Mama Wren's Holiday Cooking Hacks
Last updated: November 2017
For many of us, planning for, cooking, and serving those amazing holiday feasts is a lot of fun—and for some of us, well, not so much. But whichever type you are, having rheumatoid disease can make the experience truly exhausting or even impossible if you’re the chef. It’s hard to cook all day when your RD makes you feel flat as a pancake right out of bed in the morning. And coping with twingy fingers and wrists, or throbbing feet, or aching hips and knees don’t help any, either. In fact, they can take all the fun out of your day.
So, go back and read “Mama Wren’s Holiday Hacks,” then come back and read this. Don’t worry, I’ll wait...
Back already? With luck, you already know all about taking care of yourself with RD, so you’re good to go. Probably. Maybe. RD is unpredictable, and even with all our best efforts, it can bite us hard and without any warning. Preparing and serving these huge holiday meals is a logistical feat that takes plenty of planning, great recipes, lots of elbow grease, good timing, and a generous sprinkle of magic.
So, to make it all a little easier, I’ve got some tried-and-true Cooking Hacks to share with you. Bonus: they work for the rest of the year, too!
Prepping for the Feast
- Plan your shopping needs well in advance of the Big Day. Once you know what you’ll need, make a list and zip to the grocery store as soon as it opens in the morning. If that’s not possible, shop late in the evening during the week, or early or late on weekends. Getting to the store when you can shop without jostling crowds and long lines can make all the difference.
- If you have the storage space, buy canned, packaged, and frozen foods ahead. Then use your last shopping trip before the holiday for fresh foods, like veggies, dairy foods, bread, and all the stuff you forgot earlier. The idea is to keep your stress levels down and a smile on your face.
- If you have a large freezer, consider preparing and cooking some dishes in the weeks before the Feast and freezing them. That way you can cook delicious sides, desserts, and goodies at your leisure. Just thaw them out and heat them up right before serving on Feast Day.
Holiday Cooking Hacks
- Finger-friendly Can Openers. I bought myself a manual can opener with wide, padded handles and a thick twist knob a long time ago. Most of the time it’s all I need. But now and then, my hands won’t even let me use that tool, so I’ve got a battery-powered opener that runs along the top of the can and cuts along the side. Hands-free! Bonus: no sharp edges left on the can or the top!
- The Amazing Jar Key. This simple little gadget fits on the edge of your stubborn jar-lid. A tiny push and it pops the seal on the jar, making it open easily. I love this thing! Search online for “jar key.” I got mine via Amazon.
- Sharpen Your Knives. Working with a dull knife is not only unsafe, it slows the chopping and slicing process way down and makes it a lot harder. That matters when you have RD. I keep a sharpening steel on hand so I can give my knives a quick once over right before I use them. Electric sharpeners are available as well, some of them very inexpensive. A good, sharp knife really does make a huge difference in prepping foods.
- Frozen Ingredients. Things like pre-cooked rice and quinoa, fresh chopped potatoes and onions, many other vegetables and fruits, and even diced, fresh garlic and other herbs are available in the frozen section at your grocery store. As a garlic lover, I adore using those little cubes of frozen garlic when I cook. Each one equals a tablespoon and saves me the trouble (and pain!) of dicing it myself. Other herbs like basil and cilantro come frozen in cubes, too.
- Two-handed Pots and Pans. If you don’t already have any of these, ask Santa for them for Christmas. I have one beautiful frying pan I use nearly every day for all kinds of things, from frying breakfast eggs to cooking up spaghetti sauce. It has an extra hand-grip on it that lets me use both hands to lift and move it away from the stove when it’s full and/or hot.
- Fresh Bagged Anything. Too achy for standing for long stretches in the kitchen? Hands too sore for chopping? There’s no shame in buying bagged fresh lettuce other, pre-chopped ingredients for salads. It makes putting together a beautiful fresh salad simple and painless.
I’m sure there are a lot more Kitchen Hacks out there that I haven’t heard of or figured out for myself. If you have some, please feel free share them with all of us in the comments below. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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