CARB SOLUTIONS: Game Time Zucchini
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:
For this avid-bordering-on-compulsive NFL football fanatic, November provides a cornucopia of pigskin viewing pleasures. There the usual bevy of competing network broadcasts every Sunday to hopscotch between remotely; plus Turkey Day provides bonus programming with a three-game mini-series of contests that come with three halftimes full of nibbles, not to mention the grazing opportunities during each game! And that’s the culinary dilemma for this carb-challenged football enthusiast….so many games, yet so few healthy chips to dip!
- 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.
None, actually. Chips as in a fried corn product that will raise blood sugar significantly in less than one handful? Or chips as in salted potato thins, high on the glycemic charts whether baked, kettled, fried, lightly sea salted or sprinkled with vinegar? At this time of year, when too many hours are spent glued to the tube cheering on a team (or a wager), I am reminded of this culinary wasteland of healthy snack foods for the carb-counting sports fan! Of course, a piece of fresh fruit certainly is THE perfect snack and a banana has a place on the sidelines; however this fan also has one other criteria for a good nibble – give or take a few liquid carbohydrates – a good snack must pair well with a good beer. In fact, a successful finger food should inspire the washing down of said snack with the stuff!
As I have tried to emphasize in past issues of this blog, developing healthier eating habits may sometimes require replacing a favorite food altogether instead of trying to replicate that food’s texture and taste. Having said that, it would be disingenuous to not admit that I bumped into these two little flavorful morsels while trying to come up with a thin, crunchy, salty, reasonable facsimile of the almighty CHIP. Alas, nothing can really match such deliciously decadent perfection, certainly not either of these finger food recipes. On the other hand, each ended up having its own unique, slightly addictive flavor with a spicy aftertaste that triggered a sip of cold brew to round out the taste experience.
Both these recipes use a no-carb faux flour mix [recipe included below] that I have settled on after much trial and error. This combination of finely ground almonds, oats and coconut has a pleasant flavor, seems to respond to baking powder but will also bake firm without it. Like real flour, I find that the final texture will vary proportionally to the amount of water used with this mix in any given recipe. Experimentation is the best teacher!
Jalapeño-Zucchini Mini Bites:
The original plan for this recipe included a cookie sheet with the intent of making flat, crispy crackers. However the texture of the first batch seemed more cake-like so I changed course and switched to a mini-muffin shape. I felt that the dough, laced with a generous amount of ground green Hatch Chile, would work best with a little more density than that of thin cracker. Also, with more off a muffin density, the slice of roasted jalapeño pepper did not overpower the bite. It may not be salty or crispy, but the combo of Hatch and jalapeño spiciness demands some serious quenching! Dip these south-of-the-border mini-treats in Melissa’s Hatch Salsa for even a tastier kick! (1 serving, 5 bites = about 5 gram net carbs)
Zucchini Pizza Chews:
Actually, one could leave these flattened dollops of traditional Italian flavor in the oven while they cool down to attain the crispiest, most cracker-like results. However, they are great when left a little pliable (chewy) and, in fact, I believe improve in both taste and texture if left covered on the countertop at room temperature for a day or two. Unfortunately, taste tests to confirm this storage theory have failed three times due to the rapid disappearance of the control group of chews. What the study did confirm was that this writer can both type and chew simultaneously, the reader will just have to trust me on the time = flavor equation. It was quick, but I sure think they were tasting better and better! Warning: the flavor of this snack food may prove to be too distracting for the novice sports viewer as the ability to multi-task becomes proportionally more difficult with each chew consumed. (1 serving, 5 chews = about 4 grams net carbs)
Jalapeño-Zucchini Mini Bites
2/3 cup faux flour mix³
2 TBS. Melissa’s Green Hatch Chile Powder
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
8 oz. zucchini, grated
3 oz. sweet onion, peeled and grated
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 pkg. Melissa Roasted Jalapeños, sliced crosswise (for the center of each bite)
In medium bowl, combine flour mix, Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt. In small bowl, whisk eggs and garlic with a fork, then add to the dry ingredients and combine well. Use a food processor to grate the zucchini and onion, then transfer to strainer and press out as much moisture as possible. Add to the egg mixture along with the grated cheese – combine thoroughly.
Spoon batter into a mini-muffin tin, press a slice of roasted jalapeño in the center of each. Bake for 25 minutes at 350°F.
Zucchini Pizza Chews
Makes: about 25 pieces
3 oz. Parmesan cheese
¾ cup faux flour mix³
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 TBS. Melissa’s Italian Seasoning Spice Grinder
1½ cup zucchini, shredded
2 TBS. fresh basil, chopped
½ cup fresh Roma tomatoes, crushed
½ cup green bell pepper, finely diced
4 oz. pepperoni, finely diced
In a medium bowl, first combine all the dry ingredients: Parmesan cheese, flour mix, baking powder and salt. Then blend in the zucchini, eggs, tomatoes bell pepper and pepperoni. Stir these into the batter.
Cover a greased cookie sheet with parchment paper (it helps the parchment adhere to the cookie sheet). Using a tablespoon, place and form flat ovals of the zucchini mixture on the parchment paper, spaced about 1-inch apart. Bake 10 minutes @ 400° then flip them and bake another 10 minutes, or until golden on both sides.
³Faux FLOUR MIX
1-2/3 cups almond meal “flour”
¾ cup oat “flour”
2 TBS. fine-shredded coconut “flour”
Place all the ingredients in an airtight container and shake well to combine. Keeps for one month at room temperature.