Caprese Sticks with a Balsamic Glaze – Low FODMAP, Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

Caprese Sticks

If you’re after a quick canape/appetiser type dish that is also low FODMAP, then look no further. This classic combination needs no alterations – other than to watch out for over consumption – to be FODMAP friendly, which is awesomesauce.

This can also be turned into a tossed salad with small amounts of the Balsamic glaze drizzled on top. Just as delicious, with much less work.

FODMAP Notes

  1. Balsamic vinegar is low FODMAP in servings of 1 tbsp and contains moderate amounts of fructose in 2 tbsp. servings. As the glaze is reduced by half, so should these measurements. You don’t need much of the glaze, anyway.
  2. Cherry tomatoes are low FODMAP in servings of 1/2 a cup, so don’t consume more than four or five sticks is you are still figuring out your tolerances.
  3. Mozzarella cheese is lower in lactose, so small servings are permissible. Each stick should only have a very small amount – say, 1/2 a tsp. of cheese – so four to five sticks should still be okay.
  4. Basil is low FODMAP.
  5. Choose good toothpicks, so they don’t splinter in your mouth. Been there, done that.

Caprese Sticks with a Balsamic Glaze

Serves 16.

  • 1 large punnet of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup lightly packed sweet basil leaves
  • 1 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • Toothpicks

Pour the Balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and bring it to just below the boil, before reducing to s simmer. Watch it while it slowly reduces by a third to a half (stop at your desired consistency) and then take it off the heat immediately and pour into a ramekin.

Not much more than an hour or two before they’re required, cut the cherry toms in half, tear up the basil leaves and dice the Mozzarella cheese. Skewer them onto the toothpicks in the following order: top half of tomato, basil, cheese, bottom half of tomato.

Arrange however you’d like and refrigerate until 15 minutes before they’re served, to take the chill off.

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Mirepoix – FODMAP/Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

Mire Poix

A traditional mirepoix involves carrots, celery and onion; due to geographic and cultural divides, as well as taste preferences, variations have of course come about over time and often only include one of the original ingredients… which means that I don’t feel terrible at all about nixing the onion and replacing it with leek and chives!

A mirepoix actually forms the base of many sauces, stews and stocks – I’d been making one for ages unintentionally – and you have been, too – before I even knew it had a name. You know the browned vegetables that constitute the beginning of a stock, a pasta sauce, a chili or even the butter chicken sauce recipe on this blog? They are all actually a “mirepoix.” Go figure. I had no clue until a year ago, I just thought it was what you were supposed to do. Which you are. But it has a name. I’ll stop now.

I have adjusted this recipe of Alton Brown’s to be low FODMAP. You can use mirepoix as a pasta sauce on its own, to bake with oysters or top a pizza. Anything goes, really. I love versatility. Thanks to the dry heat used, which intensifies flavours, this simple method adds a real depth of flavour to dishes that require a tomato sauce base.

Notes:

  1. Celery contains enough mannitol to be high FODMAP if you eat an entire stalk, which you wouldn’t be doing here. However, if you are very sensitive, just reduce it or sub in some extra leek or add in celeriac (for texture).
  2. Green leek tips are low FODMAP in half cup servings, so unless you eat the entire batch of mirepoix, you should be fine.
  3. Tomatoes are low FODMAP in half cup servings.
  4. Carrots are low FODMAP in about a quarter cup serving size.
  5. Garlic infused oil is tolerated by many who are sensitive to fructans, even though it seems counter-intuitive. FODMAPs are water soluble, so the garlic sizzling/infusing in oil shouldn’t leach out too many fructans. Simple solution – use a pinch of asafoetida in its place, which is both low FODMAP and gluten free (unless wheat flour is used to cut it).
  6. Red wine is low FODMAP in 150 ml servings. Red wine vinegar is double fermented red wine, so it is also safe.
  7. Balsamic vinegar is low FODMAP in 1 tbsp. servings, which is all there is in the entire recipe.

Mirepoix

Serves 12-14 FODMAPers, depending on tolerance.

  • 2 large tins of whole, peeled tomatoes, separated into toms and liquid
  • 1 cup finely sliced green leek tips
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup minced green chives
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, whole or diced
  • 2 tsp. fresh minced basil
  • 2 tsp. fresh minced oregano
  • 2 tsp. minced capers
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Strain the tinned tomatoes completely – give them a squish to make sure all the juice is out – and reserve the liquid. Prepare all the veggies as required above.

