Carb Solutions: Turkey Day Stuffing -- Quinoa Qubes!
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.
Being a guest, who is on a strict low carb diet for whatever reason, at the Thanksgiving table of a relative or friend creates its own cornucopia of dietary challenges. You find yourself, on this holiday dedicated to the fine art of eating, confronted by a table cluttered with serving trays of hot dinner rolls, cornbread, candied yams, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin and mincemeat pies, as well as my personal ex-favorite, stuffing made with day-old French bread. And ALL of it completely off limits glycemicly no matter this special occasion. Alas, our blood sugars are unaware that it’s a Thursday, let alone that it’s THAT Thursday! We have all been there — our holiday plate is limited to a serving of the green bean casserole along with a few slices of turkey…with none of the fixins!
Since one cannot expect a host to accommodate every dietary discipline that might be gathered around his or her holiday table, a good solution is to insist on contributing at least one dish to the menu when responding to the invite. Of course, the ulterior motive for this culinary offer is to ensure that there will be at least a third item to fill your own plate! Still, this is a special occasion, the dish should also be as taste-tempting delish as the rest of the glycemicly decadent fare to share with all. So, here’s a very flavorful oven-baked stuffing recipe that blends the natural flavors of roasted vegetables, fresh fruit and sautéed mushrooms into a side dish that is both hearty yet surprisingly light at the same time.
While this stuffing mix could actually be cooked inside a bird if one is cooking at home, it is designed for the carb counter who has been invited to grandma’s house, as an example, for what is expected to be a traditional Thanksgiving Day gathering. Meaning, the menu for this event could be recited from memory off of last year’s exact same traditional fare. The no-bird/no bread stuff is designed to be prepared right up to the final bake, then refrigerated for a day before being transported cold to the aforementioned gathering. The final bake is finished in your host’s kitchen [reserve oven space ahead of time!]; even perhaps stealing a little turkey juice from the bird for basting? Otherwise, toss the stuffing with melted butter just before popping into the oven to ensure a buttery-moist texture.
Melissa’s Cooked Quinoa plays a key role in this stuffing’s unique texture and flavor. Since this precooked loaf holds shape when sliced into patties, go a step further by cubing those patties into half-inch squares. Then gently toss to blend these cubes into the stuffing mix. No cooking necessary beyond the final bake, though these quinoa cubes will absorb the juicy flavors of the mix, adding another tasty texture to each bite.
Taking the extra time to roast the parsnips, carrots and onion will pay-off in flavor dividends. Parsnips are one of those glycemic anomalies; while this starchy root has a very high GI of 52, the veggie’s almost zero sugar content and high fiber give it a GL score of only “4” resulting in no impact on blood sugar! If one needs a textural and visual faux for the missing traditional bread pieces, the parsnips do fill that role. Actually, since the root is much more flavorful than white bread – even day-old French – the tradeoff is an improvement! The construction of the stuffing consists of layering of flavors in a three-step process of first roasting some of the ingredients and sautéing the rest before combining the two components and finally adding the quinoa cubes. Readied for the final oven finish!
OK so there is a socially correct tightrope to overcome with this “potluck” dish, especially if it is the only “outside” contribution to said menu. Namely, how to gracefully add in your glycemic needs to grandma’s collection of dishes without insulting your host? All I can say is keep picturing that pitiful plate of green beans and undressed turkey in your thoughts as you apologize for bringing a dish that “obviously pales in comparison to the rest of your beautiful table” adding that you “just could not come without contributing something!” Not a fib — you really did have to contribute, or go hungry!
Breadless Stuffing with Quinoa Qubes
4 cups parsnip, chopped, medium-small
1 cup carrots, chopped, medium-small
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves Melissa’s Peel Garlic, minced
2 fresh apples, peeled, cored and chopped
½ cup Melissa’s pine nuts
1 pound fresh mushrooms, washed, sliced whole (including stems)
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 6 springs fresh or dried thyme leaves
2 tablespoons ground sage
Salt & pepper to taste
1 package “loaf” Melissa’s Cooked Quinoa, sliced into rounds, then small cubed
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange the chopped parsnips in a single layer on one of the baking sheets; on the other, split the chopped carrots and onion also in a single layer. Roast at 400°F for about 30 minutes or until fork tender. To avoid burning, stir the vegetables half-way through the roasting time and if the onions cook faster than the rest, remove them earlier.
While the veggies are roasting, sauté garlic in butter for about five minutes before adding apples and pine nuts to cook for another five minutes, lastly add in the mushrooms to simmer until tender.
When the trays of roasted vegetables are done transfer to a large mixing bowl and combine with the sautéed mushroom mixture as well as the herbs and seasonings. Then add the quinoa cubes, toss gently to combine.
Transfer this entire mixture to a deep-sided oven pan and bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, baste with turkey juices or melted butter. Serve warm immediately or this dish can be refrigerated for up to two days and reheated.