Kick-off with Jicama – Three Ways!
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.
For this writer the first week of September brings the long-anticipated opening day of the NFL Football season; my second favorite day of year besides my own day of birth. This first kick-off also begins another annual off-the-field challenge for most all carb-counting football fans – namely, finding glycemic friendly game-watching nibbles for the next twenty weeks. Gone are the carefree days of sharing a Sunday afternoon grid-iron viewing session with a bowl potato or tortilla chips, or worse, taking advantage of those game day TV ad specials reminding that a quick pizza delivery is just a phone call or text message away!
Jicama is a versatile edible root with a sweet, slightly starchy flavor, though the vegetable contains no starch at all. This slightly juicy tuber has a very thick brown skin and creamy white interior with a crunchy texture similar to that of an apple or potato. Since the root is mostly water, it also has a mild, refreshing aftertaste. The root is usually eaten raw, but can also be used in cooked dishes. In Mexico, it is popular in salads or mixed with fresh fruit combinations; while in the Philippines the root is used extensively in many stir-fry dishes. Most importantly, since the root has no starch content, it does not even register on the glycemic index and the glycemic load of a whole pound of Jicama is only “8” along with a whopping 24 grams of healthy fiber!
So let the games begin with these three quick recipes that use Jicama in lieu of crackers, fries and as a dip stick! Each takes just a few minutes to prepare and all will pair well with beer, also an extremely low carb beverage and mandatory equipment for game viewing. Writer’s note: Due to production schedule that goes into publishing this monthly updated web site, this article had to be written two months before the actual opening day of the American version of the professional football season. However, the recipes were still taste-tested under “battle conditions” watching what the rest of the planet calls football during The World Cup Championships in early July!
Refreshing is the best way to describe these little rounds that are topped with a mixture of ripe mango and avocado laced with a hint of spicy Hatch Salsa. The sprinkling of pumpkin seeds on each adds both texture and flavor to this tropical mix. Warning: these two-bite crackers are a little addicting in a very good way – make lots!
1 large Jicama, sliced into rounds about 1/8” thick
1 Avocado, firm-ripe, fine diced
½ cup Mango, firm-ripe, fine diced
1 TBS minced green onions
1 TBS Pumpkin seeds, shelled, unsalted
2 TBS Hatch Salsa
Lime zest (from 2 medium limes)
Using a cookie cutter, cut as many 2-inch rounds out of each slice of jicama as possible depending upon size of Jicama. In a small bowl gently combine the remaining ingredients, except the pumpkin seeds.
Top each “cracker” with the avocado mixture, then sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds.
Crispy Seasoned Jicama Fries
Taste like the real thing and certainly satisfies the crispy-salty cravings without all the carbs! I used a mandolin to cut the fries relatively uniform. The trick to crispy fries is to boil the jicama first, so the fries are cooked through before being baked. You might have to play around with the cooking time to achieve the right crispiness preferred. I found it necessary to flip the fries a second time and increase the cook time by another 10 minutes to replicate crispy fries, but I blame it on my oven. I tried all three of Melissa’s seasonings as well as experimented with different combination of other seasonings listed in recipe and did come up with my own favorites. Try them all to discover yours!
1 lb. jicama, peeled, cut into uniform French fries, 3 TBS vegetable oil, 2 tsp Melissa’s seasoning - either Pico De Gallo, Ground Hatch Red Chile or Ground Hatch Green Chile
2 tsp salt, to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
Dash of paprika
Dash of black pepper
Boil jicama fries in a large pot for 15 minutes, then remove, pat dry and place in a plastic storage bag with the oil and seasonings. Toss until fries are evenly coated.
Spread fries in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 40 mins @ 400°, flipping half way through. Cook longer for extra crispiness. Let rest 3-4 minutes before serving.
Jicama Sticks & Jalapeño Bean Dip
A much healthier delivery vehicle than the standard “chips & dip” this recipe also offers very tasty bean dip. The jicama “sticks” should be larger than the fries so they will stand upright in a serving bowl for maximum dipping efficiency! Use just enough sour cream to thin out Melissa’s scrumptious Six Bean Medley. Simple, quick and deliciously glycemic friendly. A case could be made for doctoring up the jicama sticks with maybe some spicy chile powder, but I prefer this simpler lime-soaked dipper. Melissa’s Six Bean Medley makes into a great cold bean dip with just a quick run through a blender or food processor; do not whip smooth for texture – think chunky style bean dip! I prefer a mild heat so I used just one roasted jalapeño in my dip, but feel free to add more jalapeños for a hotter dip. BTW, I was interrupted in the middle of my prep of this recipe so inadvertently left the Jicama sticks soaking in the lime juice for a few hours with wonderfully tasty results! So, if you are organized enough to prepare for the big game in advance of those half-time snack cravings, by all means give the sticks a longer soak!
1 large Jicama, peeled, cut into thick sticks
1 Melissa’s Lime juice
Salt to taste
2 pkgs. Melissa’s Steamed Six Bean Medley
1 or 2 pcs. Melissa’s Roasted Jalapeños, to taste
3 TBS Sour Cream
Place jicama sticks in a bowl and toss with the lime juice, let sit for at least 15 minutes, tossing to thoroughly coat and absorb. Pat dry, salt to taste.
Combine Bean Medley, jalapeños and sour cream in a food processor or blender and pulse until chunky smooth. Transfer to a small dipping bowl and serve along with the sticks.
Transfer bean mixture to a small dipping bowl and serve along with the sticks.