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Cooking with health concerns

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
Hi everybody. I'm a 28 year old guy with chronic fatigue syndrome and neurally mediated hypotension, and I'm trying to get on my feet in terms of cooking in general.

Links to my health problems if you care to read:
http://www.cfids.org/about-cfids/symptoms.asp
http://home.vicnet.net.au/~mecfs/general/nmh1.html

I face a number of problems in the kitchen that most people don't think about.
  • I can't stand up for more than about 10 minutes at a stretch without big problems. This is just huge for cooking, but maybe there are ways around it.
  • I wish to try a dietary treatment to my conditions that essentially removes dairy, sugar, refined (white mainly, but also rye and such) flours, white rice, and white potatoes.
  • My actual cooking experience is limited (I watch lots of Food Network though. :p )
I would love to be able to cook dishes that allow me to reheat without losing a lot in quality, such as soups, stews, or whatever, and most importantly, I'd like suggestions on tools, methods, overall ideas, and things like that to help me get over this pretty big hurdle. If this isn't enough info, I'll add more as needed of course, and look forward to discussing all of this with you guys in detail.

Thanks for your help,

Andy
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post #2 of 27
Hi Andy,
I have not been on the hot side in a while. I'm involved with the sweets. Your post interests me though. You will receive lots of help from the hot chefs here. I first thought about crock pot or slow cooking. I also think a good investment would be a food sealer. Great to keep quality in leftovers.
Have you found that you have allergies or reactions to the ingredients you list? or are you trying this for results? I was also thinking crockpot for it will add moisture to your diet along with salt, if that good for you. I'm thinking short prep and in the pot.
keep us posted
pan

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Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
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post #3 of 27
Thread Starter 
The diet is one outlined by a PhD nutritionist that worked well for my mother a number of years ago, and she has a very similar health history. Since meds haven't worked for me so much, I figure this is definitely worth a try, and it makes that much more sense to learn to cook this kind of food from the ground up instead of learning generally and then adapting. I also do have some allergic issues with some of the foods, though nothing dangerous. I know, for instance, that if I eat something that avoids white flours, refined sugar, and dairy (like fish with tomatoes and basil with a green vegetable or something), that I have no digestive issues and do not wind up with a stuffy nose. I know about a few substitutes, like stevia and alternative flour pastas, and those seem to work great, but on the whole I am still fairly devoid of good recipe ideas and practices at the moment. One thing I should note - butter seems to work just fine for me, which I imagine is a big help, and I actually need large amounts of salt. I take salt tablets in fact.

Crock pot cooking makes sense. I'm not familiar with the sealer, but I'll investigate that as well. The more I can use something the better of course.
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post #4 of 27
Wow, butter and salt!!!

Fish-seafood is quick, thinner cuts of meats.....I shop alot at Trader Joes, they have frozen & shelf stable brown rice that comes in very handy. One of my quick meals is brown fried rice with plenty of veg and eggs.

10 minutes. Have the butchers or fish mongers trim and cut your meat in portions that save time on your feet both in prep and cleanup.....call in and have it ready before you get there to save more time.

I hate to advocate this but there are alot of prepped fresh, butternut squash peeled and cubed in the frig section of the store.... (and good quality frozen) veg on the market now. Again it'll cut the time you have in the kitchen.

having fresh fruit will help cut the sugar desires....there are many various alternative sweetners on the market....brown rice syrup, real maple syrup (maple sugar, maple butter......), honey...

Roasting takes nominal prep time...cast iron pans are beautiful for this.....

You can blanch vegetables in the microwave, that way you don't have to worry about burning them if you feel faint. Make larger amounts and have them in the fridge ready to go either into a salad or a cooked dish.
cooking with all your senses.....
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post #5 of 27
Thread Starter 
Good ideas all around. I like the idea of buying partially prepped foods like this as long as they are of reasonable quality, which as you say, they basically are anymore.

What about recipe archives for these kinds of cooking? Are there any choice spots to search? I think I will try the egg, brown rice, and vegetable idea some time soon.

I'd also like some recipes/approaches to mid-day snack type foods. I find it extremely hard to put together something quickly that is also healthy and has protein (a must for me), but I know there have to be solutions out there.
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post #6 of 27
We've been discussing a related issue lately: Wheat-free and gluten-free cooking. There are several links within the posts there that might be helpful to you, too.

As for snacks: how are you with cheese? Those individual sticks of string cheese require nothing more than opening the wrapper, and every 1-ounce (28 gram) stick has 8 grams of protein. That and a piece of fruit (if you can have fruit) and you've got a good snack with almost no effort. (I don't know about the nutritional composition of cheddar sticks, but you might want to look at those, too.)

