Category Archives: cooking safely

Buy a Fondue Pot and Win at Life

fondueMuch like stirring in a figure eight is the secret to keeping cheese melted in a fondue pot, the fondue pot itself is the secret to making life awesome.

There’s something that brings out the child in you when you fondue, and that feeling is something too many of us let slip away. This is why I am here to tell each and every one of you to go and buy a fondue pot right now.

The fondue pot has many purposes, keeping you slim, happy and entertained, but first, the fondue pot I use – the Trudaeu 3-in-1 Cheese Fondue pot – a slick medium-sized red ceramic pot on a wire stand, and it’s heated up by gel lighter fluid.

There are a few different fondue pots out there fyi – cheese, hot oil or hot wine and chocolate – but my favorite by far is doing cheese fondue. There are just so many more healthy options when you use a cheese fondue pot. You can dip any kind of vegetable, fruits, breads, meat, oh my.

You can make it incredibly low-cal too, and as a wheelchair-user this is always a good thing. What’s great about fondue to help you lose weight as well – it’s paces you, making it impossible to overeat since you have to rely on tiny forks for all of your eating.

This can be annoying, but the struggle can pay off. A lot of clever dieters will actually use smaller plates to not eat as much, and small fondue forks work just the same. After you secure a cheese fondue pot in your life, your next goal is to practice using it.

My fondue pot requires a gel-filled lighter fluid package to pop into the flame area so it can be lit. They also sell fondue pots that actually plug-in, but I love the live-flame so I have never gone the electric route. I do not trust myself to light my fondue pot however, so I always make sure I fondue when I have people over.

This brings me to my next point of why the fondue pot is so awesome – it just makes you happy, kind of like that Pharrell song. Stupidly happy even, which by default makes it a great entertaining food, especially if you have the right dippers. Summer sausage, French baguette, green apple, steamed red potatoes, brussel sprouts and carrots, and that is just my first round.

It’s also a super romantic way to eat. I made this for a new guy I’m dating and it was super fun. We cooked and ate together; mega-bonding ensued. Yup, the fondue pot can even help in the love department.

Fondue also forces you to eat non-processed foods, and that is where it may win the biggest. It’s easy setting up all the foods you need for a fondue feast, and they are all whole foods – no cooking required. Just buy them and set them on the table. It’s easy as that, and so good for you.

And if you’ve never done a cheese fondue before, here are my pointers: Always use two different cheeses (a Gruyere and a cheddar or swiss is best), start it on the stove first and then put the cheese in your fondue pot, always use flour or cornstarch to help melt the cheese and last, make sure to add an acid (some white wine or lemon juice) to help your cheese blend smoothly.

It may seem like a lot of work, but believe me cheese fondue is more than worth it. I think more than anything fondue puts a smile on my face. In a life where a disability can really bring on some difficult days, a silly little thing like this can have a surprisingly powerful effect on me, and I’m so glad – flameage and all – I discovered how influential it can be.

Do you fondue?

Products Mentioned

– Trudeau Cheese Fondue Pot

Single-Handed Cooking: A Few Tips

4817475546_b9f4e4b0ab_zStrangely, despite not being able to move my fingers I’ve grown to love cooking.  I’m slow at it, the kitchen looks like an explosion everytime I cook and I’ve burnt myself countless times, but despite all of that I still cook on a near-daily basis.

Not many quadriplegics do it, but I can’t help myself.  It’s in my genes. My mom is one of the best cooks I know. I grew up always envisioning I’d be a fabulous cook like my mom, and I’m dead set on making that dream a reality.

I will admit it’s not easy. A lot of considerations need to be made in order to cook without too much of a struggle. Good thing is that I have some experience under my belt, and I’m here to help. Check out my single-handed (and no finger-movement) cooking tips below.

Make Sure You’ve Got Your Balance

Safety in the kitchen is paramount and making sure you have your balance is huge when you’re cooking.  If you have balance issues, this is the first thing you need to resolve in order to start cooking. I do the “quad-hook” to keep my balance, but other people prefer to use chest straps.  Whenever you end up using, make sure it’s something you can count on.

Use an Apron; Cut Off the Ties

Since I can only use one hand very well while cooking, you can call me the spill queen. I don’t care what I’m cooking, some of it will end up on my lap (flour by the way is one of my arch enemies). Because of this – I love to wear aprons, but they’re not the easiest to put on when you can’t stand up. I cut the ties off my aprons since they’re not necessary (as I’m not standing). Easing, accessible solution.

Prep Everything Before Turning On the Heat

A really important thing you need to do before turning on the burners is to prep everything you’re cooking with first.  It can take longer to do things when you’re arms and hands are compromised, so make sure you have everything poured, measured out, chopped, whatever, and put to the side just like a cooking show. This will make sure you don’t burn anything while taking too long to prep food.

