About

Welcome!

My name is Ayla, and I am "Gourmet Girl Cooks"! I am a busy wife and very proud mother of three, as well as a "Mommy" to a cute little Bichon Frise named Spike (oh, and a Sun Conure named Squawkie whose name says it all)! I am a blogger, recipe developer, free-lance writer and photographer...all of which is done in my spare time because I also have a full time job that pays the bills (wow, just listing all of that together makes me tired)!  I am a wheat-free, grain-free (and by virtue gluten-free) and "no added sugar" self-trained cook...translated into "if I can make it, anyone can"!  I have always had a passion for cooking and almost never follow recipes without numerous modifications (sort of a my way or the highway I suppose).  My favorite cooking is actually freestyle without any recipe at all! Many of my recipes are suitable for Paleo, Primal, gluten-free and other low-carbohydrate plans. I am the brains (or lack of them) behind Gourmet Girl Cooks. I do all of the recipe creation, photography, blog and website management myself. Every word you read on my blog, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest sites are mine...there is no middle man in this process (that is, unless you count my husband who does the dishes and cleans up after all my creations...bless his heart)!   ;-)

My food blog actually began as a hobby and has evolved into so much more. It also serves as a "daily pictorial food diary" with photos and recipes of my wheat-free eating journey. I regularly post most of my meals and recipes in order to help show others how well you can eat without wheat or grains. I decided early on in this journey not to focus on the foods I couldn't eat and instead embrace those that I could, and make the most of them. I was determined that I would never become bored with my meals or feel deprived, because in the end it would not be sustainable for me. I rediscovered real, whole, fresh foods again.  While I know that the primary purpose of food is for sustenance, the reality is that in our culture and many others, it represents so much more. It is intertwined into our traditions and celebrations and I don't see that changing any time soon, if ever. Honestly, I don't really ever want to see that change. Instead, I strive to find the balance between creating and eating delicious foods that not only satisfy my nutritional and health needs, but those of my soul as well, and I believe I have done just that. 

I hope you enjoy browsing and perusing my recipes and ideas and that my blog might help make your wheat and grain free journey just a little bit easier or simply give you a few new ideas. My blog is a labor of love for me...it is not how I make my living. I am always available and willing to help any way I can and can be reached via my blog, email, Facebook, TwitterPinterest, Instagram, and Google+. I don't give out professional or medical advice (that's what your doctor is for)...but when asked, I am more than willing to share my wisdom, advice and some of the tips I have learned along the way to try and help make it easier for you...the same way I would with a friend. I am always open to suggestions, too. Enjoy!

How My Journey Began
In July of 2012, I read the book, Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. I actually started reading it the week before our summer vacation and was so moved by what I read, that I began the program almost immediately (3 days before we left for our vacation). To my husband's dismay, I even read the book out loud as he drove us since I had him as my captive audience. Fortunately, we had rented a house with a full kitchen, so I was able to easily stick with the program during our vacation. I have maintained my wheat and grain free lifestyle (with no added sugar) since July 10th of 2012 without any cheats or accidental wheat exposures. 

The physical changes and weight loss happened very quickly for me. I was extremely skeptical when I initially started the program. However, with my recent sky high triglyceride lab results, I knew I had to do something drastic. It was obvious that the recommended low fat, complex "healthy" whole grains and exercise advice weren't enough for me any more. I would simply lose weight and then gain it right back and my blood work never seemed to improve very much. I had reached the point where I felt I didn't really have anything to lose...so I decided to give Wheat Belly a try. Initially, it seemed a bit daunting and overwhelming at all the changes and foods I would no longer be able to eat. So many of the foods we eat are tainted with wheat, added starches and sugars...who knew. I have always loved to cook and when I initially started this food blog as a hobby only months beforehand (to share my love of cooking with others) I now feared that nobody would be interested in my new wheat and grain-free cooking lifestyle or food blog any more...boy was I wrong!

