Diary of a Diabetic Chef: Here’s tasty beginning to cooking at home for good health

Diary of a Diabetic Chef gives you healthy chicken recipe.

diabetic.JPGView full sizePORTLAND, OREGON – January 27, 2012 – Ken Gordon, owner of Kenny and Zuke’s Deli, was diagnosed with diabetes early this year. He will keep a diary of his efforts to help improve his condition with diet and exercise.

If you’re going to get serious about taking control of your diet and health — and if you’ve been reading my columns, you must at least have a passing interest in that — then you have to face one thing: It will be hard to do if you rely completely on takeout, eating out and prepared or processed foods.

Which means that you will need to, in some way, shape or form, get involved in preparing your own food. Also known as … cooking.

It can be a lot of fun with the right approach. But it’s a little like playing a musical instrument; it’s not too rewarding until you reach a certain level of proficiency. But compared to mastering a musical instrument — and having sat through many a friend’s offspring’s violin butchering, I can attest to this — cooking requires less expertise to hit the right note.

We’re not talking Wolfgang Puck here. Just some rudimentary techniques can result in delicious dishes that will have you boasting to your loved ones — assuming you’ve persuaded them to partake — that “I made that!” And it will allow you to better control your diet. Not that you need to prepare every meal yourself. Start with a couple per week, and be careful most of the rest of the time.

Then slowly expand your repertoire.

I know you’re probably saying: “Yeah, easy for someone with 35 years of experience as a professional chef to say!” You bet. But I wasn’t always a demon in the kitchen; I started with a pretty non-existent skill level.

So how do you start? Begin with something really simple that requires little in the way of technique and that you can’t mess up, try as you might. Like this:

Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic
 Feeds 6  

This is one of my favorite recipes, regardless of skill level. It’s completely delicious, lean and healthy, and can be made by a complete nincompoop in about 10 minutes of hands-on preparation and a one-hour wait. And it’s great for entertaining, reheats well, can be made in big batches for several meals or freezing, and will make your house smell like the South of France. Try it!

12 skinless chicken thighs, bone in (don’t do this with chicken breasts; it won’t be nearly as good)

2 tablespoons decent olive oil

 1/2 cup decent dry white wine

3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, or half that amount dried

1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt

8 twists of the pepper mill

6 heads garlic, as firm and fresh as possible, separated into individual cloves, but left unpeeled (and no, you don’t need to count them, the title of the recipe notwithstanding)

Follow closely because this is going to go fast: Take a large heavy pot or casserole dish and place the chicken inside. Sprinkle with the oil, wine, thyme, salt, pepper and garlic cloves. Toss all well, preferably with your hands, which you will then wash before you do anything else. Cover and put in a 375-degree oven, which you thoughtfully preheated, despite my not telling you to.

Go do something — a walk would be good — and come back in an hour, when this is smelling so good you’ll want to have it for dinner, despite the fact that it was so fast to make it’s only 3:20. Serve it with brown rice or a healthy pasta such as whole wheat, corn or spelt, tossed with a bit of that olive oil, or some butter and parmesan.

And a vegetable … such as this one:

Roasted Cauliflower

Take a head of cauliflower and unwrap it if there’s plastic wrap around it (very important!). Flip it over and take a knife — the first time you had to use one (see how easy this cooking thing is) — and hollow out the inside stemmy stuff. Break up the cauliflower head into small pieces, about an inch or two in size. These are called “florets,” but you can call them “pieces of cauliflower,” if you don’t want to seem pretentious.

Put the cauliflower — whatever you decide to call it — into a mixing bowl and toss with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper, then spread it on a cookie sheet, or baking pan, or just a frying pan you can put in the oven. Put this into a 450-degree oven (you remembered to turn it up, right?) and roast for 20 minutes or so. The cauliflower should get nicely colored and tender, and it will make you love this oft-neglected vegetable.

There you have it. You’ve made this killer dinner for you and yours, and nary a sweat was broken. And you know exactly what went into it, so if you’re using myfitnesspal.com or some other nutrition program, you can track your progress toward a healthier you.

And admit it — that was way more fun than a 9-year-old’s violin recital.

Ken Gordon