Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, garlic-mashed cauliflower: a low carb lunch experiment

low-carb-vegan-lunch1.jpg

As I mentioned in my long French hospital rant, I was diagnosed as having the early stages of diabetes, or pre-diabetes. In other words, my blood glucose level is higher than it should be. Now, my body is still trying to heal the tremendous hole in my back made when the surgeon cut out all of my necrotic tissue, and it’s still combatting infection all on its own (I’ve been taken off antibiotics). So my blood sugar readings are all over the place. Until my wound (I’ve taken to calling it my zombie bite - credit goes to watcha for that) heals up, I really don’t know what my stable blood sugar levels are, and so far the doctors have deemed that I don’t need insulin. It also doesn’t help that I can’t move around much - a slow shuffling walk is about all I can manage - since the zombie bite is right around my waist, and every time I stretch or twist I can feel it kind of gaping open. I didn’t realize how every single body movement seems to involve that part of the back somehow. I’m sure that when I can exercise a bit more normally, that’s going to help a lot.

In the meantime, I have tried to stabilize my blood sugar just through what I eat as much as possible. From everything that I have read, there seem to be two schools of thought about what someone with diabetes should eat. One school says that they can eat a normal diet, including carbohydrates, as long as they watch their intake of sugar and sugary foods, including fruit. The other school says that diabetics should eat a low-carb diet. I’ve become rather obsessive about measuring my blood glucose level, and it does seem that it spikes less after a low-carb meal than a high-carb one - though not predictably, which is confusing. That could be due to the zombie bite. But in any case I have been playing around with various low-carb meals that appeal to me. It’s a pretty new aspect of food for me, and I hope that I can come up with some more post-worthy results. I’m also going to go through the recipes already posted here and mark the low-carb ones, when I have the time, as well as browsing some great low-carb focused sites like Kalyn’s Kitchen.

Traditional low-carb meals tend to be heavy on the meat, cheese, and eggs. I don’t mind eating those, but not all the time. So here’s a combination that I would have eaten anyway - it’s already become my favorite non-salad lunch. It is a vegan combination that tastes quite rich and satisfying, and since it’s me, it has some Japanese-Asian overtones. Take that, hospital food!

I’ve already given the recipe for frozen tofu cutlets over on Just Bento - it’s really nice in bentos at room temperature, but just as good when eaten hot. Frozen tofu takes on a more chewy and ‘meatier’ texture compared to fresh tofu. For the cutlets here I followed the basic recipe, but omitted the dusting of cornstarch and drizzled a bit of soy sauce into the pan while it was cooking. This gave the cutlets a caramelized finish without the starch coating.

And here are the recipes for the green beans and peppers, and the mashed cauliflower. Both are so easy that they barely need recipes.

Recipe: Green beans and peppers with sesame seeds

This works well in a bento too. (I burned mine a bit in the photo by the way. It happens, especially when you are cooking on a wonky electric hotplate!)

1 serving

  • 1 handful (about 1 cup) green beans, tops and tails cut off
  • 1 small or 1/2 large green pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce

Put the ginger and oils into a hot frying pan and stir for a couple of minutes until it starts to smell fragrant. Add the green beans and peppers, and stir fry until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Add the sesame seeds and soy sauce and toss rapidly.

For a spicy variation, add a pinch of dried ground chili peppers when you add the sesame seeds.

Tip: You can cook the tofu cutlets and the vegetables in the same frying pan.

Recipe: Mashed cauliflower

Mashed cauliflower is nothing new of course, but I think this garlic-infused variation adds a little twist. I don’t think this would work too well in a bento, unless you like cold mashed vegetables. You can use butter and real cream instead of the soy milk or cream and olive oil if you prefer. Go easy on the salt, since this is the foil to the well flavored tofu and vegetables.

Incidentally, the key to avoiding water-logged mashed cauliflower is to drain off the cooking water completely, and let any excess evaporate - just like with mashed potatoes.

1 serving

  • 1/3 large cauliflower, or about 3 cups of cauliflower florets
  • 1/2 cup soy milk or soy cream
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp good olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Put the soy milk or cream and garlic cloves in a small pan and bring up to a simmer. Let simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes until the garlic is tender. Mash up the garlic with a fork, or pass it through a sieve if you want the final results to be very smooth. Or you can take out the garlic since the flavor will have infused the soy milk/cream. Set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, and add some salt. Put in the cauliflower florets, and cook until tender. Drain, then return the cauliflower to the hot pan. Shake the pan around until any excess moisture has evaporated.

