Friday, December 4, 2009

Kicking and Screaming

Recipe: Morning Meat Soup

I find it much easier to get to the point of organizing around my children’s health than my own. The responsibility is so clear and direct, the intention and willingness rise of their own accord in mysterious ways. I’m not professing to be a perfect parent by any means, but once something is clear, I make effort in the direction of health, be that physical, mental or emotional.

For myself, the water is not so clear. It takes me a lot more convincing. And once convinced, I find often I either back in, or I actually have to be knocked to my knees to make the change.

I had a holistic health care professional get pretty fiercely in my face at one point and tell me “Type O blood types don’t like to be told what to do!” and I should really make the changes she was recommending.

She was right. I didn’t like being told what to do one little bit. In fact, I resented her attitude for weeks.

I did go off gluten, though. As she and her partner pointed out, I was already cooking that way for the kids, it wasn’t a big stretch to just start doing it for the whole family.

It was a small concession to the list of changes they were recommending I make. Eliminate grains entirely? She suggested I eat soup with meat in it for breakfast! What a crackpot.

Eliminating the gluten was a digestive revelation. Oh, wait, I’d had that before when I’d gone on the elimination diet when my youngest was breastfeeding. I’d quickly decided it was unimportant in the entire scheme of things. Some things. I’m not sure which things right now, but something convinced me it was okay to ignore my symptoms.

I coasted on the gluten free life for a while. I went to India for a two week visit and decided I wouldn’t burden the family I was staying with by telling them I couldn’t eat it. My ankles swelled painfully and didn’t recede until I arrived back in the US.

I got it, this was a serious health issue.

As was the constant fatigue I still experienced. I couldn’t blame it on being an old mom to young kids anymore - I’d stopped breastfeeding and they were mostly sleeping through the nights. Sure, adrenaline could get me through many of the major things I needed to do, but I dragged myself out of bed in the mornings and was grumpy with my kids and husband. A lot. More than I still like to admit to myself. My labido was practically non-existent. I wasn’t really much fun to be around. Especially for myself.

Dr Robbie, as we call him, was our D.O. Bless him, he took up the detective work. Blood panels, questionaires, supplements tried.... Thyroid, DHEA, adrenals - all insufficient. Short term memory and name recall practically non-existent, brain fog, floaters. A controversial Lyme test positive, ....

He wanted to build me up. If we decided to treat the Lyme, he wanted me in the best health possible, my immune system strong, anything out of order addressed. Whatever could not be addressed by the general and specific health improvements he asked me to work on would be how the Lyme was manifesting.

I could go with that. He wasn’t asking me to slam myself with antibiotics for six months to a year, he was asking me to get healthier, build up my immune system. I’d have time to think about whether I even believed in this Lyme thing.

The idea of feeling better was really attractive at that point. I can’t begin to describe how good feeling better was sounding.

Supplements, supplements, more sleep, off coffee and tea (for the fifth or sixth time in my life - when will I get the message?), more supplements, .... I was better, but still tired. Foggy. My kids still finished most of my sentences for me.

Six months into this treatment he asked my how my belly felt. I told him it was always a little tender. He palpated.

Asked me to go on a candida diet.

I was on my knees.

Not satisfied with the standard candida diet he suggested, I did research. If these little yeasties eat carbs, why did the standard diet have rice and other grains in it? Made no sense. If I was going to do something this radical, I was going to do it right, god damn it.

I went on an extremely low carb regimen. No grains. No potatoes. No fruit. No brewed, yeasted or mold foods. No sugars, even natural ones. Not even any starchy veggies, like carrots or beets. One website that seemed pretty on track for candida suggested high doses of coconut oil, garlic, onions, and Pau D’arco tea. I went for it.

I thought my older boy’s diet was restrictive! Sheesh.

And, after about a week of feeling like a truck had run over me (from die off, I was told), and learning that epsom salt baths are a new necessity in my life for detoxing the dying candida, I was suddenly able to get out of bed in the morning without thinking twice. Get through the afternoon steadily and happily. I didn’t have a ton of energy, but it was even and I felt awake.

