Low Carb Kitchen
Carb Solution: The Screaming Pizza Cravings
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:
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.
Both the Index and Load scores should be checked to determine how a food affects the metabolism. A parsnip, for instance, has a very high glycemic index (97) but the fiber in a parsnip slows the conversion of its starch to glucose, so its glycemic load score is a very “digestible” 10.
While I may spend my days promoting healthy eating based on my own culinary challenges of maintaining a diet of minimal carbohydrates, I too, sometimes give in to a craving that simply won’t go away. Sometimes, no matter how hard and long I fight to change the subject, my palate wants to talk about whatever food group it is that I am missing! Recently that was a conversation about the wonderful flavors of pizza.
It all began when I happened to walk by a “by-the-slice-shop” one day recently and was engulfed by those distinctive aromas that, after many years of successfully ignoring them, monopolized my thoughts for two weeks after and refused to vacate the premises! To make a long and glycemicly boring tale shorter, suffice it to say that I finally found myself staring at a piping hot, ready-made, fresh-from-my-oven disc of Italy’s finest ingredients on a very thin crust. Rationalizing that I would split the circle into four equal parts to be enjoyed piecemeal, in its truest sense, over the next three evenings. Also remembering that leftover pizza is THE best! Well that resolve was forgotten by the second quarter or was it the third? I will spare the reader the glycemic repercussions in detail, let’s just say that I lost the entire day-after to a carb overload funk, which definitely shut down that food category craving for the foreseeable future!
Still, there are better, more imaginative, ways to squelch those inevitable craves. Like these little sweet pepper poppers stuffed with enough of the essential flavors that are in a slice of pizza without all the doughy carbs to deal with the next day! The ingredients in the recipe below are really just suggestions of the flavor possibilities that you can tweak with your own favorites toppings; the basic idea being to create the flavors of a whole pizza in each bite of stuffed mini sweet pepper. The quinoa and spinach provide some texture as well as a tasty way to deliver the marinara sauce. I used a couple of traditional pizza toppings, olives and pepperoni strips, because they are two of my preferences. Swapping in your own fixings is the fun part. For instance, I made a second batch with the quinoa mixture I had left over from this recipe for a potluck a few days later; only this time I topped each pepper with little strips of ham and small-cubed pineapple for a completely different tropical pizza flavor profile!
So, can a tray of stuffed mini peppers really repeal and replace a piping hot pizza? Of course not! But it comes in a very close second in the COMBINED FLAVORS category and, face it, those real pizza days are over. Like me, you could give in to the carb temptation and also lose a day recuperating just to prove it for yourself. Or deal with those temptations by deconstructing whatever dish you cannot get out of your own thoughts into a glycemic-friendlier version. Make it a culinary challenge to see how close you can come with the flavors so that you never yearn for the original again, or at least have a readied alternative when you do. In fact, I am looking forward to walking by that slice shop again without taking so much as a nostalgic whiff!
Mini Pepper Pizza Poppers
Makes 20-24 poppers
1 cup Melissa’s Cooked Quinoa
½ cup marinara sauce
½ cup baby spinach, finely chopped
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
10 to 12 mini sweet peppers, halved lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed
+ Additional toppings: sliced olives, pepperoni, Italian sausage…the options are endless!
Slice the Mini Sweet Peppers in half lengthwise, remove seeds and ribs with serrated spoon.
Combine quinoa, marinara sauce, chopped spinach, and a ¼ cup of the cheese in a mixing bowl.
Stuff each pepper half with about a tsp. of the quinoa mixture, then sprinkle each one with a pinch of the remaining cheese and finish each with any additional toppings of choice. Place pepper halves on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bakes @ 375° just until cheese is melted and each is lightly browned--about 15 minutes. Serve warm.