Low Carb Kitchen
Carb Solution: the Tortilla
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:
Cinco de Mayo promotions and celebrations also revisit that age-old dietary challenge for us carb counters. Namely, how to enjoy Mexican cuisine without the aid of a corn or flour tortilla. Even the “low carb” choices at retail are mostly flour-based and/or tasteless. To be assured that all ingredients are glycemic-friendly, the best way to go is home-made tortillas. Here’s a process that takes less time than that roundtrip to the grocery and no polluting petroleum products to accomplish. It has taken many outright failed attempts as well as a few batches of “almost-there” tortilla formulas, using an array of ingredients, to finally settle on this simple recipe.
- 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.
To my palate, almond “flour” provides the closest replication in texture and flexibility to a real tortilla with an extra bonus of a heartier flavor improvement over its blander, wheat flour-based relatives. Almond Flour Tortillas are easy to make and are perfect for tacos, tostadas, burritos and enchiladas! They are also gluten-free if that is a dietary concern. Actually, this ingredient is not a flour at all but rather finely milled almonds that react just like flour when combined with baking powder and, here’s the key, the binder Xanthan Gum during the cooking process. Xanthan Gum is a plant-based sweetening agent that has both a culinary and medicinal characteristic. In the kitchen it is more commonly used as a binder and sugar substitute in baked goods. However, since it is also used for lowering blood sugar and total cholesterol in people with diabetes, it is recommended that those on blood-sugar medication should use this ingredient sparingly. In the recipe at hand, just two tablespoons work like gluten to bind the almond meal flour so it acts like dough. BTW, I added in a bit of garlic powder to the tortilla mixture for flavor. Feel free to tweak this basic recipe with other herbs and seasoning for any number of flavored low carb tortillas.
Almond Flour Tortillas
Makes 5-6 small tortilla
2¼ cups Almond flour
2 TBS Xanthan gum
1 TBS Baking powder
½ tsp Garlic powder
½ tsp Salt
1 TBS Apple Cider vinegar
2 Eggs, beaten
2 TBS Water
Place all of the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times until combined. Then combine wet ingredients and pour into the processor while it is still running. A sticky ball will be formed.
Knead ball into a cylinder, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Then unwrap and cut the dough into sections - roll the sections into balls – roll balls flat into tortillas between sheets of wax paper with a rolling pin or press in a tortilla maker. Note amount of dough = size of tortilla.
No homemade tortilla recipe would be complete without an accompanying suggestion of what to put it. For the novice cook, here is a basic taco or burrito no-carb filling that combines a few common fresh veggies and shredded chicken with Melissa’s tasty Green Hatch Chile Powder. For the gourmet home chef, this filling provides a basic platform that could also be tweaked with many other tasty components. So, again, tweak away carblessly!
UNIVERSAL TACO FILLING 101
Fills 10 tacos or 5 burritos
1 lb. ripe Tomatoes, chopped
2 Tomatillos, husked and chopped
2 TBS Olive oil
1 White onion, diced
4 cloves Garlic, chopped
2 TBS Green Hatch Chile Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
Place the tomatoes and tomatillos in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Set aside.
Sauté the onion in olive oil for about 3 minutes in a deep pan, then add in the garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute. Now add the tomato-tomatillo sauce to the pan and stir in the Hatch powder, s & p, simmer for 10 minutes.
Lastly, add the shredded chicken and combine thoroughly. Cook for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
PLATING: Fill taco shell with filling mixture and garnish with cilantro.