It’s been about a thousand years since I posted a recipe, but this one’s worth knowing about if you like tapioca. If you don’t like tapioca, on the other hand, you might hate this stuff.
Prep Time: ~5 minutes
Cook* Time: 1 – 8 hours
Who’ll Like It: Tapioca fans ❤
Who’ll Hate It: Tapioca haters XP
Best Uses: Dessert, Breakfast
Hardest Part: Remembering to buy the d**n Chia Seeds
Pairs Well With: Disorganized mornings; late-night cravings
*And by “cook,” I mean “stick it in the fridge and mostly ignore it”
The Actual Recipe
I’ve adapted this from a variety of similar recipes with similar goals. One of the best things about it is that it’s adaptable. Lactose intolerant? Use almond milk. Allergic to almonds? Try coconut milk. Hate coconut? Use rice milk. Don’t like artificial sweeteners? No worries; you can use sugar or agave or honey or maple syrup or…
Here’s What You’ll Need (for each serving)
- 1.5 tablespoons of chia seed (I’m using black chia seed because that’s what I’ve got, but white is fine, too)
- .5 tablespoon unsweetened coconut shreds (or powder)
- .5 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 1-2 tsp sucralose
- ~.25 tsp coconut extract
- ~.25 tsp vanilla extract
Here’s What You Do
- Put everything except the chia into a small container with a lid (I’ve repurposed a glass jar that came with shredded cheese in it)
- Stir briefly
- Add the chia
- Whisk all the things briefly with a small whisk (a fork will work fine, too)
- Stick the lid on and stick that bad boy (or girl, or gender-nonbinary personage) in the fridge
- Chill for a minimum of 1 hour, but preferably more like overnight, then come back, stir, and stuff it into your maw
For even distribution of the chia seeds, I’ve been coming back 30 minutes into the chill time to re-whisk everything, but that step is optional.
Most of the recipes I’ve found for this use 1 cup of whatever milk-like product and 3 or 4 tablespoons of chia seeds, but when I made my first batch, I found that makes rather an enormous portion. I halved all the volumes to arrive at what seems, for me, like a more reasonable end product.
That said, you can definitely shove an entire 1-cup-of-milk portion of this into your face if you try hard enough.
- I’ve read that highly acidic ingredients can prevent the chia seeds from “gelling” adequately, so if you’re going to toss in orange juice, lemon curd, etc, you might want to do it right before you serve this up.
- If you eat this stuff after one hour, chances are good that it’ll still be a little loosey-goosey and a little crunchy. Don’t worry, though, you won’t die. Or, at any rate, I didn’t.
I entered the ingredients above into LoseIt’s recipe calculator, and here’s what it threw back:
I suspect that this would be really, really good with lemon curd … which, of course, I don’t happen to have on hand. Even better with berries (which I do have) and lemon curd.
As always, I’ll try to get some pix up here soon.
‘Til then, please enjoy this picture of me looking disconcertingly like a young George “Dubya” Bush on the trapeze:
And also this one of “splits down,” just because:
The other day, I wrote about trying a couple of low-carb recipes.
I’m doing the low-carb thing until I can get back to my usual training and performance schedule because it’s an easy way to balance input and output without feeling like I’m starving all the time.
My diet is usually pretty well stocked with veggies and so forth, so this mostly means that I’m stuffing my face with a metric shedload of cabbage (Savoy or Napa, at the moment) where I’d usually put pasta, burritos, or taco shells, but of course there’s more to life than cabbage. (Pumpkin smoothies, by the way, are totally in the “more to life” department. Recipe forthcoming.)
In that vein, I’ve decided to try a couple of specifically low-carb recipes that would work for both D and me, since it’s not like I asked D if he wants to give up bread and rolls for the next month.
The two standouts thus far in terms of ease of preparation and really nice results both hail from TryKetoWith.Me, the blog of “KetoGirl,” a computer-science student and ketogenic-diet advocate in Chicago. These are two of her simpler recipes, and I chose them because when I looked at them, I didn’t instantly go, “ACK! TOO MANY STEPS!” and click on back to a safer place.
