Category Archives: cooking

Got A Lot of Produce? There’s a Gadget for That!

Based on the subjects of my posts, many of you probably think I spend my entire life in the kitchen. Although that sometimes feels that way, I assure you I do spend time in other places of my house. However, the kitchen is where I find myself needing the most adaptations. It makes sense if you think about it; the kitchen is probably the most dangerous place in my house. There are so many sharp, heavy or hot items in the kitchen, if that doesn’t kill me, the things that come out of it just might.

Summer is the most challenging time of year for me in the kitchen, not because I am doing a lot of cooking, but because I loathe cooking in the summer. It’s far too hot to have the stove running, the crockpot is best for creating winter type foods, so I am forced to use the stove. I hate the stove; it spatters and spits and that is not ideal for someone with a startle reflex or questionable balance to begin with. Needless to say, I don’t do a ton of cooking in summer. But the main reason summer in the kitchen is a rough is because of what my husband is bringing into it.

See, my husband loves his garden. He loves to plant things, loves to watch them grow and relishes in eating food from his garden. But it’s that middle part between the harvest and the eating that eludes him, and that’s where I come in.

The garden is probably bigger than what two people actually need, resulting in hoards of food from about mid- June through September. This year our planting was late and so was our harvest, but last night my husband appeared from the back yard with an armful of produce.

Unable to consume it all before it spoils, and not keen on canning, I end up freezing most of it, which means there is a lot of chopping. This is where I break out my Ninja to do the hard work. The Ninja is a great little gadget for processing foods. I love to make smoothies in my Ninja, but I primarily use it for chopping up all those veggies my husband brings in so I can freeze them in convenient portions.

As for slicing, my Slice-O-Matic just doesn’t cut it for large quantities of produce. Although it works nicely for one or two cucumbers, or a zucchini, slicing a dozen or more is a chore. I have made the executive decision to purchase an attachment set for my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer that will automatically slice and shred my veggies. I have not tried it yet, but my Kitchen Aid Stand mixer was a life and time saver when it came to baking for all those potlucks and Graduation Parties this summer. So I have high hopes for this great little attachment.

Now, does anyone have any clue what I could make with about three dozen Chile Peppers?

An UNlimited Year in Review

This post marks my one year anniversary as a blogger for UNlimiters. I can hardly believe that it has been a year, and what a year it has been. I went from being unemployed, to working three part time jobs; from having Hepatitis C to being cured of the disease, and from writing once a month, to writing at least once a week. A lot has changed for me over this year, but many things have stayed the same, including the things I use every day in order to live my life Unlimited. For my anniversary post, I would like to revisit these items, and to share with you the top three I never want to be without.

My very first post highlighted an item that I used most often in my house, the crockpot. Growing up I don’t remember my Mom using the crockpot for anything other than baked beans. The other recipes I had eaten out of a crockpot left much to be desired; so at first I didn’t think I would like cooking with a crockpot. However, I was presently surprised. Crockpots are great for more than just beans, sauces and soups. You can make many delicious items in the crockpot, including desserts. It is a life saver during a busy work week or when I would rather spend time sewing than worrying about what is for dinner.

My second post featured an item I literally could not live without. I mean, I guess I probably could, but it would not be a very full or exciting life. The Hurri-Cane Crutch was introduced to me by a friend of my fathers who happened to know a guy that was trying to market a new kind of Lofstrand Crutch. I have used Lofstrand Crutches since I was about 6. Ever since I was introduced to the Hurri-Cane Crutch, I have never used another, and have tried quite a variety of mobility aids in my time. These crutches are light, stylish and practically indestructible.

Finally, this post featured an item that I had seen a hundred times while being around others with disabilities. Although the reacher was a familiar adaptive tool to me, it was not something I felt I needed. I grew up in an “adapt or fail” type of household. I was taught to adapt to my environment instead of expecting it to change to accommodate me. Thus, I equated the use of certain assistive technology with laziness. However, after starting a new job, I got tired of asking people to pick things up for me; I finally cave and bought the reacher. It has increased my independence and changed my perspective on assistive technology.

