Low Carb Kitchen
Carb Solution: Game Day Low Carb Crockpot
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:
Here’s a recipe that contains two low carb solutions in one dish. It’s always a challenge to find tasty AND glycemic-friendly nibbles at a football viewing party where the traditional bowls of chips, dips, and pizza slices tempt carb-counters to consider a little stealth, no-chip finger dipping and no-slice pepperoni picking! The crockpot aspect of this glycemic-friendly appetizer makes it a practical support dish for January’s gauntlet of annual football play-off game potlucks leading up to next month’s Super Bowl finale. Plus, this dish includes a simple formula for turning the Kiwi Berry sauce into a truly sugar-free jam that could be applied to any fruit. This dish is especially practical because the meatballs can be served in the crockpot and set on WARM for the entirety of the game--just add small plates and toothpicks!
- 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.
Actually, the original menu plan for this month’s blog was to focus on combining a unique Kiwi Berry jam-sauce with a traditional crockpot cocktail meatball using store-bought frozen meatballs. That is, until I read the ingredient lists and grams of empty carbs that these pre-made “time-savers” contained! Most store-bought meatballs seemed to have as much filler as real meat as well as flavor additives and chemical preservatives that I could not pronounce. So, at no extra charge, I have included a tasty meatball recipe that pairs nicely with the distinctive flavor of the kiwi sauce. Besides, how much extra time does it really take to blend a few supporting fresh herbs and seasonings into a bowl of ground meat or poultry, which is then rolled quickly into a pile of small rounds? About the same amount of time as it would take to make the drive to the market and stand in line to purchase something half as flavorful and even less healthy! I used ground turkey, but a lamb meatball would be great with this kiwi sauce too!
Actually, I was about to prepare this recipe using regular kiwi fruit when Kiwi Berries came into season, so I jumped at the opportunity to use them for the shear convenience that these grape-sized fruits shortened the prep. The editable smooth skin of Kiwi Berries eliminates the need to scoop out the fruit from a regular kiwi, not to mention dealing with the mess and disposal of those fuzzy, inedible skins. Kiwi Berries can be used whole with no preparation at all–just pop them in the blender! I have since made this same sauce-jam using Kiwi Fruit, which makes for a sauce that is a little more acidic and lighter in consistency since the Kiwi Berry is slightly sweeter and its skin does make for a thicker texture, giving the sauce a more opaque color.
Whether it be regular Kiwi Fruit or Kiwi Berries, the point is that no other sweetener of any kind is used. Be it cane sugar, brown sugar, honey, or agave--whether the sweetener is glycemic friendly or not, I question the need for a sweetener of any kind be added to fruit! The excuse for adding sugar into jam and jelly is that it’s a preservative for a longer shelf-life. All fruit has a natural-occurring sugar content that, with just a few exceptions, have little glycemic impact on the body’s metabolism. Blend in some acidity (lemon juice) and few measures of arrow root powder to create a firm gelatin texture, bring to boil, and then simmer for about 45 minutes to create a jam that will store in a home refrigerator two months, though it will likely be gobbled up a lot quicker. I have used this formula to make all sorts of fruit spreads. OK, so it probably won’t keep over winter in a root cellar like grandma’s preserves. And when was the last time you were in a root cellar? I say take advantage of global sourcing and modern technologies, which make the availability of most fruits year-round, to cook up smaller batches of fruit spread more often! The need for long-term storage for foodstuffs is a part of this country’s pioneer history that is no longer necessary, except in most remote regions of the country, so lose the excuse of sugar as a preservative.
BTW, while Kiwi Fruit and Kiwi Berries have a rather high GI score of 79, the fiber found in both slows the conversion rate of starch to sugar considerably. Fiber acts as a kind of speed governor, which allows the body to process sugars without spiking blood-sugar levels, as evidenced by the fruit’s extremely low GL score of only 5! Kiwi Berries are sweeter, less acidic, and far more versatile than the common kiwi. Kiwi Berries’ thin, smooth skin makes them an easy nutritious snack–no peeling required. As a hand fruit, let them ripen at room temperature until they begin to shrivel, and then keep them in the refrigerator to preserve their ripeness for up to a week. With ten times the vitamin C as a lemon, and packed with vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium, these small sweet fruits are a delicious way to enjoy essential nutrients… the meatballs are just a bonus! Enjoy the games!
Crockpot Meatballs in Kiwi Berry Jam
Makes approx. 48 meatballs
For the Sauce:
6 cups Kiwi Berries [or equiv. Kiwi fruit, peeled]
2 TBS water
2 TBS lemon juice
1 TBS arrowroot powder
2 pounds ground turkey
½ yellow onion, grated fine
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup fresh mint, minced
1 TBS fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 TBS fresh thyme leaves, minced
4 tablespoons coconut flour
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup water (crockpot)
Sauce: Puree all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Transfer to a medium saucepan and bring mixture to a boil slowly over medium heat, stirring frequently, then lower heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the mixture is noticeably thicker. Stir frequently to avoid burning. Then remove from heat and let cool; it will continue to thicken. [Continue to cook for a total of 50 minutes for a true sugarless jam that could be stored refrigerated for 2 months]
Meatballs: In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients, except the olive oil, then form 1” meatballs. Place the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook each meatball for 1 minute per side or until browned.
Transfer meatballs to a slow cooker. Add the Kiwi Berry sauce, cook 4-5 hours on Low. Serve with toothpicks.