Category: Ten dishes challenge

Ten dishes challenge #6: chicken stew and exploring wheat-free

Since the new year, actually I’ve been much better than usual at cooking meals, though usually I haven’t managed to remember to take a picture to add to this series, hence the lack of updates. A significant reason I’ve done better at cooking is that I was preparing food to share with a couple in my block who were in serious financial difficulty, and also cooking for another friend who is very unwell and struggles to eat at all let alone cook.

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I’m motivated to cook when I feel it’s to help or care for or simply for the enjoyment of someone else. This can help me overcome feeling too exhausted to do it. When I’m cooking for others, there is actually some joy in it even if I’m battling the chronic physical pain. The thoughts and voices that taunt me that I don’t deserve good food, must not eat, fill my head with repulsion at myself and greed and failure, do not come so loud when I’m cooking for others and sharing the meal. When I’m with others, I don’t binge eat and I cannot purge food. Perhaps it isn’t the ideal way out of these eating disorder symptoms – I have to be able to feed myself for myself in the end – but the more times I do cook, do share food, do manage not to binge eat and purge or restrict for long periods, the quieter the voices become even when I’m alone. It’s a very slow process and can still be awful but I think it’s a strength that will slowly grow.

The other major change in the last month is that since I was in hospital with stomach problems, I’m on a wheat-free diet because I was advised to try this. So I’m finding out new recipes or adaptations to recipes. As much as possible, I’m finding foods and ingredients that are naturally wheat free, because a lot of replacement products are very expensive, especially the processed ones. A very small loaf of gluten free bread will be £2.50 rather than 80p for a similar sized normal loaf; a packet of wheat free biscuits may be up to £3.00 rather than 75p or less for regular supermarket biscuits. I can’t have these things regularly on wheat free, at least not when I’m relying on Benefits whilst I’m signed off work. The plus side of this is that it leads me to cook more and eat more fruit, veg, beans, meat and dairy. My food bill will increase a bit nevertheless but I don’t think it will be unmanageable if I’m very careful to go for cost effective recipes. In fact, I’m often enjoying finding a new variety of foods and the altered diet. For example, I’m going to try making my own bread using wheat free flour. I discovered these funky coloured carrots that were tasty roasted:

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It’s not all saintly. Chocolate definitely still features in my diet! 🙂

For the first couple of weeks I was out of hospital, my stomach was very unsettled and I was mainly eating rice, rice crackers, cooked vegetables and fruit, peanut butter then gradually some egg and cheese as well. Most meals were looking something like this:

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Slowly, as my stomach is a bit better, I’ve wided my diet again with meats, yoghurt, various treats or desserts like chocolate, or fruit bars, and I’ve tried some wheat free cereal a couple of times. It’s a gradual process and I’m still feeling unsettling effects from the stomach problems I had.

I’ve also returned to using my Nutribullet, which I find most helpful for upping my vegetable and fruit intake with juices, ensuring I have high fibre intake and consuming things that can be harder to get into my diet. In the winter, I don’t enjoy eating a salad as I might in the summer, but I can make a yummy smoothie with some raw spinach and mixed leaves, avocado, banana, apple and a little lemon juice.

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The result does slightly resemble the bathroom suite my parents had in the 1990s, but I promise it tastes good. (Warning – in my experience, home made juices, whatever the ingredients even if you use brightly coloured fruits, tend to turn out green or brown. This may not look appetising however if you can overcome the colour they usually taste good.)

Yesterday I made a chicken stew with lots of veg and mashed potato, which I was very pleased with as I used not to be so confident cooking meat. I had the day at home so was able to pace the preparation better than usual. There was plenty left over that went in my freezer.

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Thanks be to God for helping me to rediscover some joy in food, some opportunities to share and eat with others and enjoy it, and gradually continue on the path to a more healthful diet and feelings around food and my body.

Ginny xxx

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Ten Dishes Challenge #5: spanish omelette / fritata with carrot and warm cabbage salad

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Wow, I’m finding this series harder to do than I’d imagined! My previous post in this series, on Bert, was a kind of guest appearance. (That soup turned out quite well, by the way, though it needed double the time in the slow cooker that the recipe said.)

Here is some food I made when I had two friends over for our Christmas celebration. I didn’t attempt traditionally seasonal turkey because of a tight budget, as one person was mainly vegetarian, one had recently had an operation and has not yet much appetite, and in any case we were only the three of us. Instead I made Spanish omelette, baked not done in the frying pan because I can never do it well that way, warm white cabbage fried with onion and grated apple, and carrots roasted with a little oil, lemon juice and slices of apple which caramelises them as they bake. A Greek friend told me about the carrot recipe.

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It worked well for having friends over because it’s possible to do a lot of the preparation (such as boiling the potatoes and preparing the veg that go in the omelette) in advance. It also makes it a good dish for me as I can prepare it in stages gradually, taking a break when I need to if I’m tired or the pain too much worse.

Ginny xxx

Meet Bert

Hello. Meet Bert.

No, not that Bert! (NCIS joke, sorry.)

