The Zenbelly Cookbook – a Review + a Sublime Recipe for Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Rosemary Salt


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(Image by TSL)

(Image by TSL)

You know those crazy people who line up outside Apple stores to be one of the first to get their paws on the latest iPhone or iPad, even though they know if they wait 48 hours they’d be able to buy without the queues?

I’m the early adopter version of those people in cookbook world.

I have discovered a happy truth. If you preorder a cookbook through Amazon (and are prepared to pay for expedited delivery!), it arrives all the way down here in Sydney-town the day after it is released in the States. How cool is that?

I have long been a fan of Simone Miller of Zenbelly blog fame.

Her philosophy of eating ‘gluten free and mostly Paleo’ appeals to me – both because of the ‘mostly‘ bit (absolutes are so last year, don’t you know!) and because it coincides with how I’d like to be able to eat once I finish with this AIP-caper that I’m on. Here’s hoping!

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. (Luciano Pavarotti)

So, when Simone announced that she was creating a Zenbelly cookbook, I knew it was one that I really wanted on my cookbook shelf. I preordered through Amazon and a couple of weeks ago it landed on my doorstep. Yippee!

I’ve never actually met Simone, but her lovely cookbook reflects how I imagine her to be: organised with an irreverent yet pragmatic and accessible style and lots of clean, clever recipes that are achievable for the home cook. To say I like this cookbook is an understatement.

Some things I especially like about The Zenbelly Cookbook

How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken

‘How to: Cut Up a Whole Chicken’ Like a Pro Instructions in the Zenbelly Cookbook
(Image by TSL)

  • There’s a handy-dandy section on basic techniques that show you ‘how to cook like a pro’. Inspired!
  • Each recipe has a photograph of all the ingredients used. I’m a visual person. This really works for me.
  • Every recipe has a photograph of the finished dish. Did I mention I’m a visual person? It always disappoints me when I can’t see what the recipe is supposed to look like in a cookbook.
  • The oysters Rockefeller recipe makes me want to experiment with oysters. Badly… Ditto the Steak Tartare (after I have successfully reintroduced egg yolks, of course!)… And, then there’s the Spaghetti Squash Carbonara. SO many great looking recipes.
  • Maple-bourbon bacon jam. Do I really need to say any more than that?
  • There’s a section on crackers, wraps and breads. Even after all this time, I still miss bread. I’ve made Simone’s biscuits before. A W E S O M E !

I made Simone’s Perfect Roast Chicken last night. And it was crispy on the outside and juicy and succulent on the inside. AND – just about the easiest way to roast a chicken IN THE WORLD!

There were lots of lovely juices in the bottom of the pan for a good gravy, too (I’m a massive fan of roast chicken gravy!)

2 Ingredient Zenbelly Perfect Roast Chook (Before)

The Zenbelly Cookbook 2 Ingredient Perfect Roast Chook (Before)
(Image by TSL)

You could probably get through life without knowing how to roast a chicken, but the question is, would you want to? (Nigella Lawson)

2 Ingredient Zenbelly Perfect Roast Chook (After)

The Zenbelly Cookbook 2 Ingredient Perfect Roast Chook (After)
(Image by TSL)

We all eat, and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly. (Anna Thomas)

But, my absolute favourit-ist recipe in the cookbook – so far, anyway! – is the Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Rosemary Salt. (Those in the U.S. may know these beauties as sunchokes?)

It was the weirdest thing. You might even say it was serendipity… The weekend before the book arrived, I had picked up a rather enormous bag of Jerusalem artichokes at the farmers market without having a clue what I was going to do with them. I had never cooked with them before but I was on one of my ‘time to try a new ingredient’ kicks.

And then, just like magic, when leafing through my new Zenbelly cookbook I spied this recipe. So I tried it. And, it was so good. ESPECIALLY when potatoes are off the menu.

LM and I devoured the first batch while watching this year’s first Bledisloe Cup test.

And then, because we loved them so much, I made them for the second test, too…

And now, I have made another batch so you can see what they look like (it had nothing to do with me wanting more of these scrummy wee beasties!)

The lovely Simone has kindly given me permission to reprint her recipe. If you’re in Australia or New Zealand and you hurry, you might be able to find some Jerusalem artichokes before the season ends.

Trust me. It’s worth it.

Zenbelly's Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Rosemary Salt

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 35 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy-peasey
  • Print

Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Rosemary Salt

Reprinted from the Zenbelly Belly Cookbook with the author’s permission


500 g Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), cut into large dice, peel on
2 x Tablespoons unsalted butter, duck fat, or fat of choice, melted
1/4 x teaspoon finely ground sea salt
2 x teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1/4 x teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/8 x teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional, leave out if on the autoimmune protocol)


1. Preheat your oven to 250°C/475°F.

2. In a large bowl, toss the Jerusalem artichokes with the melted fat (I used happy duck fat) and finely ground sea salt.

3. Transfer to a rimmed baking tray and roast for 20 – 25 minutes, until soft and golden.

4. Meanwhile, combine the rosemary with the coarse sea salt and black pepper in a small bowl. (I gave them a quick bash with my mortar and pestle to release the rosemary oil).

5. Sprinkle the roasted artichokes with the rosemary salt and serve.

E N J O Y !

Sadly, down in this neck of the woods, it doesn’t look like Dymocks is stocking The Zenbelly Cookbook but Kinokuniya will order it in for you and, of course, Amazon will deliver it to your door.

Fermentation 101 Workshop + a the Idea of Kindness


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TSL Fermentation Workshop

If you look really carefully, you’ll even see Bella sneaking into the shot (top left!)

Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world. (Annie Lennox)

Life here at Casa TSL has been very health-focused for some time now. You could say that I’m eating, breathing and even sleeping health. I’m reading about health. I’m watching health-oriented programmes on the goggle-box. I’m learning about the politics of the food pyramid (pretty damning stuff). I’m even studying it.

