Hatch on Hatch: Low Carb Stuffed Peppers
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 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 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 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 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 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 ten or less is low. </i>
The Farro-Stuffed Hatch recipe in Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook (page 143) was the inspiration for this glycemic-friendly dish that I came up with last year. I had just received my first batch of Hatch peppers of the season and I was anxious to taste them. In the habit of paging through recipes for ideas before hitting the kitchen, I came across Chef Ida’s recipe. It sounded very tasty, but I had less than half of her ingredients on hand, and my cravings for my first bite of Hatch peppers couldn’t wait while I went through all the stages of prep the dish required. Plus, farro and corn do spike blood sugars. Still, the idea of stuffing Hatch peppers for my first taste of the season was a good one.
So, the ingredients for this recipe were limited to what was in my fridge and pantry at the time of preparation. It’s actually my favorite kind of recipe— an ingredient challenge! I had some ground turkey and two Hatch processed products: salsa and powder, so that became the foundation for the filling. The spice rack and crisper provided a few other components. Basically, this is a one-bowl recipe; combine all ingredients, stuff the mixture in the peppers, and bake. Pretty easy-peasy! That is, if these few cooking tips are followed…
First, roasting Hatch peppers has the twofold purpose of blistering the thin outer skin to expose a more tender and pleasing texture as well as adding a rich smoky accent to this already uniquely flavorful pepper. I also find this to be a fun process of pepper management; i.e., using the stovetop burners to fire several peppers at once, constantly turning with a pair of tongs until a nice char covers each pepper.
However, once the outer skin has been removed, the pepper does lose its firmness, so it must be handled very carefully. Slit each whole “deflated” pepper lengthwise down one side without cutting all the way through; then use a flat knife or small spatula to hold open one side of the incision while gently scraping out the seeds. Use the same technique to keep the pepper open as it is stuffed with filling. Leave the stem intact as it makes a good handle when working with the delicate pepper; it also helps contain the filling during the final bake and presents a cleaner look on the plate.
Choose a type of cheese that melts gooey good! Be aware that some Mexican cheeses, for instance, are better at crumbling than melting. (BTW, all cheeses are made with some type of milk and all milk is white, so there is no such thing as naturally yellow milk or yellow cheese; yellow comes from additives!). Anyway, all I had on hand was some Manchego, a very popular Spanish cheese that was a tad too sharp for this dish, but it melted well, and, after all, this was an ingredient challenge. A milder variety would have been preferred. Happy Stuffing! Happy Hatching!
Spicy Low Carb Stuffed Hatch Peppers
Yield: 4 stuffed peppers
4 Hatch peppers, roasted and peeled
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ white onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1-pound ground beef, chicken or turkey
1 tablespoon cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Melissa’s Hatch Pepper Seasoning – mild or hot
¾ cup Melissa’s Hatch Salsa
1 cup shredded cheese of choice that melts easily
Roast and peel the peppers.
Sauté the onion, garlic, and bell pepper in the oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Then stir in the choice of protein and the rest of the seasonings. Simmer for 10 minutes on a medium-low flame.
Remove from heat and stir in the salsa.
Carefully slit each pepper open down the center on one side, scoop out the insides and carefully stuff each pepper with the salsa mixture.
Place stuffed peppers in a baking dish treated with cooking spray, sprinkle cheese over the top of each, then bake for 20 minutes at 375°F until peppers are softened and cheese is melted.