Tag Archives: maple

A Recipe is Only a Guideline…

The other day I came in with one thing on my mind: hot veggie soup but there was none.  Because of food allergies I can’t just open a box of Pacific or Imagine pureed veggie soup, which is a shame because some of the varieties look really tasty.  Every recipe I post here is just that a written recipe with specific measurements and directions.   In reality a recipe (unless you’re baking) is just a guideline.  Some of my favorite meals have no recipe.  I thought I’d do a post about flying on your own, untethered by the confines of a recipe.  With that in mind I will share thoughts for an Impromptu Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Soup and an Impromptu Carrot Ginger Soup that can be put together from whatever is in the fridge, freezer and pantry.

No squash, just sweet potatoes?  No problem!  Make Sweet Potato Soup.

Not enough squash or sweet potato?  Augment with canned pumpkin.

No chicken stock?  Use veggie stock or a bouillon cube or two.

No maple syrup?  Use some of the pear juice from the canned pears.

Feeling like a “creamed” soup?  Add a white potato and/or enrich with some fat free half and half, evaporated skim milk or a dairy substitute of your choice.

Looking for more exotic flavor?  Substitute a small spoonful of a mild Thai Curry paste of your choice.

Looking for less flavor?  Back off the curry powder or leave it out entirely.

Looking for a little protein?  Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt or even stir in a small amount of peanut or almond butter if you’re able to tolerate it.

By the way, a “palmful” is just enough spice to create a mound in the center of your palm.  Also, I’m always afraid of staining food processors and blenders with curry so I add it after I’ve pureed.

Impromptu Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Soup

1  sweet potato (any size), peeled and cubed

2 cups (or so) roasted butternut squash (or equivalent frozen puree or cubes)

low sodium chicken stock

palmful of onion powder

1 garlic clove (less or more depending on your taste), grated

1 cube Ginger Paste

pinch thyme leaves

2 canned pear halves

palmful pumpkin pie spice

palmful mild curry powder

2 glugs maple syrup (I like Grade B)

salt and pepper to taste

Bring sweet potato cubes and enough chicken stock to cover to a boil.  Reduce heat and add remaining ingredients except curry powder.  Simmer until sweet potato cubes are very tender.  Puree and return to the soup pot.  Thin to desired consistency with stock.  Season with curry powder and salt and pepper to taste.

Impromptu Carrot Ginger Soup

When I was able to eat carrots I made Carrot Ginger Soup often.  It too doesn’t require an actual recipe.

carrots, peeled and chopped

low sodium chicken stock

palmful of onion powder

1 garlic clove (less or more depending on taste) grated

1 cube Ginger Paste

pinch of curry powder or pumpkin pie spice

salt and pepper to taste

Bring all ingredients (except curry powder) to a boil in enough chicken stock to cover.  Simmer until very tender.  Puree and return to soup pot.  Thin to desired consistency with stock.  Season with curry powder or pumpkin pie spice, salt and pepper.



I’ve been thinking about seasonings lately.  There are some days where all I want or can tolerate is really plainly seasoned foods and others where I’d welcome a meal with “a good smack across the face” of flavor.  I catch myself imagining what a dish “should” taste like and in my pre-GP life I’d  know exactly how to get it there.  I’m routinely disappointed when my expectations aren’t meet with a GP-friendly meal.  The mantra in culinary school was: “Fat is flavor!” and “Everything needs salt!” but there is more to it than that.  There’s a synergy between ingredients and when your list of ingredients is as limited as ours is it’s time to get creative.  I’m still new to this low-fat, low fiber (potentially low flavor) Gastroparesis diet and I’m learning something new one dish at a time.  These are a few seasoning tricks I’ve learned along the way:

Grinding dried herbs in a spice grinder (an inexpensive coffee grinder designated only for spices) with a little salt pulverizes them into dust.  The salt acts as an abrasive.  To clean the spice grinder between uses just grind up a small piece of bread to clean any dust residue.

Lemon juice (just a few drops) is a great “pick me up” for tuna salad, fat free sauces and gravies and of course all fish.

A few gratings of fresh nutmeg makes anything made with spinach and milk or cheese (especially parmesan) sing.

Real parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano) in very small amounts and grated into wisps using a microplane/rasp delivers big flavor for not a lot of fat.

A spoonful of frozen orange juice concentrate straight from the freezer gives anything from mashed sweet potatoes and roasted butternut squash to fat-free custard mixture for french toast a sunny punch of citrus.