Know Your Limits

Don’t get too cocky and try to make something that you can’t cook on your own safely, say a pot roast in the oven and pulling it out when it’s done, and ending up spilling it on you. The best thing you can do is accept what you can’t do in the kitchen, be ok with it, and instead try to get really good at what you can cook.

Buy Pre-Cut Foods When Possible

To make things easier, look for pre-cut foods is they’re available. Pre-cut vegetables, meats, cheese, potatoes; if it eliminates one extra step from your cooking process it’s a good thing. And don’t feel like it’s cheating either. You have a great excuse; you don’t want to overuse the strength in your arms over the years as you use them.

Get a Sharp Knife

To help your arms along the way as well, a sharp knife will do you good big time. If and when you do have to cut things, an extremely sharp knife at least will make the job a lot easier physically. A lightweight knife is good as well, such as a ceramic knife by a Cusinart.

Maybe you don’t like cooking and that’s cool, but if you do, don’t ever let your disability stop you. I’ve even seen a high injured quadriplegic stir a soup using a very long stir spoon in his mouth; that’s the commitment I’ve seen to the love of cooking.

With a little bit of planning, smart thinking and a few self-imposed restrictions, becoming a decent cook is possible. I’m living proof (and you should try my bread pudding).

What cooking tips do you have?

Products mentioned

– Ceramic knife by Cuisnart

Home Alone? Tips on Staying Safe and Sane.

My husband is an avid outdoorsman. He likes to hunt, fish, camp, and go for long walks in the woods. A few times a year, he goes on what I call a “man-cation.” I call it this because, generally, women are not welcome on these trips. Not that I want to be invited. Spending a few days cooped up in a cabin with no access to running water and sleeping in close proximity to a bunch of snoring men does not sound like my idea of a good time.

He really enjoys these trips; getting some time away from the daily grind in good for him. However, this also means that I lose my primary source of transportation while he is gone; which means we have to plan for what I will do while he is away.

Generally, I try to plan my own trip, or have a friend come stay with me while my husband is away. This is as much for boredom as it is for peace of mind. But if the timing doesn’t work out and I do have to spend a chunk of time alone, I always make sure that my family knows when he is leaving and when he will return. My Mom and in-laws are just minutes away in case of an emergency. Additionally, I like to set up a “check –in” schedule with them; this way we can check in with each other once a day, and if I cannot be reached they come over to the house. This might seem like a silly thing for an adult to do, but because I don’t use an aid, this is very important in case of a bad fall or something similar.

Besides making sure that I have someone on hand in case of an emergency, I also like to stock up on easy meals. Spending half an hour to an hour cooking for one just seems silly to me. I like to buy frozen skillet meals, because they taste better than the microwavable ones and I usually end up with left-overs. Also they are really simple to cook, with no chopping or measuring; just put in the pan for seven minutes and you are good to go.

The last thing I do when facing a week alone is make sure that I have a project and a nice long book to keep me entertained. I have just started the Game of Thrones series which I heard from a friend is “epically long.” Of course, I love Stephen King, but his novels tend to not be the best when home alone, though some of his less scary work would be a good choice. My favorites include Heart of Atlantis, The Green Mile and The Long Walk. My project of choice is of course sewing, but being without my husband for a few days is also a great reason to get some organizing done, or trying a DIY project seen on Pinterest. The best part? No one is around to her you swear.

 

Garlic Lovers, Rejoice!

I am going to share a bit about me that isn’t a secret; I love garlic. I am Italian on my father’s side, I blame this obsession entirely on those roots.  I love garlic the way my husband loves catsup, I put it in almost everything I eat. Whenever there is a chip, potato, sauce, dip, or bread that has garlic in it, I am first in line to try it. I love only two foods more, cheese and wine. Wine is food right?

One thing I don’t like about garlic is the preparation. I know I am not alone in this, plenty of people have complaints about prepping garlic; but having cerebral palsy, where fine motor skills are not a strong point, I find the peeling, chopping and the mincing utterly infuriating. Before you mention it, I know there is pre-minced garlic in stores, but I just can’t do it. I am sure it is perfectly fine, but I personally find those jars of pre-minced garlic to be a little off putting. I prefer to used fresh garlic.

So what is a garlic loving ceep to do? You buy a garlic zoom and a garlic peeler of course! These two tiny gadgets are proof that big things really do come in small packages. They completely changed my life. The Garlic Zoom is my favorite kitchen appliance of all time. It was given to me by one of my favorite people, and fellow garlic lover, as a wedding shower gift. She showed me how to use it and my mind was blown. You just put your peeled clove in the zoom and then roll it on the counter like you’re back in kindergarten with the matchbox cars (Get it? garlic zoom!)

