living our best life – in the kitchen

yellow kitchenaid stand mixer

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As we are spending a little more time in the kitchen or thinking of holiday foods that we enjoy, I decided to write about the object in my kitchen that make my life easier.

I have to admit that I do not find much enjoyment from cooking.  I am thankful that on my good days I am able to feed my family healthy, mostly well balanced meals, but the smells and bending over and reaching makes me feel worse.  Even though I keep all of my frequently used items on the counters, I still feel poorly after preparing food.

To help me get through the whole, preparing a meal ordeal, I daily use my favorite kitchen appliance, putting it to good use.  It is my combination DVD/CD/radio that hangs under a kitchen cabinet next to the sink.  I received this from my parents who were getting rid of it and it has been one of my favorite gifts ever!

I turn it on every single time I am in the kitchen for more than a couple minutes.  I usually have a DVD playing as it does a wonderful job distracting me from pain and discomfort allowing me to stay in the kitchen longer.  Today there is a stack of my favorite Christmas DVDs waiting to be watched over the next month.

So, what about you?  What is your favorite kitchen appliance and how does it make your life easier?  

Thank you for taking the time to share!

 

living our best life possible – comfort food

photo of grilled barbecue

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“Sometimes a little comfort food can go a long way.”  ~ Benjamin Bratt

 

As the holidays are fast approaching, the subject of food tends to be pushed to the forefront.  We start to think about or plan what we would like to eat during the holiday celebrations.  Even if we do not celebrate the holidays, the cooler weather, at least here in the North Hemisphere, makes us think about comfort foods.

Being chronically ill, you tend to think a lot about food (or maybe it is just me).  Many of us are on special diets and encouraged to suck down endless supplements and medicines while dreaming of being able to eat a gluten and dairy filled pizza (or maybe that is just me too!)

My question for the week is, what food is your go to when you want to eat something that adds a little cheer to your life?

 

Thank you for sharing!  Who knows, you may just “find” your new favorite food.

frugality, budgeting, minimalism and saving money

silver and gold coins

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There is a simple, no bells or whistles website, THE FRUGAL SOURCE,  that lists links to  publications, blogs and websites, all having to do with saving, investing, retirement, budgeting, minimalism, do-it-yourself and using money wisely.

In my attempt to stretch our budget a bit tighter, I have found many of these sites to be helpful.  May you find something that can bless you too.

I have written a book, under the pen name Charlie, Frugal Seeds 101 Ways to Make, Save or Stretch a Dollar.  I would be honored if you would take a moment to check it out.

10 ways I feel like Julia Child while living with chronic illness

food healthy wood table

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My husband actually came up with this title, probably because he wanted to see just how creative I could be………..or maybe because he secretly wishes I was related to Ms. Child  and some of her cooking genes were in my DNA.  Nope………..and add a chronic illness or three…….cooking is not something I usually enjoy.

So, my friends, the bar for me to feel like a gourmet chef is set really low –

  1.  There is food in the fridge that can be eaten without any cooking at all – yogurt, salad mix, fruit, cut up veggies – hey isn’t eating raw all the rage?!
  2.   There are fruits and veggies on the counter that can be eaten just as they are – bonus points if they are in multiple colors – I know vegan is in!
  3. There are vegetables that can be eaten after being heated up in the microwave – my kids are starting to love sweet potatoes – at least this is what I choose to believe!
  4.   There are still freezer meals  available if you are able to reach deep enough into the chest freezer without losing your balance.
  5.   My pantry has items that can be eaten just by being heated up in the microwave – a can of soup and a can of veggies – hey,  mix those together and I am pretty sure it would taste good enough to try it again.
  6.  There is something cooking in the crockpot.
  7.  There are enough leftovers from the day before to feed everyone another meal!
  8.  I actually cut up fruit and veggies to eat with a meal.
  9.   I prepared something edible with more than three ingredients.
  10.   I have the energy to eat the food once I have prepared it!

 

And there you have it my friends………… if any of those 10 things are happening, I feel like I am rockin’ it in the meal prep department.

 

10 ways I extend my energy with chronic illness

water flows from the tap to sink

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Life can be challenging.  Add on a chronic illness or four and life can be down right hard.  Not matter what our situation is, we all have only so much energy in a given day, some days we have less than others.  Finding ways to make our energy last as long as possible is always helpful.

Through the years I have discovered (usually by accident) small ways to extend my personal spoons with energy saving activities.  These strategies are used with a hope and a prayer I could accomplish at least part of what needed to be done that day.  Most days, even now, I am not working with a whole lot of energy, or anything else for that matter.

