What does an Aussie take to a 4th of July BBQ?

Fourth of July Pavlova

When I was asked to bring dessert to an Independence Day barbeque, I got really excited, because I haven’t made a red, white and blue dessert before. Finally, now was my chance! I searched Pinterest boards and blogs but there were a few things stopping me from whipping up some of those spectacular examples:

  • There’s nothing more American than apple pie, so guess what was popular… apples – yeah, no thanks. I’d like to be functional this weekend.
  • A flag cake – I don’t have a rectangular cake tin and a round flag would look silly.
  • A bundt cake, covered with white icing and filled with strawberries and raspberries – one of my rules is to never experiment when you’re serving it to someone else.

What could I make that was tried and tested, as well as red, white and blue? A Pavlova, of course. I hope Americans forgive me for using an Aussie dessert.

Using my never-fail (famous last words?) Pavlova recipe, I covered it with whipped coconut cream and berries for an Aussie-fied 4th of July dessert offering.

Notes:

  1. Castor sugar is 1:1 fructose and glucose, so is low FODMAP. However, too much of any sugar can set some people off, so watch your portion sizes. If you have SIBO, I would steer clear of this dessert.
  2. I have attempted a glucose/dextrose Pav before and it was a complete flop. I guess the way dextrose crystallises differs too much from sucrose.
  3. Egg whites are low FODMAP; I use 50 g (large) eggs.
  4. You can use either potato starch or corn starch, both are low FODMAP. Corn is a grain, so if you use corn starch it will no longer be grain free.
  5. Vanilla extract is low FODMAP, just beware additives that might change this.
  6. White wine vinegar is low FODMAP in 1 tsp. servings.
  7. Coconut cream is low FODMAP in half cup serving sizes. Refrigeration causes the fat and water content to separate, giving you an even richer, creamier and more whippable topping.
  8. Strawberries and blueberries are low FODMAP fruits.

Pavlova

Pavlova

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 pinch table salt
  • 250 g castor sugar
  • 2 tsp. corn starch or 1 tsp. potato starch
  • 1 tsp. white or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Toppings

  • 400 ml of full cream coconut, refrigerated
  • Red and blue berries, to top. I used strawberries and blueberries.

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Let your eggs sit for 30 minutes at room temp to take the chill off, unless you’re working in a warmer environment, in which case I find colder eggs hold stiff peaks better. Separate the egg whites and yolks, store the yolks for use at another time. Preheat your oven to 180 C/350 F.

Beat the egg whites and pinch of salt on a low-medium speed for 1 minute, then on a high speed for 3-4 minutes, until they are fluffy. While maintaining a med-high speed, slowly add in the castor sugar until it’s combined, then turn the speed up to maximum for a further minute.

Lift the beaters out of the batter – does the peak formed retain its shape? If yes, add in the starch, white wine vinegar and vanilla extract and mix through on a medium speed for 30 seconds.

Spread the mixture out on a baking sheet covered with baking paper, so that it forms a circle with a 20 cm diameter.

Place it into the oven on the bottom tray and turn the heat down to 150 C/300 F. Bake for 30 minutes, before turning the heat down to 120 C/250 F and baking for a further 45 minutes. Alternatively, if you don’t want to play around with temperatures, you could bake it at 120 C/250 F for 2 hours. When the time is up, let it cool for 15 minutes with the oven door cracked open, before removing it to the bench. I was in a hurry and took mine out too soon, so it cracked and collapsed a little. No worries, though, as we’re covering it with whipped coconut cream, so no one will be the wiser… unless they read this.

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I used Oh She Glows’ instructions on whipping coconut cream. I’ll let you head over there to view her step-by-step photo tutorial but I have to tell you that you need to refrigerate the tin overnight (this is important, as I have done this with a tin refrigerated for only 4 hours and it hadn’t separated enough).

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Smother the Pav with whipped coconut cream (or normal whipped cream) and top with blueberries and strawberries (or other blue and red berries) for a patriotic looking 4th of July dessert that is crispy on the outside and marshmallowy soft on the inside.

