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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. health_seeker

    health_seeker

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    Vincent:

    I can really sympathise with your situation. I can't tell you the number of days I've had in the last couple of years when the thought of cooking a meal and cleaning up afterwards has just been overwhelming but eating out wasn't an option because we just couldn't afford it. I don't have chronic pain and can't ;begin to understand what that must be like for you trying to do basic things like cooking. But in addition to having CFS I am also totally blind and have to put a lot more concentration into tasks like cooking. It's especially hard on a bad day when I can't think straight or remember where I just put something. One thing I've found though is that investing my limited energy and resources in cooking basic food that's healthy and AFFORDABLE is something that's had huge pay offs for me. My digestionis much improved and I'm far less stressed about money than I would have been had I been relying on eating out.


    I think batch cooking is a really good strategy when your energy is limited. I'm also on a low or less carbs diet and have had to work hard to eat enough protein so that I get enough calories to satisfy my apetite and maintain my weight. I hate not being full after a meal. I find it really depressing. So a lot of what I do in the kitchen is focused on getting enough calories from protein and fat, as well as fruit and vegetables. I grill chops and fish. I amake my own bergers. I buy a value pack of chicken thighs from the supermarket and bake half a dozen of them in a roasting pan on 375f for about an hour. Before putting them in the oven, I add a couple of splashes of lemon juice, salt, pepper, a dusting each of garlic and onion powders, sage, thyme, and rosemary. There's a bit of prep involved but once they're in the oven there's nothing to do except take them out when they're done. I eat a lot of nuts, sardines, canned kidney beans mixed with hummus, and advocardoes. I eat a lot of salads and baked or saute'd vegies that I do in batches. Trader Joe's has a very good mayonaize with nothing artificial added and no sugar which I use to spice up my salads. When I really can't be bothered with a meal, I mix up a protein drink and add a tablespoon of flax seed oil. I've found a brand of protein powder with no added sugar and sweetened with stevia and xylitol.
     
    camas likes this.
  2. Mr. Cat

    Mr. Cat Senior Member

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    Nothern California
    Hi Vincent,

    I'm also on a paleo, gluten-free, alkaline, etc., etc. diet. I save time by cooking a lot once to twice a week, eating some, and freezing the rest in containers, to microwave later at work, or at home if I'm not up to more cooking, which I often am not. I'm an advocate of minimal-ingredient (less than 5, 2-3 is ideal) meals. Some favorite large-dish meals include boiled (1.5 hours) mung beans with cumin, broiled brussells sprouts with walnuts and soy sauce, and sauteed onions/kale with soy sauce. Scrambled eggs are easy and fast (I do not freeze these) I know many people have issues with microwaves, but for me, it is a welcome trade-off against daily cooking.

    The above is a pretty low-protein diet, but I supplement with morning protein shakes, which don't take too long to make. I can't handle most prepackaged snacks because of the ingredients, but snack on sunflower seeds, soaked and roasted almonds, protein powder, and occasional fruit.
     
  3. Vincent

    Vincent Senior Member

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    Baltimore, Maryland USA
    Thank you health_seeker and mr. cat for your suggestions. I think the main hardest part is the organization; I believe that is the main component to cooking, knowing what to buy and when to use it. I have made my own burgers before and they have turned out very well. Currently I buy Bubba Burgers instead of making my own. I can get by with two burgers in the pan and some mixed vegetables, grillmates steak seasoning on the burgers.

    I'm trying to learn as much as I can right now while I basically coast my finances on my credit card. I've gone hungry for years and have decided I will not allow that anymore, regardless if it fits in the budget. If I have to plunk my butt down in a set at a restaurant and spend 15-20 dollars then so be it, I'm eating.

    For chicken I like chicken wings. I have tried to buy boneless chicken breasts but I find them bland without the skin. The wings don't require me to cut the skin or do any prep work, because it'll never get done. It also requires little neck movement, especially looking down. I buy McCormick chicken rub and just mix the wing around in a bowl. Then I put them in my toaster oven so I don't have to bend down.

    Mr. cat I have done soaked almonds before to make my own almond milk. I'm just terrible at planning and organizing, so basically whatever I do is route memorization and it's 'one and done'. Once I have a pattern that works I prefer to just execute that plan instead of having to think about it. In my indecisiveness I will waste time, and potentially energy if whatever food dish I'm making doesn't work out, especially if I have no backup plan. Also I have done eggs but the looking down in the pan is an issue for me. What I especially look for is anything I can put into the oven because it can be unattended and I don't have to stare down looking at it. I do have a wheeled stool I bought at walmart but I still find myself having to get up and look down.

