Monday, November 21, 2011

Grandpa Gunk's Kraut

This post is dedicated to my great-grandfather who, according to family lore, had a love of sauerkraut. My great-grandmother, however, did NOT like the stink of the kraut as it fermented. What does a happily married couple do to make this resolve this situation?

The marketplace will always provide a solution when there is a consumer demand... So Grandpa Gunk struck a deal with a local farmer. Grandpa Gunk would buy the fermenting barrel and pay for all the cabbage and salt if the farmer would make it and let it ferment in his barn. I don't know any more specifics (did he pick up kraut weekly, or just for special occasions), but I love that I know the story. My dad told it to me when he was visiting awhile back. He was visibly amused by the little sauerkraut party fermenting away on my kitchen counter.

Why sauerkraut?

Well... turns out I *LOVE* sauerkraut. Once I tasted it and realized it is sour + crunchy + salty I was hooked. Anyone else a recovering chip-a-holic? Anyone? It can't just be me... Sauerkraut is my new chip. I adore it. But I only like it made from purple cabbage and I only like it with cabbage + sea salt, no brine. If there is brine it takes me a long while to go through a quart jar of kraut because I am not totally wild about a salty kraut.

Sauerkraut is an amazing food. Through the fermenting process the kraut goes through three totally separate stages of bacteria. From Wikipedia (which I usually wouldn't quote but I don't feel like typing it all in from a book I have on fermenting foods):

In the first phase, anaerobic bacteria such as Klebsiella and Enterobacter lead the fermentation, and begin producing an acidic environment that favours later bacteria. The second phase starts as the acid levels become too high for many bacteria, and Leuconostoc mesenteroides and other Leuconostoc spp. take dominance. In the third phase, various Lactobacillus species, including L. brevis and L. plantarum, ferment any remaining sugars, further lowering the pH.

Did you hear that? Lactobacillus species? Without paying $20-$50 for a pack? I have worked out the price of my sauerkraut and it runs me roughly $4-$5 per quart jar and that includes some labor since I've turned over my kraut production to Chef Steve. It is a DEAL! Also, for people who are not yet healed enough to eat the raw cabbage they just use the sauerkraut juices which are plentiful since you can add some brine whenever they run low.

Oh, and kraut will last for a YEAR in your fridge once it is fully fermented. A year. Even if the power goes out and you have to toss other foods, your kraut will be fine. Hurricane? Earthquake? Power disruption? Your kraut is still ready for you, even when you have run out of every other food in the house.

Recipe please!

Like I said before, I am a bit picky with my sauerkraut. I take great joy and personal pleasure in the fact that sweet little Neely only likes *my* sauerkraut. Of course, it would be even better if my own children would say that, but se la vie! So here is my method, adapted from a recipe in Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.

  • Buy heads of red cabbage that are heavy for their size and note their weight on your receipt. Heavy cabbage = high water content. Make sure to go right home and make kraut that day or the next - you don't want to pay for water and have it evaporate.
  • I use purple cabbage because it ferments faster and in my experience is more crunchy than slimy. It also is a lovely shade of hot pink which is awesome for our goal of "eating the rainbow" on our plate. I also have daughters so the hot pink was a nice selling feature. I tried a lot of different cabbages before I decided on my favorite so experiment and find out what you like! It is so good for you and there will be many, many opportunities to make kraut so just play with it. It is very forgiving, a wonderful quality in a food!
  • For every five pounds of cabbage use 3 Tbsp of Celtic brand Sea Salt, course grind. You will layer this into the jars with the cabbage as you pound.
  • Cut each head of cabbage into eighths, remove the white core from and finely shred each section.
  • Tightly pack the cabbage (+ sea salt) into wide mouthed quart jars using a heavy, wooden mallet of some sort. I use this masher
    my mom gave me to push tomatoes through a Squeez-O-Strainer and instead of it being stained red from tomatoes it is purple from the cabbage!
  • I recently noticed an ad for a "kraut pounder" which is as close to a description as I have ever heard. I have not bought from but I would in a heartbeat if I needed one. I have yet to find a good alternative although another Mama and I spoke to a local wood spoon carver last weekend about making an artistic kraut pounder so if anything comes of that I'll put up that info too!
  • Pound, pound, and pound some more. Get out the anger at the _________ that totally screwed up the ___________. Bring peace on earth (or at least to your household) by bottling up your rage and saving it for a weekly/bi-weekly kraut pounding session. As you pound you break down the cell membranes of the cabbage which will release the liquids into the jar. About the time your arms are crying out for mercy just ask someone else to take a turn, rest up, and then get back in the ring! We call that tapping out in our household. ;-)
  • Once the kraut is sufficiently pounded into the jars (I usually fill a quart jar close to the top, leaving an inch to an inch and a half at the top so there is room for the liquid/brine) find a juice glass, partially fill it with water, and set it on top of the cabbage in the jar. The purpose of this is twofold. First, it provides a bit of weight to help squeeze out the water from the cabbage. Second, it will keep the cabbage submerged below the water so it does not get moldy as it ferments.
  • Gather your jars together in a reasonably cool/darkish space and put a towel over top of them to keep dust (and flies / eggs, but I am not admitting to having flies in my kitchen) from settling on the top of your kraut.
  • Twenty-four hours after you make the kraut check to make sure there is water covering all of the cabbage. If your cabbage was a little dry then you will need to add brine so it will not get moldy as it ferments. If you need to add brine mix up some water with sea salt (~1 tsp of salt to a cup of water).
  • Every day or two lift the towel, push down on the glasses, make sure things are not bubbling over (you don't want to lose the precious juice) and make sure none of the cabbage is exposed to air. Sometimes I end up taking the water out of the juice glasses so they are not pressing so heavily (if the water is overflowing) and other times I have to add a little bit of brine as things dry out.
  • Your sauerkraut is fully fermented when you push on the juice glass and do not see bubbles making their way to the top of the jar. At that point screw on a lid and put it in the fridge. It'll keep for a year!

