Should I Pay Double for Organic Blueberries?

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Should I Pay Double for Organic Blueberries?

Blueberries are a FODMAP friendly staple for me, and recently, I read (Consumer Reports) that blueberries are relatively pesticide-free, even when non-organic. That’s great news! Wanting to make a blueberry tart to entertain some friends, I did a totally unscientific, small-sample comparison study. I bought one large pack of non-organic blueberries (18 oz) on sale at $4.99, and two packs of organic blueberries (6 oz) for $2.99 each.

So…

Compared by price: Non-organic 28 cents/oz. Organic 50 cents/oz.

Compared by appearance—Non-organic: large, uniform, gorgeous. Organic: miscellaneous sizes, some slightly puckered (perhaps from sitting unbought in the store at that price). Still gorgeous, with that beautiful mottled color and delicate blossom scar.

Compared by texture—Non-organic: firm berries, tender skins, mushy interior, fewer seeds. Organic: tougher skins, wonderfully juicy interior, significantly more seeds.

Compared by flavor—Non-organic: very little berry flavor, no significant tartness, very little sweetness. In a word: bland. Organic: strong berry flavor, yummy tartness, perfect sweetness. In two words: Oh, yeah.

Proceeding—I mixed the berries in the tart, hoping it wouldn’t be easy to tell the organic berries from the non-organic ones. No such luck. Organic berries are much tastier. This confirms what I’ve read elsewhere.

But they do cost nearly twice as much.

Fructose in the News

Fructose in the News

Spotted in THE WEEK, a news digest magazine, on their “Health and Science” page –

It looks like researchers are finally taking seriously the fact that our bodies react differently to different sugars. This applies to AFTER they’re absorbed across the gut wall – if they’re absorbed at all, which in the case of IBS sufferers, they might not be – but I digress.

According to the article, which quotes “new research” but doesn’t say where it was conducted (alas), glucose is “absorbed directly into the bloodstream to produce energy” while fructose (a FODMAP sugar) “is metabolized in the liver” and “doesn’t stimulate insulin secretion,” which apparently leaves you craving more and more. That seems especially dangerous when it’s added to processed foods, don’t you think? And get this – they say that fructose also triggers brain activity that actually intensifies cravings for “high-calorie foods such as candy, cookies, and pizza.”

I realizing that preparing almost everything from scratch makes life just that much more complicated for FODMAPers – but here’s one more reason to pat yourself on the back if you avoid high-fructose corn syrup-containing foods. We probably aren’t absorbing enough fructose into our bodies to create those nasty effects, but whoever else we cook for DOES get the benefit of reducing added fructose.

Experimenting with Reintroducing FODMAPs

Experimenting with Reintroducing FODMAPs

I keep reading that three years is too long to stay on the low-FODMAP diet, no matter how delightful it has been to feel so good. We’re urged to reintroduce some of the FODMAP sugars at two months.

So tonight my tummy is noisy, uncomfortable, and generally unhappy… but the symptoms aren’t nearly as awful as before I went on the diet. My dietician is encouraged.

On page 46 of Dr. Sue Shepherd & Dr. Peter Gibson’s The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet, they suggest “Reintroducing the FODMAPS one at a time… to determine which contribute to your symptoms and how much of each you can tolerate.”

Well, yes. Limiting my diet too strictly for too long could mean missing some vital nutrients. I didn’t feel brave enough to do this alone, and I wanted an accountability partner, so three weeks ago I contacted a licensed dietitian and started this phase of the journey.

Polyol sugars are least likely to create IBS symptoms, and reintroducing polyols via mushrooms and then dried apricots seems to have been a success. My dietitian suggested a gradual (three-day) reintroduction of each food, maybe because I’ve gone without them for so long. She said to expect some mild symptoms, but not to back off unless they become severe. I’m simply reminding my system that these substances are food.

We’ve moved on, as per the “reintroduction plan” chart on page 47 of the book, to lactose. This week’s introduction was 2% milk. Next week: ice cream (because of its higher fat content). Oh, twist my arm!

It might take months to complete the challenge plan, and we expect setbacks. I suspect I’ll flunk fructose and fructans. But it’s great to know that the strict introductory phase doesn’t have to last for life.

More Important Than Gluten?

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MORE IMPORTANT THAN GLUTEN?

MAYO CLINIC GOING GLUTEN FREE:

Essential Guide to Managing Celiac Disease and Related Conditions

Joseph A. Murray, M.D.

(Also mentioned: article in 11/3/2014 issue of The New Yorker magazine.)