During my wheat and grain free journey, I have lost over 65 pounds (68 at last count)..."said with both pride and embarrassment at the same time"....and the most amazing part of this is that I dropped 55 of those 68 pounds in the first 6 months with absolutely no exercise whatsoever...simply by eliminating wheat, grains and added sugars from my diet and increasing my fat intake. This was completely contrary and went against everything I had ever read or thought I knew or had been advised by doctors and health professionals. It was...well, a bit crazy!!! The most fascinating part about this process is that in addition to my plummeting weight was my rapidly plummeting triglyceride levels. My triglycerides went from 546 to 115, the lowest I ever remember them being! I was so thoroughly amazed by this transformation that I decided to write to Dr. Davis on his Wheat Belly Blog only 7 weeks into my Wheat Belly journey both to inform and thank him. 

Below is a copy of what I wrote to him via his blog on August 31, 2012, only 7 weeks into my Wheat Belly journey and it includes his response to me:

                                                 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Reluctant Wheat Belly
Posted on August 31, 2012 by Dr. Davis

Blogger Gourmet Girl Cooks posted this tale of her reluctant adventure down Wheat Free Lane:

I am now 7 weeks without wheat or grains. I initially started WB to address my sky-high triglycerides and small LDL, hoping that this might be the answer for me and to keep my doctor from adding yet another medication to my routine.

After many years of losing weight, exercising, and replacing whole grains for the “white stuff,” per my doctors orders, to address my triglycerides (and it failing), I finally decided to give your program a try. I have been a regular reader of your Track Your Plaque Blog for years (way before WB) where you also talked about abstaining from all wheat to address high triglycerides. I will be honest with you: I started WB hoping that it would work . . . but fully expecting it not to. I assumed this was just another fad eating program of some sort.

I finally decided that I needed to know if it could be my answer once and for all, so I dove in 110%. I intentionally did NOT exercise. I wanted to put it to the test and see if the results of just abstaining from wheat/grains would do anything for me. It just turns out that I had a physical before starting the program and my bloodwork came back bad . . . again — bad enough that my doctor had me return in 3 weeks to recheck my BP and some of my bloodwork.

Here is the surprise: After 3 weeks, my triglycerides were cut almost in half; I had lost 16 pounds–yes 16 pounds. I gave my doctor your food plan that I printed out from your website (the Quick and Dirty). She said it must be working for you. Continue and come back and we will run your bloodwork again in 8 weeks. At 4 weeks on WB, I am down 21 pounds–who knew it could be so easy??? That would have taken me months to do at any other time in my life. This is the first time I will be looking forward to my blood test results (early October).

I started this plan intending to prove you wrong. I am 7 weeks into this plan wondering where you have been all my life!!! I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I have never been so glad in my entire life to have been proven wrong. I will keep you posted on my progress (I have not weighed since the 4-week mark, but I am shrinking before my own eyes. It is astonishing to say the least). Thank you, thank you….thank you!

Isn’t that great?

Look through Gourmet Girl’s blog over time and you can see her shift in thinking about food. While her older posts (still beautifully photographed!) included plenty of wheat flour and pasta, her more recent recipes reflect her new wheat-free enlightenment. Take a look at her latest Eggplant Ricotta Bake. It looks like Gourmet Girl is another great resource for us wheatless folk looking for more clever recipes!

For those of you interested in understanding high triglycerides:

The issue of high triglycerides suggests that people like Gourmet Girl have a gene (or genes) that allow incredibly efficient conversion of carbohydrate calories to storage forms of energy–a survival advantage in a wild setting with intermittent and uncertain food supply.

Carbohydrates are converted to triglyceride-containing lipoproteins (such as VLDL) that provide the appearance of high blood triglyceride levels. It means high-efficiency de novo lipogenesis by the liver, the conversion of carbohydrates to triglyceride-containing lipoproteins. In a wild setting in which you may not eat for days or weeks, Gourmet Girl has a wonderful survival advantage. But in a modern setting in which foods flow many times a day, the product of liver de novo lipogenesis–triglycerides–accumulates to high levels. (Made worse, incidentally, by knuckleheaded advice like “Eat many small meals every 2 hours.” Wrong! This CAUSES heart disease and diabetes.)

The answer to reducing high triglycerides is not to cut the “white” foods and certainly not to cut fats, but to minimize exposure to carbohydrates, thus limiting the process of de novo lipogenesis.