I hope if you too are a recovering chip-a-holic that this will satisfy some of the crunch you have missed. I find it is particularly helpful in keeping the kids healthy during cold / flu season. In Zi's class last year strep must've gone around a dozen times (at least it felt like it) and took out almost all the kids AND the teacher. The most amazing thing happened. ZiZi, who was previously very susceptible to all colds/flus/fevers/viruses did not get sick. At all. Not even a sniffle. I credit her daily portion of sauerkraut (mostly because once the spring came and I eased up on the sauerkraut and forgot it for a whole week she got sick).

Sauerkraut: It's not just for scurvy anymore!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mamas Care About S***

There is a dirty little secret each of us hides. Well, maybe flushes. And we don't like to talk about it. It's not polite.

WELL......... It is time to grow up and get past all that. Join me with a labcoat and glasses as we talk about the body as a system for a moment. What is the number one output from your system? Okay, how about number two? LOL - get it? Number two? How can you consider the health of the system without considering the output of the system? If I want to know the quality of the product from a factory, wouldn't I just grab a box cutter and head to the loading dock to check out some of the stuff in the boxes? Well, your poo is the product from you digestive tract and it contains excellent clues as to the health of the system.

Believe it or not there are actually websites dedicated to tracking poo. Like reading scat on a trail. Except incredibly bizarre because real live humans are willing to upload their toilet pics. I am hopeful they each removed the GPS info from their cell phone pics and NO - I never posted on one of those sites.

For the rest of us polite folk, we just don't talk about it. Surprisingly, doctors seldom ask us about it. That fact shocks me. I think there are some eloquent phrases to describe this reason - something about "delicacies" and "etiquette." Well, I call BU!!S*** on that. If the evidence of a crime were in front of a detective, don't you think (s)he would at least take a look?

So let's put on our clean, white labcoat and our detective hat. Here is a picture of the Bristol Stool Chart. No idea how many lab assistants it took to look in toilets and determine this charting tool. It's actually kind of funny to think about and how would YOU like to be the guy who is famous for creating this picture? No thanks. My last name may be a little funny but I don't want "Stool Chart" after it for the rest of my life. Ha!

What you want is poo that looks like a four or five. Some people say sixes are fine too - I personally am not thrilled to see those in my home. We are honest to goodness poo peekers in our home - I've taught my girls to always look at it and let me know. I am thrilled with fours, okay with fives and start looking for a big picture issue or solution if we have anything else on an ongoing basis.

Note: If you are doing the SCD/GAPS diet your stooling can shift back and forth quite a bit. Don't freak out if you get one random 3 or 6 or whatever. But if you get more than one start looking for a culprit or a solution. Keeping a food / supplement / emotional / poo journal can be very helpful. It took awhile to figure it out but cucumbers and zucchini had my older daughter living with 6s. Once we removed the foods she settled back into 4s and 5s.

So enough random chatter, since we have labcoats on today let's get in there and start dissecting the matter at hand.

The Big D

Diarrhea cha cha cha. Surprisingly I cannot remember the rest of that grade school rhyme but I realy consider that a good thing.

