velveeta

In my pursuit of real food, I wish that I could cut out Velveeta cheese.  It’s far too processed to count as real food.  However, there’s a family recipe for a spicy dip (I’ll get back to this later in the post) that I just can’t do without.  Because of this, I was really excited when I saw a post on King Arthur Flour’s blog showing how to make a velveeta substitute.  I looked around the internet and saw the same recipe many places.  I made it, following the directions.  It firmed up properly, and tasted good.  Then I make my recipe with it… the family recipe that had never failed in over 40 years with velveeta… and came up with something inedible.  It didn’t melt properly.  Instead of being smooth and creamy, it was entirely grainy, almost in curds.  I don’t know what I did wrong.  I used a block of mild cheddar cheese.  The only thing I can think of is that there were still little chunks of cheddar in the finished cheese.  Maybe that’s why it didn’t melt properly.  No one else on the various blogs that posted the recipe seems to have to problem I did.

The recipe that did not work was for a cheese dip that my family has always called Chile Con Queso.  I know that something similar become popular recently, often made with Rotel, but my grandmother and then my mother have been making it the way listed below for at least 40 years.  Probably more like 50 or 60, but it’s hard for me to be sure.  (well, except for the microwave part.  That doesn’t go back quite so far)

Chili Con Queso
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Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 lb Velveeta cheese
  • 1 can salsa
Instructions
  1. Cut velveeta into 1" cubes and put into microwave safe bowl with a cover. Pour salsa over. Microwave on 50% power, stirring every few minutes, until smooth and creamy. It will look like it's done a few minutes before it actually is. When it's actually done, the color is very consistent.

 

I don’t have a carb count for this recipe because my little one with diabetes won’t eat it because it’s spicy.

I’ll have to give the homemade velveeta substitute one more try, and watch out for cheese chunks.

The pie story

Fruit pie has always been one of my favorite desserts.  It’s one of the first desserts I took the time to learn to make well when I started needing to cook for myself.  And yet I went without it for almost two years.

The problem with fruit pie is that when you cut into it, the filling pours out, so there’s no way to make sure that the 1/8 of the pie crust that you serve someone has almost exactly 1/8 of the filling.  With something as high carb as fruit pie, this means that there’s too much uncertainty as to the carb total to feed it to a small child with diabetes.  I didn’t want to thicken up the filling, because I don’t like pie fillings that are gelatinous or starchy.  For this reason, I did not make any fruit pie, and so did not eat any fruit pie, for almost two years after my daughter’s diagnosis with diabetes.  There were times when it seemed like I was crying because I wanted fruit pie, although of course I was really crying about diabetes in many ways.

Then, instead of making a birthday cake for myself, I tried to make individual blueberry pies in canning jars, following an idea in King Arthur Flour’s blog.  They were good, but they somehow didn’t qualify as fruit pie.  I think that the shape and the filling to topping ratio were just off a bit.  Also, the filling and crust were cooked separately.  The carb counting was OK, though, which was encouraging.

Then, about a month ago I remembered that I had mini pie pans in the cabinet.  They make about 1/4 of an 8″ pie.  I made apple pies with these, and gave my child with diabetes half of one.  This was OK, I can split something in half and eye how much of the escaped filling goes with it.  Now, I can make fruit pie occasionally.  I found myself in tears again that night after the rest of the family was in bed.  I had fought one more little piece of normal away from diabetes, and it was one that was important to me.

Before I could make fruit pie, I needed several things.  I needed the idea of making small pies so that the carb counting was reasonable.  Also, I needed the confidence to tackle a food with such a high carb total.  This experience reinforces my belief that there is no real food that my child cannot eat if I put enough thought and effort into it.

No tricks part 4: lemonade

This post completes the series on basic carb counting without tricks.

