FODMAP Friendly Christmas Recipe – Spiced Gingerbread Cake (also Gluten Free & Dairy Free)

Spiced Gingerbread Cake - FODMAP friendly, gluten free and dairy free - Copy (2)

Christmas is fast approaching – the last time I checked, it was the start of November and I was still comfortably in my mid-twenties. I’m now what most people would call “mid to late” twenties and it’s scaring the hell out of me! Where does the time go – and can I rewind it please? While I sit here and panic not-so-silently, I’ll take the opportunity to share a new recipe for a cake that is a combination of my two favourite Christmas desserts: gingerbread and plum pudding. I don’t think you could get a more Christmas appropriate low FODMAP recipe, if you tried.

But first of all, merry Christmas! Or rather the all encompassing term I heard a couple of years ago: Happy Chrismakwanzakah!

Secondly, I am a HUGE fan of fruit cakes and puddings – I absolutely love them. If there were Beliebers for fruit cakes, I’d be right at the front, wearing a t-shirt and screaming my heart out… but, by some cruel twist of fate (damn you, GLUT-5 fructose transporters), if I was to have a slice now, I’d probably have to down a glass of glucose syrup afterwards to ward off any reactions – which is not a healthy thing to do.

As for gingerbread, it’s quite easily made gluten free and low FODMAP, the instructions for which can be found here.

For me, Christmas is all about food and family. It’s just a pity that so many traditional Christmas desserts aren’t easily adaptable to a low FODMAP diet, as they rely so heavily on fruits higher in fermentable carbohydrates. It’s also especially hard being literally half way around the world from the rest of my family at this time of year but it’s alright… I never cook alone. Or eat alone. Or unwrap my presents without an audience, because every dog knows that the rustling of paper and plastic equals treats.

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Obviously, a proper plum pudding/Christmas pudding/cake would not be FODMAP friendly. In fact, I don’t know if even the best chef in the world could turn a recipe that asked for ONE KILOGRAM of dried fruit per cake into a low FODMAP recipe. Seriously – challenge issued to anyone out there. Jamie Oliver? Stephanie Alexander? Helloooooooooo?

I made this spiced gingerbread cake for Christmas 2014 at a friend’s house. After the flop that was the gingerbread house I had made the year earlier (apparently nobody else liked gingerbread), I decided to tone down the ginger and amp up the other spices, to give it a more well-rounded Christmas taste. In all seriousness, I also wanted to challenge myself a little last year, knowing that my Friendsmas hosts were going all out to make the meal Nat-friendly (thanks Kendal and Raymond, much appreciated), so I decided to add in just a little dried fruit to this cake, in the spirit of festiveness and, really, because whiskey and sultanas need no explanation.

FODMAP Notes

  1. Whiskey is low FODMAP in 30 ml servings.
  2. Sultanas (aka raisins for those in the USA) are tricky. Grapes are low FODMAP in quite generous servings but the drying process means that the amount of sugar per volume of the grape (now sultana) increases. Monash University lists sultanas (very similar to raisins) as high FODMAP even in 1 tbsp. serves. The 1/4 cup of sultanas called for in this recipe, when divided by 12 (the number of servings it makes), means you will get 1 tsp. of sultanas per slice. As a safety measure, the added dextrose should help to balance out the concentrated sucrose but you can always leave them out if you are on elimination or know you react/for peace of mind.
  3. Dried cranberries are a low FODMAP alternative to sultanas, they are safe in 1 tbsp. serves and contain moderate amounts of fructans in 2 tbsp. serves.
  4. Coconut oil contains no carbohydrates, so is low FODMAP.
  5. All the sweeteners used are FODMAP friendly, the dextrose should balance out the extra fructose from the brown sugar (minute amounts) and the extra sucrose from the sultanas.
  6. Make sure your vanilla extract contains no high FODMAP additives.
  7. Use your favourite gluten free plain flour blend, or a self raising blend and omit the baking powder. Spelt flour is low FODMAP enough for some fructose malabsorbers but not for all – it is also NOT gluten free, as it is an ancient variety of wheat. Use what you feel comfortable with, as this cake batter performs equally well with either flour.
  8. Chia seeds are low FODMAP but still a great source of fibre and other nutrients. They work well as a xanthan gum replacement, for those sensitive to gums. If you only have xanthan gum, feel free to use that.
  9. The spices are all low FODMAP.
  10. Coconut milk (watered down coconut cream) is low FODMAP in 1/4 cup servings, which would be adhered to unless you ate 1/5 of this cake in a sitting.
  11. If you are still in the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet, don’t include the optional sultanas/raisins or whiskey.