    In the kitchen it's hard for me to move my neck and specifically my right arm at the same time. I had basically reconstructive surgery on my sternum in 93. The surgery failed and my mother never took me back for a follow up appointment (I'll never know why). So now the center of my chest is numb, asymmetrically concave, and painful in the areas where feeling meets numbness. I also has surgery on the base of my skull near my neck. I think that is why I have so much trouble. When I was getting PT 5 days a week with massage and hot tub that helped a ton. Unfortunately Medicare wont pay for it and I don't have the 'platinum' insurance that I had when I went to live with my dad.

    Could anyone recommend any cookbooks and or recipe software? Especially stuff that is online or available on the computer, because I can read much better on the computer because I dont' have to move my neck. I do know that recipe software exists though I have a feeling it's more comlex then what I need. I need simple 5 ingredients or less cookbooks.

    I do want to patronize stores like Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Wegmanns, and etc. The problem with where I live now is the traffic is insane and it's very difficult, nigh impossible for me to get around. It's risky to even make a left hand turn out here since my side street goes out into what I would call a main road. You must be highly functional and alert, else these drivers will eat you alive. I'm trying to move but I'm still coming up with ideas. Sorry for the long answer but I wanted to clarify my situation.
     
  4. November Girl

    November Girl Senior Member

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    Texas
    Are you familiar with the concept of Personal Chefs? They bring the groceries to your house, cook a week or two's worth of meals, package them for refrigerator and/or freezer storage, clean everything up, and leave. This is usually less expensive than delivered meals, as the chef is self-employed and doesn't have to pay for kitchen space. Most of them have some standard menus, and will also work with you for your specific dietary requirements and taste.

    Here's a link to one person's website. The service she describes is more or less what you can expect.
    http://chefaimee.com/personal_chef_service

    Here's an international directory of personal chefs.
    http://www.pchefnet.com/
     
    merylg and camas like this.
  5. November Girl

    November Girl Senior Member

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    Texas
    Five Minute Freezer Soup

    1 quart box chicken stock (Swanson’s is best, organic or regular)
    1 can diced tomatoes
    Frozen Vegetables – 1 package each – usually 12 to 16 oz.
    Cajun Mirapoix – mixed celery, onions, bell pepper & parsley
    Green Beans
    Corn
    Peas & Carrots
    Salt & Pepper to taste

    Add all ingredients to large pot (stockpot or pasta pot sized). Add water to cover an inch or so. Bring to a boil. Cook at a high simmer/ low boil until done, about 20 minutes.

    ----------
    Use whatever vegetables you like. I’ve sometimes use lima beans, didn’t care for spinach, will try cauliflower or broccoli and would love to find some frozen kale.

    This is actually very good, especially for easy food. I freeze it in plastic 2 cup containers, and pop one in a bowl to microwave. Sometimes I top it with grated cheese.

    It actually takes less than 5 minutes to get this started. I don't count the time I'm sitting down while it cooks. :D
     
  6. Little Bluestem

    Little Bluestem Senescent on the Illinois prairie, USA

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    Midwest, USA
    Simple Tortellini Soup

    1 can low sodium, fat free broth
    1 cup vegetables
    1 cup frozen tortellini

    Bring broth to boil. Add vegetable and tortellini and cook until done. You will have to add them at different times if they need to cook for different lengths of time.
    You can mix and match different broths, vegetables, and tortellinis. I like frozen veggies because the keep a long time and I can use one serving at a time. Fresh and canned will work too.
    I eat it straight from the pan to reduce dirty dishes.
     
  7. taniaaust1

    taniaaust1

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    Sth Australia
    Another thing I like to make as its a healthy complete meal and has only 5 ingredients is stuffed chicken breast which I put in the oven. I cut the chicken breast piece in almost half longways and stuff with cheese, red capsicum, canned asparagus (left overs is good for snacks) and some black olives (you can buy these already seeded).

    And just sprinkle the chicken with whatever spice/herb you like to use and some salt. Make sure it is well cooked...

    Preparation time is only about 5-10 mins. (when I make this I like to make a few of them which isnt much harder then doing just one, so I can put the others in fridge and reheat on other days)
     
  8. Hope123

    Hope123 Senior Member

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    I don't know where you are but I have used Dream Dinners in the past with some success -- still requires a bit of planning and cooking but the 2-3 hours you spend planning/ packing = 1 or more months of meals ready to cook in your freezer. Fairly good tasting stuff. This is a national chain and while not cheap is not overly expensive. They also deliver in some areas:

    http://dreamdinners.com/main.php?page=home

    Similar service: Super Suppers

    Also, some places, like Whole Paycheck and Safeway deliver.

