Monday, November 9, 2009

Potato Substitutes for the Holidays

So, if you're like me, your favorite parts of the holiday meal are the side dishes. For the holidays, that usually means starches...stuffing, potatoes, sweet potato casserole, what's a low-carber to do? Well we've covered the mashed potato dilemma with my fantastic Caulimash recipe given in a my very first entry, try adding your favorite flavor profile to the mix for your holiday meal...I like sauteed garlic, green onion (just the white parts), black pepper and some grated makes a tasty base for gravy on top! But you can add bacon and cheddar, poultry seasoning, sour cream and chives...whatever you like that will pair best for your meal.

Now let's discuss sweet potatoes and yams. Although they may have slightly more nutritional value than white potatoes, they are still waaaaay to carby for most. I have found some beautiful squashes that have a very similar taste and mouthfeel, but only a fraction of the carbs. It's a shame that most 'expert' sources lump winter squashes into the same forbidden group, because there are some lesser known, but almost widely available, varietals that are delish and lend themselves well to traditional holiday fare. (I've found some of these at my local grocery, but also try your gourmet specialty market...Sunflower, Whole Foods, etc.)

My particular favorite is Buttercup...not Butternut...big difference. Here's a picture of it...take a look, and note that it is VERY similar looking to the Kabocha squash, which is also low in carb count, and can be substituted for buttercup in any recipe. It's a member of the turban squash family, so I always look for the slightly more developed ones that have a bit of the gray "hat" starting to stick out, as opposed to the only rounded younger ones that are very easy to confuse with Kabocha. Check out a Buttercup squash: . This squash is relatively dry in texture, so steaming it works best (I found baking makes it too dry), just remove seeds, cut into chunks and steam covered in the microwave for 10-15 minutes (depending on how much you're steaming at a time). Let it cool, scrape the meat from the skin (it should be very fork tender) and you have a fabulous treat that tastes like, and has a similar mouthfeel to sweet potatoes or yams. I think Buttercup, Kabocha and Hubbard are the best subs for sweet potatoes.

I like them mashed or pureed with just a little butter or cream cheese and salt/pepper, but for a real treat, add a little sugar free maple syrup or LC sweetener and maple extract and you get something that tastes fabulous. Yes, you could even make a traditional casserole by topping with some La Nouba sugar free marshmallows (watch the maltitol, I can't have it due to tummy sensitivity, they're available at or baking the puree with the SF maple syrup topped with whole or chopped pecans. Use these lower carb subs in soups, casseroles, stews...anywhere you would traditionally see sweet potatoes, butternut or acorn squash. I like it with an Indian or Moroccan flavor profile too, and often use it cubed in curries.

Here's the lowdown on some lower carb winter squashes. All are based on 1/2 cup servings (before mashing or pureeing!) and are terrific substitutes in any recipe calling for higher carb winter squashes, or as a yummy substitute for sweet potatoes:

Buttercup squash, carbs 3g, fiber 1g, protein 3g, 70% RDA vitamin A, 15% RDA vitamin C

Kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), carbs 3.5, fiber .5, protein 0 g, RDA 70% vitamin A, RDA 15% vitamin C

Golden Nugget squash, carbs 5g, fiber 1g, protein 1g, 15% RDA vitamin A, 10% vitamin C

Hubbard squash, carbs 5g, fiber 2g, protein 1g, 15% RDA vitamin A, 10% vitamin C (can be white, gray, green, can be very large, look for pre-sliced sections in the produce dept.)

Pumpkin (smaller “pie” ones), carbs 4, fiber 0g, protein 1g, 90% RDA vitamin A, 8% vitamin C
Spaghetti squash, carbs 3g, fiber 1 g (yum, great for more than it in a puree with curry and coconut milk)

Turban squash, carbs 5g, fiber 1g, protein 1g, 45% RDA vitamin A, 10% vitamin C

And don't forget one of our favorites...spaghetti squash! It's also lovely baked with some butter, salt, pepper and LC maple syrup or maple extract. I find that kids actually love it and find it fun to eat...I just never really mention that it's 'squash' before serving!

Hope this helps, I find that you can give your family a completely low carb and delicious holiday meal, and not even miss the other stuff! Next we tackle desserts!

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