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Carb Solutions: Thanksgiving Jicama & Eggplant Stuffing

Image of Thanksgiving Jicama & Eggplant Stuffing
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 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, 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 bloodstream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based on how quickly 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 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 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 traditional Thanksgiving table is also an annual dietary challenge for us carb counters, especially those who find themselves a guest at the yearly family gathering (AKA Thursday Night at the Fights). With so many delicious temptations and a bit of familial social pressure to compliment one’s host and fellow diners on each potluck contribution, it isn't easy to keep blood sugars from spiking with every forkful. According to the American Council on Exercise, the average Thanksgiving meal has 3,000 calories and 229 fat grams. And, no, Virginia, your metabolism does not “average” carbs out over time to allow for the just-this-one-time approach to such a table of tempting delights!

Solution: Bring this amazing stuffing dish—which looks like all the rest, is tasty, rich and very filling, yet a good source of fiber that results in only 4 net carbs, 13 grams of fat and 166 calories per serving! After all, the best defense against giving in to high carb stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and/or pumpkin pie is a full stomach! So, load up on any veggies without sauces alongside this hearty eggplant-jicama stuffing, and you’ll fit right in at the table carb-lessly! Second helpings allowed!

While I have had my fill (no pun intended) of low-carb faux stuffing recipes over the years, the category remains interesting as there are so many options and so few holidays to provide the excuse to try another! From no-bread cauliflower creations to meaty mushrooms or other vegetable-based combinations, the options are endless. What caught my eye in this recipe was the jicama ingredient. What a great idea! Jicama is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and fiber. Almost 7 grams of fiber are in 1 cup—nearly 25% of the official recommended daily intake. So, even though jicama has carbs, its fiber slows down the carb impact on blood sugar. The root is also packed with vitamins and nutrients that contribute to the overall health of the metabolism in a myriad of ways, too numerous to list here. For the challenge at hand, it’s a delicious weapon to have on this high carb holiday!

Jicama has a mix of starchy-sweet-nutty flavors that can pair easily with many foods. The starchy taste is more prevalent when served raw in salads or as an appetizer with a dip. Cooked, the sweet, nutty characteristics become more dominant. Though the root’s crunchy texture is dampened some in both grating and cooking, it still provides the “bones” of this stuffing, adding to the dish’s deep, hearty flavor.

Many low carb stuffing recipes suggest eggplant as a good substitute for traditional breading and it does provide texture to this dish. Being fairly benign in flavor, the veggie also has the unique sponge-like ability to absorb all the flavors of the other components. For this recipe, first steam the chopped eggplant ever so slightly until just barely softened. During baking, this impressionable ingredient will take on the buttered flavors of the seasonings, herbs and sautéed veggies, adding a warm, comfort-food feel to the dish’s profile.

Serving tip: Serve yourself first before the rest of the table GOBBLES this dish up!

Thanksgiving Jicama & Eggplant Stuffing
Image of Ingredients
Ingredients
2 cups eggplant, peeled, rough chopped (½”-¾” pieces)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
2 cups jicama, grated
½ c. Italian parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 slice low-carb bread, cubed
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 egg, beaten into the broth above

Directions
Image of steamed eggplant
Place peeled, chopped eggplant in a steamer until slightly soft, careful not to overcook into mush. Drain well in a colander, pressing out as much water as possible with the back of a spoon. Set aside.
Image of veggie suate
Melt a stick of butter in a large non-stick skillet, then add the onion and celery and sauté until they start to soften. Add the grated jicama. Continue to sauté, stirring often, until jicama threads are quite tender and beginning to “shrink” as their moisture cooks out.
Image of bread and veggies
Transfer the steamed eggplant into a large mixing bowl. Add in the sautéed veggies, parsley, all seasonings and bread cubes. Mix in the beaten egg/broth mixture. Stir all ingredients to enable the egg/broth to bind the stuffing ingredients together.
Image of stuffing
Spoon stuffing back into the already greased skillet used to sauté the veggies. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, transfer to a serving dish, top with a sprinkle of parsley and serve family style.
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