RECIPE: Low-FODMAP Sesame Peanut Power Bars

Sesame Peanut Power Bars

Power to the peanuts.

There’s one trick to going on any sort of restricted diet, no matter how complex, how punishing. Follow this rule, and managing any elimination diet is a breeze.

The simple trick? Never leave the house.

Yeah, it’s not impossibly hard to keep to the low-FODMAP diet if you stay at home and always cook for yourself, but what if you have, you know, go to work, travel or basically do anything else that requires you to get out of the house for more than a few hours at a time?

Well, there’s no simple answer, beyond remembering to always pack a lunch or to have a list of low-FODMAP-friendly restaurants on hand. But one thing that’s saved my day more than a few time has been making sure I brought along some (sorta) healthy, gut-friendly snacks. And when I saw a recipe for some tasty Sesame-Peanut Bars in a recent Bon Appetit, I knew I could easily convert them to the side of low FODMAPs. Salty, crunchy, chewy and sweet all at the same time, they’re an addictive treat, and they’ll be your best friend in a pinch.

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RECIPE: Let us eat (flourless) cake

Low-FODMAP Flourless Chocolate Cake

Dark, delicious, and digestible.

Cake.

Even typing the word is a little painful. It’s been so long that I’ve been on the low-FODMAP diet that I can barely remember the last time I ate piece of soft, rich, chocolate cake. Sure, I’ve daydreamed about it, I’ve walked past cupcake bakeries with yearning in my eyes—but it wasn’t until last week that I actually yielded to temptation and had a slice (or several, if we’re being honest here). Was I beset by the same painful symptoms I experience within 24 hours of consuming wheat flour?

I was not.

The reason why? The cake we baked contained no wheat flour whatsoever. No flour at all, in fact. No, what we indulged in was a flourless chocolate cake—a great example of a recipe that is naturally low in FODMAPs without any weird or unsatisfying substitutions. It’s almost hard to believe you can bake a flourless cake, but believe me, it’s true. (You just need a lot of eggs.) With its crisp top, it reminds me of the brownies I loved as a kid, and of which I have been so cruelly denied lately.

There’s plenty of recipes for flourless chocolate cakes out there, but the one I like the most we adapted from Martha Stewart, adding our own flourishes like cinnamon and sliced fruit (optional). Try it for yourself and let me know if it hits the sweet spot for you. With so many desserts (ice cream, regular cake, pie) off the table for us low-FODMAPers, it’s nice to find something so rich and delicious and guilt-free (well, one kind of guilt).

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RECIPE: Low-FODMAP Cold Peanut Soba Noodles

Cold soba peanut noodles

Cold comfort. (Literally.)

I recently had a bad noodle experience. It was a bummer. But in the spirit of “getting back on the horse,” I decided I had to immediately wipe the quinoa-wheat pasta fiasco from my mind. And since it’s still stiflingly hot where I live, I decided the time was right for a cold noodle dish, with a refreshing green smoothie on the side.

Soba noodles are typically made with buckwheat, but beware: most are actually made with a blend of buckwheat and regular wheat. You can find buckwheat-only versions, but make sure you check the package carefully. I like them with peanut sauce, a splash of sesame oil, some chopped green onion tops, shredded carrot, some toasted sesame seeds and a squirt of Sriracha (which contains garlic, so be mindful if you have trouble tolerating it.)

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RECIPE: Low-FODMAP Migas, for Breakfast or Lunch

Low FODMAP breakfast or lunch migas

Scrambled plus.

Eggs. I’m a little obsessed with them, even if I (as I’ve mentioned before) so often mess them up. Still—poached, scrambled, omelette-ed, I love them all. And while I eat steel-cut oats for breakfast basically every day of my life (more, much more, on that soon), I’ve found that eggs often form a great basis for my new sandwich-less lunch lifestyle. I’ve talked before about the Feta Double Heada I sometimes have as a treat on weekends, and today I want to introduce another favorite. It’s a breakfast/lunch (there must be a word for that) with a Tex-Mex twist, but I’m not talking about huevos rancheros, as delicious as they are. No, today I’m talking migas.

