Cooking in a hot kitchen with multiple sclerosis can be a challenge. So it’s a darn good thing that there are many kitchen tips for preparing food with a disability. Even for seasoned chefs with MS, taking shortcuts is not only permissible, it’s recommended for smart energy conservation. And when it comes to fast meals, a favorite cheat from ActiveMSers is the rotisserie chicken.
I love to cook. I mean really cook, all Iron-Chef like. But now that multiple sclerosis has gotten in the way of buzz sawing through preparation of a multi-course dinner, I’ve needed to rely more on chef shortcuts and tricks of the disability trade, especially because a hot kitchen is my kryptonite. Occupational therapists are a great source for advice and recommendations.
For instance, I learned from an OT that putting a cutting board on an open drawer is a clever way to make chopping easier from a seated position since you can slide a chair or wheelchair right up underneath it. Or when cooking pasta, you can put the strainer with the pasta in the pot with the boiling water, so that when the pasta is a perfect al dente, you just need to lift the strainer out and place it on a few paper towels next to the stovetop. Bingo! No lugging boiling hot water to the sink.
These are great tips, but they may not make preparing meals go any faster. For that, you may want to sometimes rely on prepared food, and I’m not talking hamburgers from the drive thru. Prepared food that you can reimagine. Fortunately, with decades of practice at the stove, I’ve gotten decent at repurposing meals, and an all-time favorite dish redone is rotisserie chicken.
Chef Trick: Leftover Rotisserie Chicken
You can find the spit-roasted chicken at many larger grocery stores, and while it is perfectly tasty served sliced with an ear of corn and a side salad, this precooked bird is far more versatile. Depending on what you’ve decided to make for dinner, take apart the rest of the bird, stripping it of most of its meat. I say most because getting every little bit isn’t worth the extra effort and besides, it better flavors the chicken stock I always make afterward. Since I’m usually cooking for two, I’ll freeze the pulled chicken for a future dish or two in separate baggies. Now for full disclosure, I often strip the bird and make the stock the next day because I’m already a bit gassed from just taking apart the bird. And, critically, supper still has to make it to the table within my wife’s hunger/starvation window, which at times can be alarmingly narrow.
To help fellow MSers get dinner prepped in a flash, I’ve put together a bunch of easy, basic recipes that use roasted chicken and only five other ingredients (or fewer). Now I don’t provide specific ingredient quantities—these recipes are more of a framework or an inspiration rather than step-by-step instruction. If you see something you like and need more guidance, search for a full-on recipe. And I’ve also made it so you can go as pre-prepped as you like. Use shredded cheese instead of a grating from a block, jarred salsa instead of making your own, store-bought hummus instead of cracking open some tahini and a can of chickpeas, well, you get the picture.
Since this is just a fraction of the gazillion possibilities out there, don’t be afraid to put your own spin on the revisited rotisserie chicken. It’s hard to screw up. And many of these can be modified to be knife-free if your skills in that department are sketchy due to MS or an unrelenting knife phobia. (A chef tip: keep them sharp to avoid cutting yourself; most cuts happen when a dull knife slips.) During your culinary explorations, if you discover a gem of a recipe, shoot ‘em my way: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: Add seasonings to the following recipes as you like, and remember that most rotisserie chicken already has salt. Common tweaks: salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, garlic, curry powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, hot sauce, etc. If you don’t have all the ingredients, leave one or two off, or just substitute.
5-Ingredient, 15-Minute Recipes
Sandwich: Top toasted bread with chicken, sliced tomatoes, avocado, sliced red onion and mayo.
Wrap: Add chicken to warmed pita with hummus, diced tomatoes, fresh cilantro and chopped
Quesadilla: Top flour tortilla with chicken, shredded cheese and chopped green onion, fold in half, cook on stove in butter, then serve with salsa and guacamole.
Taco: Place chicken into taco shell with cheese, lettuce, onion and salsa.
Greek Pasta: Toss chicken with cooked pasta and add kalamata black olives, red onion and feta.
Italian Pasta: Toss chicken with cooked pasta and add mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.
Couscous: Saute onions, red pepper, and garlic, add chicken and chick peas to warm, add cooked
Enchiladas: Top corn tortillas, add shredded cheese, minced onion, chicken, another layer of tortillas, then coat with enchilada sauce, serve with sour cream. Skip the hassle of rolling them like New Mexicans do.
White chili: Saute diced onion and jalapeño in oil, add can of white beans (undrained), can of chicken broth, chicken, then top with Monterey jack cheese after heated.
Curry: Saute onion, add plain yogurt, cream, curry powder, chicken and tomatoes to warm, serve atop rice.
Salad: Cube chicken, toss with lettuce, avocado, red onion, blue cheese, and dressing.
Asian salad: Toss chicken with cooked asparagus and Asian dressing made with oil, peanut butter, and vinegar. Optional: top with sesame seeds and sesame oil.
Posole: Saute onion, then simmer with box of chicken broth and 1 cup green tomatillo salsa. Add shredded chicken and 1 large can of hominy, top with fresh cilantro.
More recipes: chicken noodle soup, chicken pot pie, Thai noodles, chicken posole, potato and chicken salad, Asian chicken wrap, chicken burritos, BBQ chicken sandwich, chicken flautas, and many, many more.
Chicken Stock*: Place chopped onions, carrots, and celery along with chicken carcass into lots of water. Add bay leaf, touch of salt. Optional: add fresh parsley and fresh thyme. Bring to boil, and then simmer for a few hours, stirring occasionally. Strain broth (discard carcass, etc.) and place in refrigerator overnight. Skim off fat layer on top and discard. Done. I often place broth into ice cube trays, freeze them, and then use the cubes as needed.
*Uh, not 15 minutes.