Type what?

seedy bread breakfast

Hello friends. I’ve been busy wandering in the land of nearly dead – but the good news is I made it back! Okay, that was a bit dramatic, but my health had deteriorated badly after I came back from Japan early this year. I had no energy, lost so much weight, my brain was constantly foggy, most of my hair had fallen out, and I felt depressed. I had also become such a bad mother – yelling at my poor kids for the smallest infractions. Yikes and yikes! What was wrong with me?

I seriously thought I had cancer – or something else equally dreadful.

Turns out though, it was just my diabetes: Type 1 diabetes that is, not Type 2 as I thought I had for three years…. Seriously? Was I misdiagnosed? Or has Type 2 morphed into Type 1 over the years? How is that even possible?

According to my new endocrinologist, I was probably Type 1 from the beginning (and misdiagnosed), but had a long “honeymoon period” where my pancreas was still producing some insulin.

After a few hours on the Internet though, I found there is yet another type of diabetes called LADA, which is also known as Type 1.5. This type of diabetes starts out like Type 2, then ends up in Type 1 somehow. Very confusing. I thought diabetes was black and white – Type 1 or Type 2. What are all these shades of grey? And why didn’t any of the doctors – and I saw about six different doctors over three years – mention this possibility before?

Well, there is no point in pointing (!) fingers at these doctors, or wallowing in retrospective self pity. Big lessons learned here: (1) you can’t trust your doctors – doctors often present themselves as all-knowing, but they are not, especially in complex areas like diabetes; (2) you need to do your own research, and make your own decisions on how to treat your illness.

Now that I’m on insulin, the change has been dramatic. My energy level has shot up within days, and I have regained 3kg within a week (including a big chunk of muscles I had lost). I can walk for miles again without getting tired – and even run with the kids to school. I’m also getting a renewed thrill out of my home-based business. Life is rosy again.

And the biggest plus side about all this? Thanks to the misdiagnosis, I had already gotten used to this healthy lifestyle of low-carb, mostly plant-based diet, regular exercise, without sugar cravings. See, if I had known I was Type 1 from the beginning, I could have been the kind of “bad” diabetic who’d shoot up heaps of insulin before digging into that cream pie.

Another plus side? I’m no longer constantly hungry. Before insulin, I was eating like a horse because I was hungry all.the.time. My body wasn’t absorbing most of the nutrients. What a waste of good food that was! Now my meals are lighter (like my breakfast this morning in the photo) – and my wallet happier.

The REAL Benefits of Exercising

If you have diabetes, you’ve probably heard a million times that exercise is an important part of managing diabetes. That’s true of course, but it took me two years to realise how important it was. And in ways that no health care professional has ever explained to me. I know, I’m so slow to catch on sometimes.

When I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over 2 years ago, my doctor (as all reasonable doctors would) prescribed me daily exercise, along with a hefty dose of medication. He also added: “Your diabetes is very serious. It won’t do you much good to walk 30 minutes a day – you must walk 1-2 hours every day.”

Which was a lot to ask of me I thought, since at that time I was doing exactly zero exercise. But I did my best to amend my ways. In a few weeks I was walking an hour a day. A few months later I started running, too, clutching my iPhone in one hand, listing to the robotic commands of the “Couch to 5k” application. It took me 6 months to reach the 5k goal but I did it. I was running pretty much every single night for 5-7 kilometers. I felt virtuous.

But all this time, I had the wrong idea about exercising. I thought it was just to lower my blood sugar level for that day. So I’d eat a nice dinner, pop my medication, and go for a run to let my sugar level drop to a normal level. Life was under control.

Then, a few months ago, I began to slack off and stopped exercising. It was a rather stressful period of my life, what with separation and moving to a new house (not to mention it was in the middle of a freezing mountain winter). I know, excuses, excuses… But the point is I did let regular exercising slip away…. I mean, if you skip one day, it’s so easy to skip the next day, and so on. You know how it goes.

And just like that, my health started to fall apart. My blood sugar was high. I lost a lot of my muscles because I wasn’t moving – which made me avoid exercising more. Before I knew it, even walking around my backyard began to hurt my legs.

