Category Archives: Tips for Cooking with Arthritis

RA Kitchen Tips Draining Pasta

Today’s Tip is in response to a request from a reader asking for ways for a Mom with limitations in her hands to have an easier and safer way of lifting and draining pasta. Great question. Pasta can be the starting point for an endless variety of easy meals. Lifting, carrying and draining hot liquid can be extremely difficult for some and there can also be a safety concern.

Here are some ways to approach the task of draining pasta to limit the strain and heavy lifting:

• If using short pasta (penne, rotini, maccaroni) use a Spider (see below) or a Large Slotted spoon. Remove pasta directly from the water to the pan with the sauce or bowl or however you wish to use it.

• If using long pasta (spaghetti, linguini) remove pasta strands from water using tongs and put directly into sauce or bowl. I use lightweight spring loaded aluminum tongs as shown below.

  •  After using one of these removal methods leave the water in the pot on the stove.  You can then ask for someone to help at a later time or, wait until water has cooled down so you can more readily handle without an immediate sense of urgency or risk of burns.

• Lighten the load – if not wanting to use one of the removal methods above you can scoop out some of the water from the pot before lifting so it won’t be so heavy. Using a 2 cup plastic measuring cup and wearing oven mitts makes short work of this task. Once you have removed most of the water, take the now much lighter pot to the sink to drain.

• I do not recommend the metal inserts that can be lifted out of a pot to drain pasta. I find these still to be awkward to deal with and dangerous with the hot water and steam.

Spider Kitchen Utensil – a spider is one of my more frequently used kitchen tools. It is a light weight large shallow wire-mesh basket with a long handle, usually made of wood. The wire basket is woven in a loose pattern that resembles a spider’s web, hence the name. Unlike a strainer the design and open weave of a spider allows it to be used with one hand to lift items out of hot liquid or oil instantly and with little effort. It’s low shallow shape allows you to get right to the bottom of a deep pot and remove all of the pasta. I always use this method for scooping out pasta, or perogies etc.

kitchen spider

 

Kitchen Tongs – a must have. I have a few pair so that If one is in the dishwasher I’ve got another pair on the ready. I use this style of lightweight aluminum with the closed tips. Easily picks up anything and holds it in a firm grip. Ideal for lifting strands of pasta out of a pot.  I find this style preferable to a pasta fork as you can get a better grip and have more control.

kitchen tongs

More like this?  If you liked this tip, check back often for more RA Kitchen Tips, an ongoing series.  Read more about RA Kitchen Tips here – https://arthritiskitchen.wordpress.com/ra-kitchen-tips-an-ongoing-series/

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Banana Walnut Loaf

There were about 6 frozen bananas in my freezer taking up room so, it appeared to be time to make a banana loaf.  To increase the nutritional value and add Omega 3’s, this loaf has walnuts but you could easily omit them or add something else. Banana Bread

I found a terrific Martha Stewart recipe.  The only thing I altered was to cut down on the sugar.  (use your own judgment) I’m not much of a baker so I need to pay attention to what I’m doing when baking.  Martha’s recipes are so clearly written, it helps me a lot.  I also found an excellent technique for dealing with frozen bananas in recipes.  By using Amy’s advice, there is no mess and no mashing required.  It wins a gold star for Arthritis Kitchen easy!

Banana-Walnut Loaf

http://www.marthastewart.com/315106/banana-walnut-loaf

Martha’s recipe was foolproof resulting in a beautiful, moist loaf with excellent texture.  The extra step of toasting the walnuts really makes them stand out.  I recommend doing this in a dry skillet or in the oven.  Just be careful not to burn them.

Banana Bread and Asian Dressing 023 (2)

Technique for using frozen bananas – so easy!

http://gospelhomemaking.com/banana-bread/

Check out this blog with a foolproof, easy way of using frozen bananas in baking.  By letting the bananas thaw in their skins and then squeezing them out and then draining you get recipe ready bananas without the need to mash or chop.  They fold beautifully into your recipe.