Migas are basically scrambled eggs plus, and the “plus” I’m talking about here are crispy strips of corn tortillas. They’re fast and easy to make, endlessly customizable, and they go perfectly with a splash of your favorite hot sauce (I’m personally addicted to Frank’s, but Tabasco, Valentine, heck, even Sriracha* will do the job, though mind the garlic). A tomato salad on the side balances out the meal nicely and adds some brightness.

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RECIPE: Low-FODMAP Moorish Paella

A pot of low-FODMAP Moorish Paella

One (delicious) pot.*

One of the saddest goodbyes I had to make as I embarked on the low-FODMAP journey was to one of my dearest old friends, spaghetti with red sauce. Spaghetti and meatballs was my all-time favorite meal as a kids, and I never really outgrew it. Sure, I discovered the joys of Marcella Hazan’s simple, sweet marinara, and got myself tangled up  in various  elaborate bolognese and ragù recipes, but that core love of pasta, tomatoes and ground meat never really changed—for better or worse.

In fact, spaghetti was one of the reasons it took me so long to come around to the low-FODMAP diet. I knew I always felt sick the day after eating it, but I always thought it had something to do with the acidity of the tomatoes. I never suspected that it could be the onions and garlic flavouring the tomato sauce—and the very pasta I poured it over—that was the source of the problem.

But not only did I just love eating spaghetti bolognese because it tasted so delicious, but it was also such a convenient meal as well. I could cook up a big ragù on Sunday night and eat it through the week, or freeze it; I could even, on a lazy evening, just pick up a good bottle of meat sauce from a local gourmet grocer that would do the trick almost as well.

So, in starting out on this new diet, I was hungry for meals that could bring back some of that one-pot convenience, while hitting all the starchy, tomato-y, meaty flavor notes I was craving. A friend sent me a link to a recipe that Food52 community blogger NWB called Moorish Paella, and I knew I was in love. As is, the recipe contains some FODMAP warning signs, but I knew I could create a “recipe translation” that I could happily eat, digest and, importantly, not feel like I was compromising on by enjoying. And it’s the ultimate one-pot meal!

Make sure you use low-FODMAP chicken stock to cook the rice. And while the original recipe contains a healthy portion of onions and garlic; you can use the “fry” method to impart flavor to the cooking oil, add garlic-infused oil or just drop them completely. It’ll be delicious either way!

Low-FODMAP Moorish Paella

Parsley optional.

Low-FODMAP Moorish Paella

Ingredients

4-6 chicken thighs (I prefer to use bone-in, skin-on, but when I can’t find them I go boneless/skinless and it works out just fine)
2 links of merguez sausage (or other spicy sausage)
1 tsp ground caraway seed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tablespoon harissa (may contain a small amount of garlic; if you malabsorb, replace with a hot sauce that doesn’t cause problems)
2 cups Arborio (risotto) rice
3/4 can tomato paste OR 1 cup low-FODMAP tomato sauce
3 cups Delicious Low-FODMAP Chicken Stock
OPTIONAL: 1 small onion, quartered
OPTIONAL: 2 garlic cloves, halved OR 1 tbsp garlic-infused oil
1/2 cup red or white wine (I use a splash of port, myself—wine vinegar will do in a pinch)

Instructions

1. If you can, toss the chicken thighs in a plastic bag early in the day or the night before with a tbsp or so of kosher salt (don’t worry if you forget/skip this step).

2. Slice the sausage into disks (or diagonal chunks and stick them in the bottom of your saucepan (I use a 26L Creuset) while cold. Turn the heat on low and let them slowly render out their fat and brown in their juices. Brown both sides, then remove them with a slotted spoon to a drain on some paper towels resting on a plate. While they’re browning, combine and mix the spices together with a teaspoon of kosher salt.

3. Turn the heat up to medium. While the pan heats up, pat chicken dry on both sides (important step!). Then, in batches if need be, brown chicken on both sides in the rendered sausage fat, about 5 minutes a side. When they’ve got some colour on both sides, stick ’em on some more paper towels to dry.

4. If using onions and garlic, add to pan (splash in some olive oil if it’s dry—it probably won’t be) and let them fry away for a couple of minutes. Once they start to get golden brown on all sides, remove them with a slotted spoon and toss ’em out. (If not using onions and garlic, or using oil, skip this step.)