Spiced Gingerbread Cake

Serves 12-14.

Cake

  • 3/4 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup or rice malt syrup
  • 1/4 cup castor sugar
  • 2 tbsp. dextrose
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 500 g gluten free plain flour or spelt flour (not gluten free, omit chia or xanthan gum)
  • 1 tbsp. chia meal or 3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 3 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • Zest of 1/2 an orange
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • Optional: 1/4 cup sultanas or up to 1/2 cup of dried cranberries soaked in 1/8 cup whiskey for 4 hours

Royal Icing

  • 1 egg white
  • 1-1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Decorations

  • Nonpareils (the edible silver balls)
  • Strawberries or fruit of choice

At least four hours before you plan to make the cake, start soaking the sultanas or dried cranberries in whiskey. This is an optional step, you can omit the sultanas if they trigger your IBS, or swap in the dried cranberries.

Preheat your oven to 180 C/350 F and grease your bundt pan, grease and line your 20 cm/9 in cake tin, or line your 12-hole muffin tin with patty pans.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, add in the coconut oil, maple syrup, castor sugar, dextrose and brown sugar and beat for 1 minute at a low speed, followed by 2 minutes on high. Stop, add in the eggs and vanilla extract, then continue to mix for another minute at a medium speed. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, sieve the flour of your choice, chia meal (if using gluten free flour), ground spices and salt and roughly mix them together.

Get the coconut milk ready and then alternate adding thirds of the dry mix and the milk and mixing, until everything is used. If you feel the batter is too runny, don’t use all the milk – coconut milks don’t have a uniform consistency, unfortunately, so yours may be different than mine.

Mix the freshly squeezed orange juice, white wine vinegar and baking powder together and quickly pour it into the cake batter, then mix on high for 30 seconds. Next, add in orange zest and the optional sultanas/dried cranberries and whiskey and mix through until combined. Pour the mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake according to the instructions below.

Baking instructions:

  • Bundt pan – bake at 180 C/350 F for 45-50 minutes, or until cake tests clean with a skewer. Remove from the oven and let come to room temperature.
  • Round tin – bake at 180 C/350 F for 50-60 minutes, or until cake tests clean with a skewer. Remove from the oven and let come to room temperature.
  • Muffin tin – makes 12, bake at 180 C/350 F for 15-18 minutes, or until a centre muffin tests clean with a skewer. Remove from the oven and let come to room temperature.

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Once the cake has cooled, flip it out onto your serving dish of choice and make the royal icing.

Beat the egg white until it forms a soft peak (it will look like sea-foam), then slowly add in the sieved icing sugar, until the batter just begins to form stiff peaks. If you add in too much, the icing will be quite stiff and harder to spread – this quality is great when you want to pipe fine details, like on gingerbread biscuits but not when you want to spread the icing easily over an entire cake.

When your icing is ready, immediately ice your cake and sprinkle with the nonpareils, or decorations of your choice. Royal icing dries very quickly when exposed to air, so it becomes rough, harder to spread and less sticky for your decorations. It will keep well for up to one week in an airtight container in the fridge.

