Friday, February 27

The Shattering of the Ball Jars

Well, eight weeks into GAPS and I still don't have spare time to do anything else!  I should have known better.  I did, however, purchase a starter online to try making sour cream (creme fraiche) over the weekend.  I'm going to try introducing dairy.  I have been praying for enough healing to have taken place that I'll be able to tolerate it.  We'll see what happens.

I love collecting old jars.  I love the colors, I love the old style of writing, I love the history behind them, and it reminds me of just how much work women did to preserve food and provide for their families.  While these jars at one time functioned as a mundane, utilitarian vessel for food, now they are being used in all sorts of creative situations.  Personally, I usually use my antique canning jars to hold flowers, both fresh and dried.  A pretty ribbon around the top makes them look so cute!  I do, however, purchase new jars for kitchen and food storage, which leads me to the topic of this post.

A while back, I mentioned that I kept finding shattered Ball jars in my upright freezer when I was getting stock out.  I ended up with somewhere around a dozen shattered jars before I just gave up and ordered plastic deli containers specifically made for freezing.  I didn't want to use plastic, but I was left with no other option.  I was so confused about why my jars were breaking--I'd seen so many blogs from others who talked about freezing their broth in glass jars--that I took to scouring the internet for explanations and others who had experienced the same thing.  And that's exactly what I found.

Turns out, many others had made the same mistakes as me.  Someone, in one blog's comments, politely pointed out that the regular mouth jars seem to be most prone to breaking, but that NONE of the quart Ball jars are freezer safe.  Sure enough, I went into the pantry and pulled down an old Ball jar box that I had kept, and it did state that the quart jars (all types) are not freezer safe.

Hmm.

Why on earth not??  You mean in all of our technology, we cannot engineer a freezer-safe glass canning jar?  On GAPS, broths are too valuable to lose to broken jars, and I just can't chance drinking broth and finding a shard of glass when I try to swallow.  Glass canning jars can withstand extremely high temperatures when canning, but they apparently become too brittle when frozen.  Turns out, the shape of the jar might have everything to do with it.

Anyone who knows about jars (which is probably a group of about ten people on Earth and includes me) will understand that the shoulders of the jars are likely the culprit.  Shoulders of jars are the curved or sloped shape of the top of the jar, at the spot where the jar opening narrows to accommodate the size of the lid. 

Many folks are of the opinion that the liquid, which expands when it freezes, pushes against the curves of the top of the jar, creating too much pressure and not enough expansion room, thereby causing the liquid to push against the weakest part of the jars--the shoulders.  There might be less chance of that happening with wide-mouth jars due to a less-pronounced shoulder, but I can say from experience that both the regular-mouth and wide-mouth jars will shatter.  The only jars that are freezer-safe, according to the Ball jar box, are the jars with straight sides, like the jelly jars and half pint wide mouth jars.
No shoulders on this jar!
Don't they know how much room all of those wide-mouth half pint jars would take up in my freezer??
You guys.  I made this picture.  It took for-e-ver.  And it's not even good, because I'm novice at best with Photoshop and had to copy and paste every...single...little...jar into the rows.  And the rows are all crooked, because the program froze on me halfway through the first attempt and I lost the file, so I had to start alllll over again.  And then it was past my bedtime and I didn't care if the rows were straight.  But it's a great illustration of how many jars it would take to fill up my freezer shelf with half-pints of broth, if I actually knew how many jars it would really take. 
Lesson learned: always be sure to check the box of glass jars for confirmation of being freezer safe!  Oh well.  Hopefully this will help you to not make the same mistake I made.  Like I said, I finally settled on freezer-specific quart containers for my broth, and they are doing a great job so far.  The sad part is thinking about how many dozen Ball jars I purchased in anticipation of starting GAPS.  Frowny face.  On the upside, I love using Ball jars for all sorts of other storage, so I'm sure I'll find a use for at least some of them.  Plus, I guess I'm ready to try canning when I get a gas stove! 

Sunday, February 8

GAPS Stage 6 Summary, And GAPS Peanut Butter Cookies

Goodbye, Intro!!   I've been waiting a loooong time to say that. 