Apple Strudel – Addiction and Rehab

Cinnamon and a hot pot 023

I been having a food craving recently that I’m shamelessly giving into.  Apple Strudel, the generic store-bought variety.  You know the kind…, rectangles of pastry with a tiny smear of apple pie product in the middle.  They are often not very good but, as I am confessing here, I have no self-control when they are in the house……they’ve been in the house often these days.  Giving into some guilty pleasures I guess.

I’m going try my hand at making them.  How hard can it be?  Store bought puff pastry (or how about something completely different, more whole grains?), then you add apples cinnamon.  I’m convinced I can make something healthier and tastier than the store bought version.  There is a tree of excellent cooking apples ripening in the yard and this is one of the things I plan to do with them.

In the meantime, here’s how to take a generic apple strudel and improve it by adding some fresh ingredients and extra flavor and nutrients.

Cinnamon and a hot pot 022

Using a table knife pry open the wide side of the piece of strudel.  It should open very easily like a hinge.  Add some jam if desired (I used thick cut orange marmalade), a sprinkle of cinnamon, top with very thinly sliced apples and more cinnamon – to your taste.  Close it up and you have a vastly improved treat.  The crunch of the fresh apples really make it.

Cinnamon 005Arthritis Kitchen Tips:

Have you heard people talking about Cinnamon?  It’s been making headlines as another superfood with some pretty impressive stats.  Cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest spices and medicines.  It doesn’t take much to reap the benefits of this potent elixir.  Just 1/2 teaspoon per day is all that is needed in order to gain the benefits.  Add it to your list of organic spices to purchase and buy in small quantities so it is always fresh.

Some health benefits of Cinnamon:

Cinnamon is a very powerful antioxidant, one of the most powerful of all the spices.

Cinnamon has positive effects on the blood, lowering blood sugars, reducing LDL cholesterol and thinning the blood preventing blood clots and reducing inflammation.  Adding cinnamon to a high carbohydrate food can actually reduce the negative impact on your blood sugar levels!

Inhaling the aroma of cinnamon is shown to increase brain function resulting in improved mental alertness, recognition memory and working memory.  Excellent for boosting cognitive ability.

Adding cinnamon to your daily diet is easy.  Add some into your morning coffee, sprinkle on toast, cereal or yogurt, add to your savory dishes too.  So spice up your life and improve your health at the same time.

Chicken Breasts with Turmeric, Shallots and Orange

turmeric chicken 006

Turmeric is said to be one of the spices that are most helpful in reducing inflammation in the body.  Eating to reduce inflammation is not only beneficial to those with an inflammatory auto immune condition but also plays a large role in cardiovascular health.  So be bold and add some turmeric to your food.

This recipe has a bit of a Moroccan flavor to it with the use of both turmeric and cinnamon.  Pairing with the oranges and fresh herbs balances out the flavors for a savory dish with just a touch of sweetness.

 Chicken Breasts with Turmeric, Shallots and Orange

4 bone in chicken breasts (or thighs)

2 large shallots, minced

1 clove garlic

2 teaspoons olive oil or butter

2 oranges in total (one for zesting and juice and one for slicing)

Juice from zested orange

1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves (or parsley)

½ tsp turmeric

¼ tsp cinnamon

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Splash of soy sauce

Method:

  • Chop shallots, garlic, thyme (or parsley)
  • Peel and chop zest.  This is one of the rare times I do not use a microplane for zest because I prefer the coarser texture.
  • In a very small pan heat oil or butter, then add shallots, garlic and zest.  Sauté on low heat until shallots begin to soften.
  • Add spices and combine, heat until fragrance is released.

Put mixture aside to cool.

Slice the other orange into very thin rounds

For each chicken breast or thigh, lift up the skin and put 1 teaspoon of the shallot mixture under each piece.  Then add two orange slices under the skin, on top of the shallot mixture.

Seasons breasts on both sides with salt and pepper.

Brown chicken pieces in a heavy pan then bake on a foil lined baking sheet at 375 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes depending on the size of chicken pieces.  Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.

turmeric chicken 004

While chicken is baking prepare the pan sauce.

Heat pan that was used to brown chicken.  Deglaze with orange juice and the soy sauce.  Reduce to desired consistency and set aside.