This cake can be made a day or two in advance, just ice it no earlier than the night before you want to serve it. Enjoy this cake with freshly made warm vanilla bean custard, vanilla ice cream, lactose free yoghurt or fresh FODMAP friendly fruit. Merry Christmas!

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Leek Chimichurri – Low FODMAP, Gluten Free & Vegan

Leek Chimichurri - Low FODMAP, Gluten Free and Vegan, fructose malabsorption, irritable bowel syndrome, healthy, low carb

When we moved into our new house in February just been, there was a run-down little veggie patch by the front door. I looked at it in dismay – I had just left behind the gorgeous wooden planter box that Ev built for me the year before at our last rental – and then proceeded to ignore it every time I walked by it. The box was cheap plastic, the soil full of weeds and the dried out remnants of what was once a zucchini plant were splayed out on a trellis.

After a couple of weeks, I looked at the “garden” tab of the house folder the previous owners had left us and got a little shock. Apparently, the veggie patch was full of leeks, chives and kale. Yum. I checked the garden again and there were the leeks and chives, hidden among the weeds; no kale, though, it obviously hadn’t made it through the winter. There was one problem, though. There was grass growing up throughout the chives and the leeks were apparently planted next to some small agapanthus, whose leaves look a lot like a leek but are not edible. Why on earth? Anyway, it was still February, so these hardy little plants hadn’t begun to flower yet. I was reasonably confident that I could tell them apart from the bulb/lack of bulb (agapanthus vs leek) but, to be sure, I wanted to see the flowers.

Finally, the leeks and agapanthus flowered a week ago and last weekend we decided it was time to get rid of the sad little veggie patch and replace it with a lawn, instead. Unfortunately, our backyard is surrounded by pine trees and gets very little sunlight, so I understand why they chose the front yard for the veggie garden – I just wouldn’t have done it in quite the same way. Also, because our backyard gets basically no sunlight, the “lawn” is about 95% weeds, so we’re going for a forest/path/hidden surprise backyard with shade loving plants and we want to get as much lawn out of the front yard as possible. But I digress. Even after ditching the leeks that were growing so close to the agapanthus that they were intertwined (and all the chives, because they were thoroughly knotted together with grass and nobody had time to sort that mess out), we had a sink-full of leeks. I’m not even kidding, our extra deep, double-sized kitchen sink was overflowing.

This wasn’t even half of what we kept, which was half of what was there. Please excuse the weeds, the garden is a work in progress.

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What on earth could we do with so many leeks? It’s warming up, so it’s no longer really soup weather and simply processing the leeks and freezing them seemed like a cop out. A few weeks ago we had watched an episode of No Reservations (Anthony Bourdain’s show) and they had dipped leeks into chimichurri. Why not make leeks into chimichurri, instead?

Chimichurri is a very versatile sauce. It’s primary use is for grilling meats but you can use it as a dipping sauce, a condiment, a sandwich spread (mixed with mayo – yum!), a pasta sauce, a salad dressing, to spice up omelettes and add flavour to mashed potatoes. You can also use it as a base from which to build an entirely new sauce. It’s definitely handy to have around, as it allows you to cut some corners during dinner prep – I won’t say no to that!

FODMAP Notes

  1. Green leek tips are considered FODMAP friendly in 1 cup servings.
  2. Garlic olive oil must be made ahead of time and cooled, or it can be pre-bought. If you are buying garlic olive oil, make sure you choose an oil quality that is more suited to how you plan to use your chimichurri. For example, we grilled the chimichurri marinated beef kebabs we made, so a refined olive oil was more suited to this particular dish than if we had used the chimichurri as a dipping sauce, in which case extra virgin olive oil would have been fine (due to the heat resistance/smoke points of different oils).
  3. As all FODMAPpers are different, if you can tolerate a bit of actual garlic, feel free to replace the garlic olive oil with the same amount of olive oil plus 1-2 cloves of garlic, to taste.