Raw garlic cloves grated to a paste using a microplane/rasp adds flavor without adding bits and pieces.

Buttermilk and yogurt add a nice low-fat/fat free twang to potato dishes.

Maple syrup (especially grade B which has a more maple flavor), molasses and brown sugar are sweeteners that offer more flavor than white sugar.

Soy sauce offers umami (savory) flavor compared with kosher or sea salt.

Laughing Cow cheese wedges (any variety) add 2 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein and a little punch of flavor to baked potatoes, noodles (just melt with a little fat free milk) or whatever they’re spread on.

Salt-free seasoning mixes (in conjunction with a little salt) are an easy “two pinches” to flavor.

Chicken stock simmered with chopped onions, celery, parsley and fresh herbs then strained provides all the flavor without all the skins and strings.

A small amount (1/2 cup or  less-depending on number of servings) of dry French white vermouth is an acceptable substitute for a larger amount of white wine in a recipe.  Unlike white wine it can sit in the refrigerator for a while once opened.  Just make sure you’re able to tolerated small amounts of alcohol.

Hopefully, more seasoning trick are in my future but until then feel free to share your tips for GP-friendly seasoning ideas.   Eat well!  Be well!  Enjoy!

Fleetingly Festive

It’s that time of year again and historically I have about a four minute window in which I feel festive.  Those four minutes basically fall somewhere between Thanksgiving Day and December 1st…after that I get “Scrinchy”…a combination of Scroogy and Grinchy.  Yesterday that four minute window opened so I took the opportunity to decorate and hang wreathes on the front and mudroom doors.  This is my first holiday season with Gastroparesis and I’m doing my very best to accept and adjust to “the new normal” but that doesn’t mean I still don’t feel a profound sense of loss.  Just between us, an occasional tantrum has been thrown…like when I dropped the gravy on Thanksgiving Day and promptly put my coat on and went out to “walk it off”.

Back to the wreathes!  It felt so good to get completely lost in a task.  I was so focused on wired ribbons and faux-sugared fruit picks that I completely lost track of time and when I looked at the clock it was time to start thinking about dinner.  What to have?

Pancakes are always easy and my stash of pumpkin spice pancakes in the freezer were gone.  Since I was feeling fleetingly festive I whipped up a batch of Gingerbread Pancakes seasoned with brown sugar, molasses and holiday spices and for topping: some Vanilla Maple Pear Compote…how I LOVE pears…at least they’re GP-friendly!  I generally enjoy my pancakes with scrambled eggs but given they were gingerbread with warm pear compote decided on a 1/4 cup of cottage cheese instead…vanilla Greek yogurt might also be a nice addition.  Either way, don’t forget some extra maple syrup to put it completely over the top!  Warm, seasonal, festive and yes…another tasty Gastroparesis-friendly recipe.

Just a reminder: Pancakes freeze well separated by wax paper in a Ziploc bag and the compote freezes just as well in small containers…just defrost in the microwave and pair with a protein for a no effort GP-friendly dinner.

Gingerbread Pancakes

These pancakes are not sweet and are subtly spiced.  Feel free to add more sweetener and amp up the spices but be careful there’s a fine line between spicy and bitter.  Having said that, the Vanilla Maple Pear Compote complements them beautifully.  Pancake batter can be made a day ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.

Makes 12 4″ pancakes, 6 servings of 2 pancakes

Pancake mix of your choice-enough to make 12 4″ pancakes (I used 2 cups Whole Foods 365 Organic Buttermilk Pancake & Waffle Mix)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon molasses (I prefer Blackstrap molasses)

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

freshly grated zest of 1 lemon – (a microplane produces very light wispy gratings of zest-leave out if you are concerned)

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 eggs

1 1/3 cups fat free milk (follow whatever your mix suggests, may also use water if your mix contains buttermilk-check preparation instructions)

Mix all ingredients together until smooth.  Do not overmix.  For best results allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before using.  Drop batter by 1/4 cups onto a sprayed non-stick griddle.  When bubbles form on the top of the pancake its time to flip.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

Based on 2 4″ pancakes

222 Calories, 0.4 grams Fiber, 3.9 grams Fat, 7.8 grams Protein

Vanilla Maple Pear Compote

Makes approximately 2 1/2 cups or 10 1/4 cup servings

Can be made ahead of time.  Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

3 large ripe Bartlet pears (about 2 pounds), peeled, cored and chopped

juice of 1 lemon, strained

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Cook until pears are very soft-approximately 30 minutes-only you know how soft you require cooked fruit.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

Based on 10 1/4 cup servings

88 Calories, 0.1 grams Fat, 3 grams Fiber*, 0.4 grams Protein

*Recipe analysis based on unpeeled pears-peels contain a significant amount of fiber so this figure may be a little inflated.