And, during the course of all this ‘health questing’, there are two things I now know to be true.

1. We are all individuals. What is healthy for me, may not be healthy for you.

2. What we eat is a hugely contentious subject. Everybody has an opinion, and, more often than not, these opinions conflict.

I currently choose to follow the Autoimmune Protocol, a very strict Paleo-esque regime which eliminates all potentially inflammatory foods, in an effort to heal my gut. This is a personal choice made after much searching for answers to my health questions. There is no doubt that it is helping me.

I won’t be on eating this way forever. While there may be foods that I find cannot be introduced back into my diet (wheat!), I’m looking forward to being able to enjoy many, many food, not to mention beverage options (pinot noir, anyone?) in the not-too-distant-future.

And, I am convinced that by consuming the standard diet offered to us here in Australia, as in much of the Western world – overly processed, carbohydrate-heavy, convenience-based – was a key reason I got sick. There is increasing evidence that what we eat affects our health in much more dramatic ways than we ever imagined.

But here’s the kicker: It’s my choice to do this.

If you choose to eat differently, that’s your choice. I won’t judge you. I promise.

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind. (Henry James)

Here in Australia, there has been a recent war of words between certain higher profile members of the Dietitians Association of Australia and a certain celebrity Paleo proponent.  It’s an emotionally charged subject. Clearly, I have an opinion, and it’s not too difficult to work out which side of the fence I sit on, but – here’s the thing – It’s been getting kind of personal.

And, I just don’t think that’s cricket!

Call me naïve – it wouldn’t be the first time – but, why can’t we just be a little kinder to each other and remember that everyone is entitled to their own view? Is it really that hard to respect individual differences? Or, better yet – be open to differences in opinion?

We, every single one of us, owe it to ourselves to work out what works for us. Nobody will ever care about my health more than me – not the Dieticians Association, not any high-profile nutritionist, and not any celebrity chef, either. And, the same can be said of you.

Always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.(J.M. Barrie)

And, now that I have all of that off my chest, one thing that does seem to be universally accepted is the health benefits of eating lacto-fermented vegetables. Everyone agrees that they are seriously good for you and should be included in a healthy diet.

I’ve written before (here) about the benefits of including fermented foods in your diet, but in a nutshell, fermentation preserves nutrients and beneficial bacteria, and assists your body in digesting carbohydrates.

According to the incredibly knowledgeable Sally Fallon“The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.” (from Nourishing Traditions, page 89)

I’ve been making my own fermented vegetables for some time now. I love them (and so does LM). I have a spoonful or two with most meals.

Making your own fermented vegetables is easy, quick (in terms of preparation) and much, much cheaper than buying them from your local health food store. And, you get to ensure your vegetables are organic.

TSL Fermentation 101

Preparing for Fermentation 101 Workshop at Casa TSL
(Image by TSL)

For some reason though, people can be a little hesitant to just dive in and make their own. Something about the fact that this is a ‘live process’. There’s bacteria involved!

So this weekend, I held the inaugural Fermented Vegetables 101 workshop at Casa TSL. I had three lovely guinea pigs students and we spent a couple of hours learning the rudiments of fermentation. Everyone went away with their own 1.5 kilo jar of ‘TSL Special House Kraut’ just waiting to ferment along with notes on the process, and I reckon it was a success!

TSL Fermentation 101

N & A prepping their veggies for massaging…
(Image by TSL)

TSL Fermentation 101

Let the massaging commence!
(Image by TSL)

TSL House Kraut

On the left – TSL’s Special House Kraut two days into the fermentation process. On the right – the finished kraut ready for eating!
(Image by TSL)

I may just look at holding more workshops in the future. Do let me know if you have any interest?

HELLISHLY GOOD Herbed Parsnip and Celeriac Mash with Caramelised Onions


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TSL Parsnip and Celeriac Mash

(Image by TSL)

I’m currently on the Autoimmune Protocol, a nutrient-rich elimination diet that removes foods that irritate the gut, cause gut imbalance and activate the immune system. You can read more about the protocol and why I’m doing this here. And, if you want to know why I’m on the sugar-free version of the Autoimmune Protocol, you can read about that here.

As promised last week, today I’m sharing my Herbed Parsnip & Celeriac Mash with you. Truly, it is hellishly good. Even if I do say so myself. Actually – it must be said that I surprised even myself with how good it tastes!

After I made it, I literally stood at my kitchen bench spooning great gob-fulls into my mouth. It wasn’t at all lady like. Good thing I’m not that much of a lady… And, lucky I made so much, really…

TSL Parsnip and Celeriac Mash

I’m very good at smoothing the mash over to hide the evidence of my gluttony
(Image by TSL)

Listen, it’s too big a world to be in competition with everyone. The only person who I have to be better than is myself. And in your case, that’s enough. (Col. Potter in M*A*S*H)

But! – I’m getting ahead of myself.

My smashing mash came about because I had beef cheeks in the oven and I wanted some sort of root vegetable number to go with them.

And, potatoes are off the menu. When you are on the autoimmune protocol, potatoes are verboten. They are a nightshade. Nightshades are potentially inflammatory. Ergo, no potatoes (which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider doing many, many things for a bowl of potatoes roasted in duck fat…)

When I went to the fridge, I had a celeriac root and two large organic parsnips looking up at me. So, necessity being the mother of invention and all that, I went to work.

A bit of this and a dash of that. A few herbs, and then a few more. And, doesn’t almost everything taste better with caramelised onions?

The thing about this crazy regime that I’m on is that because I am on SUCH low amounts of sugar – literally only the natural sugars in starchy vegetables, really – this wee number tasted almost dessert-like to me. The parsnips bring a sweetness that I hadn’t expected. Seriously good.

