How to convert a recipe to be diabetic friendly (plus a carrot muffin recipe)

If you follow a plant-based diet, you have probably heard of the term “veganise.” It means converting a conventional recipe into a vegan one. For example, if a recipe calls for an egg, you omit the egg and use flax meal or chia seeds instead.

If you are diabetic and follow a plant-based diet, the conversion becomes a bit more complicated two-step process. One: veganise it. Two: make the recipe more diabetic friendly (I’ve been looking for a snappy term for this process – but sadly can’t find one yet. “Diabetise”?

Of course, you can start with a vegan recipe to begin with, and make it just a one-step process of “diabetising” it – and there are plenty of amazing vegan recipes available these days.

So how do you make a recipe more diabetic friendly, you ask? Here’s what I do when making sweet treats.

(1) reduce the amount of sugar – sometimes a recipe calls for a ridiculous amount of sugar, I can halve the amount and it still tastes sweet enough to me. I normally start with less sugar, and taste the mixture as I make it. If I want more sweetness, I gradually add more sugar until I’m happy.

Keep in mind that baked sweets taste less sweet than uncooked dough or batter. In other words, when tasting unbaked batter/dough, make it a little sweeter than you’d like.

(2) replace refined sugar with low-GI, low-carbohydrate sugar, like maple syrup, coconut sugar, or sometimes, even fake sugar (though too much of that might upset your tummy).

(3) replace plain flour with low GI, low-carbohydrate flour, such as besan flour, almond meal, peanut flour, buckwheat flour, rye flour, and wholemeal wheat flour. These flours are generally interchangeable with plain flour. I stay away from coconut flour and flax meal, because they are not interchangeable with regular flour – and requires significant modifications elsewhere in the recipe.

(4) use more nuts and seeds, and less dried fruit. Or omit dried fruit.

(5) use more vegetables, rather than fruit or other high-carbohydrate ingredients.

(6) replace oil or fat with apple sauce, mushed banana, pumpkin puree, or vegan yoghurt.

Sometimes I do all these things for one recipe, and sometimes I only do one or two modifications. Sometimes the result is just delicious! Sometimes I go too far into the “healthy” realm and my family and friends reject the modified creations (for not being rich or sweet enough, or for having the wrong kind of texture) – in which case will have to polish them off all by myself in order to avoid wastage. How tragic! Very rarely do stuff go in the compost bin though. I think it happened only once or twice.

Yes there is a bit of guesswork involved when making these modifications, but with trial and error and an adventurous spirit, you’ll soon get a hang of it. Just remember, it’s okay to fail sometimes! I fail all the time actually, but even failures can be quite tasty.

Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)

Take these carrot muffins, for example. The original recipe is from a book called “Vegans with a Vengeance” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. It’s a fantastic book on vegan cooking, but the recipes do often call for plenty of sugar, oil, and high-carbohydrate ingredients – things that wave red flags for diabetics.

Even though this particular recipe was pretty healthy to begin with, I still made a few modifications.

(1) I swapped the plain flour with a mixture of gluten free, lower-GI flours. I used a combination of buckwheat, brown rice flour, and oat flour (make sure you use gluten-free oat flour – not all oat flour is gluten free, apparently).

(2) Because the gluten-free flours tend to make muffins more crumbly, I added a tablespoon of flax meal to give more binding power.

(3) Instead of canola oil, I used apple sauce.

(4) Instead of regular sugar, I used coconut sugar.

(5) To add more kiddy appeal to the otherwise very brown, plain, and hippy-looking muffins, I decorated the muffin tops with blueberries, bananas and walnuts.

And the result? Very tasty muffins! Not too sweet, but just sweet enough for breakfast or for school lunch box. They also have a perfect structure – neither crumbly nor mushy. My kids gobbled them up, with a bit of vegan butter on top.

diabetic friendly carrot muffins

Here’s my modified, more diabetic-friendly carrot muffins. You can of course play with it anyway you like! You don’t have apple sauce? Try mushed banana or coconut yoghurt. Don’t have carrots? Use grated zucchini or sweet potato instead. Omit the raisins and use nuts and seeds instead (if I were making these muffins just for me, I would have omitted the raisins – but I made these mostly for my kids, so I left them in). Add more spices like vanilla, cloves, or orange zest. Have fun and remember, it’s okay to fail!

Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)

 

Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)
Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)

Carrot Muffins (Gluten Free and Diabetic Friendly)

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October 21, 2016

This recipe is adapted from a carrot breakfast muffin recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, from her Vegan with a Vengeance book.

  • Yields: 12 muffins

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup gluten-free flour mixture (I used brown rice flour, oat flour, and buckwheat flour, in equal amounts) - if using oat flour, and if gluten-free is important to you, please make sure you are using gluten-free kind of oat flour!