Being the avid reader that I’ve become around health issues, I started to research low carb living. And the science I’m reading is pointing to grains being unnatural in the human diet. All grains. Period. Even‘properly prepared’, meaning soaked, sprouted or fermented. Humans didn’t evolve eating them. The agricultural revolution only hit 10 or 12 thousand years ago, and I’ve read that it takes anywhere from 40 to 100 thousand years for a real genetic adaptation to occur to a change in the environment, such as a radical change in diet. Grains have allowed us to increase our population, but at a cost.

I highly recommend Nora Gedgaudas’ book ‘Primal Body, Primal Mind’ for a fairly dense, but quite readable explanation of this topic. She’s even got a quirky sense of humor wound through it to keep it interesting for non-geeks. (I’m claiming geekhood here.)

When I’m sure the candida is under control, I may reintroduce some of the brewed foods and fruit, but I can’t say I have any interest in the grains.

I’m still teaching classes that include how to use grains and other carbs. When I disclose that I “don’t eat the stuff, personally”, and explain why, I’m sometimes asked why I don’t cook that way for my family.

It’s a really good question. The first time I was asked, I responded that it was just too far outside the culture to demand. Just going gluten free, and half of us dairy free was pushing that envelope enough, I thought.

The question hovers in my mind. And my response has deepened.

I feel comfortable with the expectation that my children comply with adjustments due to overt food sensitivities or allergies. My eldest was not functioning at school. My youngest had severe gastric reactions. It’s my responsibility to take care of their health to the best of my ability in ways that we can live with.

Abandoning grains and other carbs entirely for a general, somewhat philosophical reason, in my view, requires a choice. And I’m exquisitely aware that if children are controlled too tightly in an area such as this, when they reach a more independent age - may choose to act out with a vengeance.

I couldn’t even force myself to make these changes until I was literally brought to my knees! And I had ample and repeated evidence that my health required it.

A woman I spoke with recently told me a story - her naturopath had encouraged her to remove gluten from her diet. She had for a while, and then gradually began to eat it again. When she went to see her naturopath again, she was asked ‘why?’

She and I looked at each other and laughed. Because it’s really hard! There’s a powerful cultural current that includes gluten as it's entire basis. ‘The Cradle of Civilization’ infers the rise of agriculture, and that’s usually thought of as wheat and rye, grains that were made into breads - the ‘Staff of Life’.

It’s just a lot easier to float downstream.

We’re starting to give my older boy the choice to break his particular regimen occasionally if he’s willing to take responsibility for the outcome. Meaning, if he gets too wild for the rest of the family to handle he either goes outside to run it off, or he goes to his room where he can make faces in the mirror in peace. (Our peace.)

We’re finding he generally makes intelligent choices. Tries small amounts of things. Really checks in with himself to see how much he wants something. Usually forgets about ‘treats’ we have stashed for him from special occasions.

I’ve introduced many general health changes into our home diet, but generally we eat in a fairly recognisable, whole foods form. My husband no longer looks at me suspiciously every time I open a conversation with “you know what I was reading today?” I may still tweak food preparation techniques to enhance digestibility, and I’ll always add new foods out of sheer boredom, but I’ve reached the edge of the fundamental changes I’ll ask my family to make. The rest needs to be by example, and they’ll follow, or not.

And sometimes my youngest will have some of my meat soup. For breakfast.

It’s a spiritual experience, that morning meat soup. Blissful surrender. To my personal reality.

Morning Meat Soup (or afternoon, or evening...)

This is probably one of the simplest and least specific recipes I’ll post. And one of the tastiest!

2 - 3 oz ground or chopped pastured meat of choice - beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, ... fresh or leftovers
1 Tbsp grass fed ghee, butter or coconut oil
1 - 2 cloves minced garlic
handful of chopped organic veggies of choice - greens, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, ...
3 - 4 oz bone broth of choice - preferably matching the type of meat in the soup
a splash more water if needed to bring to soup consistency
Himalayan pink or Celtic sea salt to taste
1 tsp - 3 Tbsp virgin coconut oil depending on your tolerance
1 Tbsp herbed pesto or pinch of other herb or spice mix of choice

Saute the meat in ghee or butter until barely cooked. Add the onion if using and saute a minute more. Add the vegetable, bone broth and dry spices or herbs if using. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook 2 - 3 minutes.

Add the coconut oil, fresh garlic and pesto, if using, to your eating bowl. Pour the soup in when ready. Add salt to taste, and pepper if you like. Stir and enjoy.

