Posts tagged ‘polenta’

March 15, 2016

Save Time and Money When You Use These Tips

eggshellsLast week, I let the chicken I was baking make cream of mushroom soup, and this week I will save even more time and money by using these tips. Of course, you can do this too!

It’s not really that I’m getting lazy these days, it’s that I have an overwhelming number of additional tasks that were unexpectedly added to my already full plate. When my mother had a stroke in December, I took over the management of my 95-year-old cousin’s affairs. While she’s in great health, able to live in her own home, and to get out and play dominoes with friends on Saturdays, she can no longer deal with her mail, manage her financial obligations, schedule her own appointments, or transport herself.

Then a few weeks ago, my mother passed away and I became a co-trustee of her trust and co-executrix of her will. While co-executrix is a pretty cool word, it also means lots of extra research, forms, sorting & filing, meetings, phone calls, and decisions to make.

These real life storms happen to all of us. At the time, it always feels like they occur at an inconvenient time. The truth is, that there’s never a convenient time for sadness, grief, loss, or extra caregiving duties. If there were, it would mean we aren’t living very full lives. We’d most likely be failing to pursue the challenging job we desire, the degree we want, our next athletic achievement, or the dream vacation we can finally afford.

Knowing that the ebb and flow of life will always deliver intermittent difficult times, it’s good to have a few tricks handy that make things easier on the budget and your schedule when times get tough. Here are a few tricks I rely on regularly:

1)Cook 2 things in the same pot or pan at the same time that can be later mixed and matched for 2 or 3 different meals.

Baked Chicken and Cream of Mushroom Soup
Last week’s chicken spaghetti blog featured a perfect example of this trick. I made cream of mushroom soup in the bottom of the pan while baking chicken. Later, I used both in chicken spaghetti. Then I took the leftover mushroom soup, added some cubed potatoes, and ate potato mushroom soup for a couple of meals.

Pork Chops and Polenta
I like to cook polenta in the bottom of a casserole dish when I bake pork chops. It’s probably the easiest way ever to prepare polenta and later I can use some of it to make grilled polenta cakes with tomato and kale. The pork chops cut into thin strips or cubes can be made into tacos or added to macaroni and cheese.


2)Save pot likker to use in other dishes or one pot meals.

Traditional pot likker is the broth produced when you cook greens, but I like to save the broth from boiling black eyed peas, beans, and broccoli as well. Seasoned, it can be used as a base for a soup or sauce. It can also be used in place of chicken broth to cook rice or to add flavor to a one pot meal. Storing vegetable broth in the refrigerator has saved me more than one trip to the store.
pulled pork
3)Remake leftovers into something new.

When I began to tire of the aforementioned chicken spaghetti, I sautéd some onion, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, then added the leftover chicken spaghetti and some extra cheese to the pan. The chicken spaghetti was transformed into pasta primavera…with chicken. It tasted fresh and new and took less than 20 minutes to prepare.

I sometimes make pulled pork enchiladas with leftover smoked pork. Roasted chicken becomes chicken salad, chicken quesadillas, or chicken and rice. Leftover veggies fill my frittatas or get added to browned turkey for a one pot meal.

James flew in hungry late the night I baked chicken for chicken spaghetti. He topped one of the chicken breasts with mushroom, potato soup and a piece of pepper jack cheese, then popped it in the microwave for a quick and filling meal.

4)Boil some eggs and store them in the refrigerator (they’ll last a week).

Boiled eggs are an easy protein to grab when you’ve waited too long to eat. Just add a little salt and pepper and they’re good to go. They’re also easy to carry in the car or on airplane trip.

Boiled eggs can become egg salad or a great addition to tuna salad, chicken salad, or pasta with sausage and peas.
dates
5)Keep nuts in the freezer and dried fruit in the pantry.

I always have raw almonds, pecans, walnuts, and cashews in my freezer. I use them for desserts, meatloaf, meatballs, and salads. At any given moment, I’ll also have a variety of dried fruit in the pantry. I like the ones without added sugar – dates, papaya, mango, pears, figs, and raisins.

My standard breakfast is Greek yogurt with raw almonds and golden raisins. When I travel, I carry nuts and raisins with me. Sometimes I throw in a few chocolate chips. It’s like extra simple trail mix.

In order for me to deal with added stress, it’s important to keep my eating, sleeping, and exercise routine fairly constant. While it might be easy to rely on fast or overly processed foods when I’m overbooked, doing so makes me feel bad so I try to keep it to a minimum. Using a few tricks in the kitchen helps keep me stay on track and have time for the rest and exercise I need to remain resilient.

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.”