my sweaty hand. If you’ve ever run holding something in your hand, you’ll know how irritating it is. By the end of the race, the jelly babies had morphed into a gelatinous mass.
  • Your Fitbit shows you getting fitter as the time I’m spending in peak heart rate zone has come down since I’ve started tracking the runs. It’s gratifying.
  • The Type 1 Run Podcast (mentioned here) is incredibly useful. It amuses me that I’ve had diabetes and exercised with it longer than most of the guests have been alive, but you’re on a lifelong learning curve when you have diabetes. I learn something from every guest.
  • I seem to run well the day after drinking. My body welcomes the chance of sweating it all out. As it leaves my body, the alcohol acts like petrol… Don’t do this at home though kids!

This time round, I’m planning a support crew. When I did the half-marathon ten years ago, I did the race with another runner, but had no-one waiting for me at the end or around the course. (Cue violins.) In September, I’ll have my husband and friends dotted at four-mile intervals, armed with food and water. And umbrellas for themselves. It’ll be late September, and this is Glasgow. Rain’s 95 percent guaranteed.

And is it too early to plan my post-race meal? Readers, I’m low-carb most of the time, but the minute I cross that finish line, I plan to fall face down on a ginormous plate of fish and chips, doused in salt and malt vinegar.

Only places that do light, crispy batter, crisp chips that are fluffy on the inside, home-made onion rings and mushy peas need apply.

Massive disclaimer here—my experiences are personal. They are not recommendations, especially the last one. On a serious note, endurance events can be dangerous, not just for people with diabetes, as this year’s London Marathon proved again.

 

A news story this week reported that scientists have improved the naturally occurring enzyme that can ‘eat’ plastic.

Good news, eh? Few people fail to be moved by the sight of the oceans brimming with waste. We all want to cut down on plastic and our use of it.

When you have diabetes, particularly type one, you use more plastic than most people. It wraps itself around individual pump components, it shields needles and it’s what lancets are made from. I hope the plastic-eating enzyme hurries up in its development so I’ll be able to chuck all that junk into a machine in my house.

The only figures I can find relate to general medical waste in the US. The market is expected to increase from $10.3 billion in 2015 to $13.3 billion in 2020. As rates of diabetes increase, that figure will only get higher.

I can’t find many specific tips to help us reduce the plastic we use for we diabetics, but here are some ideas I came up with…

  • Can you choose reusable pens, instead of disposable ones? This will depend on your insulin and what the manufacturers offer. Perhaps we should ask them to provide permanent devices if they don’t?
  • Recycle what you can—in my case, I throw the clean needle covers and empty test tube tubs into the recycling bins.
  • Nearby animal sanctuaries might be able to use old syringes to feed baby animals or give them meds. (Not sure about this one—check it out with your shelter.)
  • Small local businesses that do mail orders might take the polystyrene packing you get with any ordered supplies.
  • Finally, donate your old insulin and medical gear. If you have sealed, unopened packets of insulin, needles, lancets, infusion sets for pumps, unopened test strips and more, please give them a charity if you can. Insulin for Life works to distribute insulin and supplies to disadvantaged people. It operates in nine countries, including Germany, Australia, the UK and the US and distributes to 74 places.

Do you have imaginative ideas for what to do with diabetes-related medical waste? I’d love to know. Please feel free to comment.