When Rosalie Misco was diagnosed with diabetes 20 years ago, she was determined to learn everything she could about the disease – and instead of allowing it to be a burden, she turned it into an opportunity.
The high-energy septuagenarian developed Natural Expressions bakery with the plan of creating healthy baked goods that people with diabetes and other health problems could enjoy without spiking their blood sugar. She sells the whole-grain goods, along with other products such as packaged bean flour and her key ingredient, a resistant starch fiber, from a kitchen on her property in Grand Chute as well as the Appleton Farmers Market.
“I made up my mind that I was going to be healthy in spite of (diabetes), and I am,” Misco says. “And I’ve been diabetic for over 20 years, don’t have any evidence of it in my body, I take a little bit of insulin, because I’m going to be 76, and when you get that age, not everything works like it used to.”
Most of her products have a foundation of three key ingredients: Oat bran, flaxseed and a special resistant starch fiber called Hi-Maize 260, which Misco says helps eliminate blood sugar spikes by acting as a type of dietary fiber. She uses Splenda (sucralose) as a sweetener and debunks the notion that the sweetener itself spikes blood sugar.
“I test my blood every day – let me tell you, that doesn’t happen, not with the products I have,” Misco says. “I know they say that, but I haven’t experienced that.”
One reason that may happen for some people is because Splenda is often added to other products like white flour, which Misco likens to sugar.
Misco, who was a program assistant in the Nutrition Education Program at the University of Wisconsin-Extension in the late 1970s, remained interested in nutrition and after her 1994 diabetes diagnosis, had a hard time finding low-carbohydrate foods. She became a self-proclaimed “mad scientist,” experimenting with recipes and using herself as a guinea pig.
“It’s more of a lab than a kitchen to me,” Misco says.
Her research took off after she had more access to online resources. Misco opened her kitchen in a separate building on her home property in 2007. Before that, the building contained a silk flower and décor business.
Misco wants to continue developing recipes, but is interested in having someone else market her products.
“I want the products out there, and I want to make more products because they help people,” Misco says. “But I can’t do it all. I’ve finally come to that conclusion… I want to innovate – somebody else can sell it.”
Misco added the “Grandma Rose” moniker about a year ago because “I noticed people were acting differently toward me because I’m obviously old.” When she purchased bags for her business from an area company, “I got the impression that the guy thought I wasn’t going to survive until my check cashed! So I thought, I might as well go with it. So I started calling myself ‘Grandma Rose.’ And people remember that better. People still pat me on the head. But I lift weights – I can do anything I want to.”
She’s healthy in other ways, too, avoiding meats that have been raised with antibiotics and growing vegetables in her own garden.
Beth Rogers, who sells meats at the farmer’s market – those raised without hormones, steroids and antibiotics – says more people seem to be aware of what’s in commercially produced foods and are seeking out items like Grandma Rose’s homemade bakery products.
“They’re starting to see that the faster the foods are, doesn’t mean that they’re good for you,” Rogers says.
Rogers says Misco was instrumental in helping her to launch the winter farmer’s market more than a dozen years ago, and is constantly working to improve her products and bakery.
“She’s a real go-getter,” Rogers says of Misco. “I hope when I’m her age I have as much energy. She very much cares about her customers and the people that she knows. That’s why she puts her whole heart into what she’s doing.”
Angelica Gronke, a registered dietitian at ThedaCare Nutrition and Diabetes Education, says the products Misco makes can be helpful in keeping blood sugar even.
“The Hi-Maize and the products that are on the Natural Expressions line are very good – resistant fiber, which doesn’t increase the blood sugars, and the high proteins, which makes the blood sugars go up a lot more evenly and a lot more slowly – those are very good products,” Gronke says.
Gronke says many people generally are seeking out foods that are more nutritious and healthy.
Misco also offers a blood sugar/weight control support group and classes. She also has plenty of ideas for expanding her product line and is eager to put her “laboratory” to greater use.
“They say with innovation, people need to learn to think outside the box,” Misco says. “I have no box – I never had one. I don’t know what’s in the box. I’m free!”
A CLOSER LOOK
Find Grandma Rose’s baked goods
» Visit the Appleton Farmer’s Market and meet Grandma Rose in person
» Order products online at naturalexpressions1.com
» Call Grandma Rose at (920) 954-9727
» Stop by her kitchen at 825 E. Broadway Dr., Grand Chute