Cooking For One ~ An Experiment

This is just a fun posting – something I felt like doing just for the heck of it, you know? After all, this blog was meant for a sort of ramblings of my mind..

Anyways, my company suddenly closed it’s doors four months ago, roughly the same period of time that I happened to fall sick. I had previous bouts of illness with my tummy, prominently with leaky gut and IBS, which were both paying me a third visit in the past 4 years. And so, suddenly facing an uncertainty surrounding my future, I decided to pay more attention to my health and get myself back onto track – you know, health wise.

And so I began to cook – seriously.

If someone had told me years ago, or even months before that I’d be cooking on a regular basis, I’d probably laughed at them. Cooking was something I was not passionate about; I did not even have the slightest interest in them (though I did love to make bolognese occasionally – before I got sick of course).

Yet the problem with IBS and leaky gut was that most of the food that I consumed were not in accordance with my diet – as in the kind of food that my tummy accepted and not spit out. Over the months, I realized that I was somewhat gluten intolerant and so had to eliminate food with gluten out from my diet – as an Indian who had rice on the menu on a regular basis, that was a huge reality check.

However, when I began cooking, I slowly started to introduce certain kinds of gluten back into my diet, to varying degree of success.

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This Chicken Bolognese Rotini was a dish that I made for my mum for Mother’s Day and though she loved it, and I did too, my stomach still couldn’t accept the wheat still. This could probably be because of the density of the pasta – as you know, pasta is quite filling and hence, has a heavier effect on the tummy than other kinds of wheat.

 

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This was a dish that I had so much fun in cooking and eating! Lemongrass Chicken with Berries and Milk Tea. I was skeptical at first, seeing as tea was also something my leaky gut could not accept, but it went down surprisingly well. The sweetness of the vanilla yogurt and blackberries countered the sourness of the strawberries and the slight zest of the lemongrass. This was indeed a heavenly meal; the size of the portion made it an even more wonderful meal!

 

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This meal was my first attempt at introducing bread back into the diet, seeing as my attempt with pasta went horribly wrong (the after effects of it was horrible). Butter Croissant with Carbonara Chicken, Zesty Oranges and Blueberries, accompanied by Peach Sun Tea. Wowzer! What a mouthful!

This felt like a meal out of an expensive cafe of sorts and well, I wanted to create such an ambiance too. Who said eating at home meant using the same boring plate with the same boring cups and the lack of production, eh? The croissant were just the right amount for this meal, though it might seem a lil’ bit heavy for some people. The creamy carbonara chicken and mushrooms went well with the buttery taste of the croissant; it really did feel like something out of an expensive cafe or deli. The fruits were the right blend of sweet and sour, with the tea providing an excellent thirst quencher during one hot, humid day in May.

 

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Since the croissant was such a huge winner previously, I chose to stick with it for my daily dose of carbohydrate, with the fruits too being a regular at my meals these days. Lemon Turmeric Chicken with Butter Croissant and Lemon Tea. I tried introducing some sort of vege into my meal this time, opting for the right balance of carrots. It might not seem too obvious in the picture, but in additional to my regular red onions, ginger and garlic, I also added basil leaves to this menu. I substituted the regular cooking oil for some margarine and damn, the scent that the margarine and basil evoked was amazing. The aroma of the dish stayed well after the meal had ended.

 

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I got to admit, this was by far my most favourite dish; Fried Chicken with Butter Croissant, Mash Potatoes and Oranges, accompanied by Peach Sun Tea. I had marinated the chicken with my own mixture of herbs and spices for the better part of 5 hours, before frying it in pure virgin coconut oil. I have to say, I never expected such greasy food to smell this good; the virgin coconut oil made the whole meal less greasy than how it would have been if I had used the regular cooking oil – it tasted even better seeing as the virgin coconut oil was less saturated and had easily penetrated the insides of the chicken; even though I used the chicken breast for this, the meat was amazingly tender and juicy.

