As many of you know, I recently spent two months at a treatment center for eating disorders. Here’s a little update on how things are going.
The Dreaded Meal Plan
I am still following a meal plan because my hunger and satiety cues have not yet returned making it impossible to eat intuitively. Some days it is really difficult to follow my meal plan. I want to sleep in instead of eat breakfast. I have to eat every couple of hours and sometimes it is just too much. I have a journal where I keep track of everything I eat including what I skip. I just have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t forever.
I wrote a lot while I was in treatment – six journals worth to be exact. I’m now going through and typing out the journal entries. Sometimes it’s really hard to read. I was in a bad place and treatment was really difficult – gut-wrenching even. Other times it’s empowering to read. I’ve come a long way. I can’t wait to get the journals typed out and get organized but it’s going to take a long time. Like I said, I wrote a lot. I am trying to type out one entry a day and so far I’m only on journal #3.
I am so lucky. I have lots of family support. My dad is always willing to help out and my husband is so patient. My whole family is happy that I’m home and healthy. At first, I was paranoid that everyone was watching me while I ate, but last Friday we had a family dinner at my dad’s house and I was able to relax and enjoy the meal and company.
The New Hobby
I started experimenting with cooking while I was in treatment – something I never really did in the past. The first dish I made was coconut chicken curry and it has now become one of my favorite meals. I love trying to make new recipes and I’ve bought so many new pans and utensils. My dad’s girlfriend came over and helped me reorganize my kitchen to make cooking easier for me.
The New Life
I was very sick when I went to treatment – mentally and physically – and I am so grateful to be healthy. I feel great. I’m back to my routines at home and work but it’s definitely a new normal. I need to stay on track but also give myself grace. Recovery is an ongoing journey, not an endpoint, and I will be dealing with this for the rest of my life.
I need new things to try! Please show me your favorite recipes!
Congrats on coming so far! About recipes, what sort of cooking do you like to try? Do you want to experiment with new ingredients, or make something beautiful or impressive that takes a lot of work, or just simple ingredients without a lot of prep time? (I’m definitely focused on ease of use these days.) Do you have new kitchen tools that you’re excited to use?
We get lots of leafy greens from a local farm CSA, so I’ve been adding them to every kind of soup. Here are recipes for colcannon, which is just mashed potatoes plus leafy greens, usually cabbage or kale. As with mashed potatoes in general, it can take more or less dairy, or cheese, bacon, onions, chives or whatever is laying around, or stay plain.
Soup version: https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/colcannon_potato_soup/
Thank you so much for the recipes! My family eats a lot of chicken and some beef. We live in the American Midwest and our diet reflects that although we are open to trying new things. I recently bought a sheet pan, an oven-safe skillet, and a wok. The only one I’ve used so far is the sheet pan.
You should learn to use the Wok. It will work well with chicken and beef, and the veggies from your area, “exotic” south(east)-Asian ingredients are not mandatory, albeit proper oil (something that can take the heat, like peanut, sesame, avocado, or sunflower (and hence, e.g., no olive)) is mandatory. Soya- and ginger-sauces are also very useful.
What sort of a Wok do you have? The classic steel bowel heated on the stove, or one of those electric / automated kinds, or…?
It takes time to prepare all the ingredients before using a Wok. The actual cooking process is so fast that if the ingredient isn’t ready when it should be added, there won’t be time to prepare it. Prepare everything beforehand — if you’ve ever seen Wok-cooks dump small bowels of chopped meat, fish, veggies, etc., into a Wok, you’ll soon learn why those small bowels have been pre-prepared (chopped, and possibly marinated / seasoned).
As always, fresh is best. Preserved or (previously-)frozen does not work well in a Wok, as far as I know (albeit I do confess to using canned corn).
And the oil is critical. Cheap oils, or those that break down in the high heat, are TERRIBLE (both taste- and health-wise).
Some Old Programmer says
Do you have any guidelines as to what you’d like to make? For instance, I have a real sweet tooth, but desserts may not be what you’re interested in.
There is a recipe from a “Great British Baking Show” contestant that I’ve tried and the family likes. Chetna Makan’s recipe for Chana Masala, a chickpea and potato curry, is very nice, and has an option for being vegetarian. I’ve had bad luck with FtB dumping my comments into the spam bucket for including a link, but it’s on YouTube (“Food with Chetna” is the channel, video from October 2018).
