Homemade Curry Powder

Homemade Curry Powder

I love spice.  Love it!  The size of my spice cupboard is ridiculous, and that’s even after some serious culling both before and after we moved to Canada.  I’m looking forward to the day (hopefully not too distant in the future) when Little Man will start to enjoy food with any level of heat to it.  Until then, I still use spices heavily throughout my cooking, but limit myself to those that add flavor, not heat.

One of the drawbacks (and sources of great woe) of the low FODMAP diet has been in the total absence of onion and garlic in the spices we are allowed to cook with.  Garlic can be used as an infused oil, but all other forms are forbidden since they are a primary culprit of the bad gastric issues we are trying to avoid with Little Man.  This garlic and onion spice avoidance also means that just about every commercially available spice blend, even from the really good places, are also forbidden since they all contain some form (sometimes multiple forms) of dried garlic and/or onions.  Sigh…

The other day I finally hit my point of “enough!” when I was skimming through some online recipes and they all contained curry powder.  It just so happens that my spice cupboard holds multiple types of curry powder, all of which contain the forbidden items.  Argh!  As I glared at my spices it suddenly occured to me that I actually had all of the ingredietns that I needed to make a garlic- and onion-free (aka FODMAP friendly) curry powder.  I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this, but challenge accepted!

I do have to state here that there is absolutely nothing authentic about curry powder.  It’s basically an invention of colonialism as the British came back from their time in India and wanted to recreate the flavors of that incredible place.  Point of fact, this is also how Worcestershire Sauce was created, but that’s a different story.  The point here is to please not expect an authentic Indian cuisine experience from this spice blend, since it isn’t authentic.  It is, however, delicious.

Once you have the ground spices at hand, making the spice blend is literally as easy as stirring them up in a bowl and storing them in a tightly sealed jar in a dark, cool, place.  You can therefore tweak the recipe to give it the kind of flavor (or appearance) that you prefer, such as adding cayenne in place of where I use paprika.  Trust me, if I wasn’t doing this for Little Man specifically, I’d be using the cayenne as well.

I like to use this curry powder to toss with potatoes or yams for roasting in the oven along with a little olive oil, salt and pepper; or add it into quinoa or brown rice before boiling; or even mixing it into a simple vinaigrette for a punch of flavor in an acidic salad dressing.  Your only limitation in how to use this curry powder is your own imagination.  It goes great with just about anything.  And if you don’t need to follow a low FODMAP diet, by all means add a teaspoon or so of garlic and onion powder to your spice blend.  I’ll just have to vicariously live through your allium usage.

FODMAP Friendly Curry Powder
Yes, it is easier to buy an already blended spice mix from the store, but this version lets you adjust the heat level to your (or your family’s) preferences or dietary needs. My version creates a blend suitable for low FODMAP diet dishes, while giving you a fresher flavor than you’ll find from the store shelf. For the best curry powder, grind whole cumin and coriander seeds in a spice or coffee grinder. I use powdered here for quickness.

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. ground coriander
2 tbsp. ground cardamom
2 tbsp. turmeric
2 tsp. paprika (or cayenne for more heat)
2 tsp. dry mustard powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Combine the spices in a bowl, then pour into an air tight container.
    The spices for my homemade curry powder.

    The spices for my homemade curry powder.

    Stirring them together.

    Stirring them together.

    And viola, you are done.  My curry powder is not as yellow as some store brands.  You can make it more yellow if you want by adding more turmeric.  I like this deeper color, and the balance of flavors created here.

    And viola, you are done. My curry powder is not as yellow as some store brands. You can make it more yellow if you want by adding more turmeric. I like this deeper color, and the balance of flavors created here.

  2. Store in a cool, dark place. Use in any recipe that calls for curry powder. The curry powder can be used in a vinaigrette, tossed with potato or yam wedges for oven roasting, or rubbed onto a whole chicken before roasting. Enjoy!
Then just store the spice in a tight jar, like my tiny mason jar or any recycled jam or honey jar, and you are ready to go.

Then just store the spice in a tight jar, like my tiny mason jar or any recycled jam or honey jar, and you are ready to go.

Click here for a printable version of the FODMAP Friendly Curry Powder recipe.

These little jars can also make fantastic gifts.  Try putting a few together for a hostess gift, for a wedding shower, or around the holidays.

These little jars can also make fantastic gifts. Try putting a few together for a hostess gift, for a wedding shower, or around the holidays.