Combine the tomato liquid, red wine, chives, vinegars and herbs in a saucepan and bring to the boil, before lowering heat to a simmer and reducing volume by half. This should take about 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, preheat grill/broiler of your oven (grill in Australia = broiler in USA) and then simmer the whole garlic cloves over a med-high heat on the stove top, in an oven-safe pan, until fragrant and then discard if you are sensitive (or dice and leave them in if not). I love my cast iron pan; like this sauce, it’s versatile – the most versatile piece of cookware that we own (bake cakes/breads, stove top, grill/broiler safe, arm workout, you name it).

Add in the leek tips, carrot and celery and sweat the veggies until tender. Add in the tomatoes, then put the pan under the grill/broiler (on the top/second shelf) and leave it with the oven door open for 15 to 20 minutes, until the tops have begun to char. This adds flavour and is a good thing, so let it get moderately charred.

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Once the veggies have sufficiently blackened, put them back on the stove, on a medium heat and add in the capers. Saute for a minute and then tip the veggies into the (now reduced) tomato liquid. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture to the texture you need (i.e. pasta sauce would be chunkier than a pizza sauce), then flavour with salt and pepper before simmering for a further 5 minutes.

You’re done! Unless of course you want to preserve/can it, which I recommend, as you can make big batches and have jars on the ready for when you’re feeling lazy.

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

Roasted Pumpkin and Tomato Soup

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.

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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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Grilled Tofu Salad – Fructose Friendly, Gluten Free & Vegan

Grilled Tofu Salad

I love warm salads. They are the perfect spring or autumn meal; not too heavy to weigh you down but just warm and hearty enough for the season.

They are also very quick and easy to make for a weeknight dinner. Thirty minutes or less? Yes, please!

Notes:

  1. Balsamic vinegar has been listed as both safe and unsafe, depending where you look. Monash University lists 1 tbsp. as safe and 2 tbsp. as containing moderate levels of fructose. Most balsamic vinegars are actually flavoured wine vinegars, so it’s hard to tell whether the authentic balsamic vinegar or the imitations are being referred to. At any rate most people aren’t buying the real deal, they’d be much too expensive to cook with except on very special occasions. I can tolerate 2 tbsp. of the imitation balsamic vinegar that I buy.
  2. Butter is very low lactose, as during production the water-soluble sugar was removed along with the buttermilk.
  3. Cherry tomatoes are considered low FODMAP in half cup servings, according to Monash University.
  4. Mushrooms are considered by Monash University to be high in mannitol and have moderate FOS in one cup servings. Different mushroom varieties have different levels of FODMAPs and I can tolerate the less than half cup serving of button mushrooms in this dish, as polyols do not affect me and the FOS has been reduced enough for my tolerance levels.
  5. Green chives are low in FODMAPs, just make sure you don’t use the white root portion.

Grilled Tofu Salad

Serves 2.

  • 2 cups loosely packed spinach, de-stemmed
  • 225 g/8 oz extra firm tofu
  • 1 cup cherry or vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
  • 3/4 cup button mushrooms, diced
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. minced green chives
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or whole
  • 2 tbsp. fresh rosemary
  • 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 + 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter or dairy free equivalent (vegan option such as coconut butter or Nuttelex etc)
  • 2 tbsp. flax seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp. each of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

Slice the tofu so that it is approx. 2 cm thick and wrap it in paper towel, then sandwich it between two chopping boards and place something on top to lightly press it down. This will squeeze much of the fluid out of the tofu. Leave it like that for 20 minutes; in the meantime, prepare the vegetables.

Seal the surface of your a fry pan, then unwrap and fry the tofu for about 4 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden brown. Divide the spinach leaves between two plates or pasta bowls and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the oil and your choice of normal or vegan butter over a medium-high heat and then put in the garlic; let it simmer for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Next, lower the heat to medium and saute the mushrooms until they have softened considerably and begun to release liquid, then throw in the rosemary and first 2 tbsp. of chives. After a minute, add in the tomatoes, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar and stir until heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

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The vegetables should be done at about the same time as the tofu, so divide the vegetables between the two servings (place on top of the spinach) and then take the tofu off the heat and  slice it into strips. Place the tofu on top of the vegetables and sprinkle with remaining chives and flax seeds (optional but I like the crunch). The flax seeds aren’t pictured below.

Serve immediately, so that the vegetables and tofu are still warmed through.

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Classic Spaghetti Bolognese – Low FODMAP & Gluten Free

This recipe has been moved to a new home at The Friendly Gourmand. Please follow this link to access the recipe and many more.

