Monthly Archives: December 2011

Revisiting the Introduction Diet

My family has been on the GAPS diet for almost a year now.  We have had some ups and downs but mostly it has been extremely helpful and positive.  The past month, several of us have been having some problems so we are revisiting the introduction diet for a few days.  More broths and soups and less full meals.  In the past, we have found that just extra broth has helped with any gut problems but lately it has not helped as much, so we are going to have to eliminate somethings to figure out what it is that might be the problem.   I am returning to the books and food lists to see if I have let something slip in to our holiday diet that should not be there.    

Broth making is rather an art in the culinary world.  One has to learn how to combine types of bones/meats, spices and veggies.  Some of it depends on how much money you want to put into it.  Since GAPS/SCD diets require a lot of broth and since we are a family of five grown people we consume a goodly amount of broth daily.  I use a lot of soup bones because they are affordable and they produce a lot of broth and less meat.  As mentioned in an earlier post, we make a crock pot full of broth almost daily.

The one featured in this post consisted of pork neck bones, carrots, celery, kale, and onion.  I seasoned this with ground sage, dried rosemary, several cloves of garlic,a bay leaf, salt and pepper.

Breakfast Broth

Later in the day I combined what was left from breakfast with some venison broth.  Then I added in leftover venison and chicken meat, ground cooked pasilla-ancho peppers (found in the Mexican section of our local markets), lima beans, green beans, turnips, mushrooms and onions.  I added in a good handful of freshly chopped cilantro and a dash of cumin.  More salt and pepper.

Make Do Stew

It turned out to be fabulous!!  We some times call these concoctions “Make Do Stew” and usually (but not always) they turn out with that gourmet flavor.   Over the years, I have found a couple of things that help when combining broth with leftovers.  First of all, over cooking soups can make them come out tasting “well-blended or overly cooked”.  In other words they lose their fresh flavor.  Secondly, because cooking is rather like art one has to choose the content and spices with discernment.  When my children were little I used to tell them when they were working on an art project that  “more is not always better and you can do too much”.   Rather like working with crayons on paper, soups are liquid based and once you add something in they are not erasable.

Well, I am off to the kitchen….

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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Crock Pot, Meat Leftovers, Pork, Soup


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What are your favorite spices for meat?

Fresh potted herbs are fun to grow!

What a fun topic to tackle!! 

I confess that I dress and eat by my moods.  That means that what I use to season my foods with varies greatly from day to day.  And because I have lived in several various cultures and picked up the tastes of those cultures I am a fusionist. 

Yet there are some very basics that I use and then some tricks that I will share. 

This is the way I like my spice drawer.

 For starters, when you open up your spice/herb drawer or cabinet start to consider the ones that you know that go well together. (Combinations you see in standard recipes.)   For instance, if we have a craving for Italian food I season ground meat or chicken and eat it with zucchini noodles.  Italian spices are basil, oregano, thyme, and marjoram–too much of any of them can be overpowering and ruin the whole meal.

Or if I am going for a Mexican flavor I will add a variety of spices depending on the flavor I am after:   oregano, cumin, corriander, cinnamon, paparika, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper.  (Lime juice will add some thing very special to these spices!)   The neat thing about cooking with peppers is that using a variety adds uniqueness to the flavor.  For instance, paparika is a pepper and usually is the base for most chili powders…and likewise, black pepper (which is actually a spice) adds not just heat but enhances the flavor of other types of peppers.  And cumin also blends well with peppers….At one time I hated the flavor of cumin, it is one of those spices I had to learn to like and now I use it a good deal.  BUT, I don’t always use it in my Mexican food because like the great United States, Mexico has different regions and their foods vary a good deal in flavors.

Asian food uses a lot of ginger, pepper, ground mustard and hot peppers.   They also use anise which has a licorice taste but can quickly become over powering if you get too much.  Both Asians and Mexican cultures use star anise when slow cooking beef and pork.  One piece of star anise in a pot roast gives a uniqueness that is quite good. 

My bulk spice shelf.

Okay, now on to something perhaps a bit more practical.  There are some certain blends of spices that go well together with particular types of meats.  These are some of my favorites but may not be yours.  The goal is for each individual cook to develop flavors that suit them and their family.

Beef: cinnamon, cloves, corriander, black and white pepper, garlic and salt. I once worked with a chef that said,”Beef is not beef with out garlic!!”  I am of the same opinion. 

Pork:  sage, black and white pepper,paparika and salt  or I might use: ground mustard, tumeric, paparika, salt and a touch cumin.  And while I use a lot of garlic on most everything I usually do not put it on my pork.  I might put it in a sauce that I use on the pork but rarely do I cook garlic with my pork.

Chicken/Poultry: oregano, basil, rosemary, garlic, paparika, salt and pepper or I could use tumeric, paparika and a little sage.  Poultry is so versatile that you really can put just about any spice/herb combination with it.