- No, I’m not making fun of the Safe Spaces concept. I think they play an important role, and they have definitely been helpful to me at times in my life. I mostly just wanted to link to the Safety Dance because it’s hilarious.
Because it’s fall and I’m obsessed with putting cinnamon in everything right now, I decided to make sweet-spiced versions of both these recipes—so (because I am apparently out of plain cinnamon … wonder how that happened) I made the waffles with pumpkin pie spice standing in for the optional cinnamon, and I turned the doughballs into mini pumpkin pie spice rolls by rolling the dough out flat, coating it with a blend of Splenda and pumpkin pie spice, then curling it into a long log and cutting it into individual rolls.
- Not everyone is into sucralose and what have you. It works fine for me, so I use it, but stevia or xylitol would work just as well.
Both recipes proved pretty easy to follow—if I was working directly off my tablet or had printed them a little differently, I could have avoided the one mistake I did make, which was the result of my own formatting, not KetoGirl's.
Neither required an exhaustive list of ingredients I can't find locally. In fact, I found them all, plus one random extra (arrowroot powder, which I've been meaning to buy forever but always forget about), at a not-particularly-fancy Kroger a couple miles up the road.
For both these reasons, and because the end results are delicious, I am happy to issue the Cooking with ADHD Squirrel! of Approval© to both recipes.
The only drawback? The whole point of doing a low-carb diet while I'm on the bench is to make maintaining energy balance a no-brainer. The pumpkin pie spice rolls are so freaking good that they might completely torpedo that plan.
Just sticking this here in case it might be useful to anyone else. I’m going to try this recipe:
…use some of the waffles for dinner or dessert tonight (haven’t decided yet if I’m making savory waffles or sweet ones), then freeze the rest. I’ll keep you posted.
Update: These are great! I made a sweet version seasoned with Pumpkin Pie Spice (I wanted just cinnamon, but apparently I’m out of just cinnamon?), and they’re lovely. Also, I would definitely count them as ADHD-friendly, though the way I printed the recipe made life challenging for me. I forgot the baking powder initially, then added it after I made the first waffle and realized my error. I’ve done this before, with other waffles, soooo…
I think, though, that I’d really like to try making them in a regular waffle iron rather than the Belgian waffle iron that I have—which is what I usually think about waffle recipes, actually, so they resemble regular waffles in that way, as in effectively all ways.
Also going to try making these whilst I’m mucking about in the kitchen:
Both look pretty ADHD-friendly (at least, once you remember to buy the ingredients that maybe you don’t have if you’re not normally a low-carb person), so I’m eager to see how they go.
I won’t know until I’ve made them, but I’m hoping I can potentially adjust the waffle batter so I can use the Foreman grill to make a sort of foccaccia-style thing with it (between the Foreman grill and the waffle iron, you can make SO MANY THINGS, guys). Likewise, I want to try making cinnamon doughballs based on the garlic recipe. I’ll report back about those, too.
In other news, for some reason or another, our water has been shut off. We’re current on the water bill (I checked, and then paid the next bill since I was logged in anyway), and usually the water company sticks a note on the door when they have to shut us off for maintenance. I’m stumped.
I suppose I could call them, but I’m going to give it a couple of hours first.
Just a quick heads-up: I’ll be putting together a much briefer version of this recipe with step-by-step pictures (this post is too long to fit the Cooking with ADHD model!) and probably a video version as well.
It should be up soon.
I should probably also try to come up with a semi-standard, ADHD-friendly format for these posts if I don’t get distracted bef— SQUIRREL!
Anyway, yesterday, I woke up with a random craving for hasty pudding/Indian pudding/maize pudding/whatever you want to call it.
I looked up a bunch of recipes and became more and more discouraged: most of them involved a bazillion steps, required ingredients that I didn’t have, served 30, and/or took at least two hours* to cook.