I will not carry a gun, Frank. When I got thrown into this war I had a clear understanding with the Pentagon: no guns. I’ll carry your books, I’ll carry a torch, I’ll carry a tune, I’ll carry on, carry over, carry forward, Cary Grant, cash and carry, carry me back to Old Virginia, I’ll even ‘hari-kari’ if you show me how, but I will not carry a gun! (Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H)

HELLISHLY GOOD Herbed Parsnip and Celeriac Mash with Caramelised Onions

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Time: 35 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy-peasey
  • Print

TSL Parsnip and Celeriac Mash


2 x large parsnips, preferably organic
1 x celeriac bulb (aka celery root)
2 x medium red onions
2 x Tablespoons fat (I used coconut oil, lard would be better)
1 x clove garlic, minced
3 or 4 x sprigs fresh thyme
1 x sprig fresh rosemary
1/3 x bunch flat leaf parsley
1/2 x bunch chives
1/4 x cup bone broth (or stock)
zest from 1/2 a lemon, organic if possible
Himalayan sea salt to taste
1 x teaspoon freshly ground pepper (optional, leave out if on the autoimmune protocol)


1. Peel and roughly chop your parsnips and celeriac bulb. Pop the peeled parsnips and celeriac into a large pot. Add enough water to cover. Bring to the boil over high heat and cook for 15 minutes or until knife tender. Drain in a colander.

2. While your root vegetables are cooking away, peel and chop your red onions. Melt your fat in a frying pan, and add the onions. At this point, I also added my chopped thyme and rosemary. Turn the heat right down and allow to melt down into a yummy unctuous mess of onion. It will smell AMAZING!

3. Using your food processor (or stick blender), blend your cooked celeriac and parsnip. Add the minced garlic, bone broth, chives and parsley, lemon zest and blitz. Add the caramelised onion and pulse a couple of times to mix into the mixture. Taste for seasoning.

4. Stand at your bench with a spoon and congratulate yourself on how delicious your mash tastes.

E N J O Y !

I served this mash with my Bloody BRILLIANT Braised Beef Cheeks. Yum!

This recipe features in the Phoenix Helix AIP Recipe Roundtable

Bloody BRILLIANT Braised Beef Cheeks


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TSL Beef Cheeks

(Image by TSL)

I’m currently on the Autoimmune Protocol, a nutrient-rich elimination diet that removes foods that irritate the gut, cause gut imbalance and activate the immune system. You can read more about the protocol and why I’m doing this here. And, if you want to know why I’m on the sugar-free version of the Autoimmune Protocol, you can read about that here.

Unfamiliar with beef cheeks? They are literally the cheeks of the animal, usually a cow A very tough and lean cut of meat that is most often used for braising or slow cooking to produce a tender result. And when cooked properly, they are TO DIE FOR! Meltingly good.

Here at Casa TSL, we refer to beef cheeks as ‘chief beaks’. LM coined the term. And, he gets a little bit excited when he knows they’re on the menu. I haven’t actually seen him do a ‘beef cheek’ dance, but I’m pretty sure he’s doing one on the inside…

This week, I had some gorgeous beef cheeks from Lauren and Greg at Linga Longa Farm. We look forward to seeing them every week at the Eveleigh Farmers Market. I particularly love their happy bacon.

TSL Braised Beef Cheeks

Bloody BRILLIANT Braised Beef Cheek mis en place (and that is an enormous garlic clove, not an onion in case you’re confused after reading the recipe!)
(Image by TSL)

You are what what you eat eats. (Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto)

I know you already know how much I love a slow braise. It’s one of my favourite ways to cook (and eat!). Convenient really, since we’re in the middle of a cold snap here in Syders.

Generally, braising or slow cooking calls for a secondary cut of meat. That means it’s cheaper than the steaks and cutlets that make up the primary cuts that are so fashionable – and fast – to cook. So it’s definitely a way to make your food budget stretch a little further.

And, when you braise, the cuts you use are generally tougher. This means that they require a long, slow cook to break down some of the fibre in the meat BUT also that the flavour profile and meltingly tender texture is something that is worth waiting for.

Without such a thing as fast food, there would be no need for slow food. (Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals)

Braising is another way to get more gut-healing bone into your tummy, too. And, it’s really easy to up the vegetable quotient in a braise – you get all the flavour of the protein, but you can stretch your meals further again – both in terms of nutritional value and bang for your buck. Win~win!

TSL Beef Cheeks

Winter-warming Braised Beef Cheeks and Mash. YUM!
(Image by TSL)

We are pretty careful about buying happy meat here. And, while the environment the animal grows up in is important to me, here in Australia (and New Zealand), we don’t have the same concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that you find in the States. I do like to make sure that the beef I eat comes from pasture raised animals.*

Beef contains the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) compound, which has been shown by numerous studies to have health benefits. CLA levels in grass-fed cattle are 30-40% higher than in grain fed animals! So, if you want maximum health benefits you really should choose grass-fed beef!

So – here we are. My recipe for beef cheeks. It’s really tasty and autoimmune protocol friendly!

Bloody BRILLIANT Braised Beef Cheeks

  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Time: about 5 hours
  • Difficulty: easy-peasey
  • Print

TSL Beef Cheeks


2 x Tablespoons fat of choice (I used coconut oil)
2 x kilos of happy beef cheeks (approximately)
1 x rashers of bacon
1 x large leek
3 x large carrots
3 x celery stalks
4 x cloves of garlic
150 mls verjuice
200 mls filtered water
550 mls bone broth (or stock if you have no bone broth available)
3 x anchovy fillets
2 x bay leaves
4 x sprigs of fresh thyme
3 x sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 x teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
1/2 x teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 x teaspoon freshly ground pepper (optional, leave out if on the autoimmune protocol)


1. Heat your oven to 150°C/300°F. Wash, peel, slice and/or chop your leeks, carrots and celery. Roughly chop your bacon. Peel your garlic.