 

Mayo Clinic keeps publishing books that are helpful without either dumbing down or getting too technical. I confess I bought this one out of curiosity, wondering whether the low-FODMAP diet is getting well enough known to appear in new books on related topics.

 

Sure enough, FODMAPs are listed in the index and discussed under a heading “Is It Something Else?” This book really is about coping with Celiac Disease more than the “related conditions” mentioned in the subtitle—naturally! Dr. Murray is president of the North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease and has studied wheat genetics, so he definitely knows the topic.

 

We FODMAPers really are going mainstream, though. That article in The New Yorker (“A Reporter at Large: Against the Grain: Should you go gluten-free?” by Michael Specter) spends a full page on the topic, describing the 2011 Monash University research that turned up the FODMAP complication, describing it as a spinoff from research into the gluten/celiac connection. Dr. Murray’s research is mentioned here too, and he too seems convinced that FODMAPs are important—as important as gluten, or rather, more important. Specter’s conclusion, after interviewing Dr. Murray: “In fact, FODMAPs seem more likely than gluten to cause widespread intestinal distress, since bacteria regularly ferment carbohydrates but ferment protein less regularly….”

 

If you’re a new FODMAPer, I hope that’s encouraging. A lot of people who give up wheat are feeling better these days.

Product Review: Namaste Foods Gluten Free Bread Mix

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Product Review: Namaste Foods Gluten Free Bread Mix

I have to confess. As soon as I could reintroduce small amounts of brown rice flour, I headed for the pre-packaged bread mixes. I love freshly baked bread. Even after freezing, it’s better than pre-baked. Still, I spend so much kitchen time preparing things other folks take for granted (gluten-free, lactose-free, FODMAP friendly!) that I’m willing to take the occasional shortcut if the product is tasty, healthy, and keeps well.

This bread mix is all three. The one-pound package produces a golden-white loaf that is tender and uniform in texture and freezes well after slicing. I wish it had more of a rich, whole-grain texture and color, but very few baked goods that aren’t honey-sweetened seem to manage that dark brown chewiness I loved about whole wheat bread. This makes good toast, breadcrumbs for meatballs or sausage, and is excellent for stuffing a chicken or turkey.

Contains brown rice flour, sorghum flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, rice milk powder, evaporated cane juice [why can’t they just write “sugar”?], millet flour, salt, xanthan gum, and a yeast packet. You add 1 egg, 3 egg whites, ¼ cup oil, water. Prep time: 40 minutes, plus baking time of 70 minutes.

It Doesn’t Always Work Out: Lemon Bars

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It Doesn’t Always Work Out: Lemon Bars

Four eggs. A cup of pecan halves at $11.00 a pound. Two lovely lemons. And most precious: an hour of summer’s last sweet Sunday afternoon.

Sometimes, a new recipe flops. Even a recipe I’ve adapted from a source that inspired a real favorite (see Fresh Blueberry Tart).

Yesterday afternoon, I tried gluten-free lemon bars. Citrus fruits are allowed on the low-FODMAP diet, and the oat-pecan crust in my new Flavor Without FODMAPs Cookbook worked so well with blueberries that I couldn’t resist making a trip to the store for more pecans. I baked the crust, mixed up the fresh-lemon custard topping, and did a little late-season gardening while the lemon bars baked.

When I came back inside with a basketful of Black Sea Man tomatoes, the house smelled heavenly, the topping was nicely browned, and the bars…

Well, if lemon bars are capable of sin (far-fetched, admittedly) (still, run with that metaphor for a moment), their cardinal offense would be blandness. These were bland. Barely lemony, not mouth-puckeringly-wonderful as lemon bars ought to be. I ate too many anyway, but this morning I threw out the rest of the batch.

That’s is why there’s no new recipe this week on Comfortable Comfort Foods. Well, that… and the fact that I’m getting married in just over a month and very very busy! (c:

Review: Chives, a FODMAP friendly herb

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Review: Chives, a FODMAP friendly herb

Chives impart a delicate oniony flavor and attractive dark-green color splash—and, because we eat only the green above-ground part of the plant, they are FODMAP friendly. They’re easy to grow in an herb pot and will often overwinter in a small pot near a window in my cool garage (though our recent twenty-below winter killed a plant). One plant will supply plenty of snipped chives. Tip: If you grow them outdoors, especially in a temperate climate, be sure to pick off ALL the attractive flower tufts before they go to seed, or you could end up with chives everywhere!

Harvesting and storing:

Gather about ten long, straight leaves in one hand and snip near the base with sharp scissors. Rinse in cool water and store, refrigerated, in a Ziploc bag with a barely damp paper towel.