Life is about change, it is about learning and growing. The person you are today might not be the person you are tomorrow. You will learn new things, form new opinions and have new experiences, but that doesn’t mean we should discount the things that stay the same. It is the unchanging things in life that give us the confidence to do all the changing along the way.

10 Awesome DIYs for Adaptive Tools

ballWhen in doubt, broke or if the adapted tool you want hasn’t been made yet, do what a lot of people with disabilities do and turn to DIY. Granted, it takes a handy, creative individual to make things go from just an idea to actually existing, but a lot of people with disabilities have his capacity.

And if they don’t, many have gotten good at asking for help (raises hand). I would’ve been lost without my Dad all these years; the veritable Leave It To Beaver handyman everyone dreams of knowing. He can build ramps, make my shower accessible; he is the one who I’ve always called whenever I’m at a loss.

But sometimes even my Dad can’t help me. Sometimes it takes a highly clever individual to illuminate us to a solution that even our peerless fathers haven’t thought of, like using a pizza box to create a laptop stand (it totally works, just make sure the grease stains are wiped off).

If you ever find yourself in this position, think DIY. There are some exciting DIY solutions for adapted tools out there. Check out my 10 current favorites below.

10. Wire Hanger Reacher

An adapted tool almost anyone can make is a reacher made from a wire hanger. All you need is a wire hanger and a good grip (quads, you’ll likely have to recruit help with this one). All you do is unfurl the wire hanger completely so it’s stick straight, then bend one end into a hook shape, so you can reach things easier and pull them to you.

9. Tube Sock Elbow Protector

If you have skin issues around your elbow area and really don’t want pay for elbow protectors, you can make your own using a tube sock. All you need to do is cut the end off so you can pull it up to your elbow, and voila – instant elbow protector. It may not be pretty, but you can’t get any cheaper or easier than this.

diy8. Grip Shelf Liner-Widened Utensils

For anyone with limited hand function, grabbing and holding utensils can seem like the hardest thing in world and most end up buying expensive utensil holders. You can however make any utensil easier to hold by wrapping the handle in grip shelf liner.This may be one of my favorites tips because it’s so easy and works awesomely.

7. Tennis Ball Jar Opener

Another great DIY for people with limited grip is a jar opener using a tennis ball, and this is a fast one. All you need is a tennis ball and an X-Acto knife. Simply cut along the seam completely so the tennis ball splits in two, and there you have it – two instant jar openers. To use these babies, just stretch one over a jar and twist.

6. Lego Card Holdercard

If you love a good card game but holding your deck is a whole other story, this Lego card holder is the ultimate solution; it’s both awesome and cheap. Yes folks, a crystal clear win-win situation. As you can see, this holder is mainly comprised of longer brick Legos, and they’re stacked to mimic those expensive playing card holders you can buy online.

cell5. Sugru Cell Phone Handle

A putty you can buy that will mold to almost anything you want it to, Sugru is taking the DIY world by storm, and it’s an especially big favorite amongst people with disabilities. For a person with limited hand function who had trouble using their smartphone, they used Sugru, along with some Velcro and a bit of a wire hanger to create this handle for their phone.

4. Ace Bandage Thigh Strap (for dresses)

For the ladies out there who love wearing dresses or skirts but can’t keep their legs together (and I’m not talking for that reason lol), an Ace Bandage is your skin-friendly modesty protector to the rescue. You can use this to wrap under and over your thighs, pulling your legs together so they don’t splay open at your niece’s graduation, or wherever you may be. Wouldn’t be prudent, no siree.

3. PVC Pipe Universal Cup Handle

Sometimes you can’t always find a cup with a handle; sometimes you need a separate solution. Case in point – a PVC pipe universal cup handle that helps people with limited hand function use any cup. You can set almost any cup in the handle’s base, allowing you to finally be able to hold any cup with complete ease.

cup2. Tin Can Cup Holder

Adequate cup holders meanwhile are one of the most difficult things to find, which is why this DIY tin can cup holder is amazeballs (and you don’t have to spend more than $5 in case it breaks. All you need is a 14.9 oz tin can, a plastic clamp, a short screw and some super glue.

