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Carb Solutions: Holiday Stuffed Tomatoes

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.
During the holiday season, carb-heavy temptations clutter every buffet table and holiday gathering. Here’s a succulent tomato dish, dressed in holiday colors, that is decadent enough to contribute to this annual celebration of culinary excess without the aid of all those empty, sugar calories. While the holidays are a time of good cheer and feasting, it should not be an excuse to let up on your carb intake. ‘Tis the season aside, your metabolism should not be made aware, in a bad way, of what month it is! Be warned, unless one has the steel resolve of a Tibetan monk, there is no such thing as just sampling one butter cookie! Best to have a healthy replacement ready.

Fresh tomatoes, as science has discovered, are one of the healthiest fruits that we can consume. The carb count is low and content consists mainly of simple sugars and insoluble fiber. Studies show that tomatoes may reduce the risk of heart disease and several cancers. This fruit is also beneficial for skin health and is a good source of several nutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium, vitamin K, and folate. Bla, bla, bla…but it’s the holidays, tomatoes can be “fun” too!

While the fruit is most associated with summertime harvest, tomatoes in the winter season provide the perfect holiday color combination in the form of hot house crops offered at retail in bunches on the vine. Snip each fruit from its cluster, being careful to retain about 2-inches of green stem and the attached calyx at its base. Red and green is a good start to any holiday dish! Now slice the top off of each fruit about an inch below that green calyx. Remove the gelatinous seeds, forming deep cavities between the interior membranes. Do not remove those membranes as they help the fruit keep shape during the baking process.

Melissa’s ready-made basil pesto combined with ricotta cheese make for very simple, tasty filling. Add the pesto to the ricotta until the right shade of green is achieved. Once stuffed, each tomato is then “dressed” for the festive occasion with its own red-green “top hat”. Another simple mixture of tomato puree, Italian parsley and glycemicly-friendly agave syrup covers the bottom of the bake pan, catching the juice from the roasting tomatoes, to make a luscious gravy for plating. The results are a scrumptiously delicious holiday side dish without the aid of white flour, sugar or butter. Jingle those bells!

Holiday Stuffed Tomatoes
Serves 4

Ingredients for Holiday Stuffed Tomatoes

Ingredients

4 Hot House Red Cluster Tomatoes
1 can tomato puree, 8 oz.
1 tablespoon Organic Blue Agave Syrup
1 handful of Italian Parsley, chopped
6 ounces ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons Basil Pesto
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

What the kids can do:

Slice the tops off the tomatoes, remove seeds and set aside.

Slice the tops off the tomatoes, remove seeds and set aside.

Pour the tomato puree and agave into a baking dish, add the parsley and stir with a spoon.

Pour the tomato puree and agave into a baking dish, add the parsley and stir with a spoon.

Combine the ricotta, parmesan and pesto in a bowl, season with salt and pepper.

Combine the ricotta, parmesan and pesto in a bowl, season with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture between the tomatoes stuffed into the cavities and place in the baking dish. Cover each tomato with its top and drizzle with olive oil. Bake @ 350° F for 20 minutes or until tender.

Plating: Place each tomato on a small plate in a pool of gravy. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle plate with cracked black pepper.
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