There are also individual pouches of tunafish and salmon -- again, just open the package and you're good to go. Since you don't have a problem with salt content, these might be just the thing.

Finally: PEANUT BUTTER!! (that is, if you're not allergic :( ). The natural kind, of course, without added gunk. Spread some on some nonwheat crackers (there are some really yummy ones made from hazelnuts) or apple slices.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #7 of 27
Thread Starter 
I enjoy cheese, but should avoid it along with dairy in general. At the moment I eat a number of things on the "no" list simply because I can't cook for myself and get the entire system rolling. A good example of this problem was illustrated yesterday when I had a friend come over so we could cook a few simple things and try out some flavors. I chopped up 2 herbs and was reeling for the rest of the night. I can prep things better later at night if they are suitable to leaving in the fridge or something till the next day, but many times that doesn't work, and in any case I don't have the know-how to know what would work that way and what would not.

Peanut butter (and other nut butters) work ok for me, but it gets tiring to eat it day after day. I don't love it, but I eat it. Do lots of apples, and more recently some bananas as well. I'd try the tuna but need to hit on a good substitute cracker as you suggest to really make that more viable, and I didn't realize you could get individual pouches of them. Particular aisle?

I'll check out the gluten free thread, as I imagine there is some good overlap there. I know I've found a few recipes searching for "paleolithic diet", which is stricter than what I need but compatible as well.
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post #8 of 27
I'm thinking that adding to premade is probably a really good partial plan.

There are many different alternatives in STL from shops having meal delivery services, businesses that deliver to specialized diets, Operation Food Search,
grocery stores even deliver for a nominal cost.....

not sure where Pasadena is nor what resources are available.
Suzanne there are so many quick/easy cookbooks out on the market, I'm sure there have got to be some that fit his needs.....
cooking with all your senses.....
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post #9 of 27
Thread Starter 
I'd be game for adding to premade things if those premade things were healthy. That's not always a given. Pasadena is about half way between Baltimore and Washington DC, so Whole Foods stores and the like are a bit too far for me to handle. I feel like I could call up a local supermarket and get them to help me collect what I need and then pick it up. That seems very reasonable on the ingredient-finding end of things, but I don't want to start that till I have more actual cooking info and get the ball officially rolling.
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post #10 of 27
I'd use good dried herbs and spices...Penzey's has a great selection and they have mail order. They are also inexspensive! Go figure quality and cheap.

my faves: dillweed, thyme, bay, granulated garlic, oregano (Mexican & Turkish), rosemary, Parisian blend, Southwest blend, chipotle, vanilla beans, tarragon, peppers, cumin powder.....


So with the herbs and spices you can doctor premade food or quickly season thinnly sliced fish or chicken and some stock and butter. Premade brown rice, microwaved veg and your set in ten minutes.

With fainting being an issue the microwave seems like a better alternative than stove for the majority of your cooking. You can walk away or faint and the house will not burn down.
cooking with all your senses.....
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post #11 of 27
Thread Starter 
I can use a steamer for vegetables and/or rice. Actually, I could see these two going in the same steamer, but what would the time difference be? For instance, it usually takes about 50 minutes for brown rice, 12 for broccoli. Would putting broccoli in the brown rice (assuming with stock) after 38 minutes yield a good result?

The rice angle is a good one for me, but as a lone option it wears thin pretty quickly. Are there good crockpot recipes that use ingredients like the ones I've discussed that don't require prep?

Also, assuming I get meat precut in sizes that would remove prep work from my end, what would I have to ask for specifically?

Is there a general rule about finding a good butcher at a grocery store? I've noticed our area stores don't really expect that, especially with the fish counter. There tends to be some bad stuff there.

I don't actually faint entirely. I just get symptoms that with some people lead to fainting. My problem wouldn't be toughing out the completion of a dish in the time, it would be the repercussions of doing so. I feel ok about using the stove as long as I have a time frame I can work with beyond trial and error. If I have to stand and watch, I have more problems than if I can set it up and sit for 5 or 10, then come take it off the stove.
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post #12 of 27
OK, get frozen prepacked fish and seafood...better than questionable "fresh".

Broccoli steamed with brown rice....the broccoli would then flavor the rice....does not appeal to me.

Butchers....In our grocery stores here in STL there are chicken breasts thinnly sliced, ground turkey, thinnly sliced beef and pork too for that matter.

So fried rice, if your rice is precooked and brown rice can be made in bulk then scooped when desired....

Heat veg oil in a large skillet:
Chopped onion (there are some prechopped at the store) saute for 3 minutes on med-high heat or high heat, stir to keep from burning.

Add raw meat cut in chunks....for pre cooked or shrimp wait. Cook until almost done.