5. Deglaze the pan with the wine and scrape all the good fond-y bits off the bottom. Spoon a good portion of the spice mixture into the pan. Before it completely dries out, add the harissa or hot sauce and re-introduce the sausage, then give it a good stir. Add the tomato paste or sauce and another big spoonful of the spice. Let it all simmer down for about 5 minutes, but if it seems to be drying out too fast, proceed to the next step immediately.

6. Add the rice and mix it in with the sauce and sausage bits, then distribute it evenly across the bottom of the ban. Stick the chicken parts on top (again, evenly). Pour in the stock. Stir in the rest of the spice mixture. Cover.

7. Bring the pot to a boil (this should happen quickly) and then immediately reduce to lowest heat. Let cook away, lid still on—remember the BBQ rule, if you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’!—for about 20 minutes, then check on it. If the rice seems tender and most of the liquid is gone, you’re golden. If not, cover again and wait a few more minutes. (It can theoretically take up to 30, but mine is usually done on the earlier side.)

8. Serve with a squeeze of lemon, and enjoy!

And as always, drop me a line in the comments below if you have any questions, or if you made the recipe and have something—good or bad—to say about it!

* Check out the super-cool “Nonna Spoon” from bottledBrooklyn, a wedding present (and not a paid endorsement—I really love it!)

 

BREAKFAST: Feta Double Heada Omelette

Toast? Who needs toast?

If you’ve read my Day in the Low-FODMAP Life post, you know I eat oatmeal for breakfast almost every single day. It’s easy to make, super-filling (and it lasts—I don’t get hungry an hour later), inexpensive, and with the right modifications (cinnamon! maple syrup! bananas!) it tastes great.

But there are mornings—usually weekend mornings—when I want something a little different. A treat. And when I do, I turn to eggs, despite my absolutely limited facilities in making them. (I love eggs and I cook them all the time, but I always manage to screw them up somehow—bits of shell in the pan, broken yokes, poorly-peeled hard-boiled ones—they’re sort of the great tragic relationship of my life). I used to think eggs absolutely had to be served with toast or a bagel, but I realized pretty early into my low-FODMAP adventure that this wasn’t necessarily the case.

Now one of my go-to special weekend meals is a big ol’ omelette, cut in half (the other half goes to my wife) and filled with something savory. I don’t get too fancy because I don’t like my omelettes overstuffed or too wet, so for this meal I just added crumbled feta cheese near the end. Now, feta doesn’t melt as nicely as cheddar or Emmental (it doesn’t melt at all, in fact), but I’m willing to make that sacrifice because next to parmesan cheese, good Greek feta cheese may be my favorite substance on Earth. (I can’t overstate my relief when I saw they were on the low-FODMAP list. Seriously. Can’t live without them. I don’t like adding watery tomatoes to the omelette itself, so we dice them up and serve them on the side with some fresh basil.

Now, you may have noticed a couple of other guests on the plate. It was initially hard to imagine eating eggs without bagels or toast alongside them, but corn crackers make a satisfying substitution. I shmear ’em with kopanisti, a feta (hence the double header) and red pepper spread I find pretty addictive. Kopanisti is often made with garlic (the kind I get is not), so you can always make your own by following a good, simple recipe and removing it entirely or substituting it with a dash of garlic oil. It’ll add a little spice to your breakfast, and is great for snacking on as well.

What’s your favorite omelette? Let me know in the comments below.

RECIPE: Delicious Low-FODMAP Chicken Stock

One cup of delicious low-FODMAP chicken stock

One cup of liquid gold.

I went through a couple of ideas when I was deciding which recipe to post to this blog first. The delicious “Moorish paella,” made with risotto rice, harissa and merguez sausage, that’s become a staple around these parts?. Or the Martha Stewart-inspired flourless chocolate cake that is, I swear, lighter, creamier and just plain better than the regular gluten-filled cakes we used to enjoy. Or maybe an adaptation of the Ottolenghi chicken-and-wild-rice salad that makes the best, most lunchable leftovers?

I had settled on the paella, when I opened my freezer to pull out some frozen chicken stock in which to simmer the rice. As it happened, I was fresh out. And then it occurred to me—maybe I should hold off on a more complicated dish and focus on something simple, a “building block” of low-FODMAP eating, if you will.