Garlic Scapes

The Scent of My Morning

The morning is early, but you can feel the edge of the sunshine turning hot.  A quick shift in the breeze between cool dampness and dusty heat.  As I tromp out of one garden patch, moving the sprinkler to another bed, the scent of garlic perfumes the air. This is not the “aroma” of stale garlic from a cheap pizza joint, but fresh garlic growing inches from where I drag the hose and try to not stumble into the plants in my early morning haze.  In the interests of full disclosure it’s not really that early, but my level of functionality in the morning is… how to say this politely… slow.  Yet every morning as I move the sprinkler from that particular garden bed I catch the scent of garlic and think of it longingly.  I miss garlic.  I love garlic.  It’s early, I don’t plan on eating garlic right now, but it’s the true scent of the plant that makes me smile.  Every morning the scent of that garlic makes me think of food, which makes me laugh at the thought of a heavy garlic breakfast (not an impossibility in my household before the FODMAP… joy).  Then that thought always takes me to Turkey.

The first picked garlic head (with accoutrement) was gifted to me.  It was also the first time I'd actually seen the whole plant, including the curly scape growing out of the top.

The first picked garlic head (with accoutrement) was gifted to me. It was also the first time I’d actually seen the whole plant, including the curly scape growing out of the top.

Our landlord also let me harvest the remaining scapes from her patch.  Half of them ended up on our grill with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  The other half are destined for some garlic scape pesto, but more on that later.

Our landlord also let me harvest the remaining scapes from her patch. Half of them ended up on our grill with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. The other half are destined for some garlic scape pesto, but more on that later.

I have no idea when I’ll get to return to Turkey or in what capacity, but the country and the people are lovely and I miss them both.  But in the mornings when I smell the garlic plants I reminds me of a less pleasant smell… at least at 4am… that of pancakes. Don’t tell my son that I wrote this, but at 4am on a dig site the last thing in the world I want to smell is cooking food, particularly pancakes.  For my first excavation in Turkey we had a dig chef who is arguably the best (and most fought over… literally) dig chef in the country.  Necmi is amazing.  Out of his love and caring for us, Necmi would prepare for us special food to start our day.  Pancakes.  The smell of those pancakes at o’dark hundred hour made me nauseous, but out of love for Necmi we would all try to choke one or two down.  Then around 8:30am-ish, after we’d been working at the excavation site for a few hours, we would stop work for second breakfast (the life of an archaeologist in the field does have some parallels to how hobbits eat) we would wish we had his pancakes.

Now I just need to figure out how to cure this glorious bulb.

Now I just need to figure out how to cure this glorious bulb.

But back to the garlic.  This is one of those crops that I’d never actually seen in “the wild”  before moving to Vancouver Island.  I had a good working knowledge of what the plant looked like, having cooked with garlic bulbs all of my adult life, but that doesn’t prepare you for the reality of the three foot high stalks, the buried/hidden bulbs underground (are they growing down there?), or the Seussian curly scapes that signal the garlic is almost ready to harvest.  Nor does it prepare you for the realities of how to actually harvest the thing.  Fresh garlic needs to cure or dry before it is used, but these are seriously thick stalks.  Can we even braid them into some form of bulbous hair-like creation?  And if so, where do we put them.  And if we can’t braid them, where do we store them?  Fresh garlic is like a gremlin, don’t get it wet.

My glorious harvest of scapes.

My glorious harvest of scapes.

The bulk of this garlic-based malaise is actually not mine to carry, but my landlord’s.  We did not plant garlic because I figured it was a moot point since we couldn’t eat it due to Little Man’s FODMAP restrictions.  That was… shall we say… shortsighted of me.  SInce then I’ve found ways to use garlic (like in garlic infused oils) in cooking for LIttle Man, and there is the fact that Dave and I can eat garlic even if our son cannot.  While the low FODMAP thing is working great for Little Man, my weight has gone up, my nails shatter just by looking at them cross eyed, and I’ve started coveting my neighbors garlic patch.  Luckily our neighbors are kind, sharing people, and I have some fresh garlic curing downstairs as we speak with the promise of more garlic later in the season for us to plant for next year.  The world is a kinder place because of it.

Garlic Scapes

The Sheep Are Out Again and Again

The Sheep Are Out Again… Wait, What?

The very first meal that we ate in this house inspired the name of this blog, the sheep are out.  I won’t retell the story here, but you can read about it in the first post that is linked here.

Whadda ya lookin' at?  Can we get back to our snack now?

Whadda ya lookin’ at? Can we get back to our snack now?

Since that time the sheep have gotten out a couple more times, generally their short-lived freedom being spent nibbling and pooping (lots of pooping) in the garden.  There’s also been a loose horse in the front yard, munching by the basketball hoop, as well as various and a sundry other wildlife.

