“You’ve convinced me that even though I’m alone, I still deserve to have good, healthy meals. You’ve also taught me to take a chance and try cooking when I truly felt that I was a lost cause.” – RutheeMac
Jewels: There are as many different ways to adapt the Personal Chef Approach (PCA) to your own household as there are members, because everyone has their own unique circumstances and personal preferences. Through practicing the basics, you’ll find your own groove, and if you need help, the forum is where you’ll find a hotbed of advice, support and creative solutions. No one exemplifies this better than longtime member Ruthee, who kindly offered to share how she modified the technique to overcome the physical challenges she faces.
Ruthee: In case you don’t know me, I’m Ruthee, one of the first members of the Personal Chef Approach. I can’t walk without a walker, and I have to use a mobility scooter to shop. Needless to say, cooking can be a bit of a nightmare. I used to push myself too hard, and would usually end up in tears, so I became reliant upon processed frozen meals and take out to survive. Then I found the encouragement and help I needed to turn it all around with the Personal Chef Approach.
I’ve heard other members tout the obvious benefits of saving time and money, the ease of getting home cooked meals on the table in minutes, and not wasting so many groceries. For me, the biggest advantage of the Personal Chef Approach is the physical energy it saves me. Here’s how I modified the approach to make it more user friendly for the mobility challenged:
1). I cut back on the number of meals I prepare at once. I’m single, so 2-3 entrees is plenty of food to carry me through the week (or longer), plus I can manage cooking all the way through to the clean-up pretty comfortably. Some days I’m not as productive, so I might only do 2 meals. I’ve learned there’s no shame in that, I do what I can.
2). My legs just won’t hold me up for more than a few minutes at a time, so I sit as much as possible. At the sink I’ll use my stool and at the kitchen table, I sit on my walker seat. When I need to carry items from one place to another, I put a small box on my walker seat and load it up carefully. The box keeps things from sliding and I’m able to transport quite a load of pots and pans, or whatever I’ll be needing.
3). The custom menu planning tool allows me to plan my own menus quickly and easily. I try to choose recipes that involve using different cooking methods (i.e. stove top, oven, and a slow-cooker), so I can get everything cooking at once, and finish much faster than if I were to cook one recipe at a time. In fact, when I plan well, I’ve been able to sit down and put my feet up and have a cup of tea for much of the actual cooking time!
4). When I decide on a PCA morning, I print the recipes, make a list of the pots, pans, utensils and cooking appliances I’m going to need and get them set out on the counter ahead of time, along with containers of spices or other items for the recipes. I also take any frozen meats out of the freezer to defrost in the fridge the day before, so they’re ready to cook when I need them.
5). Depending on how I am feeling, I might do some prep work the night before. I total up the amounts needed for each recipe, then wash and chop them all. I do this sitting on the seat of my walker (since it’s higher than my kitchen chairs), and it gives me more leverage to make the task easier. Before I go to bed, I have all spices measured out, and my herbs and veg chopped and labelled in containers ready to rock the next day.
6). I always try to do one slow-cooker meal – it’s so easy to brown any meat quickly, then toss in all the ingredients and forget about it until the meal is done. Most slow-cookers these days have timers, so you don’t even need to worry about forgetting to turn it off, but I like to check mine about an hour before, just to ensure that it does need that last hour to cook.
7). The second recipe is one for the oven, since these usually have longer cook times than on the stovetop. First, I preheat the oven to the desired temperature, then start putting the ingredients together in the roasting pan or casserole dish. Since my veg are already chopped, it doesn’t take long before I’m ready to pop it in the oven, and set a timer so I won’t forget to remove it on time.
8). My third dish is usually something that I cook on the stove top like the tofu filling for Julie Anne’s lettuce wraps. I usually double this recipe since I tend to eat my way through it in just a few days, and I want enough to last. It really only involves a little extra chopping and a larger pan to make double recipes, plus this recipe freezes great. I’m done cooking before I know it, and ready to move onto the next stage, preparing for storage and clean up.
9). While everything is cooking, I wipe down the counters, and get the storage containers out on the kitchen table ready to portion out and and cool following Julie Anne’s guidelines for safe storage. Since I’ve been careful to select recipes timed to finish cooking one after the other, it makes cooling them and portioning them out easier. The containers are then labelled and ready freeze.
10). I’ve already done most the cleaning as I go, so I just have a few pans to finnish off, and the kitchen looks great considering I just cooked between 8-16 meals (4-8 servings of each recipe – remember I like to double the stovetop recipe) for the week ahead.
I hope my tips make life easier for you too. I would imagine an expectant mum might find them as helpful, as someone mobility challenged like myself. Thanks to the Personal Chef Approach, I’m eating better and it’s so much easier now that I don’t have to cook every day. I can pull a healthy frozen entrée out of the freezer and have dinner on the table in minutes.
Jewels: Thank you Ruthee, and here’s that recipe Ruthee loves so much she always doubles it…
Crispy Ginger Tofu Lettuce Wraps
When Tatjana and her friend Leah gobbled these lettuce wraps up before I could cool the recipe long enough to store it, I knew I was onto a winner. This scrumptious, low-carb, vegan dish can also be adapted for you meat lovers out there too!