A note about the coconut oil, it’s a powerful anti fungal, antibacterial, antiviral and a few other things I may be forgetting. And if you’re not used to eating it, you need to build up to larger amounts slowly or you’ll feel pretty funky. Start at 1 tsp a day for 5 days, increase by 1 tsp for another five days, and so on. And no, it won’t make you gain weight! I’ve lost 20 pounds eating 6 Tbsp a day for the last 8 months. I'll write another time about the wonders of coconut oil....

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

If you teach me, I can do anything

Recipe: Black Bean Brownies

The question of ‘is it worth eating’ became more acute when I had children. It soon became clear that feeding them what most other kids were eating wasn’t working. They both spit up all over everything and everyone in geysers, had chronic diarrhea, my oldest couldn’t sit still for more than a minute at a time on a good day, my youngest had intermittent diaper rash that looked like a chemical burn.

Tired of the constant smell of baby vomit, I began to read. Visited holistic health practitioners. Looked everywhere I could think of in search of something to help.

Going on an elimination diet myself to see if I could alleviate my younger son’s reflux and diaper rash in reaction to my milk, I found the answer. Hallelujah! The reflux was caused by anything with flavor. Except salt. He was okay with salt. Otherwise what worked to calm down his belly was chicken, rice, avocado and romaine lettuce. The diaper rash was caused by gluten. That’s wheat, rye, barley, and some oats.

We tried taking gluten out of my older boy’s diet, too, and found his diarrhea cleared up. We were onto something.

The discovery I wasn’t so thrilled about, came when I challenged the elimination diet to see what my youngest reacted to.

I reacted to the dairy and gluten. Immediately.

I decided to ignore it.

As my son grew older and wasn’t depending on my milk for as much of his nourishment, I began to eat more freely.

Especially as it became evident that my oldest was in need of some intervention. I eat when under stress.

He was in kindergarten at our local Waldorf school, and his teacher said she wasn’t sure how he was going to manage first grade. He wasn’t required to sit at a desk in Kindergarten, so the fact that he couldn’t focus for longer than three seconds on a task wasn’t an issue. But first grade would be a different matter.

I did an internet search using his symptoms as the parameters, and got hit after hit on ADHD. I didn’t like it. My husband didn’t believe it. But we couldn’t ignore it.

I read everything I could. My instinct is to avoid drugs whenever possible, and totally value them when they become necessary. And I wasn’t convinced that ADHD automatically equalled ritalin, or whatever other pharmaceutical was being offered kids with this diagnosis. In fact, I wasn’t even planning to tell our doctor if I could avoid it. Besides which, after all the research I was doing it became clear that ‘ADHD’ was just an umbrella diagnosis that was used for so many different issues that people could have - sensory processing issues, lack of vestibular development, sleep apnea, food intolerances... the list went on.

Fish oil, probiotics, magnesium, homeopathics, and avoiding sugar were all pieces of advice that were easily implemented. And didn’t show much results. Some, but not very dramatic.

When I shared that a glass of juice sent him careening out of his dinner seat to do manic gyrations on the living room carpet, someone recommended the Feingold program. The juice contained something called salicylates (isn’t that aspirin?), and artificial additives were likely to be problematic for him as well if he was having trouble with this compound.

I was in despair. Frustrated. Tired. I’d break into tears at the drop of a hat, unrelated to the time of the month. Why couldn’t it be simple?

But, he was my son. I’d nursed him through dire emergencies before, and I could figure this one out, too.

If you teach me, I can do anything.

Within five days of starting the program, which is a strangely restrictive elimination diet avoiding, among other things, artificial additives, peppers, cucumbers, almonds, stone fruit and berries, apples, grapes, and all derivitives of the above, he...

Calmed Down.

We almost didn’t know what to do. We’d gotten so used to this constant chaotic kinetic force in our home, it was a little bewildering at first.

About a week later his teacher said ‘what did you do to this child?’. We’d told her we were changing his diet (again), but even with that information, she couldn’t believe the dramatic results.

It took about a month or more to completely integrate the new regimen into our household. I learned to read the ingredient lists on all foods I bought. I had to shop with the Feingold shopping guide listing researched products, because so many of the offending substances were listed simply as ‘spices’ or ‘flavors’, or were used to treat the packaging and not the food itself, and so were not listed at all. A fifteen minute shopping trip became a 45 minute to one hour ordeal, with a two and six year old in tow. I was staying up until one or two in the morning every night to research. Research. Research.