 

1.  I set up my kitchen in a way that is convenient and efficient for me.

2.  I do freezer and double batch cooking so when I am having one of those really bad days, I have food already prepared.

3.  I keep meals simple.  Complicated recipes with unusual ingredients just can’t be part of my life at this time.  So, I spend less time in the kitchen (saving my energy) and I am not purchasing ingredients that will seldom be used (saving money).  I would call that a win-win.  Smoothie anyone?

4.  When I do laundry, I do not fold my underclothing or pjs.  Nope, I just throw them in my drawer.  Heck, I wear pjs so often (I call them my official uniform), there is no point in making them look nice in a drawer.

5.  I hang up clothing that does not need to be washed after wearing.  This saves me from doing so much laundry……….and I have the kids do the same.

6.  I do one load of laundry per day.

7.  Unfortunately, I spend a lot of time in bed.  So, I keep my side table well stocked.  No need to go searching for things I need/want on a regular basis.

8.  I take care of mail as soon as it comes into the house.  This sounds like a trivial task but I have found that it piles up very quickly.  So now I sort through every piece, recycling what I don’t want, opening bills and placing them in my to-be-paid slot and then take any reading material and put in my room for later viewing.  By dealing with the mail immediately, I also keep track of all bills coming in so there is less chance of them getting misplaced.

9.  I combine errands.  Just getting out of the house can be tiring, so I try to combine as many errands as I can physically do each time I head out out the door.

10.  I keep my calendar on my phone so it is with me at all times.  It took me a long time to start using my phone calendar as I found it frustrating.  But once I got use to using it on a consistent basis, I found it extremely helpful.  When I am at an appointment, I find it much easier to make follow-up appointments as I always have my and my kids schedules at my finger tips.  I still keep a calendar, ok, two on the wall, just in case I misplace my phone, again.

 

Until next time…….YOU, my friends, are superheros.

 

In my kitchen with chronic illness.

macro photography of a stainless steel faucet

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When you are ill, you still need to eat.  Nourishing our bodies with real food is one important way to stay as healthy as we can.  For me, meal prep, well actually all kitchen activities are exhausting.  From food gathering to kitchen clean-up, it all wears me out and makes me want/need to take a nap.

There have been times when I wanted quick fixes in the kitchen.  Overwhelmed with life,  dealing with chronic illnesses, being a wife, a mother, and all of the work that entails, I physically couldn’t do it all and something had to give.  Well, I gave in to the wrong things.  I should have let the laundry go, let the cleaning go……..it was going to get messy again in about 13 minutes anyway.  Nope, I picked the worse thing to let go…………food.  I tried hitting the easy button.  I did my best to still eat a healthy diet in comparison to the SAD (standard American diet) most people were consuming but I short changed my health by taking too many short cuts in the kitchen.  In my opinion, when you are chronically ill food MUST be a high priority, right after your spiritual life.

In the kitchen I am slow, it physically hurts to bend down, and at times it hurts to carry a pot or a frying pan.  So I have tried to work around my physical limitations and make things easier for me, even though it makes my kitchen look crowded and not aesthetically pleasing. I had to give up having things look pretty and organized so the kitchen could be more functional for me.

Here are a few things I did to make the kitchen more functional.

1  –  I got rid of things that I didn’t use.  It is physically exhausting for me to be searching for things that I need.  De-cluttering my kitchen made space for all of the items I use on a regular basis in easy to find uncrowded places.

2  –  I keep all of the pots and pans that I regularly use on top of the stove.  No bending down wasting more precious energy.

3  –  Kitchen appliances that I or my family uses on a regular basis are kept on the counter at all times, this includes a microwave, crock pot, and a blender.

4  –  Everything else that I use on a regular basis is within an easy reach.  Nothing is kept on a high shelf, or a in a low, out-of-the-way cabinet making it a circus performance to get to it.

I know these things sound so simple and you are probably doing all the same things too.  But I have found through my YEARS and years of dealing with chronic illness, you need to be kind to yourself and set up your home in a way that works best for you no matter how it looks to an outsider.  This is true whether or not you are married, have children, or are a single person.  It is harder to do when you have to think about the needs of others in your household, but it is vitally important that you do what needs to be done to help you.  So, if you need a twin bed in the family room because you need to lie down while hanging out with the family, who cares how it looks!  You need a big bulletin board in the dining room to remind you to do certain tasks, put it there!  Those that love you get it………it took me way too long to figure this out.

So……back to the kitchen.  Set up your kitchen in a way that makes food preparation as easy as possible.  Make it functional, whether it looks “pretty” or not.  A functional kitchen makes a healthier you.

