First Week on the GAPS Intro Diet: What I Ate, How I Felt and the Effect it had on my Family 

GAPS INTRO STAGE ONE

Day One: 1L water kefir, 1.5L chicken stock and lots fresh herb tea (made from boiling water and herbs grown in my garden and dried out at home).

I felt like I’d been knocked for six, but put that down to caffeine withdrawal. Had a cheeky afternoon nap while Freddy watched a film sitting on my lap and the girls watched a different film upstairs. That was basically how the day rolled, and I paid the price with a truly horrendous bedtime. I was not going win any parenting awards that day, but hey ho!

Day Two: 1L water kefir, 1.5L chicken stock, little bit of boiled meat from stock and herb tea, with a tbsp of loose leaf Oolong added.

Definitely felt more human, but wasn’t functioning at full capacity. We had another day at home, which certainly wasn’t easy, however I was much more able to step in to diffuse meltdowns and didn’t feel completely broken by the end of the day.

leg rash before and three days into GAPS

GAPS INTRO STAGE TWO

Day Three: 1L water kefir, 2L Chicken stock (twice with egg yolk) and herb/Oolong tea throughout the day, slow cooked brisket with garlic, onions, carrot and butternut squash in the evening.

I sprang out of bed at 5-something for the first time in months and realised I wasn’t grumpy. Also the strange rash that appeared on my left leg on 29/07 has massively gone down. It was very sore, itchy and inflamed but is noticeably better in all areas.

We had a lovely day with friends, and I was absolutely fine preparing food and not getting tempted to eat it. I did end up feeling a bit queasy after the stock with egg yolks so won’t be doing that again – it passed quickly though. My two girls had a sleepover in my eldest’s room and put themselves to bed, which is a total and utter miracle in itself!

Day Four: 1L water kefir, 1.5L chicken stock and herb/Oolong tea throughout the day and slow cooked pork blade with garlic, onions, turmeric and carrot in the evening.

Another early wake up, but rather than struggle to get out of bed I was more than happy to get up earlier than the rest of the house and did some editing work on my novel. I felt good today, although noticed a bit of nausea after drinking the tea, so will leave the Oolong out, as I’ve discovered it’s quite high in caffeine and I think I need a complete break from caffeine. Had some very challenging moments with my eldest daughter but managed to stay calm throughout, which is a huge achievement.

Day Five: 1L water kefir, 1L chicken stock and herb tea throughout the day. Soup for lunch made from stock and veggies out of last nights dinner with a little bit of boiled chicken and home made ghee drizzled over the top, boiled chicken and sauerkraut for dinner.

Didn’t have any nausea after drinking the tea, so I think staying off the Oolong for the time being is a good move. I found that I was hungrier today than I have been, but I realised that I drank less stock than other days, as I was out all afternoon, so that’s probably why. No reaction to the ghee or sauerkraut which I’m very happy about. The inflammation around the strange leg rash is completely gone, and the rash itself is now just a few spots. It’s been incredible watching it disappear each day, and to think the doctor prescribed steroid cream (which I didn’t use).

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Day Six: 1L water kefir, 1.5L chicken stock and herb tea in the morning. Boiled chicken, sauerkraut and ghee salad for lunch. Fasted from 1pm through to 11am.

Months ago my husband and I booked tickets to an outdoor festival and stay overnight in a hotel – it’s a rarity for us, so we weren’t about to miss out. I couldn’t take food and drinks into the event, so made sure I drank plenty of stock before heading out, and had a nice filling lunch before going in. Then I took it as a great opportunity to a little fast. Intermittent Fasting is incredibly beneficial for the body, check out what the fabulous Mark Sisson has to say on the matter in this detailed article.

GAPS INTRO STAGE THREE

Day Seven: breakfast out: plain poached egg yolks, avocado and smoked salmon. 1L water kefir, 1.5L chicken stock and herb tea throughout the afternoon. Beef shin casserole in the evening.

We went to a lovely breakfast restaurant at around 11am, and I ordered plain poached eggs and only ate the yolks, avocado and smoked salmon, along with fresh mint tea. I have to admit, seeing my husband tucking into his ‘Full American’ which is essentially an English breakfast with a stack of pancakes on the side, did make me envious. It looked so amazing. It was the first time I’ve looked at non-GAPS food and wanted to eat it, but of course didn’t.

Overall 

I’ve noticed a massive improvement in my mood, and am much more upbeat than I have been in a very long time. The food prep side hasn’t bothered me in the slightest, but I have come from a starting point of strict paleo anyway. I haven’t had any significant detox symptoms, largely I think because I haven’t eaten processed food or refined sugar for so long.