That’s hasty, my friends — hasty like a sloth.
Finally, I thought, “Screw it, entire peoples who didn’t even have recipes have been making cornmeal mush ever since cornmeal was invented. I’m just going to do that, add some brown sugar and vanilla, and throw a little whipped topping on**.”
So I marched into the kitchen, grabbed the cornmeal from our giant Lazy Susan cabinet thingy, and … hesitated.
Perhaps, I thought, Perhaps I should consult Betty Crocker … just in case.
So I did, and right there on page 354***, was a recipe for polenta, conveniently labeled fast, which in cooking parlance usually also means easy.
It was also labeled low-fat, I didn’t really care about that, but if you’re on a low-fat diet, you’re covered. Those on low-carb diets, on the other hand … um, maybe this isn’t the optimal recipe for you guys.
I didn’t make polenta (though basic polenta will definitely be covered win a Cooking with ADHD post).
I did make a really easy maize pudding — the polenta recipe just gave me confidence that my intuition about ingredient proportions was pretty much on track.
So, without further ado, here’s the basic idea:
Easy Maize Pudding — Makes 4 Portions
- A double boiler (Don’t worry! You can improvise one! see notes below) or a medium-sized sauce pan with a heavy bottom
- A wooden or nylon stirring spoon
- 1 cup (about .25 liter) cornmeal — yellow, white, red, blue — whatever color you have on hand)
- 2 cups (about .5 liter) milk (I used 2%; I’ll try this again with almond milk for vegan version)
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) brown sugar (this is just for flavor, it’s okay to use less or even to substitute honey, molasses, white sugar, Splenda, or whatever you like)
- 1 teaspoon (10 ml) vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
…That’s it. That’s all you need. You could probably even use water instead of milk, though the end product might not be as creamy.
- Turn on your favorite streaming radio, a YouTube documentary, or whatever you like.
- The next step can be done two ways:
- If you have a double-boiler: fill the bottom part with water and the top part with the milk; heat over medium-high flame* until the milk steams.
- If you don’t have a double-boiler: pour the milk into a medium-sized sauce pan with a heavy bottom over medium-low flame* until the milk steams. It might take a while.
- Add the brown sugar and vanilla to the milk.
- Add the cornmeal, stirring while you pour it in. You don’t need a fancy whisk or anything; a plain old wooden or nylon spoon is fine.
- Stir until everything is well-blended, then cover the double-boiler or sauce pan, reduce the flame* to very low — like, as low as possible without actually turning off your burner — and set a timer for ten minutes.
- While the pudding heats, stir it once in a while to prevent sticking or scorching, but for the most part, leave it alone.
- After 10 minutes, remove from heat, uncover, and allow to cool for a bit so you don’t blister the roof of your mouth off like I did that one time.
- Serve hot with whatever suits your fancy.
If you’re using the heavy-bottomed sauce-pan method, you’ll have to pay closer attention than you will with a double boiler, since milk scorches pretty easily. You might also want to throw in a little butter or cooking oil to prevent sticking.
You’ll notice that the metric equivalents above aren’t exact. Don’t worry about it — in this recipe, all you need to know is that you want a ratio of 1 part cornmeal to 2 parts milk, and even there you’ve got some wiggle room. The rest you can fiddle with according to your personal taste. For example, I’d probably like less sugar, but 2 TBSP was a sound guess for dessert applications.
About That Double Boiler…
A lot of people don’t have double-boilers. They’re finicky specialized kitchen things that take up a bunch of space, and most of us don’t use them very often.
If you’re among the many, though, don’t worry!
You can improvise a double boiler from of a sauce pan (or even, in a pinch, a deep frying pan) and a metal bowl that’s just big enough to rest on top of it or inside of it without touching the bottom of the pan. I used to do it this way back before I had access to a double boiler.
Here’s a link to an article on improvised double boilers: http://bakingbites.com/2009/09/how-to-make-a-double-boiler/.
