Recipe: Gluten-free meatballs

Before V’s Celiac diagnosis, I would occasionally make meatballs, but more often than not we’d reach for pre-made frozen meatballs from Trader Joe’s because of convenience. Now that we have to stick to a gluten-free diet, we can no longer rely on frozen meatballs. Virtually all of them contain bread crumbs or other gluten products. I did find frozen GF meatballs in one store but the price was astronomical.

I just happened to have some time this afternoon to assemble a big batch of gluten-free meaty beauties. I really should make them more often because it was easy and quick. And trust me, when I say something is easy to make, it is easy to make.

Meatballs Ingredients:

  • 2-3 lbs ground beef or turkey (carb-free)
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free bread crumbs ( carbs vary by brand, one I used was 21g.)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (vary by brand, one I used was 12g.)
  • 1/4 cup mayo (carb-free)
  • 1 egg (carb-free)
  • Salt and seasoning to taste (I prefer Italian Seasoning)
  • 1/2 cup water

Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl. I prefer to roll up my sleeves, get my hands dirty and give my ground meat a thorough massage. Happy meat = happy meatballs. Roll meat into meatballs. Choose your size! Make a bunch of little ones, a fair amount of medium ones, or a few giant ones. They will taste the same.

Prepare easy and quick tomato sauce. Pour two cans of 15 oz. tomato sauce and some water (I usually use about 1.5 cans worth of water) into a large stock pot. Add diced carrots, salt and seasoning to taste. Squirt a bit of ketchup if you’d like. Stir everything well. Add meatballs to the sauce. I add them carefully one by one. It’s OK if some of them end up on top of one another. You can spoon some sauce over those top-deckers before you turn on the stove. After the sauce comes to a gentle boil, close the lid, reduce heat to low and simmer for about an hour.

Your carb count will vary depending on the amount of meat you use and number of meatballs. Today I used 2.7 lbs of ground beef and made 27 meatballs, so each meatball was less than 2g! Each can of tomato sauce I used was 35g of carbs, so all of the sauce was 70g. Since we won’t eat most of the sauce, I just tack on a few grams of carbs to the total carb count.

Serve with a side dish of your choice and enjoy!

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Awareness Project, Day 7

Last night my husband made another effort to check my BG. This time he did it at the right time – around 2 AM – but he completely failed to be discreet. First, his alarm went off. I thought that he set it to check on V, whose BG was still riding high despite aggressive measures to beat it down. He later told me that the alarm was for me. The sound of the alarm fully woke me up. Then he fumbled with the meter and lancing device, something dropped on the floor and made a lot of noise, and we ended up having a good laugh about it. Another fail! I did let him test me, since he went through all that trouble. As you can imagine, my BG was as boring and unexciting as all other times I tested it.

We finally got out of the house today and went out to have pizza for dinner. V was happy to have a testing buddy and my husband got a couple of action shots.

Testing and pre-bolusing
Testing and pre-bolusing
Guess which one of us has diabetes?
Guess which one of us has diabetes?

We shared a delicious gluten-free pizza and a salad. I am thankful that we live in a city with many restaurants offering gluten-free options. It makes our life so much easier.

In the evening, I interviewed V about her thoughts on my project. She said it was fun and cool for her to have me doing everything she does, and to be able to watch me do it. She thought I did an “excellent” job: “You did it perfectly and you did not cheat.” When asked if anything surprised her, she said that she was surprised at how boring my blood sugar was, and also at how frustrating it was for me to check my BG in the morning while getting everyone ready. Finally, when I asked V what she thought about me going back to my “normal life”, she said that she will miss having me as a diabetic partner.

I told her that I do not mind checking BG with her from time to time. I’d happily do it more often if the test strips were not so damn expensive. I’ve also discovered, to my own surprise, that counting carbs, measuring my portions and roughly sticking to V’s carb guidelines works for me. Not once during the week did I over-eat, and not once did I feel hungry. So maybe that’s something I will continue to do at least when we eat at home. As far as the gluten-free diet goes, the most difficult thing about it is limitations of dining out and the stress of having to pack my lunch every single day. There is not a single gluten-containing food that I really missed or craved.

