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What and how to cook, when you can't cook

Discussion in 'Lifestyle Management' started by Vincent, Sep 24, 2012.

  1. Vincent

    Vincent Senior Member

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    I spend the majority of my time laying down. I could say bedridden but I can't sleep in a bed. I sleep on a Japanese futon on the floor. Anyway I'm looking for simple easy cooking ideas. Most cookbooks are WAY too complicated and call for way too much prep work and or ingredients. I've searched high and low for a disabled cookbook, or something like that to no avail. I have energy and pain issues, specifically with moving my neck. I bought a toaster oven to put onto the counter so I don't have to bend over to use the oven. I also keep all of the most used items in the top cupboards, so all I have to do is look straight ahead, and not move my neck.

    I can't eat any of the frozen meals in the frozen section, they all make me sick in one way or another. Of course once you look at the ingredients list it becomes abundantly clear.

    Right now I get buy with a very expensive food delivery service called letsdish.com. 4 dinners delivered, which comes out to 8-10 servings, is 140 dollars. I have to be selective with my choices because many of their dishes contain dangerous ingredients like trans fat, hidden MSG, and pasta/white rice (not dangerous but I can't eat it, spikes blood sugar).

    If I'm not eating a premade meal I do a green drink in my vitamix or I eat a salad from wendys. Other ideas that come to mind are amy's organic canned soup (I can not eat regular soup laced with chemicals), wild planet canned tuna (costs a fortune but has lowest mercury content and a taste that will blow your mind), and odwalla bars. If I don't do either of those I can eat chicken wings in the toaster oven, or hamburgers. I purposefully use chicken wings because they do not require any prep work, neither do burgers. You just take them out of the freezer, cook, and eat them (I do season them though).

    I once had a cookbook called A man, A can, and a Plan, which would be something I would be looking for along those lines, minus all of the chemicals in their food suggestions. Something that says buy these 3-4 things, do a minimal amount of work, eat. Preferably with no left over ingredients. There is a good chance I will forget that they exist, and they will be wasted and go bad in the depths in my refrigerator. It is best for everything to be 'one and done'.

    I've also looked into meal replacement drinks and bars, mainly organic. So if anyone has a similar experience or has any suggestions I certainly welcome it!
    GracieJ and Snow Leopard like this.
  2. jeffrez

    jeffrez Senior Member

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    Everyone's dietary needs are different, of course, but one thing that struck me immediately in what you said is "no leftovers." That's a huge mistake in ME/CFS, imho. I can't stress what a great help it is to make an extra portion (or two), put the extra in the fridge, and then have an entire meal or two just from heating something up. Even if you have to train yourself at first to get used to doing it, or to remember the stuff's in the fridge, it's really worth it in the long run, imho.

    Otherwise, some of the kitchen food strategies I rely on, in case they might be helpful to you, include:

    1) Crock pot. Sometimes a pain to clean, but can really be a time and energy saver on the preparation end. What I typically do is load it up with lentils, slice up a few carrots, mushrooms, etc., or just throw in a couple sundried tomatoes, add whatever spices you want (cumin, etc.) and let it rip. If you make a side pot of grain, like brown rice, quinoa, etc. and keep that in the fridge, you can eat out of the crock pot literally for days, just pouring it over the rice or quinoa. Helps heat the room in the winter, too. ;-)

    2) Don't laugh, but I find my George Foreman grill to be indispensable. (Hey, if it's good enough for Anthony Bourdain, it's good enough for me!) You can throw just about everything on these grills - meat, poultry, vegetables, you name it. What I do is get free-range boneless chicken - they come in individual packs inside the main package - then just put a couple out to defrost the day I need them. Again, you can cook a couple at a time, then just refrigerate the rest for an easy sandwich or even another meal the next day. I also get these "organic" (free range, etc.) Italian chicken sausages that are actually pretty amazing. Same deal there: thaw what you need, grill a few, fridge the extras, and have ready made stuff at hand later. It took me longer to type this paragraph than to prepare a quick sandwich with the leftovers. ;-) I also grill portabella mushrooms, squashes, the occasional burger, and anything else I can think of. It's easy to cook, and easy to clean. 5 stars on that one.