If you don’t have lids for your sauce pans or improvised double boiler, you can make do by resting a stoneware or Corelle plate, a cookie sheet, a metal mixing-bowl lid, the glass lid from a suitably-sized casserole dish, or any similar flattish, heat-resistant object atop the pan of pudding-in-progress.
Just make sure to balance it carefully if you’re using an improvised setup and to use potholders when you lift it off (seriously, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gone, “Herp de derp, think I’ll just lift this metal bowl lid off with my bare fingEAAAGGHHHHEHEHEH!!!”).
In fact, even if you do have lids for your pant, you may find yourself doing this if, for example, they’re all in a disorganized overhead rack and you don’t feel like fighting with them.
Um, not that I would ever do that. Ahem. :::quietly tucks metal mixing-bowl lid back into the cupboard:::
Other Ways To Enjoy Maize Pudding or Cornmeal Mush
This dish makes a pretty decent breakfast on a cold morning. For that purpose, I’d recommend making it with less or even no sugar. I like it without any at all for breakfast (that said, I’m not into sweets for breakfast, so your mileage may vary).
You can also add things like raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, or chopped dates for a sweet, fruity kick (you might want to increase the liquid just a little bit; I’ll report back in my updated recipe post).
For a quick and easy savory side-dish, substitute a little garlic and/or onion powder for the sugar and adjust the salt to taste. You can also brown some chopped onions (you can even get them in the freezer section already chopped) in butter before you add the milk or water. For a one-bowl meal, add salty kalamata olives, feta cheese, some fresh baby spinach, and cooked chicken or lamb once the mush cools.
Like standard cornmeal mush or polenta, you can even chill this pudding in a loaf pan (or, if you’re me, a plastic container lined with plastic wrap), slice it, and pan-fry it. Pan-seared maize pudding topped with vanilla ice cream sounds pretty good to me.
It’s also really very good with real maple syrup.
Speaking of maple syrup, don’t be afraid to try the less expensive, darker grades. Darker maple syrup bears a stronger maple flavor, so a little can really go a long way. It’s absolutely delicious on mild-flavored desserts like vanilla or sweet-cream ice cream — or like maize pudding.
If I remember correctly, most systems for grading maple syrup in the maple-syrup producing regions of North America date back to a time when maple syrup was used as a substitute for regular cane sugar, which had to be imported at great expense from the tropics.
The paler syrups (which are not more processed, but rather are collected early in the “sugaring” season) earned monikers like “fancy” and “Grade A” and commanded higher prices because their subtler maple flavor made them better substitutes for cane sugar.
However, the darker grades are absolutely delicious and perfect for those of us who really like a lot of maple flavor but don’t want to have to swamp our food in liquid sugar to get it.
Though I grew up in easy reach of the famous Vermont sugaring grounds and their storied produce, I’ve become quite enamored of a local, very dark maple syrup that hails from a nearby part of Indiana. It’s perfect on maize pudding.
I’ve finished one of my academic classes, and the other one has only two weeks left (HALP!). I figure that means it’s about time to start working on Cooking With ADHD.
Amazingly, my project exploring ways to simplify cooking for those of us who are (among other things) planning-challenged begins with a plan. Ironic, amirite?
So here’s the plan. I’m going to start by testing a few recipes myself and asking my friend Robert to test them as well (if you’d like to suggest or test ADHD-friendly recipes, let me know! The more, the merrier!).
I’m still working on my list of testing criteria, but here’s what I’ve got so far:
1. Manageable Ingredients
Sometimes this might mean sticking to the basics; sometimes it might mean using ready-made blends (like “apple pie spice” or “taco seasoning”) instead of buying and blending lots of individual herbs and spices.
The shorter the list, the less stressful it will be to work through it without the fear of skipping something important (like flour — remind me to tell you about the time that I read the ingredients list for a cookie recipe three times to make sure there really wasn’t any flour, only to discover that I was wrooooooong).