I am feeling pensive and a little sad as I am wrapping up my project, my mood undoubtedly colored by a very difficult Dexcom insertion saga tonight that lasted 45 minutes and involved a lot of tears and fear on V’s part. On the other hand, I am typing this post without Dexcom sensor attached to my arm. Before she went to bed, V pulled it off. My skin is a little red and there is a minuscule drop of dried blood at the insertion site. It will remind me of this project for a few days. Remember how yesterday I said that there is a part of me that does not want to let go? I take it back. I am ready to be done. I will make good on my promise to check my BG with V from time to time. I will be more mindful of my own carb intake and eat even more gluten-free foods. I will try to be more patient and understanding with V when she does not want to check her BG because it is interrupting her life. I have the luxury of making these choices, of playing the game again if I want to, and I don’t have to experience any adverse consequences for myself. If I could swap places with V and take her T1D and celiac for myself, I would do it in a heartbeat. But I also know it is not possible. With that knowledge my heart is breaking for her and at the same time I am glad that I do not have to go through what she is going trough. We are all sharing in V’s care now, helping her with many things, but it is her diabetes, her celiac, her body and her life. Soon, the management will be all hers, too. I will be supporting her every step of the way but no matter how close I try to experience her life and how much I try to walk in her shoes, I will always come up short.

Awareness Project, Day 6

Remember how I thought it would be a tough sell to convince my husband to poke me in the middle of the night? He actually agreed. Except it went something like this:

10 PM: V’s Dexcom alarms, she is high, in the mid 200’s. I go and bolus her.

11 PM: Dexcom alarms, she is still high, still in the mid 200’s. I go and bolus her, AGAIN.

12:30 AM: Dexcom alarms as I’m finally getting to sleep. She is still high, still in the mid 200’s. She has a lot of insulin on board and is finally trending down so I shut Dexcom up and go back to bed, hoping that we can all get to sleep.

2:30 AM: WRONG. Dexcom alarms again. She is high, AGAIN. I get up and test her, AGAIN. 282 is not a number I am willing to put up with so I bolus her, AGAIN. Can we please get to sleep now?

I finally crashed. I know my husband had to get up a few times to check on V and/or shut up Dexcom but I effectively slept through it all. At around 6:30 AM I hear a quiet commotion by my bedside. I partially open one of my eyes and see my dear husband opening the meter case. He decided to make good on his promise and test me. But dude, 6:30 AM is not middle of the night. It is already light, it’s about the time I usually wake up in the morning, so the chances of me not hearing you are slim to none. I open my eyes fully, tell him he’s busted, and order him to get back to bed so that we can get a bit more sleep. Fail. He says he will try again tonight.

Today I tried V’s lancing device and it is indeed much gentler. She says she barely feels it and for that I am thankful. She also tested my BG today and did a good job with that. And she helped me with the last pod change. She’s happy being able to do to me what I have to do to her. Still it feels a little awkward pretending that I have T1D. My BG continues to be very boring, while hers is…

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Feeling high, feeling low

 

Weird high day today. Can't seem to beat BG into submission no matter how hard we try.

Weird high day today. Can’t seem to beat BG into submission no matter how hard we try.

We stayed home today, as I am recovering from a cold, V’s brother is recovering from a nasty asthma episode, and V herself has sore throat on and off (which could explain the high BG, actually.) I did have to run a quick errand and instead of taking a small purse I had to drag with me the big fat bag with all the supplies. Because when you have diabetes you can’t leave home without those supplies.

Time has flown by. Tomorrow is the last day of my project. I think there is a part of me that does not want to let go. As much as I may be annoyed and inconvenienced by it, I’m starting to get used to the routine. I’m used to wearing gadgets and people asking what they are. I have my “elevator” speech well-practiced by now. I’m even starting to get used to carb counting and staying within a daily carb range.

My hope is that tomorrow everyone will be feeling well so that we can be out and about, including going to a restaurant to eat. I also plan to interview V about her experience with and thoughts/reactions about this project. If you have any questions you would like me to ask her, please put it in the comments.

 

 

Awareness Project, Day 5

If I won’t have lost a pound or two at the end of this project, I will not be amused.

