Comfort-Cookin'Tip #1:  Keep in mind that “Pain Brain” can cause culinary hiccups. It’s always important to read the recipes of a desired meal a day or two ahead to make sure you:

  • Have all items needed
  • Are able to thaw if necessary
  • Are able to marinate if required
  • Have the time needed to prepare the meal.

The morning of, read the recipes carefully, especially if they are new or seldom made ones. Allow enough time to make things without stress, plan what is started when and if you can combine items (time wise), as well as get an idea of the amount of work involved.

For example, one day a while back I didn’t follow my own advice and was making a baked tortellini in a cream sauce dish. I was thinking how hard can it possibly be? Well, it turned out plenty complicated. I ended up using a large saucepan and two skillets, three bowls, many small prep dishes and measuring items, and the blender. To add to the chaos, the dishwasher was broken so there were dishes everywhere and no time to do them along the way. Plus the prep work was more involved than I anticipated. The meal was ready a half hour late which added to the stress I was feeling while making and unfamiliar meal.

To say that my head hurt from this adventure was an understatement. Remember stress usually affects pain and our goal is to make cooking as enjoyable and stress free as possible.  Stress and pain also increase the possibility of errors also, so read carefully and plan ahead. I cannot help recalling an old time saying, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say”.

Of course none of this explains my pouring the dry cat food into the ice tea the other day…….oh, well!

Tip #2: Think about what you are eating. You are probably aware some people have food or food additive sensitivities that can trigger pain, such as migraines, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), etc.  For my husband, it is red dye #40 and yellow dye #5.  Some may have problems eating chocolate (those poor people), nitrates, citrus fruit, artificial food coloring, lactose from milk products and many more.  Some resources suggest that hormones in meat, fried foods, sugar, gluten, dairy products, aspartame, and so on are contributors. There is anecdotal evidence and not much research to support the prevalence or reasons why, so it is trial and error for most of us.

The best thing to do if you are having flares or breakthrough pain, try to identify the reason why. Try keeping a food diary and see if something you eat shows a trend that corresponds with a pain flare. You may not have any food/pain connection or find an unexpected relationship.  For me, while I don’t except being allergic to aspartame, I do avoid meats, eggs, and dairy with hormones and antibiotics just on general principal (plus these foods bother my daughter’s fibromyalgia).

Why am I bringing this up in a cooking blog? Quite simple, it is very important to read labels—know what you are eating! You would be shocked at what foods contain red dye #40 and yellow dye #5 (can you believe some cranberry juice cocktails and refrigerator crescent rolls?). Dairy can slip in a lot of foods as well.  Always read labels (take a magnifying glass with you to the store if necessary).

Tip #3: Appreciate the usefulness of convenience foods. So here are some more:

  • Gelatin flavored mixes (such as Jell-O): These are truly convenient; useful for salads and desserts.  For those who can’t use because of the food coloring I have found substituting for a 3 oz. box: 1 pkg. plain gelatin, 2 Tbs. sugar, and replacing liquid with fruit juice. You let the gelatin soften for 5 minutes in the cold liquid, then bring to a boil (either on the stove or microwave) stirring frequently until gelatin and sugar dissolves. For lemon or lime I use 1-1 ½ tsp. grated rind and ¼ cup juice added to water plus the sugar.
  • Pudding mixes and ready-to-eat puddings:  Also convenient however ready-to-eat is pricey.  Another item to really watch the ingredients.
  • Cake mixes: Convenient and useful.  Ingredients can be added to fancy up and they can be the basis of many easy desserts and other recipes.  Just watch the ingredient list.
  • Cookie mixes and refrigerated cookie dough:  You will have to tell me what you think as I have never used these. I prefer either already baked or homemade.  Are they convenient?
  • Frosting in the can:  Another item I would hope you will share your impressions as I haven’t used.  Do they taste good enough to forgo using an easy from scratch recipe?
  • Grated ginger root: This can be found in a jar which must be refrigerated after opening (however it keeps really well). I only use this.  To me grating or chopping fresh ginger root is a pain to do—pun intended as I do not need another pain in my life.

We will continue to look at more foods in future blogs.

Tip #4:  Every cook should have a good kitchen scale.  It doesn’t have to be big (mine fits in a drawer with my hot pads).  It needs to be able to “tare” (you place something on it such as a bowl, hit the tare button and it resets to “0” so you can measure in the bowl).  Without a scale how do you know you have 1 ½ lbs. new potatoes?  What is a “medium” potato? (There are 3 medium potatoes to a pound).  A really good site on “yields” is’s Southern Food. It is alphabetized and has almost everything on there (even though it says Southern Foods).


Here are quick and easy recipes along with a couple of “comfort foods”- you know those foods which are likely not too good for you but make you feel so much better?