Accessibility is also important. While I love all kinds of exotic flavors, I’m not going to create an ADHD cookbook that assumes we’re all organized enough to go find the rarest Golden-Crested Phoenix Eggs or Celestial Foofoo Stamens (PS, I’m not actually picking on saffron … much ;)). Likewise, I don’t want to incorporate a lot of stuff that’s going to be used once or twice, then sit around cluttering up the spice rack. Instead, the idea is to develop a small stable of versatile spices that can transcend culinary borders.
2. Doable Instructions
The best ADHD-friendly recipes will come with short sets of one-line-at-a-time instructions. Others, we’ll have to modify for usability. This may be the most important thing.
3. Not So Many Steps
This isn’t to say that I won’t include a few more complex recipes for special occasions — but everyday recipes don’t need to read like aircraft-assembly instructions! The fewer steps there are between concept and implementation, the better the results are likely to be.
4. Not So Much Specialized Equipment
Even with meds, I am not sufficiently organized to own an actual food processor. This means that I don’t make anything that requires one.
The idea is to test recipes using pretty basic technology — an oven, bowls and spoons, a spatula, knives, a whisk or two, a hand-powered egg beaters, pots and pans. I own a proper fancy stand mixer, but since I can’t lift it down from the top of the fridge, I don’t use it. Folks who have things like food processors can use them to speed up some of the steps; I’ll try to include sidebars for things like that whenever possible.
The less stuff we have to buy, store, find, use, and clean, the more successful we’re going to be!
So with that in mind, here’s a list of the first few recipes I plan to road-test:
1. Slow-Poached (In-Shell) Eggs.
Poached eggs! Can these possibly truly be ADHD-friendly? I guess we’ll find out! The fact that you poach them in their shells means you can make a bunch and pop them back in the fridge to eat later, just like you would with hard-boiled eggs.
2. Roasted Chicken (or Game Hens!)
I’m pretty sure this one will fit the bill. I make roasted chicken all the time. It looks impressive, but it’s easy, and you can walk away from it for an hour and a half or so in the middle, which makes it a great thing to prepare for company.
3. Freezer-Marinated Steaks or Chicken Thighs
These are my go-to weeknight meals. Easy to make, easy to thaw, but not too repetitive — the number of flavor combinations is nearly limitless. (Seriously: the chicken version has turned into everything from Mediterranean-inspired pita sandwiches to Buffalo chicken strips!)
4. Microwave Eggs
These don’t really need a recipe; people just need to know that they’re even possible. My Mom taught me how to make them last time we visited her and my Step-dad, and I don’t really know how I’ve survived this much ostensible adulthood without them.
5. Yes, You Can Bake Bread
I make bread all the time using a profoundly simple recipe based on classic pizza dough. Swap butter in place of olive oil, and you’ve got a lovely baguette platform. Add cinnamon-sugar and raisins, and you’ve got Heaven on a plate. May I suggest pairing this with roasted chicken the next time you have friends over? That way, you don’t have to resist the temptation to eat all of it yourself 😉
So there we have it — the first five recipes. I’ll also include some veggie instructions so these can be made into full meals.
Edited for clarity and to clean up some messy code that always shows up when I type these on my tablet.
Recently I’ve been trawling for ADHD-friendly cookbooks.
The only problem is that, in essence, when you combine the terms “ADHD” and “Cookbook,” what you generally get is some variant of “Feingold Diet.”
Not that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with the Feingold plan: it’s nutritionally sound and seems to work pretty well for some kids — but that’s where the problem comes in. Essentially every Feingold resource is designed for parents without ADHD who have kids with ADHD. The same goes for just about every cookbook that aligns itself with ADHD.
The problem is, ADHD isn’t just a problem for kids (the same can be said for related conditions, like autism). Kids with ADHD often grow into adults with ADHD — and then we’re kind of stuck, cookbook-wise.
