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.
Awesome Cornbread and Maple Butter
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…)
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup softened margarine or butter
2 tbsp. maple syrup (the real thing, please)
- 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.
- 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.
Whisked dry ingredients. The chia looks alarmingly like black pepper, but soon it will blend in nicely.
- 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.
The wet ingredients don’t need to be perfectly blended, but give them a good spin before adding to the dry ingredients.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
Click here for a printable version of the Awesome Cornbread and Maple Butter recipe.