Monday, December 21, 2015


Christmas - baking cake background with dough ingredients


Many of us love to cook holiday meals, make and bake our favorite Christmas desserts and goodies, as well as entertain! Well, we use to anyways! That was before chronic pain invited itself to our festivities! Nevertheless, living with chronic pain makes cooking and baking activities extremely difficult, leaving many of us in a dreamy state of having a not so Merry Christmas!
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There are numerous medical conditions that cause chronic pain which make every day jobs, like cooking, tremendously difficult.  Just being able to make a meal for ourselves or our families presents a major struggle due to all the physical activity involved in every single step of the process. It leaves many not wanting to even bother trying, or wanting to quit before barely starting with the tasks.

Cooking may seem undemanding and effortless for many, however for those with chronic pain it is extremely challenging. All the planning required, the shopping, gathering of ingredients and retrieving all the pots, pans, bowls, mixers, utensils and setting them all up, along with the repetitive reaching, gathering, measuring, sifting, lifting, slicing, chopping, stirring, cooking, baking, serving and cleaning makes a recipe for a whole batch of pain! Nevertheless, it seems every year; around Christmastime, some of us get the urge to create irresistible, delicious, yummy, crunchy, ooey, gooey goodness. I’m thinking if you didn’t have this problem, you wouldn’t be reading this articel!
I am one of those cooks that were bitten by the cooking craze that started back in the early 2000’s with the popularity of the Food Network! Not only that, but hubby was as well! As a result we had a weekly dinner party group that we alternated homes to and trialed many luscious meals to share with each other! But, after chronic pain took over my life, that sadly ended! I could hardly even make “toss in the oven meals”, let alone some fancy recipe off the Food Network!

 However, I managed to cut my cooking down to the basics, I had tried to enjoy my holiday baking as I use to, before central pain syndrome, and as a result I have gotten started with baking, tried to push through the pain to get it done and ended up in bed, in tears, with a mess all over the kitchen! Many of us with chronic pain struggle to “push through the pain!” to do a lot of things! All we want is to do what seems simple to so many, but which has become extremely complex in our lives!

The first few years of living with moderate to severe chronic pain are a huge learning curve for many. To realize there are many things we can no longer do can leave us with a sense defeat. However, there are ways to adapt certain tasks so we can more easily achieve our goals. This can be done for many activities, but being this is a book on holiday cooking and baking we will just look at adapting that! 

For adapting cooking and baking, we need to look at several areas such as energy conservation, work simplification, as well as adaptive devices to make it easier for us. Areas such as planning, breaking tasks down into attainable stages, taking rest breaks and selecting appropriate cooking utensils and small appliances, among other ideas discussed below can be tremendously valuable for making our favorite recipes as achievable and trouble-free as possible.  Not only that, but hopefully avoiding exhaustion, pain flares and rebound pain.

Reminder: Know your limits! Talk to your doctor if you have any diseases or disorders leading to physical impairments that impede your vision, strength, coordination, and sense of touch, balance or any other difficulties or concerns you may have noticed that could possibly impede tasks performed in any of the cooking activities in this book.

Safety is always important.  Be cautious, especially with sharp knives, heavy and hot items so you do not cut or burn yourself! Please ask someone for help if you need to! You know your body better than anyone! 

Just remember, be good to you! Make use of whatever tips you find beneficial to your situation to hopefully create the greatest prospects to a low stress, low pain, fun –filled, deliciously, delectable yummy Christmas!

Cooking tips: 

     Plan ahead – have everything you need for when you are feeling well enough to cook or bake

Image result for christmas cooking planning free images·         Schedule your baking time - Use your calendar to schedule your baking. Making sure you spread it out over a period of a few weeks or longer if you have to, so you don’t physically overdo it! You are on familiar terms with what you can and can’t endure! This is about taking care of you, achieving what you would like.

·         Prepare a list – Make a list of what you wish to cook, as well as a list of ingredients required.

·         Shop ahead of time - or have someone shop for you, to have items on hand for when you feel well enough to make them.