    3) Microwave. Yeah, I don't like the idea of microwave radiation zapping either myself or my food, but I figure for something like a baked potato, what's it really going to do? It's a potato! It's also good for heating things up sometimes, if you only need to heat a leftover for 30 seconds or so and don't want to start your stove, have to clean up a pot, etc. I try to limit microwave use as much as possible, but sometimes it's just unavoidably convenient. I always make sure to leave the room while it's running, though.

    4) Easy stuff. I always try to make sure I have some easy stuff on hand, for when hypoglycemic attacks hit or if you happen to crash a little and don't really have the energy to cook anything. This includes stuff like whole grain bread, of course (always have some of that on hand), nuts and nut butters, boiled free range eggs in the fridge, avocados, sardines (great protein boost, no cooking, and supposedly very low or no mercury), or anything you can basically just grab and eat (in a sandwich preferably) for a quick meal providing some fairly balanced protein, fat, and carbs. I also slather olive oil over just about everything and also take Tbs. of coconut oil throughout the day, both of which tend to help keep blood sugar from troughing out too much between meals.

    Another theme besides convenience that you might see running through my comments is whole, organic healthy food. I think trying to eat as basic and natural as possible, without all the artificial ingredients, unhealthy additives, and whatever else is put in most processed food, is really going to benefit you more over time even including the small amount of effort it takes to make it, compared to the toll on your health over time from ordering out. You'll probably save a lot of money, too.

    So anyway, I hope some of those suggestions and a look into my personal routine at least spurs some new ideas. The key is to really keep it as simple as possible, I think. Once you have a routine going, it becomes pretty easy, almost automatic, in fact. Just keep in mind that any changes you make, either from what I said or anything else, are going to take time to get used to and to incorporate into your way of doing things. Can be hard to make overnight changes, esp. when it comes to diet and food and cooking, so just go at your own pace and do what's comfortable for you.
  3. madietodd

    madietodd Senior Member

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    Hi, Vincent. It would be useful to know your dietary preferences and restrictions. I've been through a lot of "diets" - including paleo, specific carbohydrate, low carb, gluten free, and now vegetarian (because of cholesterol issues). I've always cooked for myself; I bet a lot of us here do. What do you like to eat? Hate? How much time can you spend cooking, and what does that look like?

    Madie
  4. lnester7

    lnester7 Seven

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    1) Protein shakes (first link), I have a simple one person blender so is easy to clean and you drink in the same cup.
    http://www.amazon.com/Natures-Plus-...32&sr=8-19&keywords=protein powder strawberry

    http://www.amazon.com/Hamilton-Beac...6089&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=1 person blender

    2) I buy veggies already cut in super and just dump in one pot w meat until cooked. (like steak w asparagus, mushrooms, onions....).

    3)Deli at Super cook good meals then re-heat.
    4) Avocado w salt and lemon (you can spread on anything).
    5) I buy naked juices and If I am too tired just juice and one banana (or any fruit). http://www.nakedjuice.com/
    6) I buy a lot of frozen Roots like taro root and boil w salt, then eat w turkey or lunch meat.
    7) Peanut Butter on any fruit (my lazy meal).
  5. Vincent

    Vincent Senior Member

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    I'm fine with leftover from a complete meal. I have a problem with 2oz of this, 4 stalks of this, left over after making something. It leads to little bits that i forget about, and then they go bad. I do like potatoes and have bought them before but I can never figure how how to store them. If I buy a bag of potatoes by the time I eat them they are growing things and must be thrown away. Once at this point I've now forgone other options, with the understanding that the potato would be there for me to eat.

    If I had to choose a dietary style I would say low carb paleo. I can not eat pasta, white rice, fake sugar, msg and all derivatives. I also shy away from dairy because I've newly discovered it clogs my sinuses.

    I try to buy fruits and vegetables with the easiest storage options and that last the longest. I have a tendency to forget things exist, and so sometime by the time I remember or go to use them they are spoiled. I do spinach in a bag prewashed, apple, berries in my vitamix, then I add water. It's very boring but it gets the job done. Apples are a low sugar food and last a long time, berries are also low sugar.