 

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For this recipe, I tried the Indian approach – Spicy Soy Sauce Chicken with Potatoes, Berries and Milk Tea.

The soy sauce and mandarin leaves gave the Indian-ish taste for the chicken, with the end result producing a dish with thick and spicy soy gravy for the chicken. Once again, the opposite taste of the berries suited the sourness of the dish, with the milk tea topping off this light-themed meal.

 

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And finally, my attempt at introducing rice into the diet. Brown Rice with Spicy Ginger Chicken with Potatoes and Black Tea. This was the heaviest meal I had cooked during those three months that I attempted cooking at home. The rice, while being of the brown rice variety was still too much for my leaky gut to handle. Sadly I couldn’t stomach it for long.

The chicken however helped with my digestive system as the ginger successfully balanced the effects of the potatoes – as we know, potatoes often causes bloated-ness, indigestion and gasses. The fact that the potatoes were boiled for thirty minutes before being cooked together with the chicken ensured that it would be completely soft and almost mash-like for consumption, helping me so digest it more easily. And the sweet black tea helped to wash it down better, seeing as I was out of fruits during this particular day.

 

Actually, while some might see me writing this as a reason to ‘showoff’, in some ways, all I want to do is help educate people who are in the same sort of situation like me. IBS and leaky gut is no laughing matter; I lost almost 15kgs in 90 days last year and had already lost 3kgs the first 2 weeks after my sudden layoff. And though I was obese to begin with, losing weight in such a way was something I never envisioned happening; I couldn’t be happy that I lost weight as I was losing it for such an unhealthy reason.

Medications, diets and elimination of food were of no help as the illnesses kept coming back, more so during stressful periods in my life. Cooking was my last resort; I assumed that I would be awful at it seeing as I had problems making instant noodles; it was always too soggy for my liking. However, while cooking, I realized that eliminating food and then reintroducing them into my diet was in a way, a good way in addressing my illness.

Most of my dishes had standard ingredients; red onions, garlic, ginger, chicken, salt and pepper. I tended to add in turmeric as an ode to my Indian roots; I needed the spices more than any herbs. Creatively adding chili powder and water can be the difference between making chicken curry or chicken sambal (a thick, spicy gravy dish).

I tended to avoid adding vegetables as I had problems with digesting them, considering that most of the time they tasted too raw; adding them into the pan tended to make them too soggy; wet vegetables tasted awful too. Yet the hardness of the carrots were just right for my cooking, it went well with most of my dishes. The fact that I did not have a single aquatic dish up there was because I don’t trust myself yet to cook such dishes as fishes needed a longer preparation and cooking time.

Addressing my gluten problem, I had eliminate and later reintroduced spaghetti, penne, macaroni, rotini, white rice, brown rice, white bread, wheat bread, butter croissant and swiss roll into my diet, and out of all of that, butter croissant, swiss rolls, and penne were the only kind of gluten I could consume (then again, I heard that swiss rolls were made up of potato flour and not wheat ones).

While some IBS sufferers do have problems with lactose as well, I am grateful that my problems with it is quite mild. While tea does trigger my grastritis and hence makes it quite a lethal combination with milk (gastric acid can turn the milk sour and bad inside of the stomach), the perfect blend of it would be to consume it while it is hot and also with a portion of food that is small in scale. A heavy meal would definitely end up as a waste – I’d be heaving it out even with just half a cup of tea.

The fact that I had spent my days cooking and understanding my dietary needs is certainly a wonderful thing – seeing as I most probably would be living alone, it is a required skill to pick up – one that I am grateful to have been able to with quite an ease. Finding clean and fresh ingredients is a challenge however, unless one is willing to visit the wet market, which this person is not willing to. The effect of regular cooking can also be seen on my wallet; I spend the same amount of money for a week’s supply of groceries as I would on just a day’s meal if I’m eating out.

Cooking might be a hassle for some, but for a person who is suffering from stomach-related illnesses, knowing how to handle your illness is one of the best way in ensuring that you are able to combat your sickness.

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