Tag Archives: FODMAPs

Sriracha is Not Low FODMAPS, But There’s Something Better

Sometimes you just want a nice spicy chili sauce. Sriracha used to be my go-to sauce for everything. But… then my doctor told me I had to go on a special diet, called the low FODMAPs diet.

FODMAPS is an initialism that stands for “Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols”. Basically, sugars and other carbohydrates that gut bacteria can ferment. It’s similar to people who are lactose-intolerant (in fact, lactose is a major FODMAP!).

Check out my FODMAPs tagged posts for information about my weird diet issues: http://homeispossible.org/tag/FODMAPS/

Anyway, I get so, so, so many hits on searches wondering about sriracha. Is it gluten free? Is it low-FODMAPs?

Yep. It’s gluten free. If gluten is your only issue, eat tons of it and be happy.

But, no, it’s not low FODMAPs. One major ingredient is garlic, which is a pretty big no-no. If you know you tolerate garlic okay, then go for it. Otherwise, you need to avoid it or find an alternative.

At my house, we avoid it. But then we discovered (thanks to my brother and his lovely wife) that there’s an even better chili sauce — sambal oelek! It’s spicy and lovely and it goes on everything. Beef, potatoes, in salad dressing, whatever! Anywhere you need a nice tasty, spicy kick. You can even get it from the same company that makes Sriracha.

You can get it at asian markets, at specialty grocery stores, or just order it online. I think our local Wegman’s carries it… but we usually get it by the case from Amazon. Yes. By the case.

Friday Food Post: Gluten Free, Low FODMAP Dinner Rolls

I went gluten free seven years ago.

Until last Thanksgiving, I never had a decent dinner roll. There’s something about dinner rolls that gluten free grains just can’t do right. It can’t get the texture anywhere near correct.

But last year, for Thanksgiving, I really wanted to have dinner rolls. Gluten free ones.

Over the years of being gluten free, my mom and I have tried countless recipes and read about gluten free baking, and performed our own experiments. I know when you need xanthan gum and when you don’t.

But I still never had a successful dinner roll. Until last year.

We discovered psyllium husk as a substitute for xanthan gum a year or so before. It’s great for breads and things, but not cakes. It can impart a bit of a weird taste to sweet things. We used it successfully in a wide variety of bread items, and even chocolate cakes, where the strong taste of chocolate overwhelms any psyllium after taste. It helps make baked goods rise more without some of the weird gelatinous-ness that xanthan gum can cause.

We hadn’t tried it in rolls yet. All my previous rolls were either with xanthan gum or nothing at all, and they were mostly failures no matter how much butter and maple syrup I spread on them.

As it turns out, one of our favorite cookbooks has a recipe for rolls using psyllium husk. And they were lovely, and not all that difficult to make either.

I can’t post the recipe, because it isn’t mine, but you can find it in America’s Test Kitchen’s How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook.

Low FODMAPs Diet: Adding Foods Back In

I’ve been on the low FODMAPs diet for almost two years now, but as the diet gets more popular, many more people are starting it each day.

The standard protocol for going on the low FODMAPs diet is to completely avoid all known FODMAPs for 6-8 weeks, while your system settles down and heals. After that, you’re supposed to slowly add problem foods, one at a time, with a few days between each new food. This is pretty standard for any elimination diet.

When I first started the diet, I did the same thing. I avoided all known FODMAPs (though of course I slipped up many times, as you do on a new and complicated diet) for about seven weeks. Then I started the challenge phase. It was really miserable. Every few days I tried to eat a food and I failed just about every single challenge. And there are so many problem foods that the challenge stage can last a really long time!

I decided I’d already felt horrible for too long, so I quit the challenge stage and went back to avoiding FODMAPs mostly, or only eating incredibly small amounts. One or two small pieces of broccoli. A bite of beans. Three grapes. Often I’d mix something in with other foods so I could at least taste it, even if I couldn’t have a lot of it. And that seemed to work fine.

A year into the diet my other health issues started up, so I continued to avoid problem foods when I could. Sometimes special occasions would come up, or I had to eat out, or just couldn’t avoid them for one reason or another. But mostly, I just minimized my exposure to FODMAP-containing foods.

