Posts tagged ‘cooking’

March 9, 2016

Let the Food do the Work

chicken spaghettiWhen you’re tired and overwhelmed, don’t do more shopping, let the food do the work! The past few weeks have held multiple family gatherings. I decided to make chicken spaghetti for one of them. That was always my mom’s go-to for a dinner party when I was small and I’ve been wanting to make it for a while.

Most chicken spaghetti recipes contain cream of mushroom soup and most readily available cream of mushroom soups contain wheat flour. That may work for most of the family, but there are several of us who can’t tolerate gluten. Rather than driving from store to store in search of an acceptable soup brand or taking the extra step of making soup, I simply let the chicken make soup for me!

To make chicken spaghetti, I needed to cook some chicken to cube up. I decided it would be easy to make soup while I cooked the chicken. I started by spraying an extra large roasting pan with olive oil spray. I then covered the bottom of the pan with rough chopped white button mushrooms and topped the mushrooms with 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and 6 thighs liberally seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

The next addition was a 32 oz box of gluten-free chicken broth that I always keep in the pantry. I poured it around the chicken. I did the same with a pint of heavy whipping cream and enough milk to reach the top of all but the largest chicken breasts. I dotted any exposed chicken with butter.

From that point, all I had to do was bake the chicken for 50 minutes at 350º. While the chicken baked, a delicious cream of mushroom soup formed in the bottom of the pan. After the cooked chicken cooled, I removed each piece, scraped the mushrooms may have that stuck to them back into the broth and then placed the mushroom soup into a sauce pan. Before simmering the soup to reduce it a bit while I assembled the spaghetti, I gave it a quick taste test and added a bit more salt, pepper, and garlic.

The resulting soup was rich from the cream, full of flavor from the chicken and mushrooms, and the only additional time required was the time it took to chop the mushrooms. That’s much less time than it would have taken to drive to the store and I’ve never had packaged cream of mushroom soup that I couldn’t stop eating because it was so delicious.

Another bonus to this approach was that I had more than enough soup for the chicken spaghetti. I added some cubed potatoes to the left-overs for a hearty lunch the next day.

The idea for this cream of mushroom soup may have come from a desire to let the food do the work, but the result convinced me there’s no reason to make it any other way. And knowing I don’t have to travel from store to store gathering ingredients makes it more likely that I’ll make chicken spaghetti again soon!

February 8, 2016

Corn is Everywhere!

If you have an allergy to, or intolerance for, corn, trying to avoid it can seem like wandering through a maze – there’s corn all around and it’s hard to find a good path through it because corn is everywhere!
corn
I’m experiencing an allergic reaction. I have huge red spots on my face, an itchy rash on my neck and my lips are burning like the worst chapped lips you’ve ever had. Benadryl is making me sleepy. I know that the quickest way to feel better is to avoid the allergen.
allergy
The problem is that I don’t know what triggered my reaction. That means I’m eliminating any possible culprit from my diet and one of those possibilities is corn. In order to eliminate corn, I’m making a list of the things I need to avoid. Some of those are obvious like corn, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, corn meal, corn chips, corn bread, corn dogs, Corn Flakes, Corn Chex, tortilla chips, corn tortillas, corn flour, popcorn, and cornstarch.

Other things containing corn may not be as obvious. Cheetos, Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, Tums, baking powder and confectioner’s sugar fall into that category. Many gluten-free pastas contain corn. Hominy, grits, and polenta are all made from corn. Most of these list corn on the label, but then there’s the ever present food starch. It may contain corn and be listed on a label as food starch, modified food starch, or pre-gelatinized starch. The word corn is never mentioned.

To make things even more confusing, familiar products contain a multitude of ingredients that may or may not contain corn and labeling requirements do not require that corn be listed on the label as an allergen. For instance, natural flavorings, xylitol, xanthan gum, citric acid, distilled white vinegar, maltodextrin, ethyl alcohol, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, and even IV dextrose may contain corn. It’s a fairly steep learning curve when I’m not even sure corn is the culprit.

Luckily, I have lots of practice reading labels and researching ingredients that will come in handy while I try to isolate the allergen that’s bothering me. I don’t plan to eat any processed food or at restaurants until I get this under control. Cooking is an easy way to know what I’m ingesting and with my lists at hand, I can leave out any questionable ingredients. I’m not the only one who follows this approach. To quote UAMS Registered Dietitian, Meghan Dixon, “These skills, cooking skills, are really life-changing. These are the skills that develop lasting lifestyle changes for people,…If you learn how to cook, you’re not outsourcing your health.” (1)

While the itching isn’t fun and I don’t love looking like I just got out of the boxing ring…as a loser…using those skills, I feel confident that I can make progress quickly.