The worst carbohydrate of all? The amylopectin A of wheat.

Anyway, welcome to the happy, healthy, and slender ranks of the Wheatless, Gourmet!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Disclosure
After more than 1-1/2 years of blogging without allowing any ads on my blog, in order to receive some small revenue to help keep my blog going, I have recently allowed some ads to be placed on the right side-bar of my site and at the bottom of some of my posts (by Adsense and others). I have also added some of my favorite products to my Amazon aStore. My blog is not the source of how I make my living so I am not pressured, persuaded or obligated to mention any products simply for the purpose of making money. If I mention or suggest a product or link to any products, it is because I personally use them and/or recommend them and would also do so if you were my family or friend. I believe you should purchase all products you use wherever you can get the best quality, price and value for them. I always state my own opinions when I recommend a product...my opinions are not for sale nor influenced by others.

25 comments:

Paula Mastronardi said...

Same here...my doctor was impressed. Total cholesterol was 230...reduced to 167 in 3 months in addition to a 30 pound weight loss. I also did not exercise, but not advocating that. The holidays really worked against me adding 8 pounds to my body' but getting back on track. High cholesterol is genetic in my family. My very fit 24 y/o son had a level of nearly 300. After 3 months of w/b it was decreased to 195! He is now on board, as are other family members. We are all striving to be better, thank you Wheat Belly!

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

That's awesome, Paula! :-)

Anonymous said...

You are an inspiration Ayla! I have recently started Wheat belly as I suffer with stomach problems when I eat grains, wheat, gluten. In the beginning to detox is there a certain diet weekly plan that should be followed or can you just choose breakfast, lunch dinner recipes from the cookbook? Also can you eat unlimited amount of nuts on a daily basis?

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Thank you! If you suffer from stomach issues, you will hopefully notice a big difference after removing them from your diet. There is no special weekly plan you need to follow. It's actually pretty simple...there are foods you can enjoy in "unlimited amounts"; others you can enjoy, but in "limited amounts"...and then there are the "never foods". Nuts are in the unlimited category. Basically you can combine allowable foods into whatever kind of recipe or meal you choose to. The best and easiest way in the beginning though is to keep it simple and not overwhelm yourself (particularly if you are detoxing from eliminating wheat/grains/sugar). Slowly but surely, once your body adjusts to that you will find yourself eating when you are truly hungry and not because you are driven to eat by cravings caused from blood sugar swings. For me, there was a calm that came over me...not right away but after a month or so. Once you realize that you aren't restricting food like in so many "diets"...but rather eliminating those 3 items, you calm down and relax. If you aren't wild about cooking...keep it extremely simple. Eat nuts, cheese, berries, vegetables with butter, a wide variety of meats and fish. The added right types of fat will satiate you and you will begin to feel full naturally with less. In the beginning, I would focus on getting through the detox week or 2 -- if you are hungry, EAT; don't worry about anything other than eating the foods from the list you can. It didn't take me long -- within a few days to a week I was feeling like "I can do this". If you want to make yourself something special (a recipe)...do it when you have a little more time (on the weekend, etc.). Just don't stress yourself out about the eating part in the beginning. I am always happy to help or give suggestions if you need to. You can contact me here on the blog publicly or email me privately, whichever you are most comfortable with. I wish you LOTS of success and improvement from your stomach issues. I will be rooting for you from the sidelines! :-)

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

P.S. -- I meant to include the Wheat Belly Quick & Dirty 2 food list for you (posted in Dec. 2012). In the beginning, it helped me a lot -- I printed it off and kept it in my purse so it was handy when I went shopping. Here you go! http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2012/12/wheat-belly-quick-dirty-2/

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting the list! However "never bacon" is throwing me off. :o/

Diana

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Diana,

If you are referring to "never bacon" on the "quick & dirty" list...it's simply because of the unhealthy nitrites and nitrates in cured bacon and other meats. Some folks don't worry about it with bacon...but I find nitrite and nitrate free "uncured bacon". I've bought uncured bacon in my regular grocery store by Applegate, Maverick and even Oscar Mayer. So, if you can find it like that, I wouldn't worry too much. If that wasn't what you were referring to, let me know! :-)

Stacy said...

