Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cook with Imagination

I've been thinking about what I want to talk about today. I had decided, but just hadn't written yet when my tv was on The Chew and they stole my idea, lol! Well, maybe not. But it can't be said enough, so instead of changing topics, I think I'll continue on the same thought.

I've met and known of so many people these days that don't cook. And after living the past 6 years with multiple food intolerances, I am even more amazed that of this and convinced that those of us with food issues, can't NOT know how. It's not rocket science. Although the chemistry of baking, especially with alternative flours and ingredients certainly leaves me stumped. I CERTAINLY don't profess to be educated or know everything. I simply have lived with it long enough to figure out I WANT to cook again. I have alot of #FAILS and a few really good successes and ALOT that falls in the middle, somewhere. I still struggle with the expense of many of the alternative ingredients and experimenting. I'm too cheap to not be affected by throwing the failures down the garbage disposal. I have been VERY thankful to be able to get eggs and dairy back in the mix. They certainly help tremendously.

One thing I've always kinda of enjoyed is reworking leftovers. I think its fun to open up the fridge and figure out how I can make a little of this and little of that into something brand new. My family goes in spurts whether they are good about eating leftovers or not. So, if I can remake them, its helpful. You might argue that if you don't cook much, how would you know what goes together, or what spices to use. I also know alot of people that can't cook without using recipes. Personally, I only use most recipes once. If its a keeper, then the next time I start tweeking and using what I may have on-hand instead of something specific the recipe calls for.

But you eat out, don't you? Or watch The Food Network? Say you want something to taste Mexican....what seasonings are known Mexican seasonings? Cilantro, cumin, chili powder, garlic and onion powders. That's not an exclusive list, but its a good start. When you eat out, what GOES on Mexican foods? Beans, Spanish rice, lime, different peppers, corn, tomotoes, etc. Again this isn't an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. You KNOW more than you think you do!! EXPERIMENT! If your diet doesn't include dairy, obviously you avoid the cheeses or "creamies". You CAN experiment with cornstarch, potato starch, arrowroot to thicken. Or any of the many soy cheeses, milks, or nut butters and milks to substitute. I never tried the nut derived products as nuts is one of my no-no's. But I did learn that the soy versions of most of those things are VERY delicate and don't hold up long to the heat of average cooking. So just add them late in your process. I STILL will say that sticking with as many unprocessed foods as possible will still give you the best results. I often simply left out one factor to a recipe than use a processed alternative. I was usually disappointed with the result anyway. But anyway you shake it, I never found ANYTHING that was "as good as the original". It may be GOOD, but different. And the sooner you learn to let go of that expectation the happier you'll be. I know I hung on way too long!

But back to the figuring out what goes with what when cooking. One thing that has changed life as we all know it that would help you when you just HAVE to see something "official" in print, is your computer!! Google it! Ask Ask! : ) But I say give yourself a shot....trust your instincts! Experiment!

Monday, September 10, 2012


When I was first struck with my multiple food intolerances, the meal that was the hardest for me to deal with was breakfast. I don't know about you, but we grew up having "breakfast" for dinner once in awhile. It's a nice break from the usual dinner preparations. Breakfast foods seem easier and faster. And we all just LOVE breakfast foods. So it's a win for everyone. But in the mornings, you NEED eggs, toast, sausage, etc. Or so you think, at least I did. When I couldn't have the breads..toast, waffles, pancakes, etc., and I couldn't have the eggs or the milk, I was kinda lost. I discovered I really need MEAT to feel satisfied for any length of time. And then it dawned on me...I usually always have supper leftovers from the night before! It may seem odd for awhile, but when one is hungry....hey, food is food! So I lived a long time with eating leftover hamburgers or baked chicken and broccoli. My family has never needed, or wanted, a cooked, fresh breakfast. Frozen waffles or cereal has always kept my son happy and hubs would be gone to work before the sun comes up, grabbing a bowl of nuked oatmeal or a piece of fruit. So, dealing with breakfast for myself was always on my own. Just a short sidebar....about oatmeal. I stayed away from it for quite some time as everything I was reading online said those with Celiac and gluten-intolerance should stay away from oatmeal because of cross-contamination possibilities, even stemming back to the fields in which they are grown being used previously for wheat, barley, etc.! In time, I grew too curious and tried some. I found I did well, AS LONG as I stuck with Quaker brand, versus a cheaper, generic brand. And I did well with Irish brands of steel cut oats. But those are much more expensive and I still try to be cheap about some things. I say SOME things so you won't hold me to that about everything I say! I could say so much more. But I just want to stress, today, that if you are finding your diet suddenly diminished due to food allergies or intolerances that you aren't accustomed to, think outside the box. Dinner foods for breakfast isn't normal, but it works. Proteins of any nature, veggies, fruit...think whole foods. I suddenly couldn't have all the things that most people use to casserole things or cream things, combine things with. But I could eat WHOLE foods. Meat, veggies, fruit. Its not always what our American diets are accustomed to meal after meal after meal, but it works! Its healthy and its filling. Think outside the box!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New Focus