Now, finally, at almost two years in, I’m starting to challenge again. And this time, it’s working a lot better. I sometimes put several mushrooms in a stew or soup. I’ll put snow peas in stir fry. I even once put both snow peas and mushrooms into a soup! Sometimes I use jarred tomato sauce, and I’m mostly ok with the onions. It expands the options I have for foods and helps me get more of the vitamins and minerals I feel I must be lacking when I have to avoid most produce.

Well, this weekend, something amazing happened. First, on Saturday, I ate at a Tex Mex/Salvadoran restaurant and had cheese enchiladas and refried beans. Then, on Sunday, I had a rainbow trout with a chimichurri sauce (which has garlic in it), garlic mashed potatoes, and french green beans. And I seem fine! This is nothing short of amazing, to me.

So maybe there is hope. Maybe challenging aggressively after only 8 weeks is too soon. Maybe some people need to wait a lot longer to heal or for their gut flora to change before trying to challenge.

On the other hand, maybe it’s just the antibiotics I had a few weeks ago, helping to keep my native beasties in check. All I have is one piece of anecdata.

Planning a Meal

This is what I have to go through to plan a meal. I have to think really hard about each and every ingredient… and that’s why it’s so hard to eat out.

Today I decided to have a salmon salad sandwich:

  • Bread — Not just any bread, but GF bread. Oh wait, most GF breads have some sort of FODMAP in them, such as pear or apple juice, honey, chicory, etc.. I like Schar white bread and I always toast the bread because GF bread is usually only edible when toasted.
  • Canned salmon — I use this now instead of tuna, because salmon is awesome and some tuna seems to have gluten or FODMAPs or something. It upsets my tummy.
  • Mayonnaise — I used to use Miracle Whip, but recently they replaced sugar with HFCS. Most mayos have HFCS, but there are some that do not. I use Hellman’s.
  • Relish — I’ve only found one type of sweet relish I can eat, Wegman’s Organic relish. Every other relish has garlic, onions, and usually fructose or polyols.
  • Mustard — need to find one that is GF, no onion, no fructose… I use a brand that is a Dijon mustard without any alcohol.
  • Worcestershire sauce — as long as you are in the US, it is GF. In Canada, it has gluten (or did last I looked).
  • Something crunchy — I used to put celery in my tuna fish salad, but celery has moderate amounts of FODMAPs so I avoid it. Now I use cucumbers. I eat a lot of cucumbers.
  • Herbs and spices — you have to make sure they are GF. When I first went GF, I repeatedly glutened myself with a really lovely paprika my mom brought me back from Europe. After that, I used strictly McCormick’s brand, and now Penzey’s. I usually add pepper (but not too much, it can aggravate GERD), dill, and paprika.
  • Tomato — I used to add tomato. Not so much anymore, because of reflux. The better I feel and the earlier it is in the day, the more likely I am to put tomato on.
  • Extra pickles — in the old days, I’d add fire pickles (spicy sweet pickles) from the farm down the road. Now, almost never, due to reflux.
  • Cheese — sometimes I add cheese. It has to be a non-lactose-containing cheese, so cheddar is acceptable as long as it is GF, but fresh or soft cheeses are not.

You’re On the What Diet?

This is a post for anyone who is wondering just what on earth is wrong with me and why I can’t seem to eat anything. It’s taken years to untangle my health issues, and I’m still not done yet… but at least I’m getting somewhere, finally.

I’ve always had health issues. From infant food intolerances, to repeated bouts of pneumonia, to migraines. I can handle a little discomfort. But after I had my first child, it got decidedly worse. I had near-constant, brutal migraines. My sinuses were swollen and in pain. After my second child, I had swollen hands, nerve pain, and muscle weakness. I had the inability to think straight, like my mind was in a fog. Everything was inflamed and hurt. I’d say that most days my pain level was between 6 and 8 on the pain chart. For those unused to the pain chart, that means it had a direct impact on my life, interfering with my ability to do tasks, sometimes even taking care of my basic needs. I ended up on antibiotics a lot. After seeing the doctor over and over, I had multiple medications to take, I had to clean my sinuses twice a day, I took Advil like it was a vitamin, and I was constantly hanging out in the bathroom with a steamy shower in order to try to get the pain in my head to get the slightest bit better. And this went on day after day, month after month, for years.