Mash the cauliflower with a potato masher or a stick blender (which is what I used) until it’s as smooth as you want it to be. I like it to be just a bit chunky instead of baby-food smooth. Add the garlic-infused soy milk or cream and olive oil, and mix well. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Best when eaten piping hot.

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Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

Well, I don't think those two schools are necessarily totally conflicting. A low-carb diet (unless you're a fanatic heading for organ damage) is not a no-carb diet, and I wouldn't care to contemplate a future with no cake. ;) And once you get beyond naturally low-carb meals like this one--which looks great--the recipes at most low-carb sites scare me with their heavy use of artificial sweeteners (Sucralose/Splenda is a nasty migraine trigger) and so on.

Anyway, have you looked into the glycemic load/index theory? I haven't looked at it much myself, except to get depressed that brown rice and whole-wheat pasta are still not all that much better than white rice and white pasta. Better, yes, but not that much better. (I don't have a particular page with info on the theory, but I get data from http://nutritiondata.self.com/ ) It's okay, though--as I've been on a reduced-carb diet for a while and have been moving from the agribusiness-influenced 1950s US way of plating a meal (which still infects our food pyramid despite tons of advice against that), I'm noticing that I gradually have come to be okay with it.

That is, my plate used to be something like a typical curry rice plate, half rice, a fourth meat, and a fourth vegetables; or covered with pasta and then topped with a vegetable-based sauce. Now vegetables have taken over half of the plate or more most of the time, or the whole plate is covered with something like tofu, scallions, and walnuts, and there's just a small scoop of rice or twirl of pasta on the side.

Just like the summer where I lived in Taiwan and didn't eat American candy bars and came home with NO desire to ever eat one again (except Reese's--I have no idea either!), the less I eat of plain white carbs, the less I feel that urge to fill up on them. I have to admit, I've been such a carb junkie all my life that I'm really surprised about this. Of course, the fact that I'm getting tons of good-tasting vegetables and protein helps, too. :)

(It also helps that I haven't been put on a strict 165 g of carbs a day regimen like some of my diabetic friends--I'm on this diet for other reasons. So if I eat a little too much, nothing dangerous happens and I don't stress. :/)

Anyway, sorry I wrote a novel there, but good luck with everything. It's pretty stressful trying to figure everything out, but it's good for you that you're already an accomplished cook and aren't having to teach yourself at the same time (like I am!) My secret weapons are Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (I usually at a low-meat diet), the iPhone apps for Epicurious and Whole Foods, and your two websites. With those those five sources, I can find almost everything I want to make or ideas for when I have no idea, and with the countless year-round farmers' markets here, Trader Joe's, Mitsuwa, Hankook, and Whole Foods, I can get all the ingredients. It's just a matter of working with my tiny kitchen and motivation!

Hang in there! I hope your zombie bite heals as fast as possible and you get off the pre-diabetic track, and I'm going to make this recipe soon--it totally fits into my plans too, and I have everything but the green beans! Heal well so you can come on tour to our two local Kinokuniyas--I'll take you to lunch! :D (No kaiseki...)

--
http://www.readableblog.com (for English learners)
http://www.talktotheclouds.com (for teachers)

wintersweet | 3 August, 2010 - 21:15

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

This dish sounds interesting but I have never tried mashed cauliflower so this will be something new. I hope your your medical troubles heal up soon and your zombie bite goes away quickly.

It does not seem fair that gambling at an casino en ligne is illegal in some countries because the casino games are just like other casinos.

Gemma | 10 August, 2010 - 14:27

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

Are you sure that this dish is all right ?
It does not seem fair that gambling at an casino en ligne is illegal in some countries because the casino games are just like other casinos.

Peter | 11 January, 2012 - 13:56

We are all different in digestion (and healing)

"...it does seem that it spikes less after a low-carb meal than a high-carb one - though not predictably, which is confusing."