Leek Chimichurri

Makes about 600 ml of sauce, depending on how firmly packed the leeks are.

  • 4 cups green leek tips
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup pre-made garlic olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional – 1 tbsp. red pepper flakes or fresh oregano

Place the garlic oil (or actual garlic if you can tolerate it), roughly chopped leek tips and red wine vinegar into the bowl of your food processor and blitz until combined. Add some salt and pepper (and the optional herbs if you like) and keep blitzing until smooth. Taste the chimichurri, then add in more salt and pepper (or garlic oil or red wine vinegar) to get the exact taste and consistency that you like. We like ours a little thicker, so feel free to add more oil if you see fit.

That’s it. It’s very simple. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to two months. It’s especially important to practise safe food handling if you’ve used an homemade infused oil, due to the risks of botulism that rise when infused oils are stored incorrectly/for too long. Store bought infused oils have been prepared in such a way that they have a much longer shelf life.

But please don’t let that put you off making chimichurri! The simple measure of freezing extra jars right away will keep the sauce safe for a couple of months. I know our batch won’t last longer than that, and it made 10 jars. It’s that good.

Here is our leek chimichurri, served with a yolk porn-worthy poached egg on top of polenta and wilted spinach. Simple, delicious and nourishing. The perfect meal.

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Meet Nicer Food’s Infused Olive Oils – Low FODMAP Flavour for your Dishes

low fodmap, nicer foods, garlic infused oil, fructose malabsorption, irritable bowel syndrome, IBS, gluten free, organic

About a month ago, Jesse and Kate Watson of Nicer Foods contacted me and asked me if I’d like to test drive their newest product. Given how much I liked their last effort (chocolate peanut butter flavoured protein bars, mmmmmmmm…….) I of course said yes. Please realise, though, that the opinions here are my own; even though they very generously sent me a full-sized version of each of the four flavours, I was not bound to give them a good review.

Firstly, 10 points to Gryffindor – I mean Nicer Foods – for great customer service; they have always replied promptly to my enquiries and these little beauties reached me just two days after I agreed to review them, in a well padded parcel.

For the uninitiated, the low FODMAP diet restricts garlic and onion, among other foods, based on their high quantities of fermentable carbohydrates, known as fructans (or fructooligosaccharides/FOS, part of the O group), which aren’t absorbed in the small intestine, so travel on into the colon, where your resident gut flora digest them, leading to gas production, bloating, cramps and altered bowel movements. You know, exactly what you want to read about in the review of a gourmet food product. Sorry.

For the less than savoury reasons mentioned above, those following the low FODMAP diet for relief of digestive complaints will eliminate garlic and onion varieties, which for some might seem like the end of the world for their taste buds. However, luckily for us, FODMAPs are water soluble, so foods like garlic and onion can be sauteed in oil until their flavours have seeped in, leaving the fructans behind. This means that oils infused with the essences of higher FODMAP foods can impart the flavour into your meals, without the FODMAPs. Sounds great and easy enough, right? Well, the down side to this is that you really shouldn’t store your homemade infused oils; you can make them but only if you plan to use them right there and then. Botulism, a potentially fatal bacterial infection, is caused by the food-borne bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which thrives in low oxygen, alkaline, warm environments – just like infused oils.

Personally, I’m not happy to risk a case of Botulism to have the convenience of homemade infused oils lying around and, while I’m happy to throw a couple of garlic cloves into simmering oil when I’m cooking, I most likely won’t be bothered when I am making a heat-free-prep meal, like dips or salad dressings.

So, what to do? Supermarkets and websites sell varieties of infused olive oils that we can take advantage of. But what makes Nicer Foods’ infused oils stand out from the crowd? Firstly (and most importantly), they are made with the intention of being completely FODMAP friendly, so you don’t have to worry about garlic or onion “juice” getting into the oils, like you do with others. Have you ever seen the garlic infused oils on the supermarket shelves that have bits of garlic sitting at the bottom? Chances are you may react to that particular oil – depending on how sensitive your gut is. Secondly, they taste great – more on that later – and thirdly, I’d happily support a family owned start up company over a chain-brand that probably doesn’t care as much about quality control and its customers.