Adhering to the Feingold diet and any number of similar plans requires, more or less, making everything from scratch, at home — and it’s more complicated than many of us adults with ADHD can easily manage on our own.
I keep envisioning a cookbook — maybe even a life-management book — based on the SQUIRREL! principle. If I can get distracted by the proverbial SQUIRREL! mid-page and still re-find my place within a second or two, a given resource will probably work for me. If I can’t, it won’t. End of story.
Here’s the thing, though: I’m not really a food writer (Though I could be! I like food, I like writing, and I’m passably decent at both, so why not?), and I don’t really think of myself as someone who’s terribly representative of ADHD. I am a complex tangle of neurological anomalies and their attendant diagnoses. I am still not really clear as to whether I’m more “Asperger’s with Hyperactivity” or “ADHD with Asperger’s” (technically, I’ve been diagnosed with both — but I’m not sure that makes sense; I suspect it’s a question of mistaking facets of one thing for whole,separate things, like the blind men with the elephant). And, of course, there’s the whole Bipolar thing, too.
I suspect, though, that diagnostic complexities might not really matter, in this case. I suspect the challenges that I face in the kitchen might be pretty universal for those of us who are easily distracted, are prone to procrastination, and can’t sit still. I have a feeling, even, that some of my strategies might work for people with difficulties similar to mine.
So now I’m pondering the idea of creating a cookbook, mostly so I can have a cookbook that works for me, but also so other people can benefit from it. Assuming there’s not one out there that already meets the need.
I plan keep looking for an existing “Cooking with SQUIRREL!” cookbook — but if I don’t find one, maybe I’ll create one. What do you think, Internet? Is this something the world actually needs?
I’m a fan of
abusing the waffle iron and/or the Foreman grill. Basically, I feel that if it’s relatively flat and you can bake it, you can probably iron it, too — and ironing it will take less time and won’t make your house stiflingly hot in the summer.
Imagine, then, my delight at discovering the “Will It Waffle?” blog. A gentleman called Dan has written an extensive blog and now an entire book about cooking things with a waffle iron — things like pumpkin custard (yes, please) and mashed potatoes (sure, I’ll try that, too!). Some of his recipes are on Serious Eats, and you can find his book on Amazon and in local bookstores.
A lot of Dan’s recipes look pretty ADHD-friendly: by necessity, anything you’re going to waffle is something you’re probably going to be able to mix up in a bowl, and since waffle irons don’t really support complicated cooking techniques, the cooking part should be pretty simple, too.
Likewise, while I haven’t seen his book, an unscientific sampling of the recipes on the blog (check out the Blog Archive) suggests that the whole concept is pretty ADHD-friendly. Check out Waffled Cornbread, for example: 7 ingredients, 4 steps, printable on a single sheet of paper.
No page turns! That’s important. I don’t know if this is true for everyone with ADHD, but a recipe with a page turn is much harder for me than one without (especially if the page turn comes at some critical point in the instructions and requires me to flip back and forth).
In a similar vein, Dan’s blog led me to Sheet Pan Suppers, another collection of recipes that doesn’t leave the beleaguered household cook with a million dishes to do on Thursday night. That’s a big win right there.
I’m trying to expand my repertoire of weekday-evening meals (because while I’m happy with a constant rotation of protein, salad, potato or bread, Denis isn’t), and Sheet Pan Suppers looks pretty promising. Some of the recipes involve slightly more complex instructions, but quite a few of them have only a few steps that don’t read like paragraphs. Pretty cool stuff.
I plan to begin exploring this book once we’ve eaten up all the leftovers from the Family Holiday Shindig (which went brilliantly well). I’ll need to pick up a half-sheet pan. Bizarrely, we don’t own one — Denis likes to bake cookies on pizza stones, and I’ve been meaning to buy a half-sheet pan since I moved in and still haven’t done so.
Instead, I’ve been muddling through, substituting rectangular cake pans when I’ve really needed to roast something that would work better on a sheet. Since I do all the cooking, it seems reasonable to acquire tools that work for my work style and maybe get rid of some of the ones that don’t (because, seriously, we have a ton of kitchen stuff I don’t use, ever).