I've decided that it's time to move us to the full GAPS diet now.  I really haven't had problems with introducing anything in Stage 6, so I said to myself, 'Self, it's time to move on!'  I'm hoping that this diet becomes less labor-intensive now.  I simply can't keep up this pace of constant food prep, storing, and freezing.  We have had no life on the weekends, as I've been stuck in the kitchen making food and stocks to prepare for the upcoming workweek.  I have come to the conclusion that once my intolerances are gone, I will start adding foods in that aren't GAPS-legal, and move away from the diet somewhat.  However, I believe that the diet is healthy for us, so I don't want to completely abandon it--I just need a break, and I miss regular things like potatoes.  Hubby and I are happy with our results to this point, although my results are far less measurable than his.  We also decided that this is a great way to cleanse/purge the body of things that are bad for us, so we've decided to do this every January, to restore our bodies after the binges of the holiday season.

My summary of Stage 6, and the Intro Diet as a whole:

What I've Learned:
I've learned that willpower plays a huge role in this diet.  Having determination and a goal helps greatly with the willpower (my goal was to heal my food intolerances).  It's really hard to not go out to eat, and to know that I can't have things I like, but to me, the probable end result makes everything I've had to give up seem worth it.  I have realized just how much we socialize over food, and I've missed that, because it's just been easier to navigate this diet by staying home and not even being tempted.  My husband has gone out for lunch at work a few times, and just ate salad (which was ahead of where he was in the Intro, but necessary to do).  I continue to hope and wait for the day that I can eat an egg and cheese omelet or join others for an ice cream cone again.  I'll continue to give occasional updates on our progress, and will rejoice in the day when I can say that dairy and eggs are no longer my enemies!


Tips for the Intro Diet:
If you plan to start this diet, prep for it well ahead of time.  Give yourself a month to start stocking up the freezer with broth and soup veggies.  Mentally prepare yourself for a lot of work in the kitchen, and enlist help as needed from the family.  Build a support system, because it will be hard, and if you're a Christian, remember this: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13)! Be very committed to sticking to a strict diet and not allowing cheating, especially with kids (get rid of tempting food if you think it'll be a problem).  Eating something that is GAPS-legal but only allowed on a stage ahead of where you currently are is one thing; eating something GAPS-illegal is very different, and could cause significant setbacks, depending on your situation.  Be sure to read through the GAPS diet book by Natasha Campbell-McBride, and consider signing up for the GAPS support group on Yahoo, as well as the group on Facebook.  A really good site for frequently asked questions and advice is badenlashkov.com.  You can look up so many topics on that site!  I also purchased an e-book that I had printed at Staples called What Can I Eat Now? 30 Days of recipes and tips for the GAPS™ Intro Diet, by Health, Home and Happiness.  Finally, look over the GAPS faq page located at GAPS.me.  

All that being said, it does get easier as you get farther into the Intro.  In fact, by Stage 6, you will begin to introduce more comforting foods, like increasing your honey amounts and sweet fruits.  By then, you'll be so glad to have this variety!  Every food introduced tastes really good.  You'll have developed a new-found respect for foods that you probably didn't give much thought to before the diet. :)  And with that, I give you a cookie recipe for you to enjoy!  I don't know why, but these cookies really lifted my spirits once I was able to figure out the recipe.  The ingredients aren't anything that we hadn't already been eating, but just knowing that these are cookies makes all of the difference!

GAPS-Legal Peanut Butter Cookies!! (DF, CF, GF, Egg-Free, Vegetarian, Tasty!) 
Ingredients:
1 C all-natural peanut butter (make your own, or buy from the store--nothing but peanuts and salt)
1/2 C raw honey
2 TBSP homemade vanilla
2 TBSP flax meal dissolved in 6 TBSP water, allowed to sit and gel for 10 minutes (or two eggs)

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth.  Drop by rounded teaspoon onto a parchment-paper lined cookie pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, watching carefully to prevent burning.  Allow to sit on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.  They will be slightly gooey in the middle.  Best eaten warm! Makes about 20 cookies.  GAPS Stage 6 legal.