Add your brown precooked rice and some soy sauce, granulated garlic and cook for one minute stirring.

Add eggs and stir, thawed peas, cut sugar snaps, thawed precooked small shrimp. A few shakes of black pepper....

Make extra and just reheat or I eat it cold for breakfast.


Oatmeal is another that you can make alot of and scoop/reheat.

Fish....In a skillet heat some oil (olive is good), salt your fish on both sides then cook....turn and add dillweed (fine dried), lemon juice, capers and a knob of butter. You can remove the fish and finish the sauce in the pan....
meanwhile cook some spinach in the microwave or steam....the cool thing about you using a microwave is that you don't have as much clean up. Which I assume is an issue.

Load up premade pasta sauce with vegetables and saute some fish or meat.
There are now a whole lot of alternative flour pastas on the market.

When you cook meat make extra and put it on a prebagged salad....

Butternut soup, In a large pot saute onions in oil. Add pre peeled, pre cut butternut squash or baby carrots, salt and pepper....cover with water (no more than the veg). Cook 25-30 minutes check for tenderness. puree in pot if you have an immersion blender if not let cool and puree in a blender.
You can add curry powder or paste to alter the taste.

Veg soup makes sense. use cans of chopped tomatoes.

Tuna salad with mayo, dillweed, capers and calamata olives....red bell pepper and red onion if you have energy to chop.

Egg salad with dillweed, mayo, celery, capers.
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post #13 of 27
Any chance you can get a stool with a back to sit on while you're cooking? Or something adjustable so that you can sit while you're prepping and also while cooking? Do you have room for that in your kitchen?
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #14 of 27
Thread Starter 
I seat with a back is a good thing for sure. It's not quite the fix-all it appears to be, but it's better than nothing. We used to have a couple of these but at the time they weren't getting used. I shall investigate.

Thanks for the recipe ideas. My broccoli/rice steamer idea was just a concept I wanted to throw out there. It wouldn't have to be broccoli if the method would be useful.

Regarding frozen seafood, I have had mixed success. A few friends and I got some frozen uncooked tuna from Trader Joe's and it was great, but more recently, swordfish from the same store was terrible. Are there specific brands to find or rules to follow?

I have done a tiny amount of the cooking extra meat and using it later in a salad form, and that works great. I could see doing the same with some vegetables that don't require cooking, like shredding extra carrots/beets or chopping extra bell peppers. They seem to keep very well in the refrigerator in my experience.

Are there any tools that help with chopping itself, particularly for things like peppers? I have decent chopping skills but the time really does wind up getting me, especially when there is more to do than just chopping a pepper. A food processor is a pretty nice tool, but not for regular chopping as far as I can tell. I tried getting my father one of those circular choppers where you push down on the top and it rotates and all, but it can't handle the pepper skin. We haven't tried onions yet.

This is kinda random, but how good would pesto be without the cheese? I could probably find a premade tomato sauce without extra sugar and such, but I like options if they exist too.
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post #15 of 27
pesto w/o cheese is fine....I even make parsley pesto and parsley dillweed pesto....you can alter the nuts too...walnuts work well, pecans have an interesting flavor....they FREEZE very well. so if you can access large amounts of herbs cheaply this would be a good thing to package in small amounts and freeze.

There are loads of sugar free tomato sauces.....not sure if Trader Joe's carries any. Tapenade is another nice addin to various dishes.
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post #16 of 27
Thread Starter 
I'd go for the tapenade... only I really can't stand olives. Capers fill out the "meh" category for me. Ha. I've tried to like them but I just get nowhere. Are there particular vegetables that would work best with a tomato sauce pasta dish? I figure broccoli and artichoke would be great, maybe asparagus? Would cook times in a sauce be shorter than cook times in a steamer? Seems like they would. Is there a common resource for timing things in this manner that I can find online?
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post #17 of 27
not sure, see I would either steam them separately making more to eat with other meals or cook them separately in the microwave.....

For my home I'd throw zucchini and other summer squash in the pot, asparagus, onions, garlic, possibly sauted eggplant.....

But whatever veg appeal to you go for.....I'm sure balancing a variety is very important for your health.

bummer on the capers and olives since they are sodium laden.
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post #18 of 27
Thread Starter 
All of those are good choices for sure, vegetable-wise. We don't do eggplant or zucchini here, but I like both and can of course buy both.

