By: Earl LeClaire
I was a 325-pound chef; a cooking machine with rave reviews; a man given to extremes. Then, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Suddenly, I had to change my diet and I was stunned and beside myself with concern. I have always had a lover’s quarrel with food, but now I had to search for alternative ingredients that would appease my taste buds while being nutritious and beneficial for a diabetic diet.
I looked for foods that were higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates. Among them I discovered the grains soy and millet. It took a lot of thought for me to figure out how to use soy—which comes in many forms including tempeh and tofu—and millet—which I always considered to be no more than birdseed. I was of the opinion that true gastronomic experiences could never employ these foods.
I was wrong.
Tempeh, used as a staple for centuries in Indonesia, is a high-protein, low- carbohydrate food with many nutrients including calcium, iron and potassium.
Millet, an Old World grain still waiting to be rediscovered in America, is a healthy substitute for rice and a refreshing change when used in grain salads such as tabouli.
The inviting recipe to follow is simple to put together and extremely nutritious—especially for people with diabetes. It may be prepared up to a day ahead, or frozen, cooked or uncooked, for future use.
I have included a variation of this recipe using ground turkey in lieu of tempeh for those who prefer not to or cannot eat soy products.
Tempeh Stuffed Peppers
4 medium red and yellow bell peppers
8 oz. tempeh
1 cup raw millet
3-3/4 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup green onions chopped (white and green)
4 medium mushrooms chopped
5 table-spoons virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced
4 teaspoons shredded Parmesan or asiago cheese
4 teaspoons herbed bread crumbs
2 teaspoons fresh thyme chopped (1/2 teaspoon dry)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon thickener such as Wondra, arrowroot, corn starch or agar-agar
1/4 teaspoon salt substitute
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Slice the peppers lengthwise leaving the stems in tact so the peppers hold their shape. Remove seeds and carefully remove the white ribs. Set aside.
- Bring 2 cups of vegetable broth or water to a boil. Add millet. Stir briefly and return to a boil.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Do not stir while cooking or grain may become sticky. When finished, remove cover and toss lightly to fluff the grain. Let cool.
- While the millet cooks, chop the onions, garlic and mushrooms. In a heavy skillet, place 3 tablespoons of olive oil, then add onions, garlic, and mushrooms and sauté briefly. Crumble in tempeh and continue to sauté for 10 minutes. Stir in 3/4 cups vegetable broth or water, 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice, soy sauce, thyme, salt substitute, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Remove from heat, add millet and mix well. If the mixture seems too dry, moisten with a small amount of broth or water. Stuff the peppers. Sprinkle parmesan or asiago and bread crumbs on top of stuffing. Drizzle equal amounts of the remaining olive oil over each pepper.
- Finally, place stuffed peppers in a baking dish or pie pan. Pour remaining 1-1/2 cups of broth into baking dish or pie pan, cover and bake for 35 minutes. Remove cover and continue baking an additional 10 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
- Remove peppers and keep warm. Make a quick sauce by stirring together, 2 tablespoons water and thickener (I like Wondra), add remaining tablespoon of lemon juice to cooking liquid in baking dish or pan, (deglaze the dish or pan with more broth if necessary) and heat while stirring until the sauce thickens. Lace serving plates with sauce and garnish with a green herb such as parsley, basil or chives.
Ground Turkey Variation
You may substitute 1/2 pound well-cooked ground turkey for tempeh. When cooking the ground turkey, you may want to add two tablespoons of olive oil to moisten as ground turkey tends to be low in fat. When the turkey is thoroughly cooked, add 1/4 cup of water to prevent it from becoming too dry.
Nutritional content per serving:
14 grams protein
53 grams carbohydrates
8 grams fat
0 grams cholesterol
220 mg sodium
350 mg potassium
6 grams fiber