Running with the bulls… I mean the sheep…

So when Dave came bursting into the living room last night after just having put Little Man to bed and said that I needed to look outside, I flew to the front door.  Outside I was greeted by a group of sheep munching away around Little Man’s sand box.  They looked a bit chagrined that their late night snack was being interrupted.  Luckily Dave was doing the sheep herding and steered them down the driveway rather than the shorter distance through the garden (which I likely would have done without thinking about the consequences) since it would have been destroyed.

Wait for me!

I have to say that Dave is becoming a quite proficient with his sheep herding, much better than our first night here back in 2013.  Hopefully the sheep don’t take this as a challenge to up their game.  Until then, the sheep were out, but are now… noisily… back in their pens.

Awesome Cornbread

Adventures with FODMAPs – Lactose Edition and Amazing Cornbread with Maple Butter

As I’ve written earlier, we are in the midst of the dubious pleasure of testing different food groups for reintroduction into our son’s diet.  After following the 10 week low FODMAP food regimen we finally saw healthy changes in Little Man, and then began the exciting and worrisome task of testing the various FODMAP groups to see which one(s) are triggers for him.  Based on the suggested plan for testing the different groups, we started with the Polyols (aka fruit alcohols).  They went suprisingly well, and buoyed by our success with the polyol FODMAP food tests we dove right into the lactose tests.  There are numerous categories of FODMAPS (discussed in a previous post Adventures with FODMAPs – Polyol Edition) and each one needs to be tested in order to find which FODMAP foods or food groups might be triggers for Little Man.  Alas, our previous good fortune was to be short lived.

We started our lactose trials with Little Man’s favorite food in the world; boxed mac and cheese.  A couple of weeks ago Little Man and I were in the grocery store doing regular shopping and we came across the aisle with his favorite brand of mac and cheese.  He stopped dead in his tracks, jumped into a wide stance with his arms out like he was going to hug the shelf, and immediately broke into a happy dance singing about his love for mac and cheese.  Full on singing at the top of his lungs in the middle of the aisle.  While he was dancing out of pure unadulterated joy, my heart was breaking since I knew that we were in the middle of the strict FODMAP diet, so he couldn’t have this food that obviously he’d been missing.  Luckily this brand also carries one style of gluten-free mac and cheese, so I picked up a box for him to enjoy when we started the lactose test.

Now here we are testing the lactose/dairy FODMAP category and Little Man got his boxed treat.  I had to make Dave and myself a separate box, since I think that Little Man was prepared to defend his mac and cheese with whatever plastic utensil was at hand.  We had to control his portions or I think he might just have eaten the entire thing.  The left overs he devoured for lunch the next day.  Luckily there weren’t any ill effects from this beloved food.  So we continued.

The next evening we moved on to testing the lactose group with feta, a low lactose cheese.  We gave some to Little Man just to eat with dinner (primarily since when he heard I was using feta, he came and begged for tastes) and some blitzed up in a delicious walnut and feta dip that we hadn’t enjoyed in months.  Seriously, you’ve got to try this dip.  Dave and I used to make this often as a part of a meze (Greek for little dishes) meal.  Little Man fell on that feta like a hungry wolf pup, gobbling up both the plain feta and the dip.  We then watched him like a pair of hawks, and didn’t notice any unfortunate symptoms over the course of the next day.  With that false sense of security we continued.

The following evening we had a dinner of delicious shrimp quesadillas with cheddar cheese from Pioneer Woman.  Now, when testing FODMAPs you need to be careful to only test one category at a time.  Otherwise if you are trying to test for lactose with a quesadilla (something that contains both lactose and gluten), then if you get a reaction you won’t know which category was the culprit.  That’s a long way around to say that we needed to make these wheat-free quesadillas.  I haven’t found gluten- or wheat-free store bought tortillas that I like, so I made spelt tortillas and they were great.  I’ll share that recipe soon in a separate post.  The quesadillas were seriously delicious, and again we didn’t notice any bloating or other symptoms.  So we moved forward again.

For this day we had cumin-spiced chicken and butter pasta for dinner.  The butter pasta is a simple and serious comfort food for Dave.  We used to eat butter pasta for dinner sporadically in graduate school when we needed a fast, comforting, and dead cheap meal.  It’s simply spaghetti (in our case a gluten free variety) tossed with a little starchy water from their boiling liquid, a good amount of butter (we used a nondairy variety since that’s what we had in the house), and a wonderful handful of Parmesan cheese (the real stuff please).  When we make this for ourselves, we also toss in a handful of finely chopped Italian parsley and chives. Little Man is in a “no green” phase of eating right now, so for this test we left them out.  He does, however LOVE Parmesan.  We gave him a couple of little shards to munch on while he also gobbled up the pasta.

