Monday, November 22, 2010

Top Ten Gravy Tips

Since gravy is such a staple for the migraine patient, here are (in no particular order) ten of my favorite tips for using gravy:

1. Chicken stock is the most versatile liquid to add to your roux. It work great with chicken, but can also be used with pork, beef or seafood with good results. Use the unsalted version to have the most control over sodium and taste.
2. Beef stock is a great alternative that works with beef or stock. It can be used on meat loaf or salsbury steak.
3. Vegetable stock is fun for a change. It can be used to create vegetarian dishes, or served with lighter meats like chicken or seafood.
4. Add Cajun seasoning to your gravy. It makes a great topping for chicken. In the alternative, throw in some red beans, mirepoix (sauteed onion substitutes, bell peppers, celery) garlic, and meat, to end up with red beans and rice.
5. Add curry powder to your gravy. Add in left-over chicken, Asian veggies, serve over rice, and you have chicken a la king.
6. Add cream cheese to your gravy. It makes a great sauce for pasta and/or chicken. Throw in some English peas to give it some color.
7. Add cheese food product (Velveeta) to make a sauce for mac and cheese. Add to cooked macaroni, and bake in casserole.
8. A little milk or cream added to gravy changes its character entirely and makes it new again.
9. Tomato paste turns your veloute into espagnole. If this is prepared with garlic, ginger, and some Indian spices, you get a very commonly-used Indian sauce.
10, Gravy makes great savory pie filling. I use chicken for chicken pot pie and beef for shepherd's pie.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Migraine-Free Cooking!

Migraine-Free Cooking! by Heidi Gunderson is a good-quality self-published book modeled completely on the guidelines in the Buchholz book. In addition to the recipes that one would expect, Heidi includes indispensable tools: the Shopping Lists, Recommendations and Allowable Foods, Cooking Substitutions, and Dietary Triggers to Avoid squeeze nearly everything you need to know into less than ten pages. She tackles the practical everyday issues that everyone has to identify and confront, like, "How can I live without onions?" and "What can I possibly use instead of citrus?"

Best of all, the recipes are perfectly suited to the migraine diet. Unlike some authors, Heidi does not cheat with a lot of trigger ingredients. Although recipes cover many areas, the most attention is devoted to main courses, fish, soups, sauces and sides. This will maximize the usability of the selections.

Two years ago, this book would have saved me countless hours of looking for appropriate cooking ideas. Interestingly, my exhaustive recipe research has turned up many of the same main course dishes as those in the book. From this, I have concluded that 1) the migraine diet will not vary THAT much from person to person; and 2) Heidi's recipes cover most of the dishes in that diet. However, she goes the extra mile and throws in unexpected goodies that I never could have found without her help. (Hopefully I can do the same for my readers in future posts)

One of the best points for beginners is that recipes tend to be stripped down, which keeps things manageable for newbies in the kitchen and people in a hurry. If you're addicted to convenience food, suddenly switching to home-cooking may throw you into that second category. The thing that I like even better about the recipes is that simple recipes are easier to develop to your own tastes and preferences. Migraine staples like chicken pot pie, chili, lasagna, taco meat and shepherd's pie can be modified many different ways, depending on how you want to season them, or what vegetables you want to add (e.g. curry powder in the pot pie or corn and peppers in the taco meat). You can refer to other recipes for ideas of what to change, or let imagination and experience be your guide.

This "stranded on a dessert island" book is an essential for the beginning cook trying to master the migraine cooking repetoire. It is definitely is a "best in class", with just the right amount of information to equip readers without overwhelming them. If you only buy one cook book to learn how to cook the Buccholz way, this is absolutely the one to get.

Tip of the Day

One of the most frustrating things about cooking for me is that it takes so long. If you hurry, you can ruin something or end up in the emergency room. The best trick I have learned to increase my efficiency is to use the "Thanks for Coming!" bowl, aka the garbage bowl. When food is cut, inedible pieces need to go somewhere. I'm right-handed, so I keep a bowl (it can be dirty, since it is for garbage, so no clean dish is dirtied) on my left side. That way, the hand that is steadying the food (as opposed to cutting) is empty and ready to instantly move pieces a few inches away. There's no turning, taking your eyes off of your work, or dropping food on the floor en route or when you have bad aim. Your grip on the knife is maintained. You don't lose the flow of your work.