Pumpkin Pie for Friendsgiving – Low FODMAP, Gluten Free, Dairy Free & No Refined Sugar

Thanksgiving is such a quintessentially American holiday. Sure, there’s Independence Day and Halloween (etc) but we get those to some extent, or at least the Australian equivalent, back home. What I really like about Thanksgiving is the emphasis on being thankful. It may sound really corny but, given it’s surrounded by Halloween and Christmas, two of most consumption driven holidays of the year, it’s a breath of fresh air to not worry about buying lollies for greedy kids who take more than their share (yes, I’m still annoyed about that), or wonder if you’ve left anyone off your Chrissy list, or if you’ve got them something they won’t like. Instead, you just have to cook your arse off for the three days prior… but some crazy people call that “fun.”

The fact that “Fall” in Seattle is so much more spectacular than Autumn in Melbourne also helps matters along – the roads around our place looked like the trees had been decorated, that’s how bright and colourful the leaves were – in every shade you could imagine from pink to yellow to red. Give me overcast and chilly over a day that can’t make up its weather-mind any day of the week. My inner child absolutely adores throwing on my gum boots and sloshing around the local walking trails or the dog park.

For those reading in Australia, or anywhere else that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s all about being thankful for what you have… ironically followed, in the USA, by Black Friday sales, which are a little along the lines of the Boxing Day sales in Australia. Still, I like that, for one day at least, we are encouraged to think about what we have and how lucky we are to have it.

The one problem with Thanksgiving, though, as well as Christmas and Easter, really, is that we don’t have any family over here to celebrate with… which is why I love the term “Friendsgiving.” Most, if not all, of our Seattle friends are also transplants from other parts of the US and the world, so a Friendsgiving is what we do and I love it. This year, we are hosting an early Friendsgiving at our house, so we are roasting the usual turkey with all the trimmings (gravy, cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce etc) but I had to think of a dessert.

Well, there’s nothing more American than apple pie – but I wanted to be able to eat the dessert, too. I’d tried pumpkin pie once before and liked it, so I thought I’d give it a go. To give myself something to compare my pie to, I bought a pumpkin pie from the supermarket and tried a slice (I didn’t eat the pastry and it was otherwise low FODMAP). I hated it. I double checked the ingredients and I’m sure it’s all the corn syrup (note, not high fructose corn syrup) that made it taste sickly sweet and there was also a weirdness to it that I couldn’t explain. I got my American neighbour (neighbor?) to taste test my version of pumpkin pie for me and – aside from slightly overcooking the base – she approved. She also told me that supermarket bought pumpkin pies are almost never good. Anyway, I much prefered my own recipe, if I don’t say so myself.

This pumpkin pie is lightly spiced, pumpkin-y and has a custard-like texture; the gingerbread crust plays off the filling really nicely and the whole thing is quite rich, so you won’t need to eat much.

FODMAP Notes

  1. Almonds are low FODMAP in servings of 10 nuts and contain moderate fructans and galactans in servings of 20 nuts. One slice of this pie should be FODMAP friendly but, if you struggle with almonds, try subbing in some pecan meal or even some gluten free flour for a lower overall FODMAP count.
  2. Brown rice is low FODMAP in servings of 1 cup, however it can be hard to digest for non-FODMAP reasons. If you struggle with it, try replacing it with quinoa flour, or any gluten free/low FODMAP flour blend that you like.
  3. Golden and maple syrups are 1:1 fructose and glucose, so are safe, FODMAPs-wise, in moderation. Check for any higher FODMAP ingredients, to be safe. Use maple syrup if you want to make the “no refined sugars” version.
  4. Pumpkin and squash vary in safe serving sizes from 1/4 to 1/2 cup, depending on the type. The pie pumpkin I used is FODMAP friendly in 1/4 cup servings and contains moderate amounts of sorbitol in 1/2 cup servings. Freshly made pumpkin puree is best by far, in terms of colour and flavour of the resulting pie.
  5. Coconut cream is low FODMAP in servings of 1/2 cup, any more and sorbitol becomes an issue.
  6. Cinnamon, all spice, ginger and cloves are all FODMAP friendly spices.
  7. This pie combines pumpkin and coconut cream, two ingredients that, if you eat enough, are high in sorbitol. If the large pie is cut into 12, you should be eating a safe amount of pumpkin and coconut cream; if you made mini pies, then you are in control of the size. If you are super sensitive to sorbitol but can tolerate dairy, use lactose free double cream instead of the coconut cream.