Sunday, February 1

GAPS Stage 5 Summary

Ugh, I've struggled this week!  It seems that I have had little time or energy to try and get ahead during the weeknights.  I have been moderately successful with keeping up and getting ahead up to this point.  During Stage 5, we are expected to introduce applesauce, raw veggies, and some fruit juices.  I did get applesauce made, but didn't have time until the end of the week to make a salad and more juice.  I also need to make some more broth, because my Ball jars keep shattering in the freezer (a separate post to come on that topic). I introduced crispy bacon during this stage, and I made a BLT salad this weekend for dinner.  I still cannot tolerate eggs--when am I going to start seeing healing??  I've read other blogs by people who've said that their food intolerances were gone by the fourth or sixth week, and that's what I was hoping for!  I'll just keep going until I see those results in myself, but I'm growing impatient.

Stage 5 Summary:
One more stage to go before the full diet!  That will be nice.  It'll also be nice to maybe have time to write about things besides GAPS for a change.  This diet takes up all of my time, and I've missed being able to do other things.  I'm hoping that gets better after the intro.  I've had some annoying side effects so far, but nothing too bad.  I'm pretty sure that I've experienced bouts of ketosis (not eating enough carbohydrates) and have really struggled with fatigue.  I find that I'm not a big fan of plain squash, which has plenty of carbohydrates--I grew up eating it mashed with butter and brown sugar, and I find that it REALLY needs those components to make it tasty for me.  I've combated it by introducing apples and almonds early, and it seemed to work fairly well to bring me out of those tired spells.  I've also had some insomnia, headaches, and strong comfort food cravings.  But thankfully, those are the worst side effects that I've experienced, and I haven't had any more setbacks as far as reactions to food.

Note:  I really think I should get an award of some sort for going for an entire month (and counting) without chocolate of any sort.

We are enjoying still more variety in our meals.  In searching for recipes to add to our meal repertoire, I came across a recipe for a vegetarian tomato and basil casserole.  It sounded intriguing, so I tweaked it to our tastes, added some meat, and voila!  We really liked this!  This would be a good, healthy, and relatively low-cal meal for anyone, not just GAPS folks.  It satisfies a craving for pasta, and surprisingly, the spaghetti squash does not taste like squash--it tastes like slightly crunchy spaghetti!  Try it; I think you'll like it!

Recipe for GAPS-friendly Spaghetti Squash Casserole (GF, optional DF)


Ingredients:

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic, grated
2-3 TBSP cold-pressed olive oil
2 TBSP butter or ghee (optional if dairy-free)
15-20 leaves fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 lb. hamburger, cooked
Salt & pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese (optional if dairy-free)

Directions:
Cook spaghetti squash by cutting it in half lengthwise and placing cut sides down in a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Roast at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool (if possible, do this early in the day and let it rest until meal time).  It needs to be cool enough to hold.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Pour olive oil into the bottom of a 9 x 9 baking dish or 3-quart casserole dish.  Place tomatoes and garlic in the baking dish, toss to coat in oil and distribute garlic.  Roast for 10 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to burst. 
Meanwhile, if your hamburger is not already cooked, brown it (but do not burn or create dark saute marks!) your hamburger in a skillet.  Chop your basil and scrape out the spaghetti by running a fork from side to side, not top to bottom, of the squash.  You’ll get longer strands doing it side to side. 
Take the tomatoes and garlic out of the oven, and carefully mash them with a fork.  Mix in the hamburger, basil, and spaghetti squash, and carefully toss all to combine.  Place back in the oven to warm through, 5-10 minutes.  Watch carefully to prevent the squash from burning. 
*Serves 4.  GAPS Stage 5/6 or full GAPS.