It was after the butter pasta meal that we did finally see those unfortunate symptoms that we’d been both watching for and dreading.  Poor Little Man had a distended tummy for a couple of days and was understandably low in energy and appetite. In this case we don’t think that the culprit was necessarily the Parmesan, but the accumulation of lactose over the last few days.  We would later test Little Man with a snack of a good quality raspberry yogurt, and see these unfortunate symptoms appear again.

The appearance of those symptoms for Little Man after eating dairy products was both disheartening since we have to be careful with those foods for him, but it was also somehow reassuring since we now at least know one of the food groups that is a trigger for him.  Now that we know this trigger, we can do our best to avoid them or at least to plan around them so that he can still enjoy his favorite dairy foods from time to time, we just have to be sure to limit as many high FODMAP foods as possible around those meals.  The key with FODMAPs is that they are cumulative, so each time that they are eaten they build upon the last.

So the good part is that we’ve identified a solid trigger for Little Man, and of course the downside is that it’s a category that is insidious.  You never realize the number of foods that contain dairy until you start looking for it.  For instance we learned that some hotdog brands contain milk powder.  And, yes, we found that out after feeding the to our son.  Doh!  So now we are taking a week to get Little Man’s system back on track and then we’ll experiment with the joys of fructose FODMAPs.

Another plus from our experiments with lactose has been the discovery of an amazing substitute for honey butter.  Before things went sideways with Little Man in the lactose testing, I had plans for a meal that was basically an excuse to have cornbread with honey butter.  That is one of Little Man’s favorites, but both the butter (lactose) and the honey (fructose) are high FODMAPs and are therefore victus non grata (unwelcome food).  It was a super simple switch, but that evening I tried making a maple butter by switching out the honey for maple syrup… and my goodness… where has this been all of my life?  I now try to find more excuses for making corn bread just to have this maple butter again.  You’ve got to try it.

IMG_5077

Awesome Cornbread and Maple Butter
Ingredients
:
1 ¼ cups yellow cornmeal
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup chia meal (see note)
¾ cup whole wheat or spelt flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk (cow, almond, soy, coconut…)
2 eggs
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup softened margarine or butter
2 tbsp. maple syrup (the real thing, please)

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°. Grease an 8-inch cast iron pan or baking pan with butter, margarine or coconut oil, and place the pan in the oven to heat while you make the batter. Preheating the seasoned pan is what gives the bread an awesome crispy crust.

    Preheating the pan (preferably cast iron) before adding the batter creates a deliciously crispy crust.

    Preheating the pan (preferably cast iron) before adding the batter creates a deliciously crispy crust.

  2. In a large bowl combine the cornmeal, chia meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk the ingredients together to make sure they are well incorporated.
    The dry ingredients.

    The dry ingredients.

    Whisked dry ingredients.  The chia looks alarmingly like black pepper, but soon it will blend in nicely.

    Whisked dry ingredients. The chia looks alarmingly like black pepper, but soon it will blend in nicely.

  3. In a small bowl or large measuring cup combine the milk, eggs and olive oil. Gently beat the eggs to start combining things.
    I like to mix the wet ingredients together in a large measuring cup rather than dirty another bowl.

    I like to mix the wet ingredients together in a large measuring cup rather than dirty another bowl.

    The wet ingredients don't need to be perfectly blended, but give them a good spin before adding to the dry ingredients.

    The wet ingredients don’t need to be perfectly blended, but give them a good spin before adding to the dry ingredients.

    IMG_5059

  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until they are just combined. Do not over mix, or this will give you tough cornbread.

    The spelt and chia cornbread batter is darker than a standard recipe, and the flavor will be more rich as well.

    The spelt and chia cornbread batter is darker than a standard recipe, and the flavor will be more rich as well.

  5. Carefully pull the prepared hot pan out of the oven and pour the batter into the pan. Gently smooth the top, and return the pan to the oven.
    IMG_5068
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out dry.
    The hardest part is letting the cornbread cool before digging in.

    The hardest part is letting the cornbread cool before digging in.

    IMG_5071

  7. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the softened butter or margarine with the maple syrup. If you over soften the butter, don’t worry. Just mix it all together and stick it in the freezer or refrigerator to firm up a bit. You can also add a bit more syrup for a sweeter flavor, if you like. Transfer the maple butter to a small serving bowl.
    It's rare that I remember to set butter out to soften on the counter, so I generally need to use the microwave in short  second bursts.

    It’s rare that I remember to set butter out to soften on the counter, so I generally need to use the microwave in short second bursts.

    I was a bit over judicious in my maple syrup pour for this picture.  If this happens to you, just do the same thing that I did and add a bit more softened butter until you get the consistency that you like.

    I was a bit over judicious in my maple syrup pour for this picture. If this happens to you, just do the same thing that I did and add a bit more softened butter until you get the consistency that you like.