Thank you so much! I’ll check it out!
I am mainly interested in dinner recipes but I’m open to anything. I really want to explore!
Well, this one is not much of a kitchen challenge, but it is a bit unusual, and delicious, and since it is made out of mostly shelf-stable ingredients, is a great dish to whip out when you have no idea what to make:
Cream of Pumpkin Soup (from Jacques Pepin – Quick and Simple)
16 oz canned pumpkin puree
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup cream (Jacques says light cream, but I always use heavy cream)
1 tablespoon maple syrup (Jacques says honey, but I think the smoky quality of MS adds to the soup, and it is easier to measure out than sticky honey)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp curry powder
Place all ingredients in a saucepan, mix well, and bring to a boil. Serve with croutons, if desired (I don’t).
That sounds like something my husband would love!
BTW, don’t obsess over whether you have exactly 16 oz of pumpkin puree. Small cans of pumpkin I think are actually 15.5 oz nowadays, and the big cans hold slightly less than two small cans, for some dumb reason. It’s all good. I always buy the big cans, since they cost only a bit more than the small cans, weigh out half the net weight on my electronic kitchen scale (if you don’t have one, get one. They are cheap, finally, and essential for good baking), and freeze the rest in a plastic sandwich bag.
Ah yes… receipes and amounts.
I concur: DO NOT OBSESS over details like weights / volumes, exact ingredient matches, etc. (There are exceptions, and with experience — which does include the occasional disaster — you should learn what you can ignore, substitute, or stick strongly to.) Some ingredients can often be discarded entirely (sugar & salt are my own personal examples, albeit I will use honey, maple syrup, or soya sauce if it “seems appropriate” (learned by experience)).
I myself am notorious for making things up (often as I go), and for only for using recipes as “general ideas” (or to clarify a technique or sequence), which is perhaps why I myself cannot bake: I’ve possibly never learned what does and doesn’t work when baking, and my habit of rarely-following
bakingany-recipes doesn’t help — and my own dislike of adding any salt or sugar is perhaps an important reason for my own inability to bake?
Some Old Programmer@2
“Food with Chetna” is the channel
Indian food has long been a favorite. Thanks for the link!
Congratulations for sure! I am so, so proud of you for coming through this and being so strong!
I’ve been struggling with what recipes to offer you because I’m not sure what your triggers are and not sure what your family’s taste runs to.
Some of my “oh no, the last thing I want to do is cook” recipes include roast chicken–take a whole chicken, sprinkle on your favorite seasonings (I like a blend with salt/pepper/garlic powder/cayenne pepper, but you do you). Roast the chicken in a 350-degree oven until the skin is golden and the chicken is at least 165 degrees. You can turn on the broiler after that to get the skin very crispy if you like. 165 degrees ensures any bacteria or salmonella is killed. Make any side dishes you want (green salad, mixed veggies, etc.).
For beef, on busy or cold days, we usually we’ll do a crockpot recipe (bed of carrots and potatoes, sear meat and lay on top of veggies, sprinkle seasoning, pour in beef stock). If we have leftover beef and leftover veggies like the above chicken recipe, we’ll toss them together in the wok and separately make cauliflower rice to put under it.
We stay away from wheat-based or processed food because they’re empty calories and don’t sit well with several family members’ digestion…this may be hard for you living in the midwest.
It’s hard to offer up recipes without getting a better idea of what would suit you.
Some Old Programmer says
I do a lot of cooking, but I have the advantage of a more flexible schedule as I’m an at-home parent. Assuming that you don’t have a lot of time, and you don’t have a lot of equipment and don’t necessarily want to buy a lot of equipment immediately, I recommend you take a look at the recipes available from America’s Test Kitchen and it’s nearly identical show Cook’s Country.
A problem I have with a lot of cooking shows is the hosts show the techniques, but don’t give you an actual recipe you can use. Those two shows are much better in that regard; they occasionally slip up, but for the most part they don’t steer you to their web site to get necessary information. There are a lot of seasons of both shows already produced, so you can check the Wikipedia entries for an idea of what recipes are available. Your library should have some of their books, and may even lend DVD sets of the seasons. Bonus, .pdf files of the recipes are on the DVD sets for seasons 9 through 16 of ATK, and seasons 1 through 9 of CC.
Have fun with it!
