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Carb Solutions: Sunday Brunch Buffet

By Dennis Linden
Image of Strawberry Faux Bread Pudding Cups
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 maladies have on a person’s 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 consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to decide 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 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 diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods with 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 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, which is made of 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, 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.
I think my favorite meal is not breakfast, lunch or dinner – but rather Sunday brunch! Both April and May have traditional opportunities for brunch-heads, first with Easter and then Mother’s Day next month. Behind the scenes, those in the business of fresh produce -- specifically fresh strawberry growers -- bank on these two holidays (literally) as critical to having a profitable year. Though strawberries are thought of as a summer crop, commercial fields in the most southern growing regions of this country – namely Florida and Southern California -- are at peak harvest volumes during these months. So an untimely rain, for instance, a week before either of these two events, will ruin the berries destined for harvest that next week to fill the holiday supply-demand – and an opportunity is lost that can never be recouped. In fact, the strawberry has become a mandatory ingredient required to attend both these holiday feasts.

Unfortunately, suppose these delectable berries do make it your favorite brunch buffet table. In that case, they only present an unattainable temptation to the carb counter or anyone concerned with taxing one’s metabolism with the mother of all sugar highs! Scones, crepes, compote, muffins, croissant casseroles, French toasts, tarts and bruschetta, just to name a few – all topped, stuffed, drizzled or slathered in strawberries or strawberry sauces. Since the idea is to enjoy the naturally sweet flavor of “strawberry-ness” [with a GL score of only 4!] without all those empty carbs, try these glycemic-friendly Strawberry Bread Pudding Cups that contain neither bread nor pudding but do not fail to deliver THE STRAWBERRY in a package of chewy goodness that is totally carb-free. OK, so the cheeses and heavy cream are probably not on the Slim Fast diet. But it’s a holiday brunch, after all, so some culinary decadence is called for; just don’t let these delicious cups apply for a transfer to your everyday menu!

This is a straightforward three-part recipe – dough and filling, then bake. My go-to processed flour substitute is always a mix of Almond and Coconut “flour” of varying ratios. Neither is really a milled flour at all, but just very fine-grained nuts. The baking powder will give the dough a light and slightly airy texture, but what you are going for is more of a flatbread for this recipe. Keep in mind that the dough is going to be rolled out thin, toasted and then cubed. BTW: I admit to being skeptical about melting the cheeses together for the dough base without it turning into a mess, but the process was quick, not messy at all, and combined effortlessly with the other components.

Once the ingredients for the filling have been thoroughly mixed and then spooned into each biscuit cup, there will be a lot of liquid “good stuff” remaining in the bowl. This liquid is key to the recipe, so distribute evenly between all twelve cups. Baking turns this liquid into chewy goodness laced with strawberry and not a carb in sight!

Strawberry Faux Bread Pudding Cups
Yield: 12 cups

Ingredients

For Dough:
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 tablespoons cream cheese
2 eggs
¼ cup almond flour
½ cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
2 tablespoons melted butter

For the Filling:
4 eggs
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sweetener substitute, separated
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup cream cheese
1 cup strawberries, sliced
Image for Dough
Preparation
Dough:
Melt the shredded mozzarella and the cream cheese in a frying pan over medium heat or in a microwave. Transfer cheeses to a mixing bowl, blend until they’re well combined. Add in the almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and eggs. Mix until well combined into a dough ball.
Image of dough in pan with cinnamon
Press the dough into a rectangle of approximately 10” x 8” on a cookie sheet between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper, poke some holes in the dough with a fork. Brush with the melted butter, then combine half of the sweetener with half the cinnamon and sprinkle over the top. Bake @ 400°F for 8 to 10 minutes.
Image of dough in pan cut into squares
Remove from the oven, cut into ½ inch squares, set aside.
Image of filling
Filling: Combine the 4 eggs with heavy cream, remaining sweetener, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Add the cubed dough, mix and then fold in the sliced strawberries.
Image of filling in cupcake baking pan
Divide the strawberry mixture evenly between 12 very well-buttered muffin tin cups. Top with a dab of butter, then bake @375°F for 10 to 12 minutes.
Image of Strawberry Faux Bread Pudding Cups
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