I love it. I can’t live without it. In fact, when my husband accidently destroyed  the first one in the garbage disposal, then tried in vain to piece it back together, I went out and bought a new one the same day. After all, how was I to make dinner?

Of course you still have to peel the garlic. And that is where a garlic peeler comes in handy. I know it doesn’t look like much, but this garlic peeler works similarly to the Garlic Zoom. You simply place the garlic inside and roll it on the counter. You will hear a crackle when the skin separates, then you just slide the now naked clove out of the peeler and into your garlic zoom.

Or course, if you want to peel a whole head of the stuff, the bowl method is the way to go, not only can you peel a whole head of garlic in ten seconds, you can also release a day’s worth of frustration.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0d3oc24fD-c&w=560&h=315]

The best part about these two products, other than the fact that they are budget friendly, is that they are not just for people with disabilities. Anyone can benefit from these time saving gadgets, plus they are safe for children to use, which is great if you have a kid that loves to help out in the kitchen.

So, what’s for dinner?

Thoughtful Gifts for Safer Cooking

41okrFQJoDL._SY300_The other day a glorious thing happened. I received one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received from a man I was dating. And it was a Christmas gifts too. Love, love, love.

He had wrapped four separate gives that were all intended for me, and all had a special purpose in which to make my life easier (that sure beat the unwrapped box of chocolate covered peanuts my ex-boyfriend got me last year).

You see I love to cook. And if you look at some of my past blog posts you’ll see this to be true in all its glory. I can’t move my fingers though, just my arms and wrists, so that makes cooking a bit tricky; even a bit dangerous as the burns on my hands will tell.

Because of this a very thoughtful person decided to gift me with a handful of gifts that all explicitly helped me out in this area of my life. Never had I ever received such a thoughtful gift before. Check out what he bought me below.

Ceramic knife

If you have a hard time moving your hands, the last thing you need is a big clumsy knife that isn’t sharp. I never knew they existed before, but there is such a thing as a ceramic knife and they amazing. I would say the weight difference is about 65% lighter. That’s a huge change for anyone, let alone someone who can only move half of the muscles in their arm.

He purchased a Faberware Chef’s Knife that’s ceramic.The one drawback to these knives is that they have a tendency to chip, so be careful when handling them and don’t let them hit anything too hard.

Check it out: Faberware Ceramic Chef Knife

Straight straws

Many people with disabilities are addicted to using straws, and I’m one of these crazy straw lovers. It all started in the hospital and I haven’t looked back since. They’re just so handy, especially when you can’t pick up a cup unless it has a handle (so lame). But any straw just won’t do. I really dislike flexible straws. When they’re in a cup and bent, the liquid always leaks out. One of my biggest pet peeves.

The natural solution is getting straight straws of course, but finding these is not easy. It seems they’re going to the wayside with flexible straws taking over the world. But if you look closely in certain stores, they can still be found. My awesome gifter found straight straws on Amazon. Now I need like 20 more boxes.

Check them out: Perfect Stix Clear Straight Straws

Silicone baking mat

In an attempt to help me cook safely and with less burns, he next got me a Healthy Chef Baking Mat. This brilliant invention is made out of silicone and can withstand temperatures up to 428 degrees. While its original intention is to put it in the oven as a cookie sheet to make food healthier (it has raised mounds to encourage grease to drip away from the food), it can also be cut up and used as a shield from the heat.

What we plan on doing is cutting a small piece to fit the outside of my hand, which is where a majority of my cooking burns occur. We’ll glue it to a Velcro strap back that will go around my hand to complete it. Can’t wait to show you guys how it turns out once it’s done.

Check it out: Healthy Chef Baking Mat

No-break acrylic dishware

About 10 years ago I got smart and started buying acrylic dishware. I can drop it without worrying about it breaking. That’s a huge bonus in my world. Lately however I’ve lost several of my pieces. So my very thoughtful gifter also decided to purchase me an adorable acrylic cereal bowl. And he bought one in a girly print that makes my mornings a bit cooler now, a Pikachu bowl.

Check it out: Pokemon Cereal Bowl

Don’t you think I’m not appreciating this very thoughtful gift too. This kind of thoughtfulness is rare and doesn’t happen every day, even though every girl deserves it.

What is one of the most thoughtful gifts you’ve received?

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Reclaiming Christmas My Own Way

I am one of those girls who loves the holidays, but after my accident things got a little weird. From not being able to use my palms to roll peanut butter balls anymore to not wrapping presents with my mom on Christmas Eve like we’ve always done, I quickly found out that things were not going to be the same.

