Summer with diabetes can be tough. It’s the season of beer and sangria, juicy watermelon, sweet corn, and, at least if you’re in my neighborhood, a full hour of the Mr. Softee truck’s siren song every single afternoon. So this summer, I decided to search for diabetes-friendly kitchen gadgets that would enable me to enjoy summer and keep my diabetes under control. Here are my top four (in no particular order).
Zoku Slow Pops: Classic Pop Molds ($15.99 on Amazon) and Silicone Popsicle Molds ($14.88 on Amazon)
Since ice cream is an important part of summer, I’m starting with a double popsicle whammy. The Zoku Slow Pop molds make classic popsicle sticks in reasonable serving sizes (though if you want something smaller they also have a mini version). The design is great: It’s easy to fit in your freezer, and the resusable sticks are integrated into a base that both prevents your popsicle from dripping onto your fingers as you eat it, and holds the sticks in place while they freeze. Each popsicle insert is removable, making it very easy to clean (it’s dishwasher-safe). Put it all together and there’s a reason they’re the #1 best-seller in Amazon’s “Ice Pop Molds” category.
But I’m mentioning the Silicone Popsicle Molds too because, let’s face it, sometimes you want a push pop. With these guys, you fill them up, top them with colorful caps, and put them in a glass in the fridge so they don’t fall over. These are easy to clean as well and – special bonus – the box includes several extra tops under the assumption that you and your children will be so excited by the prospect of homemade push-pops that some of the tops might go missing. Why these guys only rank #18 in the Ice Pop Molds category speaks to the fierceness of competition in the world of homemade frozen treat-making gadgets. (Speaking of which, the Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream/Sorbet maker is also pretty great.)
Sounds good, you say, except where’s the diabetes-friendly part? Well, when you make your own popsicles/ice cream/frozen yogurt/sorbet, you can choose how sweet you want your treat to be, as well as what type of sweetener you want to use. The serving sizes are also both small and controlled.
Here are two that I made recently:
One can reduced-fat coconut milk
Maple syrup and Splenda to taste
Pinch of salt
Sprinkle of cinnamon
(Optional) unsweetened shaved/shredded coconut
Instructions: Mix all the ingredients together, adjust the sweetness/saltiness/cinammon-i-ness to taste, and pour the mixture into the push pop molds. Freeze.
Ginger Nutmeg Peach Frozen Yogurt Pops
2 cups 2% plain Fage Greek yogurt
Maple syrup and Splenda to taste
3 ripe peaches, peeled and cut into chunks (I like to blanch them first)
Grated fresh ginger
Pinch of salt
Mix everything together. Taste it. Adjust it. Freeze it. Enjoy it.
(If you have an ice cream maker, I recommend processing it first – it’ll give you a slightly softer pop.)
As you can see from the looseness of those recipes, you can have fun playing around. I also was inspired by this list from Buzzfeed of interesting popsicle flavor combinations — including a new category: alcoholic popsicles, otherwise known as “Pop-tails” (or if you prefer a more risqué term, “Cock-sicles”).
The Sistema Klip-It 37-ounce Salad to Go Container ($8 on Amazon)
I like eating salads for lunch all year round, but I especially enjoy them in the summer, when there’s so much tasty produce to be had. But despite my extensive collection of Tupperware and used plastic containers, I never had a good way to transport a salad without it a. getting soggy (from dressing it too early), or b. spilling all over my backpack.
Enter the Salad to Go Container. It’s clever in a number of ways. First, there is a top tray inside (which itself is divided into two compartments), which keeps your salad separated from whatever additional treats you decide to bring with you (I often put berries on one side of the tray and a piece of chocolate on the other).
Second, in the center of that tray is a small circular plastic jar for your salad dressing. Its screw top means that it will not leak all over your berries and chocolate. And its very existence means that you will not end up with a soggy salad from having dressed it at 7:30 in the morning.
Third, there is a reusable plastic knife and fork cleverly clipped to the bottom of said tray, so you do not have to fish around in the bottom of your backpack for the fork you may or may not have remembered to throw in your bag at the last minute, and which is probably now mingling with your dirty gym clothes.
Lastly, the whole container has clips on its sides, which keeps it securely shut. And if you tire of salads, the same company also makes a soup cup and a sandwich-friendly “lunch cube.”
The Primula Flavor It Pitcher 3-in-1 Beverage System ($29.99 from Bed Bath & Beyond)
You know the expression, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?” My version is now: “When life gives you lemons, combine them with some mint and smushed fruit—oranges, berries, cherries, watermelon, whatever you prefer—and stick them in the Primula Flavor It Pitcher 3-in-1 Beverage System.”
Not as catchy, perhaps, but much better for my blood sugar. The Primula pitcher somehow manages to hold a lot of fruit in its (removable, easy-to-clean) basket and a lot of water – and yet doesn’t take up much space in the fridge. And the resulting infusions are great – a touch of fruit and sweetness, but almost no carbs.
But wait, you say – that’s only one type of beverage. Why is it called a 3-in-1 Beverage System? Well, because the pitcher comes with two other options besides the fruit basket: a coffee/tea filter, which is great for cold-brews, and a freezable insert that you can use to keep the pitcher cold at picnics. (And, should blood sugar not be an issue, you can also use it to make sangria.)
The Paderno World Cuisine Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer ($34.96 on Amazon)
I bought this gadget about a year and a half ago, during a raw food experiment that started with greasy raw, vegan “blondies” and ended a day later with an entirely unsuccessful batch of cashew “cheese.” I was so turned off by the experience that I considered sending the spiralizer back unused. But instead it sat in my cupboard next to the aforementioned salad container, taking up space.
But no longer! Earlier this summer I decided to experiment with the spiralizer attachment, which claims to be able to transform zucchini into spaghetti-like noodles. The stakes were high: if it worked, I would have found both a low-carb pasta alternative and a way to deal with summer squash that didn’t involve baking it into the blood-sugar catastrophe that is zucchini bread.
Well guess what? It worked. Seriously, this thing is amazing. You know how people say that if you were to unfurl your large intestine, it’d be about five feet long? (That may be the absolute worst analogy I could draw while writing about pasta, but I’m going with it.) This thing can turn a half a zucchini into a noodle at least twice that length. I’m not kidding – I made some this afternoon for lunch and measured one with a tape measurer.
What this means is that you can start with a single raw zucchini and end up 30 seconds later (it’s very easy to use) with a bowl of noodles long enough to do some serious fork-twirling. It’s obviously not pasta, but it’s convincing enough that my non-diabetic husband has actually requested zucchini noodles for dinner. And if you’re not into the spaghetti option, you can choose from an attachment that makes ribbons, and another that makes thicker noodles.
My husband made a basil pesto version that was pretty good, but so far, my favorite preparation is to take a cue from the Chinese restaurant my family used to order from when I was a kid, and make sesame noodles:
- Spiralize a raw zucchini or two
- Add a generous amount of salt, toss to coat, and let the zucchini sit for about ten minutes (this draws out some of its water and makes the texture better).
- Rinse the noodles to remove the salt, and squeeze them in your hands to remove the excess water.
- Add sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, and soy sauce to taste (and spicy sauce if you like things hot).
Voila: you’re down a zucchini, you’re up a bowl of almost-pasta, and you didn’t even have to wait for water to boil.
What are your favorite summertime diabetes gadgets or tricks?