Saturday, February 26, 2011

A coordinated GAPS Vegetable Stew/Beef Simmer - the chatty version!

This post is for my mother, who likes my stews, but also because it seems like a nice time to get this up there to share. I keep hearing about folks on GAPS who flail around during the intro and the first few stages trying to figure out how to get things to taste good, how much fat or meat is right for them and what combinations of vegetables to use. Here's the way we do it, more or less. It's infinitely variable for each family's tastes and preferences.

So it's taken me about 2 years to get to the stage where I have come up with a clear method for a nice all -purpose supper that lasts for a few days. It's basically a development of the stew from the early phases of the GAPS Diet. I do use herbs. Our kid likes her eggs so much that I leave them out of the stews and serve them in the mornings for breakfast. So if you're in the early stages of the diet, this should be fine, depending on what your food sensitivities are.

At least for us, the key is saturated animal fat - ghee and drippings, mainly. We also use olive oil, but it's not as healing as the other two. We can't have lard, so generally it's tallow or schmaltz and the gelatinous leavings from whatever roast or simmer I've made. To our early 21st century eyes and palettes these recipes look frighteningly out of whack with the mainstream dietary advice you'll get from your doctor, but I've found that it is the perfect balance of fat to flavor for dealing with our allergies, migraines, general health and digestion, including sugar digestion. This is a meal after which our kid almost NEVER asks for dessert.

I try to coordinate the making of a soup and a roast so that I can use the fresh drippings in the soup. Occasionally my cooking will be out of sync and I'll store the stuff in a jar, then use it from there. It still tastes good. I've included a simple and thrifty ground beef simmer in this post. The reason I make the meat separate from the rest of the stew is that we opt for meatless meals after 3 or 5pm. This works well whether I'm working late and eating alone or on regular weeknights when Snackboy gets home from work at 7. We include the actual meat for lunch or breakfast, but leave it out for dinner. (Both the stew and the meat make nice additions for breakfast scrambles, too.)

The recipe also takes for granted that the day or so before you've made your week's worth of ghee (which for us is a full 2 cups!) and your week's worth of broth. I also have either storebought or home made sauerkraut ready. If we could we'd alternate with a good sour cream dollop instead, but that's not happening with us for a while. :)

By the way, the big news is that Little Moo has nearly made it to the end of her second food trial with her favorite treat, sheep's milk yogurt, with nary a spot on her, a sniffle or an "ahem." Good news! This is after I forgot her dose of enzymes before her breakfast this morning and suddenly remembered it mid-meal. So tomorrow, unbeknownst to her, she gets another two large teaspoons full. Joy will ensue. It's been over a year. Yay!

So here it is...I'm sure that you will come up with your own fun variations. Try different veggies - midwinter's a good time for hard greens and roots. Those can get interesting. We're just starting to see new spring veggies come in. Asparagus, peas and string beans are nice additions. Just remember that the softer the vegetable, the closer to the end you add it. If it's a very tender vegetable, you might want to do a quick or even flash steam and add it at the very end to the hot soup so as not to overcook it. The warmth of the broth will continue to steam it at a nicely low temperature so that the color, texture and flavor stay put.

Lastly, you'll notice that the stew only has 1/2 teaspoon of salt, even though it's a pretty big pot-full. The reasoning for this is that it's meant to be served with a ferment which adds tang or saltiness at the end.

Ground Beef Simmer & The Ultimate GAPS Vegetable Stew

Ingredients for simmer:

2 teaspoons ghee
1 medium (or so) onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon unprocessed sea salt
1 lb organic, full-fat, pastured ground beef
1/4 cup broth (we use chicken or beef - I think it's tastier with the chicken, but it's whatever you'd like)
(optional) 1/2 cup or so well-cooked gizzards from the last long-simmered chicken soup, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Ingredients for soup:

3-4 tablespoons ghee
1 large onion or two small, sliced
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon unprocessed sea salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 small leaf of dried sage or a small pinch of the bottled stuff
drippings from the simmer
1 carrot
2 stalks celery
1/2 to 1 cup mushrooms
1/2 head of yellow cabbage
1 BIG bunch of hard winter greens or a blend of a few. (Kales, collards are both nice - chard is sweet and pretty, especially if you have a pinkophile like we do. Mustard and dandilion are kind of bitter, but can be offset with the high fat content or by blending a small amount with a bunch of something sweeter. We stay away from spinach for calcium absorption reasons, but this can also be a nice addition. Don't cook it as much as the harder greens.)
1/2 gallon (or so) broth
(optional) a softer spring vegetable: peas, chopped string beans or asparagus
sauerkraut or sour cream

Get out 2 pots. One should be like a large skillet our round-belly saucepan for the simmer. The other big enough for a soup - either Dutch oven or spaghetti-sized. (I recommend NOT using iron for the beef, the reason being that at the end you'll have to lift it and pour out the drippings. If you have wrists of steel, go for it. Consider it part of your weightlifting regimen. :) Iron makes tastier simmers, anyway.)