My regular doctor sent me to an allergist, who suggested it might be due to gluten. So, five years ago, I went gluten free. My symptoms got drastically better in just three days. It was hard work to get used to checking every ingredient and every meal I ordered at a restaurant, but it was worth it to finally get my life back. I still had good days and bad days, but finally the good days outnumbered the bad days. I had more bad days in the beginning when I wasn’t quite sure which foods tended to not be problematic (spices!), but I also had many friends and family who were also GF to help me. The great thing about the diet becoming trendy, even if it is for stupid reasons, is that many manufacturers removed gluten from their products, so it’s really only gotten easier as time has gone on.

But then other problems cropped up. Back when I was 19, I was diagnosed with IBS. It’s basically a catch-all, we-don’t-know-what’s-wrong-with-you and please-go-away diagnosis. It’s miserable, embarrassing, and even has a horrible, comedy-worthy name. One doctor gave me hydrocodone and told me to go away, another gave me a list of foods to avoid and muscle relaxants to help with the pain. I wasn’t really interested in being on those medicines forever and the list of foods never helped. But I dealt with it. After I went GF, my IBS got worse. So I re-dedicated myself to avoiding the foods I was supposed to avoid and ate fiber until I couldn’t stand it anymore! Still, it got worse. And worse. (Trust me, you don’t want a discussion of the symptoms!) Finally, when I just couldn’t take it one second longer, I went looking for a gastroenterologist in the area and found my favorite doctor, ever. I finally felt like someone was taking my problems seriously.

He introduced me to a new idea from Monash University in Australia — that not only does fiber not necessarily help IBS, it might make it worse! I was initially skeptical of a doctor giving me another new diet that would supposedly help me, but as soon as I looked at the lists of allowed and disallowed foods, I was ready to try it. The foods on the lists lined up perfectly with what I had already determined by experimenting at home. I knew carrots were always fine to eat. I knew green bell peppers always made me sick. And so did Monash University!

So two years ago, I embarked on the low FODMAP diet. It’s hard. It’s really hard. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how people without degrees in Biochemistry or Molecular Biology even manage to figure it out, because it’s so sciency! Basically, it’s like lactose intolerance, but on a crazy massive scale. With lactose intolerance, you can’t digest lactose, a sugar in milk, so when the undigested lactose reaches your intestines, the bacteria there throw a fermentation party… and symptoms result. Well, FODMAPs are just a bunch of other sugars and sugar-related molecules, such as fructose, that do the same thing when you don’t digest them correctly. The thing is, those sugars and other molecules are sprinkled liberally around the food web and there isn’t any easy way to guess which FODMAPs might be in which foods.

I had to reduce or stop eating most fruits, many vegetables (no onions or garlic is difficult!), sweeteners (no honey!), artifical sweeteners (no gum or most diet foods), many types of nuts, almost all beans (*sob*), and many other foods. Like many food-intolerance diets, you start by eliminating everything that might make you feel bad. I felt so much better in just one week. Then, after a month or two of the elimination diet, you slowly try to add things back in to see if you can tolerate them. I mostly failed to tolerate anything and while I was testing each problematic food, I felt bad again. It was a difficult summer.

(Chart thanks to Jeffrey Roberts from ibsgroup.org. It’s a little out of date — some of the foods on the “ok” list are only tolerated in small amounts, such as celery and grapes.)

Eventually, I even managed this crazy FODMAPs diet. I started making my own cream cheese (store-bought cream cheese is high in lactose) and made lists of FODMAPs-free meals so I could have an easy meal list for planning purposes. (List 1, List 2, List 3)  I searched for recipes online and stuck them in Pinterest so I could find them. My mom and I took old recipes and made them GF and low-FODMAPs. I made almost everything I ate from scratch, including chicken broth and pasta sauce, just like I did back when my babies were nursing. When they were babies, they had really bad colic, because they couldn’t handle the onions or garlic in food. I searched for alternate brands that used sugar instead of HFCS, brands that used no onions, brands that didn’t sneak in my mortal enemy, sorbitol. I used maple syrup in everything. I felt great.

But a year later (last spring), I felt bad again. Not just bad… horrible, as in “let’s get to the ER, I think I’m dying” horrible. We haven’t entirely figured out what happened to me last spring and summer, but one major thing I was diagnosed with was GERD. Reflux. I realized that I basically had the digestive system of an extremely colicy newborn. Even worse, it was my beloved low FODMAPs diet that was hurting me. When I lost so many fruits and vegetables, I filled those spaces in my meals with tomatoes, pineapple, citrus fruits… everything that makes reflux worse.

