Monday, October 12, 2009

A-Cooking we will go...

Today was a "cook ahead" day. I made two huge batches of food, to get us through the first half of a hectic week.

First, I made K's new favorite fridge-food. Two chopped onions, 1.5 chopped red peppers tossed into a hot pan with 2tsp olive oil. cooked until softened. 3 large sweet potatoes steamed in the micro until mostly soft. add to pan with peppers and onions. add three cloves crushed garlic, 1tbs lemon juice and a good sprinkle of salt. let it cook until the bottom is good and brown.

Next, I made a somewhat successful variation of White Bean Jumble from "Student's Vegetarian Cookbook." . Basically, leafy greens, white beans, onions, garlic, potato, thyme. My recipe was roughly this:

20 oz fresh spinach
3 cups chopped potato, steamed until fork-tender
3 cups cooked white beans
2 chopped onions
1/2 cup tomato juice (ingredients: tomato, lemon juice, salt.)
1 tbs dried thyme
1 tbs dried chives
1 tbs lemon zest
1 tsp salt
1 tbs chopped garlic

blonde the onions, stir in chives and thyme.
stir in spinach and garlic. wilt spinach.
add remainder of ingredients.
cook until beans start to stick to the bottom of the pan in tasty brown bits.

With these two large batch recipes, we had lunch and dinner today, lunch and dinner tomorrow and possibly one or two other small meals.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Living with dietary restrictions means learning how to avoid emotional triggers - it's not as simple as "oh, just don't eat those things." A friend of mine - who has been a huge influence in me tackling this bravely - has described the internal struggles as conversing with her NoNoGrrl - the teenager who does exactly what you tell her not to, in order to prove her independence.

K has a NoNoGrrl who used to throw her vitamins out the window. Used to take as many quarters as she needed for the vending machine in exchange for eating greenbeans and then stop. She ate a full ten vegetables - corn, creamed corn, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots... I can't think of many others.

Bread, cheese, sour cream. These things are important to her NoNoGrrl. Ice Cream became a crutch when corn syrup and many mass produced desserts went on the no list. Suddenly, all the things she was soothing with are gone - I suspect this will make our relationships with food healthier and less neurotic, but it's work. Psychotherapy by way of elimination diet.

One of the things I've used to make cheese-free less painful is to add peanut butter to our standby of zucchini-tomato-chickpea/whitebean stew. Usually, the dish gets feta. The peanut butter gives it a substantial mouthfeel, and makes it creamy. This is HUGE when leaving dairy suddenly.

Our stew:

2 zucchini, chopped
two red onion, chopped
three cloves garlic, crushed
tomato - either juice, chopped fresh, canned.
herbs - whatever moves you.
one or two cans of either white or chickpeas.
peanut butter
lemon juice

toss the onions in a pan and when they start to wilt, toss in the zucchini. add the tomato when the zucchini starts to melt.
stir in the garlic, the peanut butter, the lemon juice, the salt and your herbs. Sage with white beans, rosemary or thyme - I love to just throw open the cabinets and shake some of whatever looks good into the mix.

You'll note the lack of amounts - I cook by feel and will work on getting better about recording amounts.
We have a new slew of restrictions.

In addition to the prior list (no MSG or MSG mimicks, no preservatives, no artificial sweeteners, etc), we've now had to cut - at least for a while - dairy and gluten.

This means we're down to things we make at home that are grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes that we've cooked ourselves.

If we hadn't had a creative, generous vegan half-living with us earlier this year, we might be starving currently. I'm about to pop up a ton of "recipes" and posts related to this adventure, but let me just start by saying this: we use a LOT of feta. A LOT of pasta. a LOT of parmesan. Cous Cous.

When the neurologist, who I adore, suggested this course, we knew it was right, but knew it wouldn't be easy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

So proud I could burst into tears!

K has never been an adventurous cook. Give her a recipe of fewer than ten ingredients and fewer than ten steps and she can create food that's edible. simple, but edible.

As I type, she is working out, in her brain, how to make some sort of potato, carrot, onion, celery, lentil dish for tonight. Literally typing out a recipe for herself, planning to use things in the pantry that we already have, and that will make a tasty treat. :-)

Talk about romance.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"this gardening and canning thing"

Right. I should explain what that meant, in the last post.