Here’s how I would carb count homemade lemonade:

I make lemonade by pouring 1 cup of lemon juice and 1 cup of sugar into a 2 quart pitcher.  Then I fill the pitcher with water.  The water has no carbs, and the lemon has little enough that I don’t count it.  Thus, the carbs in the pitcher are 200 grams.

I know that I will measure my child’s portion of lemonade by volume, so I use the fact that the batch of lemonade is 2 quarts, or 8 cups.  Thus, each cup of lemonade has 200/8 =25 grams of carbs.  I would write down the number 25 grams per cup, even though we have been told to limit sugary drinks to 1/2 cup a day for our child with diabetes.

Are there any kinds of foods that you, the readers, would like to know how to carb count?

Hunting down my favorite foods

I grew up in the Chicago area, so there are three foods that I really miss living anywhere else:

  • stuffed pizza
  • italian beef sandwiches
  • gyros

Years ago I found a recipe that mimics most of my favorite stuffed pizza place.  The tomato sauce is the only part I haven’t yet got quite right.  A few weeks ago I started trying to find a solution to the other two.  On the italian beef, I found a recipe to start with, but it just wasn’t right.  I need to find some other recipes and try again.

The gyros I’ve come close to finding a solution to.  I’ve now tried to make them twice.  Both times I used all lamb and followed Alton Brown’s recipe.  Both times it was good, but far enough off to be exasperating.  There was a funny ‘farm-like’ taste.

After the second unsatisfactory attempt tonight, I spent some time on the internet.  I found a website for my favorite gyros place, and they list the provider of their meat.  I then found that provider’s web site, and all their gyros logs use more beef than lamb!  That’s what we’ve been tasting.  I think next attempt I will try the recipe as written, except use half beef and half lamb.

I also have a tzaziki sauce recipe that I keep adjusting until it is just right.

Once I get the recipes just right, I’ll post again with them.

A failed experiment

My family loves eating Alton Brown’s ‘The Chewy’ chocolate chip cookies.  Last Friday, tried making both his puffy and his thin chocolate chip cookie recipes.  However, the resulting cookies looked almost exactly the same!  When I investigated, it turned out that my baking powder was getting weak (i.e. it foamed gently in hot water, rather than bubbling vigorously), and the puffy cookie used baking powder while the other cookies I’ve been making use baking soda.

I plan to repeat the experiment some other time and post the results then, including pictures and carb counts.

The moral of the story: be careful of the age of your baking powder.

what ingredients have carbs

When carb counting food cooked from scratch, it can help to know what ingredients have carbs before starting to cook, because others don’t even need to be measured as carefully.  The following ingredients I assume have no carbs:

  • herbs, spices (be careful of blends, though, some contain sugar) fresh or dry
  • meat (plain meat, like chicken, not processed meat like hot dogs, sausages, or meatballs)
  • chicken or beef broth
  • yeast
  • baking powder, baking soda
  • fats such as oils, butter, and lard
  • eggs (some sources say 1 gram of carbs each)

Ingredients that are high carb and always need to be counted carefully:

  • flour (of any kind)
  • fruit and fruit juice (except for small amounts of lemon or lime juice)
  • starchy vegetables such as corn or potatoes
  • sugar (of any kind)
  • cornstarch
  • bread and breadcrumbs
  • chocolate and other candy
  • oats and other grains
  • sourdough starter

Ingredients of medium carbs, count large amounts but not small ones:

  • onion, garlic
  • carrots
  • peppers
  • processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages, and meatballs

If you are uncertain about any ingredient, it’s always safer to check the package or a carb counting guide book than to make assumptions.  Also, in general those counting carbs for smaller children will need to be more cautious than those counting carbs for older children.

If you see any inaccuracies in the above list or anything important left out, please leave a comment.

frustration

Ok, so all parents understand part of this frustration.  You work hard to make delicious, healthy food for your family,… and then one of the kids doesn’t like it, and lets you know this in no uncertain terms.  Maybe they even refuse to try it.  Positively maddening.