Pumpkin Pie

Serves 8-10 (one large pie, or 10 mini 5 cm diameter pies).

Gingerbread Base

  • 150 g almond meal/flour
  • 150 g brown rice or quinoa flour
  • 1 tbsp. chia seed meal
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. all spice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 1/4 cup golden or maple syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pinch salt

Pie Filling

  • 450 g/1.0 lb of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup coconut cream
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or golden syrup
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 ground all spice
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 3 large eggs

Place a tin of full fat coconut cream in the fridge at least overnight. This allows the  cream to separate from the water. When you are ready to make your filling, flip the can upside down and open it; pour the watery part into a glass and use in smoothies etc. Spoon out 1 cup worth of the thickened coconut cream and use in the filling recipe.

Sift all the dry ingredients for the gingerbread base together and put aside. In the bowl of your stand mixer or food processor, combine the softened coconut oil, syrup and egg, then pour in the dry ingredients and mix until a smooth, slightly sticky dough forms. This is your biscuit base. Wrap it and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes before handling.

Preheat your oven to 180 C/350 F and grease either one large tart dish, 5 medium tart dishes or 10 small tart dishes. Break the gingerbread base dough into chunks and press it into the tart tins. This can be done a day or two ahead, just refrigerate until it’s required. Cover the dough with baking paper and pour in baking/pie balls, then blind bake according to instructions below.

While the pie shells are blind baking, blend together all the filling ingredients until smooth and creamy. Let the pie shells cool for ten minutes after blind baking, before filling them until the pumpkin mix is just about to reach the top of the shell.

Baking instructions are as follows:

  • Small (5 cm) pie – blind bake for 10 minutes, before filling with pumpkin mixture and baking for a further 20-25 minutes.
  • Medium (10 cm) pie – blind bake for 12 minutes, before filling with pumpkin mixture and baking for a further 30-35 minutes.
  • Large (23 cm) pie – blind bake for 15 minutes, before filling with pumpkin mixture and baking for 45-50 minutes.

The pies are done when the filling has darkened a little and only jiggles slightly (this will be much more obvious in the larger pie). When they are cooked, remove them from the oven and let them come to room temperature still in their tins, before refrigerating them. Leave them in their tins until you plan to serve them. Top with whipped cream, icing sugar, or candied nuts of your choice.

Enjoy! Xo

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Roasted Pumpkin and Tomato Soup – FODMAP/Fructose Friendly, Gluten Free and Vegan

Over winter I came to love a simple, yet delicious soup that I would often make for myself if I was home for lunch, or as a “pre-dinner snack.” What began as a way to get rid of opened tins in the fridge evolved into a tasty and warming dish that I really enjoy eating.

This soup requires no alterations to be fully vegan, though you can sub in chicken stock for the vegetable stock if it’s all you have. I often make my soups vegetarian; I think we rely too much on meat in our diets and, while I have unsuccessfully tried to go vegetarian twice now (every time I’d spend 6 months with cold after cold and the last attempt I believe triggered my gastritis) I do my best to limit meat intake to smaller amounts and free range whenever possible.

Notes:

  1. Use a pumpkin that is low in FODMAPs/that you tolerate. Jap pumpkins, or the American style pumpkin (think Jack-o-lanterns) are safe.
  2. Tomatoes are low FODMAP – just make sure, if you aren’t using fresh toms, that you use tomatoes that have not been concentrated at all, such as tomato paste. Your best bet for tinned tomatoes is to buy whole peeled in a tin and puree them yourself.
  3. Tinned pumpkin and tomatoes can be used in a pinch but fresh always tastes better. Use whatever you have time for!
  4. If you do not need it to be vegan, you can use this FODMAP friendly chicken stock recipe and add the sour cream at the end – if you can tolerate lactose, of course.

Pumpkin and Tomato Soup

  • 425 g roasted pumpkin, pureed (fresh or tinned)
  • 425 g tomatoes, peeled and pureed (fresh or tinned)
  • 500 ml FODMAP friendly vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper

If you have not done so already, peel your pumpkin, weigh out 425 g, dice it and roast at 180 C/350 F for about 30 to 45 minutes, or microwave until done. Once cooked, puree the pumpkin in your blender/food processor.