Just curious, when you first started did you just eliminate wheat and grains or wheat, grains and sugar? Also, have you tried to make your own almond flour? If so, how? My family I are just getting started and it is a bit overwhelming! I don't have the book but have been reading Dr. Williams blog and so many others. Yours speaks to me the most! Figuring out what to do first and how to do it is where I am at. I look in my pantry and in my fruit room and get sick looking at all the things that will have to go......money down the drain is how I see it. Anyways, I am going to make it work for my families health! Thanks!

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Stacy,

I actually stopped wheat, grains and sugar from the beginning. Honestly, it made it much easier I think because of the side effect it caused..."reduced appetite and cravings."

The thing that helped me the most, even more than the book which I did read was this list: http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/2012/12/wheat-belly-quick-dirty-2

I printed it and kept it in my purse so I always had it with me when I shopped. I have not actually tried making my own almond flour. In the very beginning, I bought Bob's Red Mill and shortly after tried Honeyville's blanched almond flour (bought from them online). I have since tried a number of other brands and kinds of almond flour and just stick with Honeyville because I like it best. It is pricey when you first start out having to buy different ingredients. Rather than throw food out, try giving it to other friends and family that still eat it. I kept it because my entire family is not grain free like me.

I personally believe that the quicker you get away from wheat, grains and sugar, the easier it will become to follow this way of eating because it does drastically reduce your cravings for them. Keep it super simple in the beginning and don't allow yourself to get hungry when you first begin...just eat more of the allowable foods (nuts, cheese, etc.) and before you know it, you will find that you aren't craving like you used to.

Find a few dishes that you really love (pizza, etc.) and make a grain free version...it does help you relax and realize that you don't have to stop everything...just change the ingredients they are made with. You can do it and I am always willing to help or answer any questions you have! Welcome to the "club". :-)

Stacy said...

Thanks! And I am sure I will be asking for more advice!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ayla,
Do your husband and children follow the wheat belly diet as well?

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Anonymous,

No, they don't follow it as a lifestyle, however they do eat what I do when they are here most of the time and enjoy it. They are grown and not quite as enthusiastic about preparing all their food as I am (particularly my sons).

One of my sons actually has gone completely wheat and gluten free in the last couple of months because of gut issues and I can't tell you how much he improved within the first week. It's going on 2 months for him and the difference is night and day. We were getting ready to schedule him with a gastroenterologist and I asked him to please just try eliminating wheat and anything containing gluten to see if there was any difference. He agreed because he was really suffering. The difference is nothing short of miraculous. He's very athletic and after a couple of weeks he felt like his endurance and improved significantly as well. I have suspected a wheat intolerance with him for a long time. He now goes out of his way to avoid wheat and has been wheat free for a couple of months. So, do they follow it the way I do...no. One has removed wheat completely and the other 2 enjoy what I make when they are at my house. :-)

Wanna Eat Healthy said...

So happy and relieved to have discovered this blog. About 8 years ago. I lost 65 pounds by eliminating sugar, grains, and flour and dairy and red meat. A year ago, I started eating sugar which led to gaining weight,etc.

I am determined to get back on track and include dairy and red meat, but no grains or sugar. Your recipes have been so inspiring, exciting, and helpful. It's only been a few days, but I feel the difference already!

Would u happen to know how I print just the recipe instead of the 10 pages of comments that come with them?

Also, do u have any no flour/grain Super Bowl ideas to serve?

Forever grateful,
Wanna Eat Healthy

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Wanna Eat Healthy and welcome!

So glad you are enjoying my blog. If I go to print a recipe that has lots of comments on it, I initially click the green print button on the left side at the very bottom of the post (before the comments)...then a window pops up and you can check a box at the top that says "remove images" and it takes the photos out and leave you with just the blog post and recipe with no photos or comments. I hope that works for you.

For Super Bowl...are you looking for appetizer or snack ideas or actual meal ideas (like burgers, chili, etc.)? Let me know. Thanks! :-)

Teresa in KY said...

I really enjoy your recipes, the Zucchini Brd awesome as is every recipe I have tried. Today I am trying your cracker recipe in hopes it works well with chicken salad and brushetta.

