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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise

Using Your Bean

With this issue Vegetarians in Paradise continues the bean explorations of VOW, a diabetic who has discovered the importance of beans in her diet. In subsequent VIP issues VOW will enlighten our readers with the further Adventures of the Bean.

Adventures of the Bean #12
Start with One Small Task and Then ---

by VOW

Includes Recipe Below

My desk at work is clean!

I want to call all my coworkers in and show it off. Maybe I should even sell tickets!

I love a clean desk. I love a clean ANYTHING, and organized stuff thrills me beyond words. However, I find too often that neatness and organization often are the first casualties in Real Life. When I'm trying to do a dozen different things at once, putting stuff away and THROWING stuff away are often tasks designated for "later."

And I haven't found a calendar or planner ANYWHERE that has such a day of the week. Rats.

So how did I get this clean desk? Funny you should ask.

I was sitting at the computer, and when I looked down at the keyboard, I thought, "Now that is just way beyond NASTY." So I put everything aside just for the moment and said, "I'm cleaning my keyboard now." I did the entire job, too, by popping off the key caps and using cotton swabs with rubbing alcohol to de-crud UNDER the keys. It's amazing the lint and dust and God-knows-what that can accumulate there!

The rest of the desk sort of went like a long chain of dominoes after that. I never really set out to clean the file drawers, or the in-out trays, or to completely rearrange everything. I actually was trying to get rid of the (achoo) dust bunnies that were congregating behind the piles of "stuff." I hate to admit it, but some of those dust bunnies were more like dust squirrels or even dust raccoons. VOW

So my desk is clean! I feel compelled to clean and organized the rest of my life, but I know it ain't gonna happen. However, with this fantastic accomplishment, I'll try to use the same initial mindset that started the ball rolling with the desk: I won't look at the entire job, but instead begin with some simple, easy-to-conquer task, and then see how it goes. If I don't manage to completely tornado my entire home over the weekend, I won't grieve. I'll just look for another small task, and focus on THAT until it is done.

Diabetes is managed the same way, it seems. It would be ideal for someone to come home from the doctor's office and purge the kitchen of snacks, fat, and sweets, and then stock the pantry with wholesomeness while using new cookbooks extolling the glories of calorie-free, carbohydrate-free, guilt-free, and ultimately taste-free foods. Real Life doesn't work that way. And joining a fitness center or buying one of those "Bow-Something" gizmos won't guarantee sculpted limbs and six-pack abs.

The BEST way to manage diabetes is to start with a small task, one that you know you can accomplish. Perhaps you can give up fast food, or stop reaching for snacks at the grocery store. Start making your lunch to take to work. Buy a proper fitting pair of walking shoes and hike around the block in the evening. Read up on diabetes, like the book I suggested in my first column, The First Year Type 2 Diabetes: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed by Gretchen Becker. Small steps. Don't set out to climb over the mountain on the first day! Tell yourself, "I'm going to walk up to that big rock, and then sit down to admire the view."

Diabetes isn't punishment. You don't "earn" it by being bad, or doing the wrong things. So your management of the disease shouldn't feel like you are standing in the corner, or getting twenty lashes. However, it is not something you can bargain with, and you can't afford to ignore it. You will have to make changes to your environment. You may not like some of the changes, either. I'm not crazy about the dusting and wiping and organizing part of my now-clean desk. But I sure like how it looks now!

In the two years since I was diagnosed with diabetes, I look back on the changes I've made and I admit that some of them were not very nice at all. I STILL don't like exercise. I think people who say it's "fun" should be screened for mental problems. But as I sit in front of my computer today, I can tell you I'm now about sixty-five pounds lighter than what I weighed at diagnosis. My lab results have improved tremendously, and I FEEL better.

It's a new year. How about some New Year Resolutions? I'm going to resolve to keep trying, keep learning, to be good to ME, and above all, take the time to laugh, every single day.


When I was a kid, I would come home from school on a grey, rainy, dreary day to a warm home and a kitchen filled with good smells and lots of love. One of those rainy day favorites was an inexpensive meal that, to me, tasted like a million bucks. Knowing that Momma had fixed potato soup was almost as good as a hug!