[toggle title=”Scarlet Begonia’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich”]

The Scarlet Begonia is a restaurant here in Brunswick.  Every time I have gone, I would always order the grilled cheese because I loved it.  It finally dawned on me I could make it at home and it has become my favorite comfort food.

2  large slices sour dough bread

1 Tbsp. softened butter

1 ½ – 2 slices Muenster or Monterey Jack cheese

1 ½-2 slices Cheddar or Cheddar-Jack cheese

2 slices ripe tomato

2 slices crisp bacon


Cook the bacon in the microwave while preheating a skillet (2 slices go quickly-my oven 2 minutes)

Spread one side of each piece of bread with butter (1/2 Tbsp. each side).

Lay 1st slice in the skillet buttered side down.

Put 1st cheese on it; layer with tomato, bacon, and second cheese; add 2nd slice bread last with buttered side out.

Turn when 1st side well browned (this is tricky).

When 2nd side browned place on plate and cut in two.

Other cheeses and cheese combos can be used however no processed cheese; keep it natural.

Serves 1[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Green Tea Chicken”]

This is adapted from a clipping I got somewhere.

4 Tbsp. sugar

1 ½ cups brewed green tea

2 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp coarsely ground pepper

4 tsp grated ginger root

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

¼ cup vegetable oil

2 lbs., boneless, skinless chicken thighs


Dissolve sugar in tea while hot.  Add remaining ingredients except chicken.  Divide in half and pour 1st half over chicken in a plastic bag (save remaining sauce for later).  Let chill 1-6 hours.

Preheat grill to medium high (outdoor or indoor grill).  Drain thighs and grill 4 minutes on each side (an additional few minutes for very large thighs).  You can sauté in skillet if necessary.

Heat remaining sauce in skillet over high heat and reduce until syrupy, stirring frequently.  Serve over thighs.

Serves 4[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Chicken Salad and Grilled Vegetables with Thyme Vinaigrette”]

This is adapted from a recipe in More Chicken Breasts (1991).

¼ cup white wine vinegar

4 tsps. grainy mustard

2 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp.  dried thyme

1 tsp salt

¼ tp. freshly ground pepper

6 Tbsp. vegetable oil

6 Tbsp. olive oil

3-4 half breasts, boneless and skinless

Salad greens (like spring mix, baby romaine or anything leafy)

Assorted vegetables: zucchini, summer squash, sliced onions, bell pepper strips, large mushroom caps, cooked ears of corn, whatever for 4 salads

Whisk first 8 ingredients together (or shake in bottle).  Pour 3 Tbsp. over chicken in plastic bag and let marinate 1-6 hours; reserve remaining vinaigrette for later.

Preheat grill to medium-hot (outdoor or indoors).  Grill chicken and vegetables (brushing vegetables with 2 Tbs. of reserved vinaigrette) turning occasionally.  Breasts take about 12 minutes vegetables anywhere from 5 to 12 minutes (onion slices turn easiest with spatula). I have also stir fried vegetables in a grill wok with a little of the dressing.  Slice chicken and place with vegetables over bed of salad greens.  Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette.

Serves 4.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Barbecued Baby Back Ribs with Rum”]

This recipe is very easy to do although you should allow two days to do.  I adapted it from a recipe I found on-line at Better Recipes several years ago.

2 slabs (racks) baby back ribs

Wrap in foil and bake at 3500 for 1 ½ hours.

Mix together:

1 ½ cups brown sugar

¾ cup chile sauce

6 Tbsp. catsup

6 Tbsp. rum (dark best, golden next choice, light last choice)

6 Tbs. Soy Sauce

6 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce

1 ½ tsp. dry mustard

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Pour 2/3 of sauce over ribs in glass or plastic pan; cover and refrigerate overnight.

Grill over med-hot heat for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes.

Heat remaining sauce and use for dipping.

This can be done in one day by starting in the morning and only marinating for 2 hours however it’s just not quite as good.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Sweet and Salty Party Mix”]

I had to include one more recipe.  This is a comfort food for me-I love the stuff (it may be an adult taste as my granddaughters don’t care for it).  I adapted this (and I do mean adapted) from a recipe I downloaded from Taste of Home 2012.

6 oz. Krispix cereal

1 ½ cups sesame seed sticks

4 oz. Honey-comb cereal (I buy this special for this recipe)

5 oz. pretzel sticks or mini pretzels

¾ cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar

¾ cup vegetable oil

¾ cup butter (not margarine) melted

1 ½ Tbsp. soy sauce

1 Tbsp. garlic salt


In large bowl combine cereals, sesame seed sticks, and pretzels.  In another bowl combine remaining ingredients stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Pour over cereal mixture and toss and stir until coated.  Pour into large roasting pan. Bake at 2500 for 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes.  Cool and break apart if necessary.  Store in an airtight container.[/toggle]




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