Now to wait until after dinner to devour it. *Twiddles thumbs.*

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Whole Grain Pumpkin and Chive Muffins – FODMAP/Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

Whole Grain Pumpkin and Chive Muffins

I whipped up these little beauties after being inspired by the super-soft and fluffy zucchini quinoa muffins I made from Patsy Catsos’ cookbook, Flavour Without FODMAPs Cookbook – Love the Foods that Love You Back and before going on a road trip from Seattle to San Francisco and back.

If you’ve read the “My FM Journey” page, you will know that I was diagnosed with FM back in 2006, so I’ve had 8 years to perfect my methods of travelling on a fructose friendly diet. Granted, I can now have some onion and garlic, which makes life a lot easier than it used to be but you can travel while eating low your version of the low FODMAP diet – it just takes a little bit of extra planning.

These muffins lasted a week in an airtight container within an Eski (cooler) and remained fluffy the entire time. If I’d had some, I would have added in Feta cheese to give the flavour a bit of bite but they are still delicious without it and sometimes I wonder whether good Feta isn’t too expensive to waste in muffins and Parmesan cheese would also do. Either way, these muffins are a delicious savoury treat, perfect for a snack or to serve with soup.

Notes:

  1. Pumpkin is a tricky one. What we call pumpkin in Australia, Americans call squash. This difference in naming can make figuring out low FODMAP varieties even more difficult than it already is. Jap pumpkins (squash) are low FODMAP, as are the American pumpkins (that we don’t get in Australia).
  2. Brown rice is a whole grain, quinoa is a seed – they are very close in performance, baking-wise and I often sub one flour in for the other without issue. Thus, if you either don’t have or can’t tolerate one of them, the other works just as well.
  3. Almonds are low FODMAP in servings of 10 nuts – there is only 1/4 cup spread out over 12 muffins, so this will fall well under that.
  4. Buckwheat flour is reportedly a good substitute for almond meal, if you can’t tolerate almonds at all.
  5. Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are low FODMAP, however as seeds are high in fibre, some cannot tolerate them regardless. Leave them out if you think you’re one of them, or swap them for another seed, such as sunflower seeds, flax seeds (linseed), chia seeds etc.
  6. The green parts of chives are low FODMAP.

Pumpkin and Chive Muffins

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 300 g pumpkin puree
  • 180 g brown rice or quinoa flour
  • 45 g corn meal
  • 70 g almond meal
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup pepitas
  • 1/4 cup finely minced green chives
  • Optional flavour variations, to mix in at the end – 1/3 cup Feta cheese, crumbled; 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, minced (if tolerated); 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely sliced.

Peel, dice and bake pumpkin at 180 C/350 F for 30 minutes, or until completely cooked, then puree it with your immersion blender or similar. If pumpkins are out of season, tinned puree will also do. Leave the oven at 180 C after the pumpkin has cooked.

Meanwhile, combine the flours, pepitas, baking powder, salt and spices in a bowl and set aside.

Blend the eggs, butter and pumpkin puree until smooth. Add in the dry ingredients and stir to combine before adding in the minced chives and/or any other flavour variation you’d like.

Divide the mixture between a 12 hole muffin tray and bake at 180 C for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a centre muffin tests clean with a skewer.

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Enjoy with a bowl of hot soup, or take as a snack to keep you going throughout your work/school day.

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The Great Cake Tin Bake Off – Stainless Steel vs. Non Stick

Has anyone else ever gone to buy bake ware, looked at the immense range of options and been utterly overwhelmed? Yeah, me too. There are so many different materials you can bake with (not to mention the variety of styles of cake pans, pie dishes, tart/quiche tins etc) at a range of prices and not all of them are necessarily good to use.

Aluminium has been linked (inconclusively) with neurotoxicity that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease and is known to compete with calcium for absorption; so given my family history of both Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis, this isn’t something I want to play with. In Australia, at least, I had never even come across aluminium cookware, unless it was the core of the base of a sauce pan or fry pan, surrounded by stainless steel. In the US, it’s quite common to get anodized aluminium cookware, such as cake tins and biscuit trays (cookie sheets for you Americans 🙂 ). The first time I saw an aluminium cake tin over here, I was a little shocked; I remembered quite clearly learning about the potential health risks associated with aluminium in my year 8 science class – complete with picture of the Mad Hatter – and couldn’t understand why something that is even remotely likely to cause such serious health issues is still used to bake. I know it’s a great heat conductor and lends itself to evenly baked cakes but shouldn’t health come first?

PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), a chemical used in the process of manufacturing the non-stick Teflon coating, has also been associated with health issues (though not conclusively), such as increased rates of certain cancers in lab animals and humans – though only one (polymer fume fever) has been directly linked. How many of us have heard that as soon as the lining has been scratched, we need to throw the pan/tin/whatever away so as not to ingest any of the chemicals? Over-heating the pans, which is surprisingly easy to do, can also cause noxious fumes to be released, and while these are not considered dangerous the long-term effects of regularly breathing in these fumes isn’t known. I’m not very comfortable with using something that is 1) that flimsy and needs regular replacement, 2) could have unseen scratches or patches of heat related decomposition that could flake little bits of the chemical into your food and 3) isn’t rated up to the highest oven temperatures I might bake bread at.

When we first moved to Seattle and stocked up our kitchen, I just bought the general supermarket cake tins (non-stick ones) – because we were both tired of spending so much money on home goods and because I hadn’t used anything else before. I baked with these tins for a couple of years and last year it came to me: we have always said how terrible non-stick fry pans are, so why am I using a non-stick cake tin? A cheap one, too, so the surface is probably even weaker.

I spent some time researching cookware and of course read what I already knew – aluminium is the best heat conductor and is recommended for baking. A cast iron cake pan would be amazing but very hard to come by and even more expensive… those things are heavy. You can also get glass bake ware but a cake pan is over $20 and I like my cook ware to be a little more versatile – I can’t freeze something in glass and send it straight into the oven, as I would before blind-baking pastry or a crumb base. I ended up choosing a stainless steel cake tin for both price and functional reasons but I was a little nervous about how it would perform.

The first time I used it, I made a double batch of my fructose friendly and gluten free banana cake and made the first half into muffins. Not wanting to overload the oven, I filled both the muffin pan and the stainless steel cake tin and cooked the muffins first, as they’d be done in 20 minutes. After baking the muffins I popped the full cake straight into the oven and what resulted was a dense little cake. I was disappointed. After thinking about it, though, I couldn’t blame the stainless steel tin – not yet. I had let it sit for 20 minutes while the muffins baked, so it would have lost some air from being beaten. I needed to find out how much of this was due to it sitting out before cooking and how much was due to the cake tin, so I decided to have a bake off. The results left me pleasantly surprised.

The Bake Off

One of the first things I learnt in my physiotherapy degree was KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. So that’s what I did.

Aim: To discover whether a stainless steel cake tin performs worse than, the same as, or better than a non-stick coated steel tin.

Method: Using the same cake recipe to keep things consistent, I made a double batch and transferred half into a greased and lined non-stick coated heavy steel tin and the other half into a greased and lined stainless steel tin. The oven was pre-heated to 180 C/350 F. I placed them both on the bottom rack, closed the door and set the timer for 50 minutes.

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Results:

While Baking

  • The non-stick cake rose much faster than the stainless steel cake and I was becoming concerned, even at 40 minutes.
  • After 50 minutes, neither cake was done – they were testing clean with a skewer but still felt a bit too soft.
  • At 55 minutes, the non-stick cake was done and I removed it from the oven.
  • At about 62 minutes the stainless steel cake was done and I removed it from the oven.

Cool Down

  • Both cakes had risen to about the same level while baking but after sitting out for 15 minutes, when it was time to turn them onto a cooling rack, the non-stick cake had collapsed to being quite flat, whereas the stainless steel cake had retained its dome.

Eating

  • Stainless Steel Cake – fluffy, very soft and moist. Taste was the same as always… delicious.
  • Non-stick Cake – not quite as fluffy (but only just), soft but noticeably drier than the stainless steel cake. Taste was still delicious.