The best thing is that I’ve got so much more patience with the children, and am heaps calmer than I was this time two weeks ago. Hubby and I reconnected at the weekend too, and I’m confident that brighter days are here for our family now.

I moved quickly through the first two of the six stages of intro, and plan to eat stage three food for at least a week before moving onto stage four. I haven’t had any stomach or digestion issues, which is wonderful.

All in all I’m feeling great, long may it continue!

 

 

Chuck Steak Stew

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I wanted to try some different cuts of meat this week, and decided on chuck steak and pork knuckle – stay tuned for the latter! The lady on the stall at the farmers market explained the effect the marbelling (fat) running through a piece of meat will have on the end result. Chuck steak has small streaks of fat running throughout and when it’s been stewed for hours the fat disappears into the meat and sauce, literally making it melt in your mouth. We’ve had yet more miserable weather here in Blighty so need comforting dinners, and this stew did not disappoint! After hours of cooking, the sauce had reduced way down with onions and garlic melted into it and the meat was beyond tender. Served with lots of seasonal veg, it certainly brightened up our evening.

Ingredients (for two adults & two kids):
500g chuck steak (diced into thick chunks)
Large red onion (chopped chunky)
2 large carrots (peeled and chopped chunky)
2 large cloves garlic (crushed)
100g mushrooms (peeled and quartered)
500ml stock (fresh is best)
200ml red wine
2 tbsp tomato purée
Large knob of butter (I use goats)

Method:
– preheat your oven to 160C fan/170C non-fan/325F/GM3

– cook the onions in the butter over a med heat for a few mins until soft, add the mushrooms and cook with the lid on for another few mins

– take off the heat and stir in the tomato purée and garlic. Mix well, then pour over the wine and stock

– arrange your carrots at the bottom of a sturdy casserole pot, then arrange the steak on top

– pour the contents of the saucepan over the meat and carrots ensuring they are completely submerged in liquid

– cook with the lid on for two hours, then reduce the heat to 150C fan/160C non-fan/300F/GM2 and cook for a further two hours

– serve with seasonal veggies

Paprika beef topped with spicy roasted squash and crispy kale

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I set out to make a butternut squash lasagne the other night, but changed my mind at the last minute and decided to spice things up a little. I kept things really simple, as always, and will definitely be cooking this fab dish again!

Since learning that it’s one of the most nutrient dense vegetables on the planet, kale has become my new best friend and was a wonderful addition to this meal which traditionally would have some cheese on the top.

Ingredients (for two):
300g minced beef
100ml red wine
50ml tomato purée
50ml balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
Med red onion – finely chopped
2 lge cloves of garlic – crushed
Half a butternut squash – peeled & cut into 6 discs
100g kale
2 glugs of olive oil
Salt & pepper
Tsp dried chilli flakes (or more depending on your taste)

Method:
– preheat the oven to 175C/360F

– prep the butternut squash and arrange on a non stick baking tray. Drizzle over some olive oil, salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Roast for 30-40 mins until cooked through

– while the squash is roasting make the beef component. Gently fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until soft. Add the mince and stir well until all the meat is brown

– stir in the paprika and give everything a good mix

– add the red wine, tomato purée and balsamic, ensure everything is incorporated well. Allow to simmer on a low heat for 20-25 mins

– once the squash is cooked, put the kale on the top and season to taste. Cook in the oven for 3-5 mins until crispy, taking care to ensure it doesn’t burn

– layer up your bowls with beef, then squash and top with the yummy crispy kale

 

Bacon wrapped meatloaf with swede fries

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As family life gets busier, my ability to spend hours in the kitchen lessens. Making food as simple as possible, without negotiating on flavour, has become my new mission. This meatloaf takes about ten minutes to prepare, and the veg is cooked on the same tray meaning less washing up. Hurrah, task for the day accomplished!

Ingredients (to serve 4-6):
(meatloaf) 500g beef mince
500g pork mince
4-6 rashers of bacon
Small red onion or large shallot (very finely diced)
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp ground nuts (any you have)
(fries) med sized swede
Tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper
(veg) large bag of greens or kale
Handful of cauliflower or broccoli cut into small florets

Method:
– preheat the oven to 180C/365F

– in a large bowl combine all the meatloaf ingredients, except bacon, and mix together with your hands

– place in the centre of a large non-stick baking tray, shape into a big square, wrap in bacon and place in the oven

– while it’s cooking, peel your swede and cut into thin matchsticks. Put them in a Tupperware box, drizzle over the olive oil and season to taste. Put the lid to the box on and give it a good shake

– when the meatloaf has been cooking for 20 mins, add the swede. Cook for another 20 mins, remove and allow to rest

– add the veg to the tray, incorporating well with the swede and meat juices

– cook for a final 10 mins and serve immediately with thick slices of meatloaf

 

Perfect pick me up lunch for one

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My three year old has a nasty hacking cough that has been depriving our household of sleep this week. Unsurprisingly, as we’re now on day four, my energy levels were about as low as they get this morning. Pondering over how I was going to get through the day, I had a brain wave. Iron! I always get a massive energy boost by eating iron rich foods, so decided to treat myself to a fab lunch and it really did sort me out. I’m not saying I could run a marathon, but I made it to bedtime without falling over. This meal also ended up being lunch and dinner – I didn’t get hungry again at all!

