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Diabetes Diet

Special Kitchen Tools

Those of us who have diabetes need all the help we can get to make the food we eat as tasty as possible without spiking our blood glucose. But some of these special foods have special problems that need special tools.

Low in calories and high in flavor, onions are great raw or cooked, but hell to prepare. They make us cry.

But about a dozen years ago I got an Internet account because I wanted to learn how to control my diabetes. That was before there were any diabetes websites, but there was one diabetes mailing list called “Diabetic.” That mailing list is still around, along with hundreds more. And except for blogs like this, I don’t think that there is any better place to find support than these mailing lists.

One of the best tips on Diabetic was a simple way to avoid the pain of cutting up onions – swimming goggles. Until the strap broke a few months ago, I used a pair for years. It was no problem to find a replacement pair in the first sporting goods store I visited.

Few foods pack as much flavor in so little space as garlic. Of course, eating garlic is also a great way to keep people from getting too close.

Those little garlic cloves can be as much of a pain in their own way as onions. Mincing them takes a sharp knife and special concern to make sure that you avoid cutting your fingers.

Again, about a dozen years ago, people on the Internet taught me several much better ways to prepare garlic. Most of these tips came from the “Fat-Free” mailing list, back in the days when many people, myself included, thought that all fat was the enemy, not just some types of fat.

The easiest way to skin or peel garlic cloves is to put them in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Then skins will come right off when you gently press on them.

Someone else recommend that you set the head of the garlic on your cutting board, then give it a good whack with the heel of your hand. This will separate the cloves from each other, so that they come apart easily. Lay each clove on the board, and whack it with the side of a heavy Chinese chopping knife. If you smash it thoroughly, the skin will fall off. Relieves aggression, too.

The problem with this method, however, is that it sometimes works too well. I found that garlic cloves would fly around the room all too often for my taste.

Then, you still needed to mince those little cloves. So an even better tip is to use a garlic press that will crush the garlic with the skin on. You don’t even have to go to the bother of removing it.

As far as I know there are only one or two garlic presses that will do this. Both are made by the Swiss company Zyliss. I’ve used the Zyliss Susi Deluxe Garlic Press for years. Although they call it deluxe, it is about the most nondescript looking tool I have. But it works great: You just put the garlic in the well of the press, close the handles together, and squeeze.

In researching this blog entry I discovered that Zyliss now makes a Jumbo Garlic Press. They say that it’s large enough to press several cloves at one time. I just ordered one.

Not everybody likes the heat of chilies – my wife comes to mind – but many of us find that nothing else can perk up our food like chilies. For example, the salsa that I wrote about in “Three Great Appetizers” [Michele: please insert the URL for blog21 here] wouldn’t be salsa without it.

The trouble with preparing hot chiles like serranos and jalapeños – to say nothing of habaneros – is that our mouths and stomachs can tolerate their heat a lot better than the exterior of our body. You just don’t want to touch them when you slice them. Even after washing my fingers carefully, my eyes and ears and other parts of my body too sensitive to mention screamed in pain after I inadvertently transferred bits of chilies from my fingers to those places.

A few months ago I got a great lesson in preparing chilies. It came from an unlikely place – my chili-hating wife.

The trick is to use disposable latex gloves. We’ve got a box of 50 in our pantry right now.

This fresh spice has great flavor and is essential in many East Asian dishes. Yet I seldom eat it because the ginger grater that we have is such a pain to use. It’s a porcelain grater made especially for ginger, but I can’t really recommend it.

Here I need your help. I’ll bet that some readers of this blog have a solution to this problem equal to the onion, garlic, and chili tools considered above. Comments anyone?

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Godfrey at


    I immediately looked up onions and shallots on Kelpiesoft Food File. Carbs per 100g were noted: onions 10.11g; shallots 16.8g. There must be another explanation for the avoidance of onions. In the last fortnight, I have had a craving for raw onions though have just harvested shallots from the allotment.

    Best wishes,


    • David Mendosa at

      Dear Godfrey,

      The difference is that you need a lot LESS of the shallots.

      Best regards,


  • David Mendosa at

    Dear DJ,

    Thank you! I knew that Dr. Bernstein recommends against onions, and I have stopped eating them almost entirely. But I wasn’t aware that shallots are a lower-carb alternative. I am adding them right now to my shopping list!

    Best regards,


  • DJ Rainer at

    Dr. Bernstein advises against eating onion–carbs are too high. He recommends shallots as a lower-carb alternative.

  • Mark Beattie at

    For grating ginger we really like our Microplane box grater (it has 4 different style graters on the box), though Microplane also makes individual paddle graters that are smaller. The Microplane rasps are really only good for zesting citrus and I think a paddle or the box grater is a good investment. For ginger we find the “small” but not “very fine” side does the job well, it’s very sharp.

  • Sherry Masser at

    I use my Cuisinart mini prep for garlic & ginger. I do a lot of Asian cooking so I use a lot of garlic & ginger. This is one of my favorite kitchen tools. I use it daily. Works wonderfully.