The reason loose stools / diarrhea are a big deal (a 6 or 7 on the scale) is that it means the person's bowels are moving too quickly and they are likely losing all the amazing nutrition they have put into their body. On this diet, that is literally flushing a lot of $$ down the toilet. I know about the loss of great nutrients this way from my older daughter's experience. It has been a big deal for her and something she struggles with intermittently. It seems to be related to allergies for her. In the meantime she is not growing much at all (her formerly "failure to thrive" little sister is catching up to her). Coincidence? I think not.

Diarrhea is one of the developing world's biggest killers of young children, killing close to 2 million children per year. If you expand the age group and set of nations it kills between 4 and 6 million per year. It should be taken seriously and not ignored. Stress can cause it. Diuretic foods / veggies / juices can cause it. Bacteria can cause it. Yeast can cause it. Food allergies / intolerances can cause it. Getting to the bottom of it (ha - didn't even have to try on that pun) can take awhile and you just have to experiment a bit to eliminate possible causes and find out which one is the primary underlying problem.

So, if you rank a 7 on the Bristol scale, how do you want to handle it? First, remove anything from the diet that can irritate your digestive lining. When the gut lining is irritated it just flushes everything out as fast as it can (AKA diarrhea). Remove nuts, seeds, roughage/fiber and just drink broth. Eat boiled or broiled meats, particularly easy to digest food like fish. Really go easy until you get it under control and then add things in slowly, starting with well-cooked vegetables. Sounds quite a bit like intro, right? Glad you thought of that! That is actually a great idea you just had - just go back to intro to get a little healing. Listen to your body and see what it is crying out for - your intuition will be a better guide than anything I can type. Observe how foods impact you and pay attention.

If you rank more like a 6 on the Bristol scale, particularly if you have undigested food, you may be looking at a yeast overgrowth issue or a lack of stomach acid / enzyme action (they are frequently linked). If this kind of poop has been going on awhile, then consider doing a little research on using HCl with Betaine to increase your stomach acid and give a boost to your digestive enzymes. Alternatively, you can start out a little more gently with apple cider vinegar (ACV) or sauerkraut juice twenty minutes before a meal. If you think it is yeast, there are a bunch of other things to consider toying with as well. I'll write a separate yeast post soon (and I'll come back and link it). But addressing low stomach acid may help with yeast as well because yeast can grow in a stomach that is not at its optimal level of acidity.

With the 6s and 7s on the Bristol scale, keep an eye on the foods you are eating and look for a culprit. Allergies can definitely show up like diarrhea. Just ask my little girl. Gosh, I hope these posts are history by the time she has a prom date. But in the interest of Mamas sharing information we'll keep going!

The Big C

For the anal retentive among us, constipation is a physiologic disaster. It'll make you grumpy and mean. Probably because all the toxins your body wants to get out of the way are sitting in your colon being reabsorbed.

Do you want to reabsorb that which your body is trying to dispose? Definitely NOT! So if you are anything less than a 4 on the Bristol scale you will want to take steps to get things moving. Here is a listing, in no particular order, of things to consider / try:

  1. If your constipation kicked in as a result of a change in probiotics (or fermented foods which are a great source of probiotics) consider going lower/slower. Probiotics are wonderful and necessary for improving gut health but they can also cause some die off as your body acclimates. It is a delicate balance and is particular to each body so listen to what yours is telling you and adjust accordingly!
  2. Consider your diet - are you consuming enough fat? Sugars? Both play a role in elimination of waste from your body. We don't do a lot of sugars in our home but I do keep up with the winter squashes since we are mostly avoiding fruit right now. But I notice a big difference in gut motility when eating a lot of fat versus not enough fat. And it's also a lot of fun to cook with loads of it. It makes my body feel GREAT!
  3. When you wake, first thing, drink a glass of water with a whole lemon or lime squeezed in it. Not only is this great for constipation it is also a nice bit of vitamin C which will nourish your adrenals. Some say it is helpful to the gallbladder and liver. Drink the lemon/lime water on an empty stomach and do not eat anything for thirty minutes and you can reasonably expect to see *some* difference in your bowels and morning digestion. Do it a lot and your body will begin to crave the morning lemon/lime water!
  4. Magnesium... magnesium is something I struggle with keeping in my body on this diet. Perhaps because my body is dumping oxalates (if that sounds like a foreign language I promise a future post) and perhaps because the grains I used to count on for magnesium are not in my diet anymore. Then there is the whole "health of our soils" that makes our food and water sources low in minerals they used to include. Regardless of the cause of low levels, magnesium is usually one of the first items I consider when talking about constipation. Feeling stressed out? Mean? Yelling at the kids? Got a kid throwing tantrums (who isn't eating processed foods / sugars)? Consider your magnesium levels. My favorite forms of magnesium are epsom baths (2 cups of a high quality epsom in a hot bath for 20 mins), Natural Calm (a magnesium supplement), or magnesium spray/cream. If you need magnesium but are not constipated then try the transdermal methods for getting magnesium into your body. If you are constipated, try an oral supplement + a bath/cream/spray.
  5. Increase quantities of broth/soup, particularly those with a load of gelatin in them. The gelatin is very soothing to the gut wall.
  6. Sauerkraut! And if the sauerkraut is too advanced for someone to digest just the sauerkraut juices will be helpful and taste wonderful added to a warm (but not hot - you don't want to lose the probiotics in the kraut) broth or soup.
  7. To help heal the wall of the colon butyrates are helpful. Just to mention it in case someone is curious. Butyrates are most commonly taken in the form of an oral supplement but the original delivery method studied and pronounced successful was via enema. Two birds, one stone? Sorry. Trying to keep it all light-hearted. Supposedly bifido bacteria make butyrates so if you are following a GAPS probiotic protocol versus an SCD probiotic protocol you may have a better supply of butyrates as a result.
  8. I saved the best for last. Really. How about a coffee enema? I have no personal experience (I swear) on this one but I'd be remiss not to mention it since Dr. NCM covers it in her book and the chat groups are all lit up with people talking about it. I personally focus on the magnesium but that may be because I need to chill out and I am *not* curious enough to find out caffeine's ability to be absorbed in the colon. Really.


Just a quick word on color - it should be a nice dark brown. If it is light yellow / greyish then that is likely a stomach acid issue and again I would suggest researching HCl with Betaine. Dr. NCM has a chapter called Digestive Enzymes that is particularly helpful in understanding this.

If the color is black that can be blood in the digestive tract and it is worth a quick visit to your doctor for a testing kit. Sometimes you can just call in and get them to put a kit at the front desk for you - you don't necessarily need a consultation to get the kit.

As far as other rainbow colors, sometimes poo can take on a shade of red (think of the red flaking off poo when someone eat beets) or orange-ish poo after a load of butternut squash. There can be shades of green, particularly with a lot of blueberries. What I have found in my family is that if a food is coloring things in a major way it is likely nothing to worry about but I do watch to see if perhaps it is another symptom of not fully digesting the food.


If your poo leaves a streak on the porcelain express, that is a symptom of fat malabsorption. Again, see the notes on considering HCl with Betaine. If there is an oil slick on the surface that is again a symptom of fat your body did not absorb as well. This may or may not be something to worry about - depends on whether or not you had escolar (an amazing tasting but exceptionally fatty fish) a day or two before. I'm really not kidding on that one. But the words "etiquette" and "delicacies" is coming to mind so I won't tell the story. ;-)

Also, watch the frequency of the poos. Plenty of Mamas get to know their baby's poo cycle as a young child. If something suddenly shifts, see the above notes on "D" and "C." Plenty of poo bloggers say it is ideal to poo once for every large meal you eat. I don't think our family has quite experienced that, even when things are all looking awesome, but certainly 2x / day seems pretty normal. Just 1x / day seems a bit on the "C" side of things and 4+ / day seems a bit on the "D" side of things. Just try to normalize it all and consider frequency in addition to the way it looks on the Bristol scale.

In Conclusion

Thanks for joining me today in the poo lab - you can drop your labcoat in the laundry bag on your way out. If you'd like we can all pretend we didn't just look at that / talk about that / get that on the labcoat. Someday we may be ready to admit that poo is a big deal but until we are there you can just hang out with me in the back of the room and we'll whisper about it. I don't want to be known as a freak either.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Our Little Canaries

Our children today are our proverbial canaries in the coal mine. Have you looked around a preschool classroom lately? Good grief! As one teacher said to me a couple of weeks ago, "If you could just spend a couple of hours in my class you would be amazed. Almost 3/4 of my class has some issue of some sort. It wasn't this bad 5 or 10 years ago."

Have you seen the crazy cases of eczema? Asthma? Allergies? Allergies that look like ADHD? How about all the "normal" kids with terrible teeth, ultra pale skin, and no meat on their bones? How about the child with dark circles under his/her eyes? So what is it?