I am still finding that pricking my finger is a deterrent to eating. I’ve gotten over the pain by now. The crappy, free give-away lancing device I have is not gentle on my fingers, but it’s really not so bad. I should try V’s device and see how it compares. Regardless, it’s the inconvenience of having to test that shuts my mouth. Who knew? I always bring no-carb snacks with me but I’m finding it difficult. I think finally I am tapping a little more into V’s struggles. While we’ve found a few good zero-carb snacks, having a variety of them is still challenging. There is so much cheese and nuts I can take. There is so much cold cuts that I want to snack on. I love eggs, but I already have an egg for breakfast almost every day. If I consume any more eggs I fear I will start laying them myself. As much as I love veggies, I personally don’t enjoy munching on them with the exception of carrots, and those are not exactly carb-free. V is actually ahead of me in this – she’ll happily take bell peppers and celery with some ranch sauce. Me, I prefer hunger.

So, instead of going for a sensible low-carb snack, I just skip it altogether because I do not want to be bothered to check my BG again. Work has been really busy lately, so I do not want to take a minute (!) of my time to test. It’s so absurd and yet it feels to me like I’ll be sucked into the eternity of time if I open up that meter case. I can’t imagine how annoyed I would be if I HAD to check BG in-between meals. I am getting closer to understanding how annoying it may feel for V to have to interrupt her play and other activities to test, let alone treat a low or correct a high. I hate how for her it’s the new normal. I think we both may prefer an alternative normal 😉

Diabetes continues to stay in the forefront of my project, always on my mind. I think I’m starting to look like this:

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Cartoon by Haidee Merritt

Surprisingly, I do not miss gluten all that much. I am realizing that it’s not gluten-containing foods per se, as I’m fairly content to get by without them. It is about the limited options and additional burden gluten-free diet creates. I brought my lunch with me every day to work this week. Normally I will buy lunch once or maybe twice a week. However, there are no gluten-free options near my offices, so I have to bring my own food. V is in the same predicament in school. She used to love eating in school cafeteria. While we generally limited it to once a week, she would go on different days and sample different things from the menu. She still goes to the cafeteria once a week but now it’s more of a break for us than a treat for her. The options that the school is able to offer her are lame: chicken drumstick in a corn tortilla, or turkey sandwich in a corn tortilla, or sunflower butter and jelly sandwich in…you guessed it…a corn tortilla. About that last choice,

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As this day is wrapping up, I have one thing left on my agenda – to convince my husband to wake up in the middle of the night to test my BG while I am asleep, making every effort to not wake me up. I pitched it to him yesterday but he was not so keen on the idea. Something is telling me it will be a tough sell…

Awareness Project, Day 4

Today’s recap will be brief. This morning I was going to take T1D on the run, literally. However, I woke up with sore throat, congestion and feeling icky. To add insult to injury, my back started spasming in the shower. It actually made me think of how, if I were T1D, it would be really stupid of me to get up feeling sick and yet jump in the shower without checking BG first. And then I thought that I would perhaps need to “adjust” my temp basal.

When I got out of the shower I told V that I was not feeling well. She immediately pointed out that my blood sugar may be higher. “I’m on it, baby. I’ve ‘increased’ my temp basal already.”

My son decided to get in the game as well. He spent the morning walking around with an empty PDM case and “bolusing” himself. (Although, come on kid, I have to deal with V’s T1D, and now I have to check myself, so the last thing I want to do is figure out carbs for your breakfast. OK, OK, it’s 42. Now “bolus” and eat please!) A couple of nights ago he actually insisted I test his BG. When we first tried testing him about a year ago, he was completely freaked out. I guess he got used to the idea and things went smoothly. He was 105 half an hour after dessert. So far, still only one T1D kid here, whew.

I tried to take it easy and rest. Totally SWAGed my lunch. Thank you Udi’s for making really good gluten free bread, by the way.

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A giant bowl of chicken soup with rice, potatoes and veggies. Maybe about 20g?

Then V crashed in the middle of the day, for no apparent reason, and reached a new Dexcom low. Literally.

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I was not really worried, she was at a solid 65 just a couple of minutes prior and had already had some sugar because we saw that she was dropping. We knew it was a matter of Dexcom catching up. Still, I consider it to be an interesting development.

Maybe it’a low kind of day today? I recorded a personal low for myself – 88. Yep, boooooring.

With that, I’m going to bolus for a few dark chocolate squares and a gluten free Girl Scout cookie, have some tea and call it a night.

