Carb Solutions: Breadless Stuffing
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.
The almond flour in this recipe is a great stand-in for the traditional breadcrumbs. The no-grain flour will soak up the cooking juices of the bird and bulk up the stuffing mix in a similar way as breadcrumbs, sans the carbohydrates. The cooked green apple plays the same role as a potato, texturally, again without the carbs and, I think, adding a much more interesting flavor to the stuffing over the bland tuber. I also added in an egg add a little body to the stuffing so it would hold together in the turkey better.
Many stuffing recipes call for sugary fruit juices or dried fruit with high sugar content. Empty calories at best, blood sugar-spiking ingredients at the worse. This recipe uses the fall tangerine crop as a low-calorie, low glycemic substitute. Plus, tangerine juice and soy sauce seems to bring out the best in each other, adding a subtle fruity tang to the stuffing’s overall take-away flavor.
Another traditional stuffing ingredient is any kind of sausage, unfortunately many sausage products on the market are often augmented by high-carb fillers. A perfect excuse to swap in the deliciously meaty texture of shiitake mushrooms—in generous amounts, I should add, so the presence of this hearty mushroom is tasted in every forkful. ‘Tis the season! If the mushrooms alone are not satisfying enough, I have seen recipes that suggest blending in some ground pork. I usually just chop up the packet of giblets, which comes inside most all store-bought turkeys, and add these right into the stuffing mix. Makes a great flavoring to the whole dish.
So with this recipe, or any recipe in the category, comes the age-old debate as whether it should be called a “stuffing” or a “dressing”. The Internet is filled with myths and theories on the subject. The culinary opinion map in this country seems to be clearly divided along the Mason-Dixon Line. Generally, southern states in America call this mixture a "dressing" / while northern states usually call it "stuffing." The National Turkey Federation states that the terms are completely interchangeable, but then they are just trying to sell more turkeys to everyone!
As a word-smith, who must spend a good deal of time trying to construct perfect phraseology, I will abide by definitions described in the well-known cookbook "The Joy of Cooking" that states a mixture is considered stuffing if it is cooked inside the cavity of the bird; conversely, it’s a dressing if the mixture is prepared stovetop or baked separately. Since this recipe is not complete without the infusion of the cooking juices that are rendered only from a slow-roasted turkey, stuffing it be! So raise a glass of your favorite beverage, without also raising blood-sugar or calorie counts, in toasting your own Turkey Day meal carb-lessly!
Servings: 10 - stuffing will fill a small (10-12 lb.) turkey.
4 tablespoons Salted Butter
1 large Perfect Sweet Onion, finely chopped
2 cups Almond Flour
1½ cups Granny Smith or Green Dragon Apples, peeled, cored and chopped
6 cups sliced Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms (approximately 16 ounces)
2 Celery Ribs with leaves, chopped
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Fresh Ginger, grated
2 Tablespoons Fresh Flat-Leaf Parsley, chopped
½ cup Fresh Satsuma Tangerine juice
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt & Ground Pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the chopped onion and celery, cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until softened and slightly translucent.
Add all the remaining ingredients to the pan and mix together well. The mixture should be fairly wet; if not, slowly add a few tablespoons of chicken broth until it holds together in the pan. Lightly heat just to meld the flavors, then transfer to a mixing bowl and left cool before using to the mixture to stuff the turkey.
Spoon out of turkey into a large serving bowl and enjoy a carb-free holiday feast!
(Per average serving: 5.6 grams carbs, 2.0 grams fiber, 9 grams total fat, 113 calories)