I am generally not one to join in public speculation and outrage about chemicals, toxins, vaccinations, food sources, and the like. I am making different choices today than I did previously and have become a fanatic about clean food. But as far as trying to find the smoking gun, it seems a worthy but frustrating pursuit. I believe there is not one single smoking gun. Few kids I know with issues have the same story so how would we decide what was the true "cause" for them when we can barely piece together enough pictures to make a baby book (or maybe that's just me - I am *terrible* about documenting my children's lives)?

I do, however, believe there is one sure cure. Heal the gut, heal the immune system, heal the body, heal the brain. I know our diet would help any number of children achieve their full potential.

So I have decided to put forth my personal efforts in healing children with existing conditions. Prevention? Would be lovely. Few will listen, even fewer will do. But have a kid that has an issue and you will find a very motivated parent. Parents want solutions and they are willing to go to great lengths to get them.

I hope that if we are able to consistently help children heal via natural methods, to let their bodies heal and rebuild themselves, that perhaps someone will have enough insight on the way in which they are healing as to find the way they are being broken in the first place.

Until then, let us watch these precious little singing birds. They are our warning signals. Once you know what you are looking for (dark circles, pale complexion, anxiousness, hyperactivity, lack of eye contact, chronic ear infections, chronic strep, behavioral regressions, etc., etc., etc.) you will begin to see that an overwhelming number of sweet little canaries around you are having a hard time. The answer is true healing, from the inside out. Put on your diagnostician glasses and see if you do not see issues facing many of our youngest members of society. *Something* is not right in our coal mine and some of our canaries are barely able to sing.

If you can just see all the children of the world as your own, all the mothers of the world as you are, we can make a huge difference.

-- Susan Sarandon

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Liver Lover

Sometimes, after you've been on the crazy train for awhile, you look around and think to yourself, "Where am I???" I have been on a crazy train ride these past few years and I am looking around my kitchen this morning thinking, "Wow. How did I end up in my grandmother's kitchen?"

The foods I've cooked today have included the usual squash, broccoli, cauliflower, soup, stock, etc.. BUT... today also included a lemon soak for the liver and now I am throwing it into my nearly famous (at least with my friends) pot roast. As I put the liver in the pot I started thinking that I have *got* to tell people about this amazing, nutrient dense food and how it has helped my family's health, particularly ZiZi's language skills.

Liver is the kind of food that makes people cringe. It is the kind of food that only a "mature" parent would bother cooking. Even really knowledgeable Mamas shy away from it. I used to be that Mama. Even after I had read about and embraced the concept of liver, I had not yet embraced the preparation and serving of liver. But these days I am totally crazy for a healthy, 100% grass-pastured beef liver and have turned into a bit of a fanatic.

I first added liver into our diet a couple of months ago. I know, I know... 15 months on SCD/GAPS and I didn't get around to adding in liver until month 13? Do as I say, not as I do (this is a quote from my dad). Liver had long been on my "hit list" of things I should have been doing all along but I have a weekly routine that keeps me sane and I had not figured how to flex the routine to incorporate the liver.

So in early September, I debated (against myself, one of my favorite ways to debate) various ways of getting the kids to eat it. Eventually I just stopped the analysis paralysis and dove in wholeheartedly. I am a 150% kind of Mama.

I went straight to the classic dish, liver and onions. I pulled out a liver that had been in my freezer awaiting the long end of the internal debate. I think it had been there for at least two or three months. I soaked the liver in lemon juice, rolled it in coconut oil, sauteed a heap of onions in coconut oil, and then "flash sauteed" the liver so it wasn't overcooked. To distract the children from the potential awfulness on their plate (this was my first time eating liver too so perhaps I was really distracting myself) we had a special dinner in the family room while watching the Redskins. The Reskins won. Hubby was happy. The kids ate their liver. Mama was happy.

The verdict that day was that it was "okay" from Ani and "pretty good" from ZiZi. Zi had seconds and asked for "that special turkey," AKA liver, the next morning for breakfast. Hm. Perhaps better than "pretty good?" Then Zi went off to school as she usually does and when she came home we took a picnic lunch to the playground.

That afternoon at the playground ZiZi was talking. A lot. She also separated from me completely and ran around like a totally normal kid. I noticed. A fab Tribal Mama commented on how ZiZi was noticeably independent that day. I think her words were, "I've never seen ZiZi play so hard and not come sit on your lap for at least awhile." I reported the news about the liver debut the prior night and we all grinned. For one of the Mamas it was an all-knowing grin (she is GREAT at giving liver to her family). For the other Mama it was a grin of joy watching ZiZi run around. For me it was the grin of a happy and proud Mama.

