7 Seriously Simple FODMAP Cooking Tips
As I've been putting the finishing touches on the Calm Belly Kitchen Cookbook and getting it ready to release to the world (including all you wonderful people who have already pre-ordered), I've revisited recipes that I created as far back as January.
This has been a lot of fun, and I've even cooked some of my favorites in the last week just for the heck of it. Since all I've done lately is live and breathe (and probably memorized) these recipes, I want to share the absolute best and/or coolest tips and tricks from the cookbook.
I'm not gonna lie: Cooking is tough. It takes effort and planning, but there are so many shortcuts, hacks, and time-savers that can make it more manageable.
Here are the 7 coolest FODMAP cooking tips from my book, illustrated with photos straight from the pages. If you want to see even more, click here for my Cheesy One-Pan Mexican Rice recipe and head over here to see more inside pages, read recipe tester reviews, and order it yourself!
1. For a fuss-free salad on the go, choose kale over lettuce.
Lettuce gets sad and wilted, and you have to pack the dressing separately unless you want a soggy mess. Even if you dutifully carry along your little jar of dressing, you're always worried that's going to leak. Been there, done that.
For a salad that's a lot less high-maintenance, swap that lettuce for kale. Because it's a heartier green, you can add the dressing in the morning or even the night before.
It's actually better to prep your kale salad ahead of time because the leaves will soften up as they "marinate" in the dressing.
I figured this out when I developed my recipe for Salmon-Kale Caesar Salad. When we ate leftovers for lunch the next day, it was even better than the night before.
Lacinato kale (also called, Tuscan, dinosaur or cavolo nero) works better in salads than curly kale, which is tougher. I like to cut out the ribs and chop the leaves into thin ribbons for salads.
2. Make juicy ground turkey every time.
You want to be a little healthier, so you swap ground turkey for beef in one of your favorite recipes. The results are so dry and unappealing that you wish you hadn't bothered.
Don't let this happen again! In order to have great flavor and a texture that doesn't remind you of sandpaper, meat needs fat.
If you want ground turkey that tastes juicy and tender, choose dark meat. My supermarket sells ground turkey breast and ground turkey thigh separately. Sometimes I use half and half, and sometimes I just go with dark meat.
Since a 3-ounce serving of turkey thigh has 5 grams of fat (and only 1.5 grams of that is saturated), and the same portion of turkey breast has 1 gram, the dark meat is still a very healthy choice (source: ohiopoultry.org).
If pre-packaged ground turkey is the only available option, choose one labelled 85% lean (this will be a blend of light and dark meat). In a pinch, 93% lean is okay, but don't go any higher than that!
3. Cook risotto in the oven.
The traditional method is to stir the rice almost constantly for about 25 minutes while slowly adding liquid.
So you're literally standing over a hot stove.
For my Oven-Baked Risotto recipe in the book, I wanted to test and perfect an oven cooking method that I'd read about, but doesn't seem to be very popular.
Long story short, it works like a charm, and here's how you do it:
- Start the risotto as most recipes direct by sauteeing aromatics (in our case, scallion or leek tops) in half olive oil and half butter.
- Add the rice and cook until it turns opaque, then add white wine and reduce it.
- Add your broth or water, cover, and bring it to a simmer.
- Transfer the pot to the oven and bake at 425F until rice is just tender.
The rice actually cooks a bit faster than it would on the stove top--15 to 20 minutes. I like to give it a stir once during cooking, but otherwise, it's hands-off!
4. Use fresh mint to perk up your meals.
It's not just for dessert and tea! My rule of thumb: Anywhere you can use basil, you can use mint.
In Greek, Middle Eastern, and Vietnamese cooking, mint is used in countless savory recipes. Think of Greek lamb with mint sauce, tabbouleh, or pho, the classic Vietnamese soup.
Mint is also amazing in just about any green salad. You'll be surprised how much it perks up simple lettuce. One of my fabulous recipes testers used it when she made my Thai Beef Salad recipe, and here's what she had to say:
5. Almond flour is magic for gluten-free baking.
We know almond flour is only low-FODMAP in moderate servings, so I'm not suggesting that you use it on its own.
This wouldn't be a great idea anyway because the finished cake, muffin, cookie, or pancake would have such a dense, heavy texture that it wouldn't even resemble the traditional version.
Instead, try swapping up to half the amount of gluten-free flour in a recipe for almond flour. It adds moisture and provides enough structure that you can often avoid using binders like xanthan gum.
For the record, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with gums health-wise. But they work unpredictably and often produce chewy (or "gummy") baked goods.
My Spiced Zucchini Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting are made with a combo of almond flour and gluten-free flour blend, and here are the results according to my amazing reader recipe tester (who also happens to be a pastry chef):
"The recipe is great. The neighbors loved them and had no idea they were gluten free."
6. Cook whole chicken in the crockpot more often.
This was a technique I hadn't used much previously, but wanted to perfect for the book.
I know a lot of us love the convenience of picking up a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket, but it can be hard to find ones that are unseasoned or not pumped full of weird additives.
Turns out, if you have 5 minutes, you'll never have to read the ingredients on the bottom of a rotisserie chicken (without spilling hot chicken juice on yourself) ever again.
Add about an inch of water to the slow cooker, season the chicken and let that baby cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low for a 4.5 lb chicken.
7. Sometimes you CAN take shortcuts in baking.
There's a saying that goes, "Cooking is an art, but baking is a science." While I agree with the gist of this, it's also misleading.
It makes people feel like baking is a huge chore, and if you mess up one little thing, it's all ruined. Not necessarily so. Let's use my Flourless Chocolate Cakelets as an example.
The traditional way to give this type of cake a light texture (as opposed to the heftiness of your classic brownie) is to separate the eggs and beat the whites until they form soft, voluminous peaks. Then you would delicately fold them into the batter.
Since I don't love doing extra work if it isn't necessary, I didn't bother separating the eggs. I beat them for a few minutes until they doubled in volume, then added them to the chocolate batter.
You can probably guess the result: light, silky cakelets that aren't the least bit heavy (but extremely rich and chocolatey!).
I didn't come up with this genius idea all on my own. A couple years ago, I read a food science article where the writers did this experiment with pancakes and didn't find any major improvement when they separated the eggs versus just adding them whole.
I'm betting this shortcut works in just about any recipe!
Cool stuff, right?!
Have you learned any great cooking tricks lately? Are you itching to get into the kitchen and try out any of the tips above? Let me know in the comments!