Hi Everyone! Its been a long time. Too long. But I have decided that I want a new focus for blogging. I may have an occasional rabbit trail, but I want to talk about food. My experience with food. I love food. There's very, very few things I really don't like. I grew up in the south and midwest. My mom was a decent cook and most of her meals were southern in nature. Meat, potatoes, rice, casseroles, tons of cheese, creamed anything, fried everything. Paula Deen's cooking just always seemed like normal cooking. I think I DID realize at some point that a whole stick of butter in everything was a bit over the top. But GOOD, gooey, creamy, crunchy food was just normal and enjoyable and eating was always to be enjoyable. The old saying Live to Eat or Eat to Live....we always fell on the Live to Eat side of that. As many mother/daughter relationships are, mine was never the best and trying to learn to cook from my mother just wasn't going to happen. I spent most of those more teachable moments out in the garage with my dad, handing him tools and talking cars. So when I got married, learning to cook became an interest. About that same time is when the Food Network and cable tv came into our lives. Up until then, The Galloping Gourmet was my only teacher. Maybe the occasional Julia Childs show. But she tended to fix things I would never be able to find in the middle of Kansas. I did learn to appreciate her greatly years later, if only for the fact that she didn't seem to be all wrapped up in convention and dirtied every plate and pan in her kitchen. A woman I could certinaly identify with. But I never had the crew to clean up after myself like she did. As my own son came along and my husband's career got off the ground, we moved around the country alot. We were exposed to different foods and ingredients. I often couldn't find my staples that I was used to. In Wisconsin, many had never heard of okra or zucchini. Dr. Pepper was completely off their radar! In Washington, we were exposed to the most amazing fresh produce. And Salmon. We really never ate more healthy or better than when we lived in Washington. And it wasn't painful. We lived. Speed ahead many years and our latest move has been to Michigan. About 6 months later, I suddenly found myself not able to eat MANY different foods. It took MONTHS and MONTHS of self-research to figure it all out. And after 6 yrs of dealing with this, I have been able to add some of those foods back into my diet, if not at a limited amount for some. My main problem seems to remain GLUTEN. And cross-contamination is a definite issue. I tell this part of my story to explain why all I ever knew about cooking has had to change and its not an easy fix. I still haven't figured much of it out. When foods like eggs and dairy were part of my no-no list, it was even harder! I really quit cooking alot and simply ate foods straight. It really challenged my LIVE TO EAT mentality. It was no longer fun. My husband and son were SO patient with me. It took me a couple of years to have a desire to try to figure out how to cook some of the dishes I was accustomed to in a way I could eat them. Some aren't quite the same, but..... . Some have been a complete failure. Others, not so much. We HAVE learned to appreciate whole foods more. Things don't NEED to be creamed, fried, casserolled or drenched in cheese all the time. You might say we're slow learners, but we get there. I want to share with you my attempts, my failures, my successes, new foods I've found and the decent glutenfree products I've stumbled on. I would LOVE comments and feedback. I hope this new focus will be as fun for you as I'm hoping it will be for me.