Turkey Day Recipes! Gobble! Gobble!

I love thanksgiving so much that I keep a three-ring binder specifically for Thanksgiving recipes.  Each recipe page is enclosed in a plastic page protector so that it can be wiped down in case of spills.  This was my first Thanksgiving with Gastroparesis so for the first time in a decade my Thanksgiving binder stayed shut.  Instead, I decided to start a completely new chapter (plastic page protectors and all!).

My philosophy this year was KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!).  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie…all festive but more importantly GP-friendly.  Because I LOVE Thanksgiving leftovers I chose to break down a 15+ pound turkey and bone out the breast in order to have the roast plus the dark meat and the carcass and bones for soup.  Breaking down and boning out a turkey is an ambitious task.  These recipes will work just as well accompanying an intact roasted turkey or a boneless turkey breast ordered from the butcher.  I’ll be honest I still shed a few tears while I was cleaning mushrooms instead of cutting cornbread cubes for stuffing but the happy news is that there are a few new low-fat, low fiber Gastroparesis-friendly recipe pages to add to my Thanksgiving binder.  Oh, and I lied in a previous post…this wasn’t a butter-less Thanksgiving..there was one tablespoon of butter in the entire meal!

Maple Glazed Boneless Stuffed Turkey Breast

Serves 8

5-7 pound boneless turkey breast

1 recipe Wild Mushroom, Roasted Pear & Herbes de Provence Bread Stuffing

2 tablespoons maple syrup (I like grade B)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place turkey breast skin side down on work surface.  Open up each breast lobe by slicing open the middle of each breast. The new meat flaps should open like pages of a book and even out the roast.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place half of stuffing in the center of roast and wrap edges of turkey around stuffing-it should look like a football.   Tie roast with kitchen string and secure with “turkey pins”(the small skewers sold as turkey lacers).  Place skin side up on a rimmed sheet pan or in a shallow baking dish, spray with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for an 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours or until internal temperature (center of stuffing) registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer.  Approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes into roasting brush entire surface with maple syrup.  Allow roast to rest on cutting board 15 minutes before slicing.

Wild Mushroom, Roasted Pear & Herbes de Provence Bread Stuffing

Enough stuffing for a 5-7 pound boneless turkey breast and an additional baking dish of dressing.  This can be made a day ahead if desired.

1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence (savory, thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon, lavender flowers)

1/2 teaspoon dried french thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

1 1/2 pounds French Pullman (French white sandwich loaf) crusts removed and cut into 1″ cubes – stale

2 large Roasted Pears cut into 3/4″ chunks

2 1/2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms* (I used 1 lb chanterelles, 1 lb shiitake, 1/2 lb crimini) washed and trimmed.  Shiitake stems are tough and inedible remove.  Save stems and trimmings for Turkey Soup Stock.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 cup dry French white vermouth (optional-can substitute stuffing stock)

2 teaspoons onion powder

1/2 cup fat free half & half

1 recipe Stuffing Stock

Grind Herbes d Provence, thyme and sage into a powder using a spice (coffee) grinder.  Divide mixture in half and set aside.  Spray a large saute pan and melt butter over medium high heat.  Add mushrooms to pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until mushrooms give off their liquid.  Add vermouth, onion powder and half of the reserved herb powder.  Cook until liquid is 3/4 evaporated.  Add fat free half & half.  Warm through and check for seasoning.  Add more salt and pepper if necessary.  Pour mushroom mixture into a large bowl with bread cubes and roasted pear chunks.  Season with remaining herb powder.  Toss to combine.  Ladle Stuffing Stock into stuffing mixture until moist but not soupy.  Save any unused stuffing stock for Turkey Soup Stock.  Taste for seasoning.  Adjust if necessary.  Use half of stuffing to stuff turkey breast and bake remaining stuffing uncovered in a baking dish along side turkey breast until crispy on top.  Approximately 1 1/2 hours.

*If using Portobellos remove gills from underneath the cap as they will stain the stuffing purple/gray.  Avoid using all white button mushrooms-they don’t have the depth of flavor of Crimini, Portobello, Shiitake and wild mushrooms.

Roasted Pears

These can be made a a few days ahead if desired.

