What is squaghetti?  It is one of those things that you do in marriage, COMPROMISE!  See explanation below . . .sq

Squaghetti, or it’s maiden name, spaghetti squash, is completely a gift from the food fairies.  A co-worker of Mr. Solberg, we will call him Blue, has been working on improving his health and suggested we try this UFV in place of pasta.  Of course I needed to start an investigation.  I referred to the vast reference tool library at UFVU, (Unidentified Fruits and Vegetables School of Food Data Technology) and found it had acceptable nutritional facts but how do I use it?  Easy!  Cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and strandy things like a pumpkin, season it, put it face down on a cookie sheet and bake it in a 350° oven for 30 minutes.  Let it cool and then “rake” out the flesh with a fork.  There are many other ways of preparing this UFV for use but I think this was the easiest.  I think I watched a video on U Tube to learn.  If you have any suggestions, please let me know by commenting below!

Squaghetti is a group of cultivars of Cucurbita pepo subsq. pepo.  Now you know?  Interesting facts when I started this investigation, this UFV is both vegetable and fruit.  We can call it a vegetable because it is commonly used as savory but it can also be sued sweet.  Technically, any plant that flowers and has seeds to be replanted is considered a fruit.  Now for the whole cultivar thing, it refers to cultivated variety which means it was selected and cultivated by humans instead of by nature which would be called Variety.  Now you know!

As with every testing method there are successes and failures.  There have been no failures for me, but a few things that I have encountered with squaghetti is cooking time.  If it is not very ripe, it may need to be cooked longer or possibly add some liquid to the pan to help steam it.  You can tell when you try to rake out the flesh that you may not be able to get all of it down to the skin.  Also, the outside skin looks solid but I believe it can be fragile and if it is punctured in transit, it will spoil while sitting on the counter.  You will see mold when you cut into before removing the seeds or it can have a more pungent smell.  One last thing, when you cut it open to scoop out the seeds, I use scissors to cut through the strandy things to make it easier.

Now for the successes!  The strands of flesh that you rake out can be used in place of pasta in dishes that you would normally use spaghetti or Asian noodles.  My recipe for Casseruola di Spaghetti can easily use this UFV in place of the tofu noodles if desired.  I have made many different meals by substituting squaghetti for pasta, I would love to hear what you have done!  I will put together recipes and post my ideas as I can.

Now for the explanation for the name change and a little bit of trivia.  As an adventurous foodie, I am completely open to trying new things but as most of you will admit, if you have an experience that you could only describe as food torture, you may be less likely to try it again.  Squash was like that for me.  I believe the type was acorn squash and I would classify it as a thing that nightmares are made of.  So after probably 43 years, I decided to try this UFV that Blue suggested.  Italian food is not something that I will easily give up so I needed a pasta substitute.  Mr. Solberg is definitely trying to be more open in his trying new things so here is where the COMPROMISE comes in.  We will not call it squash or will we admit to eating squash.

For squaghetti, it is now transferred from the UFV category to AFV (Acceptable Fruit and Veggie)!  If you have a UFV to submit for investigation, let me know and I will hunt down the facts for you.



Day 2 – Back to School

The definition of a food pattern is the quantities, proportions, variety or combinations of different foods and beverages in diets, and the frequency with which they are habitually consumed, according to the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.  This guideline was created primarily for nutrition and health professionals to help Americans make healthy choices to prevent chronic disease.  There are no secrets here, common sense and good choices is how it reads.  This is the eighth edition that has been published and is a road-map for 2015-2020.  This guideline is used to inform the USDA and HHS food programs like the National School Lunch Program.

Do you remember School House Rock type public service announcements?  These PSA’s were designed to provide a memorable, informative education while watching our favorite cartoons or after-school specials.  In the small amount of time the commercial would run, we learned how a bill becomes a law, what is a conjunction, and hankering for a hunk of cheese.  The food pyramid was easy to understand and we always knew to finish our vegetables before leaving the table.  I mean, how many times did you think, “when I grow up, I won’t have to eat all of my veggies while I run around with scissors!”

