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Indian Spinach Curry (Palak Paneer)

Indian Spinach Curry (Palak Paneer) - Vegan, Gluten-Free

Since I’m experimenting more and more with vegan and gluten-free foods and I love all types of ethnic cuisines, I was delighted to receive a copy of Dahlia Abraham-Klein’s new book Silk Road Vegetarian.

Sharing the “secrets of healthy and sustainable eating as practiced along the trade routes of Asia for centuries,” this book is perfect for mindful cooks who want to eat a healthy diet filled with locally-sourced ingredients. All recipes are vegetarian; some are also vegan, dairy-free and/or gluten-free. Each recipe is labeled so there is no confusion, but I do wish nutritional information had been included.

A staple of North Indian cuisine, traditional Palak Paneer is made with lots of ghee (clarified butter) and paneer (fresh Indian cheese). In this healthier vegan version, Dahlia uses coconut oil instead of ghee and she substitutes tofu for the paneer. The result is a fresh dish that isn’t swimming in fat. This recipe is similar to one of my favorite vegan breakfast dishes – Tofu Scramble with Swiss Chard. The Indian Spinach Curry recipe below adds tomatoes, a wider variety of spices and seems to be more appropriate for dinner.

If you can afford the carbs, serve this with some steamed brown rice that was cooked with fragrant cardamom pods.

Time-saving tip: Use a 10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach instead of fresh or use pre-washed baby spinach and don’t bother chopping it.

If you like this recipe, some of my Virtual Potluck pals will be sharing others from Silk Road Vegetarian this week. Check out Fennel & Orange Salad from Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine and Middle Eastern Lemon Potato Salad from Cookistry.

Silk Road Vegetarian


I’m giving away a copy of Silk Road Vegetarian by Dahlia Abraham-Klein. To enter, leave a comment and tell me your favorite cuisine and/or dish to eat along the Silk Road (trade routes through Asia, Africa, Europe and India) – Asian, Indian, Mediterranean, North African, etc. The contest will run through Tuesday, June 17, 2014. The winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. You must be at least 18 years of age with a U.S. mailing address to win. No purchase is necessary; void where prohibited. The winner will be notified by email and must respond within 24 hours or another winner may be selected. (Please make sure email from info@diabeticfoodie.com doesn’t end up in your spam folder.)

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Silk Road Vegetarian by Dahlia Abraham-Klein from Tuttle Publishing plus a second copy to give away. All opinions are my own.

Indian Spinach Curry (Palak Paneer)

Adapted from Silk Road Vegetarian by Dahlia Abraham-Klein
Indian Spinach Curry (Palak Paneer) - Vegan, Gluten-free
16-ounce block of firm tofu
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
3/4 cup crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
4 cups finely chopped fresh spinach (large stems removed before chopping)

Place two paper towels on a cutting board and set the tofu on top. Put two more paper towels on top of the tofu and place something heavy on the stack (I use a bacon press or cast iron skillet). Let it sit for at least 5 minutes to remove some of the moisture from the tofu. Discard paper towels and slice tofu into 1/2-inch cubes.

Melt 1 teaspoon of coconut oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange tofu in single layer and cook for about 4 minutes per side, until browned all over. Set aside.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté onion for about 7 minutes, stirring often, until translucent.

Add coriander, cumin and turmeric to saucepan; stir until fragrant. Add ginger, chili powder and crushed red pepper, if using. Cook, stirring often, for about 4 minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes and salt to saucepan, then bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the spinach. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 7 minutes or until the spinach is bright green.

Gently stir in the tofu and combine well. Simmer, covered, for another 5 minutes to allow the tofu to absorb the flavors of the curry.

Makes 4 servings
Per serving: 142 calories, 8g fat (4g sat), 0mg cholesterol, 531mg sodium, 9g carb, 3g fiber, 3g sugar, 10g protein

Nutritional Analysis: If you are watching your Sodium intake, eliminate or reduce the amount of coarse kosher salt. If you’d like to cut back on the amount of Saturated Fat, use olive oil instead of coconut oil.

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Garden Fresh Vegetable Soup

Garden Fresh Vegetable Soup

Last week, when the thermometer on our deck registered 90°F, I craved soup. It didn’t make any sense, but I wanted a warm tomato-based soup loaded with vegetables. The fact that I needed to use up some farmers’ market finds that were just a tiny bit past their prime was only a bonus.

The recipe below is a specific instance of a more general soup-making technique:

  • Sauté aromatic vegetables like onions, garlic and celery in olive oil.
  • Add seasonings like salt and pepper.
  • Add crushed tomatoes and vegetable or chicken stock.
  • Add firm vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and/or root vegetables.
  • Add softer vegetables such as yellow squash, zucchini, bell peppers, string beans and leafy greens.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs.

I’m trying to stay away from starchy vegetables and beans at the moment, but feel free to throw in peas, corn or drained and rinsed canned beans when you add the softer vegetables.