I felt tired and weak all the time, so I craved more sugary, high-carb, oily food to comfort me. I was also eating all.the.time. Forget Dr. Fuhrman’s mandate to avoid snacking between meals – I just had no will power to stop snacking. I mean, if there was a cake lying around, I’d just eat it. My brain was also foggy, so I drank coffee after coffee just to stay afloat mentally.

My energy level dropped to an all-time low. Often I’d wake up in the morning and just sit there in front of my laptop for hours, mindlessly surfing the net and not having an ounce of energy to do anything else. Then I’d stay up till wee hours in the morning just catch up on work – drinking more coffee and snacking. The resulting lack of sleep made me even more tired the next day.

In short, it was a bad case of vicious cycle – a spiral down to an early death no doubt!

Which is when I finally had the lightbulb moment: I need to start exercising again. And this time, I realised it’s not just about lowering blood sugar level temporarily after meals. It’s to alter my entire lifestyle, and to reverse this downward spiral.

So here it is people – the list of real benefits of exercising regularly:

(1) Regular exercising builds and maintains your muscles (I know, it is obvious but please read on).

(2) When you are physically strong, you have more energy to do more stuff – more work, more gardening, more housework – in short you are more productive.

When you are more productive during the day, you feel okay about going to bed earlier. And getting enough sleep does wonders to your mood and energy level the next day.

(3) When you exercise, you are not craving food. It’s true! You are not hungry when you are sweating in a fitness class or fast walking around the neighbourhood. Even when you come home afterwards, I’m often not hungry for hours. So yay, I can stick with Dr. Fuhrman’s “no snacking” regime better.

(4) Your body affects your mind directly. When you are physically strong, your mind is clearer and stronger. I don’t have foggy brains after I exercise. It helps a lot with my work to have a clear mind.

And guess what, when you concentrate on your work (or blog writing or gardening), you don’t feel the compulsion to eat. Eating had become a way of procrastination and distraction for me, when I didn’t have enough mental energy to do anything much.

(5) With a clearer mind, you also have better self-control when it comes to food. Should I have a green smoothie for breakfast, or make that carb-rich sandwich with gooey vegan cheese in the middle? When your mind is strong, you have the will power to opt for that smoothie. And what about those leftover muffins I made for my kids? Well you don’t have to eat them. Toss them into the compost bin, I say!

So there you go. It only took me two years to realise all these real benefits of exercising. I can blame my doctor for not explaining all this to me in the first place, but really, I wonder if he knew himself.

It is hard sometimes to get yourself out there to walk, run, or got to a fitness class every day. But now that I realise your entire life is at stake, I am extra motivated to keep up with exercising this time around.

 

 

Holiday survival guide for diabetics

On the last weekend of Spring holidays, we drove on a whim to Canberra for a two-night mini holiday. I haven’t been on a holiday for a while, so I was super excited! But even for a little trip like this, your diabetic head spins around with a few little worries. Such as, will I be able to stay on a healthy diet for entire time? Will I be tempted to eat junky holiday food and treats that my kids might no doubt demand? What about exercise?

The first day was easy. My mother (who was visiting for the school holidays) and I woke up early and made a healthy lunch and dinner for that day – vegetable sticks, roasted capsicum and chickpea hummus, Japanese rice balls, cooked green lentils, cut fruit, and a big container of salad greens. I had also made some wholemeal bread and healthy treats. We packed everything in a cooler bag and off we went.
floriade 2016 canberra

Canberra was wonderful. We visited the beautiful annual Floriade flower festival.

national gallery australia

We visited the National Museum.

old trailer at national museum

This old wagon / camper trailer was my favourite thing at the National museum – I mean, wouldn’t you like to travel in one of these around Australia?

Then – we ran out of all the healthy food we brought. Oh no… Ignoring all the cafes / restaurants / street food vendors, we hit a local supermarket instead.

What an amazing selection of ready-to-eat healthy food I found there! It was an eye-opening experience re-discovering good old supermarkets. Just look at the huge selection of pre-cooked rice and grains alone.

supermarket rice selection

Instead of soaking rice overnight and cooking in a pressure cooker (which is what I do every day), these packets of rice and grains are ready to eat in less than 2 minutes (in a microwave or stovetop). And it’s not just white rice. Brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, chia seed, in all sorts of combinations. Wow. Honestly, I never knew.