Once you have your supplies, choose a location on your chair, punch the middle of that can with the screw, then screw halfways into the clamp. Next, put the clamp on your chair, then super glue the can to the clamp. Get a full how-to here

1. Stretchy Fleece Universal Cuff

Universal cuffs are traditionally made of hard plastic, sometimes cloth, but very rarely do people make these at home. Some clever OT students however have turned to stretchy fleece as the ideal fabric for DIY universal cuffs, as you can see with this one made especially for electric scissors. All it takes is some stretchy fleece, Velcro and a thread and needle to bring it all altogether.

While a DIY power wheelchair or adapted van should make you wheel like a crazy person in the opposite direction (not safe; not safe at all), smaller adapted devices can go the DIY route, and by all means should do so. Not only will you save money, you may even improve upon the device, and that would be a pretty a mighty sweet bonus.

What are your favorite adapted DIYs?

Products Mentioned

Sugru

Velcro

X-Acto Knife

Legos

Ace Bandage w/ Velcro closure

Grip Shelf Liner

Homemade Lunch: No Communal Refridgerator Required

Fridge

I have been a full-fledged, card carrying member of the work force for about ten years now. I have to say, being an adult and having a job is not nearly as scary as they made it sound in the brochure. However, there is one thing no one tells you about. It is the one thing that can make you fear for your life and run for the door. It is just as likely to be found at a fancy law firm or doctor’s office, as it is in the employee lounge of a grocery store, or post office. What am I talking about? None other than the communal refrigerator.

Almost anyone who has held a job outside of the home has encountered the communal refrigerator; if you have not, count your lucky stars. Communal refrigerators are notoriously icky. They are usually stuffed full of items that expired during the Clinton administration, and there is almost always an unidentifiable sticky substance lurking at the bottom of the drawers. The freezer is the safest place for your food, but everyone knows that, so good luck squeezing your lunch in there.

The communal refrigerator at my current job isn’t that terrible, but I am still not inclined to use it. Even if I was, the staff lounge is a tight squeeze for my wheelchair, plus the fridge is a side by side, so I can’t reach all the shelves. For me, it is much easier to just keep my lunch with me at my desk, but then there is the concern of keeping it cold. Avoiding the communal refrigerator is pointless if I get myself sick with warm mayonnaise.

I tried a number of lunch coolers before I found one that met all my needs; big enough for my breakfast and lunch, actually kept my food cold and fit in the backpack I use on the back of my chair. But finally the fourth one I tried fit the bill. This lunch tote by Thirty One, holds a lot of food, but its soft sides and shape make it fit easily in my backpack. This bag is also the only one I have found that will keep my food cool until lunch time without the hassle of an ice pack.

So if you are sick of eating out every day just to avoid the horrors of the communal fridge, try this cute little cooler. It can be found in several colors, so you can also stay fashionable while your food stays cool.

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

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?

Enhanced by Zemanta

My New Toy

I used to love to cook, especially for my family and friends.  While I don’t throw lavish dinner parties, I do thoroughly enjoy preparing meals that my husband will brag about at work.  Like any activity, the pleasure is often erased when it morphs from being a hobby into a responsibility or job.

I still have moments of pure creativity in the kitchen, but for the most part the activity has become just another chore rather than a conduit for relaxation.  Between working and taking care of the house and family, I have too much to do and not enough time. In reality, spending hours standing just isn’t as much fun as it was before my amputation.

I have come to realize that I don’t mind cooking, but I do resent the fact that it has to be done on a daily basis. It is a vicious cycle that never stops. A sucker for an infomercial, I have cabinets bursting with “quick and easy” cooking gizmos and appliances.

Instead of taking hours to prepare a meal, I am interested in creating healthy and palatable options with as little time as possible. Unfortunately many of the “revolutionary designs” simply don’t work, or are too complicated for me to utilize on a regular basis.  I am at a point in my life where I need quick and easy.

Recently I have acquired a new kitchen appliance (i.e. toy) that has helped to erase my “what’s for dinner” woes. Unlike my other culinary purchases, this appliance has stayed on my counter top since its acquisition. We use it several times a week, and have yet to make anything that isn’t delicious.