In the mean time, weigh out your tomatoes, bring a pot of water to the boil and score from top to bottom, dividing the tomatoes into quarters. Score, do not slice. Fill another large bowl up with ice cold water to halt the cooking process once the tomatoes are out of the pot. Reduce the water to a simmer and then drop in your tomatoes; count to 30 seconds, remove the tomatoes and put them quickly in the cold water for 5 minutes. This is called blanching. To peel the tomatoes, stick your finger or the handle of a tea spoon under the scored edges – which should have lifted – and work the skin off. Next, de-core the tomatoes before pureeing them in your blender.

Now to the soup!

Combine all the ingredients (in order) in a sauce pan over a high heat and bring to the boil. Let the mixture boil for a couple of minutes before reducing it to a simmer and cooking for an hour with the lid ON – it doesn’t need to reduce much. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Pumpkin and Tomato Soup

To keep it warm until required, just leave it over a low heat with the lid on, to prevent further reduction.

Enjoy it with a slice of suitable bread (if you can tolerate a little rye, have you tried my ryce bread?), cornbread or a savoury muffin (pumpkin muffin recipe to come soon).

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The Great Cake Tin Bake Off – Stainless Steel vs. Non Stick

Has anyone else ever gone to buy bake ware, looked at the immense range of options and been utterly overwhelmed? Yeah, me too. There are so many different materials you can bake with (not to mention the variety of styles of cake pans, pie dishes, tart/quiche tins etc) at a range of prices and not all of them are necessarily good to use.

Aluminium has been linked (inconclusively) with neurotoxicity that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease and is known to compete with calcium for absorption; so given my family history of both Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis, this isn’t something I want to play with. In Australia, at least, I had never even come across aluminium cookware, unless it was the core of the base of a sauce pan or fry pan, surrounded by stainless steel. In the US, it’s quite common to get anodized aluminium cookware, such as cake tins and biscuit trays (cookie sheets for you Americans 🙂 ). The first time I saw an aluminium cake tin over here, I was a little shocked; I remembered quite clearly learning about the potential health risks associated with aluminium in my year 8 science class – complete with picture of the Mad Hatter – and couldn’t understand why something that is even remotely likely to cause such serious health issues is still used to bake. I know it’s a great heat conductor and lends itself to evenly baked cakes but shouldn’t health come first?

PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), a chemical used in the process of manufacturing the non-stick Teflon coating, has also been associated with health issues (though not conclusively), such as increased rates of certain cancers in lab animals and humans – though only one (polymer fume fever) has been directly linked. How many of us have heard that as soon as the lining has been scratched, we need to throw the pan/tin/whatever away so as not to ingest any of the chemicals? Over-heating the pans, which is surprisingly easy to do, can also cause noxious fumes to be released, and while these are not considered dangerous the long-term effects of regularly breathing in these fumes isn’t known. I’m not very comfortable with using something that is 1) that flimsy and needs regular replacement, 2) could have unseen scratches or patches of heat related decomposition that could flake little bits of the chemical into your food and 3) isn’t rated up to the highest oven temperatures I might bake bread at.

When we first moved to Seattle and stocked up our kitchen, I just bought the general supermarket cake tins (non-stick ones) – because we were both tired of spending so much money on home goods and because I hadn’t used anything else before. I baked with these tins for a couple of years and last year it came to me: we have always said how terrible non-stick fry pans are, so why am I using a non-stick cake tin? A cheap one, too, so the surface is probably even weaker.

I spent some time researching nonstick cookware and of course read what I already knew – aluminium is the best heat conductor and is recommended for baking. A cast iron cake pan would be amazing but very hard to come by and even more expensive… those things are heavy. You can also get glass bake ware but a cake pan is over $20 and I like my cook ware to be a little more versatile – I can’t freeze something in glass and send it straight into the oven, as I would before blind-baking pastry or a crumb base. I ended up choosing a stainless steel cake tin for both price and functional reasons but I was a little nervous about how it would perform.

The first time I used it, I made a double batch of my fructose friendly and gluten free banana cake and made the first half into muffins. Not wanting to overload the oven, I filled both the muffin pan and the stainless steel cake tin and cooked the muffins first, as they’d be done in 20 minutes. After baking the muffins I popped the full cake straight into the oven and what resulted was a dense little cake. I was disappointed. After thinking about it, though, I couldn’t blame the stainless steel tin – not yet. I had let it sit for 20 minutes while the muffins baked, so it would have lost some air from being beaten. I needed to find out how much of this was due to it sitting out before cooking and how much was due to the cake tin, so I decided to have a bake off. The results left me pleasantly surprised.

