Mind the Gaps Diet
Some of these are good enough to serve to guests, and yet so easy! See what takes your fancy and have a go! These are our family staples.
Chocolate chip cake bar
From Megan Stevens, author of Eat Beautiful, 'Grain-free, sugar-free and Loving it', guest writer on Keeper of the home http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2015/07/grain-free-chocolate-chip-cake-bars.html we have this fantastic cake. If you can easily purchase 100% dark unsweetened chocolate then you can make this as is. If not, then you will need to omit the chocolate or tweak the recipe for GAPS, but this is easy...
From the name alone, chocolate bark doesn’t sound particularly appetizing. Chocolate bark is actually a sheet of chocolate that is usually covered with nuts, dried fruits, candies or even additional pieces of chocolate.
Well - it couldn't be long! After cocoa powder was reintroduced and they had their first taste of home-made chocolate (see recipe for the cream egg), I wanted to improve on the theme. Yes - it was ME, not them! I've learnt something. It's been quite a revelation. I'm my own worst enemy when it comes to sweet treats. My family love it when I serve them, but are happy to eat stewed apple every day if that's all I've got. But it's ME... I keep giving them naughty things! I keep dreaming up more chocolate recipes to try!
So I was just simply delighted when first I found coconut butter and discovered coconut butter bread
( http://www.lovingourguts.com/coconut-butter-sandwich-bread/ ), and then discovered that instead of using expensive coconut butter, or making my own which is rather time-consuming...Oh wonders of wonders, I could go to the Co-op or Sainsburies (UK) and buy creamed coconut (BlueDragon https://bluedragon.co.uk/products - nonorganic but 100% pure coconut) or the health food shop has the 'Biona' organic creamed coconut (http://www.biona.co.uk/product-272-4.html) .
With a little research, I find that these two products are interchangeable, if not the same thing. See these links for proof. It seems the only difference is the price. yesterday I found a small jar of coconut butter in the health food shop for £4.99, while in the same shop a packet of Biona creamed coconut was only £1.79.
One of the biggest problems I have is interpreting American ingredients into English equivalents. But it works as I've tried making my own coconut butter and using creamed coconut to make coconut butter bread and the result was the same.
I then discovered coconut bark. Now to us English folk, that sounds really strange, but I found this definition of bark:
Well, I'd already made a sheet of chocolate with my carob chips recipe, but it was very strong - like 100% dark chocolate. With a little research I found that indeed, coconut butter can be used sort of like cocoa butter to make chocolate. Now most recipes do use some 100% unsweetened chocolate as well as I gather it's easily available in the US. Not so in the UK and certainly not at a price we can afford. Of course, we could just use cocoa butter, but that too is very expensive.
So I was thrilled when I found a recipe in my new GAPS cookbook called Coconut Bark. (The heal your Gut Cookbook by H. Boynton and M. Brackett).
Putting together the two ideas I came up with:
1/2 cup creamed coconut
3/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (raw cacao is best)
A little honey - until sweet enough to mask the bitter chocolate
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl over simmering water until melted. Stir well to combine.
Pour into a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Leave to cool then place in freezer to harden.
Break/cut into small pieces and store in freezer.
Take out and enjoy!
Ok it is rather coconutty in flavour but it also has a slight caramel flavour. I reckon you could add raisins and nuts if you liked.
The Family love it - so they have a ration of a small piece after lunch on Sunday! Just like the old days - but much healthier of course! Of course, I like it too!
So what else can you do with creamed coconut?
Well, basically, use it as a milk substitute, but it is best strained, otherwise it has a rather grainy texture.
So I have made proper custard with egg yolks, honey and vanilla, or cheese sauce with just the eggs and salt and mustard and cheese. So we almost had lasagne without the pasta for tea one day.
I'm looking forward to finding more uses for it as we progress through the diet!
You don't have to be!