Because the truth is, there are a LOT of recipes that call for some kind of stock, particularly when you’re cooking with a lot of rices and grains, as we low-FODMAP eaters often are. And while it’s often tempting to just buy a can or tetra pack from the grocery store, they can often be a digestive mine field, as some combination of onions and garlic are almost always used to flavor commercial stocks. Plus, homemade stock just tastes so much better! You can use it in soups, stews, sauces, gravies—keep it in one- or two-cup portions in the freezer and pull ’em out as needed.

It’s actually super easy to make stock. Preparation time is under 10 minutes, and as long as you’re around to let it simmer away for a few hours, you can let your stove do most of the work for you. Typically, stocks are made by lightly simmering chicken carcasses (bones and however much meat you have on hand, or to taste)  along with a bunch of aromatics—tasty vegetables that enhance and bring out the flavor of the bones.

The problem for us low-FODMAP eaters is that two of the most commonly and heavily-used aromatics in stocks are onions and garlic. (This is why eating at restaurants can be so difficult—beware of sauces and soups!) So to make our low-FODMAP stock, and to make it delicious, we’re going to have to do two things: replace the missing aromatics, and cook it longer so as to bring out more flavor to compensate for what’s missing. We’ll add green onion tops to replace some of the missing taste and aromas from the onions, and throw in some extra carrots to fill it out even further. And while many recipes will tell you to simmer your stock for at least an hour or two, I’ll advise going even longer—or even better, using a pressure cooker if you have one (in which case you’ll only need to cook it for 45 minutes or so).

Low-FODMAP Chicken Stock Ingredients

I made mine in a pressure cooker, but a regular pot is more than fine too.

delicious low-fodmap chicken stock

Ingredients

Bear in mind that stock-making is an inexact science, and not to take the measures here too seriously. If you’ve got extra carrots or chicken, throw ’em in. Don’t worry about the exact amount of water either. It’ll all taste good in the end if you simmer it long enough.

3-4lbs of chicken carcass (this can be the body of a roast chicken you’ve already cooked and eaten, plus whatever bones and scraps of meat you’ve saved, or you can always buy inexpensive chicken backs at most grocery stores.)
3-5 carrots, chopped on the bias (diagonally); don’t worry about peeling them, just give ’em a good scrub
3-5 stalks of celery, chopped on the bias
One bunch of green onions, chopped on the bias (JUST the green parts)
3 or so bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp salt (don’t overdo it on the salt, as the stock will reduce and you can always add more later)

Instructions

1. Throw everything in a big pot.

2. Add enough cold tap water to cover everything in there by a couple of inches. Cover and gently bring to a boil.

3. Just when it’s started to boil, adjust the heat way back down again to just about minimum. Do not  over-boil your stock. Let it just gently simmer away; the water should be just moving below the surface. Then back away.

4. Check for taste every hour or so. Remember that it won’t quite taste “right” until you add a little salt, so if you’re not sure, scoop out half a cup or so, sprinkle with salt, stir and then taste.

5. When it’s ready to taste (or has reduced as far as you’re willing to go), pour stock through a strainer (or a cheesecloth, or even a coffee filter) into a large bowl. Make sure you push on the solids with a wooden spoon to get every last delicious drop. Strain it again if you like, until it’s as clear as you want it (the old story about French consommés was that they were so clear you could read the date on a penny at the bottom of a bowl, but you probably don’t want to go that far).

6. Let cool. If you want a really non-fatty stock, let it sit in the fridge overnight and skim off the solid white fact that will have accumulated on top.

Store for up to three days in the fridge, or even better, save some in the freezer. I like to ladle two-cup portions into freezer bags and then label them with the serving size and date. When I need some for a recipe, I just pull out however as many bags as I need and let them thaw.

It doesn’t get that much easier than making your own chicken stock, and once you taste it, it’s hard to go back to store-bought. And if you’re on a low-FODMAP diet, that’s probably not even an option anyway—but this is one case where you won’t be missing out on flavor. Isn’t it nice when it works out that way?

What’s your favorite use for chicken stock? Let me know in the comments below!