I have always loved to cook and one of the great losses in my MS disease progression is my inability to cook what I please, when I please. My increased fatigue and decreased mobility and stability force me to be selective about what I cook and when.
My husband has become a wonderful cook and is quite adept in the kitchen, however I wanted to have some of my favorite comfort foods on hand for the coming weeks anticipating my fatigue and overall post-chemo blah-ness. Plus it’s nice to feel independent and celebrate small wins.
I’ve spent the weeks leading up to my stem cell transplant harvest prepping my freezer.
Ina’s Chicken Stock
For years now I have stocked my freezer with Ina Garten’s homemade chicken stock. For anyone who has seen her many Food Network shows, she always states that store-bought is fine but homemade is best. Homemade stock makes a noticeable difference in depth of flavor for all recipes. More than cooking however, when I am sick and food seems repugnant, I can usually sip this rich broth.
Recipe edits: I never use three chickens as Ina suggests. Not only does that seem insane but who has a pot that fits that many? I use one whole chicken with all the veggies and call it a success. Also, if I have any vegetables about to go bad, they get thrown in the pot regardless if they are listed in her recipe. Lastly, I simmer much longer than her recommended four hours, at least 12 but closer to 24. The longer it cooks, the better it will taste and more nutritious it will be. I want all the collagen from the bones as they break down.
I recently came across Souper Cubes on Instagram. This past weekend I made a massive amount of chicken stock, froze them in two-cup cubes and stocked the freezer for individual thawing.
Lemon & Ginger
Ginger is touted to help battle nausea and nausea is the most quoted side effect of chemotherapy. Luckily, I love the flavor of ginger and always have it in my freezer to add to teas and the plethora of Indian dishes I love.
I’ve never been a person who struggles with hydration but my transplant nurse told me I might not like water following chemotherapy and that adding fresh lemon can help make it more palatable. Plus drinking cold beverages can assist in the prevention of mouth sores (another fun side effect of chemo).
To me, lemon and ginger is a match made in heaven. I found a recipe (if you can even call it that) and put my Vitamix to work to have lemon ginger ice cubes at the ready.
Lentils are rich in fiber, folate and potassium making them a great choice for the heart and for managing blood pressure and cholesterol. They are also a source of iron and vitamin B1 which help maintain a steady heartbeat. I am obsessed with this ridiculously easy red lentil lemon soup.
Recipe edits: I add three times the amount of carrots because I love vegetables and wilt in spinach or kale at the very end for a burst of green and extra vitamins. I’ve tried this pureed with an immersion blender or left chunky and I prefer it with texture. Plus skipping the blender means there is one less thing to clean.
My Souper Cubes are getting a workout in my kitchen this week.
Not for the freezer, but one of my favorite foods when I’m ill is a simple and easy coconut rice. When I make teriyaki salmon, dahl, curry or anything that requires rice, I make this recipe.
Taken from the marvelous Half Baked Harvest: Combine 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk and 1/2 cup water in a medium pot. Bring to a low boil. Add 1 cup jasmine rice, 1 tablespoon butter and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine, cover, then turn the heat down to the lowest setting possible. Allow the rice to cook 10 minutes on low, then turn the heat off completely and let the rice sit, covered for another 15-20 minutes (don’t take any peeks inside!). Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.
Any personal favorites?
Let me know in the comments if you have a go-to freezer meal or items to have on hand for when you’re not feeling your best (or like utter garbage). I would love to hear them!