The following week I added liver to the bottom of the pot when I made pot roast. Another hit! The girls *loved* it this time and ate all of the liver and none of the roast. Which is saying something, because the roast was amazing. Suddenly our once in awhile pot roast was so important it was promoted to "something so good it goes into the weekly rotation." Pot roast now has its own day every week on our food calendar. Only four dinners are so amazing they qualify for this honor, two of them are liver related. I am still accepting applications for the remaining three evenings.

Wouldn't you know it? The day after the "liver roast" I observed the same outcome for ZiZi. Her mood was good and her speech/communication skills were up. I noticed the uptick lasted for about 3-4 days which is about what it had lasted the time prior as well. So I decided to get it into her diet 2x/week so we would be all language explosion, all the time. She is currently working to learn her alphabet sounds and shapes. She works quite hard on each letter so anything I can do to help her in the language department is a worthy pursuit!

Mommypotamus (one of my favorite bloggers) gave me the inspiration for my next liver recipe, a pseudo beef/liver chili. The whole family loved it, especially me since it was perfect for nights that Ani had soccer. So it went into the rotation as well (on soccer Thursday). My experiment is a bit different from the Mommypotamus recipe so I'll post it at the bottom of this note.

So now that we have been eating a lot of liver every week (roughly 1-2 lbs / week for our family of four) I have noticed a few things over time. ZiZi has stopped mixing up pronouns (she / her / he / him) and has had a decrease in "word search" time, where she racks her brain looking for the correct word for some "thingy". She has also recently started asking what various words mean. ZiZi's specialist has told us that the communication disorder will be one of the later autism spectrum symptoms to disappear but that it should happen over the next 2-3 years. With the addition of liver perhaps we may see it disappear a little faster than 2-3 years.

I don't have a neat and tidy study to tell you "why" the liver is doing this for ZiZi. I suspect it is related to the nutrient density, particularly Vitamins A, B12, and folic acid. But who knows? Wish I could point to something for this one so if you find a great study somewhere let me know! All I know is that it is working for her.

For myself I have noticed that I consistently receive a bit of an energy boost the following day or two after eating liver. It is always welcome and helps me keep up with the two cuties. So try it, you might like it (or at least the side effects). Just ease in gently. Grind it up and put it in burgers or try it in a chili. But give it a shot. Especially if you have a neurologically / nutritionally sensitive child you may see big changes!

Mama's Lazy "Chili"

1/2 to 1 lb of grass-fed beef liver, thinly sliced
2 lemons
2 to 3 lbs of grass-fed ground beef
Onions, diced
Garlic, diced
Extra virgin olive oil
Bottle of spaghetti sauce
Crushed red pepper, optional
Chili powder, optional

Step One: Soak the liver
Before cooking with liver you want to soak it in fresh lemon juice for at least 4 hours. According to various sources (Nourishing Traditions cookbook, for one) this will help draw impurities out of the liver and improve the texture. We do this whenever we use liver for any recipe. I am not the best planner so sometimes my 4 hours is a little short and other times it turns into 24 hours. The liver is very forgiving. I soak it in the lemon in a glass dish in the fridge, with a lid on top.

Step Two: Saute onions and liver
Pour some olive oil into a pot (I use my dutch oven) and saute the diced onions over low heat until they are transparent but not caramelized. After they have cooked for awhile you can add the garlic. Then add the liver and let it cook for awhile, stirring occasionally. Once it is starting to cook a bit, begin mashing the liver with your spoon. I usually mash mine into a pulverized pulp or at least into bite sized pieces, depending on what I have time / patience to do. If you have a meat grinder you could grind it prior to adding it into the pot. This would save the mashing step but then you have one more thing to clean up. Your call.

Step Three: Brown the ground beef
After the liver is as mashed as you want it to be add the ground beef, crumbling it between your fingers as you do. Brown the beef in the pot.

Step Four: Dump, stir, cover, wait
Pour in the spaghetti sauce and spices, if desired. I sometimes use a sauce with olives, sometimes garlic, whatever I have or want to try out. We have never been disappointed and the best one we ever had was a Mama's homemade sauce that was acquired on a sauerkraut trade. Stir the mixture well, put the cover on the pot, and simmer for up to an hour.

My girls do not like spicy things so our "chili" ends up being more of a really meaty spaghetti sauce. But it still tastes great. I also throw in veggies sometimes (chopped broccoli or cauliflower, slices of asparagus, whatever). Served over spaghetti squash is also great. Play with this one, it is very forgiving!

