Doesn’t the idea of sitting down to a comforting pasta meal and a glass of deep red wine sound mouth-watering? What if you could do that – at home – in less than 5 minutes?
Well, as we all know, it only takes a minute to open a bottle of wine, and we have a recommendation for you if you love the structure and depth of a bold red wine – Ravage Cabernet Sauvignon. You’ll taste dark, luscious berries rounded out with vanilla and mocha for a beautiful balance of flavors. Color is intense. Feeling could be described as romantic or assertive, depending on your frame of mind. Powerful complement to braised meats; rich and striking on its own. It made us feel like we were in an exotic country. You can buy it in dozens of retail locations in Chicago and elsewhere. And, not surprisingly, it goes beautifully with pasta dishes.
Imagine this: restaurant-quality cooked pasta in a tasty marinara sauce that you can just heat and serve. Yes, it is possible. We were pleased to sample Victoria Chef Collection Penne Marinara and found the pasta cooked to perfection (not mushy or overcooked).
The sauce was delicious, but a little sweet for our taste. They don’t add any sugar, but they do use apple juice concentrate. However, we were pleased to find that adding a tablespoon of ricotta cheese balanced that bit of extra sweetness to our satisfaction. Really surprising to taste this kind of quality from a jar. No refrigeration necessary until after the jar is opened. Victoria Chef Collection’s philosophy is Ingredients Come First™. Their recipes are based on the same ones their founding family brought with them from Italy to Brooklyn. Happily, the list of ingredients has nothing you wouldn’t put in your own pasta sauce. Check out VIctoria’s wide variety of authentic Italian sauces and delicacies.
Diabetes is a condition that affects every part of life, including one of the biggest parts of anyone’s life – what you cook and eat. In the past, people living with diabetes didn’t have a lot of guidance on how to make food that’s good for them taste good. But lately, authors of all stripes are writing cookbooks with recipes that go for taste while honoring the special guidelines required for a diabetic-friendly regimen. Here are two for your consideration.
The 4-Ingredient Diabetes Cookbook: Simple, Quick and Delicious Recipes Using Just Four Ingredients or Less!, by Nancy S. Hughes. This cookbook is good for anyone who’s in a hurry to make a decent meal without investing too much time and effort. The Salmon with Lemon-Thyme Slices (p.147) made a nice entree for family dinner, though I had to throw the fish in the microwave before serving because the length of time stated in the recipe left it mostly raw. Came out fine, then, and everyone enjoyed. You may find a few trusty treasures in this book that will become regular go-to recipes in your repertoire – like the Toasted Pecan and Apple Salad (p.75) or the Chicken Kale Salad with Fresh Ginger Dressing (p.36). Simple, simple, simple is the key – lots of grilled meat and poultry, tricks for fancying up ready-made salad dressings, and so on.
The section near the beginning of the book called “Make the Most of All Your Meals” has some great ideas for simplifying your cooking life and getting more out of what you do make. The “cook’s tips” given on pages throughout the book either explain why the recipe is written as it is or give some good idea about how to make sure the dish turns out well. Every recipe gives full nutrition data as well as diabetic exchanges and choices. Occasionally you’ll find good tips for substituting, e.g., instead of 1 teaspoon of honey you can use 1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of water.
You’ll probably notice as you page through the book that some of the recipes fudge a bit on the “4 ingredients only” claim in the title. But that’s okay – ingredients like water, salt and pepper shouldn’t have to count against the 4-rule anyway. In paperback ~$13 on Amazon.
Switch It Up: A Fresh Take On Quick and Easy Diabetes-Friendly Recipes For a Balanced Life, by Corinne Trang. This book is for people who want to spend a little more time putting their food together and are willing to try new vegetables and combine different foods in some unique ways. The photographs are positively inspiring – they make you feel absolutely this food will be worth the time it takes to make. And in case you really want to think outside the box, the suggestions of other recipes in the book to pair with each dish give you new ways to look at what to serve together. The international inspirations result in unique takes on common dishes, e.g., the Spicy Miso Guacamole (p.22) pairs the lightest, least salty version of Asian miso with lime-and-sriracha spiced avocado of warm climes. And here’s a unique combo – julienned raw zucchini with prunes, dressed in a soy-ginger-sriracha dressing (p.8). The recipe for Ginger Lobster Salad (p.86) is really simple but intriguing with a very light dressing that also includes ginger, soy and sriracha along with rice vinegar. Like so many in this book, it looks deliciously appealing in the photo.
While soups and some other items can be frozen, many of these recipes are best served very fresh. Yet most of the ingredients here are portioned to serve 8. If you are a single or a couple. those extra 4 to 6 servings of every recipe might very well go to waste, so be aware you may have to calculate and then cut the ingredients in half or thirds in order to eat the dish fresh. As in all good cookbooks for diabetics, every recipe gives diabetic exchanges and choices and full nutrition data.
Fifty internationally inspired recipes with professional close-up photographs of items clearly styled by a food artist. It’s a beautiful thing. Proceeds from sales of the book support the American Diabetes Association. In paperback ~$11 on Amazon.
When Keystone Meats asked us to review a sample of their products, we were skeptical. Because, yes, it sounds funny to a foodie to think in terms of using canned protein (well, except tuna), but we took a chance and were pleasantly surprised.
Keystone makes and sells all-natural chicken and beef (and more) in cans that come in 14.5 ounces or 28 ounces, and we were impressed to see that the only ingredients are beef or chicken and sea salt. Contrary to our fears, the chicken did not taste dry. It tasted more than satisfactory in the chicken fajitas recipe we selected – the one on the back of the can seemed like too much chicken and not enough vegetables for our preferences.
We season our chicken fajitas and peppers and onions with Greek low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream – works really well – and some salsa and fresh tomatoes. It was pretty darn good. And we only used two thirds of the can for four servings. So we’re talking about a lot of bang for your buck.
The recipe for quick and easy pot roast on the back of the beef can looks tasty and certainly easy. Using one of these instant-protein options could be a lifesaver for a busy person who’s starving and doesn’t want to order high-sodium takeout food. Because another nice thing about these canned meat products is the low sodium content – only 120 mg in a serving. Plus a serving of 2 ounces is only 70 calories for the beef and 60 for the chicken.
When you open the chicken there is a lot of liquid, and we started at first to pour it out. But then we realized it had to be juices from the the cooking process because the can says no water added. It also says no artificial ingredients and only minimally processed. So if you would be happy to have a reasonably priced, not-too-processed and tasty meat or chicken on hand, ready at any moment, without worrying about refrigerator or freezer space – handy, too, for camping or trekking – these Keystone canned meat products fit the bill pretty well. They make soup bases and canned broths, too. Review the entire product range online at Keystone Meats.
Meanwhile, Moore’s Marinades & Sauces makes a whole group of sauces you can use to spice up your cooking. They sent us a sample of their new Spicy Habanero Wing and Hot Sauce. When we used it as extra seasoning on the above chicken fajitas, it overpowered the multi-layered fajita spice combination. Yet its strongly tart, vinegary taste would be great on wings to zing the meat and cut through the fat. FYI, sometimes vinegar is the first ingredient in hot sauces, but in Moore’s Habanero it’s water first, peppers second and next come vinegar and salt.
Moore’s also has some recipes on their website that look worth trying. The Southwestern soup made with this Habanero sauce, for example, sounds good. Some of the recipes made with their Ranch sauce look particularly appealing. The marinades and sauces come in 16-ounce bottles and are available online and in select retail outlets like Walmart.