Oh yeah....

Breakfast Snack Cookies

Somewhere along the way we developed a morning routine of Little Man waking up and heading to the couch for a little TV, a drink of juice and a snack to tide him over until breakfast.  I don’t mind this window of quiet since it buys us a bit of time to start moving (and thinking).  Neither Dave nor I are particularly quick or quick witted first thing. What I’ve tried to do for these morning snacks, is find something that still registers as a treat for him, but that I can feel good about giving him to eat.  For Little Man, the greatest treat in the world is a cookie so treats in that form are generally a big hit.  Then I just wanted to make one that was as choc full of goodness (and tastiness) as I could come up with.  Enter the Oatmeal Peanut Butter Snack Cookie.

Once you move beyond the fact that they are delicious, they are also wheat-free, vegan and low FODMAP compliant, though none of those labels sound particularly tasty.  So if you’re going just for taste, ignore those last few disclaimers and get ready for a deliciously chewy cookie that you can feel good about feeding your family for breakfast or snack… or for treating yourself to as well.

With these, or pretty much any kind of cookies, I like to bake off a dozen right away for snacking and then freeze the rest in logs for slice and bake cookies.  For one thing that keeps me from eating an entire plate of cookies immediately since I don’t have a massive pile of cookies in front of me, but it also lets me vary things for Little Man in the mornings for snack time.  One of the things I read while researching Little Man’s dietary issues, is that especially if you have a picky eater, you should never serve your child the same thing two days in a row for breakfast.  Since Little Man is a picky eater and has the dietary issues, it felt like we were only feeding him two different foods for breakfast.  So now I try to have 4-5 breakfasts that I cycle through on any given week.  For us that’s often pancakes, eggs/toast/bacon, waffles, baked oatmeal, french toast, and a Dutch apple baby (baked pancake).  This is also why I like to keep homemade frozen pancakes, waffles, and bread in my freezer.  I make a batch of something and then freeze a good amount of it for use later in the week.  It’s not a perfect system, but it lets me rotate things through for Little Man and hopefully keeps his taste buds ready for new things to try.  FIngers crossed…

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Snack Cookies
I love that I can give these cookies to my son without feeling guilty about the ingredients, and the fact that he loves them because they’re delicious. Loaded with oats and peanut butter, these cookies give a good boost of fiber and protein, as well as a bit of chia goodness to round things out. I like to bake off a dozen and then freeze the rest of the dough in logs so I can bake more  whenever I want. Just add 5 minutes to the baking time if baking from frozen.

Ingredients:
2 tsp. chia meal (see note*)
2 tbsp. water (plus ½ cup for use later on)
¼ cup margarine, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl combine the chia meal and the water, and let it sit for 5 minutes. This becomes your chia egg (aka egg replacement).
    All you need to make your own chia meal is a bag of chia seeds and a coffee/spice grinder.  This lets you create a healthier chia meal since the oils are all still there.

    All you need to make your own chia meal is a bag of chia seeds and a coffee/spice grinder. This lets you create a healthier chia meal since the oils are all still there.

    It may not be pretty, but this peppery-gray goo is full of nutrients, and helps wheat-free recipes hold together well.

    It may not be pretty, but this peppery-gray goo is full of nutrients, and helps wheat-free recipes hold together well.

  3. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the margarine and peanut butter until fluffy. Add the chia egg, brown sugar and vanilla and beat until combined.
    Getting the margarine and peanut butter ready.  I use a good quality, soy-free margarine.

    Getting the margarine and peanut butter ready. I use a good quality, soy-free margarine.

    The beaters make fast work of blending my ingredients together, but you can do this by hand if that's your better option.

    The beaters make fast work of blending my ingredients together, but you can do this by hand if that’s your better option.

    These are the last ingredients that you can use the beaters for.

    These are the last ingredients that you can use the beaters for.

    And here is the lovely slurry ready for some oats and chocolate chips.

