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Low Carb Solution: Easter Brunch

Image of Easter Breakfast Casserole
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.
The traditional Easter Brunch buffet table can be a glycemic gauntlet that offers a selection of favorite main courses and side dishes from breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, often accompanied by and sometimes surrounded in flaky crusts made with buttered, white flour abandon. For all of us carb counters, who must annually wade through all the coffee cakes, quiches, scalloped potatoes, tarts, turnovers and scones, in search of something to eat, here’s a quick and easy, very low carb breakfast casserole recipe [only 8 g net per serving] to contribute to that table of tempting Easter treats.

What makes this dish so easy to prepare is Melissa’s Steamed Artichoke Hearts. Great ingredient! Not only pre-cooked and quartered, these hearts are sealed in a package without any oil to change the field-fresh flavor. For this casserole recipe, that means just draining the liquid from each package before pouring the hearts directly into the baking dish. FYI: it took exactly two 6.34 oz. packages of Melissa’s Steamed Artichoke Hearts to cover my 8x8-inch square baking dish. Adjust accordingly.

What Easter table would be complete with a fresh asparagus dish! After slicing the asparagus spears into 1½-inch pieces on the bias (diagonal), the pieces should be steamed ever so lightly. The subsequent baking will cook them through, so be careful not to overcook during the steaming. And always steam, not boil, asparagus to retain the most vitamins and nutrients in the plant. The third layer of the dish is the blend of cheeses and lots of Melissa’s Italian Seasoning Grinder. Do not skimp on the dried herbs if you want them to make a flavor impact on the dish. The pungency of dried herbs tend to fade with time and, if sparsely applied before an extended bake time, will be cooked out of the dish rather than into it. So I tend to “over season” purposely to compensate for this natural tamping down of flavor that the oven can have on dried herbs.

You will note that there is a little wiggle room in the number of eggs called for in this recipe. Some of this is proportional to the size of the baking dish being used. Regardless of dish size, presentation-wise the finished casserole should have some of the artichoke hearts and asparagus pieces peeking through the baked egg and cheese. Basically, more eggs will make a thick, eggier casserole; less eggs makes for a “shallower” casserole where the other ingredients will be more visible. I also waited a few minutes after popping the casserole in the oven and then gave things a bit of a stir with a fork as the eggs were just starting to firm up. On the outside chance that there are any leftovers after the brunch, this dish will keep in the refrigerator for several few days and can be easily reheated in a microwave or toaster oven. Happy low-carb brunching!

Low-Carb Easter Breakfast Casserole
Serve 6
Image of Easter Breakfast Casserole

2-3 packages Melissa’s Steamed Artichoke Hearts, depending on size of casserole dish
1 lb. fresh asparagus, 1½” lengths, cut on the bias
4 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
1-2 TBS Melissa’s Organic Italian Seasoning Grinder
12-14 eggs
S&P, to taste

Image of artichoke hearts
Use Melissa’s Steamed Artichoke hearts right out of the package; just rinse, drain, then make a layer of artichokes in the bottom of the casserole dish coated in non-stick cooking spray
Image of asparagus
Cut away the woody ends of the asparagus and then slice spears into diagonal pieces just over one-inch long. Steam asparagus pieces for 3 minutes, drain, then layer the asparagus pieces on top of the artichokes. Combine both types of cheeses in a bowl, then sprinkle mixture over the artichokes. Season generously with Melissa’s Italian Seasoning.
Image of all ingredients in casserole
Beat eggs seasoned with fresh ground black pepper and salt. Pour the eggs over the vegetables and cheese, then use a fork to gently stir up all ingredients so that there are some pieces of asparagus and artichoke poking up out of the egg mixture. Bake at 375° for about 35-40 minutes or until the top is firm and just starting to brown. Serve hot!
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