Strategies for Public Grazing on a Low-FODMAP Diet


Last night was the 2013 Chef’s Sampler fundraiser for the local Children’s Home Society. We’ve enjoyed the offerings in previous years (over-enjoyed, to be truthful) but this was the first such event after adopting the Low-FODMAP diet as a preventative for IBS. I was really curious how much there would be for me to try considering my restrictions included fresh dairy, onions, garlic, wheat, corn, beans, and several other things.

Dave Stewart and the Vibe were this year's entertainment.

Dave Stewart and the Vibe were this year’s entertainment.

While I didn’t feel incredibly deprived after we made our rounds, I certainly didn’t leave feeling stuffed full to the gills like usual (Todd more than made up for me, however, judging by him post-Sampler tummy ache).  While at least 3 of the 42 listed restaurants were no-shows (or at least so late we missed them entirely) the only one I truly missed was Barnacle Bills–their margaritas and oysters on the half-shell have been a mainstay for ages.

Publix brought out these tasty buckwheat blinis topped with limoncello-marinated salmon, pickled onions and cream fraiche--I skipped the blini and onions but the salmon was divine!

Publix brought out these tasty buckwheat blinis topped with limoncello-marinated salmon, pickled onions and cream fraiche–I skipped the blini and onions but the salmon was divine!

At any rate, we enjoyed what we could and were finished with our circuit after only an hour and a half.


Bruster's Strawberry Sorbet is apparently made fresh on the premises and was some of the best sorbet I've ever had.

Bruster’s Strawberry Sorbet is apparently made fresh on the premises and was some of the best sorbet I’ve ever had.

Standouts from my point of view included Bruster’s Strawberry Sorbet, the Brisket Parfait from Piggy’s BBQ (shredded brisket, mashed potatoes, cheese, and bacon–I opted to skip the red sauce, just in case), and the Tahitian Tuna Tartini from 101.

101's Tahitian Tuna Tartini came in a cute little martini glass and featured a seaweed salad on the bottom. I really want more of it--soon!

101’s Tahitian Tuna Tartini came in a cute little martini glass and featured a seaweed salad on the bottom. I really want more of it–soon!

Since I was on the lookout for labels and ingredient lists, I was only a little surprised that many things weren’t labeled and that only 1 station, New Leaf Market, had clearly posted ingredient lists. Because of this I knew their green smoothie of coconut water, kale, and pineapple was safe for me to try and I was super-shocked that I like it! Not quite enough to splurge on a VitaMix any time soon, but enough to wonder if the Cuisinart could handle the job!

New Leaf Market's spread with clearly-marked ingredient lists.

New Leaf Market’s spread with clearly-marked ingredient lists.

This leads me to the tip-portion of this post. If you’re faced with a public grazing situation such as a cocktail hour, wedding reception, or food festival, here’s what I’d do to prevent too much disappointment or stomach upset:

  1. Assume that every sauce or soup is going to include at least one High-FODMAP ingredient and proceed accordingly. I opted to take a chance on a chicken and seafood cream sauce over grit cakes from Angelette’s but left most of the sauce on the plate. I also tried a smidgen of hummus (containing garlic) on a cucumber round from The Grain and a tiny taste of a rice bowl from Qdoba (the chicken likely included a bit of garlic and the guacamole included onions). Which takes us to…
  2. Portion control is your friend. I may have tempted fate with a few ill-advised options, but with true tasting portions involved, I didn’t have to worry about too much fallout from these flavorful dalliances. Granted, if you go whole-hog and try everything in tiny portions it will all add up and you may experience some symptoms after all.
  3. Stay away from the obvious ones. Anything breaded I just didn’t both with, the same with all the sandwiches and wraps out there. Tasty Eats did have a summer roll available that was clearly in a rice paper wrapper and was a nice way to start off the event with something I knew was going to be safe.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. True, many of the volunteers may not be knowledgeable about what they’re doling out, but someone behind the table will have the answer. Be polite, not pushy, and cheerfully say a “no thank you, then” if the ingredients would cause you issue. I had to forgo the crab cakes from Cabo’s and all of the cupcakes and cookies, but the catfish from Other Seineyard was breaded just on corn meal, something I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t ask.
  5. Eat ahead, if you’re really worried about not having enough options. This way you won’t have to tell a white lie when you say ‘no thanks, I’m not hungry’ but you can still hang out and have a good time without resentment or a rumbling tummy from hunger.