To use:

Grab two or three chives in one hand and use those sharp scissors to snip ¼” lengths into a small bowl (or directly onto the food).

Easy!

Product and Recipe Review: Cookies, a hit and a miss

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First, a hit.

Several of my friends keep watch for FODMAP friendly products. At a recent farmer’s market in Boise, Idaho, Bill spotted a flour blend that set off his “Kathy might be able to eat this” alarm. He phoned, read me the ingredient list, and sure enough! I could actually use it. He graciously bought me a bag.

“Marjorie June’s Legacy Kitchen Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour Blend” contains whole grain ivory teff, whole grain sweet white sorghum, sweet white rice (a.k.a. sticky rice), and tapioca flour. It has a pleasing, pale brown color and floury texture. A ¼-cup serving contains 3 grams protein and 119 calories, and according to the label, it can be substituted for other flours by weight. I look forward to testing it in my old recipes.

Because tonight I baked the “Crocodile Chocolate Chip Cookies” recipe on the back of the bag. Slightly spicy and packed with chips and walnuts, they were delicious. Only a barely discernible gritty mouth feel hinted that these are gluten-free.

Unfortunately, Marjorie June only sells her products in stores and at special events—in Idaho. Maybe, if several of us left a plea on her website (www.marjoriejunes.com) and promised to support her by ordering the products, she might start selling them online. Other products advertised but not sold on the website: blueberry catsup (not FODMAP friendly, unfortunately) and the excellent Crocodile Chocolate Chip Cookies, pre-packaged. Thank you, Marjorie June. And thank you, Bill.

 

… and a miss. My local food co-op recently posted “Homemade Cookies with Fewer Ingredients” on their Facebook page, and this week I baked their gluten/dairy free “5 Ingredient Cookies.” The idea is excellent. When there are fewer ingredients, folks with food sensitivities are likelier to be able to enjoy them.

But the best flavor in these cookies came from the “optional” chocolate chips; the cookies themselves were bland; the peanut butter-oatmeal dough was so stiff that I had to take it off the mixer and finish blending it with a wooden spoon… and, I get to replace the bent beaters on my upright mixer!

So you won’t be seeing that recipe on CCF. I froze the evidence—and cookie by cookie, I’ll finish them off. I shouldn’t, but I will. And I bet the Crocodile Chocolate Chip cookies will vanish first. If you ever pass through Boise when there’s a farmer’s market, look for Marjorie June.

Product Review: Nabisco Rice Thins (“White Rice Original”)

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Product Review: Nabisco Rice Thins (“White Rice Original”)

For two years, I’ve tried to come up with a FODMAP friendly recipe to satisfy my occasional longing for something light and crunchy. Baking from scratch with gluten-free ingredients is tricky enough without trying to duplicate the distinctive crispiness of uniform commercial crackers. Tapioca Almond Crackers come pretty close. But these Rice Thins are tasty (just salty enough), light and crunchy—excellent dipped in Lemon Almond Basil Pesto—and not prohibitively expensive.

As for their nutritional value: in a word, meh. The only semi-desirable entry on the box-side Nutrition Facts is “2g Protein in 18 crackers.” But wait. That serving of 18 crackers contains only 130 calories. And you won’t be eating crackers to fill the holes in your nutritional needs. You’ll be eating crackers because everyone else at the Downton Abbey marathon will have a plate stacked high with mysterious hors d’oeuvres, and you don’t have time to bake biscotti.

So thaw a jar of frozen pesto—or get creative with what you’ve got on hand (They aren’t bad with peanut butter!), pick up a box of Rice Thins, and settle in.

Ingredients: White rice flour, high oleic safflower oil, salt.

Product Review: Microplane Zester

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Product Review: Microplane Zester

Recently I attended a talk given by Fresh from the Farm author, gardener, and foodie Susie Middleton, who said that her “microplane zester” was one of her favorite kitchen tools, perfect for removing the tasty, brilliant zest from citrus—citrus being one of her top ten ingredients to keep on hand for garnishing home-grown vegetables (I hope to interview Susie soon for CCF).

First, a disclaimer: I keep a fairly simple utensil drawer, and it’s been a long time since I treated myself to a new kitchen toy. For years, I simply used a regular cheese grater for this task. When I was an ex-pat grad student in Canada, I even took a potato peeler and created broad strips (mostly zest, with some of the bitter white inner peel), then trimmed and sliced the strips as finely as possible. But Susie was so enthusiastic I couldn’t resist. At my local hardware store, a medium-grade zester cost under $15.00. $13.99, to be exact. There’s no sales tax in Montana. (c:

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