Hi Maki, the reason why your blood sugar level is so difficult to predict may be that cheese is not at all easily digested by Type O; certain vegetables, including soy, are in the same group; other blood types do terribly on chicken which stunts their growth and/or healing, and there is an issue with pork for immunological reasons... and many other aspects which are clear to me but probably not widely known. Have you read "Live Right 4 Your Type" by Peter J. D'Adamo, ND? Email me if you do not have a copy, and I'll get one to you! -- heidi

itsheidi-mods please use this post | 3 August, 2010 - 22:30

Re: We are all different in digestion (and healing)

Sorry, but all that blood type linked to digestion is silly nonsense.

http://www.skepdic.com/bloodtypediet.html

pin | 12 August, 2010 - 22:33

Re: We are all different in digestion (and healing)

Maki, I agree with Pin. The theoretical blood type link to digestion is complete and utter nonsense. Not that this disproves the theory, but I have Type 0 blood and I can eat as much cheese as I like and it has no effect on my digestion whatsoever.

I also have Type 2 diabetes and we need to talk. You can benefit greatly from the experience of other Type 2 diabetics who have learned how to maintain normal sugar levels. My heart goes out to your dad. Amputation is a terrible complication of diabetes that we now know how to prevent. Knowledge of how to manage diabetes has advanced light years compared to where it likely was when he was diagnosed and I recommend to you taking advantage of a state-of-the art diabetes education program. And I'm going out on a limb here, but don't follow dietary advice from anyone who isn't a doctor with specialized diabetes training or a Certified Diabetes Educator (many physicians' assistants, nurses, and dietitians/nutritionists who have earned this designation). A person who has the disease also can help by sharing their experiences with you, but really, healthcare professionals with specialized training are the people you should listen to.

It might be helpful to start by reading about the most common misconceptions regarding diabetes on the American Diabetes Association site:
http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/diabetes-myths/

This page has links to pre-diabetes info:
http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/prevention/pre-diabetes/

My apologies for getting so far off topic, but I find some of the well-meaning advice posted here regarding your diet to be worrisome.

Kim M | 26 August, 2010 - 05:29

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

I really don't recommend that blood type diet book--just like the Japanese blood type personality theory, it's been totally debunked by every possible type of scientist. People do lose weight on it because it's been shown repeatedly that people will (initially) lose weight on ANY type of restricted diet. Once they lose weight using it, they become quite invested in it to the exclusion of thinking about it skeptically.

The reasons blood sugars spike unreliably is because there are lots of factors influencing how your body reacts when you eat something, from what else you've been eating previously to what you eat with it (that changes things quite a bit, apparently) to exercise and when you eat it and how well hydrated and so on. And some days it just seems to be random! Don't quote me on those details, but that kind of thing is what my diabetic best friend reports. (And, of course, different people do react in different ways--but not, unfortunately, in any way so conveniently simplistic as blood types). My diabetic friend has an insulin pump that gives her really good feedback, and she says it's very interesting how she reacts to different things.

Once again, good luck with everything!

--
http://www.readableblog.com (for English learners)
http://www.talktotheclouds.com (for teachers)

wintersweet | 4 August, 2010 - 01:06

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

I just wanted to say I hope your wound heals soon and that you graduate from shuffling zombie to one of those modern running, fast-paced zombie quickly. =)

Alyson | 4 August, 2010 - 01:34

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

How fun to be reading along thinking these recipes look like they might work for my phase one round-up and see that you've mentioned me. I see the first commenter has already steered you to investigate the glycemic index (which is what the South Beach Diet is based on, it's not really a low carb diet.) I'm sold on it, and you can still eat plenty of what South Beach considers to be "good carbs" such as beans, whole grains, and brown rice.

Good luck to you as you figure out what works for your body! Glad to hear you are getting better.

Kalyn. | 4 August, 2010 - 02:45

Re: Diabetes

I'd like to add to the two camps, and elaborate on the low glycemic index thing.

I find that it's more important to have a consistent moderate level of glucose in the blood without spikes (simple carbs) or drops (only protein). The key is to eat mainly foods with complex carbohydrates (vegetables and whole grains), as they serve as a buffer.

Luckily, a lot of the traditional pre-industrialized foods are along these lines: miso eggplant, a simple potato, a nicoise salad, grilled fish and brown rice.

This topic is particularly close to my heart, as my mom's been diagnosed with pre-diabetes...and I've been devoting myself to coming up with simple, tasty, diabetic friendly foods in her honor.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions, and let me know if you're ever around SF.

Matthew | 4 August, 2010 - 05:17

not a weight loss diet

@Kalyn -- The system I mentioned is not a weight loss diet, although often people do lose weight on it as a side effect of regaining their health. Blood group in humans is expressed by a gene which codes for many digestive and immunological functions... I'll leave it at that.