The fact that I could carefully make my way through an event like the Chef’s Sampler without feeling left out or hungry was a real coup in this switch to low-FODMAP living. While not all events will have enough variety to suffice, it was nice to eat out without worrying too much about being stuck with salad as the last resort. This is also good news for being about to taste my way around the Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT on our honeymoon this November. As long as I’m careful I should be able to keep the inconvenience to a minimum.

Simple Pleasures


Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting
While some would caution us (with good intentions) not to place too much emphasis on the way food makes us feel, it’s undeniable that food does affect our mood.

Whether it’s the smell of fresh-baked cookies, fresh from the oven, the feel of bread dough as we knead it into rolls or loafs or braids, or the snap of fresh green beans before they hit the colander for rinsing, the use of our other 4 senses when cooking and eating are indispensable when it comes to the total food experience.

There are the phrases “eat to live” and “live to eat.” The first one is for folks who look at food as a tool: fuel for daily tasks. It has to serve its purpose and nothing else. The second is for the rest of us who really enjoy our food. Sometimes that leads to over-indulging, but I think there’s a middle ground.

Part of that middle ground is found by examining the quality of what we eat in relation to the quantity of it.

Recently we attended a friends birthday dinner and it was asked of all who wanted a second slice of cake. It was very good cake, and the first serving was definitely on the conservative side.


While a part of me, the inner child if you will, wanted another, larger, frosting-overloaded piece of cake, another part of me (and, thankfully, the part that had control over my actions at the time) demurred. Why? Because one slice was enough.

Now, some would call this willpower. I am actually rather infamous for my lack thereof. Some would also call this self-deprivation. But I call it good sense. By appreciating the piece of cake I’d already had (following a delicious meal of lobster ravioli and a nice tall cocktail–see what I mean about the willpower?) I stopped myself from almost-certain indigestion and regret.

We’ve all been there, right? The oh-I-can’t-believe-I-ate-so-much moment after a large meal. The feeling of leaden limbs, the desire for a nap, the mushy-headed-ness of overdoing it. The hangover if it was a case of one-more-drink-won’t-hurt, last night.

What’s the secret, then, to avoiding overindulgence?

There isn’t one. Not really.

It’s just a matter of being aware of what we’re doing, eating and drinking. Of knowing how much really is enough. And enjoying it.

There’s some sort of major sporting even coming up this weekend, I’m told 😉 Many may be invited to parties. Those parties  may feature tables laden with heavy, fatty foods. Buckets of beer. You know the drill.

And I’m not going to preach small plates or counting calories, I’m just going to suggest that, if you want to avoid the calling-in-food-sick on Monday morning thing (when everyone knows that you really just partied too much), you think about each trip to the buffet or each scoop of 7-layer-dip you take. Notice the texture, flavor and enjoyment it gives and take a moment, a fraction of a second even, to appreciate it before going back to for another. And maybe realize it’s enough.

While I go set my DVR for the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet.

Pumpkinfest, Unexpected Muffuletta, and the Splits


There was a metric ton of fun things going on this past weekend in the Tallahassee area–wine events, local festivals and farm tours abound.

After weighing our options we finally settled on nearby Havana’s Pumpkinfest.

Pumpkin Patch Barn Photo Op at Havana Pumpkinfest

This little barn made a cute photo op for families on the hunt for pumpkins and the perfect fall picture of little ones.