If your beef is frozen start defrosting it in a bowl of warm water.

Melt the ghee for each recipe in the corresponding pan at medium-low temperature. Chop or slice the onion for the stew. Chop the onion for the simmer. Put into the corresponding pot. Set your timer for 15 minutes, minimum, cover the pots and stir occasionally. The longer the simmer on the onion, the sweeter it gets and the less structured. If you like nice solid onions, continue the recipe at 15 minutes. Everyone else, turn the heat down a bit and keep simmering.

Okay, so you're waiting now. If you're like me, you stop for a bit to blog or procrastinate. So here we are.

I keep hearing that onion is good for both digestive and immune systems if simmered between 25 and 35 minutes in ghee. I also read a post on Dr. Mercola's page recently where, below all the usual hype he revealed that there had been some study somewhere that showed that onions eaten regularly help boost calcium absorption. (No word on how to cook them, or why onions do that, or if the onion eaters were also doing weight-bearing exercise, eating well otherwise, standing on their heads chanting a sea chanty take with a grain of salt! So to speak. Sorry for the pun.)

Back to the recipe.

Once you've safely turned down your onion simmers, crush your garlic into each pot, then add the salt. Add the herbs and any previously stored drippings to the soup pot. Keep both on the lowest temperature. No worries about overcooking - there's no rush. Just keep it low. Turn it off and keep covered if you're concerned about burning. Let it steep. 

If you have time, pots and space, bring your quart of broth to a boil, then turn it down to simmer. I often don't have any of those three things so I add it cold, but I don't think that's necessarily the best way to do it. 

Get out a big bowl, fill it with filtered water and a teaspoon of vinegar or 2 teaspoons sea salt and prepare your greens. Different greens need different prep - kale gets the ribs stripped clean away, mustard gets some of the ribs stripped. Dandelion ribs are fine. So are chard. Go for it. Have fun. Put them to soak in the bowl. The salt or vinegar will encourage any freeloaders to jump ship. Set aside ribs for another broth at another time if you wish.

Chop the harder veggies first. I like carrots either in small dices or half-rounds, roots like turnip or rutabaga in dices, and celery in slices but there are no rules. Keep the pieces to a small bite size and try to make them more or less the same size with the harder vegetables smaller or added earlier. One exception to this rule is mushrooms. I like to add them early, sliced or coarsely chopped, since they are twice as amazing when they've absorbed the herb-scented ghee before the broth.

So you should be nearly done chopping, slicing and dicing by now. Your timer may have gone off, or you may be like me right now and have let the onion mixtures steep for a while in the ghee. Get the temperature of the skillet or round belly pot up a bit, then add the beef. Chop it up with a fork for a bit, then add the lemon juice - it breaks down the fat in the meat so that it starts to break up a bit. Add the chopped gizzards if you are using them. Then add the broth and blend well. Cover and simmer on low, stirring occasionally until done - about 10 minutes. Be careful once you add the meat not to overcook. Even the fattiest pastured meats cook much quicker and drier than the feedlot stuff. If you got good, clean, grass-fed meat it should be fine with a bit of pink. If you don't have that option, cook it until the pink is gone. Turn it off and set aside.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch...

Bring the heat back to a cooking temperature on your stew pot. Heft up that pot of meat and pour the drippings into the onion/garlic/herb mixture. Add the mushrooms. Stir well and allow them to absorb the niceness in the pot. Yum. Then add the hard veggies - carrots, roots, cabbage. Follow with celery, zucchini, string beans and other medium-hard vegetables. Stir and coat. Put the top back on. Chop the well-washed greens to a nice bite-size and add them on top of the rest of the mixture. They should just about fill the Dutch oven. It will look like they're taking over. Don't worry. They shrink. Stir to coat and put the top back on for about 5 minutes or until the greens look a bit wilty. (At this point either add your soft vegetables or put them on to steam.) Add the broth. Bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer. Simmer well for about 15-25 minutes depending on how long you've simmered previously. Take your steamed soft veggies - asparagus, peas, pea greens, etc - and add before serving.