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Not From A Packet Mix

Discussion: Stainless steel is not the best conductor of heat or electricity available today (due to it being an alloy – impurities reduce conductivity – and based on iron, rather than a more conductive metal like copper or aluminium), however this does not mean it cannot reach the same temperatures as other metals – it just takes a bit longer. My neighbour also wondered if the highly polished surface of the stainless steel cake tin reflected heat away from the cake (as the story goes with tin foil), rather than absorbing it into the metal; this is a good point and one which I hadn’t even considered, as my mind was heading off down the path of thermal conductivity.

If a material is lower on the thermal conductivity table – see link above, non-stick coating over heavy steel = approx. 43 W/(m.K), stainless steel = 16 W/(m.K) – it can be assumed it is more of a thermal insulator. Now, stainless steel is by no means a true thermal insulator (think more like bricks, wool and sand – things with trapped air pockets) but it stands to reason that it might have a fraction more insulating properties than the non-stick steel cake tin. Perhaps this slightly reduced rate of heat increase and loss played a role in the increased height retention and moisture within the stainless steel cake – in the photo above you cannot see moisture but you can see that the photos of the cake slices are zoomed in equally from the same angle and the stainless steel slice has clearly retained its dome, where as the non-stick slice has collapsed a little in the middle.

A reader, Cari, brought to my attention another reason that the non-stick cake might have risen very quickly and collapsed as it cooled, while the stainless steel cake did not. The non-stick lining has a lower coefficient of friction than the stainless steel tin – this means that the cake batter in the non-stick tin had less friction (grip) impeding its rise upwards, so it rose much faster than the batter in the stainless steel tin, which had to overcome a greater amount of friction. This worked against the non-stick cake as it cooled, though, as there was nothing for the cake to grip on to to prevent collapse, whereas the stainless steel cake could hold on to the sides of its tin to help retain its height.

Conclusion: For the price – $8, so about double that of the generic non-stick pan – the stainless steel cake tin performed better, albeit with a slightly longer cooking time. I am going to buy another so that I have two and might eventually invest in their muffin tins (I’m not too worried about our non-stick muffin tins as I always use patty pans).

What materials do you like to cook with? I’d love some thoughts and recommendations.

Eat and Let Eat – The Pros and Cons of Eliminating Foods? Everyone has an Opinion

I’ve read a few blog posts and media website articles lately that I find concerning – both as a person dealing with a digestive issue and a normal human being. My fructose malabsorption (FM) is definitely not as extensive as many people with whom I have spoken over online forums, or as dangerous as an anaphylactic reaction but it is there and it has impacted my life, for better and worse, over the last 8 years since I was diagnosed.

  • The first article I read was a little tongue in cheek, and complained about those with “fake” gluten allergies making a joke of it, so that wait staff/chefs don’t take real allergies quite as seriously as they should, or would, if this were not the case. That’s fine, I get it. So many people are eating gluten free now, and not all for the right reasons.* It’s understandable that those who go gluten free because it’s the latest fad might slightly tick off those who have no choice in the matter – a Coeliac friend of mine ends up in the hospital on antiemetics if she is exposed to gluten and has told me that she doesn’t understand those who chose the lifestyle over a more accessible diet without a decent reason.
  • The second article was downright depressing to read from the stand point of “one of those” customers with a food intolerance. I already feel guilty enough going to eat out at restaurants, knowing I’ll have to ask extra questions and take a little longer to decide what to order, without someone with no expertise deciding if my issues are worthy of their attention. The amount of times I get looks that tell me I’m crazy for not eating an apparently random assortment of foods keeps growing and is a large reason why Ev and I have found a couple of restaurants that suit us and we’re sticking with them.
  • The article that frustrated me the most, however, was this charmer by Mia Freedman. I understand that she was trying to make light of all the recent health related diet fads but she did so in a way that belittled those of us who deal with dietary restrictions that we would more than happily give up.

What is really depressing about most of what I read is that both the articles and the comments sections demonstrated such a lack of understanding of those with both diagnosed and un- or self-diagnosed issues. I suppose I should expect no less from the second article, but an article written by (I assume) a Coeliac would, you would think, have a little more empathy for those who are also dealing with intolerances and possibly garner an audience of like-minded people. Personally, I can tolerate gluten – which means that rye and spelt have opened up as options to me, if my FM can tolerate the fructans (it can, in reasonable amounts). However, I still cannot eat wheat, due to the amount and type of fructans present – yes, FM is a complicated beast.