I’ll report back on Sheet Pan Suppers as I begin to use it.
In other news, I’m still recovering from Winter Plague #2, but I’m mostly human again now. I still have a lingering cough that sounds a bit croupy, so I’m not really back in action bike-wise yet. Ballet resumes a week from Monday, so I will be able to spend the next week bringing myself back online exercise-wise using the dreaded Ballet Conditioning Workout and Bollywood Burn.
A while back, I promised I’d write a bit about Cooking with ADHD (which is like Cooking with Gas, only way more dangerous).
Perhaps predictably, thus far I haven’t gotten around to it.
Today, though, I found myself poking around for doable recipes, and I found one that reminded me of one of my primary ADHD-friendly food-prep strategies — and, so, here I — SQUIRREL!
Where were we?
Oh, yes. Cooking with ADHD. Very good. Onward!
So! One of the keys to my increasing success as an ADHD-challenged homemaker has been the discovery that I can dump meat and liquid seasoning into freezer bags, freeze it, and have seasoned meat ready to go whenever I need it (1).
I’ve found a few seasonings that work really well for both Denis’ palette and mine. For beef, we like Allegro’s original and hickory iterations or Moore’s. For chicken, we like both of those, any brand of Greek salad dressing, or a blend of soy sauce with ginger and honey. If I plan to make oven-fried chicken, a simple saltwater brine works, too.
For dinner, all I have to do is thaw and cook a pre-portioned packet of meat, bake a couple of potatoes(2), and throw some spinach and a few croutons in a couple of bowls (yeah, I’m that lazy). If we’re not feeling potatoes, a couple of biscuits-in-a-can or store-bought crusty rolls will serve, or I might whip up a quick batch of corn muffins(3). (I also make awesome home-made bread, but that only tends to happen on days when I don’t have much going on.)
Just seasoning and portioning the meat ahead of time may not sound like that big a deal, but for me it often makes the difference between cooking at home or grabbing takeout. In short, it means I don’t have to think about dinner. Options that both Denis and I will enjoy are already ready to go.
This works for me because the work of portioning and seasoning the meat is done up front, and everything else is pretty simple. The process is reduced to a few steps at a time.
To streamline the prep end of things, I buy cuts of meat that are already effectively portion-controlled, like chicken thighs, or ones that can be easily divided into appropriate portions (I do know how to cook a whole chicken quite well, but that isn’t always the best option for a week-night meal). Both Denis and I like small portions of meat, so many of the cuts of meat at the grocery store or the co-op will make two or three servings (or more!) per steak(4).
Basically, the fewer steps there are between “What’s for dinner?” and “Dinner’s on the table!” the happier and more effective I am. I can enjoy involved recipes, but I have trouble following them. The fewer ingredients a recipe requires, and the fewer steps it takes, the more likely I am to actually use it. If there’s a page-turn or a step that takes an entire paragraph to explain, it’s TL;DR time. I don’t switch tasks as easily as other people, so things like that can make all the difference in the wold.
I’ve been trying to cook down (see what I did there? :D) a list of the elements that make a recipe ADHD-friendly (for me, anyway). Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
- Doesn’t require much thinking ahead at cook time.
- Not very many ingredients.
- Not very many steps.
- None of the steps are very long.
- Intuitive process flow (seriously, I made brownies today from a recipe with very counter-intuitive process flow, and I guess we’ll just have to see if they come out all right. Edit: So we’re eating the brownies right now, fresh from the oven, cooled for 10 minutes, with ice cream … they’re fine.)
- Doesn’t leave a ton of leftovers (Denis and I tend not to be great about finishing off leftovers, though we’re better about some than others).
- Doesn’t require the entire recipe to be read through first. (Seriously. This can be a real problem; first off, I’ll have forgotten what I read by the time I get halfway though; second, see the bit above about task-switching.)
