Review: Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet by Erica Kerwien



I received a copy of Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for purpose of review. All opinions expressed below are my own.

Once upon a time (though I should hasten to add, this is no fairytale) a mother was faced with a sick child and very few answers. Eventually the doctors diagnosed Emily Kerwien’s son with Crohn’s Disease, but it was far from a simple answer. Searching around for anything to help her son live a better life, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet was suggested and Kerien threw herself into learning about an eating plan to eliminates many combative carbohydrates from the diets of those with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease, chronicling her progress on

I was given the opportunity to take a look at Kerwien’s book, Cooking for the Specific Carbohyrdate Diet, to satisfy my curiosity about another diet out there with the aim to make life easier for those with imperfect digestive systems, having recently switch to a Low-FODMAP diet for similar reasons.

While the subtitle mentions that the recipes are sugar-free, it should be noted that this talks to refined cane sugars only. Honey is used whenever additional sweetness is required, and the substitution guide in the back of the book lists dates as a SCD-friendly alternative. There truly are not any grains, gluten-bearing or not, in this book, instead using a variety of nuts, nut flours, and certain beans. Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes are also forbidden on the SCD diet. In many ways, SCD is the polar opposite of Low-FODMAP, but might make a good option for those who the Low-FODMAP diet does not appear to help.

With the deck a little stacked against my current dietary choices, I gamely read through the recipes, hoping to find some common ground. Some recipes were safe for us to try as-written, and others required substitutions to keep them Low-FODMAP while still getting the overall feel of the recipe.

Our slightly-modified Dirty Rice was rich and tasty and a great one-dish meal.

Our slightly-modified Dirty Rice was rich and tasty and a great one-dish meal.

Todd decided to try her Dirty Rice (p.124). Of course, she called for cauli-rice (cauliflower spun through a food processor then steamed til tender) and we used regular rice, but otherwise the dish studded with bacon, pork, celery, and peppers made for a very tasty supper.

Studded with ham, red bell peppers, green onions and cheese, this quiche was one of the best I've made in a while.

Studded with ham, red bell peppers, green onions and cheese, this quiche was one of the best I’ve made in a while.

I was intrigued by her Simple Quiche (p.101) and her use of yogurt in place of the usual milk or heavy cream most recipes call for. I skipped the crust and was shocked when, instead of overflowing the pie dish as it seemed like it would, it puffed up almost like a souffle. Aside from needing a little additional salt (pretty common with any health-focused cookbook) it was an excellent recipe and one we’ll likely return to in the future.

Our only disappointment, this focaccia isn't something we'll be making again.

Our only disappointment, this focaccia isn’t something we’ll be making again.

To go with a vegetable soup one night, I tried out her Pizza Crust/Focaccia (p.98) recipe as a side dish. She calls for blanched almond flour which is not something we’re keen on, here, so I used my trusted flour blend (which is not SCD-approved, but safer for us). Because of the substitution I made, I don’t want to be too hard on this recipe, but the lack of leavening and the lack of xanthum gum, etc. to improve the texture makes me wonder if this recipe would yield the result we would have expected from a pizza crust. It made an interesting cracker-bread with a wonderful flavor, but it’s not something we’ll be making again, especially since I’ve made better-textured gf-pizza crust a couple of months ago.

Like a rich pot roast, but even better.

Like a rich pot roast, but even better.

The Braised Short Ribs & Carrots (p.130), on the other hand, was a rich and wonderful meal with the addition of some brown basmati rice. After a day in the slow-cooker the short ribs really were fall off the bone tender and made for a very rich broth to spoon over the brown basmati rice I made to go with it.

A bit messy to eat, but worth the extra napkins!

A bit messy to eat, but worth the extra napkins!

Finally, for a light-but-filling weekend supper I made her Fish Tacos (p.136) and Zucchini Sticks (p.40). The tacos also pulled forward some of her other recipes: Avocado Crema (p.77), Creamy Coleslaw (p.55) and her SCD-safe Tortillas (p.97). Since we have no problem with corn tortillas, I did skip that step, but the other recipes all worked well together. The crema, especially, was a delight as it was a wonderful way to stretch an avocado and not so strongly flavored that Todd (not a huge fan of avocados, in general) had no problem with it in the mix. The Zucchini Sticks are a nice alternative to French fries or other starchy sides, the Parmesan cheeses (both grated and shredded) responsible for most of the flavor and much of the texture.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet seems to be one that takes an extended time to “work”–where a Low-FODMAP diet will usually show in a matter of weeks whether the patient will respond to it, the nature of IBD takes much longer to resolve and someone might need to stay on the SCD for two years or more in order to receive the full benefits of the lifestyle change. Not a quick fix, but if it’s something your doctor has recommended, this book may well help you navigate the what’s for dinner challenge a little easier.

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