Holiday Cooking

I am now at the age where I want to contribute to our holiday family meals. As a quad it takes a bit more ingenuity and tricks-of-the-trade, but below are a few ideas to get you in the holiday spirit for cooking. When looking for recipes, I choose ones that involve minimal steps, few pans (less clean-up) and nothing that involves a full-sized oven.

Growing up, I loved eating all the great food my mom would make for holiday meals. The turkey or ham was obligatory, but the side dishes of hash brown casserole, sweet potato casserole and strawberry pretzel “salad” were the main events for me.

My eating habits have changed out of necessity since processed foods and dairy products no longer set well with my tummy. Other family members are now eating more “clean” as well, so I have tried to come up with some new dishes to add to our holiday traditions.

I’ve never been a fan of the jellied cranberry sauce and my family is not, so I found a recipe and made cranberry sauce (not jelly). It’s a bit heavy on the sugar, but it’s the holidays!

Classic Cranberry Sauce

Cook time: 15 minutes (I always figure to double this time since it takes me longer)

Yields: 2 cups

Ingredients:

4 cups cranberries 

6 tbsp sugar (maybe more)

pinch of salt

2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)

In a medium sauce pan, combine cranberries, 2 cups water, sugar and salt. Bring it to a boil, lower the heat and simmer at least 10 minutes - until the cranberries start to burst. Remove from heat. Once it cools down a bit, I transfer the sauce to a plastic container with a lid and place it in the refrigerator. The sauce can be made up to this point one week in advance and be kept refrigerated. A few hours before serving, stir in the pecans, if using. (This recipe is from Julie Moskin in the New York Times.)

See? It’s simple! And from scratch.


Lemon Garlic Kale Salad


This recipe I tweaked a bit to make it quad friendly. Instead of using garlic cloves, I simply use minced garlic that you can buy in a glass jar. I also buy the pre-washed and pre-cut kale in a 16 ounce bag. Instead of juicing lemons, I just use lemon juice in a bottle from the store.

Cook time: 25 minutes (with my cheats, it’s even easier)

Yields: 8 to 12 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups sliced almonds (the recipe calls for these to be toasted, but I skipped that step)

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 tsp salt

1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 3 tsp minced garlic 10 to 12 ounces chopped kale

1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

Preparation: In a plastic container, combine the lemon juice and one heaping teaspoon of salt. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Add in garlic and set aside to steep. I keep the dressing in the plastic container and place a lid on it for safekeeping. Keep the dressing and the kale separate until you’re ready to serve. When you’re ready, place the chopped kale in a very large bowl. Sprinkle on the almonds and cheese. Pour half the dressing over the salad and toss (I admit, I had my mom do this!). Taste the salad and add more dressing as needed, tossing to coat thoroughly. Serve within one hour. (This was modified from Julie Moskin’s recipe on the NY Times website.)

So cranberry sauce and salad are great, but what are the holidays without some baking? Baking has not been a strong point of mine since my injury. In addition, I’ve cut back on, but not eliminated flour. I’ve discovered a way to make the house smell like holiday baking, while it’s still do-able for someone with limited hand function.

 

Berry Crisp

This berry crisp is less of a recipe and more of “a little bit of this and a little bit of that.” Many times my berries will begin to go bad, so instead of tossing them, I bake a crisp. As I mentioned earlier, I can’t/don’t use a full-sized oven for safety, so my toaster oven is my best friend. Instead of a heavy 9x13 glass or metal pan, I use mini bread tins that I can manage getting in and out of the toaster oven, as well as the refrigerator.

Ingredients:

Your choice of berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.)

Flour

Sugar

Room temperature butter

If you’re using strawberries, slice them in halves or quarters, depending on their size. Here is the knife I use to slice strawberries and other produce. Blueberries and raspberries can simply be rinsed and tossed into the tins. To make the topping, use equal portions or flour and sugar (start with about ¼ to ½ cup of each) and about 2 to 3 tablespoons of soft butter (you can refrigerate any leftover topping for future use). I use a fork to combine the ingredients; it can take a bit of effort and time, so I turn on Netflix until the butter, flour and sugar are “clumpy,” push pause on Netflix, then sprinkle a good amount of the topping on the berries. Don’t overfill the tins because they can bubble over while cooking. Place the prepared tins on the tray in the oven (it catches any overflow) and cook at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the topping is cooked into the berries and golden brown. I let it cool off in the oven then move each tin with a spatula (I can’t feel temperature, so I always try to be safe).

In addition to a warm dessert (or a great breakfast treat), you have a house that smells heavenly.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have found that I feel a sense of accomplishment when cooking something “from scratch.” Granted, my definition of “from scratch” is slightly different than others’, but I can still control the ingredients for food intolerances or diet restrictions. And homemade food with fresh ingredients is simply pretty! I think food should be colorful and tasty.

I hope these three recipes will build up your confidence to start cooking. I will share more cooking “hacks” for those of us with limited hand function in the future.

Jenny

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