I’ve however refused to let this ruin my holiday experience. I did at first. I got down every Christmas for like over ten years straight, thinking about how much better the holidays were – going sledding hill during Christmas week off, ice skating on the lake, making homemade garland out of popcorn, I missed it all. And more than anything I feverishly wished for my innocence back.

I though had a change of heart on the holidays a few years ago. My grandpa died and I had one of those moments where you realize life is too short to only enjoy something unless you do it the way you want to. We rarely ever get what we want in life. I realized I wasn’t going to get better; I had to find a new way to enjoy the holidays, and that’s exactly what I did.

I started my goal of falling in love with Christmas again by trying to find things I could still do. While I couldn’t make many kinds of Christmas cookies anymore because the recipes were just too complicated, I did find something I was good at – decorating cookies; sugar cookies to be specific.

I decided to embrace this and I now have dozens of cool and unique cookie cutters that I love to collect. Everywhere I go I’m always on the hunt, and it’s fun. This is something I’ve become good at post-injury, and damn it feels good.

I’ve also discovered a new love for Christmas decorations. I was only 14 when I was injured, so decorations weren’t really on my radar, but boy are they on my radar now. I love snow globes, Santa Clauses, vintage Christmas decorations and the classic Christmas decoration – candles. A Christmas candle, whether it’s scented like pine tree forest or a gingerbread house – amazing.

And I’ve discovered a way to light candles; not easy to do with paralyzed hands. I used to use my Zippo lighter to light candles, but now I use a torch lighter; made for cigars but they’re SO easy to use. All you need is an incense stick and you’re set. Get a flame going on the end of the stick after activating the lighter by hitting the button, and stick the flame near the wick of the candle. See, candles lit, your place is all Christmas-ey; easy as pumpkin pie.

It’s awesome; I never thought this day would come – it’s almost Thanksgiving and I’m actually excited for the holidays. No longer do I strictly reminisce about what once was, and I must say it feels so good to reclaim Christmas. From James Bond movie marathons to tree ornament shopping, it’s crazy. I made it work.

Do the holidays make you sad?  How did you get over it?

Products mentioned

Unique cookie cutters

– Personal favorite: Angel wings cookie cutter

Christmas candles

Adjustable flame butane torch lighter

Photo courtesy of Diggita

Slow-Cookers: Cooking Safely and Easily with a Disability

Cooking is a huge part of living independently, and it is something that nearly every young adult struggles with in the beginning. For people with disabilities, cooking is about more than learning recipes; it is a physical challenge, one that can sometimes be dangerous. As a person with Cerebral Palsy, I deal with things like poor fine motor skills, a startle reflex, muscle spasms and balance issues that aren’t exactly compatible with hot surfaces, boiling water or sizzling oil.

For a long time I resorted to cooking prepackaged meals. I ate a lot of frozen and instant foods, and when I was feeling really adventurous, I would make Hamburger Helper. This wasn’t exactly healthy or appetizing. When my husband and I bought our first house, complete with a large and spacious kitchen, I decided to get serious about cooking.

For months I would spend hours in the kitchen after work, trying to put together the meals I saw on the cooking channel. It looked so easy; but by the time the meal was complete, my feet hurt, my back hurt, I was sweating profusely, and I usually had at least one minor injury. My food tasted okay, but I knew there had to be an easier way.

My Mother-in-Law was the one who suggested a slow-cooker. She bought me a programmable Crockpot and suggested I give it a try. I was skeptical. My own mother had never used a slow-cooker, and the only things I had ever seen come out of one were chili and those little cocktail wieners they have at graduation parties. Since, I didn’t have a better idea; I decided to give it a try.

I quickly discovered that the slow-cooker was the answer I’d been searching for. It cut the time and effort I spent in kitchen in half; and it was safer than the stove or the oven. I also discovered that there are literally thousands of recipes that can be made in a slow-cooker from classics like pot roast and macaroni and cheese, to desserts and even drinks. Hundreds of books and websites are dedicated to slow-cooker recipes. My favorites include Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes and allrecipes.com

Of course, the down-side to slow-cookers is that they are slow. In order to be successful, dinners must be prepped in the morning so they can cook all day; and let’s be honest, most of us don’t like getting up earlier than we have too. Perhaps the best discovery I’ve made is that slow-cookers can cook foods that are frozen. This means that you can prep a week’s worth of meals ahead of time and then freeze them, cutting out the daily prep altogether. One of my favorite resources for freezer recipes is this ebook: From Your Freezer to Your Family: Slow Cooker Freezer Recipes.

Of course, I don’t use my slow-cooker every day, but it has made life in my kitchen a whole lot easier; and I think it is safe to say, my husband doesn’t miss the hamburger helper.

At UNlimiters, we’re always looking for products that help us live more independent and easier lives. Have you found a product that has improved your life? Let us know in the Shout section of our store and we’ll try to add it to our selection.

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