If you have experience with corn allergies, let us know what triggers your symptoms. If you are struggling with a corn allergy or intolerance, you may want to peruse the more comprehensive lists available on these sites:

http://www.cornallergens.com/list/corn-allergen-list.php

http://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/corn-allergy-symptoms

1) Storey, Celia. “Food and Medicine Meet for Dinner.” Arkansas Democrat Gazette [Little Rock] 08 Feb. 2016, Style sec.: n. pag 1. Print.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

September 22, 2015

Kitchen Basics – How Do You Choose?

When you don’t have much space, how do you choose the kitchen basics? I’ve been looking at the possibility of purchasing the cutest cabin with the greatest view! The overall size is about 500 square feet which means the kitchen is TINY!
View
It may be tiny, but this kitchen packs in usability with a skinny 4 burner stove, a small refrigerator/freezer, and bottom cabinetry. A fairly long counter contains a sink and bottom cabinets with doors while its top offers adequate, if not ample, workspace. There are no top cabinets, no dishwasher, no pantry, no island, no broom closet, no wall space, and no dance floor. There’s plenty of light streaming in through a window that looks out at the view and the warm-toned wood ceiling and floor keep it feeling cozy.
stove
In order to keep the space from feeling crowded, I’m pondering which kitchen basics are critical. Here’s the process I’m using to pare down to fit the space:

–If it can be done by hand, with an existing appliance or with a simple utensil, I don’t need an appliance for it. Bye, bye toaster, electric can opener, mixer, rice cooker, food processor, blender, breakfast sandwich maker, juicer, and crock pot. Hello French press.

–If it’s for baking, but won’t fit in the oven – it’s out. I’m thinking one covered casserole dish, one cake pan, and two cookie sheets will cover my regular cooking habits. I can use silicone cupcake cups in the baking pan when I want to make cupcakes or muffins. As rarely as I make pie, disposable pie pans purchased when needed should suffice.

–If it’s for the top of the stove, I’m carefully examining how many I need and what size. I want a large pot for soup or chili, but I’ll rarely serve more than 4 people at a time. A 4 quart sauce pot should be adequate. In addition, I’ll want at least one more saucepan and at least one skillet. I’m thinking that I may start with one of each and then determine how often I feel limited before buying more. With just one skillet on hand, I’ll probably go with cast iron.

–Two mixing bowls that double as serving dishes, a whisk, a spatula, a slotted spoon, one large and one small sharp knife, an adjustable measuring spoon, a measuring cup with multiple markings, a pastry blender, two dishtowels, and a cutting board fill out my general cooking needs.
counter
As I envision my cabinets already swiftly filling, I recognize that it is wise to limit my dishes, flatware, placemats, napkins (I use cloth), coffee mugs, and glassware to service for 4.

–I should have just enough room to store salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, curry powder, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, Italian seasoning, shortening, honey, olive oil spray, balsamic vinegar, wax paper, aluminum foil, and zip top bags.

Your specific baking utensil and pantry choices will be different than mine. If you host ice cream socials every week, an ice cream maker may be more important to you than a large chili pot. The specifics of stocking the kitchen are much less important than the process of determining what’s important to make you feel as though you have enough.

In our consumer driven culture, we’re much more likely to stuff our shelves, drawers, and pantry with things we rarely, or never, use than we are to take the time to know ourselves well enough to be selective. Examining our relationship to the things we purchase, how we spend our time, what we value, what we hold onto that’s no longer useful, and what makes us feel safe can be a great step on the path to contentment and peace.

Before my first European trip, a fellow traveler advised me to pack my bag, remove half of what I had packed, and then divide that in half to get to the travel essentials I could carry without assistance. It was great advice for travel, great advice for home, great advice for choosing activities, and great advice for choosing relationships.

There’s no doubt it’s also good advice for choosing the kitchen basics when you value the view more than the size of the room.

Trees

September 17, 2014

Can you stop just existing and thrive? You can, and you are worth it.

Can you stop just existing and thrive? You can, and you are worth it, but you may not be living that way because you may not believe it way down deep. Why do so many of us feel so bad about ourselves?

