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Carb Solutions: July 4th Potluck

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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.
Here’s a recipe that will solve two problems for those carb counters out there who are also tending to a summer vegetable garden for the first time. With July 4th happening at the peak of the summertime potluck season, the holiday is always celebrated with picnic tables brimming with tempting dishes. However, it’s a veritable scavenger hunt to find the occasional low carb nibble amongst the bowls of pasta, corn and potato salads, plates of breads, tasty bruschetta, pies, torts and cakes! So here’s a healthy, though decadently delicious, frittata to add to that meager selection of glycemic-friendly offerings for yourself as well as any other fellow carb counters who may be cruising the same buffet tables of temptation!

As to the second reason to present this dish this month, timed for when those backyard spring plantings of squash seeds are being harvested…and harvested… and harvested yet again! So here’s another tasty way to get rid of a few more pounds of those crispers-full of zucchini and yellow squash! Who knew that one zucchini plant would support a family of eight for 4 months; or that a farmer-like row of robust green plants you watched so proudly as they grow up and out all spring would make rabbits seem sterile by comparison in their proliferation! I believe that zucchini bread was created as a defense to this unforeseen abundance that all novice gardeners go through, aka the squash passage. Still, a person can eat only so much zucchini bread, so this recipe will help provide some diversity! The comforting news is that all backyard gardeners only over-plant squash ONCE in their gardening careers!

Obvious bias aside, or not, what really put this frittata over the top for me was Melissa’s Fire Roasted Red Bell Peppers. Actually, I thought a whole jar would be too much in my first prep of this dish so I cut it in half, which was a mistake that became obvious in the first bite. So I did a second prep using a whole jar and the results were so much more flavorful! Plus, it left me with TWO frittatas to munch on over a couple of days and that experience taught me the versatility of this dish beyond the Independence Day potluck! No kidding – the ingredients of this dish I found worked for reheated breakfast, lunch and/or dinner! At only 8.5 g carbs per slice, it was such a guiltless pleasure to not think about cooking for a few days and to just zap a few slices of this dish in the microwave on command!

There is not much to preparing a frittata, which is the point of any good potluck dish – easy to prepare and that prep can be done ahead of time. Even if your squash population is under control, any number of summer veggies could be added to the mix. Since this frittata is being flipped for presentation, a few tips and explanation should be added. Using a high-sided ceramic pie container presented the problem of cooking the frittata all the way through without scorching the top. I decided not worry about it, in fact to aim for a slightly blackened tinge and then to flip it. As the prep pic demonstrates, let the “top” of the frittata brown more than you are probably comfortable with in a normal bake. The tough, shell-like skin that develops will not show and will even provide some stability to the high-sided frittata when it is flipped over. Enjoy the harvest!!

Summer Vegetable Frittata
Serves: 8 large slices
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3 TBS olive oil
½ sweet onion, chopped 8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
1½ medium zucchini, sliced ¼-inch thick
1½ medium yellow squash, sliced ¼-inch thick
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 large eggs
2 oz. heavy cream (or half and half)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 TBS fresh basil, chopped
S & P to taste
1 jar Melissa’s Fire Roast Sweet Red Bell Peppers, drained, cut into 1/4 inch wide strips
2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

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Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, mushrooms and zucchini. Sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes, drain and set aside.
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In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in eggs until combined. Beat in cream or half and half. Stir in garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Add sautéed vegetables and roasted pepper strips to egg mixture. Lastly blend in the shredded cheese with a rubber spatula to combine thoroughly.
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Brush bottom and sides of a 9-inch tall-sided pan with oil. Line bottom with parchment and brush parchment with oil. Wrap outside of pan with aluminum foil. Spread mixture into pan and set pan on baking sheet. Bake for Preheat oven to 350° for 90 minutes or until top is dark golden brown and the center no longer jiggles when shaken.
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Plating: Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes in pan, then run a sharp knife around edges of pan to loosen. Place serving dish over pan and flip. Remove parchment paper. Garnish with a few strips of roasted peppers. This dish can be served warm, room temperature, or cold.
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