I also “discovered” a myriad vegan tofu products – some looking healthier (less processed) than others. Then of course there is the fresh produce section. I narrowed my choices to these.

holiday supermarket food

Thanks to the local supermarket, my healthy dinner was ready in minutes.

holiday food

Of course, it helped a great deal that we stayed in a cabin accommodation, with a fully equipped kitchen.

canberra cabin

Things would have been a bit more difficult had we stayed in a motel or hotel.

Canberra street food

So even though there was a few moments like this when I had to resist a bit of holiday temptation… it was good overall foodwise.

Oh, and exercise? Well, that was sorted as well – accidentally.

canbera wagon ride

See that four-seater wagon bike? I thought riding that cute little vehicle around the lake was a leisurely experience. Wrong! It turned out to be such hard work… Pedalling this monster of a wagon for nearly two hours was the most excruciating torture – I mean exercise – ever!

Chickpea Flour and Corn Pancake with Sauteed Greens (with Recipe)

Mornings are hard for me. It’s cold, first of all – so I struggle to even get out of bed. And while I’m doing my best to get out of bed, I dream of breakfast – sweet breakfast. Blueberry pancakes with maple syrup, for example. Or hot toast slathered with real butter and marmalade…. or just a handful of chocolate chips to begin my day….

Oh no no no no. I might give in (and I sure will) to sweet temptations at some point during the day, but these days, I try to start the day right – with healthy, wholesome, savoury breakfast. So eventually I do struggle out of bed and grudgingly start prepping in the kitchen.

Here’s today’s winning concoction: Chickpea (besan) flour and corn pancake with sautéed medley of leek and greens, with avocado, chopped red onions, and a squeeze of lemon juice (and a drizzle of soy sauce – just because I’m Japanese and I love soy sauce with everything). Yum and yay! A Mount Everest of morning sweet temptation conquered. Pat on my own shoulder et al.

But see, the hardest part is deciding to make savoury breakfast. Once I get up in the kitchen to make it, my sugar-addict part of the brain switches off (well, temporarily). And I love the wonderful aroma of herbs and spices, the sizzling of leek cooking in the frying pan, and crispness of freshly chopped onions. And sitting down to eat this breakfast – with a steaming cup of almond milk coffee – is totally satisfying.

Here’s a recipe for the pancake in case you’d like to try it. Chickpea flour is very low in carbohydrate, so it’s super diabetes friendly. It’s also gluten free. A bit of fresh corn for texture doesn’t hurt you, either, but you can also omit it if you are on a very low-carb diet. Or use other vegetables like frozen peas or shredded carrot.

besan and corn pancake
besan and corn pancake

Chickpea flour and corn pancake with sautéed greens (GF, Vegan, Low Carb)

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September 19, 2016

Sky is the limit when it comes to the topping choices. I used sautéed leek, beetroot greens, and cabbage (because that's what I had in the fridge), with avocado slices, fresh chopped red onions, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Other suggestions are: (1) sautéed mushrooms, capsicum, and onions (2) sprinkles of vegan cheese with salad greens (3) chopped tomatoes / cucumber / avocado salsa, with coriander and lime juice (4) cooked and fried potato cubes, vegetarian sausages, with ketchup (my kids will LOVE this).

  • Yields: 1 serving

Ingredients

1/3 cup chickpea flour (besan flour)

1 heaping tablespoon of nutritional yeast

1/3 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup nondairy milk or water (I used unsweetened oat milk)

1 tsp oregano, or other chopped herbs (optional)

1 tsp olive oil or coconut oil (for frying)

Directions

1Get your dry ingredients plus corn ready, and mix them in a bowl. Make sure there are no lumps.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping - ingredients

2Add optional herbs - fresh or dry.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

3Add milk or water, and mix to make a smooth batter.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

4Here's what the batter looks like.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

5Make sure your frying pan is HOT, and spread a bit of of oil in it. Pour the pancake batter. We are making one giant pancake! But you can of course make a few smaller ones, too, instead.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

6Cook on a medium heat until the edges of the pancake is well and truly dry and cooked. It can be a bit tricky to flip a giant pancake, so make sure the other side is well cooked first.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

7And flip! Oops mine came out *slightly* on the scorched side, but no matter.