When chicken is done, remove from oven, place on a platter and rest for at least 10 minutes.  Pour any juices collected at bottom of platter into your sauce.

turmeric chicken 012

Arthritis Kitchen Tips:

  • To avoid staining, keep your Turmeric in a small container with a shaker top.  Also makes it easy to use.
  • Sautéing the aromatics and the spices brings out the natural oils in the spices and enhances their aroma and flavor.

Zest for Life!

If life hands you lemons…well for goodnes sake use them to add flavor to your food.

Lemon 006Lemon zest – do you use it?  I really think you should.

It is one of the easiest, low cost healthy ways to add instant zing to just about anything you are going to eat.  It can liven up your steamed veggies or add a flourish of flavor to your sauces or plated meals.  It is actually one of my secret weapons in the kitchen.  Using citrus zest gives things a really nice finishing touch with such little effort.  Also, for those that may be avoiding citrus for any reason, by using the zest of the fruit you get a concentrated burst of flavor and zip from the essential oils but without the addition of acid or the addition of any liquid.

The easiest way to zest a lemon, or any citrus fruit is to use a microplane, shown below.  Forget the cumbersome way of using a citrus zester and skip the paring knife or vegetable peeler technique and go straight for a microplane.  By using this inexpensive kitchen tool you can easily get only the amount you want for your recipe or plate for that matter and it requires minimal strength or dexterity to use.  Also note that I call it a kitchen tool not gadget.  This is because a microplane is a multipurpose kitchen tool and can be used for a variety of tasks.

 

micro p 008If you don’t have a microplane, you can use a vegetable peeler to slice off thin strips and then chop finely. It’s just not as fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a partial list of where/when to use lemon zest.

  • Pasta – anything that is not a ‘red sauce’.  Goes well with any olive oil base or cream sauce
  • Salad dressing – with or without the addition of lemon juice
  • Marinades for chicken, pork, lamb or any fish/seafood
  • As a garnish for any fish, or seafood
  • Amazing on any steamed green veg; asparagus, beans, broccoli
  • Sprinkled on after roasting any of the above green veg
  • With olive oil and fresh herbs for oven roasted potatoes
  • Stirred in at the end of risotto
  • Tapenades, gremolatas and fresh salsa, guacamole
  • Cakes, cookies, pies, frosting, lemon curd (of course)
  • Cocktails, mocktails and smoothies

Recipe:

Linguine with lemon zest and leeks

Serves 2

½ package linguine or spaghetti

1 leek, washed and sliced into rings or half moons

1 Tbs olive oil

1 – 2  lemons.  Remove all zest and set aside

2 Tbs shallots, or 1 Tbs garlic or ½ of an onion chopped

2 Tbs chopped parsley

1 tsp any other fresh herb on hand (thyme, rosemary, basil, fennel, dill) *optional*

Salt and pepper to taste

¾ cup parmesan cheese

Pinch of chili flakes *optional*

1 cup reserved pasta water

Additional olive oil

Bring water to boil, season with salt and add pasta.  Cook 1 min less than package directions.

Meanwhile, sauté leeks, shallots and lemon zest just until leeks are starting to brown.  Add a handful of fresh herbs, a generous squeeze of lemon juice and let rest until pasta is cooked.

Once pasta is just under the doneness you like; remove it from the boiling water using tongs or a pasta lifter.  Place strands of cooked pasta directly into the pan with the leeks.  Add remaining fresh herbs and chili flakes if using.

Then add ½ cup of pasta water  toss pasta well until water is absorbed.  If pasta seems dry, add more pasta water.  You want the strands of pasta loose, not stuck together.  When reached the desired consistency, add the parmesan cheese and a generous sprinkling of olive oil on top.

Place into warmed serving bowls and serve right away.

Arthritis Kitchen Tips:

Use organic lemons if you can and always be sure to wash your citrus fruit well before using.

Special note for anyone on medications to be mindful of grapefruit as this citrus is known to counter act with some meds.