All real cooks are experimenters! After all, that's how they discover new recipes. Being on GAPS certainly throws you out of your comfort zone (unless you were pretty much cooking traditionally already) and makes you try new things. It makes you realise that very often there is no SET way of cooking something. It can be done in other ways and you get brave trying things out! If you just want to start eating more healthily but are not over-confident in the kitchen, don't despair.
When I was teaching I was always bemused by the National Curriculum. It wanted me to teach 5 year olds how to change a recipe. At that stage, I could only cook according to a recipe myself and the thought of changing one seemed rather odd. Nevertheless I dutifully took the class group by group into the helpers room (once!) and 'changed' our recipe by adding some dried fruit to it. That's all I could think of. Then I ticked the little box to say we'd covered that part of the curriculum! Maybe you can recall such 'cooking' lessons from your own childhood. Now I understand what they were getting at. They wanted them to be REAL cooks from the word 'Go'! I still think that 5 was too early to worry about teaching them that...better to teach them basic cooking skills first, but that's another story!
I now find myself throwing foods into a pan with impunity... a bit of this and a bit of that.. let's see what happens! However, there are things I still follow a recipe carefully for and I think that's the key. If you want a meal to turn out as you expect for a visitor, then that is not the time to experiment, stick to something tried and tested! If you are baking a cake, then you probably need to follow the recipe closely, unless you are inventing your own recipe. But for beginners, there are some things that are very forgiving - you really can't go far wrong!
One simple recipe adapting step you can take on the road to healthier cooking and while your family transitions, is, once you have started to make more home-made goodies, to take any standard recipe and cut the sugar in half. This will have two effects, one they probably won't notice - it'll be the same looking product, and secondly it will start to re-train their taste buds.
Then there are soups. Anyone can make a soup and you'll be an expert at the end of the intro diet! Not all of my made up soups taste delicious, but you soon learn what your family likes and what they don't and you learn from your mistakes! Always start with some gently sautéed onion and always use home-made stock (or equivalent bought, but not made of stock cubes). Then what else you add is up to you. Some vegetables, like leeks and mushrooms like being sautéed with the onion, others can boil in the stock. Add salt and pepper to taste, garlic and herbs if desired and blend it together with a stick blender, then serve it up with some butter and/or sour cream. Soup can be thin and watery, others thicker - make it how you like it and how you feel. Soon you'll be knocking up a nutritious meal from whatever you find in the fridge!
Stews similarly are very easy. You can choose the ingredients your family will like. Sometimes you can get ideas from recipes from magazines and they might not be GAPS legal, but you can often use the idea to substitute with GAPS legal foods. I found a lovely fish stew that way. Look in old recipe books
(I say old as many newer recipes rely on tins and packets of readymade stuff). There is lots of inspiration. Learn to adapt recipes. Many GAPS recipes were invented that way. People want something they can't have, so they made a version of it using GAPS legal ingredients.
Then there are quiches. I have made a quiche with an almond crust, but most of my GAPS quiches are crust less. When I looked at all my recipe books for quiche, I find none agree on the precise ratio of eggs to liquid. For a 10 inch round dish, some say 3 eggs, some 3 eggs and 3 whites, some 6 eggs, so I often find myself using what I've got. Leftover egg whites/yolks? Pop them in! I think 3 eggs is the minimum for it to set well. Again the liquid amount varies. By the way, I substitute milk kefir in place of milk for GAPS quiches, but you could use sour cream, home-made yoghurt or coconut milk.
Try: For 3 eggs and 3 whites -170ml milk kefir, (6 -6.6 fl
For 6 eggs - 4 fl oz milk
For 2 large eggs plus one yolk - 10fl oz (275ml) milk
Can you see how many variables there are?
Then of course what you put in your quiche can be as varied as you like; cheese, onion, leeks, mushrooms, cooked veg - broccoli, cauliflower, peas, proscuttio.....
Basically they all cook at 160 deg C. (fan), 180 deg C. or Gas 4 for approximately 45 minutes.