A great thing about small towns is that they go all-out for their festivals. The Pumpkinfest may have been small but Main Street is also lined with all manner of antique stores providing ample browsing opportunities along with the craft booths, festival food booths and people watching these sorts of events provide.

Instead of availing ourselves of the food vendors on the streets we opted to stop into Joanie’s Gourmet Market and Fabulous Cafe. Now, normally I’d snark about setting yourself up pretty high for putting Fabulous in your name but in this case I just can’t do it: they are pretty Fabulous.

Joann's Gourmet Market and Fabulous Cafe

Not only do they have a charming selection of gourmet food items and wines, they have a short and sweet menu that was so tasty, I wish I lived a little closer. Todd ordered the Chicken Quesadilla and I had the Muffuletta Wedge. In fact, seeing Muffuletta on the menu posted at the front door was what sold us on stopping in for a late lunch.

Chicken Quesadilla from Joanies' Gourmet Market Muffuletta Wedge

The key to a good Muffuletta is the olive salad. Their house olive salad isn’t the same as what you’d get in New Orleans, but it’s very good on it’s own and certainly made for a good sandwich–it featured capers, which is not something I would normally include but it was an interesting choice. And there was so much olive salad on there that it was falling out of the pressed sandwich. Not that that’s a bad thing–you can be sure I didn’t let it go to waste.

They also had fabulous old-fashioned bottled sodas. Todd enjoyed his Vanilla Cream soda and I could have taken a nap in my Root Beer, it was that wonderful. Oh, sorry: Fabulous!

On the way home we started to crave something a little sweet. So I suggested a stop into Lofty Pursuits for some delicious ice cream. We were happy to see they were in the midst of a mid-afternoon rush (always good to see your favorite places busy) and happily perused the extensive menu to decide what we wanted to top off an already fun day.

Chocolate Banana Split from Lofty Pursuits

That, my friends, is a Chocolate Banana Split. Wanna know what’s in it?

  • 3 scoops of Deep Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
  • the requisite banana
  • chocolate, marshmallow and butter caramel sauces
  • chocolate whipped cream
  • chocolate sprinkles, chocolate chips, a waffle-cone sail
  • and a trio of cherries on top! (there’s another one hiding behind the sail)

It was perfect for 2; might have been a bit too much to try and tackle singly.

Did you do anything fabulously foodie this weekend?

Nothing Says I Love You Like…


They say (whoever they are) that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Despite the anatomical argument against it, it very well could be true. Cupid knows the first, second and future dates I’ve procured due to the promise of my culinary skills.

With today being Valentine’s Day, the most loving of holidays (at least according to Hallmark), what foods of love are you serving up to your nearest and dearest?

Will it be the tried and true(?) aphrodisiacs of oysters and chocolates?

Dinner out, brought in!

Dinner out, brought in!

Will you be dining out? (If so, I hope you have a reservation someplace or are willing to wait a good, long while.)

Or will you skip dinner and go straight to dessert?

The other day we’d decided to seek dinner out a little too late on a Friday night to find any place without at least an hour’s wait and a line out the door. Rather than give in and pick up fast food, we got the idea to pop into Fresh Market and check out their ready-to-eat deli selections. We made a fabulous meal with a couple of pop-in-the-oven items, fresh fruit and cheese. Add in a bottle of wine from the fridge and a fire in the fireplace and it was a wonderful dinner out, brought in!

It’s Todd’s turn to cook this week so he’ll be cooking dinner but I’ve got dessert all ready to go: a lemon-blueberry cheesecake. Want to make your own? Check out my basic cheesecake recipe and not-so-secret secrets to getting the best results possible. This one features Lemon Snaps as the crust as edging, the cheesecake batter is flavored with a bit of Limoncello and then has lemon curd swirled-in along with fresh blueberries.

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake

So, what’s the way to your heart?

“Todd’s” Turkey


There is some concern in my family about the fact that I only purchased a 17.22 lb turkey for Thursday.