Friday, November 4, 2011

GF Epic Fail

A couple of us Mamas followed medical advice from various sources and put ourselves / our children on various renditions of a Gluten-Free (GF) diet prior to life on SCD / GAPS. My sample data pool is pretty darn small but interestingly the same thing happened with all three of us (the data set is me, ZiZi, and Stacylee).

When we went GF there was a minor uptick in feeling better / better energy for awhile. It seemed as though perhaps GF might be a piece to the puzzle but we weren't "so" much better off that we thought it was the answer. ZiZi and I both still needed iron supplements and all the neurological symptoms for both ZiZi and Stacylee were pretty much as they were prior to their diet change. Additionally, ZiZi continued to slowly slide off the height/weight charts. So, for ZiZi and me, I tried harder. We removed milk proteins (casein) as well and later tried even harder by further removing soy proteins and corn proteins.

After months / years of being GF we Mamas had "mastered" the diet. We had figured out which GF snacks the little ones liked and we had learned to make all kinds of regular foods (like pizza, breadsticks, etc.) so they tasted almost as good, or sometimes better, than the originals. I was proud of the dietary creative problem solving, particularly when people who did not need a GF diet said it was yummy and wanted recipes / mixes / brand names. Then other friends needed to go GF and I was a "go to mommy" and that felt great too.

However, there was something evil lurking just beneath the surface. Cue the "Jaws" music. The truth of the matter was we had replaced gluten with a lot of difficult to digest starches and sugars. The shopper in each household was buying a bunch of processed baked goods (or mixes - because that was "from scratch" cooking prior to this diet) filled with potato starch, rice starch, tapioca starch, amaranth, etc.. Go check a few labels for fun sometime. Processed GF is all sugars and starches. I even got handy and made my own GF mixes and threw in a little Xantham Gum for fun.

Perhaps predictably, within a year or so of the GF/GFCF/GFCFSFCF lifestyle, all three of us went downhill. Gut pain, bloating, gas, constipation, etc.. I even got a nice new diagnosis of IBS/IBD. No idea what the difference is there - it just hurt.

Now, I am not entirely sure that GF was acting alone. I think there were a few accomplices. First, oxalates definitely played a role in our household around that same time. But second, and perhaps the most important role as an accomplice, was a mother's deepest desire to keep things "normal" for her child. Can't have gluten, that's okay... here are a bunch of starches and it's all okay baby. Look, your friends even want to have some tapioca sticks with you.

Painful to acknowledge, when a doctor / nurse / nutritionist tells you that you may need to consider going GF what they are REALLY telling you (whether or not they know it) is that your bowels are having a bit of a time and need some healing. Guess what is not going to help them heal? All the GF goodies on the market or at that local GF pizza chain. Do you know what will help your bowels heal? A whole-foods diet, including any dips / sauces. Very little processing in your foods. Taking a load off your digestive tract by fermenting foods first (ala the Weston A Price way of cooking) so the first steps of digestion are done for you. Staying away from all processed foods and instead adding healing foods like broth and cod liver oil would also be a great place to start.

But few professionals in the medical establishment will say all that. Perhaps it's because their time is up with you but more likely, I think few have spent much time down this path themselves. Sometimes you have to have lived the experience and suffered the consequences to be able to warn the next guy. So here is my warning: judging by the explosion of GF baked / processed goodies, we are going to have an even bigger problem on our hands in another couple of years.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

First Steps: Broth

This post is dedicated to every Mama who wants the best health for her children and is looking for her first step on that journey. Broth is a great first step toward becoming an amazing chef and an amazing healer.

For centuries cultures around the world have used broth as a medicinal food. There is a reason besides the Campbell Soups marketing budget that chicken noodle soup bubbles to the surface of our minds when we hear someone is ill.

A well-made broth from a naturally raised animal provides tremendous nourishment to the body and building blocks for the gut wall. All the wonderful nutrients that animal used to build its strong body will be recycled into a medicinal broth for your body. Particularly for anyone whose gut has a difficult time extracting nutrition from solid foods, broth provides "bioavailable" (that is a fancy term for "even your sick gut can grab it") nutrients.

So here is my advice to any healing Mama early in her journey:

  1. If you do not already have a copy of Nourishing Traditions, consider purchasing this cookbook. If I could only have one cookbook this would be it. It is so much more than a cookbook - it is a nutritional education + cookbook all in one. Also, the recipes are so simple they can be easily tweaked to meet any dietary needs.
  2. So as not to slow down the process waiting for your copy of Nourishing Traditions read "Broth is Beautiful" from the Weston A Price website. No sense in me telling you my tricks - I learned them all from the master and this is the primary research document. ;-)
  3. If the first two steps have not answered enough questions, if you once considered going into biochemistry, or if you have a little "Cliff" from Cheers deep inside you, here is the answer to "Why Broth is Beautiful" from the Weston A Price website.