    I have thought about lunch meat but they are generally filled with msg, nitrates, and or fillers. Lunch meat across the street is 6-12 dollars per pound, and overall I think it's a rip off and not worth it. I like the good stuff, chicken breast and roast beef, so we are talking 8 dollars per pound.
  6. Andrew

    Andrew Senior Member

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  7. caledonia

    caledonia

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    Store potatoes in the dark (but not in the fridge). I have a small cardboard box I put them in, labeled "Taters" on the outside (so I don't forget they're in there!). I buy three potatoes at a time, not a whole sack. Three is about what I eat in a week. They're quick and easy to nuke up in the microwave.
    ixchelkali, Vincent, jeffrez and 2 others like this.
  8. taniaaust1

    taniaaust1 Senior Member

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    Potatoes are also best not stored in their plastic bags as they go rotten.. I always store them in a dark cupboard sitting on some cardboard (so air can flow around them).

    If they are just starting to grow shoots, they can still be eatten but just cut the eye with the shoot off (and make sure you arent cooking up any greenish parts of potatoes at all as those are toxic). As I too are on a low carb diet, I can only eat like one small potato a day, they are good to cook up in microwave in a bowl with some water.
    ............
    Quick Soup
    another thing I do is soups.. just cook up some frozen mixed veg with water with some curry, mixed herbs, salt, pepper and some vegemite or stock cube could be used (you can throw in chops in there too to cook or add mince to the mix) and once cooked, just blend. I make up large batches and freeze
    ................

    Stuffed zuccinni

    I also do a quick meal with zuccini, this is a recipe I made up when I was feeling creatiive some time back (not sure how it will go in your grill thou). I
    buy a large zuccini.. cut long ways and scoop out middle.. then beat an egg and pour inside the zuccini halves, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and some herbs

    I then top it with cheese and tomato slices and bake till zuccini is soft (I like this well cooked). Other then having to scoop out the middle of the zuccini, it isnt much harder to do then making cheese and tomato on toast, it probably would still work well without cheese
    ......

    Baked Mushroom

    Baked large mushrooms which have been sprinkled with a lot of mixed herbs and salt and a bit of pepper. can be nice esp I find nice to eat cold as like a salad meal thing (I do often cook those with a cheese slice sitting on top but that probably isnt needed). This can be had with a couple of cold hard boiled eggs but mushrooms by themselves can be a near complete meal anyway.
    ......................................

    chicken kababs
    I just put pieces of chicken breast, onion, capsicum, mushroom on kabab sticks .. season it and then grill for a complete meal (it is time consuming getting it on sticks but can be easier then peeling vegatables at times).

    If you arent well enough to do much cooking, I really suggest to have someone come in once a week and put together a large pot of soup of a recipe of your choice which you can just cook on your stove them then freeze (maybe some high school girl close to you would like some pocket money to do this).
    It takes someone less then an hour to cut everything up to make a huge pot of soup which is enough for 4-5 nights (so may be cheaper then ordering predone things). If you did the same thing once a week you'd just have to put the same ingredients on your shopping list.

    I have my home support worker do this for me 1-2 times per fortnight and it makes sure I always have something nice I can just put in microwave when needed when Im doing too poorly to be up to cooking at all. I change the taste by adding different meats eg chicken soup one week, beef soup the next or different spices to it.
    jeffrez and merylg like this.
  9. madietodd

    madietodd Senior Member

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    Also don't store potatoes beside onions. They go bad quickly.

    Even at $8 a pound for good-quality deli meats, you'd be saving money over buying those pre-made meals.

    I'd invest in a rice cooker (they can do brown rice) and a crock pot. Whatever time of day is your best, throw stuff into the crock pot and let it cook all day/overnight. The internet is full of recipes if you want some guidance.

    I use Rapunzel bouillon cubes for everything. You can get them at iherb, vitacost, amazon.... They're expensive, but pure. I order a lot of foods from vitacost and amazon.

    When my memory is terrible, I make lists of all the food in the house and stick them on the cupboards, fridge, and freezer. As long as I remember to cross things off as I use them, this helps a lot.