2. Heat the fat in a large casserole (I use my le Creuset). Brown the beef cheeks in batches on a medium heat. I usually sear the cheeks for 3 – 4 minutes per side. Take the time to get a really nice crust on your meat. Remove the meat to a dish.

3. Cook the chopped vegetables and bacon for five minutes, stirring frequently.Add the verjuice and simmer for a couple of minutes before adding the water and bone broth. Add the anchovies, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, salt, cinnamon and pepper.

4. Carefully place the beef cheeks on top of the vegetables and allow the liquid to come to the boil.

5. Pop the lid on your casserole and transfer the dish to the oven for 4 1/2 – 5 hours, by which time the meat should be lovely and tender.

6. When the cheeks are ready, remove the herbs and discard. Pop the cheeks into a heat proof dish to keep warm. (At this point, I like to shred the meat with two forks, but that’s entirely up to you.) Strain about half the liquid into a pot and bring to the boil, reducing slightly. Serve your beef cheeks on a bed of mash and spoon the sauce over the top.

E N J O Y !

We served our cheeks on a bed of herbed parsnip and celeriac mash with caramelised onion (recipe coming next week!)

 *If you’re visiting Eveleigh Markets, do check out the Linga Longa stand. Greg – the farmer, himself! – is always there and happy to answer any questions.

This recipe features in the Phoenix Helix Recipe Roundtable

Heal Your Gut – Random Thoughts and an Update!


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TSL Health Reading

(Image by TSL)

I’m currently on the Autoimmune Protocol, a nutrient-rich elimination diet that removes foods that irritate the gut, cause gut imbalance and activate the immune system. You can read more about the protocol and why I’m doing this here. And, if you want to know why I’m on the sugar-free version of the Autoimmune Protocol, you can read about that here.

In case you hadn’t been paying attention, I’m currently a little bit obsessed with health. Specifically, my health and how my diet and lifestyle choices can improve it.

It’s hardly surprising, really. Up to about 18 months ago, LM and I were considered the ‘foodies’ amongst our friends. We were the go-to people for advice on what was new and good in the Sydney eating scene. We’d dine out 2 or 3 times a week. We connected through our food experiences. And, it was fun!

And then, we started joining the dots around some growing health issues. Our dining out stopped. Abruptly.

I haven’t been out to dinner at a restaurant since 2013.

I can’t safely dine out on the severely restricted diet I have been on since the beginning of this year.

What I have been doing is an awful lot of reading on what it is to be healthy in today’s world. And, what I’m learning is both scary and enlightening.

I’m learning that the rate of autoimmune disease is rising at an alarming rate in the western world. I’m learning researchers have identified between 80-100 different autoimmune diseases and they suspect at least 40 additional diseases of having an autoimmune basis. These diseases are chronic and can be life-threatening. I’m learning that autoimmune disease is now one of the top 10 leading causes of death in female children and women in all age groups up to 64 years of age. And, I’m learning that there is a close genetic relationship that exists among autoimmune disease sufferers which explains the clustering found in individuals and families.

So, there’s a genetic component, which you can’t control. It’s a lottery. And, then there’s a lifestyle component. This, you can – to some extent at least – control. And, if you don’t, there’s a good chance that at some stage it may come and bite you. You just don’t know when.

This week, I’ve been dipping into the Detox Summit, an online event bringing 30 experts together to discuss all aspects of detoxification with the goal of helping you return to a healthy state of wellness.

(Image from here)

(Image from here)

The problem is we are not eating food anymore, we are eating food like products. (Alejandro Junger)

I haven’t had time to listen to all the interviews, but I was particularly interested in hearing from Dr Frank Lipman. I wasn’t disappointed.

Dr Lipman is a New York-based medical practitioner who marries Eastern and Western medicine to facilitate wellness. During an earlier lecture from him, he painted a wonderful picture that resonated for me about how Western medical practices tend to treat the body like a machine – if a part breaks down, we put a patch on it or replace it. Eastern practices, on the other hand, treat the whole body like a garden. Every part of the garden requires attention for the garden to truly thrive.

TSL Karl Maughan Image

(Karl Maugham Image from here)

Even though you may have been given a diagnosis, always ask these two questions with any chronic problem:
1) What is harming you and needs to be removed to permit the body to heal?
2) What is lacking or what does your body need to promote healing? (Dr Frank Lipman)

This time, Dr Lipman was speaking about detoxing and the effects of toxicity on our general wellbeing. Some of the wee pearls that really jumped out for me during his detox session were:

  • There is growing understanding that toxic thoughts – anger, resentment and worry – can have devastating effects on health.  As you fix mental and emotional issues, you become more resilient and this has a snowball effect on health.
  • As a practitioner, if he doesn’t have the answers, he will always treat the gut. Generally, when you treat the gut, you can see improvement relatively quickly and, because of the high levels of serotonin found in a healthy gut, this will have a direct impact on mood.
  • Dr Lipman finds gut dysbiosis in at least 75% of his patients. This is caused by a number of factors – GMO foods, antibiotics (including those in meat), an unfavourable gut environment from illness and/or stress.
  • More and more people are becoming sensitive to – not only gluten, but – all grains. There is a general growth in insulin resistance.

I have written before (here) that I am a worrier of epic proportions. And, that I’m pretty masterful at hiding my amazing ability to worry. For me, this idea that our thoughts can make us physically ill is a difficult pill to swallow (bad pun – sorry!). So, as I enter week 3 of my gut-healing protocol, it is with a firm focus on watching my thoughts and working at being more present. I’ve a couple of wee experiments on the go – I’ll tell you about them a little down the track.

My new mantra is ‘be kind to yourself’! Maybe it should become yours, too?


