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!

 

 

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Thick end of pork with coffee-based barbecue sauce

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I was asked recently what my signature dish is and chose this recipe which uses the thick end, or ribs attached belly joint of pork. You don’t often see this wonderful cut in the supermarket but any decent butcher will have it, and it’s reasonably priced at around £6 per kilo.

Another way to get your hands on rarer cuts is to animal share with friends. This is my favourite way to buy meat, and in our house we regularly buy a quarter of a pig from our local farm shop. They do all the messy work, and it comes to us neatly bagged and clearly labelled ‘thick end’ ‘chops’ ‘leg’ etc. It’s a sight to behold on delivery day and the savings to be had are huge!

This dish couldn’t be simpler to prepare and always provides a suitable amount of wow factor when guests come over. I like to place the meat in the centre of the table and let everyone carve off their own portion, caveman style. Served with a jug of my barbecue sauce (recipe below), some homemade coleslaw and a big bowl of seasonal root veg fries I’ve not had a complaint yet.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours (plus 30 mins resting)
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:
2-2.5kg thick end of pork
Tbsp freshly ground sea salt
250ml water 

Method:
– preheat the oven to 200C fan assisted/220C non-fan/Gas Mark 7

– pour the water onto the bottom of large non-stick baking tray and place the pork on top (this will help to ensure the pan doesn’t burn)

– slash the skin several times each way making a criss-cross pattern and cover with the sea salt, this will make your crackling super crispy

– roast for 30 mins then reduce the heat to 150C fan assisted/160C non-fan/Gas Mark 2 and continue cooking for three hours. Check each hour and top up the water if needs be

– allow to rest for 30 mins before serving

Coffee barbecue sauce

Although it sounds unconventional, this bbq sauce really is fab. The coffee gives such a smoky depth of flavour you’ll want to pour it over everything. This recipe is very easy to make, completely natural and doesn’t contain tons of added refined sugar. Why not give it a go and use in place of ketchup?

Ingredients:
Tin of tomatoes
180ml freshly brewed coffee
60ml tamari
60ml honey
60ml Dijon mustard

Method:
– either whisk or blend together all the ingredients until smooth

– pour into a saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer over a low heat for 20-30 mins until the sauce has reduced to half

– serve immediately

TIP: store leftovers in the fridge, this sauce will keep happily for a month

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Pulled Pork

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This is not the quickest of recipes, but will be worth every second I promise. Juicy succulent pork leg can be difficult to achieve as it doesn’t have as much natural fat as other cuts, so simmering first in a flavoured liquor is essential. Between doing this, and slow roasting at a very low temperature for hours, you will end up with the most deliciously moist and tender meat known as ‘pulled pork’.

Ingredients:
Whole leg of pork (2-2.5kg)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
3 bay leaves
3 star anise
3 large cloves garlic (peeled)
Large onion (peeled & halved)
Inch piece of ginger (halved)
2 tbsp Chinese five spice
2 tbsp tomato purée

Method:
– place the pork leg in a large saucepan, add all the other ingredients except five spice and tomato purée, then cover with cold water so the meat is completely submerged in liquid

– bring to the boil, then turn the heat down low and simmer for two hours with the lid gently resting on the top, but not fully closed. Intermittently skim off any white foam that floats to the top

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– at this stage transfer the meat to an oven proof casserole dish. In a small bowl mix together the five spice and tomato purée along with two tbsp of cooking liquor until you have a smooth paste. Spread evenly over the pork fat so it is all completely covered

– add a litre of cooking liquor to the bottom of the casserole pot, and cook in the oven on 150C fan/160C non-fan/300F/GM2 for two hours with the lid off, and a further hour with the lid on

– remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pot with the lid on for an hour before serving

Roast blade end shoulder of pork

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We bought another quarter pig from our local Farm Shop on Thursday. They do all the butchering and bag it up for you ready for the freezer, so it couldn’t be easier and it will keep us going for weeks. It works out around £3 per kilo for the most amazing free range meat, I can’t recommend animal sharing enough! This crackling joint has become a tried and tested roast in my house, loved by the adults and kiddies, perfect for Easter.