    After a few moments in the freezer or minutes in the refrigerator, this too soft maple butter was perfect for use.

    After a few moments in the freezer or minutes in the refrigerator, this too soft maple butter was perfect for use.

  8. Once the cornbread is fully baked, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for about 10-15 minutes. Then slice the cornbread and serve it with the maple butter. I love serving the cornbread in the cast iron skillet right on the table alongside a small crock of the maple butter. Enjoy!

Note: Make your own chia meal by blitzing up chia seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor. You can also do the same with flax seeds, or make oat flour by blitzing up whole oats (not instant, please). Store any extra chia meal in the freezer to keep it fresh.

IMG_5078

Click here for a printable version of the Awesome Cornbread and Maple Butter recipe.

The grass toupees are gone, and I've moved the parsley and chives to their "new" garden plan locations.

A Red Wheel Barrow

So much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.
-Poem by William Carlos Williams

I first read that poem in high school and promptly forgot it.  It was nearly 10 years later, after university as I worked in the “real world” that I decided I liked the ivory tower better and wanted to go back to graduate school.  Only after starting graduate school would I remember the rainwater glazed wheel barrow.

I was in Turkey for my first archaeology field season when Williams’ wheel barrow came to mind.  Maybe it was the pastoral setting with sheep, goats and turkeys rampaging across the golden countryside.  Maybe it was the horizon dotted by slow moving tractors harvesting grain that would feed most of the country.  Or maybe it was the fact that I’d discovered how intensely, mind numbingly boring archaeology can be at times.  I’m not sure what the impetus was, but I was in immediate need of poetry.

Don’t get me wrong, I love archaeology, but there are days when you’ve come across nothing, nothing, nothing, but more dirt, nothing to get your mind working on anything.  It was one of those mornings where I’d found nothing but more dirt… again… that I found myself quoting poems memorized in high school.  Emily Dickenson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.”  Random Shakespearean sonnets.  And what bugged me was that I couldn’t remember the one about the wheel barrow and the chickens. It just seemed to fit somehow, but I couldn’t remember the words and there was no wifi for miles and miles.

In fact, not only was there no wifi, but there was no electricity, no running water, no cars at the village across from our excavation site.  My favorite thing was to watch as the donkey drawn cart come trundling over the hill, dangling with plastic bowls, metal pots, children’s toys, and other paraphernalia that the local villagers might want to purchase.  Often on those same days we would see the ice cream donkey hoofing it over the hill.  The donkey was led by a young boy and had two large, orange, insulated drink containers strapped to his sides, both filled with the local ice cream that is blended with pounded orchids giving it a distinctively gummy texture.  It’s an acquired taste.  At the time I didn’t know that this was not the glorious rainbow sherbet that just the mention of caused my parched mouth to water.  When I finally gathered up the courage after weeks of excavation to get some ice cream from the lad… I ended up burying it in my back dirt pile the minute he was over the hill again.  Maybe it was just his local batch, but it had the overall flavor of what I can only imagine old tires must taste like.

My garden plot needed a bit of elbow grease, especially with the amazing kale finally going to seed after a mild winter.

My garden plot needed a bit of elbow grease, especially with the amazing kale finally going to seed after a mild winter.

What brought all of this to mind was me digging in the dirt of my garden patch.  After our relatively warm winter, my plot had begun to look rather… what’s a polite word for it… scruffy… unkempt… bordering on embarrassing.  I hacked away at the clumps of stubborn grass and filled my borrowed red wheel barrow to the rim twice with fluffy, green toupees to dump in the pig pen.  The pigs seemed to have fun tossing them in the air.  Or at least I think they are having fun.  They might have been vehemently stating that fluffy, green toupees of grass are not delightful pig snacks.  Just to be sure I brought them some wonderfully wilted vegetable scraps later.  Those pigs have long memories.

Getting the kale out was the easy part.  That grass toupee was obnoxious.

Getting the kale out was the easy part. That grass toupee was obnoxious.

But that brings me back to the wheel barrow, glazing rain water and chickens.  So much depends upon…  Still makes me smile.  As I swung my scythe of doom for weeds (aka a borrowed hoe that I likely should not be swinging like a scythe) poems from high school streamed through my mind.  Foremost has been the white chickens by the red wheel barrow.  Though in my mind this is followed by a curly haired little boy chasing the said chickens amid much cackling from boy and chickens.

The grass toupees are gone, and I've moved the parsley and chives to their

The grass toupees are gone, and I’ve moved the parsley and chives to their “new” garden plan locations.

Let the gardening games begin...