HEARTY Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Crispy Bacon Bits


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TSL Cauliflower and Leaak Soup with Crispy Bacon Bits

(Image by TSL)

I’m currently on the Autoimmune Protocol, a nutrient-rich elimination diet that removes foods that irritate the gut, cause gut imbalance and activate the immune system. You can read more about the protocol and why I’m doing this here. And, if you want to know why I’m on the sugar-free version of the Autoimmune Protocol, you can read about that here.

When you have a good stock, you can make a good soup.(Martin Yan)

Well into week two of this sugar-free AIP caper and I’m starting to get into the swing of things. It must be said that not reaching for the fruit bowl when I feel like a snack has taken a bit of getting used to. And, there has certainly been a sense of withdrawal, which is interesting given my sugar consumption wasn’t that high before – but I’m definitely not going hungry and – once you wean yourself of the sugar-fixes, I’m living proof that it can be done.

You already know that I’m the queen of the breakfast hash from my photo montage post earlier in the week. With such a nutrient dense and filling breakfast, I find that I feel like more of a snack at lunch time. And, soup is fitting the bill perfectly – especially as we’ve been having a cold snap here in Sydney.

Cauliflower and Leek Soup With Crispy Bacon Bits

Cauliflower and Leek Soup With Crispy Bacon Bits
(Image by TSL)

Soup is a great way to get both more nourishing and gut healing bone broth and more nutrient-dense fresh vegetables into your body. And it’s so easy to make – about half an hour and you have enough for 3 or 4 days. It’s pretty cost efficient, too.

Good manners: The noise you don’t make when you’re eating soup.(Bennett Cerf)

It would be so easy to make a vegetarian version of this soup – just sub in vegetable stock (or even water) for the chicken stock. Instead of the bacon bits, garnish with freshly chopped parsley or chives.

HEARTY Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Crispy Bacon Bits

  • Servings: 3 - 4
  • Time: about 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy-peasey
  • Print

Cauliflower and Leek Soup With Crispy Bacon Bits


1 x large leek
1 x eschalot (or a small onion)
1 x medium head of cauliflower
salt (I use pink Himalayan salt) & freshly ground pepper
1 x Tablespoon coconut oil (or fat of choice)
800mls chicken bone broth (or vegetable stock)

Optional extra:

1 x rasher bacon, chopped and fried until crisp in a teaspoon of coconut oil


1.Peel and roughly chop your eschalot. Wash and roughly slice your leek. Wash, core and roughly chop your cauliflower.

2. In a large pot, heat your fat of choice. Throw in your eschalot and leek. Saute for about five minutes over a medium heat (until soft).

3. Add your cauliflower and bone broth. Bring to  the boil and then reduce to a low simmer for about 8 minutes until the cauliflower is ready. Season to your taste.

4. Puree your vegetables and stock in your blender. Check for seasoning.

5. Serve immediately and garnish with optional bacon bits (or fresh herbs).

E N J O Y !


A Week of AIP-Friendly Breakfasts (a Photo Montage!)


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The Importance of Breakfast

(Original image from here)

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.” (A.A. Milne)

I’m currently on the Autoimmune Protocol, a nutrient-rich elimination diet that removes foods that irritate the gut, cause gut imbalance and activate the immune system. You can read more about the protocol and why I’m doing this here. And, if you want to know why I’m on the sugar-free version of the Autoimmune Protocol, you can read about that here.

I think my Dad and Pooh have a lot in common when it comes to breakfast. I suspect Dad wakes up thinking about what he’s going to have for breakfast most mornings. I can’t blame him one bit – breakfast is probably my favourite meal of the day. And, when you’re following the autoimmune protocol like me, the question you get asked most often is “What do you eat for breakfast?”.

Way back in March of this year, I wrote about the magic that is the No Recipe Breakfast Hash. And, I’m here to tell you, nothing has changed. If anything, my love of the breakfast hash has grown. Once you get over the fact that you can longer eating cereal or toast, that the carbs you know and used to love are off the table, the advantages of the hash are many.

Here are a few:

  • Hash is an awesome way to get more vegetables into your system. Your Mum was right about eating your greens (most of us still don’t get enough)
  • Hash is a great way to use up all those leftovers in the fridge. Less waste has gotta’ be a good thing – for your wallet and for the planet!
  • Hash tastes seriously good. Especially when it’s made from last night’s leftover slow cooked meal. Our current favourite is the Jamie Oliver Inspired Four Hour Lamb. I’ve worked out I can fit two shoulders of lamb into my le Creuset and this gives us extra meat for days!
  • Hash is a great way to get more healing bone broth into your tummy
  • Hash is quick. It takes me less than 10 minutes to whip up my basic hash with leftovers and a few wilted greens. You could even do enough for the week, portion everything up and then zap it in the microwave when you get to work.
  • Hash tastes even better with a side of fermented vegetables. A great way to get even more nutrient-dense goodness into yourself.

Today, I thought I would show you just how much I love my breakfast hash. A picture paints a thousand words and all that!

So, without any further ado, here are my last five days of AIP-friendly breakfasts…

TSL AIP Breakfast

Day 1
A medley of shredded sprouts sautéed in coconut oil and a little bone broth, smoked mackerel and diced avocado, served with leftover salsa verde
(Image by TSL)

TSL AIP Breakfast

Day 2
Bacon and leek sautéed in bacon fat and a little bone broth, and served with half a diced avocado (market day tomorrow – the fridge is looking a wee bit bare)
(Image by TSL)

TSL AIP Breakfast

Day 3 (Brunch with LM)
Meatloaf Hash – LM’s world-famous AIP-friendly meatloaf sautéed with bacon, red onion, leek, and shredded sprouts in coconut bacon fat and bone broth
(Image by TSL)

(Image by TSL)

Day 4 (another brunch with LM)
Leftover 4 hour lamb and minted gravy with last nights leftover roasted veggies, cavalo nero and leek
(Image by TSL)

TSL AIP Breakfast

Day 5
The last of LM’s world-famous AIP-Friendly meatloaf and the last of the minted gravy hashed with leek and shredded sprouts sautéed in coconut oil
(Image by TSL)

Instead of telling the world what you’re eating for breakfast, you can use social networking to do something that’s meaningful. (Edward Norton)

I’m choosing to believe that Ed Norton may just be wrong on this occasion. The autoimmune protocol can be a daunting exercise to kick off – especially at the beginning. And, I think breakfast choices require the biggest mind shift. It is fair to say that I still miss having eggs and I’m certainly looking forward to the day that I can reintroduce them. But, for now the AIP-friendly breakfast hash is a winner here at Casa TSL.