Saturday, January 24

GAPS Stage 4 Summary

Stage 4!  Two weeks in, and we moved all the way through to Stage 4.  It feels good to have made it this far!  We're enjoying even more of a range of foods.  The other night, I made baked salmon with roasted asparagus, both drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.  Mighty tasty!  We both greatly enjoyed that meal.  In fact, hubby said it needed to be a once-a-week meal!  If it's hubby approved, then you know it's good.
I tried out my juicer!  Holy cow, does that thing work.  This is my first experience with any juicing, but I'm actually kind of excited to have purchased it now!  I admit that I really don't know what I'm doing, but I made a pint jar full of carrot juice, and honestly, it was fun!  It has an incredible motor on it--I put the carrots in, turned it on, and whirrrrrr, buzzzz, the carrots were gone and juice was running!  I can't wait to try other things in there.  I was tempted to go root around the fridge and just see what else I could find to put through it, but I didn't.  I'm really looking forward to introducing fresh orange juice in the mornings (which I've missed soooo much) and making my own concoctions for beverages.  Apple juice will be especially good, I'm sure!  I'm not sure about whether to keep the pulp or not, but there are some recipes in the GAPS book that call for pulp.  I'll have to investigate further.  If you're interested, it's a Hamilton Beach 67601A Big Mouth Juicer.


I'm still having soup for my lunch every day.  I'm doing my best to make sure I drink all of the broth with the soup, but I think I need to be drinking more broth.  If I just do an 8 oz. cup with each meal, and plug my nose and chug it, I might be okay.  For some reason, I can't stand to just drink the broth on its own--if it's in soup, no problem.  I just don't find it appealing as a beverage AT ALL.  I just need to find a way around that.


I found that three (and later, two more) jars of broth cracked in the freezer!  I didn't know that they would do that.  Hubby thinks I filled the jars too full, and they expanded too much when they froze.  I think he's right.  Considering how stout Ball jars are, it was a big surprise when I pulled these out.  Needless to say, I didn't keep the jars or the broth, in case there were some little shards that had become embedded in the frozen liquid.  Not good to find in soups!


However, soup is always improved with crackers!  I mentioned in my Stage 3 summary that I had a cracker recipe that I was going to share.  I found the original recipe on Pinterest, but altered it to omit the eggs because it seems that I have a sensitivity to eggs, too.  Here's the recipe:

Almond Crackers (original recipe can be found here)
2 C almond meal/flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 large egg (or sub flax meal, like I did--see flax meal package for egg substitution directions)
1 TBSP olive oil
(Optional) Extra sea salt, for sprinkling on top of crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour and salt in bowl.  If using flax meal, prepare that and set aside to soak according to package directions.  Combine egg (or flax mix) and olive oil with dry ingredients to form a ball--dough should hold together and not be crumbly.  Divide the mixture into two balls, and place one ball on a Silpat mat or parchment paper.  Place a second piece of parchment on top of dough, and roll to very thin (the thinner, the crunchier).  Score crackers into squares with a knife or pizza cutter, and move baking mat to a cookie sheet, and sprinkle with extra sea salt.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until crackers start to brown lightly around the edges.  Allow to cool before breaking apart.  Store in a glass jar or airtight container.

Summary of Stage 4:
Continues to get easier.  I really like being able to add almond meal to the ingredient list.  I also like roasting meats and having that other option--boiled meats get so old!  Dinners now are consisting of roasted meats and roasted or boiled veggies, and either an addition of cold-pressed olive oil or coconut oil.   I'm hoping that my insides are very happy with me!  We ended up staying on Stage 4 longer than anticipated not because of any setbacks, but rather because I used all of my grocery money buying food for Stage 3, and had to wait until we got paid again to get groceries for Stages 5 & 6.  I feel that we spend as much on groceries now as we did on groceries and eating out before, so that's probably a wash in cost.  However, our electric bill came, and it was higher than normal, and we wonder if it's because of how much we're using the stove now.  On the weekends, it's in constant use, especially if I'm making bone broth.  I think our water bill will be higher too, because I'm constantly washing dishes and running the dishwasher.  Just another expense, but if it's really helping, it will be worth it!

Wednesday, January 21

Scripture for GAPS Encouragement

Because this diet is a bit of a struggle to get through, at least during the Intro Stages, someone suggested to me to find Scripture verses to think about and meditate on during the frustrating days-- when things don't go right, food doesn't taste good, and I just want to quit.  I thought I'd share them with you, and hope that they speak to you and give you encouragement in whatever you're trying to get through!
*All photos taken at the Creation Museum gardens, Burlington, KY*

Romans 12:1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Psalm 150:1-2: 
Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse.  Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.