1 tbsp flax meal

1/4 cup coconut sugar (or fake sugar, if you prefer)

2 cups finely grated carrots (about 2 and a half smallish carrots)

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1/4 cup apple sauce

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 cup blueberries, chopped bananas, or other fruit or nuts for topping

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup oat milk, soy milk, or nut milk of your choice (I used homemade oat milk)

Directions

1Preheat your oven to about 200 degree Celsius (400 Fahrenheit).

2Soak the raisins (if using) in hot water to plump them up - for about 10 minutes. Then drain.

3Mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl - flours, baking powder, baking soda, spices, flax meal, salt, and sugar.

4Add grated carrots and raisins to the dry mixture and mix them with a spatula.

5Pour apple sauce and non-dairy milk into the flour/carrot mixture, and mix well with a spatula. The dough shouldn't be too dry or too wet - the batter should gently drip off your spatula. Add a bit more milk if it's too dry. Add a bit more flour if it's too wet.

6Prepare your muffin moulds. You can either use a non-stick mould and brush or spray it with oil, or use store-bought paper muffin liners, or just cut up little squares of baking paper and line the moulds with them (like I did in the photos).

7Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through. You can gently press the top of the muffins with your hands, and if it feels firm and springy, they are baked. Or you can insert a bamboo stick into the muffins, and if it comes out clean, it's baked. Take the muffins out of the oven and let them cool for a bit before devouring them.

Instead of carrots, grated sweet potatoes is tasty, too (though slightly higher in carbohydrate).

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Pickles

I wouldn’t have thought of making pickles in the first place – if not for a friendly farmers market vendor from Bilpin who sells home-grown veggies at a local market. One day, she had a whole array or just-dug-up, earth-covered baby root veggies: turnips, baby carrots, and black radishes.

What I can possibly do with these, I asked. “Well, you can pickle them,” she said. How interesting! I’m always game to make something I haven’t tried before. So I bought the whole lot of those dirt-covered babies to take back home.

Apparently pickles are easier to make than jam or other preserves, because bacteria hates vinegar. So all you need is vinegar, water, some salt and spices for the brine. The jars can happily live on a kitchen counter or pantry, even without proper canning. Best of all, they are ready to eat in a couple of days.

baby root vegetables pickles

 

Here’s my first attempt. I used 100% apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds, a small amount of salt, and bay leaves. I didn’t even cook the baby vegetables. How cute are these? A day later, they sort of softened in the vinegar, and were a little less crunchy. Delicious, yes, but sour!

baby root vegetables pickles

A few days later, by chance, my son “discovered” these hidden carrots growing in our backyard. The previous residents must have planted them and left them for us to eat. And I thought they were weeds!

backyard carrots

How funny are all these odd-shaped carrots?

backyard carrots

Have you ever eaten carrots straight from the garden? They are incredible. Nothing like store-bought ones, putting those packaged “organic” ones from the supermarket to shame.

After munching on a few straight away, I made more pickles with the remainder, with a bit of turnips mixed in for colour variation.

backyard carrots pickles

So pretty! This time I used 50% water and 50% apple cider vinegar (with mustard seeds and bay leaves). They were not vinegary enough though…. I think 75% vinegar and 25% water might be more to my liking. I think I might be getting hooked on home preserving.

 

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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Preserved Lemons

Just over a month ago, a whole lot of beautiful lemons fell onto my laps from a generous friend. Her Greek mother-in-law in Sydney grows several lemon trees – lucky her! And lucky me to have such a sharing friend. So what did I do? I made a big batch of preserved lemons.

You can use bay leaves or spices, but mine were just lemons (cut into 1/8 wedges), salt (about 20% of the lemons), and lemon juice. It’s important to wait for a week for the lemons to release juice naturally in the jar. Then, if some lemons are sticking out at the top, you need to fill up the jar with more lemon juice, so all the lemons are submerged in juice.

I didn’t do this well, so after a few weeks moulds appeared at the top. (I just removed the mouldy bits, but what a waste of lemons…).

preserved lemons

Anyway, today, the lemons are ready to eat. I learned from my lemon-giving friend that, if you blend the lemons up in a blender, it’s easy to use them for everything. Just use a spoonful to add to salad dressing, or soup, or sauces, and the lemons impart wonderful tanginess and aroma. So blend them up I did, and I got three good jars of beautiful preserved lemons out of them.

preserved lemons blended up

These would now live in my fridge (to avoid moulding) – and hopefully last quite a few months.

My preserved jars of vegetables are multiplying fast.

preserved jars

Happy weekend, everyone!