Ingredients:
2kg (ish) pork roasting joint with a good layer of fat at the top – blade end of shoulder is my favourite
6 carrots
small swede
4 sticks of celery
2 med sized red onions
350ml stock
60ml white wine vinegar
Tbsp honey
Tbsp tomato purée
Tsp olive oil

Method:
– preheat the oven to 200C/GM7 and grease a large baking tray with the olive oil

– peel your veg and place on the baking tray whole

– score the fat on the meat, and place on top of the veg

– in a small bowl mix together 120ml of the stock, the white wine vinegar, honey and tomato purée then massage into the meat

– blast for 30 mins, then turn the oven down to 150C/GM2 and cook for a further three hours

– check each hour to ensure that nothing is burning, and use the rest of the stock to top up the liquid at the bottom of the tray each time you check

– when it’s ready take the tray out of the oven. Put the meat, carrots and parsnips into a casserole pot with the lid on to rest. It will keep warm for hours, and the longer you leave it to rest the more melt in the mouth it will be when it comes to eating

– to make the gravy scrape the meat juices, celery and onions from the baking tray into your blender or food processor and whiz on the highest setting until combined. Add more stock according to how thin you would like it

– serve the meat and gravy with the carrots, parsnips and other seasonal veggies

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

 

Hubby’s dinner

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My husband is very fit, puts me and most others I know to shame. He’s been doing an evening judo class recently, so I prep him dinner to take to work and he eats it on his way home. Usually this meal is leftovers from the weekend, but this week we didn’t have any. It was also the day before the shopping arrives and our fridge was rather sparse, so I had to be creative. Fortunately we still had lots of delicious pork chops in the freezer so I was able to rustle up this lovely stew for him.

Ingredients (for one hungry person):
Large pork chop
Small red onion (finely chopped)
Large carrot (finely chopped)
3 mushrooms (quartered)
2 large tomatoes or 100g of tinned
Handful of spinach (I used five cubes of frozen)
Tbsp olive oil
Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Tbsp sage

Method:
– get a non stick frying pan or griddle really hot over a med-high heat

– coat the chop in the olive oil and sage, sear in the hot pan for a few mins on each side

– take the chop out of the pan and cut it into small bite sized pieces, leave to one side

– in the pork juices add the onion, mushroom and carrot, cook for about five mins over a med heat

– add the pork and rest of the ingredients, stir well. Put the lid on the pan and simmer gently for 15-30 mins over a low heat

– if cooking for more than one person, double or tripple up on ingredients and serve with green veggies

 

Smoky, slow roasted leg of pork

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We bought another quarter of a pig last week, and served up this super succulent slow roasted leg for my in-laws Sat lunchtime. I’ve adapted a barbecue sauce recipe over time, which was used as the marinade, and oh my goodness it was delicious. Everyone had seconds…and thirds… always a great compliment for any cook!

Ingredients:
2.5-3kg bone-in leg of pork
Tbsp olive oil
Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Tin of tomatoes
180ml freshly brewed coffee (double espresso & hot water)
60ml tamari
60ml black treacle
60ml dijon mustard

Method:
– preheat the oven to 200C/410F

– combine the tomatoes, coffee, tamari, treacle & mustard and set to one side

– place the pork on a large non-stick baking tray, make several deep cuts into the skin across both directions so you have a criss cross

– rub the olive oil and balsamic all over the skin, place in the oven and roast for 30 mins

– turn the oven down to 150C/320F and take the meat out

– pour the marinade all over, put the tray back into the oven and roast for three hours

– check the meat hourly to ensure nothing is burning, add a drop of water to the bottom of the pan if necessary

– remove the meat after three hours and along with all juices from the pan, place into a large lidded pot

– allow to rest in the pot with the lid on for at least an hour, which will create a fab gravy

– serve with green veg and roasted roots