The Bake Off

One of the first things I learnt in my physiotherapy degree was KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. So that’s what I did.

Aim: To discover whether a stainless steel cake tin performs worse than, the same as, or better than a non-stick coated steel tin.

Method: Using the same cake recipe to keep things consistent, I made a double batch and transferred half into a greased and lined non-stick coated heavy steel tin and the other half into a greased and lined stainless steel tin. The oven was pre-heated to 180 C/350 F. I placed them both on the bottom rack, closed the door and set the timer for 50 minutes.

Results:

While Baking

  • The non-stick cake rose much faster than the stainless steel cake and I was becoming concerned, even at 40 minutes.
  • After 50 minutes, neither cake was done – they were testing clean with a skewer but still felt a bit too soft.
  • At 55 minutes, the non-stick cake was done and I removed it from the oven.
  • At about 62 minutes the stainless steel cake was done and I removed it from the oven.

Cool Down

  • Both cakes had risen to about the same level while baking but after sitting out for 15 minutes, when it was time to turn them onto a cooling rack, the non-stick cake had collapsed to being quite flat, whereas the stainless steel cake had retained its dome.

Eating

  • Stainless Steel Cake – fluffy, very soft and moist. Taste was the same as always… delicious.
  • Non-stick Cake – not quite as fluffy (but only just), soft but noticeably drier than the stainless steel cake. Taste was still delicious.

Discussion: Stainless steel is not the best conductor of heat or electricity available today (due to it being an alloy – impurities reduce conductivity – and based on iron, rather than a more conductive metal like copper or aluminium), however this does not mean it cannot reach the same temperatures as other metals – it just takes a bit longer. My neighbour also wondered if the highly polished surface of the stainless steel cake tin reflected heat away from the cake (as the story goes with tin foil), rather than absorbing it into the metal; this is a good point and one which I hadn’t even considered, as my mind was heading off down the path of thermal conductivity.

If a material is lower on the thermal conductivity table – see link above, non-stick coating over heavy steel = approx. 43 W/(m.K), stainless steel = 16 W/(m.K) – it can be assumed it is more of a thermal insulator. Now, stainless steel is by no means a true thermal insulator (think more like bricks, wool and sand – things with trapped air pockets) but it stands to reason that it might have a fraction more insulating properties than the non-stick steel cake tin. Perhaps this slightly reduced rate of heat increase and loss played a role in the increased height retention and moisture within the stainless steel cake – in the photo above you cannot see moisture but you can see that the photos of the cake slices are zoomed in equally from the same angle and the stainless steel slice has clearly retained its dome, where as the non-stick slice has collapsed a little in the middle.

A reader, Cari, brought to my attention another reason that the non-stick cake might have risen very quickly and collapsed as it cooled, while the stainless steel cake did not. The non-stick lining has a lower coefficient of friction than the stainless steel tin – this means that the cake batter in the non-stick tin had less friction (grip) impeding its rise upwards, so it rose much faster than the batter in the stainless steel tin, which had to overcome a greater amount of friction. This worked against the non-stick cake as it cooled, though, as there was nothing for the cake to grip on to to prevent collapse, whereas the stainless steel cake could hold on to the sides of its tin to help retain its height.

Conclusion: For the price – $8, so about double that of the generic non-stick pan – the stainless steel cake tin performed better, albeit with a slightly longer cooking time. I am going to buy another so that I have two and might eventually invest in their muffin tins (I’m not too worried about our non-stick muffin tins as I always use patty pans). You also can to visit beefsteakveg.com blog, which specializes in a cookware review.

What materials do you like to cook with? I’d love some thoughts and recommendations.

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FODMAP Friendly and Gluten Free Plain Flour Blend

FODMAP Friendly and Gluten Free Plain Flour Blend

After telling myself for the last two months that I would attempt to make my own gluten free flour blend – and then putting it off because every time I baked it seemed to be for an event and I didn’t want to serve up a gluten free disaster – I bit the bullet and bought some individual flours.

It was actually quite spontaneous, as I had gone to the supermarket for ice cream ingredients and to replace the dismal biodegradable dishwashing detergent (Planet brand, FYI) for the better performing 7th Generation brand, and I was on my way to grab some bananas as I passed the health food section and the Bob’s Red Mill display caught my eye.