A fine example of a recipe that fits most of the bill can be found here. The sole exception is the final step, which is presented as a paragraph — but it’s one that can be readily broken down into steps if you copy and paste the recipe into a wod processor.
I love the fact that this recipe combines all the elements of a balanced meal — protein, carbs, and veggies — into one bag that you can toss in your slow-cooker and forget about until dinner time. I can’t wait to try it. It sounds great!
- This has been somewhat complicated by the death of our microwave. I now have to think ahead far enough to leave things time to thaw.
- Okay, so I really prefer to nuke potatoes, too, but….
- I used to do whole-grain ricey things pretty often, but I’ve found that Denis and I have very different tastes, there.
- This is also an effective way to stretch the meat budget. It’s totally okay to take something that a store packages as “a steak” and cut it into two or three pieces rather than eating the whole thing as one portion. Likewise, boneless beef spare-ribs can be marinated, grilled, and treated as individual beef portions. Get creative!
…But I’ve got enough done to take a break, so instead I’m sticking some thoughts on here.
I just realized that the world needs two categories of “easy” recipes — or, rather, we need two separate categories: easy recipes and ADHD-friendly recipes.
Like most people with ADHD, I am very capable in many areas, and in what we’ll call my “areas of specialization*,” I’m even capable of long bouts of intensely-focused activity.
Cooking, however — although it interests me in a general sort of sense — is not one of my areas of specialization. It’s something I kinda like doing; something I’m happy to do if it’s not too complicated and I don’t have to take too many intermediate steps and I’m not feeling terribly compelled to do something else.
I can even learn complex recipes — if I’m in the right frame of mind and if the directions are designed well**.
On the whole, though, I prefer simple recipes — really simple ones. The fewer ingredients and steps, the better. I can follow really simple recipes even on those days when I’m sleep deprived and all the compensatory skills I’ve learned over the course of a lifetime coping with ADHD just fly right out the window.
As such, I think I’m going to add an ADHD-kitchen category here — one aimed at those of us wrestling (okay, and also sometimes riding) the giant squid that is adult ADHD and trying to do so without eating Hot Pockets for the rest of our natural lives.
It seems like the vast majority of recipe resources related to ADHD are geared towards parents who are trying to implement dietary treatments for their children with ADHD. That’s a fine thing, and I know a couple of people who have benefited from it — but it doesn’t really help those of us living with adult ADHD (and/or bipolar disorder, which can make cooking hard as well). Most of the “ADHD diets” are pretty complex.
I’ll be posting simple recipes and maybe a few pointers that have helped me to eat better and cook more meals at home.
For what it’s worth, the best tool I’ve discovered for living with ADHD is the creation of “paths of least resistance.” For me — because planning is a particular weakness of mine — this process can’t invole a lot of planning. I learn as I go, and I try to remember the things that work for me. If I try to design solutions, I over-complicate things; if I simply stand back (as it were) and observe what works, sometimes I hit on useful tactics that I can replicate.
I plan to write a bit about paths of least resistance as well — in short, how to identify ways to make things easier.
Admittedly, what works for me probably won’t work for every single ADHDer out there — but sharing my strategies helps me remember them, and if it helps anyone else, that’s icing on the cake.
Speaking of which, it’s about lunch time, so I’m going to go take a path of least resistance and throw some tuna salad onto some bread.
*In other words, my obsessions: ballet, bikes, dogs, horses, music, and designing buildings in Sims 2. Sometimes drawing, painting, and writing fall into this category; sometimes they don’t. Reading varies.
**For example: if a “step” in a recipe looks like a paragraph, it’s too long. Switching between tasks is difficult for me, so switching into deep reading-comprehension mode, then back to cooking mode, then back to deep reading-comprehension mode tends not to end well. Likewise, wall-o-text recipes totally send me straight to TL;DRLOLland. I should add the caveat that following written directions is a particular weakness for me; not all ADHDers are as bad as I am at it.