That's great about the pesto working without cheese. I was afraid that might be the binder that glued it together. I hear that can be ok with eggs too, which could be nice, and I bet that could be whipped up and last a fair amount of time.
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post #19 of 27
Never have heard of eggs in pesto.....olive oil, herbs, nuts, garlic(optional), cheese (optional)

I make alot of omelets that's also a wonderful quick way of getting protein.
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post #20 of 27
Thread Starter 
I'm thinking that if I can get together about 14 recipes I'll have a solid base. Seem about right? So far I have probably 3 or maybe 4 in a pinch, which includes the fried brown rice idea and the two pasta sauces with vegetables and so on. I also have a good basil and tomato topping that I think I could handle by making the night before to put on fish or chicken. Any good soups or stews you can recommend? I've been trying to find these by cooking with a friend, but we have hit some real losers lately in that department.
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post #21 of 27
Thread Starter 
Would it be ok to copy the initial content of this post and post it again on another appropriate forum on this site? I don't know if that is within reason or not, here.

Thanks.
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post #22 of 27
Veg soup.....

saute onion in large pot
you can add garlic
When they are wilted, approx 3 minutes
add several large cans of chopped tomatoes
thickly cut carrots, potatoes, bay leaf, thyme, salt & pepper
let cook 10 minutes or until the potatoes are almost cooked through
add green beans cook a couple of minutes
corn, peas.....can be frozen

I add red wine sometimes when I add the tomatoes.....

Now, you may add basil or basil pesto...meatballs, pasta, zucchini, beef stock and you have an Italian version

OR pinto beans, black beans, chilis, cumin, chili powder, tortillas to thicken...for Mexican

Or add in cooked left over chicken or beef or turkey

A large pot of veg soup will take you far.......

Roast a whole chicken, use the meat in various dishes.....chicken on greens/veg for a salad, chicken in veg soup, chicken sandwich.....as your roasting the chicken roast vegetables too....peppers, garlic, carrots, parsnips, beets, new potatoes, winter squash......

Throw some of the cooked chicken in an Italian tomato sauce for a quick caccatori.

Whole Wheat tortillas for a mexican soft taco.....
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post #23 of 27
We'd prefer that you not post it on the Professional Food Service Forums, but anywhere else would be fine. :D
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #24 of 27
Thread Starter 
Great on both accounts. I think I have some nice things to consider here, particularly with the soup and all, and I'm hoping some folks who frequent other forums more might be able to add in terms of other recipes or tools to use or whatever else.

I did manage to ask Rick Bayless yesterday, but his advice was a bit too general and along the lines of "try my new book." I checked his site for the sample recipes and they're pretty intense given my situation, but it was worth a shot.

Is there a reference or set of guidelines that I could use to get a better sense of w hat freezes/refrigerates well and what does not? I have some idea, but it is incomplete. For instance, I know I can chop a bell pepper or 3 and stick it in the fridge and it'll last pretty well for about a week, and I know I can freeze rice. What I don't know is, if I freeze meat, what is the time frame in which I would want to use it? Just an example. What about chopped herbs? Do those refrigerate or freeze ok, or are they about like lettuce?

Thanks.
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post #25 of 27
Meat: if you vacuum seal (such as with a FoodSaver), it can last a year although I'd use it after six months. It won't spoil, but the quality might suffer a bit. If you can't vacuum seal, I would wrap it tightly in plastic and not keep it more than three months- again, for quality's sake. Here's a link about freezing meat: http://www.preservefood.com/freezing/meats.shtml

I know there are some herbs you can freeze on a cookie sheet, then transfer to a bag and keep in the freezer. I just don't know which ones! But I have dried herbs in my kitchen: basil, thyme, dill. I rinse them, pat them dry, then hang them in small bunches in a fairly dry spot in my kitchen away from sunlight.
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post #26 of 27
pestos have a long refrigerator life and they also freeze.

Soups, Stews both freeze well.

Before I write any other shorthand recipes what are you interested in eating?
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post #27 of 27
Thread Starter 
I am increasingly flexible with foods these days. I want to avoid the ingredients I listed at the outset, but otherwise I kind of like seeing new ideas to try. I would prefer not to get into mushroom-heavy recipes I think, but on a limited scale those are ok. Right now, it's mainly about ease of preparation and collection of ingredients. So many recipes require you to chop 3 or 4 things or constantly watch a burner, and that is a very difficult prospect for me at this time.

I'd like to get a good and healthy chili recipe I think, because that freezes incredibly well and is filling to boot. I could also see getting into roasting since it tends to encompass most or all of the meal, but the roasting recipes I find only employ root vegetables. That's fine for a few, but not if I wind up with 5 roasting recipes I guess. I also like the idea of learning simple ways of dressing up a steamed vegetable or brown rice to match each other or a meat better, or ways to combine the cooking of these kinds of ingredients to simplify the process. For instance, we do porkchops on the grill here with rice in the steamer followed by a vegetable in the steamer. Simple, yes, but when you factor in all the standing up times to get these things done, it adds up. There have to be ways of combining elements.
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