Now, we’re 6 people. Even discounting bones that’s a LOT of turkey per person. Last year’s bird was just over 21 pounds and we had turkey coming out of our ears. Even after my brother took some home. And we froze some for gumbo, later. Not to mention that it barely fit in our large roasting pan.

So 17.22 lbs seemed quite adequate to me.

“But Jason’s already salivating over Todd’s turkey,” Mom informs me.

This same Jason who already went to 3 other Thanksgiving dinners before mine but who still ate a plate full and was moaning in misery on my living room floor afterward. This same Jason who has to go to FOUR dinners before mine this year.

I’m not exactly worried.

But let’s get to the heart of the matter, here.

Todd’s turkey.

Last year was the first year we hosted Thanksgiving and, therefore, roasted the bird. Usually Mom’s job, it just didn’t make sense for her to have to cart a turkey across town (or, even, around the corner of town as it actually is from her place to ours). She brought a couple of sides and we handled the rest.

This was also the first holiday Todd & I were living together for, so some collaboration was in order. Thrilled to be getting a crack at the turkey but knowing I couldn’t go too far astray from the usual without shocking my family’s palate, I planned to supplement the usual turkey seasoning (quartered onions & apples in the cavity plus a few garlic cloves) with some herbed-butter coins placed under the skin.

Right about the time I voiced that idea, Todd suggested we brine the turkey. Having never done that before it seemed as good an idea as any.

The turkey was amazing.

But it was a joint effort, as I continue (as does Todd) to point out to my mother. Nonetheless, because of a bit of salt and water, the turkey of note is known as Todd’s turkey.


To Brine a Turkey

There are several ways to do this but this is ours and, hey, it’s won Todd fame with my family so it must work okay.

  1. Clean out a good-sized cooler that will hold the turkey with space around it for liquid and ice.
  2. Line the cooler with a fresh (unscented) tall kitchen bag.
  3. Divest the turkey of it’s neck and giblets, give it a good rinse and place inside the bag inside the cooler.
  4. Combine kosher salt and water (1 cup per gallon) as needed and add to the bag inside the cooler, making sure to completely cover the turkey.
  5. Tie up the kitchen bag, fill the space around the bird with ice.
  6. Let sit in this brine (topping off the ice as needed and, if it’s a really big bird, turning it once) for 24 hours or so.
  7. Rinse the turkey and season at will prior to roasting.

Last year our turkey was a little icy on the inside, still, but this actually worked in our favor as it helped keep the temperature of the turkey-and-brine below 40 degrees. If you’ve got room in your fridge (and if so, I envy you), you can brine it in a bag (or 2–no spills allowed!) or large container in the fridge. I’ve even seen where it’s suggested to use a crisper bin if the bird will fit.

You can also add other seasonings to your brine, but we went with simple last year and had excellent results.

The Rest of the Table

What will appear alongside Todd’s turkey, this year? Here’s our menu:

Baked Brie en Croute with Figs and Honey
Spinach Dip and Crackers

Buttered and Brined Turkey
Cornbread Dressing
Turkey Gravy
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Broccoli and Cheese
Eggplant & Zucchini Gratin
Rice and Pigeon Peas
Garlic Green Beans
Parker House Rolls
Cranberry Sauce (jellied and whole berry)

Ambrosia Salad
Pecan Pie
Amaretto Pumpkin Pie w/Gingered Pepitas
Caramel Apple Cake

Yes, I know, we’re only 6 people. And 2 will have eaten several times before they make it to our evening supper. And 1 still isn’t 100% sure he’ll make it if work intervenes.

But the leftovers will be glorious.

Feed Your Ears

Make sure to check out the November episode of Random Acts Radio: Grab a Spoon. There’s over an hour of food-related tunes to keep you company in the kitchen or on the road. Sage (and safe–that was a typo too good to pass up) Thanksgiving wishes  to all, and may all your waistbands be elastic.