So, to the oils!… Which are available online for purchase at Nicer Foods’ website for a reasonable price.

Shallot Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Great taste, a little strong but pleasant. It works wonders as a simple salad dressing with a pinch of sea salt or as part of a cooked meal. Just beware, though, that as it’s an “extra virgin olive oil,” (EVOO) I’d keep your heat low, so don’t use it while stir frying, or simply add it in at the end of the cooking process.

Meal ideas:

  • Salad dressing, with a pinch of sea salt and perhaps a dash of white wine vinegar.
  • Drizzle over your pasta of choice and throw on a few cherry tomatoes, some shredded basil and Parmesan cheese.
  • Onion replacement in hot meals, if used carefully – would work in combination with the garlic oil in any Italian or Mexican dishes that you wanted to try, such as this Bolognese sauce.
  • Jazz up your favourite low FODMAP dip recipes – this would go well in a roasted capsicum dip.

I like the shallot oil so much that it has earnt it’s own pouring spout. If I had to pick, it’d be my favourite.

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Garlic Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A pleasant and mild garlic flavour. I’ve tried store bought garlic oils before and some have had an obnoxious garlic taste but this one, thankfully, does not.

Meal Ideas:

  • Salad dressing (as above).
  • Use carefully in cooking, such as garlic free carnitas or Napoli sauce (after sauce has been reduced from the boiling point).
  • Whip up a delicious garlic infused guacamole.
  • Bake some spinach and Feta muffins, or mini quiches, using the garlic oil as part of the fat content, to spice up the flavour.

Pictured here in a green leek chimichurri sauce.

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Lemon Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Refreshingly zingy. I like the other oils a lot, too, as the steadily emptying bottles can attest – but this one speaks to my inner baker and dessert-aholic. The flavour reminds me of a lemon biscuit (cookie) that my Gran used to buy and that I now want to replicate. I wish it came in a bigger bottle!

Meal Ideas:

  • Drizzle over seafood as it’s removed from the heat.
  • Use it as part of a zesty summer salad dressing.
  • Use it as part of the fat component in a lemon-infused baked goods – I’m planning a recipe right now.

Basil Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Herby! I love the versatility of this oil. Good quality oil – as are all the others – that can be used in a variety of ways.

Meal Ideas:

  • Make an extreme basil pesto, or add it with a bit of the garlic oil to a spinach or kale pesto for some basil flavour when basil is out of season.
  • Drizzle it into a bowl of plain EVOO and Balsamic vinegar (which is low FODMAP in 1-2 tbsp. servings) and use it as a dip for your gluten free or FODMAP friendly bread for a simple appetiser.
  • For a super simple lunch or dinner, drizzle some over freshly cooked gluten free pasta, add in some chopped cherry toms and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and you’re done.

All in all I can safely say that I recommend these oils. The team at Nicer Foods has done a great job. The fresh flavours, combined with no ill reactions on my behalf, and a friend’s rave review of my shallot oil/sea salt salad dressing (“That’s all that was in the dressing?!”) makes this a win-win product in my books.

Low FODMAP & Gluten Free Treats to Spoil your Mum this Mothers’ Day

Mother's Day, low fodmap, fructose malabsorption, gluten free, ibs, irritable bowel syndrome, love, family

As much as I love Seattle, it does suck a little bit (at least), living literally half a world away from your family. Even more-so around holidays; Skype is great but it’s not the same as being there in person. It might be just another Hallmark Holiday to some but I do like having a chance to show my mum (and my dad, when it’s his turn) how much I am grateful for the time they spent caring for and raising me as a kid.