    If you're having trouble getting flavor into your food, you could roast onions and garlic. I just cut off the bottoms of onions, or leave the garlic heads whole (don't peel). Set them in a dish (I like glass) with an inch or two of water, and bake at 350 for maybe an hour. I like a low temperature so they don't burn if my timing is off. I ALWAYS use a timer, which I carry around with me, when I'm baking. [Or, here's a recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/roasted-onions/] When they're done, the skins pop off easily.
    Vincent, jeffrez and merylg like this.
  10. Vincent

    Vincent Senior Member

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    Thank your the info about the potatoes I never knew to not store them in the bag they came in. I will store them in a cardboard box now. I did own a rice cooker, an expensive zojirushi, but it took 1.45 minutes to do brown rice; I can not eat white rice. Later I realized you can buy a giant box of brown minute rice and have it done in 10 minutes.

    Those bouillon cubes look nice but they contain yeast extract. Yeast extract is code for MSG. MSG is an excitotoxin.
  11. Vincent

    Vincent Senior Member

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    You mention in the link that 'I have to say though, I often wonder if I would be better off looking into a service that delivers complete meals. These places will reduce cost based on income.' The only thing I can think of is Angel Food Ministries, and they went out of business because the directors were allegedly embezzling money. They had a pre-made 'senior pack' but I don't believe it was discounted based on income.

    Did you ever find anything? The only thing I know of is Meals on Wheels and I had them for a few months. The two biggest problems with them were 1. the food was god awful, a mix between hospital food and the school lunch program. I could only eat 5 out of 25 meals. 2. they came around 11am to 1pm every weekday, so I had to be awake no matter what to answer the door. Eventually I got a cooler and put ice in it and they left it outside, but that was a major problem for me.
  12. urbantravels

    urbantravels disjecta membra

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    I use "Better than Boullion" which is, to coin a phrase, better than boullion, and doesn't have MSG. It's a paste in a jar (keeps quite a long time in the fridge) and you use a teaspoon of it instead of a bouillion cube. Tastes way better too. You can check the ingredients list for the various types and see if they contain anything you don't want to eat. http://www.superiortouch.com/retail/products/better-than-bouillon

    I echo the recommendations for a slow cooker as well as a George Foreman grill for the easiest ways to make paleo-friendly food simply and cheaply. I found this site with Paleo crockpot recipes:

    http://paleopot.com/

    Dana Carpender also has some low-carb cookbooks, including a slow cooker cookbook, which I've used for years.

    A lot of recipes are more complicated than they need to be. If you are cooking in a slow cooker, you do need to pay attention to the amount of liquid the recipe requires, but other than that, if the recipe says 4 stalks of celery and you've got 5, throw in the extra celery. Proportions don't need to be exact unless you're baking things.

    For me it's hard keeping myself well fed with fresh food. If I have enough energy to shop, there's none left to cook. I can't shop in large quantities because I have to schlep the food from car to apartment (I have to park on the street). It takes a lot of my energy just keeping myself fed; I've been strongly tempted by meal delivery services, but the cost always makes me cough up a hairball. Grocery delivery, depending on where you live, can help; there's not a lot here that's affordable.
    SOC likes this.
  13. madietodd

    madietodd Senior Member

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    I've never reacted to these bouillon cubes. I found this about yeast extract from wikipedia:

    Yeast extract is often mistaken with monosodium glutamate (MSG) – a common flavour enhancer – despite the fact that these ingredients differ strongly, both in composition and function. While yeast extract is made up of a rich mix of proteins, vitamins and amino acids, MSG is composed exclusively of glutamate salt. As a result, monosodium glutamate does not have a taste of its own and is only used to make existing flavours stronger.
    Glutamate is one of the components present in every natural protein and is therefore also one of the many components of yeast extract. However, only about 5% of glutamate is present in yeast extract.[4]
    So who knows? I DO react to regular bouillon cubes.
  14. Valentijn

    Valentijn Activity Level: 3

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    I like coconut milk + curry paste or whatever spices sound good + pre-chopped vegetables + pre-chopped meat (or meat that will fall apart once cooked, like fish). I do mine over rice, but you could throw in chopped potato or sweet potato at the beginning instead.

    It only takes one pot, and one dish to eat out of. Doing it with 1 can of coconut milk would probably get 4-5 modest meals for one person. Because things go in at different times, it's easy to limit my standing to a couple minutes at a time, with 5-10 minutes rest between.
  15. ahimsa

    ahimsa Senior Member

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    You mentioned brown rice so I thought I'd share one very basic and easy recipe that I use. It takes about 45 minutes so it's not in the "quick" category, just basic food that is quite filling and requires very little thought. It's just one more option that might spur some ideas of your own.