How do you make your kitchen more functional?

Until next time, YOU are a superhero and healthy food is your fuel!

We all have to eat.

apple fruit healthy food

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Just like laundry and dishes, meal preparation is also a necessity of life.  For those of us with CI, it is extremely important for us to eat healthy, well-balanced meals within the plan either laid out by your medical professional or a plan that is a result of  your own research as to what is best for your body’s special needs.  Personally, I do a combination of both of these.

Through the years of raising kiddos and being ill, I have discovered just a few tricks to make it a bit easier for me, because no matter how you do it, meal preparation takes a lot energy.

First, I keep it simple.  Yep, I love looking through magazines with beautiful pictures of healthy foods laid out on the glossy pages and for a split second I think………..maybe I could try that.  Ha!  if it has more than 6 ingredients, it isn’t worth my energy to even rip the page out of my magazine and save for later because realistically it just won’t happen.  I must keep each meal as simple as possible; a combination of protein and carbs and a healthy fat……..heavy on the complex carbs if at all possible.

Two, as I have mentioned in a previous post, if  I am making something that can be frozen, I make two and save one for later.  Foods such as stir-fry, meatloaf, burritos, and meatballs can be easily frozen and ready to eat at another time.  On bad days, who doesn’t love knowing there is home-cooked food in the freezer for your next meal.

Three, I am drinking more smoothies for breakfast.  Simple, fast, nutritious and everyone in my family loves them.

Four, I do not have a weekly/monthly meal plan.  I gave it the good ‘ol college try and realized it maybe be helpful for some people but it just wasn’t for me. It was another one of my attempts to follow what works for others resulting in me feeling like a failure because I couldn’t keep a simple meal plan.  Sometimes I just didn’t feel like eating what was on the menu that week and some days I felt so poorly that food in general just made me ill.  That is when I established number five.

Five, I keep several meals worth of  pre-packaged frozen food in my freezer.  I attempt to buy as healthful as possible, but these are there in case I just can’t do it – you know the days.

And last but not least is number six.  I purchase a much fresh produce as my budget will allow.  That way there are apples, bananas, carrots, celery, cucumbers……….you get the picture, to eat when family members are hungry.

That’s it.  We all need to eat and the healthier the better.  But, remember, you can only do what you can do.  There are days when I look upon a drive thru as the 8th wonder of the world.

Until next time…………….YOU are a super hero, no matter what you eat!

kitchen distraction

bazaar bottles business ceramic

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……..and it is not something I use to make cooking quicker; it does not spiral, chop or mix, nor is it something that actually sits on the counter. Instead, it is securely fastened to the underside of one of my kitchen cabinets, the one closest to my sink.

So what is it you wonder and how could it help make my life in the kitchen easier?  My favorite kitchen appliance is actually a combination radio/DVD/CD player.  It was something my parents had in their basement and when it was offered to me, I jumped at the opportunity to own such an amazing invention.

Since it was gifted to me, it has been my constant companion.  Whether I am cooking or cleaning it allows my mind it focus on something other than the tiredness and aching I feel in my body.  This allows me to work longer in the kitchen accomplishing more every time I am in there. So, not only am I able to physically stay in the kitchen longer, I am also enjoying an audio-book or a movie that makes me happy, or music that lifts me up.  I am so thankful I have something that is such a blessed distraction.

Here’s to things that make our lives just a little bit easier!

one in the freezer

supermarket refrigerators

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I usually don’t post two days in a row but I wanted to add on to what I posted yesterday regarding putting meals in the freezer for later use.

This afternoon I taught my youngest daughter how to make meatloaf.  I already had ground beef thawing in the fridge and knew I had to do something with it soon.  So, I used this meat as a wonderful opportunity to teach my daughter and to put an extra “meal” in our freezer.  I had my daughter prepare all the meat which fit into two loaf pans, with some left over.  One loaf was for tonight’s dinner and the other went into the freezer for a later date!

Since there was still meat left over from the meatloaf, we made meatballs and those also went into the freezer.  Although it took a little more time to prepare the extra meat for the second meatloaf and to make and bake the meatballs, it was much faster then if I had to start the process from scratch.

I have to admit, I am super tired tonight after spending 3 hours in the kitchen teaching my daughter to cook an entire meal which consisted of baked potatoes and green beans and she just had to make cupcakes…..but…..we were able to get goodies in the freezer (including cupcakes) and enjoy a healthy dinner.

So, I am encouraging you, if/when you are able, to plan ahead while grocery shopping and purchase extra ingredients so you too can put some food away in the freezer for your less than decent days!