While I can’t stand their gluten free all purpose flour blend (bean flours, gross), I do like their individual flours, some of which are reasonably priced. I whipped out my phone and did a quick search for “make your own gluten free flour blend” and the Gluten Free Girl’s post on making your own plain flour blend popped up. I didn’t watch the video in the middle of the supermarket – I’m not that weird – but the text gives their ingredients, as well as listing different flours in classes:

  • Whole grain – brown rice, sorghum, millet, buckwheat, oat etc.
  • White flours and starches – white rice, tapioca, potato etc.
  • Nut – almond, coconut etc.
  • Bean – chickpea/garbanzo, fava etc.

The complete lists are on her website, and information is available on many other websites and articles about the specific flours. But the idea is that you need to replicate both the protein and starch content of wheat flour to succeed in gluten free baking. By following her guidelines of 40% whole grain flour blended with 60% white flour/starches, I subbed in flours that were both available to me at the time and that wouldn’t break the bank (the purpose of this venture being to save money), then experimented with recipes that had worked well for me previously with King Arthur’s GF flour blend.

I found that the mix the Gluten Free Girl recommends was a little too heavy for light baked goods like cakes and scones but it worked well in pastries. I will post my version of her recommended blend as another recipe – Low FODMAP and Gluten Free Wholemeal Flour. The specific  blend I ended up using is somewhere between the Gluten Free Girl’s recommendation and King Arthur’s GF flour blend, which is my favourite pre-made blend available in Seattle.

King Arthur GF flour goes for around $7/lb ($15.4/kg) on average – depending on the supermarket you go to. I buy spelt flour online for between $2.50-3/lb ($5.5-6.6/kg), which I think is reasonable, as a good wheat flour will cost almost that much, in Seattle at least. I can tolerate non-sourdough spelt products in small amounts but I don’t want to overdo it and end up reacting to it as well as wheat – it’s a sometimes food for me. So I still need a gluten free flour that performs well and falls within a certain price point. I would have been happy with under $4/lb ($8.8/kg) but I got this flour blend for around $2/lb ($4.4/kg)! That’s SO much cheaper than I had hoped for, and back in line with regular wheat flour’s price point.

  • Brown rice flour – $2/lb, $4.4/kg (multiply the price per pound by 2.2 to reach the price per kilogram)
  • White rice flour – $1.71/lb, $3.75/kg
  • Potato starch – $2.20/lb, $4.85/kg

Anyway, this flour blend produced fluffy, moist and delicious banana nut muffins and carrot cake without any funny textures or bad tastes (bean flour, ugh, I can’t emphasise that enough). Next stop, testing it out on a pastry recipe!

FODMAP Notes

  1. Brown rice is a contentious issue in the FODMAP world but Monash has it listed as low FODMAP (green light) in up to 1 cup servings, which, given it is only 20% of this flour blend and that you are unlikely to eat 5 cups of this flour, I think it’s safe.
  2. If you can’t tolerate brown rice flour, then buckwheat flour is a good alternative.
  3. Potato starch is different to potato flour. It is the starch of, rather than a milled potato (just as corn meal/flour and corn starch are different, even though in Australia corn starch is called cornflour – on this issue, I will admit we are wrong).
  4. White rice is low FODMAP in 1 cup servings.
  5. I do not include xanthan gum in this blend because I like to add that in separately for each recipe, adjusting the amounts based on whether it is a cake, biscuit/cookie, or more of a bread/dough.

FODMAP Friendly Plain Flour Blend

  • 400 g potato starch
  • 400 g white rice flour
  • 200 g brown rice flour (replace with buckwheat if you can’t tolerate brown rice)

It really couldn’t be easier. Weigh each of the flours out and then mix them thoroughly, either by hand or with your stand mixer on a low speed with either the whisk or paddle attachment. Use either your stand mixer – which would ultimately do a much better job – and let it mix on the “stir” speed for 5 minutes.

You could also weigh everything together into a container, close the lid and shake to mix thoroughly – but you will have to shake it for a while. I have tried this before and it’s a lot less reliable, as I don’t feel it mixes as well.