Hearty Quinoa and Vegetable Stuffed Capsicums – Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

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In primary school, one of my best friends was Adele – and her mother Michelle was (and I assume still is) an amazing cook. At Adele’s house – I’ll call it that because that’s what it was to me – I was introduced to foods like tabbouleh, and stuffed zucchinis. Michelle might not even remember making them but I still remember going home and telling my Mum that I wanted stuffed zucchinis for dinner again the next night. Come to think of it, I normally went home telling Mum that I wanted what Michelle had cooked… sorry Mum! Cut to a decade or so later – jeez, I feel old – and Ev’s mum made capsicums (bell peppers) stuffed with rice and pork mince – my love for stuffed vegetables was reignited.

I have made stuffed capsicums a few times over the last couple of years – sometimes with rice, meat and veggies, sometimes just veggies – but this is the first time I’ve used quinoa… mainly because the local supermarket was closing down and the stuff was actually affordable for once. I don’t know about quinoa prices in Australia but they can be pretty ridiculous in Seattle. Maybe I should try Costco.

Notes:

  1. Red capsicums are lower in FODMAPs than the green variety, which is a good thing, considering they’re much tastier as well. Sadly, they’re also more expensive… but you can’t win ’em all.
  2. Mushrooms, while low in fructose and fructans, are higher in polyols.
  3. The green part of chives are much lower in fructans than the white bases of the stems, although some are still sensitive enough to react.
  4. Cherry tomatoes and tomato puree are low in fructose, but some might be sensitive to their acidity or salicylates.
  5. Homemade vegetable stock can be tolerated by some fructose malabsorbers, because the onion (and/or garlic) itself isn’t eaten but removed from the liquid . Some fructans do make the transition between onion flesh and stock water, though, so it can still trigger a reaction in those who are particularly sensitive to fructans. It can be made more fructose friendly by omitting the onion/garlic in the cooking process. I will put up a “How to make Stock” post soon.

Quinoa and Vegetable Stuffed Capsicums

Serves 2 adults.

  • 2 large capsicums (bell peppers)
  • 1 x 425 g/15 oz can of plain pureed tomatoes
  • 2 x 1/2 cups FF vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa – any colour
  • 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes – quartered
  • 1/3 cup mushrooms (any variety you like) – sliced finely
  • 3 tbsp. green chives – sliced finely
  • 1 tbsp. GF soy sauce – or kosher salt to taste

Firstly, you need to cook the quinoa. This recipe can be made with leftover quinoa, if you have it, but if you don’t you will need 2 parts fluid to 1 part quinoa. I used half a cup of water and FF veggie stock each (1 cup total) and half a cup of uncooked white quinoa.

In a small saucepan, bring the water, stock and quinoa to the boil and then immediately reduce to a low heat and put the lid on. Just leave it until all the fluids have been absorbed by the grains, checking every 5 minutes. Mine took approx. 10 minutes. Give it a stir to make sure all the fluids have disappeared and remove it from the heat. Set it aside for later.

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Top and core your capsicums (remember I said red capsicums are FODMAPs safe – well the green one was for Ev).

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Finely slice the mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and green chives and stir through the cooked quinoa. Add in the GF soy sauce and check the taste; adjust as required.

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Pour the second half a cup of veggie stock and the can of tomato puree into a saucepan that will fit the two capsicums (or as many as you are making) snugly and keep them standing upright. Give the fluids a stir so that they combine.

You can fill the capsicums before you put them in the saucepan or after – it really won’t make a difference but I find filling them first easier, leaving just a little to top up once they’re in the sauce, to prevent spillage while you’re trying to squash them together. Put the tops on, and the lid onto the saucepan, and you can sit aside until you’re ready to cook as they only take 15 minutes.

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When you are ready, turn the stove’s heat onto high and bring the sauce to the boil before turning it down to a medium heat. Set the timer for 15 minutes and leave it be. After 15 to 20 minutes, the sauce will have cooked and steamed the capsicums – hence leaving the lid on. They should look similar to the next photo.

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I use tongs to gently lift the capsicum from the pot, let it drip for a few seconds and then place it on a dinner plate I have sitting near by. Serve with mashed potatoes, or possibly some polenta with cheese. Ev and I have tried so hard to find corn that has been milled finely enough to make good polenta in Seattle – all we can find is “grits,” which doesn’t do the job at all.

Pour the sauce from the cooking process into a small bowl and use it on the capsicum or mashed potatoes. It goes well with both.

Enjoy – but a word of warning, the capsicums are deceptive and are much more filling than they look. Don’t load up too much on the mashed potatoes, or you might not finish them.

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Sunday Pizza Craving Satisfaction – Low FODMAP & Gluten Free

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

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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…

FODMAP 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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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PIZZA YOU CAN HOLD! FINGER FOOD IS BACK!

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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.

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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!