    And here is the lovely slurry ready for some oats and chocolate chips.

  4. Add the water, oats and baking soda, stirring by hand with a spoon or mixing on a lower speed in a stand mixer so the oats do not get too broken up.

    Stir in the oats by hand, or on low with a stand mixer, so you don't break up the oats too much.

    Stir in the oats by hand, or on low with a stand mixer, so you don’t break up the oats too much.

  5. Stir in the chocolate chips, and use two spoons to portion and drop tablespoon sized dough balls onto the parchment lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.
    This is Little Man's favorite part, since after he adds the chocolate chips he gets to snack on a few.

    This is Little Man’s favorite part, since after he adds the chocolate chips he gets to snack on a few.

    And since this is an egg-free batter, he can snack on the raw cookie dough too... If I would let him.  He generally can scam another chip or two off of me, but I like to keep as much dough as possible to make as many cookies as possible.

    And since this is an egg-free batter, he can snack on the raw cookie dough too… If I would let him. He generally can scam another chip or two off of me, but I like to keep as much dough as possible to make as many cookies as possible.

    I didn't use a cookie scoop for these, but just the old fashioned method of using two spoons.  You can certainly use a scoop, just gently tap the dough balls down a bit so that they cook well in the center.

    I didn’t use a cookie scoop for these, but just the old fashioned method of using two spoons. You can certainly use a scoop, just gently tap the dough balls down a bit so that they cook well in the center.

    More cookie love.

    More cookie love.

  6. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, then allow to cool on the baking sheet for five minutes. Remove the cookies to a cooling rack and cool completely (of course, you should munch on a couple while they are still warm… just to make sure they are good). These cookies tend to be more fragile than cookies with lots of flour, but their taste makes up for any potential fragility.
    Since there's no flour, these cookies can be a bit fragile.  Let them sit on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

    Since there’s no flour, these cookies can be a bit fragile. Let them sit on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

    More cookie love...

    More cookie love…

  7. The dough can also be rolled into a log inside plastic wrap and frozen for slice and bake cookies. When you want the cookies, simply pull out a log, unwrap the portion you want, slice off cookies and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 350° and check after 10 minutes. They may need a couple of minutes more since they are baking from frozen. Enjoy!
    I like to bake one dozen of the cookies immediately, and then freeze the rest for slice and bake cookies later.

    I like to bake one dozen of the cookies immediately, and then freeze the rest for slice and bake cookies later.

    So just take the left over dough and roll it up into one or two logs.

    So just take the left over dough and roll it up into one or two logs.

    Seal the cookie dough logs in plastic wrap, label them and you're ready to go.

    Seal the cookie dough logs in plastic wrap, label them and you’re ready to go.

    Don't feel that you have to be too precious about the thing and roll the perfect log.  No one is looking (at least I'm not), so if your cookie log isn't perfect it's not big deal.  They'll still taste as good.

    Don’t feel that you have to be too precious about the thing and roll the perfect log. No one is looking (at least I’m not), so if your cookie log isn’t perfect it’s not big deal. They’ll still taste as good.

    Sometimes the logs don't last long enough in the freezer for me to get around to label them.

    Sometimes the logs don’t last long enough in the freezer for me to get around to label them.

    Here are the finished beauties.

    Here are the finished beauties.

    Oh yeah....

    Now I just need a cup of hot tea, and I’m ready for snack time.

Note: Chia seeds lose their awesome oils quickly once ground, so try not to buy them pre-ground as chia meal. 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.

Click here for a printable version of the Oatmeal Peanut Butter Snack Cookies recipe.

Ta da...

On the Momentous Occasion of My First Use of a Grill

OK, so maybe for most of you this isn’t so momentous, but for me it was.  I’ve prepped things for the grill, read numerous recipes for grilling, and watched it done ad nauseum on television and on my own back deck.  I had not, however, actually used a grill.

