I hosted Christmas Day dinner at my house this year. Sometimes my mother hosts us all, and sometimes my sister Sally. The last time I did it, I served a traditional menu: glazed spiral ham, scalloped potatoes, a green vegetable.
This year I wanted to do something different, with more variety and less attention to (American) tradition. In my house, we often turn to Mexican-inspired recipes and meals for food that pleases all five of us, so I decided to offer this to my parents, siblings, partners, and nieces on the holiday. Below is the menu, with links to recipes and my modifications.
Chili Verde with Pork (I used only one jalapeño pepper)
Tomato-Braised Chicken (I used only one jalapeño pepper)
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans (I only made the filling and didn’t assemble into tacos)
Horseradish Carrots (see page 7 of this Google book for the recipe)
Tortillas — flour and corn
Lime sour cream (add the grated rind of one lime to 16 oz. sour cream)
I served it buffet-style, from the kitchen counter, as I typically do. There are 15 of us and not enough chairs for the dining room table. One thing I like about this kind of meal is that there’s enough variety, protein, and vegetables that each diner can control the amount of carbs he or she eats and still feel well served and filled up. I also like that a lot of the vegetables are incorporated into the main dishes in a flavorful yet substantial way. With a traditional meat-and-potatoes based meal, if you don’t eat the potatoes, you feel as though you missed something, and if you hate green beans, you get no vegetables.
By the way, it was delicious. Everyone agreed. Several went back for seconds.
With the pork, chicken, roasted sweet potato mix, and avocado salsa, I had a dab of rice and no tortillas, saving room for the carbohydrate-intense sangria (made by my sister Emily) and desserts (provided by my mother and my sister Sally). I also loaded up on the Horseradish Carrots, which tasted just like they do at Brasserie Jo in Boston. This is the first time I made the carrots, and the recipe was a real find. I love raw carrots — they are the quintessential “free” food — and I’ll make them again — it would also be a good appetizer or a snack with drinks, perhaps paired with my friend Marcia’s fava beans with pecorino.
How did my blood sugar fare on Christmas Day? Dinner raised it only to 170, then we paused for a couple of hours of conversation and present opening. We ate dessert, and I bolused conservatively. (Too conservatively.) I had a sliver of custard pie and Mexican chocolate cake, and then — unplanned — I nibbled on cookies every time I walked by the platter. They did me in. By 7pm, the end of the celebration, I was at 300. I took a correction bolus, and I was glad that I had done my heavy eating mid-day and would not be turning in for the night until my BG had a chance to go down. Which it did.
Twenty years ago, when I was diagnosed with Type 1, the rules were strict, and my diet was based on the exchange plan. Every day I took a set amount of insulin, short-acting and long-acting, and I followed the same structured diet. If two carbs, three proteins, one fruit, and one vegetable we prescribed for lunch, for example, that didn’t leave a lot of room for dessert, unless it was diet Jello, which I ate a lot of. Dessert was cheating, or at the least it was going off-plan, and there was no way to come down from high BG without intense exercise or an insulin pump, which I did not have then. So I avoided dessert. In some ways those days were easier, more predictable.
Now I’m a carb counter, and I do eat dessert, at Christmas and on other days. I measure out a modest amount. I bolus carefully, with a 1 unit of Humalog to 15 grams of carbohydrate ratio, and try not to overestimate the insulin. Most of the time it comes out right, but not always. More autonomy in my meal plan and more freedom in choosing gives me more food fun, but sometimes less predictability. But you know that.
Instagram photograph of me, at top, by my daughter Lydia Guterman.