Let the gardening games begin…

Smokey Sweet Potato Bites

Adventures with FODMAPs – Polyols and Sweet Potato “Fries”

We’ve finally made it through the initial eight weeks of the FODMAP diet so we can begin trying to reintroduce different categories of FODMAPs into Little Man’s and our diets.  Whew!  It’s been a bit of a haul, and honestly it’s likely been closer to 10 weeks because we completely botched the first week or two.  After that point we got into the swing of things and started seeing really great improvements in Little Man’s health.  Now we get to start trying out foods, one category at a time, checking for reactions to each one, slowly going through multiple foods from each category before moving on.  Let the games begin…

For more specifics on the FODMAP diet and reintroducing foods, please see Sue Shepard’s Complete FODMAP Diet book.  This details the tests they ran to create the diet, the types of issues that following the diet can help, a detailed discussion of FODMAPS, foods to avoid and how to reintroduce foods for these “challenges” to see what reacts badly with an individual and what can be safely eaten.  I do not attempt to be an expert on this diet, but simply am doing my best to follow the guidelines to help my family’s health.

Shepard recommends starting the reintroductions with the Polyol FODMAP category, moving slowly through up the scale of contentious other categories, and finally ending with the one that no one can actually digest well… Galactoids (aka beans… but more on those in a few weeks).  Polyols are “sugar alcohols” and occur naturally in some foods, but are also used in processed foods as sweeteners.  For us, the high FODMAP polyols that we used as “challenges” to reintroduce to Little Man are apples, blackberries, pears, and mushrooms, as well as the moderate polyol FODMAPs of sweet potatoes and avocados.  Even though this was the least contentious of the categories to start with, it is one that I’ve been looking to forward the most because of its prevalence as a sweetener in juices, cookies, granola bars, fruit snacks, jams, and any other myriad of snack treat or food aimed towards kids.  Try finding jams, juices or fruit snacks for kids that don’t contain either high fructose corn syrup (another high FODMAP, but one that we try to eliminate anyway) or some form of apple.  Ugh…

Starting the reintroduction process has been nerve wracking.  Little Man’s tummy was looking good and it’s difficult to put that at risk, but I’m also excited to start this process so that we can (hopefully) finally know what his triggers are.  My hope is that it will be easier to only have to avoid a few triggers (please be only a few!) than the world at large.

For the reintroduction process, it’s important to not completely gorge on the food you are testing, but also to make sure that you eat a good portion. If you try too small of an amount, you may not get an accurate response.  So you should try a regular-sized portion (Shepard has suggestions), see if there is a reaction, and then try again.  If you have a regular sized proportion of a high FODMAP food and have a reaction, Shepard suggests that after your symptoms subside try the food again at a smaller amount.  It might just be that you can only tolerate a small bit.  Once you know what foods and what amounts of the foods you can (or cannot) handle, you can start to better understanding your triggers.  Shepard also suggests trying these trigger foods again at a later date.  Sometimes our systems change, and especially since Little Man is so young he may out grow (or may not) the unfortunate reactions he’s experiencing today.

It took us almost two weeks, but we just completed testing the Polyol FODMAP food group.  Luckily for us, Little Man did great with all of the polyols we tried.  He did so good, in fact, that for the first time in months I let him have one of the good fruit snack treats (sweetened with apple juice) we call fruit straws.  He was ecstatic, and so far I haven’t seen any bad reactions.  To celebrate this “challenge” Little Man and I ate our fruit snacks while going on an adventure walk in our neighbors’ Enchanted Forest.  Aside from the fruit straws, we were also treated to our first view of a native orchid species to these woods called Fairy Slippers.  The orchids are tiny, so it took us a bit of time to finally locate the amidst the larger Trilium and gorgeous yellow violets. Little Man, who is obsessed with all things Kung Fu Panda, was determined that we were having a hard time finding the Fairy Slipper orchids because a group of Croc bandits must have come through and taken them all.  Luckily we chased off the Croc bandits and found the orchids.  Whew!

Aside from apple, one of the polyol foods that I have been looking forward to “testing” are sweet potatoes.  We are still struggling with getting Little Man to eat vegetables (and fruit in any form that is not completely pulverized or turned into jam), but one that he will eat without any question is a sweet potato.  In our household we call these “french fries” even though they aren’t fried, aren’t made from regular potatoes (though you can use them if you want), nor are they in french fry shape (though you can easily cut them that way too).  Ah well.  The good news is that since Little Man has cleared this challenge, we can start enjoying sweet potatoes again at dinner time. Little Man’s favorite way to eat sweet potato “french fries” is in the form of Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries.  For the reintroduction celebration of sweet potatoes, I served them as Smokey Sweet Potato Bites.  I’ve included both recipes here, though the pictures are only for the Smokey Sweet Potato bites since the method is the same.  When we put these on the dinner table Little Man’s eyes lit up and he literally fell on them with both hands.  Dave and I were concerned that he was going to eat too many of them and therefore have a bad reaction, but all was well with the world and Little Man was super excited to have one of his favorite foods back.  Whew!

