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Carb Solution: Portobello Mini-Pizzas

Image of Portobello Mini-Pizzas
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 effect 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.

  • 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.
It’s July, aka grilling season! So, I ordered one of Melissa’s Grilling Baskets to use as the primary ingredient source for this month’s recipe on my own BBQ. The fun part is not knowing what to expect as the fresh contents are always a collection of the finest quality fresh items selected from the day's harvests. A blind ingredient grilling challenge!
Image of Grilling Basket
The first combo of basket ingredients was an easy choice based on perishability: a few portabellas and a red bell pepper. Besides, who in their right culinary mind would ever pass up immediately working with this tasty and versatile mushroom? I'm not sure what made me think of this mini-pizza approach; probably the large round shape of the mushroom and red bells being one of my favorite pizza toppings! The idea also led me back to the basket for some of the Cipollini onions for another flavor topping. Anyway, here’s an alternative to the traditional, yet a bit boring, portabella burger. Try it at the next BYOM grilling party when surrounded by real meat burgers on the grill! While all gawk with Pavlovian desire at these scrumptious mini-pizzas sizzling alongside their meat, consider it the perfect opportunity to invoke, at least in spirit, your own version of a famous French quote: “Let them eat burgers!

Of course, the ingredients in the recipe below were obviously limited to the basket contents plus a few support components to transform each ‘shroom into pizza-ness. Red bell peppers not only lend a fresh, sweet flavor to the mix, but a fully ripe red bell pepper is also a rich source of vitamin C – containing 158% of the Daily Value, vitamin A (20%DV), and vitamin B6 (23% DV). Amazingly, the red bell pepper supplies twice the vitamin C and eight times the vitamin A as a green bell pepper!

The Italian cipollini onion is an interesting ingredient. Raw, these tiny, flying saucer-shaped onions have a semi-sweet, spicy-pungent flavor. However, when cooked, the onion turns very sweet with a tender texture as if almost melting. The higher sugar content in the variety compared to other onions result in increased sweetness when cooked. The Cipollini is a favorite amongst professional chefs for the variety’s ability to caramelize at high heat without burning.

Because of publishing date considerations, I used the Anaheim pepper included in the basket. However, it is now July, so that Anaheim could (should) be switched out for the more flavorful New Mexico Hatch pepper. Still, Anaheims look very similar to the Hatch pepper, with a much milder heat that does not linger on the palate like most other pepper varieties. The pepper’s light and fresh taste add great flavor chopped into eggs or salads, stuffed whole peppers and even faux mushroom pizzas! Still, use Hatch peppers if you can.

Of course, the reader should not feel limited to this recipe’s ingredient list—unless one would like to order one of Melissa’s wonderful GRILLING BASKETS to challenge yourself! The idea is a simple one: low-carb, wonderfully tasty mushroom replaces empty calorie pizza dough! Toppings could include other favorites like pepperoni, Italian sausage, pineapple, basil—the options are endless. Just beware of a too-friendly burger griller attempting to sample your dish.

Grilled Portobello Pizza
Image of Ingredients

From Melissa’s Grilling Basket:
3 portobello mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 Anaheim pepper, diced
5 cipollini onions, minced

Other Components:
Olive oil
Garlic powder
Pizza Sauce
Mozzarella cheese
Oregano, fresh

Image of cleaned portobello mushrooms
Clean the mushrooms by scraping out the gills with a spoon, rinse clean and pat dry with paper towels. Then generously drizzle olive oil over both sides of the mushrooms.
Image of grilled portobello mushrooms
Season the mushrooms well on both sides with garlic powder, salt & black pepper to taste. Grill the mushrooms bowl side up for 5 minutes, then flip over to grill with bowl down for another 2 minutes.
Image of portobello mushrooms with tomato sauce and cheese
Remove the mushrooms from the grill, fill each cavity bowl with pizza sauce and top with the cheese.
Image of mini portobello mushroom pizzas with veggies
Then sprinkle generously with onion, oregano and bits of both peppers.
Image of grilled mini portobello pizzas
Place the mushrooms back on the grill (cheese side up!) and cook for another 8-10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and melted.
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