Colossians 3:17: 
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Joshua 1:9: 
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Proverbs 3:5-8: 
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.


Isaiah 40:29-31:
He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.  Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

Philippians 4:13: 
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Sunday, January 18

GAPS, Stage 3 Summary

We entered into Stage 3 around seven days into our diet.  It was a nice change--Stage 3 of GAPS brings some new flavors to the equation, which is wonderful.  Made some interesting discoveries here, such as:

Avocado--I like avocado!  I have never had it before.  If you haven't either, it has a creamy texture, kind of like smooth mashed potatoes.  It has a lingering butter aftertaste.  Definitely a pleasant surprise!  I don't like how quickly they go bad, though, and if I only eat half of one, the other half usually goes to waste.  I did find a suggestion online that someone put a slice of onion in the same container as some uneaten peeled avocado, and it supposedly kept the rest of the avocado from going bad.  I'll have to try it.

GAPS pancakes--these were a bit dry, but better than nothing.  I think I might tweak the recipe a bit, and will probably make them completely differently once fruit is involved (I'm thinking banana).

Scrambled eggs--I was so excited to add these.  I've been wanting scrambled eggs so badly, so I was very disappointed to have nausea a few hours after I ate the eggs.  I must have a sensitivity to egg protein as well as a dairy issue, but that's how it goes, I guess.  Thinking that maybe something just didn't sit right, I tried again a few days later.  While I didn't feel bad a few hours after I ate them that time, I did find myself fairly nauseous again the next morning when I woke up.  I'll have to remove them and wait a few weeks, then try to introduce them again.  Kind of threw a wrench into things. 

Sauerkraut--I was happy to have a successful batch of sauerkraut!  I got the juice out of the first ferment, and had instructions on how to re-ferment to get more juice out of the cabbage, which I did.  However, after that second brine, I found the sauerkraut too salty to eat, so I'll be starting over to make a fresh batch for eating.  We have plenty of juice right now!

Nut butters--I can't tell you how excited I was to add nut butters to the food list!  The thing is, I'm short on time as it is--when would I find time to make my own peanut butter?  So when I went to the grocery store, I checked out all of the peanut butter in the aisle, and what did I find?  Smucker's natural creamy peanut butter, with the only ingredients listed being peanuts and less than 1% salt.  I bought two jars!  Hey, I have to save time where I can, plus it's good!  It actually needs to be refrigerated once it's opened.  I didn't buy any almond butter, and I might attempt to make that one day myself, but for now, jarred peanut butter has been a blessing.

Purchased a juicer--what a great contraption!  It seems to have an incredible motor in it.  It made carrots disappear faster than a rabbit!  I made a small jar of carrot juice with it so far, and look forward to the option of having juices with breakfast soon.

I have a confession: I made crackers to go with my soups.  I borrowed a little from Stage 4 and made almond meal crackers for soups--a Godsend!  They're quite tasty.  I'll try to post the recipe in my Stage 4 summary.

Summary: Despite being able to vary the foods we're eating now, I'm finding it harder as the time goes by to fight cravings, not for sweet foods or bread, but for comfort foods.  It seems like my cravings for things I can't have are increasing, and I don't know if that's normal or not--I haven't found any answers online.  At times I'm fixated on things I would rather have, but can't.  Little Caesar's commercials do not help at all, and it seems like they are on constantly (I'm guessing in preparation for the upcoming Super Bowl).  I think I'm starting to get my appetite back now that I don't have to eat just soup, so that's a plus.  I have noticed that I tend to be hungrier during the day when I'm working.  I think it's stress-related.  However, I'm enjoying not feeling bloated and uncomfortable after eating meals, which happened quite frequently before we started.  That's certainly an improvement!  It is getting easier to follow this plan, though.  I stand by the first two stages being the hardest, and if you can make it through those, you can make it through Intro!

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