  • Precook large amounts of ground beef and freeze meal size portions in freezer bags until needed for a recipe. Then when you are ready to make the meal, just grab what you need.  If you are able to have someone help you do this that is great, as it can require a lot of chopping to break up the ground beef, as well as heavy lifting with the pan.Image result for cookies cooking christmas free images
  • Measure and mix all the dry ingredients for a recipe and place into a container until ready to use. I have even measured enough for several recipes and placed it all into individual bags to use as needed. I especially like to do this if my hubby is helping to get all the ingredients out of the cabinets and putting them back. Repetitive movements and lifting even light objects are very difficult with central pain syndrome.
  • Locate the recipe – if you are like me, you will go looking all over for a recipe you know you have several copies of already! I only find them when I am looking for another recipe it seems. (I was kidding…but well…I hope you can find your recipe! If not, there are some in the back of this book!)
  • Set up – gather all items needed, such as ingredients, utensils and pots and pans
  • Ask for help - If needed, ask someone to help retrieve any items required that are out of your reach. This decreases bending, reaching and lifting for you, which can cause increased pain or use up valuable energy necessary to perform the rest of the tasks.
  • Break down your activities - don't do so much at one time. Break activities down into smaller more physically tolerable stages. Prepare what you can ahead of time when you are feeling capable to decrease the work when you want to do your cooking or baking. For example;
  • Cut, chop or slice ingredients and store in the airtight container.
  • If you're making cookies, make the dough one day and refrigerate it in an airtight container and then cook the dough the next day. Cookie dough will last up to a week in your refrigerator. So you don’t even have to do it the next day. Or you can even spread the baking out over several days if need be! You can even freeze baked cookies for later enjoyment. They can last up to several months in the freezer.
There are many more foods you can prepare ahead of time and keep until they are needed for use. These are just some examples to give you some ideas.
·         Spread out the activities – only you know what your body can tolerate. If you need to spread out a cooking activity over a longer period of time to make it physically achievable for yourself, then give yourself that gift! Perhaps do the set up, then later mix the dry ingredients, then after you rest, mix the wet ingredients, or whatever other task is required. Even if you need to spread it out over a few days, so be it. The key is to take rest breaks so you can get to the end result-completing something you wanted to create and enjoy! 

·         Electrical appliances – there are various small appliances that can help extensively with performing numerous tasks which can prevent further pain, as well as leave you energy to do other things. I don’t know about you, but cutting, chopping, mixing, stirring and many other activities all make cooking dreadfully difficult for me! I love tossing whatever I can into my little food processor and taking 2 seconds to have the job done! The simplicity of it is enormous!
Image result for ninja food processor free imageso   Food processor -slice, dice shred or chop whatever you need! Fruits, vegetables, cheeses and cooked meats and whatever else you may need! This makes cutting vegetables up for soups and stews, as well as any recipe, quick and effortless! No more intense deep neuromuscular pain from that job for me!
o   Electric mixer – why cause yourself pain, when using an electric mixer makes it all so much easier! Using the regular beaters, as well as the dough beaters or even a stand mixer will aid with eliminating the pain that can happen from trying to stir cookie dough and other thick items.
o   Electric can opener - to use on canned food or soups instead of a hand can opener. There are many varieties and sizes available, both battery and electric.
o   Hand blenders and whisks - Handheld battery operated or electric blenders and whisks make a tough job much easier!

·         Graters – many use a grater (and micro planes) for grating cheeses and chocolates. You can have the same results with a mini food processor (Unless you are looking for decorative shavings of course). Takes just a few seconds to cut off a few chunks and place them into the mini food processor and give it a few spins.