I would think that most people, like myself, had a long-ish road to diagnosis, after which it took another couple of months before I was really “getting” the fructose friendly diet. It took my parents and I about six months of looking, after a couple of years of an increasingly irritable bowel that one day just got worse than my tolerance level for it. Other stories I have heard have spanned about ten years or more of inexplicable symptoms before a diagnosis was reached! The more exotic your intolerance – or the more inept your doctor – the longer the road is, generally speaking. From this I would assume that we might exercise a little more tolerance of those who are just starting out and maybe don’t quite understand their particular diet just yet. Maybe they don’t have a particular diet (FODMAPs, GAPS etc) that they are following but they have realised that certain foods don’t sit well with them. Intolerances come in all shapes and sizes; if these lucky people only need to cut out a few things in order to feel well again then great, good for them. I’m jealous but I’m not going to call them out for drinking a beer when it has gluten in it, if they are only “trying to watch their gluten” and have decided that this beer fits in with their tolerance level.

I believe in proper diagnosis but this is not always possible. A variety of factors play into this situation:

  • Finances
  • Availability of testing procedures
  • The knowledge base of your health professional
  • The test might aggravate your symptoms past a level you are comfortable with

If somebody told you that they felt better after cutting out wheat or gluten, yet could not have the test due to one of the above reasons, does that make their report of their symptom improvement any less valid than a Coeliac reporting on the benefits of cutting out gluten? No, it does not. We all know our own bodies and we have the ability to judge just what we are happy dealing with and what we will change if possible. Changing symptoms through diet is one of the easiest ways to go about it. It might take a little getting used to but it is more often than not preferable to taking medications that can have unwanted side effects. What I’m trying to say is that if we don’t know the details, who are we to judge? And even if we did, we still can’t know or understand how much the individual is affected by the food; we’re not sitting with them in the toilet, or suffering through their cramps with them at work or home – for those who are lucky enough to have dodged this bullet, it’s not just the cramps or the “runs” that we have to deal with, the initial symptoms also lead to fatigue, frustration, nutritional deficiencies and more.

The second article, for all its short comings, does raise a good point that was discussed at length in the comments section – if you are intolerant of something, and you decide that you do want to eat out (which you have every right to), set yourself up for success. If you have Coeliacs, an Italian restaurant might not be the best idea. Anaphylactic to shellfish? I’d probably steer clear of a seafood restaurant. It is of course up to you to decide what level of risk you are happy with but I can understand a waiter at an Italian restaurant might be a tad miffed if you start having a go at him regarding their lack of gluten free options. They don’t have  to cater for us, though I’m certainly glad that most of them try to. But by making a choice like this and harassing a waiter, you will only give everyone with a food intolerance a bad name. If you graciously explain your situation and keep everything civil, it will all work out for you in the end – even if you have to go elsewhere – and for food intolerant people everywhere who would like to eat out. If we are easy going to deal with as a whole, hopefully the stigma surrounding us will cease to exist.

As someone with a relatively unknown intolerance (over here in the USA, anyway – FM is gaining a good knowledge base in Australia), I experience a lot of disdain from waiters when I try to explain that it’s not gluten, it’s something else in wheat that upsets my gut. Whenever I ask about wheat in a restaurant, the response is, “gluten free?” To which I always feel obliged to say, “No, I’m not a Coeliac but I can’t have another substance in wheat called ‘fructans.'” Why  do I feel as though I have to explain the intricacies of FM to everyone? It would be easier to just answer a simple, “yes” to that question but there is an underlying feeling of guilt at lying. But why? My reason for avoiding wheat is just as valid as the next. I have even heard of other fruct mals being told that nobody is allergic to onion, so they must be faking it. Believe me, I’m not going to go into a restaurant and be difficult on purpose. Why would I avoid one of the most widely used flavours (and for good reason, onion is delicious) without cause?