I also found the Introduction diet 'Almond Bread' very versatile. Three eggs and two cups of almonds are the base, but I found that one cup of almonds and one of squash/courgette worked even better, producing a lighter, fluffier, moister texture. Some folk seem to add butter, others use butter but don't add squash....and they all turn out ok! So when it says in the GAPS book, experiment, it means just that. You can't really go wrong. My next experiment is to try adding in cheese to make cheese muffins, with some mustard powder as that brings out the cheesy flavour well and salt of course. (By the way, the family loved the 'cheese muffins'.
Not everything I make always turns out a I expected, and it can be disappointing, but don't let that put you off. Nobody becomes an expert without a lot of failures along the way first! Just don't let it discourage you...pick youself up and go again. What went wrong? What you do to improve on it next time?
See what you can make today!
Many people say to me that they would love to eat more healthily, but either don't need GAPS or can't see their family being willing to do it. The good news is that you don't have to do GAPS to see big benefits. GAPs is a specifically healing diet, which if you have a condition that can be helped by it is great. But it is by no means the only route to heal the gut, and neither is healing the gut always essential, although we could all do with taking more care of our gut and so promoting better health - and again, you can do this without doing GAPS.
The answer lies in learning to cook in a more traditional manner. We often jokingly say, 'Like your Great-Great Grandma cooked,' because since the advent of the ability of man to process food, we have lost touch with REAL methods of food preparation. Most of our food now has been denatured to prolong shelf life. This destroys the natural living enzymes in food and the taste, and so manufacturers rely on man-made flavour enhancers (MSG) and the like to make it taste better and pump their food with artificial vitamins to make it sound like it will do you good. Added to this we have had various misleading health scares surrounding fats and cholesterol and the such like. The GAPS diet utilises this idea. It is merely a narrower choice of foods in order to heal the gut, but the underlying principles are based on old fashioned principles. Nothing modern, glitzy or freaky about it at all.
So what does it mean to cook in a more traditional manner? It means eating food in it's basic raw state - unprocessed. It means using natural, time-honoured techniques for preserving the goodness in the food and keeping it alive so that it properly nourishes our bodies. In a nutshell, cooking it yourself from raw ingredients (or eating it raw - like salads) and learning to preserve foods through fermentation techniques. Eat food as naturally as it occurs as possible.
There are several components to eating in a more traditional manner. Here are the main ones.
1) Use good fats, i.e. saturated animal fats
2) Cut out as much sugar as you can - especially refined sugar. Try and stick to natural sugars in small amounts - e.g. honey, maple syrup etc...
3) Don't eat processed food - i.e. anything that's been made by someone else in a packet in a supermarket - especially cakes, biscuits, ready meals, breads, crisps, sweets etc.
4) Soak your whole grains and nuts - or go grain free. Many report more energy when wheat and gluten are taken out of their diet.
5) Try to only consume raw dairy products, or eat soured versions - i.e. yoghurt/crème fraiche/sour cream etc... Always have full fat dairy and the best quality you can get - raw best, non homogenised next best. UHT - don't ever buy.
6) Make and eat bone broth regularly.
7) Try and incorporate as many fermented foods into your diet as you can.
You will see that some of these ideas go against what our doctors tell us. Not long ago I listened to everything the World told me about what and how to eat. Low fat, high carbohydrates,
little red meat, few eggs, etc. etc. etc. Until, as I said in our intro, I realised Son 1 was not very healthy, and a friend gave me a copy of 'Nourishing Traditions'. Then I realised that there was more to food than I had cared to look into. As I read, it made sense. God did not make a mistake when he created cows to produce whole milk, not pasteurised or homogenised or semi-skimmed, with all the protective organisms we need to benefit our health. Nor did he make a mistake when the cream was turned into butter - full of natural vitamins essential to good health, rather than a synthetic concoction of artificial ingredients - i.e. butter substitutes, that have zero goodness (after all, even the flies won't touch them!) in them except they supposedly do us good! So I began to think more seriously about what I put on the shelves in my food cupboard. I wanted our food to be as natural as possible.