Thanksgiving Dinner

For our Thanksgiving meal I went traditional and roasted a turkey.  I purchased a fresh bird that was vegetarian grain fed and medication free.  A bit of a step up from your regular frozen bird but without the price sticker shock of a free range organic turkey. It turned out perfect.  I do not stuff my turkey other than with some aromatics, and I roast at 325 degrees starting with the breast side down.  For the last hour or so, turn the bird over so it is breast side up and finish roasting. I do this for two reasons.  First, I really find that it makes for juicier breast meat and the second bonus is that the skin on the back side of the bird gets a chance to become golden and crispy.  With a small bird such as the one I had (just under 10 lbs) turning it is an easy task to accomplish.

To prep for the oven add a few sprigs of thyme, a rosemary branch and a couple of lemon wedges inside after seasoning with pepper and salt.  Make sure outside of bird is completely dry then rub slightly softened butter into the skin, season with salt and pepper.

For years now I have not cooked the stuffing or dressing if you prefer, inside the bird.  I don’t care for the increased cooking time required as it can make the turkey dry out and I like that when doing them separately in a baking dishes you can prep well ahead of time and then finish in a hot oven while the turkey is resting, gravy is being made etc.

For the stuffing this year I used two kinds of bread.  I had wanted to use Challah or Biroche but was unable to find either.  What I ended up using was an egg and buttermilk bread for most of it and added some rustic cranberry almost sourdough like loaf for additional texture.  May seem like an odd mixture but the results were really good.  This was added to the butter sautéed onions, celery and mushrooms seasoned generously with fresh sage, thyme and a touch of rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.  Good quality chicken stock for moisture and flavor.  It’s important to have the right ratio of melted butter and stock to achieve a moist, yet not soggy stuffing that will crisp up on top.  This year I think I found just the right balance.

Side dishes to round out the meal were a Yukon gold and yam mash, peas and pearl onions and sliced carrots with butter and parsley.  Gravy and cranberries both homemade with great flavor to add the finishing touches to the plate.

Arthritis Kitchen Tips for Turkey Day:

  • Choose a fresh instead of a frozen turkey.  Way less lifting and dealing with on the whole.
  • Write out what you are serving and a basic time line.  Being organized saves extra steps.
  • Pace yourself – I find it saves energy to prep vegetables for example in the morning then when time to cook peeling and chopping is already done.
  • Is there anything you can prep the day before?
  • Think ahead and plan and take out all serving dishes at least the day before – saves extra lifting and carrying on cook day.
  • Make your stuffing in a baking dish instead of stuffing into the bird.  Allows you to prep in advance so you can budget your energy and is easy to serve.
  • Lifting things in and out of the oven difficult – ask for help.
  • Relax – its just dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Quiche with Onions and Cheddar

Quiche is a recipe that can be tweaked and changed depending on what flavors you want or what you happen to have on hand.   Once you have the basic method, its a cinch to whip up in no time especially if you use a pre-made crust.  This was made with caramelized onions, back bacon and cheddar.

Arthritis Kitchen Tip:  Did you know that the anti inflammation properties of the onion are concentrated most in the outer layers closest to the skin.  In order to benefit most from these  health boosting flavonoids peel off as few layers of possible when prepping your onions.

Onion and Cheddar Quiche

Crust

1 nine inch deep dish pie crust

Line bottom with parchment paper, add to ½ full with dried peas or beans to weight down

Bake at 400 for 6 – 8 min or until lightly golden

Cool before adding fillings

 Custard Mixture

4 eggs

2 cups milk (or combination of milk and cream)

Salt & pepper to taste

Additions (use whatever you want)

1 small onion diced

3 pieces back bacon or ham (optional)

½ cup cheese, grated

1 Tbs chopped chives

Method

Sauté onions until golden, add bacon if using and cook through

Set aside to cool

Spoon mixture into cooled pie shell.

Sprinkle cheese on top

Slowly pour egg mixture on top

Bake at 400 for 35 min or until puffs in the center.

 

Allow to cool at least 5 min before slicing.

Can be served warm or at room temp.

Sole for Supper

On Friday nights at the end of a long week, I like to make a really nice dinner but also want it to be something that is quick and easy in both preparation and cooking time.