Because of this, I rarely eat out, except for at a couple of trusted restaurants. It’s too difficult. I don’t like to cause trouble for my gut or my fellow diners. It’s easier to have dinner parties at our home, even with our tiny kitchen added into the equation. Sometimes, however, I do take risks – and sometimes they pay off. But not always. When this happens, lack of education is normally to blame, rather than malice – the beauty of this is that the education/knowledge problem can be solved. I was at a chocolate festival in Seattle earlier this year and I was religiously checking the ingredients in what I was tasting. One seller talked about her “all natural chocolate.” Of course I asked what sugars were added to sweeten it, apparently none? Great, I’ll try some. After I’d finished my bite she went on to talk about the organic agave syrup that she used! I let her know – as gently as I could after a frustrated outburst – that agave is a sugar, as is honey or maple syrup or any other natural syrup (as well as the processed varieties. The point being, in case you don’t have FM and don’t know, agave is incredibly high in fructose, with very little glucose – a terrible sweetener for a fruct mal to use. Cue the looks of disbelief from the chocolatier.

The fact that I continually need to justify why I’m avoiding agave, wheat or pears – such a wide range of foods that it seems I’m making it up – frustrates me. I wish FM was as well known and consistent as a lactose or gluten intolerance, then the name would be enough. We are often written off as just being difficult due to the extreme range of foods high in fructose and fructans. Add into the equation the rest of the FODMAPs that many others cannot tolerate and eating out can seem virtually impossible. It’s not just wait-staff either, friends and family (I’m very lucky with mine but not everyone else is) want to know exactly why you can’t eat certain foods and what will happen. My friends will know I’m not shy when it comes to talking about bodily functions (a health degree will do that to you) but it’s easy to tell when someone is truly interested or if they’re deciding for themselves whether they think my intolerance is real – or as other people have experienced – if their reactions aren’t so severe that they can sneak an unsafe food into the meal. I’m very lucky to have only experienced genuine fructose related mishaps when others have cooked for me – and it doesn’t bother me at all, because at least they tried.

It really is a basic act of respect to accept that someone cannot eat a food, for their own reasons. Vegetarians don’t – or shouldn’t – get harassed for eating salads at a BBQ. Why should we be harassed for being picky eaters? As Mia Freedman so delightfully put it, we “bang on about it.” I’m sorry (actually, I’m not) but you just asked me why I’m not eating/can’t eat such and such. For some intolerances, there is no simple answer. While I make every attempt not to bore people, I do feel like I am doing a good thing in restaurants by giving my little FM spiel to the wait staff. FM is so unrecognised in the US that it needs all the publicity help it can get. If someone is just newly diagnosed, they might be so excited that they finally know why they’ve been so ill that they can’t help telling their friends; they might also be so frustrated and depressed with the seemingly restrictive new diet that they’ve been put on that they need to vent. Either reason is acceptable and part of friendship is listening when it’s needed. On the other hand, I can completely understand that those who are overly zealous and trying to convert people who don’t need it to their chosen diet or lifestyle may be considered annoying. If someone asks for help in loosing weight/IBS/fatigue etc, by all means suggest what has worked for you. If you see someone scoffing a slice of Pavlova, don’t start telling them how bad sugar is for them; they might have just been at the gym.

Empathy and understanding are required by all to handle situations, such as those in restaurants, which might and sometimes do blow out of proportion. The same goes for people with different types of allergies or intolerances. As I said, my FM is generally easy for me to manage. And I’m certainly glad that I’m not so sensitive that I can’t be in the room with an apple, as some with peanut allergies cannot be near an open jar of peanut butter. I will not puff up, my airways do not swell closed and I don’t need to carry an epipen with me at all times. However, while I am lucky that my reaction to fructans aren’t too bad, my reaction to excess free fructose can be extreme. The last three times I consumed apple, the cramps were so bad that I fainted twice – luckily in the computer lab at uni and at home – and almost fainted once – in the middle of NYC, luckily with a couple of very understanding friends. While abdominal cramps due to carbohydrate fermentation in my gut isn’t life threatening, if I fainted while driving or alone in the street? What then? It could definitely get dangerous.