    Depending on what they have, how you eat, and your food preferences, Amazon and Costco can be useful. You do not have to be a member to order things in bulk off of Costco online and both services have good bulk prices, quality, and free delivery above a certain amount for some items.

    This is a quick example but there are cookbooks for people with cancer that tend to focus on easier preparation with lots of nutrition-packed meals. I realize that people's diet preference are very different but if you're just trying to eat generally healthy -- e.g. more fruits/ vegs, less meat, etc.(which might be different given the paleo low carb diet) - using a cookbook for cancer (or even diabetes or heart disease) is something a whole family can benefit from. I picked cancer because people with cancer have fatigue as a challenge for cooking.
    http://www.amazon.com/Betty-Crockers-Living-Cancer-Cookbook/dp/0764565494/ref=pd_sim_b_4

    I don't use it but as an example, Epicurious has free one-week-at-a-time shopping list/ recipes. The good thing about their weekly menu is they always have one seafood night and one meatless night.
    http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/everydaycooking/weeklydinnerplanners

    Simply Recipes is one of my favorite sites - they have both relatively simple as well as the occasional exotic recipes:
    http://www.simplyrecipes.com/
    All Recipes has a lot, some good, some bad:
    http://allrecipes.com/
    Best Asian - Steamy Kitchen:
    http://steamykitchen.com/

    It depends on what you mean by 5 ingridients or less -- I find that some recipes that say they have 5 or less actually have more -- they sometimes don't count things like spices. Whereas some recipes with a long list actually aren't hard to make -- it's mostly spices. What can help is if you have a fairly well-stocked pantry -- may seem a chore to assemble but once you have it, lots of recipes can be made simply, quickly. Here's one list:
    http://www.allfoodbusiness.com/Stocking_your_pantry.php
    http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101/how_to_stock_your_pantry

    But for 5, here are some: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/recipe_slideshows/5_ingredient_recipes?slide=1#leaderboardad
     
    Sasha and camas like this.
  9. SickOfSickness

    SickOfSickness Senior Member

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  10. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    Logan, Queensland, Australia
    Interesting find SickOfSickness. I do wonder how healthy student food is though - marmite pasta? A glass of water? o_O Still there might be recipes there that are quick and easy, and that is what we need. Check out the quick recipes for busy people, but be warned they are often carb rich.
     
  11. taniaaust1

    taniaaust1

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    Sth Australia
    I came across an interesting recipe site the other day in which one has so many filtering options on it when it comes to finding what recipes you would be interested in. It has an allergy section so you can select to not have certain recipes due to allergy eg dairy free, gluten free, sulphite free etc. You can also choose to limit carbs (and actually choose up to the amount of carbs you'd want in a recipe. It also filters for your own taste buds on how sweet, savoury, salty, spicey you like your foods.

    this site also a a filter for time you'd be willing to spend (which goes down to 15mins)

    http://www.yummly.com/recipes/cold-meat-appetizers#allowedDiet[]=393^Gluten-Free&q=cold meat appetizers&start=0&userSortFunction={!func}reviewCountWeight(number_of_ratings_i,average_rating_f,site_s) If you keep the time filter down to 15mins.. many of the recipes which come up you will find have less ingredients). I had "cold meat appetitisers' in the search in the link above.. I suggest to change the filters eg the time one on that page to see how the site works.

    (be aware that when I typed in www.yummly.com .. i couldnt find the same search options as I have on this page here so I suggest to use that first link I gave and put what you want into the sites search. Also that website does go down a lot so if its not working try again later)
     
    camas, ahimsa and alex3619 like this.
  12. urbantravels

    urbantravels disjecta membra

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    Los Angeles, CA
    For being able to make food as quickly and simply as possible, I don't think you need to focus on recipes so much as on a handful of techniques that make as much allowance as possible for your physical limitations. By "techniques" I mean basic stuff like how to cook a piece of meat or various types of vegetables without worrying about any of the frills or flavorings: pan-fry a small piece of meat, cook something on the Foreman grill, put something under the broiler in the toaster oven, put something in the crockpot, etc. All you really need to know is the time and temperature for the setting and then just throw in whatever flavorings you've got handy - salt, pepper, some herb and spice mixes (it's good to build up a little collection of these so you don't get sick of eating the same one all the time.)