It was the worst year of my life. It was months of unpleasant testing with doctors. I lost 15 pounds because I couldn’t eat. Then I gained 15 pounds because I couldn’t do anything. I got out of shape. I was scared to go anywhere. I spent far too much time teaching the kids how to call 911 and quizzing them about our address, just in case. Heck, I was even injected with radioactive isotopes twice!

So now I take medicine for reflux. I cut tomatoes out for a while. I try to eat way way way before bedtime. I’m at a bit of a loss for what to eat. It would probably be easier to make a list of foods I *can* eat instead of lists of foods I can’t. I’m pretty sure it would be shorter. I still have bad days, but the bad days usually aren’t as bad. On the other hand, the good days are also never as good.

I’m not convinced we’ve figured out what happened to me last year. We’re a step closer, but we still don’t have the complete picture. All I know is that it’s correlated with my allergies and it’s spring again… and I’m scared.


Going Out Is Possible Too

So the name of this blog is Home Is Possible, because it was part of my fun experiment in making things at home (yogurt, canned goods, whatever), doing home repair (we recently fixed our dryer! Amazing!), homeschooling, working at home… basically, doing all sorts of things at home! I like being home. It’s nice.

On the other hand, I don’t want to always be at home. Last year, however, ended up being way too much at home, mostly due to health issues. Stupid health issues. So this year is dedicated to making sure we get out of the house a lot! We have so much to make up for after last year.

So far it’s been wildly successful, despite the crazy winter weather that keeps polar vortexing and snowing all over us. The Boy is back in gym, The Girl is continuing ballet. We’ve managed to go to more than half of our Thursday co-op days so far. We’ve gone to birthday parties, a maple sugar festival, and a park. We made a snow fort, many snow people, and went sledding. We’ve even been to our new library four times in two months! We even saw musical lightning strike a man in chain armor playing Black Sabbath’s Iron Man on a tesla coil-powered guitar (ArcAttack).

I even went somewhere (bum bum bum) all by myself for *social* reasons instead of some sort of errand.

But the health issues raise their stupid face again. So it’s back to doctors. Last year’s word was “courage”. This year is “persevere”.

And the plan is to Get Out Of The House. A lot.

Pork and Cream Cheese Pupusas (GF and low FODMAPs)

While I love old favorites and tried-and-true recipes, I’m always looking for something new to make things more interesting. Because I can’t have wheat and various wheaty products, I’ve spent a few years attempting to cook all sorts of different grains, like quinoa, teff, and sorghum. On the other hand, I lived in Texas and California for about half of my life, and always loved corn tortillas and corn chips. Even when I lived in Russia, we made tortillas from scratch in order to introduce the students from Great Britain to tacos.

I’ve made pupusas before, once. They are from El Salvador and are a really great “street food” because they are an all-in-one, easy to carry and easy to pack meal. Basically, you mix masa harina and water, just as you would for corn tortillas, only you make them thicker and stuff them with filling. Last time I made them, I tried stuffing them with ham and cheese for the kids, which was rather tasty. This time I stuffed it with slow cooked pork and some half-and-half cheese I made last week.

Slow-Cooked Pork

Take one pork roast and place in a slow cooker. Add a splash of vinegar (I use rice), a little water, and which ever spices appeal to you — I used cumin, ginger, peppercorns, paprika, salt, thyme, and a few bay leaves. Then, set on high and let cook until it falls apart — could take 6-10 hours or so. Then you pull it apart with a fork and let it cook longer, if you want. 10-12 hours is ideal, I think.

Pupusa Filling

Mix the pork with the cream cheese, add any other flavorings. I added chipotle, ancho, and some more salt. I like a smoky pork taste.

Pupusa Dough

Mix masa harina with water according to the directions. I usually just add water and mix until it feels “right”. You don’t want it too crumbly, so if you have trouble forming balls, add more water. Let it sit about 10-20 minutes before making the pupusas so the dough is well-hydrated, and add more water if needed.


Roll the dough into 2″-3″ balls and either poke a hole in with your finger to stuff, or squish flat and fill like a ravioli. Then squish the whole thing (with filling!) until it’s no thicker than a centimeter. Try to keep the filling from falling out, but it really doesn’t matter. Cook on a griddle (or pan) for 3-5 minutes each side, until the dough is cooked, the filling is heated through, and the surface is nice and golden brown.

