Product Review: Italian Seasoning Blend

One of the things I miss about my old way of cooking is how easy it used to be.  I could use anything that came off the shelf!  Once I discovered that most pre-prepared foods and ingredients in the grocery store contain some sort of item that’s on the FODMAP danger list, my frustration grew as my food stayed boring.  I wanted flavour!!

 One of my biggest frustrations was with cooking savoury dishes.  I used to always reach for our handy ‘italian seasoning blend’ when I was cooking meats and sauces – a practice that had to stop when I discovered it had  onions and garlic added in. 

 I’ve done a little checking and discovered that not all ‘Italian Seasoning Blends’ are created equal.  Not in taste, and certainly not in price!

 To do a small comparison at home, I challenged The Husband, The Son and Myself to a taste test of 4 Italian blends:

 1) Clubhouse italiano ($5.76 for 125 g).  This was our ‘go to’ Italian spice seasoning in the past.  Its ingredient list is: Salt, dehydrated vegetables (red and green pepper, onion, garlic), sugar, spices and herbs (including oregano, basil), modified cornstarch, yeast extract, high oleic sunflower oil.

2) McCormick’s Italian seasoning ( $5.49 for 18 grams). The ingredient list is: Marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savoury, sage, oregano, basil.

3) McCormick’s Italian seasoning (organic) ($6.65 for 15 grams).  The ingredient list is the same as the regular McCormick’s Italian seasoning.

4) Homemade blend of equal parts of :Marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savoury, sage, oregano, basil.  Most of these have been sitting in my spice drawer for a while, so I wasn’t sure if their flavour would still be potent.  I’m calling this blend ‘free’, because I didn’t have to buy anything.

italian spice

 I prepared rice pasta and tossed equal amounts with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of spice mix.  Results of the taste test:

 The Husband and The Son both preferred the Clubhouse blend.  I think if I had added salt to the other dishes, and maybe the olive oil was infused with garlic that the comparison would have been closer.

I myself didn’t like the Clubhouse blend.  I haven’t eaten garlic or onions in 5 months and found the flavour too overpowering.  Among the other blends, I couldn’t tell a difference!

 So, I think in the future, once I have used up my purchased bottles of Italian seasoning, I might start just adding a pinch of each of the listed herbs to my Italian flavoured dishes.  Once I get lazy, I’ll probably purchase the McCormicks regular blend –  I’m not really hung up on the organic aspect of the product – I know from experience growing these herbs in my garden that most of the herbs listed in the blend don’t have huge problems with pests, so I’m guessing (hoping?) that they wouldn’t have a lot of pesticides sprayed on them in the first place.  The exception would probably be basil – my home grown basil always looks like I’ve been sharing it with something else.

 Once again I have discovered how important it is to read labels…. A year ago I wouldn’t have guessed that the ingredient list in the Clubhouse blend would be so different from the McCormick blend.  And the labels can tell you a lot about how much you are paying or overpaying for something.  I was surprised that the 2 matching bottles of McCormick’s contained different amounts of product!  At about 5 cents/g, the Clubhouse brand is the cheapest – but that’s probably because of all the ‘filler’, with the McCormick’s organic coming in at the most expensive at 44 cents/gram.

 Next update, I’m hoping to write next about some upcoming road trips we are planning to take as a family.  Travelling with IBS isn’t for the faint of heart, or the unprepared….

TOP 10 INGREDIENTS (That I always have in my fridge)

Now seems like a good time as any to set out what the staple ingredients in my fridge are.  These items always seem to be on my grocery list and most of them I can use in many different ways. 

I’m starting to feel more comfortable grocery shopping – I know what I can get at my ‘big chain’ supermarket and what I have to pick up at a specialty store.  Yes, some of these specialty things are more expensive, but my stomach thanks me by behaving itself.

 Top 10 Ingredients that I always have in my fridge:

  1.      Almond Milk.  Both the Unsweetened and the Regular.  I use the unsweetened to have a glass with dinner, and I use the sweetened for my tea or baking.
  2.       Goat Cheese and or goat yogurt.  When I found out that I couldn’t have bovine dairy any more I was really crushed.  Goat cheese has let me down gently.  I don’t have it that often, but it really adds a creaminess to sauces.  Goat cheese can be made into feta, brie and may other types of cheese, in addition to the traditional chevre.  Goat yogurt is awesome with fresh raspberries and some FODMAP friendly granola.
  3.      Leftovers!  Because there is no such thing as ‘Safe Fast Food’ for me, I always make more than I can eat, and stash the leftovers away.  Leftovers from dinner make easy lunches the next day.  I make sure I use glass (pyrex) storage containers, for safe reheating in the microwave.
  4.       Tamari Sauce.  I had no idea what this ingredient was until I started researching alternative recipes.  Like Soy Sauce, but without wheat or garlic, so it’s great for an IBS friendly stir fry.  Mixed with wine and some herbs it makes an awesome marinade for a pork roast. 
  5.       Carrots.  Must have your veggies!  I am starting to buy these at a farmers market as the taste sooo much better than what is usually found on the supermarket shelves.  After steaming or boiling, I toss them in olive oil and dill.  Once I had them in a restaurant and they were roasted – soooo good and I will definitely be trying this at home.
  6.       Broccoli.  Must have different coloured veggies!  Broccoli is on the ‘be cautious’ list for people on the FODMAP diet, but it’s safe for me (although I don’t eat it by the potful, it is a great side dish).   I’ve learned to cook it without it getting brown and mushy – a key learning moment!  I toss it in some olive oil and sprinkle on a little salt.
  7.       Gluten Free Bread.  I don’t have celiac disease, but I do like to limit the amount of gluten I consume.  I’ve found an awesome bread that is gluten free, egg free and dairy free.  Prepared by the Glutenull Bakery, the quinoa bread is AWESOME, but needs refridgeration to keep fresh. 
  8.       Earth Balance Vegan baking sticks.  This is my alternative to butter or margarine (which often has hidden dairy in it).  I use it for baking and haven’t noticed a taste difference.
  9.       Organic Peanut butter.  I prefer my peanut butter to be as unprocessed as possible and this means preservatives aren’t added.  Because of this, this product needs to stay in the fridge once it’s opened.
  10.  Orange Juice.  Besides being good on it’s own, I will use this as an ingredient in marinades, sauces and salad dressings. 

I could have added a 11th item called: something I bought and am waiting to throw out.  These things are in my fridge because either I bought them thinking that I’d like to try them on a ‘challenge’ to my stomach, but I have since chickened out and won’t risk upsetting my stomach.  Or, I didn’t check the ingredient list carefully enough in the store, and once I got home discovered that a non-FODMAP friendly ingredient is in there.  Currently I have a nice wedge of (expensive) goat cheese gouda in my fridge – can you believe that egg whites are on the ingredient list?  Weird.  I will let it go bad (or try to fob it off on The Husband) and then throw it out.  A shame.

What sorts of staples do you have guaranteed to be in your fridge?  Love to hear from you!

Looking forward, I’m hoping my next blog will be a product review on Italian Spice mix.  I’ve been thinking about my last Top 10 list (ingredients in my pantry), and how boring the list was.  Time to spice it up!

 top 10 fridge

 

GUTSY BROAD’S BOOK REVIEW: ALLERGIC GIRL

 

I first picked up this book a couple of years ago when I was at a desperate point with my IBS and figured that if someone could handle life with severe life threatening food allergies, they could help me handle life with multiple food intolerances.  It had such a strong, positive impact on my outlook that it was the first book I wanted to review… and I have to say, I got even more out of the book on my second read through.

 

The author is Sloane Miller, who has multiple severe allergies.  She’s also a blogger, advocate, consultant and authority on food allergies.  According to the inside of the cover, she “shows how a food-allergic person can live a life not constrained by what she or he can’t eat.”. She does this by using real-life examples (personal and from her practice) to show strategies in dealing with dietary restrictions in everyday life.

 

The book is divided into 3 parts:  You, Relationships and In and Of the World.

 

Part one is where we get to meet Sloane and find out more about her allergies.  She introduces the first one of her excellent strategies called “Team You”.  This strategy, about building a personalized medical team focussed on your needs was terribly empowering.  She follows this up with many other tips and tricks, including how to handle personal feelings of anxiety and shame.

 

Part 3 is about Relationships and she does an excellent job in outlining the various reactions that family members and others can have when you disclose your dietary needs, and how to handle these reactions with grace and strength.

 

She covers a lot of territory, from college room-mates, to first dates to family and work events.  All of her suggestions are practical, doable and empowering (even though some require a bit of practice, I find).

 

I very much appreciated her chapter on finding new ways of looking at food.  “Food is not the enemy”, gave me an Ah-Ha! moment and freed me from continuously waging war with dairy, when there was no way I could win.

 

Part 3 is called “In and Of the World” and provides an endless supply of ideas, tips and tricks and suggestions for surviving parties, celebrations, restaurant invitations and travel.

 

This book is a real primer on how to live with dietary restrictions.  Sloane writes with humour, but you know that she’s had some scary experiences.  Though her style is informal, she still shows how she is confidently certain that dietary challenges are totally compatible with living well. 

 

Resources listed in the back are comprehensive, mostly American but with some Canadian resources thrown in for good measure.

 

This book totally enthused me.  It gave me the confidence to try the techniques she recommends for managing her allergies.  This should be required reading for everyone with dietary allergies and intolerances.  Check out her blog and website (allergicgirl.com)  too!

 

Details:

Allergic Girl By Sloane Miller

Published 2011 by John Wiley and Sons Inc.

About 250 pages

ISBN 978-0-470-63000-9