This summer, we're intending to grow our own tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers (to make pickles!) and zucchini ('cause almost free is way better than $1/lb). I plan on putting up as much of it as possible, because chemical-free organic tomatoes are HARD to find and expensive. Quart jars are less than a dollar each, fully recyclable and no BPA. We don't really know yet how this is going to work out, but we're hopeful.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

a rant about canned tomatoes

Crohn's Disease means that random and sometimes unpredictable foods set K's tummy off. We have to be careful introducing anything that has a spicy or spicy-ish element.

Monday night, we had The Boyz (more on them later) over for dinner and TV. I made a double batch of the chili recipe from the lowfat Moosewood cookbook.

I was wicked-anxious about this one, because it was new, it relies on jarred salsa, and it uses a copious amount of cumin. (a suspected but increasingly less worrisome trigger) If you're interested, check out the cookbook - I'm not going to violate their copyright, essentially stealing their intellectual property. :-)

The upshot here is that we loved the recipe. The Boyz ate it right up. K has had chili for three meals over the last four days. (including breaking her lunch routine today to take it!)

K loved it so much that we swapped it into the meal plan for next week, removing a more generic and less specific meal option. This means a trip to Whole Foods for canned tomatoes.

Why, when the grocery store has such an array of canned tomato options, would that be necessary, you might ask.

Because Whole Foods is the only place I can get canned tomatoes that are ONLY tomatoes. No Calcium Chloride, no citric acid, no nada. Just tomatoes. And the only two brands I've found that are ONLY TOMATOES are a Jersey-something brand and Pomi brand, which might be owned by somebody I think I should be boycotting. (clearly I haven't researched it very well, because I'm chosing the path of ignorance for now)

At $3.00, take $.50, give up to $1.00, it gets expensive to be buying tomatoes from Whole Foods. I become more and more determined to get this gardening/canning/storing thing down.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Coping Mechanism One

Always. Be. Ready.

Part of today's American kitchen landscape involves insta-foods, like rice-a-roni, frozen veggie burgers, frozen burritos, etc. Hot Pockets, frozen pizzas, refrigerated dough. Frozen ravioli, jarred pasta sauce. You get the picture.

Next time you pop open a bottle of your favorite barbeque sauce, take a look at the ingredients. I can't pronounce several of the ingredients in Hunt's or Jack Daniels or... yeah. most of them.

given that I was the queen of quick and easy, eliminating these substances seriously cramped my cooking style. There was no more feeling virtuous as I whipped together a meal of steamed veggies, instant mashed potatoes and veggie burgers served on conventional bread.

Other than the steamed veggies, when we eliminated high fructose corn syrup and intensely processed soy, the entire rest of that menu was taken right off the list.

So, we cope. We adapt. We scream at each other when we're ravenous, there's nothing cooked and there's no chance of cheating, because we don't keep the crap in the house any more. (nothing makes us crazy like ravenous. really.)

One of our quickest, easiest tools is a Grain Pot. The recipe is loosely adapted from 101cookbooks, and has become a gem in my clean-cooking sceptor.

basically, we take 2 parts millet, 2 parts quinoa, 1 part wheat kernels, 1 part brown rice and 12 parts water (so, 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup and 3 cups) and microwave the whole thing in a covered casserole dish for 20 minutes. Viola. The base for any number of yummy dishes. And it keeps for the better part of a week.

The Challenge:

MSG and MSG mimics
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial Colors
Hydrogenated Oils

Why? Because the neurologist said to.
Well, ok, more specifically because in order to diagnose a processing weirdness, the neurologist said "cut this stuff out and we'll try a few other things to see if it gets better, but I need to know what I'm really seeing. Food sensitivities can sometimes act like real neurological barriers to normal function."

We gave it a shot and K's fibro symptoms... relinquished their vicious hold on our lives. She had stamina. She had a full range of motion. She could think clearly and remember things.

We were sold.

It is, however, hard work. No lie, in a world where most easy food comes from a chemistry lab, we've had to relearn a LOT about how we feed ourselves and our loved ones.

Mostly, I expect this blog to be our documentation of this process as we trudge along, figuring out what works and what doesn't.