Again, very best wishes for healing to you, Maki!

itsheidi | 4 August, 2010 - 13:19

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

Hi everyone, I really appreciate all your advice - both here in the comments, and by email too. I know there are many (sometimes conflicting) theories out there about how and what we should eat. All I can do on these pages is to narrate my own self-experimentation. What works for me may not work for someone else, and vice versa. (E.g. soy does not disagree with me in anyway. Neither does the fairly small amount of oil I use. Even a small amount of rice doesn't make my blood sugar spike - but white bread does. And so on. It's kind of fascinating really.)

Above all though, for me food must taste good first; I am never going to subject myself to a diet of food that may be 'healthy' but doesn't appeal taste-wise. Luckily I happen to love eating lots of foods that are widely considered to be healthy!

In any case, I'm a home cook, and an recipe-experimenter, and as has always been the case, that's what I'll be focusing on first and formost here on Just Hungry as well as Just Bento. The nutritional stuff just stays in the background. And yeah, I have to occasionally have some cake too like wintersweet ^_^

(BTW, Swiss diabetic sugar-free chocolate is fantastic. But I digress...)

maki | 4 August, 2010 - 18:00

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

Hi,

I just found your blog today, and have spent the better part of an hour browsing around. I was looking for japanese eggplant recipes, and it looks like you have a few! I'll probably be trying a variation on the nasu no miso dengaku tonight. But I am intrigued by this green bean recipe, too - I have some from the CSA that I need to use, as well as some green bell peppers (which I don't really like, but am trying to find ways to eat that aren't terrible).

Anyway, great site! I'm looking forward to reading more. Welcome to France, and I hope you're feeling better soon!

Camille | 4 August, 2010 - 18:22

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

I think that one of the reasons the "Low Carb" diet seems to go hand in hand with "Low Sugar" diets is because of how carbohydrates turn into forms of glucose as they break down inside you (my small research on this comes from both diabetes and cancer on both sides of my family, which shows an unusually high percentage in people who not only have a genetic predisposition towards cancer, but who also have high glucose levels). It's one of the reasons why sometimes when one is diagnosed with cancer, doctors recommend a diet that is low in natural sugars, and grains that break down too easily into glucose (like wheat, versus rice).

It might be something you should look into. It's a lot more specific than just dividing all grains into "carbs" and all fruits or fats into "sugars." And it does get a little Chem 101 with molecules and bonds and such, but I think it's still an interesting view.

Athena | 4 August, 2010 - 22:12

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

Maki,

You definitely are on the right track. What works for one, doesn't work for everyone. Diabetes can be a very individual disease as well.

One things my father told me that resonated with me is that fiber grams can cancel out carb grams in the way it affects your blood sugar. He eats a mostly vegetarian diet that is low carb too so it is possible ;-)

Rosanna | 4 August, 2010 - 22:44

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

Hello Maki,

I have been reading this blog for many months now and I enjoy it a lot.
Thanks to you my rice-cooking-skills have improved a lot and your steamed eggplant recipe has become a staple in our house.
Reading now about your health situation I feel I need to finally show you my gratitude for this awesome blog and wish you all the best and that you get better soon.
My brother in law is diabetic and his blood sugar levels sometimes spike for psychological reasons like stress or anger.
This whole topic seems to be very complex, anyway I am sure you will find what's best for you!
Keep up the good blogging!

Greetings,

Elena

Elena | 5 August, 2010 - 03:12

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

Hi, as a long time Diabetic who loves cooking and eating Japanese I will be following your recipes with enthusiasm. Being Diabetic makes people feel they have to 'do without' when in fact, a low-glycemic diet together with some carbs will give you a long and healthy life.

I, too, was able to watch my sugars with diet only but as you age, most probably one day you will have to go onto medication - tho that doesn't mean insulin needles. Especially as your hormones change.

Please try to keep strict control over your sugars which means the sauces Japanese foods use to sweeten will now have to be re-thought out for you.

Sushi is going to be a problem. Sashimi will be great.

Good luck and if you need any personal advice please feel free to email me; There is nothing I don't eat including sweets so rarely I can count the times in a year... BUT now your motto must be moderation

Suddenly your blog will be taking on a whole new approach to cooking Japanese, and that is exciting for me.