However, for those of us caring for small children with diabetes, this frustration can get even worse.  Not only  have we put in the time to cook a meal, but we’ve also spent the time and care to carb count it.  The cooking also benefits the rest of the family.  We even get to enjoy the food.  The carb counting is only for the sake of this one child.  And then they won’t eat the food.

I could suggest philosophical resignation… It’s good practice carb counting.  However, that doesn’t make me feel any better.  What does make me feel better is to remember that it’s my job to take care of this precious little one, and even if she won’t eat this food, I had to be prepared in case she did.  I’m glad to do what I must to take care of her.  This same determination (it’s not just an emotion) that gets me through the 3am alarm clock for a night check can get me through this frustration.

(I know some families would push harder than I do to require a child to eat what is provided.  I’m not willing to do that, because it’s hard enough for a child with type 1 diabetes to have a healthy food attitude without the added pressure.)

kitchen tools for carb counting

To go along with my posts on the basics of carb counting, I thought I would talk about some of the tools that I use frequently in cooking while carb counting for diabetes care.

The one device that many home cooks don’t have that I couldn’t live without is my digital scale.  Mine is intended for baking, so all it gives me is the weight, to the nearest gram or nearest 1/8 oz.  It does not try to count carbs for me.  I had it for several years before my child’s diagnosis for baking, but then I used it about once a week.  Now I use it on average about 5 times a day.  I even use it to measure sandwich spreads.

I also have a more generous supply of volume measuring devices than most.  I have two sets (exactly the same so they are interchangeable) of metal dry measuring cups.  I also have several different liquid measuring cups, including the Emsa Perfect Beaker.

These are the only tools that I would say are influenced by the carb counting.

Why so careful?

To those who do not care for small children with type 1 diabetes, it may seem that I’m going overboard with the detail in my carb counting.  However, this is the level of detail that I find necessary.  I’m feeding a small child who sometimes eats meals as small as 15 grams of carbs.  To be off by three grams of carbs would mean an error of 20% in carb total, and so 20% in her insulin dose.

When we eat at restaurants, I obviously don’t have this degree of accuracy, because I’m not going to bring a scale and measuring cups with us.  I just estimate fractions by eye, and do my best.  I often will check blood sugar about 2 hours after insulin to check for a low just in case I was off by a lot.

Just like nutrition and parenting, in carb counting I do the best that I can and then try to let go of the things I can’t do quite right.  It’s the overall pattern that matters more than any specific instance.  Our wonderful diabetes team has set up a structure that will catch any errors before they can harm my wonderful child.

No tricks part 3: bread

IMG_0692

Here I’m going to describe my basic method of how to count carbohydrates in something I am cooking from scratch.  I’ll be using a bread recipe from the 1961 Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book to illustrate the procedure.

I start out making the bread according to the recipe, measuring more carefully that I perhaps would otherwise.

When carb counting, first I add up the carbs in a batch of bread.  In the case of this recipe, yeast, water, salt, and shortening have no carbs.  The ingredients that do have carbs are 7 cups of flour and 3 tablespoons of sugar.  I know that King Arthur flour has 88 grams of carbs a cup, so there are 7×88=616 grams of carbs in flour.  Each tablespoon of sugar has 12 grams of carbs per tablespoon, so there are 3×12=36 grams of carbs from sugar in the bread.  Further, 36+616=652 so the whole batch of bread has about 650 grams of carbs.

IMG_0690

When the bread comes out of the oven and out of the pans, I weigh both loaves (in grams, not ounces).  The loaves weighed 738 and 746 grams.  Thus, the total weight of bread made from this batch is 1484 grams.

Then I divide 652 grams of carbs by 1484 grams mass to find a carb factor of 0.45 for this bread.

My child’s portion of bread weighed 56 grams, so she ate 0.45 x 56 = 25 grams of carbs from bread. I record this carb factor of 0.45 both in the cook book and someplace where I can find it easily until the bread is gone.