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Cooking, My New Hobby

Since I stopped devouring books and using the computer much (because reading triggers migraines), I’ve been bored. I hate being bored.

Every hands-on craft I try causes wrist pain that I haven’t been able to conquer. Baking is fantastic, but consuming all that I make isn’t a smart dietary strategy. So I’ve decided cooking will be my new hobby.

Although deciding to do something I’ve never particularly liked for fun is a little weird, it makes a lot of sense. I’d love to have a hobby again. I like food, I need to eat, and eating better food would probably make me feel better.

By approaching cooking as a hobby instead of a chore, I hope it will be fun, not the high-pressure job of reforming my diet. Ideally cooking will become something I want to do, not have to do.

These are the guidelines I’ve established so I don’t exhaust myself. Is it contradictory to set goals for a hobby?

Use Simple Recipes
I’m currently taking Mark Bittman‘s (aka The Minimalist) no-nonsense approach: Make better food in less time with fewer ingredients. I’m starting small with his very short cookbook, How to Cook Everything: Quick Cooking. It isn’t an overwhelming tome, but a short introduction to tasty basic recipes. A perfect housewarming gift for someone in their first apartment, the book includes variations for the more experienced or adventurous cook. I’m supplementing with The Minimalist Cooks at Home for variety. (It’s out-of-print, but is available used.)

I’ve owned it for four years and have liked the few things I’ve made from his books. Now my plan is to approach it methodically. Like Julie and Julia, where blogger Julie Powell set out to make every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking. The Minimalist’s goals are much less lofty, but the idea is the same.

Buy Ingredients for One Meal at a Time
This is to avoid wasting food and feeling like I’ve failed. I broke this “rule” one day into my plan. Because this is a new hobby, not a resolution, I’ve no need to beat myself up. Good things hobbies don’t have rules. Besides, I still think I can do it.

Learn New Techniques
This is the part that turns work into entertainment. I’ve always been reluctant to cook meat on the stove. In fact, I’m reluctant to cook meat at all. Not only do I get to produce an edible product (however bad it may be), I expand my skills and learn new recipes. This will make my hobby more fun in the future.

Tomorrow I’m taking the knife skills class I’ve wanted to take for years. It’s a morning class, so I’m confident I’ll make it this time. I’m already daydreaming about future classes.

Do It
I made my recipe plan yesterday morning, then Hart called to say he had a work dinner. I felt crappy, so it was fine, but my motivation is far weaker than 24 hours ago. I hope applying the techniques of the knife skills class will boost my overall motivation.

Clearly there’s little difference between my new hobby and a New Year’s resolution. Since resolutions usually fail, I’m relying on the power reframing. It’s an essential skill of every optimist.

I hope simple cooking will become a frequent topic on The Daily Headache. Nutrition and ease are some good topics for a headache blog.

Photo by Joe Zlomek.

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The Comfort of Casseroles and Home Cooking

It’s my first day blogging in a month and I’m obsessed with finding casserole and other Midwestern home cooking recipes. I haven’t written a new post in weeks (I scheduled them all before my vacation) and have to respond to tons of comments. But I need to make the perfect beef mac and cheese to be ready to tackle my life.

Yes, I know this directly conflicts with the drastic migraine/headache trigger elimination diet I described Thursday. As many times in a day I decide to eat only rice, chicken and lettuce for a few days, I dismiss the crazy idea.

Today’s Googling is part of my long-time preoccupation with finding easy meals that are won’t clog our arteries and are free of additives and other triggers. Vegetables would be a good addition too. Maybe you can benefit from my obsession.

The culprit, beef and cheese macaroni, doesn’t have veggies, but sometimes simple comfort food is the best. As long as I substitute regular cheddar for American, I can justify making this at least once. Right?

From mac and cheese, I moved onto casseroles and other comfort food. Only a couple caught my eye. Do you have any favorites?

When I’m slightly more ambitious, I cook from The Big Book of Casseroles or Moosewood Simple Suppers. I modify Moosewood a lot to fit my diet, but the basic recipes are really good.

Then I got caught up in grilled cheese. The best part is that making it on the George Foreman grill drastically reduces the need for patience.

What are your favorite easy recipes for fall?

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Kitchen-Based Medicine

Instead of letting fibromyalgia force her out of the kitchen, Jennifer Hess revamped her approach, making cooking and eating a medicine that treats her physically and mentally. In her Chronic in the Kitchen series on ChronicBabe, she kindly shares lessons that she’s learned and some delicious recipes.

Jennifer broke the recipe-following rules when she developed her
recipes — follow her lead! If an ingredient is a known trigger for
you, make a substitution. Black bean soup made with garbanzo beans?
Chives instead of onions? The first few incarnations may be strange,
but you’ll eventually get a recipe that’s tasty and doesn’t invoke pain.

Avoiding Sausage Headaches
Two of Jennifer’s recipes use sausage, which can spell trouble for people with headache. Because it’s so tasty and easy to use, I’ve searched far and wide for sausage that doesn’t trigger headaches. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Always check the labels and try to avoid varieties with nitrates or any form of MSG. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Wild Oats all carry brands that fit the criteria or come really close. Many stores in the Safeway family (which includes Von’s, Dominick’s, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Genuardi’s and Carrs) also carry some varieties.

Brands that taste good and aren’t filled with junk include Applegate Farms, Cantella’s, Gerhard’s and Organic Prairie. Again, check the labels. One variety of one brand might be fine, but another sausage by the same company may contain MSG.

Also, a little bit of a “bad” additive might not cause problems for you. Try it out when you feel brave.

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ChronicBabe: In the Kitchen

Jennifer Hess, a ChronicBabe contributor, knows that eating minimally processed foods without many additives helps keep her pain under control. Instead of eating junk when she’s exhausted, in pain and can’t think, she has invested in good kitchen tools and always has easy-to-prepare, good-for-you food on hand. Jennifer shares her secrets in Chronic in the Kitchen! Tips to Keep You Cooking.