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

8Cook the other side for another minute or so, and plate with your choice of healthy, wholesome topping. Enjoy!

Chickpea flour pancake with green topping- how to

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Nut Butter Addiction

Like most people with type 2 diabetes, I’ve been avoiding sugar since my diagnosis. It’s been very hard, I tell you – I was a pastry chef and all. I used to wake up in the morning and munch on chocolate. Then go on to bake all kinds of sugary goodness and consume a whole lot of it. Ah how I miss those happy days.

Well, those golden days may be over (at least I had good 43 years, I tell myself), but I continue to have cravings for (slightly healthier) sweet things – like sweetened soy milk coffee, bananas, and nut butter. Homemade nut butter, that is. With roasted nuts, and a good dash of vanilla in it, processed till it’s super runny. It tastes amazing, like a pot of gold.

This nut butter is so good, it has become kind of an addiction for me. Whenever I feel my stress level rising, like when my kids start fighting, I grab a spoon and go for it. Or when I need to be sewing at home, but don’t feel like it, I wander into the kitchen and eat a big spoonful, or two, or three. Or when it’s late at night and I’m feeling hungry again, I eat it straight from the jar again. Wouldn’t you call this an addiction?

Maybe it’s because there is no sugar in it, technically, that I feel impunity to eat lots of it. But as healthy as nuts are, they are loaded with fat, so no one recommends eating unlimited amounts of it.

I won’t reinvent the wheels by writing a recipe here, because there are so many good recipes on the internet. This raw almond butter recipe is how I made it the first time. If you google “homemade nut butter”  – you’ll find hundreds of good recipes.

The kind of nut butter I like to make now use: (1) roasted nuts – not just lightly roasted, mind you, roasted and until the nuts breaks easily in your mouth and gives you an amazing aroma and flavour (about 10 minutes in a 200 degree oven), (2) mix of almonds and cashew, and sometimes walnuts and brazil nuts, and (3) a spoonful of vanilla powder. All processed in my beloved, 12-year-old Kitchenaid food professor until super ruuny.

Here’s how it begins. Roasted nuts.

roasted mixed nuts for nut butter

Then everything goes into the food processor. Just turn it on and watch the magic happen. In my processor it takes about 5-8 minutes.

nut butter in food processor

nut butter in food processor

First it becomes a coarse meal.

nut butter in food processor

Then it becomes more sticky.

nut butter in food processor

Nearly ready but not yet!

nut butter in food processor

Then finally super runny and creamy nut butter. Mmm it smells so good.

runny nut butter in a jar

Pour in a jar and enjoy.

Why homemade, you ask? Well it is cheaper. For a small jar of it, you can make it yourself for about $5. A store-bought one costs nearly $10. But most of all, homemade one tastes far superior. So much more fragrant, sweet, and just tasty. Try and see for yourself, but I have to warn you, you might develop a dangerous addiction to it as well – whether or not you are diabetic!

 

 

 

Pumpkin Soup Bread

One of the first bad news I learned after my diagnosis was that bread is bad for you if you have diabetes. I loved bread – baking and eating – so this was devastating news. I vividly remember the first endocrinologist I saw bluntly telling me: “they say wholemeal bread is better for you, but bread is bread, and they are all bad.” I might have imagined her sporting devil’s horns on her head at that moment.

After dutifully avoiding bread (along with other carbohyrdrate-rich food, like rice and pasta) for nearly two years though, I came to doubt my carb-avoiding regime. I’ll do another blog post later, but I began to read books on naturally healing type 2 diabetes, not by avoiding all carbohydrates, but by consuming good carbs – wholegrain, low-GI carbs – as part of your daily diet. Here’s one such person who advocates this diet. Here’s another. Many Japanese books on natural healing advocates eating brown rice every day as well.

So I began to eat bread as an occasional treat these days. I still won’t touch white bread, but homemade sourdough bread, featuring low-GI whole grains like spelt and rye seem okay to me. I use homemade sourdough starter for my bread (I used the method in this wonderful book), so it takes 24 hours or more to make one loaf of bread – but oh they are so worth it.