Ingredients:
Thick piece of ribeye steak, extra matured on the bone
Tsp anchovy paste
Large handful of broccoli (cut into small florets)
Large handful of spinach
1/4 of a leek (thinly sliced)
Knob of goats butter
Tsp olive oil

Method:
– get a frying pan or griddle pan really hot over a med-high heat, and melt the butter and olive oil

– smother your steak in the anchovy paste and place in the pan

– cook for three mins on either side for med-rare or four mins on either side for medium

– remove from the pan and allow to rest

– dump the leek into the buttery juices in the pan and sautée for a minute, then add the broccoli

– cook for two to three minutes with the lid on, then stir in the spinach

– cook for another minute with the lid off

– serve immediately next to your steak

 

Ox cheek & ale stew

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On a recent trip to Twickenham to have lunch with a dear friend, I discovered that the awesome Laverstoke Park Farm guys have a shop! They’ve got a huge meat counter full of organic delights, tons of fresh veg, a massive fridge stocking their pork pies, quiches and beer as well as a deli counter offering lunchtime fare and freshly ground coffee. It was as if I’d literally died and gone to food heaven. I was in my element, but had to be restraint as I was carrying my eight month old in a sling and couldn’t fit too much more in the nappy bag. I feel I chose wisely however, and bought ox cheeks and beers to make this sumptuous slow cooked stew for our Sunday lunch.

Ingredients:
1kg ox cheeks – diced into large chunks
1 leek – washed & chopped chunky
2 red onions – peeled & chopped chunky
500g carrots – peeled & chopped chunky
100g mushrooms – peeled & quartered
100g curly kale – washed & sliced
Bottle of ale
500ml stock
Large knob of butter (I used goats, you could use cows or olive oil)

Method:
– preheat the oven to 160C/320F

– melt the butter over a med high heat in a large saucepan and cook the leek and onion for a few mins. Stir constantly to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom

– add the mushrooms and cook for another few mins with the lid on

– while that is happening lay the carrots at the bottom of a sturdy casserole pot, and arrange the ox cheeks on top

– tip the leek, onion, mushrooms and pan juices over the top of the meat then pour over the ale and stock

– cook with the lid on for two hours, then reduce the heat to 150C/300F and cook for a further two hours

– at this point stir in the kale and cook for one more hour. The meat will melt in the mouth after all this oven time and the kale will take on the flavour of the stew. You’ll be left with an extraordinary rich almost gamey flavour. I know ox cheek can be a bit difficult to come by, but the taste is so worth it and they’re one of the cheapest cuts of beef you can buy. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

– I served this stew with cauliflower & sprout mash and got happy faces all round

 

Steak & kidney stew

Always eager to reinvent a classic recipe, I’ve taken the basics of a steak & kidney pie and turned it into a stew. Slow cooking for hours leaves the meat melt in the mouth tender, and gives the kidneys an almost smokey flavour. It was quite something and I’ll definitely be experimenting more with offal in the future.

Ingredients (for 6-8 servings):
1.5kg beef shin or good quality stewing steak (cut into large cubes)
6 lambs kidneys (halved)
1l bitter or ale
500g carrots (top, tailed, peeled & chopped chunky)
200g mushrooms (peeled & quartered)
3 onions (peeled & quartered)
6 cloves of garlic (peeled, left whole)
2 inch piece of fresh ginger (peeled & grated)
Salt & pepper

Method:
– preheat your oven to 160 degrees

– put the carrots, onions and garlic in the bottom of a large casserole dish

– place half the meat on top, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle over half the ginger and put the kidneys on top

– put the rest of the meat on top, then season again and sprinkle over the rest of the ginger

– slowly pour over the bitter or ale, put the lid on the pot and cook in the oven for four hours

– at this point take the stew out of the oven and remove the lid. Give it a good stir and put back in the oven. Cook for a further one to two hours with the lid off until the liquid has reduced down to a lusciously thick gravy

– serve with cauliflower mash and green veggies

*photo to follow next time I make this*