If you think that you don’t like sweet potatoes, maybe give them one more chance and try these out.  The cost and labor output is low, and you might be surprised by actually liking them.  I, myself, only like sweet potatoes in certain dishes.  I’m not a huge fan of baked sweet potatoes served like regular baked potatoes, nor do I like sweet potato fries especially if they are treated like a dessert and covered in cinnamon sugar.  Apologies to all of those sweet potato lovers who like those two dishes, but they simply aren’t my thing.  My classic Oven Roasted Sweet Potato “Fries” and Smokey Sweet Potato Bites, however, are totally different.  The sweetness of the sweet potato is balanced with the smokey spices, and the edges of each bite are crisped in the oven.  What’s not to like?  Here’s how they are made.

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato “Fries”
In our household, these are the classic form of “French fry” that appear on our dinner table regularly. They aren’t fried, nor are they made out of potatoes, nor are they in French fry shape (though you can easily cut them that way). What they are is delicious, and Little Man’s favorite vegetable. If you don’t think you like sweet potatoes, give these a shot. You might just change your mind.

Ingredients:
2 medium sweet potatoes
¼ cup olive oil, plus extra
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°. Prepare a baking sheet by drizzling a little olive oil over it, then spreading the oil around with your fingers to evenly cover the pan. Set it aside.
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes, and then cut them in half the long way. Then cut those halves in half the long way again. Line up your sweet potato quarters and slice them into ¼ inch “bites.” Try to keep the pieces close to the same thickness, otherwise the really skinny ones will burn before the thicker ones crisp. Once all of your sweet potatoes are chopped, place them in a large bowl.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and toss with a large spoon until the sweet potato bites are evenly coated.
  4. Pour the seasoned sweet potatoes out onto the prepared baking sheet. Be sure that your sweet potatoes are all in one layer, spreading them out if needed.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, checking the “fries” towards the end of the cooking time to ensure that they aren’t “over caramelizing.” If they are getting too dark at the corners of your baking sheet, simply flip them around with a spatula moving the darker pieces into the center and the less done pieces to the corners.
  6. Once the fries are crispy and browned, remove the pan from the oven and move the bites with a spatula into your serving bowl. Taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of my Oven Roasted Sweet Potato “Fries” recipe, and keep on reading for another variation (this time with pictures!).

Smokey Sweet Potato Bites

Smokey Sweet Potato Bites
These are a smoky, spiced version of the classic Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries that Little Man loves. That basic recipe can be a blank canvas to season with whatever spices and herbs you are feeling inspired by. I love the smokey paprika with these fries, and they pair fantastically with roasted chicken or pork, or with any hearty vegetarian main. Like with the classic version, if you don’t think you like sweet potatoes, give these a shot.

Ingredients:
2 medium sweet potatoes
¼ cup olive oil, plus extra
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°. Prepare a baking sheet by drizzling a little olive oil over it, then spreading the oil around with your fingers to evenly cover the pan. Set it aside.
  2. Peel the sweet potatoes, and then cut them in half the long way. Then cut those halves in half the long way again. Line up your sweet potato quarters and slice them into ¼ inch “bites.” Try to keep the pieces close to the same thickness, otherwise the really skinny ones will burn before the thicker ones crisp. Once all of your sweet potatoes are chopped, place them in a large bowl.
    I included this picture to let you know the approximate size that I tend to buy of sweet potatoes.  I generally avoid the ones that are closer to small comet size.

    I included this picture to let you know the approximate size that I tend to buy of sweet potatoes. I generally avoid the ones that are closer to small comet size.

    The look after being peeled...

    The look after being peeled…

    Halving them lengthwise...

    Halving them lengthwise…

    Then halve them lengthwise again, and slice into little arcs.  These are perfect bite size (or for little fists...) bites.

    Then halve them lengthwise again, and slice into little arcs. These are perfect bite size (or for little fists…) bites.

  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and toss with a large spoon until the sweet potato bites are evenly coated with the oil and spices.
    Adding the spices to the bowl.  I love smoked paprika.  Look at that color!

    Adding the spices to the bowl. I love smoked paprika. Look at that color!

    Evenly tossed raw sweet potato bites with spices and olive oil.

    Evenly tossed raw sweet potato bites with spices and olive oil.

  4. Pour the seasoned sweet potatoes out onto the prepared baking sheet. Be sure that your sweet potatoes are all in one layer, spreading them out if needed.
    Pouring the bites onto a prepared baking sheet.