I was exhausted.

But, as mentioned before, if you teach me, I can do anything. And, cook that I am, I figured out how to make it taste good.

He’s a third grader now, still on the program, and doing extremely well. He still has a ton of energy, but he’s learning how to channel it productively. He’s bright, and very present. A frighteningly talented musician.

And a touch of paprika will still send him bouncing off the first and second walls he meets, and disturb his sleep for two nights.

He’s one of my heroes. His willingness to stick with the program, and learn about himself and how to manage his energy is humbling. I don’t have half the discipline he has in terms of my own eating restrictions (remember the ‘I ignored it’ comment above). I feel sad when I reflect that he has not had the carefree childhood I would have wished for him. I wish more was in my control. I wish I had more patience with his wild edges. But the fact is evident to both of us, we can only do our best. Perfection is a fantasy. And he knows I’m his ally.

And, he thanks me often for making it taste good.

I made these last weekend. I’d been hearing about them for a few months, and finally had to try them.

Black Bean Brownies
gluten, grain, dairy (if you use the coconut oil) and salicylate free. Not low carb.

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, or 1/4 cup raw cacao powder, or 1/3 cup toasted carob powder
1 cup butter (grass fed, if possible) or coconut oil
2 cups black beans, cooked until soft and drained (canned is fine, but sprouted before cooking is the best)
1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or other nut of choice (I used Brazil nuts)
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup or other sweetener of choice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease and line a 11"x18" pan with parchment paper. Or use greased muffin tins.

If using the chocolate, melt with the butter or oil in a double boiler. If using a powder 'chocolate' just melt the oil on the stove.

In food processor, puree the beans, vanilla, chocolate mix or powder, melted butter, salt and maple syrup, scraping down as necessary to make sure it’s all well mashed.

Whip the eggs until creamy.

Mix everything together.

Spread it in the pan or muffin tin (about 1.5 dozen muffins). Cook 30 - 40 minutes until set. Cool, then refrigerate. They will remain pretty soft until chilled.

Tell me if you make them!

My kids said the carob was their favorite, and the raw cacao their least. Tom liked the chocolate the best, and the raw cacao the least. (yes, I made all three)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Is it worth eating?

Recipe: Simple Bone Broth

Changes are often not invited. Sometimes I move into them with willingness and excitement, and sometimes I back into them, without conscious choosing.

And sometimes I’m kicking and screaming the whole way.

This culinary journey I’ve been on most of my adulthood has generally had a life of it’s own. I started out in my early twenties, with enough skills to make sandwiches and fry or scramble eggs served with toast. You know, really upscale stuff.

When my future first food employer asked me if I knew how to cook, I said, without hesitation ‘no, but if you teach me, I can do anything.’ He did a sharp double take, and told me to show up at 8 am the following morning. I didn’t know at the time that there was anything unusual about a statement like that, and I also didn’t know that I was starting a career. I was 21 years old, and I just needed a job.

Unconscious choices. Sometimes I think they’re Grace happening in the only way they can to those of us who tend to be headstrong and opinionated, and who think we’re in charge of our lives.

I was cooking to pay the bills while I was working on becoming an actress. A filmmaker. A writer. A meditation teacher. A healer. A wife. A mother.

Years later I found the common thread through it all had been - food. Creating it. Finding it’s dance. It’s life. It’s sensuality and connection to the earth and my body. Other’s bodies. The Body.

And, I surrendered to the choice that had been made, back at 21 years old. I cook. Whenever I took hiatus’ from working in my professional life, I found I could go about two weeks before I’d start craving having my hands in food. Just something with fresh herbs and butter, bright veggies, succulent meats... my imagination wouldn’t let me rest.

Once the choice became conscious, I was able to let go of the fantasy of the creative life I was going to have, or wasn’t having, and I engaged in the creative life I was living. The weight of trying to create a future was off my shoulders. And it was freeing.

And once the choice became conscious, the whole arena became conscious. Not only was it about getting it on the table, producing product, it became about honoring the product, intentionality in the process. The question was no longer only ‘does it taste good?’, but ‘is it worth eating?’.

Which brings me to nutrient dense foods. Traditional foods.