    Basic rice and lentils

    1 cup brown rice
    1/2 cup lentils
    3 cups water
    Optional, 1-2 spoons curry paste (if you like the flavor)

    Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes or until all the water is gone.

    If you don't like curry paste (e.g., here's an example - http://www.pataksusa.com/product-detail?id=10 ) you could make it plain, or add a little oil and pinch of salt. And maybe some garlic? Alternatively, you could add some kind of sauce on top after it has finished cooking.

    I have a hard time prepping fresh veggies so I don't use them that often. I sometimes use frozen but at other times I use things that don't need extra prep. For example, I use either frozen or the pre-washed bags of spinach when I want to cook spinach. It's just too hard for me to wash raw, fresh spinach. Unfortunately, pre-washed fresh spinach costs more so some folks may not be able to afford it. Another example is those bags of baby carrots. I either eat them raw or steam them as is (I don't even cut them).

    I agree with the others that it's best if you find a few recipes that you like and then make a large batch. You can then put the extra in the refrigerator and/or freezer. (You probably already know this but not everything freezes well, you'll have to experiment)

    I hope you find something that works for you!
  16. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    I cook in small bursts of activity. Chop an onion. Rest. Chop a carrot. Rest. Chop whatever. Rest. Then I cook. Put in the aromatic stuff. Rest. Put in the long cook stuff. Rest. Put in the short cook stuff. Rest.

    When I cannot cook I have some rye biscuits on hand (carb and grain alert) and like to have a can of baked beans in the cupboard. Frozen veges are also good as people have noted, and I keep some frozen grated cheese for fast protein (fat reduced).

    Bye, Alex
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  17. ahimsa

    ahimsa Senior Member

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    Another idea, if you don't have a problem with bread, is sandwiches with different spreads (peanut butter, hummus, or whatever works for you). If you want to save money, and you think you have the energy, then it's pretty easy to make your own hummus in a blender or food processor. There are lots of different recipes on the web using canned beans.

    If you're really feeling ambitious then you could cook the beans from scratch, maybe in a crockpot or slow cooker as jeffrez suggested above. Or you could use a pressure cooker if you have one.

    Oh, I forgot another grain option - quinoa. It's much quicker to cook than brown rice (15 minutes vs 45 minutes) and it's quite good. I get mine in the bulk section. Just be sure to rinse it/drain it through a mesh strainer first. That removes the bitterness.

    PS. Alex gave good advice about small bursts of energy interspersed with rest periods. That's exactly how I cook.

    I don't mind recipes that take a long time. As long as I can do the prep work at my own pace, and then let it cook (on the stove or in the oven), then everything's fine. But I can't do anything that requires me to hover over the stove.
    alex3619 likes this.
  18. Andrew

    Andrew Senior Member

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    No, but I really didn't look. I just assumed everything would be as you described: a cross between hospital food and lunch food.

  19. urbantravels

    urbantravels disjecta membra

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    Talking of brown rice, the frozen pre-cooked brown rice in a baggie that you heat in the microwave for 3 minutes is actually quite good. Trader Joe's has a house brand and Whole Foods does as well. I think there must be other brands out there.

    I'm always on the lookout for food options that don't require much cleanup, since I don't have a dishwasher, and hovering over the sink is as bad for OI as hovering over the stove.
    ixchelkali likes this.
  20. erist

    erist

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    crockpot and rice cookers are heaven (you can cook lots of things in rice cookers). Smoothies and shakes also great for when cooking AND eating seem like too much work. (I know you have a vitamix so what about more nut and avocado smoothies, etc)

    Pre made food seems expensive! You can get 45 fully paleo meals (all grassfed meats, all organic vegetables, no grains, no dairy, no legumes) for $450 from here: http://www.premadepaleo.com/products/whole30-approved-meals-for-30day-challenge

    Which is expensive, but not $30 a dinner expensive!

    --

    no work meals that may work for you: corn chips (or apples) and almond butter, hard boiled eggs (okay a little work once, but you can do like 12 at a time, just fruits or veg eaten raw, honey+tahini, yogurt.

    Careful with the meal replacement bars. Larabars are the best I think (just dates and nuts and sometime cocoa) but they can really dehydrate you (and spike blood sugar)

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