    Pouring the bites onto a prepared baking sheet.

    Smooth out the pile so that each bite can get nice and crispy in the oven.

    Smooth out the pile so that each bite can get nice and crispy in the oven.

  5. Bake for 30 minutes, checking the sweet potato bites towards the end of the cooking time to ensure that they aren’t “over caramelizing.” If they are getting too dark at the corners of your baking sheet, simply flip them around with a spatula moving the more done pieces into the center and the less done pieces to the corners.
    These are about halfway done.  Flip them here so that both sides get golden brown, and if any on the edges are browning too quickly you can move them to the center.

    These are about halfway done. Flip them here so that both sides get golden brown, and if any on the edges are browning too quickly you can move them to the center.

    Here they are almost perfect.  You can taste them now to adjust for seasoning.

    Here they are almost perfect. You can taste them now to adjust for seasoning.

  6. Once the sweet potato bites are crispy and browned, remove the pan from the oven and move the bites with a spatula into your serving bowl. Taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary. Enjoy!

    Smokey Sweet Potato Bites!

    Smokey Sweet Potato Bites!

Click here for a printable version of my Oven Roasted Sweet Potato “Fries” recipe or my Smokey Sweet Potato Bites recipe.

Arbutus

Strawberry Trees

When we moved to Vancouver Island from the American Midwest it was amazing to be living next to the sea with the cedar forests literally reaching to the shore.  These were also some of the oddest shores that I’d ever seen.  Being on the sheltered, eastern side of the island there is no surf pounding the shore, just gentle lapping ripples so there is sound that I generally associate with being at the beach.  Since there are no waves, there are also no surfers or even sponges (aka body boarders… sorry…).  In fact, there is no sand.  Instead we have pebble beaches, save for a few places to the north.  That said, with the occasional eagle soaring overhead, the sun sparkling off of the sapphire waters, and the forests extending right down to the water the views are stunning.

Little Man exploring the shore at Transfer Beach.

Pooh Bear… I mean Little Man… exploring the shore at Transfer Beach.

Nope, that's not a lake. That's the calm Pacific Ocean on the east side of Vancouver Island at Transfer Beach.

Nope, that’s not a lake. That’s the calm Pacific Ocean on the east side of Vancouver Island at Transfer Beach.

The forests are also unique to the island, at least in my experience.  In my defense before moving here I had been living in the corn belt for 5 years, where the land is so flat it seems as if you can actually see the horizon bend in the distance.  When we first moved here there was a certain type of tree that kept catching my eye.  Interspersed throughout the cedar, fir and alder, were smooth barked, rust colored trees that I’d never seen before.  They looked vaguely like the eucalyptus that I’m familiar with from California with their smooth barked trunks, but eucalyptus grow ramrod straight and these are curved and bent into Seussian shapes.  Eventually when exploring various parks with Little Man we came across one of those helpful informational signs informing us that these are arbutus tress.  Apparently one of the original Spanish explorers saw these gorgeous trees and was reminded of the strawberry trees from his homeland.  Or at least that’s what I remember from the sign at Neck Point.  Little Man insists the sign states that we should turn left on the trail and head for China.  One of us must be closer to correct than the other.

My intrepid navigators debate the B.C. Strawberry Tree sign at Neck Point.

My intrepid navigators debate the B.C. Strawberry Tree sign at Neck Point.

One of my favorite views of spring on the island is that of the blooming arbutus trees.  They are covered with large, creamy, star shaped flowers that look vaguely elvish.  It was a lovely spring morning so Little Man and I went tromping outside, me with my camera and he with his “kung fu sticks” (aka a long skinny branch and a green plastic tomato pole from my garden).  In the picture with Little Man blasting past an arbutus, he’s heading to the metal gate of the sheep enclosure to drum for the sheep.  The long suffering animals took off down to the lower meadow where Little Man’s musical offering wasn’t quite so loud.  He insisted that the sheep liked his music and was quite chagrined when I suggested we move on to give the sheep a bit of peace and quiet. Apparently I am not as well attuned to the musical tastes of sheep as he is.

An arbutus tree behind the barn.

An arbutus tree behind the barn.

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The sheep have fled the music.

Arbutus blossoms

Arbutus blossoms

With the warm spring sunshine, an amazing amount of blue sky, and the ground drying out from our deluge, it’s time to start thinking garden thoughts… or at least to start wresting my garden from the embrace of the mass of crab grass that sits like a jaunty toupee on my lovely plot.  But that is for a later post.

A crab grass toupee.

A crab grass toupee.

Morning light from under an arbutus tree.

Morning light from under an arbutus tree.

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