One of the best things about making your own bread (whether you use sourdough starter or not) is that you can incorporate a lot of different things in it – nuts, seeds, almond or soy pulp from making almond/soy milk, veggie pulp from juicing, etc. And it’s super cheap to make. Forget that $10 loaf of sourdough bread from artisan bakeries (as good as they are). I buy my organic flours in bulk here.

Last night I had a big jug of leftover pumpkin soup that my kids refused to eat for dinner (so heartbreaking. It was such lovely soup…). What do I do with it? I’m not a big fan of sweet soups, either…. And then I had a lightbulb moment: make bread with it of course!

leftover pumpkin soup

I used pumpkin soup in lieu of water when mixing up the bread dough. It worked beautifully. The bread was moist and subtly sweet, but not overwhelmingly pumpkiny. In fact you won’t even know there’s pumpkin in it. With all the brown flour I used, you can’t even see the pumpkin yellow colour. Oh how I’m happy I didn’t waste all that soup!

pumpkin bread with soup

Heres’ my indulgent breakfast this morning. Fresh-baked toast – with green smoothie. Yum.

pumpkin bread for breakfast

Here’s the recipe for you if you’d like to give it a try. The measurements are not precise, so you can play around with it. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, no problem. Just go without and use the rest of the ingredients. If you don’t have a stand mixer, no problem as well, just use a big bowl and mix everything and knead with your hands. A bit more messy, but not hard at all.

pumpkin bread with soup
pumpkin bread with soup

Pumpkin Soup Bread (Vegan, Low GI, Oil-Free)

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September 14, 2016

  • Yields: One loaf

Ingredients

3/4 cup sourdough starter (optional)

2 cup wholemeal spelt flour

2 cup wholemeal rye flour

1 tsp instant yeast

1-2 cup pumpkin (or other) soup

some water, to adjust consistecy

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp chopped rosemary (optional)

1 handful of pepitas (optional)

Directions

1Mix all the dry ingredients together in a stand mixer bowl.

2Turn the mixer on at low speed. Add about 1 cup of pumpkin soup, and then Gradually add more liquid (more soup, or if run out, use water) until you get a fairly wet dough. The dough should stick to your hands if you touch it. But don't get too fussed about it! As long as all the dry stuff is wet, and the dough isn't all gathered around the dough hook, it'll work fine.

3Keep mixing for about 5 minutes. Rye flour doesn't have much gluten, so it's not important to knead it for a long time.

4Remove the dough hook, and use your wet hand to smooth out the dough. Cover the bowl with a saucepan lid or wet towel. Leave it on your kitchen counter for 12-24 hours - until the dough doubles in size, approximately.

5Line a loaf pan with parchment paper - this way it'll be easy to get the bread out when it's baked.

6Sprinkle a good 1/2 cup of flour onto your kitchen counter, and tip the soft, risen dough onto it gently. You don't want to "punch" the dough down!

7Cut the dough in three equal portions. Using flour on your hands so the dough won't stick, *gently* shape each portion into a rough ball. Resist the urge to mix in more flour into the dough. Soft dough makes tasty bread. Squeeze those dough balls into the lined loaf pan, cover with a wet tea towel, and leave it to proof on your kitchen counter for 1-3 hours, until it puffs up.

8Preheat the oven at about 200 degree Celsius. It takes about 15 minutes for an oven to heat up.

9Brush to top of the bread with a bit of milk or oil, and sprinkle some pepitas on top if you like.

10Once the oven is hot, and your bread dough looks puffed and ready, gently put it in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, and when the top of the bread looks golden, take it out.

11Gently take the bread out of the loaf pan. Remove the parchment paper, and check the bottom of the loaf. If it looks crisp, brown, and sounds hollow when tapped, it's done. But if not, put it on a baking tray (no need to put it back into the loaf pan), and bake for another 10-15 minutes. It's hard to be precise because every oven is different. When the bottom of the bread is crisp, your bread is ready.

12Leave the loaf to cool on a wired wrack for about an hour before slicing and eating (I know it's hard).

This recipe is very flexible, so please don't be afraid to experiment! If you have only a bit of pumpkin soup left, that's not a problem. Use water for the rest of the liquid content. I had a LOT of soup left over, so I used pretty much all-soup for the liquid bit. Homemade bread is very forgiving, so it's hard to get it to fail!