Fish: salt and pepper, dillweed, maybe a little onion powder and always paparika. Seafood needs a lighter seasoning to accompany the lighter textures and flavors.   

Lamb:  rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper.

These are by no means hard and fast rules with me.  I just pull out spice jars and boxes and create as I go along.   A little trick that I learned a lot of years ago is that if you take a whiff or small taste of what you are cooking and then quickly take a whiff of a particular spice or herb you can sort of get a sensory feel for what it might taste like.  I keep a wide variety of herbs and spices and only use some of them once in a while.  Salt is essential to bring out the taste in spices so everything gets salted.  And when freehand cooking (not tied to a recipe) always start with a little at first and remember that it only takes a little bit to get too much. You can always add more but you can’t take it out.  A prime example of this is tarragon. Tarragon has a unique flavor that really is not bad at all but a tad too much will send me pushing my plate away.     

One last thing about seasoning meats.  A splash of wine can enhance meat that is slow cooked.  The best rule for that is red on dark meats (beef, lamb) white on light meats (pork and poultry).   Distilled liquors can also add a uniqueness to foods.    

This perhaps has not been as clearly written as I would have liked. (I started it several days ago and have been interrupted numberous times…) Yet, I hope that it was useful.   Have fun creating your own favorite blends!!

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Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Cooking Helps


Easy Summer Squash

Yellow Summer Squash

Those of you that know me personally, know that I am a southerner but reside half of the year in the mid-west.  So for many this post is like old news, for some it will not be.  During the mid-westerner summer months I sell my produce at the local farmers market and have had to learn to suppress utter surprise when someone looks at beets and calls them turnips.  And most assuredly we get a lot of “what is it and how do I fix it?”. And then there are the times when someone turns up their nose at my beautiful small summer squash in search of something big enough to be a club. 

It seems that mid-westerners are into “fried veggies” big chunks of breaded stuff deep-fried.  Southerners fry their chicken, fish, and maybe their okra but not their summer squash that would be sacrilegious. 

Quick and Easy Summer Squash

GAPS/SCD encourage a lot of squash and summer squash are a perfect food if prepared properly.  Yellow and zucchini squash are similar in flavor and best before the seeds develop any size.   They are extremely simple to prepare.

You start with a good skillet, heat it and add a couple of tablespoons of butter, a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil, and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (of course this will vary in relation to the amount of squash you are going to cook).

Thinly slice a large onion and cook until it is tender then add in thinly sliced squash rings.  (The meaning of “thin” is completely subjective.)  Cook the squash and onion together until it is all cooked down adding salt and pepper about half way through the cooking process. (salt helps break down food and seems to make things cook a bit faster.)  Salt also sweetens veggies and this is absolutely true for squash.  But if for some reason, such as trying to get a picky eater to take a second bite, they can be further sweetened with a drizzle of honey.  

This is a very simple side dish, it literally takes very little time to prepare and it can be made up in advance and left to sit on warm with no negative affect.

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Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Squash


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Crustless Spanokapita

Crustless Spanakopita

GAPS/SCD diets certainly change our traditional holiday menus.  Some of these favorites can be reworked easily and inexpensively.  Today’s post is one of those easy changes and the end result is just as good.  

Years ago, I had a Greek friend teach me how to make the the traditional spanokapita (Spinach Pie).  It quickly become a favorite in our home and it found its way into our Christmas Eve menu.  The original recipe had two ingredients that are on the avoid list.  Filo Dough made out of wheat flour and Feta Cheese.  The Filo Dough is what makes it a “pie” and personally for this particular recipe I would rather do without the Filo Dough than try to pretend I found a replacement.  Feta Cheese is unique in taste and texture but not so unique that an alternative cannot be found. Going back to one of our household staples, kefir, I have found a way to reinstate one of our favorite holiday foods.

There is no hard and fast rule for the making of spanokapita filling, my recipe goes like this…  It starts with a medium onion cooked down in some coconut and olive oil. After the onions are transluscent add in a pound of frozen spinach and cook it until it begins to change color.   At this point, I add about a tsp of dried dillweed and a few sprigs of chopped fresh parsley, then salt and pepper to taste. It is essential to add in a clove or two of freshly crushed garlic. (more if you like a lot of garlic)  Today, I scooped in a few tablespoons of kefir cheese and some grated Swiss Cheese in place of the Feta.  The kefir gave it the Feta flavor and the Swiss added the cheesy texture. After I had all of the ingredients in the pan I allowed it all to simmer for a few minutes in order to meld the flavors together.

And while it does not have that nice “Pie” look it does have that nice spanokapita flavor and it makes a fine side dish that will accompany most meats.   


Spinach Veggie Dip with White Carrots

The basics of this recipe can also be easily turned into a spinach dip. I used the left overs to make a veggie dip for the family to consume as their afternoon snack.  I added some extra kefir, lemon juice, extra dillweed, black pepper and gave it a good shake of curry powder then ground it all up in the food processor. 