Natalie Sztern | 5 August, 2010 - 17:59

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

Well, if you want to get all scientific about it then the systematic reviews in the Cochrane Library point to good effect from low glycaemic index diets - both for maintaining a stable blood sugar and keeping weight off.
Have a look at http://www.thecochranelibrary.com and type "Low glycaemic index" in the search box. At least two interesting reviews there from 2009.

If you need inspiration beyond Kalyn's wonderful recipes I would recommend the blog "For the love of cooking". Lots of nice and fairly vegetarian recipes.
Keep talking nice to the zombie. Hope you're feeling better!

Niki | 5 August, 2010 - 21:52

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

I love tofu, love green beans and peppers. A lovely recipe. I'm sorry to hear about the diabetes. I have to cook with high-cholesterol in mind, but I find that it makes you more aware of the ingredients, making a better meal overall!

fotografiafoodie | 7 August, 2010 - 01:45

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

Hey Maki,

first of all: Get well soon!

My partner and I have started a nutritional program for weight loss and cholesterol and blood sugar stabilising that is based on the concept described in the book "Protein Power" by Michael R. Eades and Mary Dan Eades, who are both doctors of medicine.

Basically it's low carb and high protein (meaning for a person of my height and activity level about 75 - 80 grams of protein per day, divided onto all meals, though calculating this is a bit tricky), and it works pretty amazingly. We are loosing about 1 kilogram per week without feeling exhausted in the slightest or having difficulties to stick to the program. My partner was checked for his blood values about three weeks ago and all of them have improved to normal level in just a couple of weeks.

The book also refers to a lot of bio chemistry involving the different functions of insulin, studies and researches and so on. I cross-checked some of it as I was a bit sceptic, but it seems to be very accurate, as far as I can judge (I'm no physicist or so).

"Protein Power" isn't expensive, so perhaps you would like do give it a try!

Greetings from Germany!
Greycloud

Greycloud | 7 August, 2010 - 08:42

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

Hi Maki,

I have been loving your blogs for a while now and just wanted to share some encouragement about the diabetic diet. I cook for my type 1 diabetic partner who loves food but can't eat gluten, sesame :(, meat or lots of sugar, and I'm finding that most of your recipes, because they are almost vegetarian and vegan are just fine for him. Rice is actually so much better for his glucose levels than the wheat and potatoes we live off here in the uk, and I find that if I substitute basmati rice (lower GI) for any dish with loose, fluffy rice, and agave syrup for any sugar in the recipes, his levels don't spike. Sushi isn't a problem for him because of the small quantities it is usually eaten in, and I can make an inauthentic but more healthful teryaki with gluten free tamari and agave syrup. Ham and bacon are surprisingly high gi - better to skip these if you can and substitute for something else with a lot of umami so you don't miss them. The worst things of all for his blood sugar are bread (gluten free bread is even worse than normal bread GI wise - it's evil), mashed potato and potato chips. For an insulin dependent diabetic who wants to stay well the GI diet isn't optional - the jury is still out on its weight loss efficacy for non diabetics, but it's the only way to control diabetes through diet, and it's the way hospitals teach both type 1 and type 2 diabetics to eat in the uk.

The blood sugar curve for a diabetic (and perhaps for a pre-diabetic?) is a little like a see saw - if your glucose levels drop low they will peak high too (and vice versa), so once you are on a lower gi diet you might have to wait a little while for those painful peaks and troughs to settle into gentle ups and downs. Once your zombie bite is better, gentle exercise will bring down a high glucose reading fairly quickly. Make sure it's gentle though, or your glucose will fall too fast and you will release your own emergency glycogen stores - this will peak your blood sugar far too high again and give you an awful headache. Gently does it in all things, in other words!

Get well soon, keep up the wonderful recipes, and good luck!

sarah_99 | 11 August, 2010 - 22:56

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

Maki,
So sorry for your ordeal. I hope you are healing well.
Just thought I would pass along something from a relative with type 2, in case it is helpful.

When she eats white rice or pasta, her number spikes quickly. But she has found that when she eats whole wheat pasta, her number increases only slightly and not outside normal range for her. She has found the same to be true with brown rice, although she's only experimenting with very small quantities to see if volume has any impact. Her doctor said that this is not uncommon, but that everyone is different and what may be true for her may not be true for others.

Anyway, for what it's worth. Continued warm wishes for a speedy and complete recovery.

Linda Rolle | 19 August, 2010 - 16:31

Re: Frozen tofu cutlets, sesame green beans and peppers, ...

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