FODMAP Friendly and Gluten Free Plain Flour Blend

Usage

To use this flour as a cup for cup replacement of wheat flour, you will need to add in xanthan gum, or a chia gel (1 tbsp. chia meal mixed into 1 tbsp. water). I didn’t add xanthan gum into the flour blend because the amount that I add to baked goods depends on what I am baking.

This is a general guide, taken from the Bob’s Red Mill xanthan gum packet. I don’t always follow this exactly, as I don’t like the way that too much xanthan gum binds up a cake and makes it chewy.

  • Biscuits/cookies – 1/4 tsp xanthan gum per cup flour
  • Cakes – 1/2 tsp per cup flour
  • Muffins/quick breads – 3/4 tsp per cup flour
  • Breads – 1 to 1 1/2 tsp per cup flour
  • Pastry/doughs – 2 tsp per cup flour

This blend is a “plain” or “all purpose” flour. Some recipes require a leavening agent, such as baking powder or bicarb soda, to allow the batter to rise. In this case, add the required leavening agent in at the time of baking, not into the flour blend when you first make it. This is because not all recipes want or need such additives – you wouldn’t want crepes that get fluffy!

Storage

Store your flour blend in an air tight container and then boast to your friends the next time they scoff at expensive gluten free baking is that, actually, you mix your own flours and don’t pay much more than they do. Give them a nice, big grin as you do it.

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Sunday Pizza Craving Satisfaction – Low Fructose & Gluten Free.

After taking Bailey and Nellie to Marymoor Dog Park this morning, Ev and I decided that we had pizza cravings.

Post park happy faces – at least, I’m sure Nellie looks as happy as Bailey does under all of her fluff

However, anyone who has tried pre-made GF pizza bases can attest that they are very hit and miss… mostly miss. Usually bland (or just plain gross), lifeless and with questionable textures; I have never had one that can be held like a proper pizza slice once cooked. They always turn soggy. In fact, you might as well be putting the toppings on top of cardboard.

The last time I tried to make GF pizza dough was a complete failure. Largely due to the fact that I forgot to add xanthan gum in as the gluten replacement, it also probably had something to do with me not activating the yeast. But the recipe I was following mentioned nothing about that, so I maintain that it’s not my fault :)

Faced with the dilemma of a pizza craving and no reliable way to satisfy it, I began to formulate a recipe on our drive home. Often after making scones, I would think to myself that they weren’t far off being a slightly breadish pizza base. So that is where I started my planning. When we got home, I researched pizza recipes (gluten free and normal) as well as yeast, which is where I discovered that you had to activate it… duh! Thank goodness for the internet!

So, I give to all of you my…

Fructose Friendly and Gluten Free Pizza Base

Makes two approx 12″ pizza bases.

  • 3 cups GF plain flour
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal (for the colour and a little flavour interest)
  • 2 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp. castor sugar/dextrose
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 eggs

Activate the yeast in 1 cup warm water/dextrose mixture (I used 1/4 cup boiling mixed with 3/4 cup tap – you should be able to comfortably hold your finger in there). Let it sit for 10 minutes and allow it to build a foam. If it doesn’t, either the yeast might be too old or the water was too hot and damaged it. You can see the before and after shots below.

Pour all of the dry ingredients, into the bowl of your stand mixer and blend them thoroughly for 2-3 minutes on a low speed.

Pour in the activated yeast and blend thoroughly on a slow speed for 2-3 minutes, until it resembles bread crumbs.

Add in the wet ingredients and mix on a slow speed, then a medium speed, until well combined. Tinker with flour and water as necessary to reach the elastic texture required of pizza dough.

Place the dough in a warmish location, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise for 2-3 hours. I only had time for two hours, it definitely rose – before and after shots below – but not by as much as normal pizza dough does when I’ve made that. However, our kitchen was quite cold today, which was very out of character but I’m sure it contributed.

Next, go to town kneading that dough. This is where I let Evgeny step in; he was punching, throwing/catching and smooshing it until it really did resemble real pizza dough! Exciting! This took between 5 to 10 minutes.

Split your dough in two and press into two greased pizza pans/fry pans/biscuit trays or anything that can take a round shape and is oven safe. Stab some holes in there for good measure.

I love our cast iron skillets, you can make stir fry, pizza, bread and even cakes in them! Multifunctional cookware is great, especially for our tiny kitchen. Sorry, back to the recipe…

Dress your pizza up however you’d like it. I used a tomato based pizza sauce (recipe at the bottom of this page), basil leaves (which should have gone under the cheese), cheese and sliced tomato. I was really testing out my stomach tonight – I’ve had new-found reflux issues over the last month… oh joy.