The first (actually only) classical chef I worked with was Marcel, who had worked for many years in the hotel circuit. Well into his sixties (which at 22, seemed really old) I loved hearing the stories from his youth, in the resistance in France during WWII, how to make love on a beach so no one was chafed by the sand (lessons learned while working at a hotel in Tahiti), brutal treatment from the chefs who trained him back in the day.... and I thought he was nuts because he would never throw anything away. We steamed chickens every day to make various dishes, and he would demand that the gelatinous stock in the bottom of the pot be stored in the freezer. Five days a week. Liver and heart from various animals we cooked was likewise packaged and labelled, and left in the freezer for a rainy day.

We just didn’t sell that much soup! Nothing we made for the business used organ meat.

I would throw out gallons of chicken stock on his days off.

I cringe when I think about it. Knowing how soothing stock is to my digestive system now, how nourished I feel and stable my energy is when I’m incorporating organ meat into my diet on a regular basis, I feel such remorse at the ignorant waste I participated in. Granted, the animals were not organic, certainly not pastured - but I just didn’t understand. I thought I knew everything. ‘He grew up in war time, so he has chronic poverty consciousness’... and I knew better.

I wound my way through some years of constant hunger as a vegetarian, and even a couple of years as a vegan. They were health conscious choices, using information I had at the time. And, while I believe they were very effective ways to cleanse my body of toxins collected by chemical self abuse, they were not good methods of self nourishment for me. And my body told me so, in no uncertain terms.

I use everything now. I laugh, and love Marcel as I take the bits of fat out of the cavity of the chicken and render it into schmaltz. Pour it carefully in jars. Use it to saute vegetables, brown potatoes. Cook the chicken livers in it when the chicken goes in the oven, and split (read ‘fight over’) them with my five year old. Save the carcass, the neck, the gizzard after we finish the meat and cook it down, cook it down.... but now I’m getting into the recipe.

Simple Bone Broth
Gluten and dairy free, low salicylate, and safe for candida

Bones, skin, feet and non-liver organs of chickens or other meat. Or a whole chicken.

1/4 - 1/2 cup lemon juice per gallon total volume of bones and water

Crack the bones if you can, using the bottom of a heavy pot. Place bones and juice in a pot or slow cooker. Add water just to cover. Soak the bones for at least an hour in the cold acidulated water.

Bring to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Turn down to a low temperature. Ideally there should be no bubbles rising, barely any movement in the simmer. The slow cooker on low may even be too hot, but I use it anyway, it’s so easy.

Cook for 6 - 24 hours. If using a whole chicken, remove the chicken after cooking an hour or two and pull the meat from the bones to use in other recipes. Return the bones and skin to the broth and continue cooking. The longer it cooks, the more minerals will leach into the broth, making it a rich mineral supplement. Sometimes the gelatin breaks down with the longer cooking or with the higher heat, so you might lose that benefit. The bones should be crumbly to the touch, at least at the ends.

Strain. Bring to a rolling boil and reduce by half. Cool. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze. Pop the broth cubes into a zip lock bag and store in the freezer. Use in sauteeing veggies, pop a few in when cooking grains, and, of course, dilute a bit for soups. If you’ve reduced it, remember it’s concentrated. Especially if you’ve used a lot of chicken feet! They make a very dense broth.

It's delicious as it is with Celtic or Himalayan sea salt and a tablespoon of coconut oil. I sometimes have it like that for breakfast.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

It’s alive!

Recipe: Gluten Free Sourdough, a la Durga

I’ve been meaning to write about sourdough for a long time now, and I keep putting it off. I’d envisioned this blog to be accessible to everyone, not just focused on special diets. Recipes that anyone might enjoy, with suggestions for those with restrictions.

Problem is, I’ve never made a ‘true’ sourdough. By the time I delved into the matter, gluten had been purged from my kitchen.

But I’m finding that I have to write about it, because I’m passionate about it. I was so excited the first time I developed a ‘homebrew’ sponge, I wrote up copious notes on it and handed it out to everyone I knew that was even vaguely considering trying a gluten free existence. I was flabbergasted that it worked! Somehow I had the impression that the wild yeasts fed on the gluten. Or that what would grow in the gluten free grains was a strange bacteria that would make us all sick. It just couldn't be that easy.