Momma's potato soup was not much more than potatoes, onions and water. Salt and pepper were added, of course, and some milk, but the substance and body of the soup came from good old white potatoes. She'd cook the cubed spuds until they were almost disintegrating, and then she'd mash them in the pan with a wooden spoon. There'd still be enough lumps of potato to provide texture. And then an abundance of onions made the soup sweet and flavorful. (I'm practically drooling in my keyboard in memory!)

Diabetes and white potatoes don't get along well at all, however. White potatoes are very high on the Glycemic Index (see http://www.glycemicindex.com for more info), which means they give you a massive jolt in blood sugar, and then you crash and burn later. Knowing me by now, you can probably figure that the gears in my brain started turning, and I became focused on making a diabetes-friendly soup that would remind me of this childhood favorite.

My goal was a "white" soup. I paid a visit to an ethnic Indian market where my nose was tantalized with exotic smells immediately upon entering the store. I smiled to myself as I walked down the aisle where the lentils were displayed. There was a rainbow of those little bean relatives! I had a secret urge to buy a package of each color and run home to create a mosaic using library paste, construction paper, and lentils!

I decided to settle for creating a soup, instead. My target lentil was a creamy white, and the package stated they were "Urad Dal." The Urad Dal is actually a black lentil, not split, and covered with a skin. In its black alias, it is also known as a Beluga Lentil, I would imagine, because of its resemblance to Beluga caviar. But once the skin is removed and the lentil is split into the two lens-shaped halves, it becomes an off-white "pulse." Here's a link, if you want to learn more http://www.foodsubs.com/Lentils.html

Jicama My next stop was the grocery store, where I slowly perused the produce section, in search of white root veggies. I settled upon celery root (also known as celeriac), turnips, parsnips, jicama, and white onions. I selected roots that were approximately softball sized, and headed home.

Recipes which call for so many cups of raw produce always give me fits. Even if you took a measuring cup to the store with you, it would be impossible to find a one-cup tomato or a half-cup carrot. What are you supposed to do with the leftover "stuff" that doesn't go in the recipe? One example that always makes me scream is the infamous "two tablespoons of tomato paste." Yeah, RIGHT. You leave the little can in the refrigerator until the rest of the tomato paste crawls out on its own power and stages a mutiny with the other refrigerator contents?

Pardon me, I got sidetracked. Back to the "not-potato" soup:

Get out the biggest pot you have, like a dutch oven. This recipe makes a LOT. I don't know yet how it freezes, so you might want to make this on Superbowl Sunday and feed a crowd!

Not-Potato Soup

    1 cup white lentils ("Urad Dal"), rinsed
    8 cups of water

    Place these in the dutch oven and start to simmer while you prepare the root veggies.

    Peel and dice in 1/2-inch cubes:
    2 softball-sized turnips (I got 2-1/4 cups of diced veggie from each turnip)
    1 softball-sized celery root (also known as celeriac) (this also yielded 2-1/4 cups of diced veggie)
    1 softball-sized jicama (again, 2-1/4 cups of diced veggie)
    1 pound of parsnips, peeled and diced (for me, this yielded 2 cups of diced veggie)
    1 softball-sized white onion (this was 2 cups of diced veggie)
    1-2 tablespoons of minced garlic
    Salt and white pepper to taste

Add the veggies to the dutch oven, cover, and cook slowly over very low heat. Stir occasionally. Check the veggies for tenderness, and the soup should be done in about 45 minutes to an hour.

It's not Momma's soup. However, it's QUITE good, and it's kind to your blood sugar! This recipe will yield 16 extremely generous servings, about one cup size! I still don't know how it freezes, but I'm thinking if you blend it a bit after it thaws and then reheat gently, it might work. The parsnips and the onion provide a wonderful, surprising sweetness to this soup, and I think even Momma would have liked it!

Per serving: 87 calories, 4.5 grams protein, negligible fat, 18 grams carbohydrate, and 7 grams of fiber.

Click here for more Adventures of the Bean

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