The only thing that's important here is: (1) use whole grains, and (2) use only a small amount of yeast, and let it ferment slowly for 24 hours or so. Wholemeal flours need that kind of time to open up in flavour and develop. It'll be easier to digest and better for your sugar level (which is my understanding). In hot summer, you might want to put the dough in your fridge overnight and let it ferment in there, instead of a kitchen counter.

Oh one more things: This bread is vegan only because the pumpkin soup I used is vegan. If you used non-vegan ingredients in your soup, naturally the bread isn't vegan.

 

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My Sort of Diet Regime, and Breakfast Dilemma

Happy Sunday, everyone! Before I go on any further, I should briefly tell you what kind of diet regime I’m following to heal my body from diabetes. The short answer right now is – mostly plant-based (and by that I mean 95% plant-based, with occasional eggs), whole grains (mostly brown rice), with lots of vegetables (cooked and raw), and beans. I also try to minimise oil, and I try to make almost everything from scratch, and avoid processed food as much as possible. Oh, and most importantly, NO SUGAR – but this is the hardest part by far!

I’m such a sugar addict, so quitting sugar is hard enough. I fail every day. But the biggest “enemy” to my alleged sugarless regime is… my kids. My kids who love to eat sweet things.

Breakfast, for example. I now try to eat healthy, veggie-filled, savoury breakfast like this:

 

salad breakfast

Tofu scramble! I love it. Sometimes I have miso soup and brown rice. Or a big bowl of leftover salad from the night before. With a cup of coffee of course.

This morning though, my kids had a different idea for their Sunday breakfast.

chocolate pancake

Chocolate pancakes with raspberry and orange sauce, homemade coconut yoghurt and apple sauce. How can I even resist eating just one of these fluffy, pillowy, chocolatey pancakes? Impossible really. I had one and a half. With a heaping spoonful of raspberry sauce. It was delicious beyond belief.

Then I recovered from my blunder and quickly made myself cabbage and wakame miso soup with brown rice. It wasn’t as delicious as those fluffy pancakes though, but at least it wasn’t a total loss for me. One point lost and one point gained I say.

Now off to a nice long walk in the sun to burn off that yummy pancake!

PS: The pancake wasn’t all that unhealthy actually – I used 1/3 part chickpea flour, 1/3 part wholemeal rye flour, and 1/3 part brown rice flour + organic cacao powder + homemade soy milk + baking powder + baking soda – so low GI and no added sugar. Hmm. Maybe I can eat just one more for morning tea?

 

 

Homemade Apple Sauce – Continued

Well the second batch turned out much better! Now I have figured out how to use the Kitchenaid mixer strainer, it went without much mess at all.

And I love the extra spices. Forget about using the sauce as an oil substitute in cooking – you can just eat it straight from the jar with a big spoon and it is so.beautifully.sweet I can’t believe there is not a grain of sugar in it.

 

apple sauce in instant pot

I used my Instant Pot again for “steaming” the jars for (hopefully) proper preservation – so these babies can live in my pantry for a while, not in my fridge.

 

apple sauce in jars with labels

Ta-da! Nothing like a personal, final touch of labels. I love Photoshop, too. On to my next kitchen project…

 

Hello from Sydney, Australia!

Woohoo, so excited to write my first post here. My name is Asako, and I live in beautiful upper Blue Mountains about 2 hours from Sydney. As you might have guessed already, I have type 2 diabetes. It’s been a roller-coaster ride of two years since my diagnosis. It’s never been easy, and I’m struggling daily how to deal with it. One step forward and one step back, is how I feel about my progress towards wellness.

But it’s not all bad news actually, not at all. How many times have you heard that “diabetes is a life-changing serious illness”? Well it’s true, but life changing in a GOOD way, too. Having a chronic illness opened up a whole new, exciting world of adventure and learning – about health, exercise, dealing with stress, and most of all cooking healthy and amazing food.

So stay tuned and I’d love to share my daily ups and downs, along with cooking tips and random thoughts here – whether or not you are diabetic, pre-diabetic, or just wanting to try different, healthy food.

xx

Asako