When I heard that it was possible to mail order brown rice sourdough starter, and having read methods of starting gluten sponges at home, I decided there was nothing to lose except possibly a weird slimy concoction if things went awry. What was I waiting for?

The truth is, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the methodologies. Being alive, you have to feel your way into a relationship with a sponge. It changes from house to house, batch to batch, season to season, flour blend to flour blend.

Like all living beings it’s not a perfectly controllable entity. There’s a reason baker’s yeast was developed - it’s predictable. Mix it with warm liquid, give it something to eat, and your medium has nicely risen within a couple of hours. Throw it in the oven, and within an hour your house smells like a home. End of story.

Except it’s not quite the end of the story. Turns out grains are more digestible when they’ve been sprouted, soaked in an acid medium for a number of hours and then well cooked, or allowed to ferment naturally. In any case, it takes hours. Untreated whole grains contain phytates, anti-nutrients. Hard on the gut. Part of what makes the Standard American Diet detrimental to human physiology.

White flour has been stripped of the phytates - but also of any significant nutrients that make it more than basic fuel. Truly empty calories.

Grains have only been in our diet in significant amounts for the last 10,000 years or so, which is only a small fraction of our time on the planet. We’re not really equipped to handle them untreated. Our forbears tended to either leave them in the fields, where they sprouted a bit before they were eaten, or they soaked and cooked them for long periods which also neutralizes the phytates, or.... they made sourdough, which takes 12 to 24 hours to develop and rise.

I’ve read that when baker’s yeast was first developed there were riots in France protesting the degradation of the nutritional value of the grain. It was known by the food artisans that while baker’s yeast made industrialisation of bread making possible, much of real value of the food would be lost in the process.

Many people with gluten sensitivity find that they can eat a properly prepared sourdough with less or no problems.

I’m not willing to try it. Gluten has done such a number on my system, both my intestines and my adrenals, I’m still recovering. I see no need to test possibly shark infested waters.

Besides, the GF sourdough is fun! I’ve experimented with a number of flour blends, and have one that I like currently, although knowing me, it’s likely to change. Not only am I constitutionally incapable of following other people’s recipes, I don’t follow my own much either.

I’ve been through a couple of starters and methods in the year and a half that I’ve been making it. I started with a classic method, leave the flour mix and water out at room temp in a bowl and watch it bubble and froth. It’s alive!

After awhile, my family complained that it was too, well - sour. Go figure.

So, after a bit more research, reading blogs of others who’d gone before me in the world of GF, I discovered that it was possible to keep the sponge in the refrigerator.

All the time.

It took me months to try it. I just couldn’t believe it would work. After all, the fridge is where you keep your starter when you're going on vacation for a week.

Well, it works. End result - sourdough that’s much less sour, much more kid friendly. The method that works for me is to feed the sponge between every couple of days and every week in the fridge, depending on how often I’m using it. Then either use it full strength, in which case it will rise within a couple of hours at room temp (it’s done it’s long ferment in the fridge), or just use a cup or two of the starter in the recipe. Add fresh flour mix to make up the total quantity of flour in the recipe. This rises anywhere between 8 and 24 hours, usually around 12.

By the way, you don’t have to use the sponge only for bread. We make pancakes with it every Sunday. Just feed it the night before, and use it full strength in place of the flour in your favorite recipe. Omit all or most of the milk or other liquid. (You still need the eggs....) Also omit the leavening, maybe add a half teaspoon of baking soda. Yum!

I actually use it for nearly everything I bake now. So much easier than soaking a mess of flour in lemon water, and easier to digest than using straight untreated flours.

One little piece of advice, if I may - don’t buy a starter. Don’t even get one from a friend. Although, if you insist, I’ll give you some of mine.

Make it yourself. Watch it bubble and puff, colonised with beautiful yeasts and bacteria indigenous to your very own home. From the air you’ve personally breathed. A sponge made this way is all your own.

And, if you’re making it gluten free - use some teff flour, a traditional Ethiopian grain, in your mix. Yeast LOVES teff!

Gluten Free Sourdough, a la Durga
gluten free, dairy free (if you don't use the ghee), salicylate free. egg free (if you skip the optional eggs) NOT low carb.

First make your GF flour mix. Here’s what I’m using currently, but if you have something you work with and like, use it! I highly recommend using at least some type of starch, whether potato, or tapioca, even though they’re devoid of nutrition. Your final product will suffer if you omit them. I firmly believe food should taste good as well as be good for you.