I was also thin, energetic, and a lot less cynical. I enjoyed a steak over a chicken breast and macaroni and cheese was manna from heaven.  I also played outside, rode a bicycle, and went on nature hikes.  As I got older, I made my children eat vegetables but not as many, especially not fresh.  Lots of canned green beans and corn were on our menu.  I have learned to cook many things over the years but did not start incorporating the fresh vegetables and fruits until recently.  I needed to go back to basics school.

To change a pattern, we have to use parts of our brain to grow new neurons to connect with existing ones forming new pathways.  Harvard psychologist, William James wrote in his 1890 book The Principles of Psychology, “In most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set likconnection-647217_960_720e plaster and will never soften again.”  He believed a personality becomes fixed after a certain age because we use the same neural pathways again and again until they are stuck and deeply embedded.  Newer studies have shown that deliberate repetition and practice can create new connections but they are fragile.  Motivation, willpower, and self-control will need to be used to achieve the goal of a new pattern.  In an article from Fast Company, Tara Swart, a lecturer at MIT, states “Depending on the complexity of the activity, it could take up to four and a half months to create a new pattern”.

My challenge is to find ways of using more fresh vegetables and fruits to create a pattern of eating nutritional, tasty foods.  If a food pattern can be changed by making it connect with existing patterns, the best way I could think of doing it was by taking our common meals and substitute ingredients.

How can I add more fresh vegetables to my meals when I don’t even know what they are?  kohlrabi-783166__180The light green bulb with stalks and leaves in the picture was an interesting item that I could not identify, nor could the young man in the produce section.  Unidentified Fruits and Vegetables or UFV are starting to haunt me and has me questioning my culinary prowess. There are several places that sell these UFV’s but what are they?  What do they taste like?  Do they have any nutritional value?   By accident, flipping through a vegetable book, I was able to identify the UFV, it is a kohlrabi.  I am sure we will rename it to suit our needs.  As in any problem that needs to be solved, troubleshooting techniques should be applied.  I have listed below the standard troubleshooting tips for solving my culinary challenge.

  1. Identify and duplicate the problem – Diabetes Type 2, High Cholesterol, Overweight, etc. √
  2. Establish a theory of probable cause – A half century of bucking the food and exercise system √
  3. Test the theory to determine cause – Take blood sugar readings to determine what foods increase the numbers √
  4. Act – Initiate Lifestyle Change Plan √
  5. Test and Prevent – Start working the above step √
  6. Report – Document, document, document!

Step 4 required more than just announcing a change needed to be made.  The time and effort that I happily expend taking care of my soulmate requires focus and knowledge.  It is a good thing I am a foodie!  I have established the UFV School of Food Data Technology for my education.  At UFV, the never-ending thirst for knowledge is quenched by finding great ways of adding needed nutrition to our meals without raising the dreaded blood sugar readings.

Mr. Solberg started with an A1c of 11.5 in October of 2015.  His current result has him down to 5.7 as of June 2016.  With the help of prescribed medicine, diet, and exercise, he has lost over 40 lbs and feels great.  The consequences for not making a change are not readily apparent until it becomes a burden on the patient and their family.  This disease has become an epidemic in our country and I believe it will spiral out of control if left unchecked.

Food is fun and I love to cook.   I also enjoy discussing food and preparation techniques so I will share with you on our journey the successes and failures.  Please comment anytime!


Seabream and prawns with ratatouille and balsamic reduction

This recipe has found a place on the blog very unplanned. I called my friend over to have a lunch together and I planed to prepare something nice because I passed the exam. I wasn’t pl…

Source: Seabream and prawns with ratatouille and balsamic reduction

Foodie, Heal Thyself – Day 1

What is the definition of being a foodie?  I have found several definitions from a gourmet, to the Urban Dictionary version “A dumbed-down term used by corporate marketing forces to infantilize and increase consumerism in an increasingly simple-minded American magazine reading audience.