In this age of headlines and 24/7 talking heads we lunge from crisis to crisis. Our culture is swept up in rivers of bad news, glaring failures, dissatisfaction, and united finger pointing at whomever we can identify as a potential villain. NFL players have taken the stage this week led by Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

What has resulted is a narrow focus on the behavior of professional athletes. Not even women’s rights advocates have suggested that all professions should purge their halls of those who physically assault their partners or children. Why is the NFL special? Let’s purge elementary schools, colleges, newsrooms, courts, churches, investment firms, manufacturing facilities, the trucking industry, pipe fitters, doctor’s offices and mental health facilities as well. If we don’t, what point are we making?

And that’s my point. Most of the time, it feels like we’re just finger pointing and creating a villain of the moment – someone who can make us feel better about ourselves while we contrast our public behavior from theirs. What we sometimes forget is that most of the violent incidents we see aired were not believed to be public. They were private moments. We know this and if we’re willing to tell ourselves the truth, we know that we would not look good if our most vile or shameful moments were plastered on a TV screen.

All of us have erred. All of us feel shame. In this commonality of human experience we can find compassion, empathy, and healing or we can find condemnation, comparison, and hate – peacefulness or warmongering.

The problem with focusing our energy on the condemnation of other people in order to make ourselves feel better, or momentarily superior, is that this behavior systematically prevents our own improvement. As we elevate ourselves in contrast with others, we become less and less willing to admit when we have erred in a similar manner for fear that an astute observer may remember our prior condemnation of this behavior and hold us accountable. We will go to great lengths to support our fantasy that we not like those we vilify.

As we feel the internal conflict inherently created by trying to live a fantasy, we are forced to disassociate from our authentic feelings and real truth. Until we reconnect with these, we simply cannot live fully. We will be able to make superficial change, but our inner turmoil will remain. We will never thrive.

Unfortunately, many of us are products of family systems that denied our reality. We had mothers who failed to report our injuries from our father’s physical violence, or fathers who failed to acknowledge the real danger we experienced when our mother passed out and almost burned the house down with us in it. Of course there are millions of versions of this story. The point is that when our family systems normalize this behavior while simultaneously requiring us to hide it, we are trained early on to deny the truth of our experience.

With a cultural bias toward public condemnation and universal opportunities presented by social media to anonymously criticize, it can feel daunting to embrace your truth, especially when it doesn’t match up with social convention. So many of us develop a habit of selling ourselves short.

If we grew up as targets of abusers, we may carry this a step further. The scenario goes something like this: deny our truth, sell ourselves short, blame someone else for holding us back, feel angry, release that anger in inappropriate ways or use it as a defense that prevents us from receiving love and support, suffer the consequences of our behavior or perceived lack of support and continue to make choices that cause us to feel like a victim. Victims do not recognize their power. If they did, they would not choose to continue to live like victims.

If you are existing rather than thriving, we support your desire for change! No matter who you are or what you have done, you deserve appreciation and love. We cry with you as you grieve your losses. We accept your less than perfect behavior even when we can’t condone it. We understand that when we tell ourselves the truth, you are the same as we are and given similar circumstances we are capable of making the same choice you have made.

Forget what you think you “should” do. We encourage you to do at least one thing each day that makes you feel free, safe, happy, light, or content. We also encourage you to allow yourself to feel your anger, fear, sadness, and longing in order to begin the process of letting it go. You do not need permission or approval to embrace the unique gifts and journey you have been given. They are your birthright.

It does not matter how many times you have been told you are worthless. Repetition does not make it true. Whoever told you that was lying to you to make you believe you are powerless. It does not matter how much time you’ve spent alone because a parent did not nurture you. You deserve love, attention, and affection and there are people who will show you love when you find the courage to let down your defenses. You are not valuable because of what you achieve or what you own. You are valuable because you are here. Let your legacy be how fully you live. If your energy is consumed by attaining material wealth at the sacrifice of your relationships or your health, you are living a life limited by material possessions. Such an existence may appear full from the outside, but you know the hollowness inside the facade.

The path to thriving is not all easy, but it is all worth it. No matter where you began or what you have endured, today begins with a choice. You can choose to live your truth or you can be confined by someone else’s. Can you stop just existing and thrive? Yes you can, and you deserve it. The truth you choose will determine whether you exist or whether you thrive.

Epilogue:
When you need a bit of inspiration, check out the stories of these survivors of violence, neglect, and abuse who have found a way to move past horrific events in order to thrive. Know someone else inspiring? Share with us in the comments below.

ESmart

Elizabeth Smart

IVanzant

Iyanla Vanzant

PConroy

Pat Conroy


JWalls

Jeanette Walls


OWinfrey

Oprah Winfrey

BClinton

Bill Clinton


RBritten

Rhonda Britten

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”