If you’re on the autoimmune protocol and have any alternative breakfasts to share, please feel free to comment!

Two Simple Tricks to Be Present (Without Resorting to Yoga)


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TSL Centennial Park

(Image by TSL)

I’m currently on the Autoimmune Protocol, a nutrient-rich elimination diet that removes foods that irritate the gut, cause gut imbalance and activate the immune system. You can read more about the protocol and why I’m doing this here. And, if you want to know why I’m on the sugar-free version of the Autoimmune Protocol, you can read about that here.

Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone. (Louis L’Amour)

There’s a lot of talk about ‘mindfulness’ floating around the mainstream media these days.

But what exactly is mindfulness?

Let’s say we all agree that mindfulness is the mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while at the same time acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. That means, it’s all about enjoying the moment you’re in right now without worrying about the past. Or, the future. Or, what you’re going to cook for dinner tonight. Or, if what’s-her-name is offended. Or… or… Just, or.

And, if that is so, I have to admit that it is the one BIG area of this health caper that I particularly struggle with. I worry about EVERYTHING. And, people who know me well are surprised to learn this about me.

So, not only do I worry, I hide it.

I can handle the practical stuff – eat this, don’t eat that; drink more water; get enough sleep; get enough sun; move; play. Let’s face it, I’m a pretty pragmatic kind of girl. Hardly surprising really – my Dad is an accountant and my Mum is German. It’s the slightly more esoteric concepts that I find more difficult. Things like: manage stress.

Sure. Tell me how to do it, and I will…

So, I’ve been on a bit of a personal mission to quieten my mind. And, if you’re like me, and you worry about all manner of stuff, you’ll understand just how difficult this can be.

I tried meditation.

I took a series of personal sessions. And it was great (if somewhat expensive). I would float home.

But, when I tried it by myself, my mind wouldn’t shut up. It doesn’t help that I can think of a million things I’d rather do that just sit and be still. I can honestly say I would rather iron than try to meditate. How sad is that?

Mindfulness | TSL

(Image by TSL)

I tried yoga.

Why they always look so serious in Yoga? You make serious face like this, you scare away good energy. To meditate, only you must smile. Smile with face, smile with mind, and good energy will come to you and clean away dirty energy. Even smile in your liver. Practice tonight at hotel. Not to hurry, not to try too hard. Too serious, you make you sick. You can calling the good energy with a smile.
(Elizabeth Gilbert – From Ketut Liyer, the Balinese healer)

I’m just not a yoga kinda girl. I’ve tried to be. On several occasions, in fact. But, I just haven’t found my ‘yoga groove’.

And, I’m quite jealous of those who have. These tribes of lithe and lycra clad, super flexible peeps who comfortably walk the high street in their exercise gear with their yoga mats rolled and slung over their shoulders are part of a ‘cool crowd’ that just isn’t me. Too self-conscious.

I tried Tai Chi.

Since meditation isn’t my thing and yoga doesn’t seem to be either, I thought perhaps the moving meditation that is tai chi might be more my thing?

Earlier this year, the fates delivered me to the wonderfully warm and deliciously quirky Alison of Empower Tai Chi. I started attending her classes of a Monday evening and – because of her, I suspect – was enjoying myself. Tai Chi with Alison was fun. It made me feel good. And, I was getting into it.

But then we moved. And, navigating two Sydney bridges in rush hour traffic seemed counterintuitive to me, given I was trying to manage my stress and all that. So, Alison and her terrific tai chi classes are on hold. I have been investigating an alternative over on this side of the bridge, but I haven’t started anything yet. I miss Alison.

Which brings me to the two tricks I promised you.

Mindfulness classes are all very well and good. But what if a girl can’t wait? What if she needs something immediate? Something she can do on the fly? Every day, even? These two little tricks are mindfulness techniques that anyone can do. Trust me. If I can do them, anyone can.

They’re free and you can do them anywhere, anytime. Best of all, they work.

The only catch is you have to remember to actually do them.

Trick #1: Breathe through your nose.

The next time you take a walk, commit to breathing through your nose for the duration. In AND out. Don’t even open your mouth. That’s it. That’s trick #1.

It’s actually harder than it sounds. But, because you have a focus – on your breath – it’s not so easy for your mind to wander to far. Don’t panic if it takes some practice. Just come back to it.

Here in Sydney, we have a number of fabulous walks around the city. One of my favourites is the Centennial Park circuit. It’s 4 kilometres of parkland and water in the middle of the city. LM cycles while Bella and I walk. No talking. No iPod. Just me, Bella and my breath. It’s a great way to start the day.

Mindful Poodle | TSL

(Image by TSL)

Trick #2: Dr Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise.

I have long been a fan of Dr Andrew Weil and his functional approach to health. The way he marries Eastern and Western attitudes to health appeals to me and I have a number of his books on my shelf.

Dr Weil’s 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) exercise is also simple, free and can be done anywhere (although it is recommended you sit with your back straight when you are learning the exercise.)

Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

You always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is what is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases.

According to Dr Weil, this exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. It certainly feels like one. He advises to do it at least twice a day. More if you want (or feel the need). He also advises not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little light headed when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.

Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it becomes a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. And, everyone can benefit from it.

If you’d like to see a video of Dr Weil demonstration the 4-7-8 Breath Exercise, just click here.

For me, this 4-7-8 breathing practice is one of the best techniques I have come across for being present and getting mindful. And, when you’re present, you just can’t be worrying about anything. Give it a go. What have you got to lose?

The first rule about being mindful is to be mindful about being mindful.

A wee piece of advice… It seems a little illogical to me that I should need to schedule reminders to be mindful. But, apparently I do. I was doing well with my nose breathing and my 4-7-8 exercises. And then it fell by the wayside. Life got in the way. It has a habit of doing that.

It all came to a bit of a head last week. Here’s an example of how that manifested: I sent a shopping list to my dentist via text message. It wasn’t a particularly long list and fortunately, it was fairly innocuous. Obviously, I didn’t mean to send the shopping list to the lovely peeps at Sydney Holistic Dentists. (They don’t offer to shop for their patients as an extra benefit). The text was meant to go to LM.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the evidence.

Dental Shopping List

It was quite an un-TSL thing to do. And it wasn’t my only brain-addled action last week, either. This whole gut health palaver had clearly been weighing a little more heavily on my mind that I thought.

So now I’m onto ‘Operation Mindfulness’. That means 4-7-8 breathing twice a day, minimum. And, trick #1 when I go walking with Bella.

Let’s see what happens!

Sugar-free Cinnamon and Coconut Fat Bombs (AIP Compliant)


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TSL Sugar Free Zone

(Image by TSL)

I’m currently on the Autoimmune Protocol, a nutrient-rich elimination diet that removes foods that irritate the gut, cause gut imbalance and activate the immune system. You can read more about the protocol and why I’m doing this here. And, if you want to know why I’m on the sugar-free version of the Autoimmune Protocol, you can read about that here.

As I write this post, it is day 1 of my new sugar-free autoimmune protocol regime. I know – it’s been a whole week since my post when I told you all about it, but I’ve been waiting for all my medication and supplements to arrive (not to mention getting my head around the fact that my poor wee gut is so unhealthy despite all my hard work).

And then, all of a sudden it was Friday and almost the weekend, so when LM said “Why not start the sugar-free bit on Monday”, it was an easy yes…

So here I am. And, let me tell you…

This sugar-free Autoimmune Protocol gig ain’t easy!

And I’m only on the first day!

According to the ‘standard’ AIP guidelines, any sugar consumption should be limited to less than 20g of fructose per day. That works out at about a couple of pieces of fruit.

I don’t think I realised just how much sugar I was having every day – and, I was already on a pretty restrictive diet! But when you have to cut all fruit out of your diet, on top of any honey and dates and maple syrup and any other sweet something you may have been sneaking in, and your health is on the line if you cheat, well – it soon becomes clear that life just got a whole lot less fun in the eating department.

No more dairy-free ice cream. My pulled pork recipe is back to the drawing board now that I can no longer use a little maple syrup for flavour. No Orange Macaroon Balls in this girl’s immediate future. And, no more dark chocolate which had so successfully been reintroduced…

Given – on day 1, mind you – I was already wondering how to cope with a strict month of living on what amounts to meat, fish, bone broth, fat and vegetables, it will hardly come as a surprise that I got into the kitchen for some experimenting.

Desperation is a great motivator!

TSL Cinnamon Coconut Fat Bomb

(Image by TSL)

And, what I came up with won’t change the world. It possibly won’t even appeal to the many, many sugar-eating peeps out there in the real world. But – when sugar-eaten-in-moderation LM happily troughs a couple down after walking in the door, you know its not a bad first experiment…

So, without further ado, I give you my first 100% guaranteed sugar-free snack recipe. The secret here is the spices. They are pretty good at tricking your wee brain into thinking it’s having sugar.

I made two versions of these – cinnamon and ginger. Cinnamon trumped ginger. So that’s what you’re getting.

Sugar-Free Cinnamon & Coconut Fat Bombs

  • Servings: about 20
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: pretty easy
  • Print

TSL Cinnamon Coconut Fat Bomb


1 x cup coconut butter* (I used this brand)
1 x cup desiccated coconut
1 x teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 – 2 x teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 x Tablespoon water


1. Heat your oven to 180°C /360°F. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Mix all the ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.

3. Form balls of the mixture and place onto your baking tray. I use my Tablespoon as a measure.

4. Pop in the oven for 10 – 12 minutes (until they start to turn golden). The smell will be incredible!

*It’s winter here in Sydney. My coconut butter was reasonably easy to work with. If your butter is rock hard, let it sit in a bowl of hot water until it softens. If your butter is too soft, place the fat bomb mixture into the fridge for 20 minutes to thicken up.

E N J O Y !

All Disease Begins in the Gut – Hippocrates Had it Right!


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TSL Trust Your Gut

(Image from here)

Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity. (Hippocrates)

There is just no delicate way to write this post. And, to be honest, I considered not writing it. But, I’ve been on this health caper for some time now. I’m pretty committed. I’m studying integrative nutrition. And, I’m reading all about health in my spare time, too. You could say that I’m my own wee health experiment. So, it’s no surprise that the direction of This Sydney Life is changing with me.

I should also mention that I have this rather crippling aversion to over sharing on the interweb. I am so not selfie-girl. It’s why you don’t see any pics of me posted on my blog. But as I get further along in my studies, I realise that if I’m really serious about this course of action that I’m taking, I’ll have to put myself out there a little more. Something along the lines of more risk, more reward. Maybe.