A nice way to re-make the stew in its meaty hearty version is to take a dollop of the meat and a nice portion of the stew in a third pot (this is assuming that it's the next day or the day after and you're pulling out a nice instantaneous lunch that you can get from fridge to table in - get this - FIVE MINUTES, yes indeedy,) and heat them up together so that they blend nicely. If you do eat starches you can pour the mixture over rice, but if you're a hard-core GAPS follower, eat it as is topped with sauerkraut or sour cream.

Enjoy. I'm going to go chop vegetables now. :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Latkes redux

This is a reference to the Chanukah GAPS Latkes, which are here. I just made them again tonight, this time adjusting the egg and coconut flour. They were just about perfect with 5 eggs and 4 1/2 tablespoons of coconut flour. I think they could take even more coconut flour, but this way the flour didn't overpower the taste of the roots, which was nice.

Thoughts on meat and GAPS

I have about five minutes to type this...but it was one of those things I know that I will forget as soon as I move on with our incredibly busy day, so I'm flipping open the computer and getting it down quickly.

If you're a vegetarian, be forewarned. I'm about to go into meat eating in detail.

I read all the time about how GAPS seems so meat-centric. It's actually not. When I'm doing it right, and everything feels good, our version of GAPS is mostly vegetables, then whole fats, then bone broth. When we're a bit under the weather it's more bone broth than vegetables. The fats are more important than the meat itself, and we eat a minimum of meat after 3pm. I find, at least for me, that I don't digest meat well after 3, although I do okay with tallow, schmaltz, olive oil or ghee until pretty late. I have a large portion of some kind of protein - eggs for breakfast, some kind of meat for lunch - before 3. For us dinner is a big bowl of some kind of vegetable stew in bone broth and those who partake get some rice or kasha that has been well pre-soaked or fermented before cooking in yet more broth and fat. Each meal has a big dollop of some kind of ferment, either vegetable or coconut milk.

Some months ago I read an interesting bit - I forget where now. It may have been in the Wise Traditions magazine. Anyway, it talked about how primates, when given meat to eat would usually discard much of the muscle fiber in favor of the fat.

I don't think that human beings were meant to eat big slabs of boneless, skinless, fatless meat. On the other hand, a chicken leg, which has a decent amount of fatty meat with gristle and other stuff on it makes an awful lot of sense.

On that note, I have to get Little Moo to her 2:30 playdate and lunch is sitting on the table still uneaten while she delves into the deeper points of her latest pretend universe...

The Cat Shepherd goes into action. More later.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I've landed in an alternate universe if I reach the end of the day without chopping at least one onion...

A plan for more broth, slightly improvised.

I don't have time to make both a broth and a beef stew, and we're a bit low on stuff, so I'm going to make a cross between the two. Here's the plan:

I have 2 bags of those lovely little meaty soup bones, but no knuckle bones. (They're actually tastier to me, at least, than oxtail, which are about three times the price, if not more...)
I have some chicken broth - just a half a jar.
I'm low on carrots and celery, but have some nice big onions and a bunch of kale ribs saved over from the last 2 bunches.
I have a big bunch of chard and (surprise!) a bag of mushrooms (I don't remember getting those!).

Now it's just a matter of deciding whether or not to include the kale ribs or to make a separate kale broth...Either way, I'll make a nice broth with a bit of carrot, celery and I'll saute the onions instead of putting in a raw one. I'll put in a decent amount of garlic, add ghee and maybe a bit of gelatin for richness to make up for the lack of a knucklebone.

I think I'll make a chard, onion and mushroom saute on the side instead of putting them in the pot, and I'll brown the beef, do the whole thing in the slow cooker and fish out the beef bones either before bed or first thing, and take off the meat, then replace the bones and maybe add some roast drippings.

Or maybe tomorrow I can take that broth and start a stew then with veggies and some ground beef...? When that will happen is beyond me, but I can dream. :)

This is what I do to make a broth when we're starting to be low on things.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Therapeutic Vegetable Curry Soup

I don't travel well, even in the best of situations. I always have to take over our host's kitchen. I've noticed in various parts of Bosnyphlwash that the water is especially toxic to me. Then it's the additional expense and effort of getting, drinking and cooking with all bottled water...which bugs me, because I just  hate how harmful all that plastic is to people's bodies and to the environment.

Speaking of which...oh, of course. Now I know what I'll do next time!

This time, when we went away to visit family in upstate New York, it was deepest, snowiest winter, and hardly a vegetable in sight, much less an organic one. The ones we did get were shipped from so far away that they were limp and barely fresh. A grocer proudly led me to what he called "organic chicken," labeled clearly "all-natural." He was surprised when I told him that the label actually had to say "organic" on it for the meat to actually be guaranteed to conform to those standards. I couldn't get giblets. All of the available beef was from feedlot cows.

