My Favorite Kitchen Things 2017

copper pans line a white wall above a wood countertop and cooking space in a commercial kitchen.

My Favorite Kitchen Things 2017

Kitchen | Kitchen Tools | Favorite Things

copper pans line a white wall above a wood countertop and cooking space in a commercial kitchen.
What would you have in your kitchen if you had to rely on cooking all your food yourself? Many of us in this community do that very thing. We don’t eat out much, if at all. We only eat natural, unprocessed food and clean ingredients. From simple tools to a cook system that ups your game into fancy-food cooking, here’s My Favorite Kitchen Things 2017.

Have you turned your kitchen into your medicine cabinet, health clinic, and recovery center?  Is the family table now Yum Central? Does your home smell like vinegar,  bay leaves, and gluten free bread?

Two years ago when I started this blog just before  IFBC 2015 in Seattle, WA, I had an idea: if you depend on eating nutritious, allergen-free and low-processed, no-processed foods, you want to turn your kitchen into a magical place where you become Food Scientist, Head Chef Extraordinaire, Master Baker, and Food Artist. To do that, you need kitchen basics, for sure, and I’ve written a couple of posts to get you started in building that kitchen arsenal, even if you only need to feed an army of one: YOU.

This year’s “Five Kitchen Must-haves” post is taking a different direction, one of imagination, technological advance, and the future of food and cooking. While I’ll always include at least one item that is simple, clever, and relatively inexpensive, and I’m adding on with something to capture the imagination of cooking, even if you cook from the world’s tiniest kitchen and an even smaller budget. I’m giving you a taste of the future, and the future is simmering with emulsions, sauces, and frou frou presentations meant to dazzle and delight.

Why should everyone else have all the fun? I’m also renaming the post to align with this new direction: My Five Kitchen Favorite Things. And it’s all about my journey of making food fun again. Don’t worry. I’ll keep you grounded with good, everyday stuff too!

Read more for My Five Kitchen Favorite Things

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Scratch Cooking Kitchen Basics Part One

How do you move from wanting to eat a healthy diet to actually doing it? Read here about the basics of the scratch cooking kitchen. Photo from Pixabay (no attribution required).

When people share with me what is the hardest part about eating well, no matter what their diet, medical condition, or limitations, most of them do not tell me that they don’t know WHAT to eat.

They tell me that they don’t know how to change their lifestyle.

It’s your lifestyle that is  getting in your way of eating well. They may have a list of foods, a meal plan set up by their nutritionist, and a doctor’s order to eat a diet free of grains and preservatives. They tell me that they get stuck on the how.  How do I actually eat the things I know I am supposed to eat?

The how  – that is, the lifestyle changes that makes eating healthy for your individual needs happen —  intersects with an important activity and location: cooking real food, and shopping for, preparing, and cooking that real food from the grocery store or your garden to your table. Since there are few shortcuts that allow you to actually do this correctly (even food delivery services cannot cater to the needs of food allergic or medically-based nutritional profiles), I thought it was high time to start at the very beginning, so that anyone could jump in and get started.

Ready? Here’s my first post in a series on the basics of The Scratch Cooking Kitchen for the person with food allergies, Autoimmune Disease, and other medically necessary diets.

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The Sensitive Celiac Technical Baking Challenge

I am so excited about this, I could pee my pants (but I’m not going to!).

During my long rides on a Computrainer in our garage (affectionately named, The Cave of Suffering”), I compounded my miserable biking training sessions with the agony and ecstasy of watching multiple episodes of, The Great British Baking Show.

My friends rolled their eyes. How could I do this to myself? Isn’t it just torture to watch contestants making sugary, savory, creamy, gluten-filled pies, breads, and cakes, knowing that I would never be able to eat them?

Oh my Hungry Minions! There is always an idea waiting to be hatched whenever I am in my own mental trenches of gluten-free baking hell. My job was to focus on the “what” of an idea, and to understand that sometimes, I’m not the one who needs to figure out the “how.”

If two heads are better than one, I invite you to read on and participate in the “how” of this post: the first ever Sensitive Celiac (or Gluten Free Guru) Technical Bake Challenge!

On your marks… get set… bake!

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The Inconvenience of Avoiding Convenience Food

Food Allergies | Autoimmune Disease | Fast Food | Convenience Food | Lifestyles

The inconvenience of avoiding convenience food involves the loss of spontaneity, and planning ahead.
The inconvenience of avoiding convenience food involves the loss of spontaneity, and planning ahead. When you don’t plan ahead, “doing without” has its hazards. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

From the very beginning, I knew that writing about eating real food – let alone convincing anyone that eating real food is a viable, valuable, and vital activity — would be a hard sell.

All I need to imagine is the tired eyes of a work weary parent, or an over-worked employee at a corporation with flexible hours who never has time to get a proper meal, and I know that my most powerful statement, “Heal yourself with the medicine of real food” would likely be heard as an ideal to aspire to,  not an action to live by.

Why? Because we perceive that statement as a lofty goal, and not an achievable end-destination. We think it’s too inconvenient to live without the conveniences of modern-day eating, which offers taste, ease, and practicality.

And of course, there is a price to pay for that convenience. Just look around. I watch people coming in and out of food comas, over indulging on alcoholic and sugary beverages, and not understanding why they feel like crap all the time. “But I can get away with this,” says one friend, a reference to not feeling sick immediately after eating a favorite dish at a restaurant.