    For instance: take a whole chicken, rinse it off and take out the bag o' guts, throw salt and pepper and maybe one or two other things (rosemary, lemon), put in in the crockpot, seven hours on Low, and you're done. If you're eating by yourself you don't have to worry about carving it up properly - just hack off some pieces to eat, put the rest in the fridge and pull off pieces as required. (It helps if you are not squeamish about chicken skin and chawing on bones - both of which are quite paleo-friendly, in fact chewing on the little bones and even eating some of the little soft ones is the best possible way to get calcium in your diet.) But if you don't like bones or skin, you can do the same thing with some boneless breasts.

    In the back of a lot of "general-purpose" cookbooks there are charts of things like cooking times for different cuts of meat, etc., and maybe for vegetables. You can also often find something like this in the manual that came with your toaster oven, tabletop grill, slow cooker etc. (and if you've lost the manual you might be able to download one from the manufacturer's web site.) If you have charts like this hanging up in your kitchen you can just skip thinking about recipes entirely. it's a lot easier to eat this way when you're eating Paleo because it's simpler to cook meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables than it is to deal with most grain foods.
     
  13. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    Logan, Queensland, Australia
    Tania, that yummly site you posted is really good. I recommend everyone look at it. :)
     
  14. redrachel76

    redrachel76 Senior Member

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    Israel
    I learned to always have nuts or dried fruit (dates in my case) available if I can't cook or get sudden hunger.

    I always try to have Walnuts, almonds, almond butter and dates available because they don't need cooking and they are more nutrious than many foods and I can tolerate them.
    Perhaps there is a similar variation of dried fruits or nuts that you can tolerate, which you can always have available for when you can't cook.

    They don't rot quickly so you don't have to go out and buy replacements too often either.

    For protein I always have an egg available to boil.
     
  15. ixchelkali

    ixchelkali Senior Member

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    Long Beach, CA
    I also use the frozen brown rice that urbantravels mentioned, available at Trader Joe's and at Fresh & Easy. You can make your own, too. Make a big pot of brown rice and freeze it in freezer containers or baggies. It reheats in 2-3 minutes in the microwave.

    Boxes of organic broth + precut veggies or frozen veggies = vegetable soup. Make a big pot and freeze in individual servings.

    I got a nonstick grill pan. You can just throw on a boneless chicken breast or pork chop; depending on thickness they cook in 8-12 minutes, turning once. Add variety by marinating in a baggie early in the day. Garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, herbs, teriyaki sauce, ginger, barbeque sauce, etc.

    Those individually frozen and wrapped tilapia filets and the easiest thing in the world to cook and only take about 5 minutes total. You can just panfry them with a little oil and squeeze some lemon or lime juice over them. I like to season them with Chef Prudhoe's Blackened Redfish Magic and panfry them. Or you can steam them in the microwave in a little white wine or orange juice.

    Frozen veggies are already prepped and don't turn to slime if you can't cook for a few days. Canned beans (white, black, pinto, kidney, pink) are almost as good as home cooked from dry.

    Lentils are super easy to cook. Make a bunch and use the leftovers to make a salad by adding Italian dressing, chopped celery, and onions. You can add frozen corn and/or canned beans, too. It will keep for several days in the fridge.

    Try adding barley to soups and stews instead of potatoes. No problems with storage and no prep.

    My supermarket carries tubs of fresh chopped onions and celery, which saves prep.

    Spend time web surfing for easy recipes, using search terms like "easy chicken (or hamburger or whatever) recipes" or "3 ingredient chicken recipes". Start a collection.

    I second the Crockpot suggestion. Pot roast, chili, stews are even better left over, or you can freeze them for later. You can even make your own "rotisserie" chicken. Just wad up 3 or 4 balls of aluminum foil and put them in the bottom of the crock. Season a whole chicken as you like (I use McCormick rotisserie chicken seasoning) and set it on the foil balls, cover, and cook on high for about 5 hours. That makes 4 dinners + a few leftovers for lunch.

    Whole grain pastas are easy. I buy 100% whole wheat wide noodles and orzo online from Amazon; I can usually find whole grain spaghetti, linguini, rotini, etc. at the supermarket. If you can't eat wheat, there are other grains and gluten-free pasta available. Couscous is especially easy: just add hot water or broth, cover, and let it sit for 10 minutes. If you think you don't like couscous, remember it's pasta, it's better with some kind of sauce on it.

    Ziploc Zip n' Steam bags let you steam veggies or even whole meals in the microwave, with no clean-up.