So, while I’m not quite ready to be posting candid shots of myself all over the place, today’s post is all about gut bacteria and my disastrous results from the Bioscreen Faecal Microbial Analysis I recently undertook. As you can imagine, it may have been easier to have just posted a picture of myself in my undies…

Let’s start with a bit of back story… I started the autoimmune protocol back in February of this year. At the time, I had been suffering from a pretty revolting skin disorder for over twenty years. Skin problems run in my family. I had discovered my skin problems became significantly improved when I removed all gluten from my diet and determined that they were autoimmune in nature. I had been putting on weight, which was proving very resistant to lose, despite having adopted a Primal/Weston A. Price style of diet for over a year. I had just been given the all clear from a particularly nasty parasite infection. And, my very good functional medical doctor, coupled with my equally great Naturopath, had been working with me to identify the root cause(s) of my problems. It turns out I also have Pyrrole Disorder and am positive for MTHFR. Oh yes – and this year I threw in some periodontal surgery for good measure.

So, since February, I have been on a cocktail of supplements for my Pyrrole and MTHFR, stuff for my teeth and gums, not to mention a few other goodies to improve my general well-being. With the exception of the one slip up (which I wrote about here), I have been dedicated to the autoimmune protocol. That means a pretty restrictive elimination diet, working on managing stress, getting enough sleep, and ensuring I get outside in the sunshine as often as possible for Vitamin D (Bella loves that!).

And, on the whole, it has been a really positive experience. I feel better. My skin has never looked so good (people comment on it). I just look healthier.

But, its a chubby healthy. I’m not losing weight. And, given my lifestyle, there should be less of me.

My blood test results don’t send of major alarm bells – just a couple of minor blips – so my GP suggested the fairly pricey Bioscreen Faecal Microbial Analysis.

The purpose of this exercise was to understand the state of my gut health. The Bioscreen test is a specialist assessment that cultures and counts the bacteria that should normally be in a healthy gut.

What if it’s not just our genetic history or our lifestyle, that makes us skinny or fat. Or, healthy or unwell? What if it’s also the makeup of the bacterial ecosystem that inhabits our gut?

It makes sense. Did you know that the human gut contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body, with over 400 known diverse bacterial species. It has even been said that we’re more bacterial than we are human.

According to the very knowledgable Chris Kresser, “We’ve only recently begun to understand the extent of the gut flora’s role in human health and disease. Among other things, the gut flora promotes normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection from infection, regulates metabolism and comprises more than 75% of our immune system. Dysregulated gut flora has been linked to diseases ranging from autism and depression to autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s and inflammatory bowel disease.”

Weightloss Orangatang

Could the state of our gut health impact our weight?
(Image from here)

And, apparently the evidence just keeps mounting that the microbes in our digestive systems are a factor in the global obesity epidemic.

Chris goes on to say that “There is growing evidence that increased intestinal permeability plays a pathogenic role in various autoimmune diseases including celiac disease and type 1 diabetes. Therefore, we hypothesise that besides genetic and environmental factors, loss of intestinal barrier function is necessary to develop autoimmunity”. This is important. Autoimmune diseases are now listed at number 3 in the leading causes of death in the western world. The reason we don’t all read about it more (yet) in mainstream media is that autoimmunity can affect so many different parts of the body. It’s not isolated to one part of the body – like the heart or the brain.

All disease begins in the gut (Hippocrates)

So, understanding all this, I went off and followed the slightly icky instructions from Bioscreen before submitting my sample for analysis. And, given my autoimmune-driven skin issues, I expected to learn that I had some form of gut dysbiosis. I just didn’t expect it to be quite so extreme. It turns out that I have an over abundance of the bad types of bacteria and not nearly enough of the good ones. When I asked my GP to rate how serious my gut issues were on a scale of 1 to 10, she felt my gut problems sit at about an 8 or 9. Pretty bad, really. In her opinion, if I hadn’t been religiously following the autoimmune protocol over the past few months, it is quite likely that I would be a very sick girl.

Not Happy Jan!

(Image by TSL)

But why is my gut so unhealthy?

Well, it turns out that antibiotics are particularly harmful to the gut flora. Recent studies have shown that antibiotic use can cause a massive and very rapid loss of diversity and a shift in the composition of your gut flora. This diversity is not recovered after antibiotic use without some form of intervention. And, if you were given courses of antibiotics in your early childhood and teenage years, as you were developing, your gut is likely to be more compromised. It just so happens that I had a particularly serious case of scarlet fever when I was quite young, and then I was prescribed the fateful Roaccutane for my very bad teenage cystic acne.

So that means it’s back to the drawing board for me. Super strict autoimmune protocol. For three months. And better than that – no sugar. And, in case you don’t know – that means no fruit, dates, maple syrup, or honey, too. None. Zip. The fun police are camping out at my place.

TSL Bone Broth

Gut Healing Bone Broth
(Image by TSL)

And, in addition to that, I’ve got a special four week protocol to follow. It involves consuming large quantities of bone broth and taking all sorts of goodies to kill off the bad bacteria, before I can start rebuilding my gut with good bacteria. Oh goody!

If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health. (Hippocrates)

I’ve been doing my research. Apparently, if you have gut dysbiosis, things you should be doing are:

  • Removing all food toxins from your diet. Check – that’s the autoimmune protocol.
  • Eating plenty of fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc.) I can do that.
  • Eating fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kim chi, etc., and/or take a high-quality, multi-species probiotic. I already make my own fermented vegetables and I have a high-quality, multi-species probiotic prescribed as part of the protocol.
  • Treating any intestinal pathogens (such as parasites) that may be present. Done!
  • Taking steps to manage your stress. This is an ongoing part of the autoimmune protocol. A big part. I need to refocus on this one.

What all of this means is that my reintroduction phase of the autoimmune protocol has come to an abrupt stop. Hopefully, it’s temporary. I’m going to be back to AIP recipes – only with less of the treats. And, I’ll share what I’m learning about the gut micro biome while I’m at it. I’ve got a sneaky wee feeling I’m not the only one experiencing those problems… Stick with me?