Fish is a great choice for a fast cooking meal,  tonight its sole.  I added easy sides from what was already on hand and put this meal together in under 30 min.

Season both sides of the sole fillets with salt and pepper and quickly sear in hot pan with some butter.  When done, remove from pan and keep warm.  Add some finely chopped shallots and lemon zest to the remaining butter in the pan, sauté briefly.  Deglaze pan with a splash of white wine or some lemon juice, scraping up browned bits.  Reduce to desired consistency.  Spoon over fish after plating.

Roasted asparagus – drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher or sea salt.  Place on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 15 – 20 min depending on size of spears.  Toss ½ way through.

Orzo (rice shaped pasta) – quickly boil, drain then toss with olive oil, juice and zest of a lemon,  diced red peppers, kalamata olives, salt and pepper to taste.  You can use any number of add ins and flavors with orzo – try different combinations.  I often add fresh herbs but didn’t have any on hand.  For an even quicker preparation toss with your favorite bottled vinaigrette.

Thai Chicken Salad

Fighting Inflammation with Food

As sometimes happens with Rheumatoid Auto Immune Desease, I am experiencing an unexpected new flare this weekend.  Its in my right hand, right across my knuckles and in the upper palm making my hand very sore and with limited use.  My Arthritis Kitchen strategy is to prepare meals that are super rich in antioxidants and high in omega-3 to help my body deal with the inflammation and to make things easy to prepare with little chopping and prep work.

Last nights dinner was a Thai Chicken Salad with noodles.  A variety of dark leafy greens, sunflower and green lentil sprouts along with green onions made up the salad.  This was topped with warm grilled chicken and a Thai Peanut dressing with shallots and ginger.  Served over a bed of Asian noodles and tossed all together made for a fantastic meal full of antioxidants and vitamins.

Arthritis Kitchen Tips

To make this Arthritis Kitchen friendly with my sore hand I purchased some ingredients that would require less prep work.  To avoid washing and cutting lettuce, purchase a bag of  pre-washed organic spring mix.  I also purchased chicken tenders which required no chopping at all.  While I generally purchase whole chicken and produce for the price and enjoy prepping them myself, when having a flare these types of things are definitely worth it.

For the dressing, shallots and ginger.  To avoid any chopping simply use a fine grate microplane.  It is my go to kitchen tool to make quick work of anything that your recipe calls for a minced or finely chopped.

Apple Cider Vinegar Brined Chops with Lemon Pesto

I like cooking with raw, organic apple cider vinegar as it is known to have properties that are helpful for rheumatoid arthritis. This meal has apple cider vinegar in the brine, and also in the ‘pesto’ that I made for the chops.   These were boneless lean pork chops which can often be very dry and with little flavor.  Using a brine makes a huge difference and is worth the simple step.

**See  Arthritis Kitchen Tip

To make the brine I made a combination of apple cider vinegar, salt, brown sugar, bay leaf, peppercorns and a few chili flakes.   Because this is a very short brine due to the small size of the pieces of meat, I wanted it to be really flavorful so I simmered the mixture in 1 cup of water to allow the flavors to steep.  I then cooled this mixture, added 6 additional cups of cold water, place into a large freezer bag, added the cops and put them in the fridge for 6 hours.

After the chops have been in the brine for 6 but no more than 8 hours, remove, discard brine and rinse chops under cold running water for 2 min.  Dry completely on paper towels.   I made a mixture of shallots, lemon zest, rosemary, flat leaf parsley and sauteed briefly in olive oil, deglazed with a splash of  apple cider vinegar.  Let cool slightly then stir in some Parmesan.  I topped the chops with this mixture and baked in a 400 oven for 40 min or until almost done, place under broiler for 3 min to give a grilled appearance if desired.   I served this with sauteed crook neck yellow neck squash and red peppers and creamy scalloped potatoes.

** Arthritis Kitchen Tip**

Make this brine or any liquid based mixture right into a large zip lock bag that you place inside a mixing bowl.  This keeps anything you are working with stable without having to hang onto, is extremely light weight and spill proof and is a perfect vessel for any marinade.  The extra bonus – no clean up!!