I guiltily drank bottled water for the first day or two, then stopped when I thought about all those bottles and that we didn't have recycling in our hotel. The rashes started immediately after. Later I was surrounded by cat hair and particularly heavy dust. I found myself relying on nuts (!) for breakfast and travel food. I had wind burn. By the time I came home, it was as if I wore a mask of cracking, bleeding skin on my face with hives, bumps, rashes and you name it, from the top of my head down to my belly. One of my eyes had started to swell shut on the plane home. Benadryl and cortisone made absolutely no dent in my discomfort.

Just like the good old days. You'd think I had never been on the GAPS Diet. The only thing that saved it from getting any worse was the addition of curcumin supplements that I found at a health food store there. I was craving turmeric.

Luckily I knew just what to do. I had a container of frozen chicken broth in the freezer, waiting for us when we got back. Our family downed that in about a day. We stopped out for supplies on our way back from the airport and I immediately put on another batch of broth, cooked a batch of split chicken legs, and started chopping vegetables.

I had a feeling that the best edible salve for my skin would be something with a strong curry - something with warming spices and a big shot of turmeric. I've read that eaten turmeric is too easily digested by the stomach to work therapeutically, but in my experience it actually works best in collaboration with cumin, mustard seed and coriander powder, and ingested as part of a series of fairly heavy meals eaten over a week or so with a decent amount of fat. I have taken the pills - which are pretty large doses of curcumin - without the other spices and noticed less difference.

It was to be a supper meal, so I left off the big hunks of meat and decided to add the chicken meat after the fact the next day.

This is possibly the best curried soup I've ever come up with. I think that the drippings made it so. Because we'd been so long without fresh veggies I splurged and got a few things that weren't in season. Also, the white and crimini mushrooms smelled funny so I got shiitake mushrooms and just settled on having fewer - they were delicious.

Finally, there is no ginger in this recipe because I'm allergic to it, but if you can tolerate it, and it does nice things for you, grate some into the spice mixture at the beginning.

Best Therapeutic Vegetable Curry Soup


1 ginormous onion or 2 small ones, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons ghee
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 large clove garlic
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
drippings from the last roast (I used chicken, but other meats would be fine, too - if you don't have any drippings try adding extra fat and a teaspoon full of Bernard Jensen's gelatin for similar effect.)
about 6 sliced mushrooms (I used shiitake, but any kind will do)

1 carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 halved and sliced zucchini
1 bunch of chard, chopped, or another type of hard winter greens
1/2 a package of frozen organic peas

approximately 1 quart chicken broth

Heat up the broth. Melt the ghee in a separate soup pot on medium heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds. Right after you hear the first pop turn the heat down and add the onions. Saute 15 minutes or more until soft and aromatic. Add garlic, turmeric, coriander, sea salt and drippings. Cook until aromatic. Add the mushrooms and mix them in so that they absorb the fat a bit. Then add the carrots, celery and zucchini. When they're well blended, add the peas and cover for a few minutes to fully defrost them. Finally, add the greens and allow to saute for moment or two. Cover with the broth. I wanted a thicker broth, so I eyeballed it, but it would be good as a thinner soup, too.

Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. It will be a nice greenish gold with lovely orange bits and peas all floating around. Serve in bowls or mugs. For a nice kick, top with chopped fermented garlic cloves.

If you partake of grains at all, it's a good topping for a nice bowl of rice or quinoa.

After eating this stuff about twice or three times daily for the past day, my skin is nearly normal again! Yay!

Quick kale broth/tea

On those days when you've run out of bone broth and suddenly need a cup, try this. It's not nearly as good, but will do in a pinch, also good for getting your greens in...

Quick Kale Broth


2 tablespoons ghee
(or 1 tb ghee and one tb olive oil)
(or 1 tb ghee and the drippings from a batch of roasted chicken or beef)
1 heaping teaspoon Bernard Jensen beef gelatin
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves
ribs from at least 1 bunch of kale (or any hard greens)
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
1 small to medium onion

Warm the fat in a smallish stock pot (the size for spaghetti or a Dutch oven sort of size rather than the giant thing for beef broth). Chop the onion and add it to the pan. Gently saute it for about 15 minutes. At about 12 or 13 minutes crush the garlic and add that. Coarsely chop the carrot, celery, and add it to the pan, coat well with the ghee/onion/garlic mixture. Add the kale ribs. Pour in enough water to make a pot of broth. Bring to a boil, add the gelatin and mix well, then simmer about 30-45 minutes.

Remove the kale ribs and serve with the vegetables.

This also does well as a base for soups, although there's less bone-happy goodness in it.