Bake for 40 minutes at 190 C/375 F. If you can’t fit both pans on the one shelf, swap them halfway through baking. If you have a fan-forced oven, maybe this isn’t necessary? Our oven is pretty ancient so I can’t help you with that one, sorry.

And voila!

PIZZA YOU CAN HOLD! FINGER FOOD IS BACK!

But we were civilised and used plates :)

It got a “not bad” – think tone of disbelief – from Ev and he is pretty hard to please/can still eat wheat :) I definitely enjoyed it.

If you try this, please let me know how it turns out and if you can suggest any improvements.

Pizza Sauce

  • 1 x 340 g/12 oz can tomato puree (or diced tomatoes that you can blend into puree)
  • 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pinch asafoetida (optional)

Combine the above, bring to the boil and let simmer for 20 minutes to half an hour. Stir thoroughly to recombine ingredients before using on your pizza base. Go back to following the steps above.

Of course, if too much tomato is a trigger for your FM you don’t have to use a traditional pizza sauce. Try a basil pesto sauce or even some infused olive oil after blind baking the pizza a little; I’ve even heard of cream based sauces being used as a pizza sauce but I’m not sure I’d enjoy that very much… you might, though!

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A Birthday Cake Fit For Bailey – Low Fructose & Gluten Free, if that matters…

So this post is a little belated an really just an excuse for some fun. I have a couple of drafts ready to go up soon; I’m sorry for the long break!

Pork and beef mince cake with bacon weave topping

Our eldest dog turned 6 in July – he’s officially a 42 year old man – and we decided to celebrate. Yes, there are only 5 candles, these photos are from last year. The cake looked better and we didn’t have any candles this year.

To make this extravagant birthday cake for one (or more) spoilt doggies, you will need:

  • 1.5 lb mince beef/pork etc
  • 1 packet bacon strips
  • 1 cup chopped veggies if you’d like to make it a little more nutritious

Line a rectangular baking dish with baking paper and put aside. Mix the veggies and mince meat together and press down into the lined baking dish.

Bake at 180 C/350 F for 40 minutes or so, until cooked through.

Meanwhile, create a bacon weave – this will be your “icing” – from the bacon strips (one over, one under – just like a basket) and bake in the oven, along with the “cake.” Turn once after 15 minutes and continue to cook for another 15; after this, monitor it until it looks fully cooked and slightly crispy.

Once they are both completely cooked, up-end the “cake” onto a serving dish and cover it with the bacon weave “icing.” Stick in the right number of candles and garnish with some colourful cooked veggies or some dog treats.

Nellie enjoying a treat

The birthday boy!

Simon has the monopoly on rawhide, and he’s happy about it!

Pretty Sugar

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The FODMAP content of coconut-based products

The FODMAP content of coconut-based products

Is coconut high in FODMAPs? There is so much confusion out there, even now.

Many websites still say that coconut is indeed high in FODMAPs – according to www.lowfodmap.com this is “pre-2010” research – while others say no. Throw in all of us having our say and clogging up the airwaves of peer-reviewed research with personal complaints about symptomatic foods and no wonder people are confused. We’re all guilty of it. In fact, I’m planning to have a little whinge later on… but hopefully what I write first will help to clear things up.

Coconut Products

Coconut Flesh is the white layer of the fruit, just inside the husk. It is comprised of cellular layers of endosperm that deposit throughout the fruit’s development. It can be eaten fresh, desiccated or toasted, among other ways.

  • FODMAP rating (fresh) – low in 1 cup serves.
  • FODMAP rating (Desiccated/dry and unsweetened) – low in 1/4 cup serves, 1/2 cup serves contain moderate amounts of the polyol sorbitol.

Coconut Milk or Cream is made when you process the coconut flesh with water and strain it. Less water gives a thicker cream, more water produces a thinner milk.

  • FODMAP rating (milk) – low in 1/2 cup serves.

Coconut Oil is typically extracted by cold-pressing coconut flesh. As it is an oil, it contains no carbs, so it is low FODMAP.

  • FODMAP rating – low/safe.

Coconut Sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm. Monash has not tested it, but it is reportedly high in inulin, a type of fructo-oligosaccharide, so it should be consumed with caution after the elimination period is over. For more information, read this post about sugars and sweeteners suitable for the low FODMAP diet.