I have a way of naming inanimate objects, especially in the kitchen. This is my slow cooker, Bert:

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I’ve had Bert for a year but only today taken him out for his first use (and naming). How bad is that, I know. That’s how reluctant I can be to cook for myself and I’m trying to break that. Hopefully, Bert is going to cook a nice soup tonight, for tomorrow’s buffet dinner. I know I’ll be up til late finishing preparations for tomorrow so I can keep an eye on it. It takes 3 hours.

Two friends will be coming tomorrow, one when she finishes her shift at the hotel where she works, and the other will arrive earlier and we’ll go to Mass together. He has had an indescribably difficult time recently so I’m glad we can celebrate a little together.

I realise soup (and hippos) is a fairly un-festive topic for Christmas Eve. A more appropriate post follows very shortly!

Wishing you a happy evening…

Ginny xxx

Clip from NCIS – possibly series 2 episode 23 according to YouTube, though I am not sure about that, I think it is series 3 ; with thanks to MetalRixer for the extract. NCIS directed and produced by Donald Bellisario / Don McGill, property of CBS / Channel 5 and respective artists.

Ten dishes challenge #4: jacket potatoes with a difference

I haven’t been able to cook much at all recently but I’m trying to persevere with this series and remember my aim of rediscovering some of the enjoyment in cooking as well as building a little range of familiar dishes I can prepare economically.

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I made this when my friend visited. We both enjoy simple oven cooked jacket potatoes with the lovely crispy, salty skin and fluffy insides. This recipe adds a slight difference. Once the potatoes are cooked, you cut them in half and carefully scoop out the inside, taking care not to puncture the skins. You mix the fluffy potato with some very finely chopped lightly fried peppers and onion (you could use lots of different veg of your choosing) and a little finely diced ham, a beaten egg (mainly to bind it together and stop it being too dry) and some seasoning of your choice. After that you spoon the mixture back into the potato skins, sprinkle a little grated cheese on top and bake them again in the oven for 15-20 minutes or so.

And that’s the end of Ready Steady Cook for today!

Ginny xxx

Ten Dishes #3 – full of beans

This month has been even tighter than usual financially. Someone extremely kindly gave me some groceries to help. I received a few items I wouldn’t usually cook with. Two of these were a tin of ‘tender broad beans’ and timed cannelini beans. I decided to see what I could make with those using just the ingredients I had already in the cupboard.

This was the result:

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It is hard to make it look appetising in the photo however it was actually really nice (though I slightly over cooked the rice)! I used onion, tinned chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, mixed herbs and some stock. Using half the beans made plenty for my dinner plus another generous portion I put in the freezer. I still have the other half of the beans left over in the fridge to make something tonight. So all in all it has been extremely economical.

I think it was also nourishing and healthy. I’m really trying to take steps to improve my diet at present because it had become so poor due to trying to keep costs down. I am very unhappy with how my weight has been increasing with my medication and I really want to try to take control back in a healthy way that looks after my body.

Ginny xxx

Ten dishes -#2

You can read about what the Ten Dishes Challenge is here.

Time for my second dish in the challenge (and second time I’ve managed to cook within a week) – pasta bolognese.

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I know this is a bit similar in content to the first dish, cottage pie (both based round minced beef and veg). However as I’m a single person on a very tight budget I need to cook in this way to avoid waste and keep costs down. I was able to use ingredients I had left over from making cottage pie to prepare this (mushrooms, carrot, tomato, beef stock cubes, tomato passata, etc) and I had the pasta already in the cupboard. I only had to spend £1.70 for the meat.

Dad came for the afternoon so this was our lunch. It fed the two of us and I still have two servings left over which will feed me tonight and tomorrow, so it has worked out significantly cheaper than buying a supermarket microwave pasta meal.

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Ginny xxx

Ten dishes – #1

Cooking has long been something I struggle with.

I struggle to do it because of the pain and lack of strength that comes with my physical health problems. After a day at work it’s too much to cook as well. Plus, I tend to crave junk food when I feel rubbish physically. Also, when I’m feeling low and anxious and the voices are loud or I’m mad with myself, it’s very hard to allow myself to prepare nice food for myself. There’s so much guilt and conflicting emotions associated with eating.

I used to be a fairly competent cook. Actually I used to prepare all my and many of the family’s meals from the age of 9 or so, as my mother stopped attending to that aspect of life for many years,  as her mental health worsened. It used to be something I enjoyed. It made me feel “grown up” and responsible and I enjoyed trying new recipes. But recently I’ve totally lost that confidence, apart from liking to bake for friends sometimes.

So, I have decided to set myself a little challenge of learning to prepare ten different savory dishes, to try to rediscover some of the positive sides of cooking and be a better hostess on the rare occasions someone does come over. Here’s the first attempt – cottage pie. My friend came to stay for a couple of nights so I made it for our dinner. That gave me good motivation to do it. My friend liked it so that was a positive start.

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I’ll be trying to prepare low budget meals as money is still very tight. Perhaps that will make it interesting to share ideas here too for anyone else in a similar situation.

Hope today is a good day for you.

Ginny xxx