Given that I’m not going to make it to Melbourne by Sunday, even if I could, a phone call will have to do until we’re next together and I can make Mum her chocolate cake and Dad his pecan pie. But for those of you lucky enough to live in the same city as your family, here’s a collection of low FODMAP and gluten free recipes with which you can spoil your mum, whether you chose morning tea, brunch (my favourite) or just fitting it in whenever you can. Hopefully there’s a variety to suit everyone’s needs, including vegan/dairy free, some healthy and others not so much.

There are twenty-seven recipes, one for each year that my beautiful Mum has put up with been graced by my presence.

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We scrub up alright

Sweets

I have my priorities sorted, thank you.

Breakfasts

Salads

Main Meals

Drinks

  • Sangria – Not From A Packet Mix
  • Freshly squeezed mimosas – Inspired Taste (It’s basically the same recipe that I make but have never published… I’ve never measured in the triple sec, though. Use freshly squeezed OJ and limit to one serving)
  • Purple basil lemonade – Fructopia

A FODMAP Friendly Veggie Garden for Summer

Fructose Friendly Veggie Garden, low fodmap, fructose malabsorption, ibs, irritable bowel syndrome, gluten free, healthy, organic, pesticide free, spoodle, cockapoo, homegrown

I apologise for the delay in today’s Fructose Friendly Friday post. I intended to share a low FODMAP/gluten free crumpet recipe but – unfortunately – it wasn’t quite ready to share. Hopefully next week! Anyway, I had to whip up something quickly and spring seemed the perfect time to talk about gardening.

Last year I was able to do something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time – grow my own veggies. For the previous three years, I have been growing my own herbs in pots on our balcony, which was thankfully south facing (equivalent to north facing in Australia), so it got a lot of sun. It was great to be able to grow our own herbs but this year, we have a garden! Well, more like a patch than a full-on yard but it’s a start.

I wanted to grow my own veggies for a few reasons:

  • Price: organic veggies are expensive, as are some non-organic versions, such as zucchini and cherry tomatoes.
  • Quality: *fingers crossed* our home grown veggies will be better than store bought.
  • Control: even organic vegetables use pesticides, some of which have not been thoroughly tested (they just need to be deemed “natural”) and many are reported to be less effective than normal pesticides, so more has to be used; if we grow our own, we can be completely pesticide free. Please note, I am not anti-organic, I just wish that the organic industry was held to the same standards as the regular industry that uses synthetic pesticides. You’ll never experience judgement here for what sort of produce you choose to consume.
  • The experience: hopefully one day we will have a backyard big enough to grow most to all of our fruit and vegetable needs, as we plan to have a completely edible garden.

So, now we have a little yard. What next?

Firstly, we had to move in! We didn’t get started on our garden for two whole months, as we had to fix up inside the place – previous residents had left holes in the dry wall that needed spackling/painting and clearly had little darlings that were fond of wall art. Then we drove down to San Francisco to meet my parents for a road trip back up the west coast, which had some spectacular views.

My mum loves to garden (so much that we drove up to the Butchart Gardens – pictured below – in Victoria, B.C.) and had been telling me for months that she would be giving us a Backyard Blitz while she was staying with us. Awesome.

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Prepare your garden beds

It really was a huge do-over; I didn’t take a before photo – in retrospect, I should have – but the place was essentially a grass patch with three garden beds full of rubble, a hose with holes in it, decomposing flower pots and a random butcher’s knife that had belonged to previous tenants. It made me angry just looking at it – and a little concerned about the knife, though the scariest thing to happen was the lawn-mowers leaving the gate open, which meant the dogs almost got out.