·         Egg slicers – can be used for other foods that you would like to slice such as strawberries and mushrooms.
·         Sitting to perform tasks – performing counter work and standing at the stove for long periods can potentially increase pain. Consider sitting at a table to perform as many cooking and baking tasks as you can will allow for you to tolerate doing more 

·         Standing at the counter - If standing hurts your low back you can open the cabinet door and rest one foot on the base of the cabinet while working at the counter. This puts your body into a more upright position that can relieve fatigue and pain
Image result for picture of crock pot free images·         Crockpot--Crock pots are helpful for people with pain to be able to cook nutritious meals more simply. There are a plethora of recipes for these meals. I’ve had many juicy, flavorful roasts cooked in a crock pot!

·         Double the size of your meals and baking recipes - Create planned leftovers which you can freeze and have available for another day. You will be glad you have nutritious meals in your freezer on days you don't feel well enough to cook. There are many easy to freeze meals that last for a few months in the freezer. If you have extra freezer space, consider doing this for yourself!

·         Choose an easier recipe – I have had to put aside many recipes that I use to make. Simpler ones are best for me now! If you are finding recipes that you’re making are just physically overwhelming, consider finding easier ones. At least part of the time? The recipe I have for the Penne Rustica made at Macaroni Grill will only be dusted off by someone that has the intense desire to go through the 13 spices it took to make it! Well, now that I am writing this, I am thinking that if…well…if hubby were to help me… I could actually mix those spices together in their own spice jar and have that for the future instead of pulling out every single spice every single time! I am not lazy! I can’t tolerate repetitive movements, as well as reaching my arm out and moving it back in is horrendously painful. Like getting a huge shot in the muscle while having a Charlie horse painful.

·         Bake Ahead! - Start your baking early - Many items can be made a couple weeks or even months ahead of time and frozen! This way, you won’t have to go through all the making and baking, along with the decorating, shopping and the other activities and events all at once.  If you do it slowly over the next couple months and freeze what you can, it would save you a lot of time and physically energy when it gets closer to Christmas. Just remember, some items tolerate freezing more than others! 

·         Just pick a few to bake - Choose just a couple items to make. And then make them a week in advance for freshest options.

I know it all can seem so simple to do yourself, however, remember your pain doesn’t think like you do! All the activity you do adds up and you usually end up paying for trying to sneak in one more thing and then again, just one more thing! All this leaves you with increased pain and not being able to enjoy what you created because you snuck in too many, “one more things!”And then there is what is called “rebound pain”. That is the pain that last for days after “overdoing it”. 

Be good to you! Sometimes you just have to allow for different options to help you out! In addition to the above ideas I am adding the ones below for even more ideas to consider! 

·         Go to a local bakery - This is the ultimate, trouble-free, no mess, no stress way!  They have an abundance of enjoyable, mouth-watering, scrumptious goods to select. DONE! Seems like an excellent gift to yourself!

·         Buy some and Make some - On the other hand, many of us still get into the Christmas baking mood! We could opt to get a few goods from a bakery and then make only one or two of our favorites, as we are physically able to tolerate! Saves us a lot of work for sure!

Many blessings to you during this wonderful Christmas Season!

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This blog is for all of us with chronic pain! Do you have a favorite topic on chronic pain, documentary, book, video or even a blog to share you'd like me to cover in this blog? I'd love to hear about it! Share in the comments below.

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You might be interested in the new EBooks series, Preparing for the Holidays with Chronic Pain that was written for those of us with chronic pain with the purpose of giving specific suggestions and ideas to help make the strenuous activities of the holiday season simpler and more tolerable, ultimately decreasing the stress on us and helping us to be able to reduce the chances of increased pain flares, thus hopefully allowing us to spend cherished time with family and friends.

The EBooks can be purchased here at

Here are more articles on Christmas that you may be interested in:

Cooking with Chronic Pain During the Holidays

Breakfast Dishes


Cooking with Mom, Christmas and Chronic Pain

Christmas Entertaining and Social Events

Making and Baking Christmas Goodies

Preparing for the Holidays with Chronic Pain EBooks

Hope- Part of Our New "Normal"

Low Fuss Decorating for Those with Chronic Pain

Easy Meal Ideas for Simple Entertaining for Those with Chronic Pain

Shopping Alternatives For Those of Us With Chronic Pain


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