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Carb Solutions: Hash Browns

Image of breakfast plate hash eggs bacon

Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as 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 disorders have on overall mental well-being and happiness. However, diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some regular exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our weight. One easy way to start taking control is to choose the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [G.I.] and glycemic load [G.L.].

Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the bloodstream. The glycemic index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based on how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate these calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for people with diabetes who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods with low glycemic scores. They also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts has been proven to 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 bread, made with processed white flour, is 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.

• On the other hand, the glycemic load focuses on how many digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.

A few weeks ago, I found myself in a restaurant gawking at a friend’s breakfast order; more specifically, a large patty of golden hash browns that took up almost half the plate. It brought back the good old days BCC (Before Carb Counting), when this crispy side dish was always a part of breakfast out and a home-cooked treat that became a Sunday morning ritual. Those memories kept nagging at my palate until I had to find a low-carb alternative that would satisfy the yearning. While a quick ‘net search did produce a plethora of “cauliflower hash brown” recipes, this cruciferous veggie will never duplicate the texture of shredded potatoes or even come close to the unique taste of the real thing skillet-cooked. These days cauliflower seems to be the unimaginative answer to all low-carb recipe make-overs, which I find very silly. I guess that a plateful of riced cauliflower, sautéed to a golden brown, can resemble hash browns from a distance or in a website photograph. However, one cannot eat a picture, and the distinct flavor of cauliflower comes through no matter how much seasoning is used. Fooling the eyes, but not the palate!

Celeriac is in the same family as anise, carrots, parsley and parsnips. Also known as celery root, celeriac developed from the same wild species as stalk celery. However, the variety was refined over time to produce an increasingly large, solid, roundish root that grows just below the soil’s surface. It did not become a popular vegetable until the Middle Ages and was first recorded as a food plant in France in the 1600s. By the end of the 17th century, it had become a commonly cultivated crop in most of Europe.

One cannot miss this root in the produce department; celeriac is without a doubt one of the ugliest foods in its natural state – gnarly, with a very uneven surface with crags and protuberances that are hard to peel and look like something from another. A paring knife, rather than a peeler, works best for removing most of the dark, tough skin. Shave downward with the blade in broad strokes to remove the thick gnarled parts, then use a peeler to clean off the remaining surface. The root's creamy white interior resembles that of a turnip. Note: to prevent discoloration, dip peeled root into a bowl of lemon water immediately after cutting.

The root’s subtle taste of celery-parsley makes it the ideal hash brown substitute because it assimilates with flavors from other ingredients cooked with it. For this recipe, the olive oil-butter-bacon sauté is infused into the shredded celeriac along with a bit of garlic powder and Parmesan. The result is a forkful of hash browns that I believe would pass a taste test challenge, even blindfolded. Shredded, it’s a twin of the original! However, glycemic-wise, there is no comparison to the potato. A cup of potatoes has a glycemic index (GI) of 77 and a glycemic load (GL) of 15; the same amount of celeriac scores only 15 on the GI with a GL of just .05! There are 136 calories in one cup of potatoes, whereas celeriac has only 60 calories per cup. The recipe below used to be my GO-TO recipe for a quickie plate of hash browns. It still is thanks to celeriac!

Celeriac Hash Browns
Makes one patty

Image of Low carb ingredients

2 strips chopped bacon, raw
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup shredded raw celeriac
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Salt & Pepper to taste

Image of mixing celery and parsley in a bowl

While the chopped bacon is being fried in olive oil and butter until mostly crisp, combine the shredded celeriac, parsley, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, S&P in a mixing bowl.

Image of Hash Patty

Add the celeriac mixture to the pan with the cooked bacon and stir well. Then, with the back of a spatula, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan to form a round cake.

Image of frying hash patty

Cook on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes or until the bottom is dark golden brown and crisp, and the top is softened. Carefully place a serving plate over your pan and flip the cake onto it crispy side up.

Plating: Serve with scrambled or fried eggs and bacon

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