I don’t pigeon hole myself in either category.  I have been known to discuss, at length, an impressive, to-die-for, crab bisque (see picture)

Crab bisque

Crab Bisque compliments to Jack Binion’s Steakhouse, Council Bluffs, IA

that took me 30 minutes to eat because I didn’t want the experience to end.  In the same conversation I can describe my love of Kraft Mac n Cheese paired with hot dogs.  When I think of gourmet, I think snob.  Being a foodie is a helpful sign that I wear (proudly) that says every conversation will contain some sort of food obsession story.  If I am talking to someone that has recently traveled, there is no doubt in my mind the question, “where did you eat?” and “what did you have?” will be discussed.

I am on a mission to maintain my obsession with food but adapt it for good instead of evil.  The days of celebrating CARB night are over!  But where to start?  Well, Day 1 of course.

Day 1

Denial is not just a river in Egypt, it is an inevitable truth.  You can tell yourself that because your significant other has a problem, you will not need to change.  Really?  I got over that before leaving the doctor’s office.  If Mr. Solberg must change his eating pattern because of his health, I must be involved too.  I am the foodie who does the planning, shopping, cooking, and obsessing.  I packed up the bags of chips, cookies, fresh and frozen potatoes, pasta, Pop Tarts, and bread and carted them over to a neighbor’s house.

I learned how to effectively read a food label and convert my favorite breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks into nutritious delicacies that even the most picky and snobbish foodie will appreciate.

Planning is difficult for me.  I am a practicing procrastinator who generally starts a project and changes my mind about it so many times that in the end I cannot remember the reason for the project.  I am working on it . . .

Grocery shopping is one of my passions.  I have attended grocery store openings in my area and in many cities where I have traveled.  I enjoy finding new products to test and old products to refresh.  The stores who provide samples know me by name and several meat and deli counter friends offer great suggestions and request my advice or opinion.

Lower carbohydrates is  not my only focus, I believe diabetes type 2 does not only rear it’s ugly head because we eat too many carbs.  Everything needs to be in balance to be healthy.  Fresh fruits and vegetables now get top billing and lean proteins like chicken and fish get a supporting role.

On Day 1 I grabbed my favorite list of recipes and started to convert.  I have already found a great spaghetti casserole conversion to give me an Italian treat (see my recipe).  I have also found instead of using tofu noodles, a great replacement is spaghetti squash!  I have decided to rename some of these vegetables to make them more palatable.  Squash has not been on my list because, well, it is squash.  As a child it was a punishment to eat squash and spinach.  I have renamed spaghetti squash to “squaghetti”.  I have created and tested 5 different recipes to use this new vegetable.  Look for their posts coming soon!

If you have converted a recipe of your own or would like to have an alternative to something you commonly eat, comment below and I would love to be involved!





Are YOU Being a Significant Other?

Does the person in your life have diabetes type 2 and you do not?  I am not here to preach or suggest you are not doing your part, but what part are you taking?

If you believe this is their problem and you are not changing your culinary and activity lifestyle, stop reading!  Ok, that was harsh, I do want you to read and appreciate your Couple walkingsupport.  Did you only sign up for the good parts?  What are the good parts?  There have been more times in my life that I have found when I have tackled a problem or accomplished something, those are my good parts!  If you are in a position to influence a child with your lifestyle choices, think of the people that will need to support them in the future.  Whether you had a good role model or not to learn from, Gandhi said it best, “Be the change you wish to see in the world!”

Your person may have been destined to this disease by genetics, but it is just as likely that your choices have contributed to the problem.  If you have a sweet tooth and commonly have sugary snacks lying about, others may indulge too.  If you don’t put any effort into providing nutritional meals, people will eat what they have available.  If you can find more reasons to put off a walk around the block than just walking around the block, you will influence your person to be a procrastinator.