If I wanted to serve this as a hot dip I  would mix in some extra grated Swiss Cheese and sprinkle some on top before popping it in the oven to warm.

Remember GAPS/SCD is not about doing without during those special meals but reworking our favorites in a way that encourages our bodies to thrive.

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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Spinach


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Very Economical Beef


I thought that I was going to be able to settle back down to my blog again when along came a broken arm in the family and some other unpreventable happenings that slowed down being able to sit at the computer and write.  If you are at all interested about the other goings on in our lives go here

With the price of beef increasing I am continually looking for ways to consume beef on a budget. Beef Heart is a good way to eat beef without breaking the budget.   Usually it can be found for less than $2 a pound at most grocery stores.   Some stores have it already sliced for you but I prefer to buy it whole so I can more easily trim the hard suet fat off of it.  Some butchers do such a good job of trimming that this step really isn’t necessary.

There are a lot of ways to prepare beef heart.  Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions suggest making kabobs out of it.  Or it can be sliced very thinly and quickly fried in a hot skillet until just barely done. Because the meat has no fat within it, it will get tough if overcooked.   For today’s lunch, I cooked it in the crock pot over night with 3 pieces of pork neck bones so we would have a big pot of broth for the day. I was tired and was not feeling at all creative last evening so did well to direct a family member to get it into the pot with water and turned on….(Beef heart slow cooked in liquid comes out very very tender.)

So today, that left me looking for ways to be creative.   Part of me wanted to cut it up into small cubes and make some kind of salad out of it…but because I am currently attempting to get good nutrition into my father-in-law I decided to stick to something that could be served warm.  So the following is what I came up with…

1 beef heart covered in water and slow cooked over night in the crock pot

6 slices of bacon

1 large onion thinly sliced

3 sliced carrots

Mushrooms (as many or as little as you want)

1 stalk of chopped celery

2 crushed cloves of garlic

salt and pepper to taste

I started by chopping up the bacon and frying it in a little coconut and sesame oil, then I added in the sliced onion, the sliced carrots, mushrooms and the meat.  After this had cooked for a little while I tossed in the chopped celery, garlic, then salted and peppered it.  The family all agreed that it was very good.  For variations, one might add some walnuts or sesame seeds. 

While this might seem to be a very untraditional American food it is very affordable and has a very dense nutritional value.   It is a perfect GAPS/SCD food because it is full of nutrients, extremely affordable, and as versatile as any other cut of beef.


Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Beef, Beef Heart, Crock Pot


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Lactose-Fermented Lentils

Fermenting Lentils

Well, after spending several days on the road and then spending another several days trying to get the phone company to fix our internet I am finally getting back to my correspondence and etc…

I have previously mentioned that one of our favorite beans was the pinto used heavily with Mexican dishes.  A few years back, after acquiring Nourishing Traditions, I began to ferment things…we have already talked about the lactose fermented kraut.  Well, once I got the hang of that I began fermenting everything to include pinto beans.  At first I was afraid to do this for fear that I would be eating spoiled food. As a word of encouragement, if something you attempt to ferment spoils, you will know it by the smell.  Properly fermented food has a pleasant smell not something that smells like death warmed over.  (Which is what spoiled beans smell like.)

Well anyway, with GAPS we had to give up the fermented pintos.  I did try fermenting Navy beans but they just were not the same.  For some time I have been considering fermenting lentils.  I was a bit skeptical of what they might taste like since they are completely different from pintos in texture and flavor.  Well, last week I decided to give fermented lentils a try.  I was more than pleasantly surprised by the texture and the taste and these will become a standard fermented food for us from now on.  They take a lot less time to make (less soaking, cooking time, and fermenting) and just as yummy as fermented pinto beans although different.

Finished Product

To make fermented lentils you start out with a pot of freshly cooked lentils–nothing but lentils and water. I usually soak my lentils for awhile and then drain the water off rinsing them in running water and then add fresh filtered water. Then I slow cook them until they are tender…usually about an hour.  After that I allow them to cool sufficiently so as not to kill the whey.

The recipe goes something like this– a pound of cooked lentils, 1 tablespoon of sea salt, 4 or more tablespoons of kefir/yogurt whey (I usually use a lot more), one small chopped onion, a crushed clove of garlic per jar. Stir it all together well and put it in a jar that has a good screw on lid. (Canning jars work perfectly for fermenting.  Sit the jars in a dish pan for a couple of days on the countertop and then rinse the outside of the jars off and transfer to the refrigerator.

(Fermented food has a tendency to off gas out of the lids which push some fluid out of the jars and can make a horrible mess and smell. Please make sure your lids are on tight, I have had jars of pinto beans blow their lids off and we’ve had to scrub beans off the ceiling.  Not a fun job.)  

My family likes their fermented beans with breakfast as a side to their eggs but they go well with most meals.  And very good with salsa.

Yummy Beans and Salsa!!


Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Fermented Foods, Lentils


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