  • FODMAP rating – unknown.

Coconut Water is what pours out of the coconut when you pierce it. It contains 6.0 g of “sugars” per cup of liquid. It is quite refreshing and contains many vitamins and minerals, however, it does contain varying amounts of different FODMAPs.

  • FODMAP rating – 100 ml is low FODMAP, 250 ml is high in the sorbitol and contains moderate amounts of oligosaccharides.

The Research

In an attempt to make sense of all the conflicting information available, I tabulated all the weight estimates of sugars in coconut that I could find, as well as Monash University’s more recent additions. There weren’t too many that were reputable sources – most were health websites spouting who knows what – and of those that seemed reliable, only one broke the sugars down into their different types.

I used a few sources to create the following table, from which it appears that coconut in unsweetened forms is in fact a safe food in terms of fructose, with fructose not in excess of glucose, which has more recently been backed up by Monash University. Fructans were never mentioned, until very recently; they seem to only be an issue in coconut water. The polyol sorbitol comes into play in coconut flesh. Monash doesn’t release the exact grams of a FODMAP per 100 g, though it does use the traffic light system to visually represent a food’s safety.

Those who are malabsorb fructose should still monitor their coconut intake, as over consumption of the polyol sorbitol can further inhibit fructose absorption in the small intestine, leading to increased symptoms of fruct mal/IBS. This is important to note even if you aren’t sensitive to sorbitol alone.

The FODMAP content of coconut-based products
  • The Finish Food Composition Database (1) – http://www.fineli.fi/index.php?lang=en
  • SELF Nutrition Data (2) – http://nutritiondata.self.com/
  • USDA ARS Nutrient Data Laboratory (3) – http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list
  • Monash University Low FODMAP Booklet (4) – http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/diet-updates/coconut.html
  • Based on research from Monash University, AUSTRALIA –  http://www.lowfodmap.com/c%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%93-fodmap/

My Whinge

I can eat a moderate amount of unsweetened coconut flesh in its fresh or desiccated form and not have a reaction. I haven’t tested a large amount of the flesh before, mostly because I haven’t come across a situation in which I would want/need to gorge myself on coconut. My situation with coconut flesh seems to fit with Monash University’s research (link above) that lists a moderate amount of coconut flesh as low FODMAP. As for coconut water, as long as it’s not mixed with anything I can’t have, then I can drink 200 ml without issue, though I don’t do it often, as it’s expensive!

Coconut milk/cream is low FODMAP in serving sizes up to 1/2 cup, at which point sorbitol becomes an issue, for those that malabsorb it – I do not. Coconut cream is made by processing the flesh in a blender – the more water you add, the thinner it will become and you will eventually reach “milk.”

Here is my problem with coconut milk: I get stomach aches within an hour of consuming it but the low fat version doesn’t affect me. I have no idea why. I am not sensitive to sorbitol (blackberries, cherries) but full cream coconut milk makes me double over. The Finish Food Composition Database also lists coconut milk as having 1:1 glucose and fructose, so it shouldn’t set off fructose malabsorbers unless you have enough to overwhelm the co-transport system, which at lot. Maybe there are fructans present? Who knows. I would like to.

If anyone out there has a theory about coconut milk, I’d love to hear it. I’m currently about to test freshly made coconut cream, to see if it is potentially the canning process, or perhaps the can lining, that is causing my symptoms. Or maybe it’s the higher fat content rather than the saccharides present.

UPDATE: A bout of gastritis last year led me to see a nutritionist, who diagnosed me with low stomach acid. After being put on a vitamin, mineral and probiotic regimen for 6 months, my stomach acid levels have increased and my ability to digest fatty and high protein foods has improved dramatically, so I can now tolerate 1/2 cup of full fat coconut cream; I haven’t eaten any more, as it’s so calorie dense and filling I haven’t needed or wanted to. Thanks, Sharon! I promise to write more about this at some point!

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I’m not a dietitian and I didn’t participate in any of the research, so I’m not in a place to judge whether coconut is or isn’t low FODMAP – however, Monash University is a reputable source, who’s reports fit with the Finish Food Composition Database’s list of carbohydrates that are present in coconut.

What have your experiences with coconut flesh and cream/milk been?

Title image credit to: http://pixabay.com/en/users/Lebensmittelfotos-13/

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