But these ideas of low fat etc. are very ingrained in us. We've been scared off by what we have been told. We don't want high cholesterol, in case we get a heart attack, so we listen... not realising that the replacement foods are probably more likely to give us one than the so called 'healthier alternatives'.
It actually takes a lot of determination to change ones thinking. We've been told fat makes you fat. So to actually start eating a lot of butter and cream is quite a brave thing to do. We've been told we need to fill ourselves up on grains and starches (carbohydrates), so we hesitate to cut those down and switch more to protein and fat. The GAPS diet does allow fruit and honey and other carbs, but by and large it is hard to stick by the rules and over consume carbs. Conversely it is easy to over consume potatoes and all the products made from them and grains and all the products made from them. Having seen such a dramatic weight loss from cutting grains and while still eating copious amounts of fat and protein I need no further evidence that sugar is the biggest problem, not fat!
Consequently the social pressure when you go against the prevailing philosophy can be great. This is true of every area in life. We are always very challenged if someone does something contrary to what we are doing, making us think that what we are doing might be wrong - even if they don't say anything. If you do change your diet, other than counting calories (this seems socially acceptable), then be prepared for the conversation to go quiet, or for comments suggesting your children are missing out, or worries that you will make yourself ill. Many folks are very naturally concerned about you as they fear for you as you are going against this ingrained low fat, high carbs philosophy. Many will tell you that you NEED sugar, it won't do you any harm, but might be harmful to deny the children it.
So before you begin, you will need to do some homework. You need to be convinced for yourself that this is the right way to go. Be sure that you understand for yourself why you are changing what you eat. Be ready with a simple explanation of why you now think this whole food is better for you and your family. You won't learn everything overnight. It takes most of us many years to transition, often with set backs along the way. Choose an area to start with and START!
For many, the opposition is in their own family - husband and children. If you know it is right, but can't see the way forward, then a little is better than nothing. Read up and start to slowly introduce the ideas. Start having animal fats and throw out the margarine and spreads (you won't have too much opposition in your family to this as they will like the taste much better!). Buy Megan's 'Grain free and Lovin it' and start experimenting with grain free goods. Buy Wardee's sourdough cook book and wow them with sourdough pizza, our cheesy crackers (good crisp alternatives). We saw big improvements in our health the more we soaked the fewer grains we ate. Start making delicious home-made soups with bone-broth rather than stock cubes. Reduce your reliance on packeted food - try and find alternatives for boxed cereals - like eggs, salad, soup, or see GNOWFGLINS recipes. Find more wholesome treats and snacks. Try just tweaking here and there, like one breakfast a week that's not boxed cereals.
Start with yourself and the children, as they are your responsibility. You cannot change your husband by nagging or trying to force him to eat healthily as you have no control over him. You can only do your best to serve wholesome delicious foods to him. Don't fret over the things you have to eat for his sake,
that you would prefer not to eat. Just do what is in your control. Even a little is better than nothing.
You can't just take away their 'delightful' foods and not replace them with something equally as delightful. Don't expect your children to like what you are doing if you have been eating a diet full of processed foods. It will take a while to re-train their taste buds. For example chocolate might feature large for a while in your baking while you wean them onto home-made things. You may be doing a lot of baking to begin with as you change from shop -bought to home-made and then slowly reduce their consumption of baked goodies, as you fill them up on good fats and more protein. Do see it as an opportunity to teach them as you talk to them about food and why what you are feeding them is so good for them. Don't start by telling them the old food was 'bad'... it's not funny when they start telling Grandma her cake is bad for them when she has lovingly bought them something!
See it as a long term project, not a quick fix. You will be rewarded with better health and more energy.
Don't get paranoid about your weight and forget 'diets' to lose weight. Don't count calories.
Focus instead on making as many mouthfuls as possible the most nutritious you can.
I won't give you the 'science' as many more able than me have already done it. So if you want more information on these things, see these web-sites.