Low Carb Kitchen
Low-Carb Solution: Mama’s Lasagna!
By Dennis Linden
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].
Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.
A Quickie Glycemic Primer:
One of the things I remember most clearly about the day that my doctor informed me that I had won the Type 2 Diabetes lottery, was an example she used in describing the disease’s impact on my diet going forward: “Figure that your pasta days are done,” she said. At the time, a world without noodles seemed a daunting, if not impossible, adjustment. Not only did I enjoy all kinds of pasta dishes, but I was also in the habit of making my own every Saturday morning with the help of a pasta machine with twenty-something assorted attachments for every kind of noodle imaginable. By Saturday afternoon, there were always racks of drying pasta hanging like holiday tree tinsel throughout the house. Needless to say, that diagnosis rocked the very foundation of my kitchen and took a bit of culinary fortitude to get used to and, in fact, overcome.
- The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
- The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
I chuckle at myself now when looking back on that first scary pasta-less forecast; I have since come to discover that there can be a life after pasta, or the lack thereof! In fact, with a little culinary ingenuity, it is possible to satisfy one’s lasagna cravings, for instance, with this deliciously carb-free replica dish that I dare say might even fool mama into thinking that it is her traditional recipe.
This dish has a lot of flexibility in its prep time. That is, I like to think ahead with the spinach noodle part by baking it the day before as the “pasta” seems to firm up much better with an over-night chill before attempting to slice it in lasagna-size sections. However, if you are pressed for time, 30-45 minutes in the ‘frig will work too. While I use a famous actor’s brand of marinara sauce, of course making a sauce from scratch would certainly add to the overall flavor of the dish -- as well as several hours of tantalizing aromatic preparation!
Also use all the noodle batter, even if it seems a bit thick in the baking dish before baking; it will definitely thin out during the cooking process. Long, smooth strokes with a spatula is the key to achieving a uniformly thick, smooth and flat noodle. And don’t worry about a few “wrinkles” in the cooked lasagna noodle either as the second bake will take care of it – and the first bite will make you forget all wrinkled noodle concerns!
It’s hard to believe that this three-layer dish of beautiful goodness contains a glycemic load of only 9.5, making for a guilt-less second helping. So it turns out that a world without pasta can be just as delicious as the “real” thing, just minus the carbs. Enjoy!
Makes Servings: 4
For the “Noodles”
10 ounces Baby Spinach, steamed, drained and chopped
4 ounces Cream Cheese – Softened
¼ cup Parmesan Cheese – Grated
1¼ cup Mozzarella Cheese – Shredded
1 teaspoon Melissa’s Organic Italian Seasoning Grinder
1 teaspoon Melissa’s Organic Garlic & Herb Sea Salt Grinder
¼ teaspoon Onion Powder
For the Filling
1 pound Ground Beef
1½ cups Three Cheese Marinara Sauce, Divided
¾ cup Mozzarella Cheese – Shredded
6 Tablespoons Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
1 Tablespoon Fresh Peeled Shallots, minced
1 teaspoon Fresh Oregano
1 teaspoon Fresh Garlic
1 Tablespoon Fresh Basil
1 Tablespoon Melissa’s Organic Italian Seasoning Grinder
Preparation – Noodles
In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, cream together cream cheese and eggs. Next, add Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and onion powder. Mix until all ingredients are well combined. Fold in mozzarella cheese and spinach, then mix until well incorporated.
Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper. With a rubber spatula, spread the mixture into the baking dish, forming a nice even layer. Bake on the middle rack in an oven preheated to 375° for 20-25 minutes.
When the “noodles” are done baking, cool in the fridge for 30 minutes and then slice into thirds. This makes three perfectly sized “noodle” layers for a loaf pan.
Preparation – Filling
In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, combine ground beef, minced onion, oregano, garlic powder, dried basil and a pinch of salt. Cook until meat is browned. Drain excess fat from pan and add ¾ cup marinara sauce to meat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Pour ¼ cup marinara sauce into bottom of loaf pan. Top with the first “noodle” section, then layer a third of the ground beef mixture, top with ¼ cup mozzarella cheese and 3 Tbs. ricotta cheese and cover with another “noodle” layer. Repeat these steps again for a second layer.
Cover the top “noodle” layer with remaining sauce, ground beef, and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle Italian seasoning over top. Bake for 20 minutes.