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Teresa,

Thanks so much. I'm so happy you are enjoying my recipes and hope the crackers turn out nicely for you, too. :-)

Paula said...

Thank you! I've been low-carbing it for over 30 years - breaking only for monthly cheat days (sugar included), with disastrous results after a 6 month break from any carbs - sharp blood sugar level drop - needed sugar to get me out of it. Your blog appears to be an answer to my prayers - recipes that will allow me to improve and continue my way of eating at home.

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Thanks so much Paula. I hope you find some recipes here that you really enjoy as well...life is just too short to feel deprived. I'm wishing you lots of success. If you've been low carbing 30 years...YOU are the pro and you can kick sugar's butt for sure. I know it's hard but once you get over that hump, you've got it made! :-)

JT said...

Hi Ayla, Just discovered your blog today. My husband has self diagnosed himself with gluten intolerance and his doctor (who is anti-grain) is agreeing with him. He eliminated all obvious gluten for 2 weeks and hasn't had any discomfort (except from stress). I'm trying to be supportive but am totally overwhelmed at how changing his diet is going to affect how I cook, shop, etc. It's too much!!
But I recently heard about the whole "Wheat Belly" thing and have been wondering about it.
I was diagnosed with diabetes 4 years ago (no family history, just overweight and inactive)and have been trying to control it with diet only. No meds. I was doing well then rebelled and gained back the weight I had lost. Blood sugar numbers okay but not great. Husband had a heart attack 5 years ago and is now doing great. Between these 2 things we made several changes to our diets; no red meat, more fiber, only whole grains, and no sugar. Tough but relatively easy compared to the no gluten idea.
I love pasta and bread, and my husband loves his cookies and baked goods. How am I to do this and not go crazy?!?!?

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi JT,

I know in the beginning it can seem overwhelming...trust me, I felt that way, too. Do your best to keep it as simple as possible int he beginning. Stick with basic single ingredient type foods (chicken or turkey burgers, grilled chicken, fish and seafood, eggs, etc.) and veggies. Are you also planning to go low carb as well? If so, that will mean eliminating or only occasionally consuming starchier type veggies. I have a number of good breads, cookies, cakes, etc. but honestly, in the beginning, keep it as simple as possible. I can tell you that most everyone feels the exact same way you do in the beginning. I make lasagna (using a variety of different grain/gluten-free noodles like zucchini or eggplant or for the real deal, my grain free tortillas in place of noodles). I have several delicious pizza crust recipes if that is something you like as well.

Let me know if there are particular things that would make following a plan like this for lets say 3 weeks easier (pizza or bread, etc.) and I'll see if I can make some specific suggestions. But the best advice is to keep it VERY simple in the beginning so you don't feel overwhelmed and that way you don't have to purchase a bunch of special ingredients...just stick to fresh foods, etc. There is also a Wheat Belly food list of what to eat and what not to eat that you can use to get started before you read the book. Let me know how I can help. :-)

Joanne Dalton said...

Hi there, Im new to this wheat belly way but suffer from coeliac disease, so really need to get on board with it. I've noticed that the wheat-free market has a lot of products that are used in the wheat belly recipes. These products are not available to us here in Australia. How do you find cooking without these items or do you have your own recipes for them?

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi Joanne,

You don't need them. I've created hundreds of recipes in the last few years without them.

Anonymous said...

Hi there! Thank you for your blog and recipes! You are a godsend! I've just started this wheat free journey and had experimented with chickpea flour. I made pasta and it was amazing and so easy! Question is.. Is it allowed on the WB diet?

Gourmet Girl Cooks said...

Hi there,

You are very welcome. I know that Dr. Davis incorporates chickpea flour (garbanzo flour) in some of his recipes. You just need to allow for the carbs. I've actually never used it. Great idea making pasta with it! :-)

Rena said...

hello! You are an answer to prayers! I just started the WB way of eating and was looking for some recipes to help me stay on track. I found you through the WB FB page and am so glad I did. Thank you for sharing your recipes and I can't wait to try them. I'm making the crackers tomorrow. have a great day! --Rena