Also, you can use a pre-mixed blend, and many are very good, but if you want to keep up a sponge, you’ll end up spending lots of money. At the very least, buy the flours separately and mix them yourself. If you find you really get committed to it, you’ll want to invest in a flour mill. Well worth the money with the savings you’ll realize when buying your grains whole.

GF flour mix

3 cups garbanzo flour
1 1/2 cups white rice flour (I grind my own, and use white basmati rice)
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups teff flour
1 1/2 cups potato starch
3/4 cup tapioca flour

Make your starter with your GF flour mix. (Directions are the same for gluten flours, by the way, and I’ve read the recommendation to make starters with whole rye flour rather than wheat. Don't use the bread recipe below for a gluten bread - follow a traditional recipe.) Start with 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of filtered water. Mix it together in a non reactive, wide (rather than tall) container. Throw an open weave cloth over it to keep insects out, and leave it somewhere relatively warm, with a free flow of air around it. Indoors or out, depending on the season. Add a few whole organic grapes or a plum to it if possible, to take advantage of the ‘bloom’ of yeast on their skins.

Every day for a week, stir in a cup of flour and enough water to keep it fairly loose. If you find a bit of mold on the surface, scrape it off and feed it again. It will go through changes, from bubbly, to puffy and smooth, to flat and inactive, separating from the liquid. As long as things smell somewhere in the range of mild, tart, yeasty, intense, even a little farty, it’s all good - if you find it’s really slimy and you want to gag when you smell it, pitch it and start over. Feed and stir it more often if you find that’s happened.

After a week, it’s colonized. If you’re going for a less sour product, start keeping it in the fridge. Feed it anywhere from every day to every week. I’ve left it longer and had it recover once I started feeding it again. If you like sour, just continue to feed it every day at room temperature. Freeze it if you need a break from your new pet.

Okay, now for the bread -

6 cups GF sourdough sponge (or 2 cups of sponge and 4 cups of GF flour mix. You’ll need to add more water if you use the flour)
3 eggs (optional)
2 tablespoons molasses, coconut or date sugar
1/3 cup melted ghee, olive oil, butter, or other saturated or monounsaturated oil (coconut oil not recommended)
1 scant tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 cup seeds, nuts or whole grain of choice; one or mix of sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, chopped walnut or pecans, millet, GF oats...
Warm water or choice of fruit juice as needed (pear juice if salicylates are an issue), will depend on the consistency of your starter, and whether you use it full strength.

Mix the seeds or whole grains, dry flour mix if using, salt, coconut or date sugar (if using) and xanthan gum thoroughly in a bowl.

Mix the eggs, molasses (if using) and oil in the bowl of a mixer with paddle attachment.

Mix in the sponge on low. (I recommend bringing your sponge to room temperature if it’s been in the fridge - you can do this quickly by nesting a bowl in a second bowl of warm water and mixing your sponge in the top bowl for a couple of minutes.)

Mix in the dry ingredients. Add water or juice as needed.

Mix on high speed for three and a half minutes. This dough is really a thick batter, should not make a traditional dough ball, but should stick to the sides of the bowl and be fairly wet. Add liquid or GF flour mix as needed to achieve desired consistency.

Split between 3 - 4 small or 2 larger greased and white rice floured glass loaf pans, filled about 1/2 - 3/4 full. You can make a couple of rolls in a muffin tin if you have extra batter. Let rise in a warm, moist place until increased by about 1/4 to 1/2, about 2 to 24 hours depending on whether you use starter full strength or add mostly fresh flour, temperature of your sponge and area it is rising in.

Slash the top of your loaves with a knife so if your loaves rise more in the oven, it won't force the top of your loaf to separate from the rest.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes to 1 hour and fifteen minutes, depending on the size of your loaves. Test with toothpick, or by thunking it with your finger and listening for a hollow sound. If you cut into it and there are doughy spots, cook it longer.

Remove from pans to cool on a cooling rack. When cooled, slice with a serrated knife and freeze immediately. Put slices in the toaster to defrost, or spritz the whole loaf with a bit of water, wrap in tin foil and warm in an oven for 20 minutes.

Note: This bread will dry out fairly quickly if not frozen.

Makes 2 large or 3 - 4 smaller loaves.

Let me know if you try it!