I like my vegetables to be on the crunchy side; if you prefer yours to be softer, cook each stage for 5 or 10 minutes more than indicated below. You really can’t screw up this recipe.

The result will be a delicious, nutritious, satisfying bowl of soup. Even if it’s ridiculously hot outside.
Garden Fresh Vegetable Soup

Garden Fresh Vegetable Soup

Adapted from VB6 by Mark Bittman

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
garlic pepper
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock (add more if you want a thinner soup)
1 small head cauliflower, separated into florets
2 large carrots, sliced
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
2 yellow squash, halved lengthwise, then sliced into half moons
4 stalks of kale, stems removed and leaves finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to look translucent, about 5 minutes. Add salt and garlic pepper. Stir.

Add tomatoes and stock. Stir to incorporate well. Add the cauliflower and carrots, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the bell pepper, squash and kale. Bring the mixture back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When vegetables are as soft as you like them, the soup is done. Spoon into bowls and garnish with basil.

Makes 4 servings
Per serving: 153 calories, 3g fat (1g sat), 0mg cholesterol, 594mg sodium, 31g carb, 10g fiber, 16g sugar, 8g protein

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Fennel and Kale Slaw

Kale and Fennel Slaw

I recently attended the Taking Control of Your Diabetes® conference in Raleigh, NC. TCOYD is a non-profit group that strives to educate and motivate people with diabetes and their loved ones to take a more active role in managing their health care. This delicious Fennel and Kale Slaw was served for lunch at the conference.

I love TCOYD’s philosophy. Education, access to medical professionals who care for people with diabetes and aggressive management are all good things.

However, I found the attitudes of some speakers at the conference to be at odds with my own personal philosophy of diabetes management.

I prefer to handle my diabetes first with food, then with exercise, then with medications. If insulin ever becomes necessary, of course I’ll add that to my regimen. But I believe that any successful diabetes management strategy starts with food. Some of the speakers seemed to think it’s okay to stick with a diet based on processed foods and artificial sweeteners as long as you take several medications too. That may be the best treatment option for folks who aren’t willing to make dietary changes, but it isn’t the best approach for me. I was disappointed there weren’t any speakers at the conference advocating a more integrative strategy for diabetes care.

During the last 15 years, different ways of eating have worked at different times in my treatment. At first, I followed the American Diabetes Association guidelines and used the exchange system. This worked beautifully and allowed me to lose 35 pounds. My A1C numbers were close to that of a non-diabetic. I ate lean protein, low-fat foods and greatly reduced the amount of sugar in my diet. I still ate a lot of restaurant meals and processed foods, however.

I started taking metformin when diet alone wasn’t working and eventually added glipizide too. I didn’t like that glipizide occasionally caused my blood sugar to drop too low, so I investigated whether I could make additional changes to my diet that would eliminate the need for it. I was also diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease around this time. I moved to eliminate wheat from my diet and tried to embrace a vegan approach.

These two changes essentially made my fatty liver get back to normal; however, I suspect because I was substituting grains and legumes for meat, my A1C went up. Way up. Most plant-based protein sources also contain carbs. This isn’t true of animal-based proteins.

Now, I’m off glipizide and my diet is composed primarily of organic vegetables, meats, fruit, oils (olive and coconut), nuts and seeds. I occasionally have non-wheat grains such as rice and quinoa and dairy products such as local goat cheese, but for the most part I’m off grains and dairy. If I go out to dinner, I may splurge and have brown rice or corn tortillas, but I still try to avoid wheat. My blood glucose numbers aren’t exactly where I want them to be yet, but they are finally moving in the right direction. The jury’s still out on how adding meat back into my diet has affected my liver.

Diabetes treatment is a lifelong, ever-changing process that can be very frustrating at times. Once you think you have it all figured out, something changes and you have to readjust. I personally would rather eat whole, organic foods that I cook myself than rely on a bunch of pills that may have unintended side effects. As always, your mileage may vary.

Now, back to that slaw. The carrots lend sweetness, the fennel is crunchy, the kale is earthy and the citrus juice (I used key lime) is tart. This slaw combines great flavors and textures and is vegan to boot. Folks at my table for lunch who were terrified of kale and had never eaten fennel loved this dish.
Kale and Fennel Slaw

Fennel and Kale Slaw

Adapted from Taking Control of Your Diabetes® (TCOYD)

2 small carrots, shredded (about 2 ounces)
1/4 bulb fennel, thinly sliced (about 2 ounces)
2 large stalks kale, stem removed and leaves finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon or key lime juice
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, toss together the carrots, fennel and kale. In a small bowl, whisk juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add dressing to salad and toss.

Makes 2 servings
Per serving: 73 calories, 4g fat (1g sat), 0mg cholesterol, 199mg sodium, 10g carb, 4g fiber, 3g sugar, 2g protein

Nutritional Analysis: Kale is loaded with vitamins and minerals and is a particularly good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. Fennel adds Niacin, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Dietary Fiber.

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