I have never understood why we have to be competitive with our allergies. Is this a contest that we really want to win? Because it’s not really winning at all. This occurs mainly on websites, where users can hide behind their computer screens, which I suppose removes the human element to our online interactions but I like to think that I would talk to someone in the same way that I type to someone, much as I do on here. This allergy superiority needs to stop, we need to support each other and be glad when one group/condition reaches heightened awareness, as it can only mean good things for all the rest. Should the Coeliacs out there be so mad at those with a gluten intolerance, or who are “watching” their gluten? I don’t think so, because without the vocal minority, the awareness about gluten wouldn’t be as widespread as it is now; they have actually done them a favour. Those who don’t believe in intolerances and allergies have and will always exist and whether you choose a diet for medical or “other” reasons will not change that.

Next time someone orders a beer after eating gluten free finger foods, just smile and sip on your wine. It tastes better, anyway.

* In my humble opinion, the wrong reason for going gluten free is that you’re doing it because a magazine article told you to, without looking into it any further. GF diets can and do help many people but if they’re not done properly (i.e. you rely on packaged, processed GF foods) then they can do more harm than good.

Springtime Caesar Burgers – Low Fructose

Seattle’s weather has finally picked up and it seemed appropriate to spend some time outdoors this last weekend – after being cooped up all winter and especially after visiting Australia for Easter then returning back to rain, rain and more rain. And a bit more rain for good measure.

Mia, a friend, wanted to visit the Tulip Festival that takes place in Mt Vernon every spring so we headed up there to look at some flowers and soak up some sun.

Tulips

We were contemplating going to an Indian restaurant for dinner but after heading home to feed the dogs first, the weather was still so stunning and our balcony in full sun that we decided to have a BBQ instead.

Unfortunately we didn’t have any capsicum or zucchini to grill along with the burgers this time but I will chuck in some photos at the end from our “Australia Day” BBQ that we had back in January… in the rain. Seattle really loves to rain.

Low Fructose Burgers

  • 1 kg/2.2 lb mince beef makes 6 large patties
  • GF bread or burger buns, toasted
  • 1-2 tomatoes, sliced
  • Romaine lettuce leaves
  • Sliced or grated cheese
  • Condiment of your choice – tomato sauce/ketchup, mustard, ranch etc

No onions or anything else hiding in these bad boys apart from the mince beef of your choice. We used 80:20 mince but you could make them leaner by choosing 90:10 if you’d like. Or play around with leaner meats like turkey.

Firstly, make sure your BBQ is heating up. We have a Weber Kettle BBQ that uses coal, so it takes 20 minutes or so (with the coal chimney) to get going.

Next, shape fist-sized amounts of mince into patties. The more compression you use, the better they will stick together. Josh made these and he used the back of a dinner plate to apply pressure to the mince beef, which was sitting on wax paper. Nifty idea!

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Five over-sized patties… these were Josh sized fists; my little hands would have made them a fair bit smaller!

Thirdly, cook your patties on the grill. A medium/med-high heat is best, so that they can cook halfway through without the outside charring up too much. Flip them, then let them cook through to your liking. I like my burgers well done, no pink in the middle.

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Please excuse the blackened snags in the background…

While the guys are outside doing their thing with the BBQ, I sliced the cheese, tomatoes and lettuce. I already had my condiment of choice (Caesar dressing) ready from the Chicken Caesar Salad we had had for dinner the night before, so that was one thing less to prepare.

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Caesar Dressing

Caesar Dressing

Next, assemble your burger. Simple as that. The chips (fries) we had were *gasp* from a packet 😛 but here is a recipe for homemade baked potato wedges/chips.

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Havarti cheese, all-beef pattie, tomato, romaine lettuce and Caesar dressing on toasted GF bread. Delish.

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The packet chips! Gasp! They were GF and nothing fructose-y in them, so all safe.

When we have a BBQ, we normally grill some veggies like capsicum or zucchini as well. Just cook them until they begin to blacken then flip and repeat; the time it will take depends on the heat of your BBQ. Just make sure you slice them so that they are wide enough to not fall through the grilling rack!

Grilled veggies at the back, vegetarian pinto bean burger patties at the front on GF buns.

Grilled veggies at the back, vegetarian pinto bean burger patties at the front on GF buns.

To make your burger really Australian, you need to add an egg, pineapple and  beetroot if you can tolerate it. But the egg and pineapple wouldn’t have gone with the Caesar dressing, so they had to miss out… this time.