3 ripe/firm Bartlet pears, peeled and halved

juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt and pepper

cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a small sheet pan with cooking spray.  Toss pears in lemon juice.  Place cut side down on sheet pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spray tops.  Roast 40-50 minutes or until tender and bottoms are golden.  When cool enough to handle, remove to cutting board and scoop out core with small spoon or melon baller and remove strings with a small knife.

Stuffing Stock

This can be made a few days ahead or even frozen until needed.

Makes 6 to 8 cups

6-8 cups low sodium chicken stock (1 1/2-2 32 ounce boxes)

3 onions, chopped

3 stalks celery, including leaves, chopped

sprig parsley

1 bay leaf

5 peppercorns

mushroom stems (optional – I had a few shiitake stems in the freezer)

Add all ingredients to a large pot with a lid.  Bring mixture to a boil, cover and simmer 1-2 hours until fragrant.  Strain and discard solids.  Cool then refrigerate.

Doctored Fat Free Turkey Gravy From The Jar

Serves 8

2 jars Heinz Fat free roasted turkey gravy

1 Roasted Pear

pinch dried thyme

fresh lemon juice

Puree roasted pear and thyme.  Stir into gravy.  Adjust seasoning with freshly ground black pepper and a few drops of fresh lemon juice.

LIBBY’S Famous Pumpkin Pie the GP-friendly Way

LIBBY’S Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe has been on the can since 1950.  I’ve always added a few gratings of fresh nutmeg and vanilla extract.  You won’t even miss the crust.  Serve with fat free ReddiWip and gingersnaps.

Serves 8

3/4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Freshly grated nutmeg (a few passes across microplane/rasp)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 eggs

15 ounce can pumpkin puree

12 ounce can fat free evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix sugar, spices and salt in a small bowl to combine.  In a larger bowl, beat eggs add vanilla, sugar mixture and pumpkin puree.  Mix to combine.  Stir in evaporated milk.  Pour into pie plate.  Bake for 15 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the radius (half-way between the center and the edge) comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Nutritional Information Per Serving of Pie:

Serves 8

144 calories, 1.4 grams fat, 1.7 grams fiber, 5.2 grams protein

Thoughts of Thanksgiving…My Most Favorite Meal of the Year!

Thanksgiving is just two and a half weeks away and I’ve ordered my turkey from Whole Foods…a 14-16 pound free range bird.  I’ve had some trouble digesting turkey since my diagnosis and have avoided it for the past six months or so.  This weekend I successfully enjoyed a turkey breast sandwich (as a calculated “dry run”) so it’s going to be roast turkey on Turkey Day!

This year’s tentative (and butterless) Gastroparesis-friendly Thanksgiving Menu:

No Fat Lobster Bisque served in demitasse cups

Maple Glazed Boneless Stuffed Turkey Breast with Wild Mushroom, Roasted Pear and Herbes de Provence Bread Stuffing.

Fat-free Mashed Potatoes with Turkey Gravy (doctored from a jar this year…who knows about next year)

Cranberry Sauce (ditto)

Crustless Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnaps and Fat-free Whipped Cream

I’ve tried to focus on what can be included versus what I can no longer have.  This is my first GP-friendly Thanksgiving so I’m trying to keep things simple.  Because I haven’t made any of these recipes yet I’m unable to share them but will take careful notes and post complete recipes as soon as I’m able for Gastroparesis-friendly recipes for Christmas as well as a few GP-friendly leftovers.  What I am certain about is the time the Big Meal will be served…nice and early so there is ample time for a post-prandial digestive stroll between dinner and dessert.

Realistically, I know this Thanksgiving will be different from the rest.  I know I will spend the day alternating between mourning my old life and resenting the new one.  I remind myself on a regular basis that there are certain situations in life where we simply do not have a choice in the matter…things are as they are and although I may not have control over what’s happened to me I am in complete control over how I choose to view my present situation.  This Thanksgiving I will be thankful for the ability to enjoy certain solids again, to be able to exercise (had paralysis in one foot during this megaflare making it difficult to walk) and for a peaceful mind (after an unpleasant experience with Reglan).  Most importantly, I’m thankful for a loving husband and his constant care and support throughout this journey.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, recipes and cooking questions for a Gastroparesis-friendly Thanksgiving.  I’d love to hear them all!  Eat well!  Be well! Enjoy! GOBBLE!  GOBBLE!

Picky Pumpkin Pickers are Prone to Pick the Plumpest Pumpkins!