I don’t often fry food, so I was hesitant to purchase the Actifry. Like most kids, Robby loves tater tots and chicken nuggets. While this is an easy lunch, I hated turning up my oven and heating up my entire kitchen in the heat of the summer days. I figured that if I only used this appliance for the tater tot lunches, it would be worth it.

It turns out that my solution for avoiding the oven has become my go to appliance. Since I can make pounds of fried food with only a tablespoon of oil using this machine, I feel more comfortable serving french fries, fried chicken and other treats to Robby and my husband. The Actifry is a self-contained appliance which is not filled with oil, so I no longer feel compelled to stand guard like I did with a traditional fryer. The fact that I can turn it on and sit down on the couch is not an attribute I take lightly!

If you love fried foods, or if you are a busy Mom struggling to fill the menu on a daily basis, I would encourage you to check out the Actifry. It has truly UNlimited me in the kitchen by reducing prep time, minimizing clean-up and allowing me to conserve my energies. I appreciate anything that simplifies my life and promotes healthier eating, and the Actifry fits the bill on both counts.

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.

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.

Cooking my favorites, and trying desperately not to make a mess

At 33, I’ve finally honed in on my cooking skills. I can’t move my fingers, but I can move my wrists. This is quite a personal feat for me. Cooking wasn’t something I thought I could do full-force, other than flipping grilled-cheese sandwiches and baking fries.

After my injury, going straight into college, I lived on my own version of the four food groups – coffee for breakfast, fried food from the on-campus grill for lunch, a mid-day snack of a Hot Pocket and Little Debbies for dessert. Yum-o.

And the one time I did try cooking in college – grilling a chicken breast in a skillet for Jason down the hall (he loved calling me “Tiff Tiff.” oh how I miss him) – I burned my hand where I couldn’t feel and got a horrid 3rd degree burn. Yeah…it took several years for me to want to try again after that.

Cooking however finally became something I tried again, 4 years after college, on Valentine’s Day. I was wanting to bake pink cupcakes for my boyfriend 100% on my own, but I was deathly afraid of one thing – getting them out of the oven. I had never baked before, but I knew getting a hot pan out wasn’t something I should try. I couldn’t grip the pan.

And then…the first big revelation (out of many more to follow) occurred: I realized was wrong. It was totally possible. All I needed to do was start thinking outside of the box. The solution turns out was right in front of my face: Pull the rack out, let them cool on said rack, and then slide the pan on your lap once it’s cooled. Simple, safe and totally obvious.

My brain finally broke out of the “I can’t do anything if I can’t do it normal” rut.

And I took this moment to start coming up with hundreds of other solutions in the kitchen. I now saw ideas everywhere I looked. Things are only hard in the kitchen, or anywhere else in life, as you make them. And my solutions have totally improved my life. Cooking, a lot like gardening, completely nurtures the soul. I love it infinity.

To open cans on my own, I wouldn’t be anywhere with my Automatic Can Opener. My mom bought one for me years ago and I refer to it as my “cutie pie robot.” Set it on an unopened can and watch it wake up and do its thing. Kinda cool.

I also wouldn’t be anywhere without a product I got last year from an inventor with paraplegia – My4Hands. This is a sturdy piece of plastic and fits perfectly on your lap, creating more “counterspace.” I have a super tiny kitchen and being in a wheelchair makes it even more cramped, so I fell in love with My4Hand. It’s great for setting hot things on too (thank you Dale Lehn!)

Another big thing I started to do to make cooking easier was to start buying pans and utensils I could use. I bought silverware with thicker plastic handles so I could hold them, I amassed a collection of pots and pans that had a plastic handle attached to each one. I wanted to be in control. Handles on pots is key to holding them without finger movement.

It takes a while to figure all of this out, but you figure out what you need as you go along. Trial and error is the name of the game.

The thing about cooking is that once you get good at it, you’ll want to do it more and more. Being able to create a beautiful dish without assistance helps me cope with my disability in an amazing way. From preparing healthy salads with my Slap Chop (to cut veggies quick) to baking a Jell-O cake for the 4th of July each year, I can *almost* do it all.

Maybe by the time I’m 40 I’ll be on Chopped (hrm doubtful, possible only if they come up with a “quadriplegic” 3 hour special).

What gadgets have made cooking possible for you?

Real Time Web Analytics