Place on a paper towel to cut down on the soggy sweating… or just eat immediately, because who can wait? I ate mine with some tomatoes from the garden, the husband enjoyed his slathered in sriracha (none for me.. too much garlic…). Salsa would also be nice, but it is hard to keep FODMAPs-friendly.

It seems like a lot of work, but the dough itself is easy, and you can fill it with whatever you have for leftovers! I just happened to have pork and cream cheese, so it was easy.

I Have a Magic Compost Pile

Folks, this is crazy. Some parts of my garden I research to the nth degree. And I fuss over it. And schedule it, and plan it and go bonkers over it. I stake things and weed them and work in the hot summer heat on my hands and knees.

And then there’s my compost pile.

After our trip to Alabama, we came home to discover part of a 10lb bag of potatoes had been left behind and it went a bit bad while we were gone. Not thinking about it, I just tossed the last of those potatoes into the compost pile, just like any other kitchen scrap.

A few months later, plants appeared.

And they grew.

And grew.

And today I went out to check on the plants, and noticed the pile had crumbled away a bit after the last rain — the problem with planting in a compost pile is that it, well, moves. It slowly decomposes and shifts. So some of the plants had exposed roots adn they sort of died a bit, and as I investigated, a handful of little potatoes popped out. So I gathered them up and underneath, there were more!
Until I’d gathered two handfuls.
So I brought them inside, cleaned them up, and cut them into similar-sized pieces.
I sauteed my magic potatoes with some butter, paprika, lemon, and parsley from the window box.

All for basically no work, and maybe $3 of potatoes. And this is only the beginning of the potatoes.

I hope I don’t die of some sort of rare compost cooties…

Making Cream Cheese at Home

1. Sterilize your tools! A non-aluminum pot, metal measuring spoons, metal spoon, and a thermometer.

2. Get 2 liters of light cream or half and half. Bring them up to 72 degrees.

3. Find yourself some nice mesophyllic starter bacteria. Mine is from France. Oooh la la! I got it from an online cheese supply store.

This is 50 doses worth!

4. Follow the mesophyllic starters instructions for how much you’ll need
for 2 liters. (I needed like half an eighth of a teaspoon. I eyeballed

Then you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

12 hours.

Then it magically gets nice and solid and smooth and beautiful.

So thick you can scoop it.


5. Put it into butter muslin (fine cheesecloth for soft cheeses) to hang for 12 hours.

I just tied mine to a wooden spoon and hung it in a pot.

I couldn’t let it hang 12 full hours, but this is what it looked like after 9 or 10. So I put it in the fridge and let it sit for the rest of the day.

When it was done I put it in a container made for veggies that has small holes in the lid and a little stand on the bottom (so fruit doesn’t sit in water) that lets it continue to breathe and release any extra liquid.

It tastes spectacular.

I put it on homemade almond, parmesan and herb crackers and it was so good! I also mixed it with fat free yogurt and maple syrup and it tasted like dessert. Next I want to try cooking with it…

My Recent, GF, Low FODMAPs Meals

So now that I’ve had a good elimination period, I know how nice my tummy can feel. Yay! The next part is the “challenge” stage — I try small amounts of foods on the high FODMAPs list to see if I can tolerate them. So far, I’m pretty much failing all my
challenges. The best so far was the chicory in Pamela’s vanilla cake
mix. I didn’t notice it so much… A week ago I dared to have ketchup
with horseradish in it (to go with my shrimp) and felt miserable several
hours after. 🙁

But how about some more successful dishes!

Maple-ginger salmon with almond milk mashed potatoes (the kids also had broccoli)
Making yogurt — leave out 24 hours and it’s pretty much lactose free!
Banana Blueberry Pancakes
Rice noodles, shrimp, and veggies with ginger-tamari-pineapple sauce
More rice noodles, and some veggies with almond butter sauce
Zucchini “boats” with tomato slices, cornflake crumbs, and cheese
GF Cupcakes (contains chicory)
Homemade Cream Cheese (post on how to make it soon!)
Homemade crackers with homemade cream cheese
GF Meatballs and grilled chicken marinated in ginger, soy sauce and lemon
Make yourself a taco! (with the leftover chicken)