Awareness Project, Day 3

Today I checked my BG out in the open at work, twice. I had an option of doing it in private in my office and then joining everyone else at the meeting. I actually momentarily considered it, even though it would be contrary to my intentions. I will admit, I was a little nervous. Would people stare? Would they be grossed out? Would they ask questions that I’d find too personal or uncomfortable or plain stupid? I know V constantly gets questions from other kids and it gets to her sometimes. No one said anything to me. Maybe it’s because most people know by now I am doing this as a project? Would their reaction be different if I actually had T1D? It made me think about other people with diabetes, how they handle day-to-day care, how they may be treated by others when they attend to their needs in the open.

In fact, I thought a lot today about T1D adults who are also parenting T1D kids. That is one stressor that is difficult for me to imagine. In the morning I was feeling double and triple stressed having to prep breakfast and helping V with carbs, while also minding my own BG and measuring out my own food in addition to hers, while also keeping GF foods separate from regular food for my son. It is all too much multitasking for me and takes extra time. By the time I finally sat down to eat my breakfast it was cold. Oh well…

As I am getting further into my project, I am starting to doubt if I’m really getting a taste of V’s life. I am receiving a very different treatment since I am an adult around other adults, and since I am a fake diabetic/celiac. I am starting to feel a little fake. Like here I am, parading with my gadgets, getting all kinds of supportive comments about being a great Mom, but really what I’m going through is so insignificant compared to living with T1D and Celiac for real every day. I can check my BG and count my carbs but I don’t need to worry about administering just the right dose of insulin or experience the aftermath of miscalculations. I go through the hassle of staying strictly gluten-free but I do not need to be concerned with accidental cross-contamination. It’s all fun and games for me. The stakes are much higher for V. I can go through the motions as accurately as possible but how much closer does it get me to understanding of what it’s like to walk in her shoes? I am not sure.

On a brighter note, it was time for both of us to change our pods tonight. I told V that she could pick my new site. Since she put the pod on her arm, she wanted me to keep mine on the arm as well so that we could become pod twinsies.

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Awareness Project, Day 2

I am getting better at avoiding the walls. I did particularly well at work but I am still really klutzy at home. All of my devices are still attached.

Why isn’t anyone at work asking me about T1D or Celiac beyond the “what’s this?” when they see my pod and CGM? I was certain it would invite more questions and discussions. Clearly my expectations were way off. What does it take to start a good discussion? I have not had a chance to check my BG in the open but tomorrow I may be able to. I am curious to see what reaction I will get and if it will generate any more questions.

I’m still avoiding eating when it is inconvenient to test BG. I love eating and I do not like being hungry, and yet I choose to be hungry when I can’t be bothered to prick my finger. Go figure.

All-in-all the T1D part of my experience was pretty uneventful today. However, Celiac took a surprising spotlight. Once in a while, maybe once a month, we get a free lunch at the office where I work on Tuesdays. Lunch may be provided any day of the week, and we do not know ahead of time, we get an email about it the morning it is scheduled. It’s usually a nice treat, I love food, and I especially love free food. Guess what was the first email I read this morning when I came to work? Yup. We were getting a free lunch. Of all the days it had to happen today, on the one day of the week I am in that particular office, and of course it’s a day when I have to keep strict gluten-free diet. Was it Karma or perfect opportunity? I do not know but it made me laugh.

I brought my food with me and I was determined to stick with it but I still wondered what the lunch would be. Sometimes it’s not even anything I like. Also, most of the time salad is provided and I thought that at least I’d be able to grab a plate of salad. And guess what? It was Italian food. Pasta, bread, and salad full of croutons. In other words, scrumptious gluten fest. Even if I decided to break all the rules and bolus for a million carbs, I could not touch any of it because it was all gluten. I laughed and laughed and laughed. If I wanted to have a glimpse of my daughter’s life, I was definitely getting it today. Suck it up, buttercup, and say no to gluten.

This is what I could have had for lunch:

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Gluten, gluten and more gluten. Delicious, mouth-watering, drool-worthy gluten.

And this is what I actually ate for lunch:

Rather pathetic looking, right? It actually tasted pretty good. Trader Joe's makes some mean frozen entries. But still...

Rather pathetic looking, right? It actually tasted pretty good. Trader Joe’s makes some mean frozen entries. But still…

When I got home, I told V what happened and showed her the pictures. She was delighted and I am still laughing.