Those are good points. I also have a great deal of (uninterrupted) time, and so, e.g., can make a Boeuf Bourguignon — a very time-consuming dish — almost on a whim. Admittedly, since I live in France, I can get the vins (you want at least two bottles, one to cook the boeulf, etc., in, and the other to drink (maybe three, since a bottle to drink whilst it’s cooking is understandable, if excessive)), boeuf, veggies, etc., trivially (also “at a whim”), and have the resources to invest in the dish. But yeah, if you need to “budget” your time (at least), that is an important consideration.
A possibly (from my time in the States) is a slow cooker (also known as a crock pot (as I recall)). You can prepare the dish in advance and later set it to start cooking so it’s ready when you are, with little-to-no on-hands maintenance. Such tools are weirdly hard-to-find here in Europe, so I haven’t used one in many Many yonks, and so defer to those with more recent experience (and experience with more recent equipment). But it can be a useful tool when there isn’t much time until the meal — if you plan in advance…
I agree with Some Old Programmer: ATK and CC are very good sources for recipes. As a bonus, episodes are on PBS on the weekends (at least where I live; check your listings) so you can watch in person and see what you think. Your public library might have their books/magazine/DVDs to check out, as well.
One caveat, and it’s minor: if you make their recipes, you may find your family enjoys little tweaks…for example, a little more or less garlic than the ATK recipe calls for, more or less cinnamon, etc. etc. These are tried-and-true recipes so nothing will be terrible…but tastes may vary.
Your daughter may well enjoy watching the shows with you; each episode is about 25 minutes and usually has 3 or 4 segments: 2 recipes, a taste test, a kitchen gadget review. This inspired a spinoff “taste test” in my house…did they want a pbj with strawberry jam? Banana slices? Chocolate chips? Which tasted better to them? Or which would they rather have on a stick of celery–peanut butter, cream cheese, or raisins? (It’s a fun rainy-day time passer for small children and also sneakily gets them to eat lunch.)
Have a look at https://www.cookforyourlife.org/ – it is intended mainly for cancer patients and survivors, but has plenty of recipes of much variety for all, and you can search specifically for recipes with few steps, few ingredients, or that require minimal equipment. Also freezer friendly and pantry friendly recipes.
Thank you all so much for your suggestions! I have so much to try!
I also have an update — I saw my dietitian and therapist last Friday and they said I’m ready to try intuitive eating. I thought I was a long way off from that but apparently not. Wish me luck!!
You will do GREAT because you are paying attention!
Dr Sarah says
Oh, brilliant; I’m so pleased to hear you’re getting better.
I don’t have much in the way of recipes, but my grandmother handed down a lasagne recipe I absolutely love (apparently she got it from ‘Good Housekeeping’ originally, so not a creation of hers!) You have to be fans of cheese, though. Basically, instead of the white sauce (or bechamel sauce, whatever you call it in your neck of the woods), you get Philadelphia cheese and cottage cheese in roughly equal quantities (don’t bother weighing, doesn’t have to be exact), mix them together, and mix in finely chopped spring onions. (You can leave out the spring onions if you want to. Or I assume you could get one of those flavoured cottage cheeses with onion bits already in it.) Then you layer it with the usual minced beef/chopped onion mix (after frying the beef & onions, obvs), and put a layer of Cheddar or something similar on top. OK, that’s me at my culinary limit.
Thank you so much! 🙂
I saw this article in the Grauniad yesterday(?), Who needs recipes? Why it’s time to trust your senses and cook intuitively, and as I read, starting jumping up-and-down (almost literally) screaming “yes, yes, this is what I do!” I never knew it had a name before, “intuitive cooking”.
The main points from the article (read the article for details):
● Throw out the fear
● Work with what you have
● Simplify steps, not ingredients
● Awaken your senses
● Substitute as you need, and as you like
● Know the non-negotiables
● Work with the elements
● Taste and adjust
● Test your intuition
Other than a quibble about the importance / “need” to add salt — I detest doing so & claim it’s almost never necessary nor desirable — I believe I am in full agreement with this article, concurring on essentially every point’s details.
There’s multiple references. There’s also an acknowledgment “intuitive baking” is very difficult — I’ve always admitted I cannot bake worth a damn, and suspect it’s due to my habit of only consulting recipes for ideas (and sometimes techniques), but not following them (neither slavishly nor loosely) for ingredients and instructions.