After 14 months on GAPS I have finally figured out a thing or two about making the broths. I have a bit of a strategy that works for me and is not covered in the links above so here are my other tips:

  • Look at the timing of the particular broth you plan to make and work it into a regular schedule that works. I really like the 24-48 hr beef bone broths because I can start them late at night after the kids are in bed and then deal with them a day and a half later. Once you find a pattern / routine that works for you just stick with it.
  • Please know that you can reuse your bones for additional batches. If there is still bone there is still mineral content to be leached. You will not get the gelatin (unless you are using beef feet / chicken feet) in your broth past the first or second batch. But you will still have great mineral water which is wonderful for drinking or cooking.
  • Use a large stock pot (stainless steel, no aluminum) and make loads at a time. As a side note, I hear people talk about making stock in their crockpots and I chuckle to myself because I would need some sort of commercial crockpot for my lazy ways. Also, there is the whole "what is in the paint on that crockpot" and I cannot think about one more possible source of contamination. But I digress...
  • I store my stocks (and soups) in canning jars in the fridge. It is generally consumed so quickly there isn't a need to move it to the freezer. If you do freeze some, chill it first in the fridge and then freeze it in quart size canning jars (or smaller). Be sure to leave at least 1-2" of space at the top of the jar so it can expand during the freezing process. Note: Some people reduce it prior to freezing so it takes less space. Just mentioning that - I personally don't keep enough in the freezer to worry about that step (and an extra step is not generally welcome in my kitchen anyway).
  • Rather than use veggies in making my broth I use onion peels. I particularly like to use the onion skins / ends from yellow onions as they have a wonderful anti-histamine compound in them called quercetin. This compound is also in red onions but not white onions. For some reason red onions bothers my family so we stick to yellow. Anyhoo... As I (or Chef Steve) peel and slice onions, leeks, fennel, or whatever we save the scraps in a bag in the freezer. After I add the vinegar to the water + meat/bones and let it sit for an hour I add the veggie scraps at that time along with my herbs (usually just bay leaves + thyme + sea salt) and let it go. Just make sure you poke everything under the water as they can get burned if they are out of the water for 24 hours on a low boil.

When a broth shimmers while warm and shakes like Bill Cosby's favorite J-E-L-L-O when you take it out of the fridge, THAT is a very healing broth! So... time to give it a shot. Easy Peezy, Lemon Squeezy. This is your first step to introducing an incredibly medicinal food to your family. Get the gelatin in the broth, keep the fat in the broth, turn it into an amazing soup, do whatever. I'll put a note out soon about soups, but just get started. Your gut will thank you!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin Seed Muffins

These are a family favorite for Thanksgiving and birthday parties. We can't wait for an excuse to make them again soon!

2 cups pumpkin seed butter (made with coconut oil + sea salt)*
3 lg bananas, very ripe
4 duck eggs**
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp champagne vinegar

Blend pumpkin seed butter and banana in food processor until completely blended
Add eggs and blend again
Add baking soda and blend again
Add 1 tsp vinegar and blend again

Baking: Divide into ~24 cupcakes, using paper lined tins. Bake @ 400 for 10 minutes, or until a knife that goes in comes out cleanly when you test it.


*I make our pumpkin seed butter from seeds soaked for 7+ hours and then dehydrated. There is a brand of "sprouted" pumpkin seeds available called "Go Raw" so if I don't have time for the sprouting process this is what I use. I can get those at Whole Foods locally. The sprouting process makes the seeds more nutritious and more digestible. When I make the pumpkin seed butter (I use a Vitamix or food processor and I just use pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, and sea salt) I store it in an old coconut butter jar that is exactly 2 cups so I don't have to measure out sticky pumpkin seed butter when I make this recipe.

**Note on eggs: Using duck eggs will make these cupcakes rise better and remain "full" and beautiful when they cool. My experience is that even amazing PolyFace chicken eggs will look full until they cool and then the tops will shrink back / fall in on themselves. There is a greater "rising agent" in duck eggs so they are awesome for baking and regarding taste you will never know it isn't a chicken egg! Other eggs with wonderful rising action are emu and ostrich eggs, although you have to be a little careful with those - they may rise a little higher than you are bargaining for so don't fill the cupcake holders too full.