    One meal I make that is easier than it looks like it would be, because there's very little prep, is corned beef and cabbage. I use corned beef round instead of brisket because it's leaner. Dump it in a big pot and cover by at least 2" with water. I like to throw in an extra handful of pickling spices. Bring to boil and then simmer, partially covered, for about 2 hours. Then dump in a bunch of those baby red potatoes and peeled baby carrots and continue simmering for another half hour. Cut a cabbage in quarters lengthwise and add that and cook for another 10-15 mins. Drain everything, and cut the meat across the grain. Serve with horseradish or good mustard.
     
    camas likes this.
  16. ixchelkali

    ixchelkali Senior Member

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    Long Beach, CA
    Chicken Adobo

    4 servings

    Ingredients:
    4 pieces of skinless chicken, breast or thigh
    2 tsp canola oil
    1/3 cup soy sauce
    2/3 cup vinegar
    1/2 medium onion, chopped

    Instructions:
    In a Dutch oven or heavy skillet, brown the chicken in oil. Add other ingredients, cover and simmer on low heat about 45 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

    Note: This recipe works fine in the Crockpot. You can even omit browning the chicken in oil, if you like (I usually do when I use the Crockpot). Just throw the chicken, vinegar, soy sauce, and onion in the Crockpot and cook for about 5 hours on high, or 8 to 9 hours on low (cooking times may vary depending on the age, make, and size of your slow cooker).


    Per Serving: 173 Calories for breast (126 Calories for thigh); 4g Fat (19.9% calories from fat) for breast (5g Fat for thigh); 29g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 68mg Cholesterol; 1449mg Sodium.
    Exchanges: 4 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
     
  17. ixchelkali

    ixchelkali Senior Member

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    Long Beach, CA
    North African Style Stovetop Casserole

    4 servings

    1 lb extra lean ground beef
    1 onion, chopped
    1/2 cup raisins
    1/2 cup lentils, half-cooked or leftover cooked
    1 cup brown rice, half-cooked or leftover cooked*
    1 tsp cloves
    1 tsp cinnamon
    2 cups beef broth

    In Dutch oven or heavy pot, brown ground beef and onion. Add raisins, cloves, and cinnamon to meat. Add rice and lentils. Pour beef broth over everything, cover and simmer for half-hour.

    *I often use frozen brown rice

    Adapted from the Berkeley Co-op’s “Low Cost Cookbook,” 1965
     
  18. ixchelkali

    ixchelkali Senior Member

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    Long Beach, CA
    Egyptian Rice

    Yields 4 servings

    1 lb 93%-95% lean ground beef
    1 small onion, chopped
    32 oz. beef broth
    2-3 Tbsp soy sauce
    1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
    1 cup sliced mushrooms (or one can, drained)
    1 cup raw brown rice*
    salt and pepper to taste
    plain yogurt or sour cream

    Brown hamburger & onion. Add remaining ingredients to the mixture. Cover and simmer on low until rice is done, about 35-40 minutes. After plating, serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.

    *You can speed this recipe up by using frozen brown rice, but reduce the amount of cooking liquid by half if you do. Or you can use parboiled "Uncle Ben" style brown rice.

    (recipe courtesy of my old Weight Watchers friend, Kippy)
     
  19. ixchelkali

    ixchelkali Senior Member

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    Long Beach, CA
    Taco Soup

    Yields 12-15 cups

    Easy because the only prep is chopping an onion and opening cans. Yummy.

    1 large onion, chopped
    1 packet taco seasoning mix
    2 cups whole kernel corn, frozen*
    1 can or 2 cups chicken broth
    1 can black beans, undrained
    1 can white beans, undrained
    1 can refried beans
    1 can diced tomatoes, (Mexican flavor, like Rotel)
    1 can diced tomatoes, (any flavor)

    Sauté onions until soft (you can skip this step if you aren’t up to it). Add all other ingredients and stir until the refried beans are mixed in. Simmer on low, covered, about 1 hour. Watch toward the end that you don’t let it scorch.

    Freezes well.
    All cans are approximately 14-16 oz.
    *Corn can be canned but tastes better from frozen.
     
  20. ixchelkali

    ixchelkali Senior Member

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    Long Beach, CA
    Quick and Easy Black Bean Soup

    6 servings


    1 can (or 2 cups) chicken broth
    1 can refried beans
    1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
    1 can corn
    1 cup salsa
    1 cup cooked skinless chicken or turkey (you can even use canned)

    Note: all cans are about 15 oz, the medium sized ones.

    In a saucepan, mix chicken broth and refried beans until you don’t have big lumps of refried beans. Then dump in the rest of the ingredients, stir, heat over medium heat, and serve.
     

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