We spent an entire day with the shovel and rake pulling out the weeds and the weed mat (awful things) and discovering that we only had about 40 cm of soil depth and the rest was building rubble that had been thrown in to raise the gardens to the second story, which was our lower living area, as the garage is at ground level, underneath it all. Your to-do list may differ but ours included:

  • Pull out as many of the rocks in the soil as possible, so we could use them in flower pots for drainage and for decoration. I’m not going to turn my nose up at free river rocks!
  • Get rid of the weed mat – not only do they mess with drainage but they stop the plants’ roots from getting deep enough to really stabilise and get at nutrients.
  • Weed like crazy and get rid of the chunks of cement that were close enough to the surface to get in our way.
  • Build the garden beds up with a decent soil and compost/fertiliser, so the plants have a chance at surviving.

We did all of the above for the two side garden beds, which were empty. The rear garden bed we just pulled out the surface rocks and weeded, as there were already some box hedges planted and, considering that we’re still renting, we couldn’t pull out the plants that belonged to the owners.

Plan your garden

What will you grow?

What do you want to get out of your garden, aside from pesticide free produce?

To narrow down which fruit and veg that we would actually grow, I did some research about the climate in and around Seattle, as well as the soil type. Seattle doesn’t have a huge growing season for summer crops, so I had to be on top of this in April. We used the following criteria to decide on what we’d grow:

  • Expensive at the supermarket.
  • Doesn’t last long in the fridge.
  • Suited to Seattle’s climate.
    • Fast growing, so they’ll be ready in Seattle’s short growing season.
    • Hardy enough to survive the Pacific Northwest’s climate.
  • Dog-friendly – so sadly rhubarb was out.
  • We need to eat a lot of them.
  • FODMAP (or Nat) friendly, see list here.

If you choose to grow your own fruit and veg, you’ll need to do some research for your own area.

Where will you grow it?

Unfortunately, our back yard is north facing, so it doesn’t get full sun. If we could pick the perfect spot, it would have:

  • Adequate sunlight.
  • Well-drained, nutrient rich soil.
  • Sheltered from the wind.
  • Close to a water source.
  • In a built up planter box, rather than rows – saves both space and your back.

But, that wasn’t the case, so we had to be realistic. Considering that flowering plants require lots of sunlight, we chose:

  • Green leaf lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Coriander (cilantro)
  • Sage
  • Oat grass (for the dogs to nibble on)

And because why the hell not…

  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Zucchinis
  • Strawberries

Start your garden

To combat our short growing season in Seattle, I sprouted the seeds indoors, in front of a warm, sunny window in our kitchen.

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When the weather was warm enough to transplant the seedlings, I put them in the planter box that Ev built for me. Side note – we’ve since moved house, so the lucky people that buy our old rental will inherit it. It was sad to leave it but there was no way we were going to get it into the U-haul.

  • Feed and water your garden as required. Be careful not to over-water it, as excess moisture can lead to rotting stems and dead plants.
  • Do NOT over-plant an area of garden bed. I got a little greedy and then we had to transplant our cherry tomato plants halfway through the growing season. Though, to be fair, my last two attempts at growing cherry toms hasn’t been half as successful and the rate of growth of these two plants shocked both of us.
  • Get any support systems (stakes and cages) in place BEFORE you need them. See above.
  • Prune/maintain as required.

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The results

  • Cherry tomatoes – very successful. We didn’t buy tomatoes for 5 months.
  • Lettuce – also did really well. Best lightly sprayed with water and refrigerated for a day before use, to help it crisp up after the summer sun.
  • Chard – didn’t survive the seedling stage. There might have been a problem with the seeds, as everything else was fine.
  • Carrots – showers, not growers. They tasted alright but were small underneath.
  • Zucchinis – the plants were prolific flower-ers but they didn’t grow any successful fruit. They zucchinis would reach about 10 cm long and then begin to decompose. I was really disappointed.
  • Strawberries – the squirrels really enjoyed these. We didn’t get to taste any, as the little buggers would eat them before they were ripe enough to pick. At least it provided the dogs with some entertainment.
  • Herbs – all did pretty well in the pots/garden bed.
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This wasn’t even the biggest that the cherry toms got. They ended up three times this size – insane!