What can you do?  Learn.  The simplest and best way for a person to deal with anything is to have support from the people they care about.  Remember the food pyramid that shows the portions of food groups we should eat?  This has changed from what I remember but Iada plate believe it is easier now.  According to the American Diabetes Association, half of your plate should be vegetables.  Have some fun with it, I have been trying either a new vegetable or a new recipe each week.  One quarter of your plate should be your protein.  It can be meat or a protein alternative.  Our dietician suggested choosing beef and pork cuts that say “loin” in the title.  They are usually leaner.  The last quarter of your plate would be for the starch.   The evil carb infested thing that probably caused most of the problem.  Suggestion from my side, try a fruit instead of potatoes.  They will give you a sweet taste and a better digestion.  I have also learned recently the benefits of including whole grains to your diet is significant also.  Soluble fiber can be beneficial to lowering cholesterol and blood sugars.  What you choose should be within the total carbohydrate count that your medical professional or dietician suggested.  Mr. Solberg has 30-50 per meal and 15-20 per snack.

The culinary change + 30 minutes of activity per day can make a difference to your significant other and yourself.

Off the Rails

When Mr. Solberg was diagnosed with the dreaded “diabetes, type 2” world epidemic, we started experiencing the 5 stages of grief.  We have coined it DABDA.  The first thing that we did was make jokes which immediately landed us dirty looks from the medical professional or how I like to think of her, Pez, to imitate a pill dispensing automaton who has the power to prescribe medications but lacks the ability to cure the patient.

  • DenialDr Pez
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released data in 2014 that shows 29.1 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, that is 9.3% of the population.  It is listed as the 7th leading cause of death behind heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents, stroke, and Alzheimer’s.
Although there is no specific information available from the reputable sites, such as the CDC, American Diabetes Association, Mayo Clinic, etc., stating why some people develop this disease and others don’t, the overwhelming statistics show being overweight and inactive are the common thread.  The pharmaceutical companies have provided many pamphlets on the pills they can provide and the doctor’s can prescribe them.  In the meantime, the insurance companies can decide what they will pay toward these things that only treat the symptoms.
We were handed a pile of prescriptions and told to make appointments with a diabetes education professional which included a meeting with a dietician.  We have asked, “Can this be cured?”  But it falls on deaf ears.
In 5 months from being diagnosed, Mr. Solberg has lost 40 lbs. and his A1C went from a dangerous level of 11.5% to a safer 6.2%.  He still takes his pills and checks his blood, but we have made a big change to following a low carb diet that includes 30-50 carbs per meals and 15-20 carbs per snack as well as at least 30 minutes of activity (walking) per day.
What is your story?  I would love to hear your successes and where you may need improvement.

Pasta the Safe Way

First of many recipes to be “re-invented” during our journey is my family’s classic comfort food, Casseruola di Spaghetti or as we know it, Spaghetti Casserole.  This has been a staple in my life and I refuse to let it go.  But we know that pasta is definitely “carbful”.  If we use spaghetti, obviously the focus of the meal, 1 cup of this cooked wonder = 38 carbs.  Picture the size of your fistFist and ask yourself, is this amount that I will eat?  Is there any other carbs in my meal?  The picture is actually my fist and generally this measurement refers to one cup, but I couldn’t squeeze it down enough.  How can I include a slice of bread to sop up any sauce?  What about a simple lettuce salad on the side with dressing?  Never mind the actual sauce that includes carbs too.

If I made this recipe with the standard ingredients in a 9×12 baking dish, the servings would be separated into 8 lasagna-looking squares.  Each of these delicious squares have an estimated, 883.5 calories, 48.5 total fat grams, and 58 total carbs.  Cholesterol and sodium have their place too.  I based the calculations on all of the total ingredients and divided it by 8 servings.  If you have paid attention to your diabetes education, you should limit your carbs to 30-50 per meal.  Never mind the calories and fat that have contributed to the diabetes type 2 epidemic.  This meal is potentially deadly.  Especially if a slice of crusty garlic bread and a lettuce salad are added.  So long to the glass or two of wine to wash it down.

Compromise is a nasty word with notes of sacrifice and blandness.  Mr. Solberg’s view on anything diet is to remove the taste and get used to the hungry feeling.  My challenge is to prove him wrong with a culinary adventure!  See my interpretation of the classic Casseruola di Spaghetti.



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