I dare you to say that three times fast!  Halloween is just days away and all the pumpkins on all the doorsteps have given me a taste for something creamy, spicy and pumpkin-y.  One of my favorite places for jams and preserves has always been Stonewall Kitchens.  Their butters are particularly good…including the pumpkin butter.  I got to thinking I must have all the ingredients in the house why not just make some.  The following recipe for Maple Pumpkin Butter is a compilation of several recipes I found on the internet.  It’s dark, spicy and satisfying…without being overly sweet.  Not only do cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cloves and nutmeg taste great they’re all supposedly good immune system enhancers as well as sources of antioxidants.  Pumpkin is a “super food” high in Vitamins C and E, magnesium, potassium and zinc and several varieties of carotenoids (antioxidants).  Tasty and good for you!

The following recipe for Peach and Pumpkin Butter Tartine came to me while I was trying to use up some fat-free cottage cheese.  Cottage cheese is a great source of GP-friendly protein and “goes down easy” but I find it can cause (whisper voice here) constipation if enjoyed too often or in too big a serving so I try to limit my servings to no more than 1/4 cup per day…that’s still over 6 grams of protein.  With the toaster waffle this makes a nice mini-meal which provides almost 9 grams of protein.  Peaches and spiced pumpkin are surprisingly nice together.  By the way, a tartine is just a glamorous French name for an open-faced sandwich.

Maple Pumpkin Butter

Makes approximately 1 pint

1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree

1/4 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons maple syrup (I use Grade B)

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon and allspice

1/4 teaspoon each: ginger, cloves and nutmeg

Whisk all ingredients in a heavy saucepan until well combined.  Bring to a boil and cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently until thickened-approximately 15 minutes.  Cool slightly and spoon into a clean pint jar.  Refrigerate for up to 3 months.

Peach and Pumpkin Butter Tartine

Makes 1 serving but can be multiplied

1 low-fat toaster waffle

a smear of Maple Pumpkin Butter

1/4 cup fat-free cottage cheese

canned peach slices, drained

Toast waffle and spread with a smear of maple pumpkin butter.  Top with cottage cheese and sliced peaches.

Comfort Food

I woke up with the first head cold in years.  I can’t smell or taste so the pumpkin recipe I have planned has got to wait…stuffy head usually equals a few “salt lick” meal fiascos.  What I really wanted was easy (GP friendly) comfort food.  I had never heard of Matzah Brei before I met my husband.  Sure, growing up we  bought a few marked down boxes of matzah “crackers” at the market once Passover concluded.  Matzah Brei is special despite being super simple.   It can best be described as a matzo omelet enjoyed savory or sweet or maybe bite-sized shards of french toast.  My father-in-law liked grape jelly on his, my husband prefers raspberry or strawberry jam and cinnamon sugar, some people like maple syrup or honey (more of a dairy-free french toast concept) and I like mine with ketchup…considered quite the abomination by the way!

Matzah is available year round in the Jewish or Ethnic section of the market.  It’s sturdier than regular crackers and comes salted or unsalted.  The following recipe is how my husband’s family prefers to make theirs.  They have also been known to add a few Ritz crackers to the mix but this is the only way I’ve ever had or made Matzah Brei.  The original recipe uses vegetable oil or chicken fat.  I’ve sprayed the pan with cooking spray so the matzot may not get as crispy as it would made the traditional way.  Remeber, this is comfort food and like most “homey” dishes it’s not beautiful to look at but I hope you’ll try it and enjoy.  I “stepped outside the box” and enjoyed mine with seedless raspberry jelly and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.

Matzah Brei

Serves 2-3 but can be multiplied or reduced according to need

3 sheets of matzah

2 large eggs, beaten in a bowl large enough to accommodate matzot pieces

onion powder (to taste-some sweet people still like the onion flavor with their jelly, jam, cinnamon sugar, honey or syrup)

salt and pepper (bland items, eggs and matzot, usually require generous salting)

Break the matzot into bite-sized pieces (about an inch square) over a sieve and catch any crumbs falling from underneath on a paper towel.  Place sieve under warm running water and moisten matzot pieces until they are tender but not soggy or disintegrated…about 15 Mississippis.  Shake out any excess water.  Transfer with reserved crumbs to a bowl with the beaten eggs and season with onion powder, salt and pepper.  Preheat a sprayed non stick 10-12″ saute pan over medium high heat.  Add egg and matzah mixture and stir constantly until eggs are scrambled.  Serve with jelly, seedless jam, cinnamon sugar, honey, maple syrup or (gasp!) ketchup.