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Yup – showers, not growers.

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This year we probably won’t have much more than herbs, as we are heavily DIY renovating the inside of our new house, as well as turning the (very poorly sunlit) back yard into something nicer than a weed pit. The front yard gets a lot of sun, so potentially could be the site of  a future veggie patch, if we get the front fence up. We already know that the neighbourhood has resident bunnies, though, so it might end up being a feeding ground for them instead of us.

So give it a go. Get gardening and let me know what you’re growing!

The Ultimate Guacamole – Fructose Friendly, Gluten Free & Vegan

The Ultimate Guacamole - low FODMAP, fructose friendly, gluten free, vegan, ibs, irritable bowel syndrome, healthy, low carb, healthy fats

Guacamole is one of my favourite things in the world. creamy yet chunky, soft and full of plant-powered nutrition and flavour, it’s a win-win-win in my book. Luckily for me (and I really don’t mean to gloat), I flew through the sorbitol challenge with flying colours instead of flying to the loo and I can consume reasonable amounts of avocado without issue, which is good, because 1/4 of an avo contains about 8% of your daily folate requirements, as well as good amounts of vitamins B2, B5, B6, C, E and phosphorous and magnesium. See below for avocado’s FODMAP information.

Now, I realise that the claim to the ultimate guacamole is pretty extreme but this, to me, is the best way to make it. This is not the awful stuff you peel the lid off from the supermarket, this is fresh avo mixed with other flavours like tomato and lime to play on your taste buds. The bonus of adding in the tomato is that, besides tasting great, it also allows you to spread (pun intended) the avocados further, which is important when you live in Seattle and the decent avocados cost an arm and a leg. It works well with breads, chicken, corn chips or veggie sticks; and don’t you dare think of skimping on the corn chips. Go hard or go home.

So, the next time you have an impromptu gathering and/or need an entree (“appetiser,” in US lingo) in an instant, give this guac a whirl. The only downside is you won’t have leftovers. Unless you make yourself a secret batch for later. Do it.

FODMAP Notes

  1. Avocados are considered low FODMAP in 1/8 fruit servings, any more and sorbitol might be an issue. If you are okay with consuming more sorbitol but are sensitive to fructose, keep in mind that sorbitol can inhibit the co-transport method by which fructose malabsorbers absorb most of their fructose. Don’t go nuts, figure out the balance that works for you.
  2. Tomatoes are FODMAP friendly in 1/2 cup servings, the amount called for in this recipe once split into the eight servings would be safe.
  3. Garlic infused olive oil is free of fructans, as FOS are water soluble, thus do not seep into the fatty oil. I really like Nicer Food’s garlic infused olive oils, available here.
  4. Limes are a low FODMAP fruit.
  5. Corn chips are low FODMAP and gluten free, as long as they’re not seasoned with anything high FODMAP.

The Ultimate Guacamole

Serves 16 FODMAPers – of course, you can eat more if you tolerate it.

  • 2 large, ripe avocados
  • 1 cup (200 g) diced vine ripened or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. garlic infused olive oil
  • Juice of 1 medium lime
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: 1-2 tbsp. minced chives or coriander leaves (cilantro)

Mash (don’t whip, then it’s like baby food) the avo’s  until 75% smooth, then add in the diced tomatoes, lime juice, garlic oil and salt. Mix through and tinker with more oil – if required for texture – and salt if needed. Cover it, with the stone in the bowl, until you want to serve it. For best results, don’t make it more than a couple of hours ahead of time.

It’s that simple. You’re done. Go and have a (low FODMAP) beer while you wait for your friends to arrive. To serve, I like to surround the small bowl of guac with my favourite corn chips.

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

Pumpkin Pie with a Gingerbread Crust - Low FODMAP, Dairy Free, Gluten Free and 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.

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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
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 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.

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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.

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Enjoy! Xo