After Dave’s brief description of where to turn on the propane, which burner to light first, how to stand back to preserve one’s eyebrows, and a few other tips that I’m sure were important but that I cannot for the life of me remember, it was time to use the grill.

So far both eyebrows are accounted for.

So far both eyebrows are accounted for.

The occasion for this momentous occurrence was the simple fact that it’s hot.  Beastly hot.  So hot that my jar of coconut oil that I’d left out on my counter liquified.  I don’t know if it’s quite “fry an egg on the side walk hot,” but that’s only because I refuse to sacrifice one of our awesome farm fresh eggs to such an experiment.  It’s so hot that the very thought of turning on my stove or (please forbid it) my oven made me cross and snappish.  So to the deck we went.

Little Man was highly amused and wanted to be sure that Daddy had given me permission to play with his grill.  Then he stood back, keeping his eyebrows at a safe distance, leaned onto the deck table crossing his ankles in the appearance of nonchalance (which in a four year old means that he was preparing to gather information in order to tattle on me to Daddy) and watched.

I wasn’t sure at first what I was going to grill, but then I remembered that I had some boneless pork chops defrosted in the fridge that needed to be used.  So after a few quick moments of internet searching for easy recipes, I stumbled on a Lemon Basil Marinated Pork Chop recipe that fit the bill.  It had only a couple ingredients, all of which I had at hand (the basil in my garden is trying to take over the world), and it seemed pretty forgiving to me.  Meaning that it hopefully would be very hard for me to really mess things up.

Then I opened the pack of pork chops and saw what I was faced with.  They had been hack sawed.  I don’t remember which store they came from, but as you can see in the accompanying pictures each chop was vastly different in size and thickness.  In short, they were a mess, but they were also destined to be dinner so on we went.  Marinade done.  Pork in marinade.  Rice on the stove.  Massive bowl of uneaten kale salad from a potluck bbq where everyone was too hot to cook so we all brought salads… on the table.  The moment had come.

Sorry for the blur.  Apparently I was excited when I was taking the picture with my phone.

Sorry for the blur. Apparently I was excited when I was taking the picture with my phone.

I successfully navigated the propane (after a few fruitless attempts to light the burner before I realized there was no gas) and burners, getting a good fire going and letting the grill heat.  Then on the chops went.  Nothing burst into flames, and I laughed at myself for how nerve wracking that one moment was.  In my head as I hovered with the pork in tongs over the grill I could hear my upstate New York friends saying to get on with it.  So on they went.  I had the best of intentions to take the smaller pieces off first but then just decided to give myself a pass and get the pork cooked.  Sorry, Dave.  I hope I didn’t let you down there, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

I tried to remember the trick for perfect grill marks from when I worked at the Blue Bayou, but no dice.  I'll keep practicing.

I tried to remember the trick for perfect grill marks from when I worked at the Blue Bayou, but no dice. I’ll keep practicing.

I did, at least, remember to let my greatly disparately sized chops rest before diving in.

I did, at least, remember to let my greatly disparately sized chops rest before diving in.

In the end, the pork was delicious.  And, yes, the smaller piece was over done, but Little Man didn’t mind and nothing was overly caramelized (aka burnt).  My kitchen stayed cool-ish, at least in the fact that I didn’t add much more heat to it with my cooking, and I’d gotten over the first fear of using the grill.  Now my summer dinner plans have opened up with the new addition of grilling to my repertoire.  I’m thinking of some grilled tandoori chicken soon perhaps.  We’ll see.

Ta da...

Ta da…

Some day I’ll have to tackle the charcoal bbq beast, but for now the quickness of propane is my new “go to” for the days when I just can’t face the stove.  I’ll just need a nice icy beverage in my hand next time.

Little Man and Pooh Bear decide that the pork was pretty good and that Mommy is allowed to grill again sometime.

Little Man and Pooh Bear decide that the pork was pretty good and that Mommy is allowed to grill again sometime.

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.

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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.

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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…