Sunday, September 22, 2013

Advice to a Beginning Cook

Someone asked for cooking advice on Facebook today. The person is a beginning cook and wanted help with finding recipes, cook book recommendations, etc. A few people recommended Alton Brown; here's what I had to say, and it was long enough that I decided to post it here:

I love Alton Brown too but I think he's probably too complicated for a beginner. (I bought one of his cookbooks but wound up donating it to the library- the recipes were way too hard/time consuming and I have decent cooking skills. I've learned a LOT from watching "Good Eats", though!) The old classics- Betty Crocker, for instance, would probably be better, or Taste of Home magazines, which I believe are fairly basic. You can also check out cook books from the library to see which ones you like without having to buy them right away. It's disheartening to spend money on a cook book then find out the recipes don't work for you for whatever reason.

Plus remember the old adage- practice, practice, practice. The more you cook, the better you'll get.

Also- when trying a recipe for the first time follow it to the letter. After that feel free to experiment and change things up, mix up the seasonings, make substitutions. Don't try that with baking, though- you have to be more precise with following the recipe when you bake, especially when it comes to proportions of one ingredient to another. Look for the websites where you can plug in the items you want to cook with, then it generates a list of recipes for you. There's also and Cooking Light magazine and Southern Living both link to..., I think, and their recipes are fantastic.

Cooking magazines are wonderful- I have a bit of an addiction to them! Finally- focus on the style of cooking you want to pursue- if you want healthy recipes, then Cooking Light or Eating Well would be fantastic, for instance. Vegetarian, then go for Vegetarian Times, etc. Then there's all the cooking shows out there- I actually prefer good old PBS for cooking shows. Julia Child re-runs and Martha Stewart's current show, along with America's Test Kitchen. Even if they are making things too complicated for where you are right now, you'll still learn techniques that will help you out in the long run. And don't forget about Pinterest!! There are about a bazillion recipes on there. Good luck!!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Summer Summary

I wrote about my summers not too long ago, how they all seem to take on themes. I like it best when the theme is TRAVEL, but not much of that happened this summer. What did happen was lots and lots of doctor visits to try and figure out why I'm so drained all the time, more than just the fibromyalgia can explain. My instincts, that there was something more going on, turned out to be accurate- I have anemia. The big question is figuring out why I'm anemic, and the big task is to get my iron levels back up, which has proven trickier than anticipated since I found out that I'm allergic to sulfa, which is what ALL of the prescription iron tablets are mixed with. It's been a lot of tests and a lot of appointments and a lot of phone calls to various medical offices and a lot of label reading to find OTC supplements without sulfa, but yet with enough mgs of iron to make a difference without taking 10 pills a day. There's still more to go, too- another test to check for internal bleeding, a few more tests to see if my iron levels are improving, and tests to follow up on the tests that revealed some minor issues that need to be watched. And a few weeks of physical therapy for my sore knee at the beginning of summer, which actually didn't help much. (Maybe if I did the follow up exercises...)

And then there's DH. He's also had some medical issues this summer, including physical therapy. We got to work out together for a couple of appointments; it was almost like a date!! Good times, good times.

So it's been a medically themed summer; that's my least favorite. :( But I'm perking along taking my over the counter iron supplements, and boosting the iron in my diet since the OTCs aren't quite strong enough. I gave up being vegetarian for now; if I can get my iron levels up to where they should be I'll cut back on meat again. I still don't eat meat every day, mind you, but I will buy a steak from Whole Foods, level 4 on their animal welfare rating program, once or twice a week. I'm also eating... gulp... chicken liver. Chicken liver is about the most iron rich food you can eat, so eat it I am. It's palatable, shall we say, when it's made up as chopped liver with lots of hard boiled egg and sauteed onion. I eat it on matzoh crackers with some tomato to top it off, and it's not too horrible. Oh, almost forgot, OJ on the side since citrus helps with iron absorption.

I bought a new cast iron skillet too, and I'm trying to cook in that as often as possible. Which actually isn't very often since DH usually cooks the meals that require a skillet and he doesn't like it, but I've cooked the chicken livers in it.

With all the iron I've felt a little better so I've gone out a few times to ride my bike to try to get more exercise. I love riding my bike- it always makes me feel like a kid again. That and a 15 minute daily walk for the dogs is the extent of my exercise program, but it's better than nothing. I still get so wiped out I can barely move, especially at the end of a busy day, and the day after a busy day. I cut back on most of the activities for the kids for the summer, but now that the school year has started again that's picking right up.

I hate giving in to it, but sometimes I have to. Back in May/June, when I first really started feeling poorly, I was blaming it on fibro flare ups but they were so much worse and much more frequent than usual. It really started affecting my friendships because I was always making excuses for why I couldn't do things, or why I was late, or unprepared, or whatever, since I was always too wiped out to do things properly. It's gotten to where I hate for friends to ask me how I am, because I don't know what to say. Do I lie and say I'm fine, when I'm really not? Does anyone actually want to hear it if I do tell them I feel like crap? Or do I brush it off with "I'm hanging in there", or something equally non-committal? Or just go ahead and go with the socially gracious option and lie, saying "I'm fine"? Or am I completely over thinking this? (Yeah, probably that last thing.) ;)

Blech- even I don't want to read this post, but it's how my summer went so I'm journaling about it for posterity. Here's hoping it's the last "medical summer" for a long, long time!!