Since it took a long time to get where our nation is with convenience food eating, I don’t imagine it will go away quickly. There is much you would have to overcome. However, if you’re ready to try — or, like me, it’s “ready or not” because of a medical condition that requires you to change your eating habits now — here are a few things to consider.

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Trello For Meal Planning and Prepping

Screen shot of part of my Maui Menu Plan for the March Triathlon camp. I used Trello to help me prepare, including a shopping list for Day 1.
Screen shot of part of my Maui Menu Plan for the March Triathlon camp. I used Trello to help me prepare, including a shopping list for Day 1. Photo by Imei Hsu.

How do you keep track of your food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities? How do you track your Elimination/Provocation schedule? Do you have a way to systematically think about rotating in a new recipe, and getting the ingredients on your grocery shopping list earlier in the week so that you’re not caught making multiple trips to the store? How do you organize links from websites with interesting information about foods, supplements, and treatments for your gastrointestinal and allergy issues?

First of all, I want to tell you this: IT’S A LOT. To eat well, to eat healthy and clean, and to eat nutrient-dense food free of chemicals, and emulsifiers, processed ingredients and processing cross-contamination, sugars, and unhealthy fats and oils,  you have to do a lot of fancy footwork and planning.

For many of us with Autoimmune Disease and fatigue, we simply don’t have the available energy for those extra trips to the grocery store, let alone standing at the stove and oven, prepping, cooking, and baking. At the worst of my own disease process, just standing at the stove for five minutes left me too tired to eat. Even the joints in my feet ached.

At the time of writing this post, I was planning from a couch, resting from travel and a food “incident” on the return flight of my trip to New Orleans to deliver a presentation on food and mood. I started using Trello.com as a project management system for my eating lifestyle in early 2016, and I love how I can use it plan out my week, month, and repeat previous week’s menus to keep my food varied, interesting, nutritious, and flexible to my changing needs. I can also use it to plan special events, travel food, and holiday meal planning.

Read on to learn about Trello’s features you can hack for your own eating lifestyle.

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Living in the Land of the Gluteneaters

Gluten | Gluten-Free Living | Home | Health | Food Allergies

Stack of Kirkland pizzas in pizza boxes on the corner of a table
When gluten is all around, how do you figure out how to cope when you can’t eat it but must be around it?

In 2014, I entered my first race Olympic Distance race as a relay, the Victoria BC Subaru Saunders Olympic Distance Triathlon. I took on the 0.9mile swim event, M took on the 27 mile bike event, and a fellow runner friend Rosie took on the 10 kilometer run around Elk Lake. When it came to giving our team a name, I ended up submitting the team name, “Imei and the Gluteneaters.”

Three seasons later, and an Ironman Finisher now going on for her first Ultramarathon, I’m reflecting on what it means to live — and I mean fully live — in the Land of the Gluteneaters.

If you must be gluten-free for medically necessary reasons (meaning: you must avoid gluten or you will become seriously ill or risk severe complications or death), avoiding gluten in your food is a complex enough task by itself, since much of our food supply in westernized countries are embedded with gluten and cross-contaminated as well as cross-reactive ingredients. What happens if you live with others who eat gluten? What happens if you live with others who eat the foods you are most reactive to, such as nuts, dairy, gluten, soy? What if you have multiple food allergies, and your partner/spouse does not?

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New Year Celebration Mindshift

New Year’s Eve |  Celebration | Ideas

Wondering how to celebrate New Year's Eve and other special occasions safely? Cultivate a Celebration Mindshift, and you'll be making your own memories without the worry of food-related accidents.
Wondering how to celebrate New Year’s Eve and other special occasions safely? Cultivate a Celebration Mindshift, and you’ll be making your own memories without the worry of food-related accidents.

One of my pet peeves as a Food Allergic Person (FAP) happens almost every time I want to take part in large-scale celebration. Let’s say it’s an upcoming New Year’s Eve event at a beautiful hotel. The organizer is selling tickets to the posh event, and the tickets are available in a number of levels. Here’s an example:

1. Bells and Whistles. Pay $$$$ for tickets, and you get a premium table in the VIP room and seating, access to a full-food buffet, unlimited drink tickets, and arrangements for safe transportation to and from the event.

2. A Bell and A Whistle. Pay $$$ for tickets, you get a table in the main room, access to the full-food buffet, three drink tickets, and you arrange your own safe transportation.

3. No Bells and No Whistles.  Pay $$ for tickets, no table (stand up and eat), access to the full-food buffet, two drink tickets, and you arrange your own safe transportation.

4. There is no option #4 (except being told, “We can’t help you.”).

For the FAP and people on a medically-necessary diet, , packages #1 through #3 are useless to us (and in many cases, dangerous to us). You are paying for food and drink that you should not consume unless you are completely prepared to play roulette with your health and safety.

With cross-contamination, poorly marked foods, and unclear ingredients, you do not know what you are consuming. If you have food sensitivities, you may also encounter them when consuming alcohol, which most of us also know are highly discouraged if you have GI issues, Autoimmune Disease, or have multiple food allergies or intolerances, because alcohol can inflame your GI tract. And you know the saying: hell hath no fury like a GI tract scorned.

Every year since I was diagnosed with Autoimmune Disease and multiple severe food allergies, New Year’s plans and other special occasions  are an important consideration, and one that can be embedded with emotional stories as we try to celebrate with family and friends. This year, make sure you get through the maze not only intact, but with flying colors.

Let’s help you make New Year’s celebrations fun again, shall we? Continue reading