Saturday, January 9, 2016

Low-FODMAP cooking hacks.

I could really get used to these rainy mornings. Especially when I get to write. Writing and rain just go together, don't they? (I'm fighting the urge to insert some sort of "write as rain" pun here...wait, did I just lose?) Add in some Joshua Tree, coffee, and a little pit ball of love cuddled next to me, and it's like something out of dream. Ahhhhhhhhhh...

You know what's not like something out of a dream, though? Cooking sans onions and garlic. That resides squarely in nightmare territory, friends. I mean, seriously, right? They're basically their own food group to cooks and finding out they're potentially one of the culprits of IBS was really fucking depressing. Not to mention the fact that they're hidden in many of my go-to snacks (I'm looking at you, various delicious Triscuit varieties like Rosemary and Olive Oil and Dill and Sea Salt), and condiments (damn you, Worcestershire and Stubb's Original BBQ Sauce).

But you know what? I love a fucking challenge--especially in the kitchen. So I turned, of course, to the wisdom of the interwebs and have discovered some fabulous workarounds. So much so, that, if I'm being completely honest here...wait for it...I find myself not really missing garlic and onions. I know, I know. What the fuck did I just say, right? This coming from the woman who thinks more is always better when it comes to both onions and garlic. And I'm not even talking about sissy caramelized onions, which I actually don't even really care for. I'm talking raw, baby. I will eat ALL the raw onions. I literally cannot get enough. And oh, that recipe calls for one clove of garlic? Let's add five and call it good. This is the way I'm used to cooking and eating, so when I say challenge, I really mean it.

The first product I happened upon as a substitute for both onions AND garlic is a Persian spice called asafoetida powder, and I cannot sing its praises enough. For reals. The root word there is "fetid," and yes, it is ridiculously strong (the guy at the shop The Barbarian stopped by to pick some up for me made him swear he'd emphatically warn me how strong it is) and doesn't necessarily smell great upon first sniff. However, I am continually amazed and impressed how well it adds that ubiquitous pungent flavour at the heart of both onions and garlic. I now use it in basically everything savoury, from my homemade condiments (because that's what you're left with when eating low-FODMAP) like pasta sauce and salad dressing, to things like meatloaf and casseroles, and sprinkled with various other herbs and spices on things like roasted chicken and vegetables. Hell, I even make my damn garlic bread with it now. It's that amazing and versatile and, above all, delicious. Hard to find, however. It's most often used in Indian cooking, so if you have a local Indian/Pakistani market, that may be your best bet. Or online, of course. Our local shop is a franchise of a larger company, who also sell online, and I am very happy with their quality.

Another substitute that has become a regular in my kitchen is freeze dried chives, as chives are okay on a low-FODMAP diet (the green portion of scallion is also acceptable, but I'm lazy and find myself not really using them because chopping). I use these from Litehouse that I just get from Safeway (in the produce section with the fresh herbs) and they fucking rock. I put them in everything. They're especially delicious in breakfast potatoes. Mmmmmmmm...breakfast potatoes... And damn handy, as they don't need to be refrigerated, but can be tossed in water and rehydrated if you're looking for fresh chives, or just poured from the bottles into whatever you're cooking. Done and done.

I was stumped as to how to replace my beloved Worcestershire in meat-based things like meatloaf, burgers, and cottage pie (fun fact: shepherds herd sheep, not cows, so unless you're using mutton, you're making cottage pie, not shepherd's pie--you're welcome), as well as dressings and sauces, until I looked into it and realized its umami flavour is really at the heart of what it imparts to food. A good substitute, then, is soy sauce or tamari (I use tamari, not for its GF property, but because I like the flavour better). Combine it with some asafoetida powder and you're really winning.

The other condiment I desperately needed to find a replacement for was BBQ sauce because pulled pork (Costco has amazing pork shoulder at a ridiculously awesome price, so pulled pork, carnitas, country ribs, et al. are in regular rotation at our house). I tried a couple of recipes found on various IBS blogs, and at least one was downright horrid (seriously, question any recipe that calls for an entire CUP of red wine vinegar--and I fucking LOVE vinegar). But then I found this one and it's so damn good, I could easily see using it even if I didn't need a special sauce (giggle...).

Two other ingredients I find myself using a lot are maple syrup and spicy brown mustard. Maple syrup is a low-FODMAP sweetener (along with regular ol' sugar, believe it or not, but not honey and molasses, sadly) and as I am a very ginormous fan of maple syrup as it is, I happily use it in everything now. In addition to drowning things like pancakes, waffles, and French toast in it, I have used it in place of sugar 1:1 for years now (add it to your wet ingredients, naturally), and drizzle it over the wee folk's plain yogurt and plain oatmeal to keep their sugar intake down (there is an unconscionable amount of sugar in things like flavoured yogurts and oatmeal, especially those aimed at children, if you hadn't noticed). It's a staple in many of my dressings and sauces as well now, often along with spicy brown mustard, such as the grilling sauce I came up with over the summer (spicy brown mustard, tamari, and maple syrup), or my Asian dressing (grapeseed or avocado oil, toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, tamari, spicy brown mustard, maple syrup, lime juice, ginger, asafoetida, and whatever the hell else I happen to toss in that day).

Seriously, I dig me some mustard, so being able to at least still have that has really helped in this often crap endeavour. I had to come up with a substitute for my mom's very basic, yet gold standard (in my opinion), potato salad recipe over the summer because of the onions and ended up going in a totally different, delicious direction using red potatoes, hard boiled eggs, and chopped Bubbies pickles mixed with mayo, spicy brown mustard, asafoetida powder, and s/p. Potato salad without the crunch and tang of red onions is heresy in my book, so the chopped pickles were added in an attempt to make up for them and do so wonderfully. And seriously, if you're not eating Bubbies pickles, please do yourself a favour and remedy that, stat.

So, yeah. With a little ingenuity, eating a low-FODMAP diet does not have to equal full-blown hell. Just maybe quasi hell. Except, of course, for when I do things like use half-and-half in my mashed potatoes instead of milk, which I do now, without exception.

And you should, too.                  

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