The ADHD Home Chef


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    • #113221

      Can anybody with ADHD actually get through a recipe? I mean, without having to leave out an ingredient because you forgot to buy it, or you bought it but it disappeared? Without stopping in the middle to search for that ingredient, only to go back to the store and buy it again? Or you find at the end you forgot to put something in? Can you actually keep track of the various implements you use? Or do you instead have to get out a new knife or spoon because the one you were just using is suddenly gone?

      If a recipe says how long it takes, is that time remotely related to the time it takes you? Or does “45 minutes” translate to “two and a half hours”?

      I am just glad I had that jar of chipotle en adobo sitting in the fridge. It saved me a trip back to the store tonight to replace the jalapeño I bought last night. And, yum, smokey goodness.


      • This topic was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by 2weelz. Reason: deleted real name; amperstand rendered incorrectly
    • #113353


      I’ve pretty much curated my recipes to the point that I have most of the staple ingredients on hand at all times. But sometimes I do get caught in the middle.

      Fortunately, I’ve been cooking long enough that I can usually pivot and substitute another ingredient that will also work and taste good, even if it isn’t the same thing I started out to make.

      Like this past week I was going to make pumpkin muffins and discovered the can of pumpkin I just KNEW was in the pantry, was imaginary. But we did have some frozen blueberries, so it turned into blueberry muffins.

      For following recipes, it’s the physical transfer from looking away at a cookbook or printout, then back to my workspace, where I lose track of things. I stuck a pushpin in my cupboard door right above my main workspace, and I hang the recipe card from a binder clip. That way it’s at eye level, and I miss things a lot less.

      Another tip I got from a productivity book is “mise en place”. This is the way they cook in restaurants or culinary school. I pull out everything I need for the recipe – ingredients and tools – and arrange it before I start working on it. That helps a lot.

      You are correct about recipe times. They are total BS and bear no relationship to reality at all. Three minutes to caramelize onions? On what planet?

      But my main saving grace is that I rarely cook from recipes. I’ve got a few techniques under my belt, so I read them to get the concept of WHAT it is –

      This is a stir-fry with shrimp and noodles.
      This is a baked pasta dish with tomato sauce.
      This is a pureed soup with a roux base.

      And then I just use whatever I have on hand to make it. I’ve made cornbread with cream cheese instead of eggs (it’s protein and fat). Delicious.

      I’ve substituted yogurt for buttermilk, or apple-cider vinegar for white wine. Coconut oil for butter in a pie crust. Polenta is basically the same thing as grits.

      I’m not feeding America’s Test Kitchen. I’m feeding the hungry people at my table who don’t give a hoot as long as it’s tasty and comes in large quantities.

    • #113383

      Recipe prep times are a crock of lies. Why yes, I can totally dice two onions, peel and mince several cloves of garlic, peel and slice three carrots, julienne leeks, toast cumin seeds, and probably also do other things all in the fifteen minutes the recipe says I need. Not!!

      If I follow a recipe, I completely ignore prep times because they’re almost always wildly inaccurate, especially when you keep getting distracted or whatever.

      My solution was to just transcend recipes. I figured out how to make dishes and do techniques so I don’t have to follow recipes anymore. Foods that are timing/ingredient insensitive are the best – soups, stews, braised things, etc. I don’t need recipes OR timers for these things because I just know what to add and when it’ll be done (I hate having to follow timed sequences more complex than “cook the one thing for X minutes”).

      But if you DO need to follow a recipe, it helps to have it in print. Following internet recipes from your phone is the worst.

    • #113484

      I occasionally treat myself (and wife) to Blue Apron (or a similar service). They send the recipe and all ingredients to you. Save the recipes you like. The recipe card will have the shopping list on it too. And, as stated above, print the recipe and use that and not a screen. Compile the print outs to make a shopping list and check the cabinets before you shop or you will end up with 3 bottles of the same spice. 🙂

      have fun and add your own ADHD twist to any recipe. It can be worth it or become a good reason to abandon the meal and go out for dinner.

    • #113486

      How about prepping and cooking together with a friend?

      Sometimes, my friends and I may buy the ingredients together on the same day we cook it. Or my friend would buy the ingredients, I would read aloud the ingredients we need and the preparation instructions and we may either do different parts or practice the same thing. After that, I would try it on my own at home and get the hang of it after a few tries.

      If I know how to make something like pizza, I would prepare all the ingredients and place them in a way my friend can decorate the pizza.

      We usually choose simple things to start with.

      I learned how to be more organized after doing things with other people especially giving clear instructions or receiving them, eg my friend will remind me to do something first before moving on to the next one. I needed more prompts initially before I can do something well on my own.

    • #113340


      So yes, all of these things have happened to me. My solution was to just start making things that have minimal steps. Essentially, just a handful of ingredients thrown into a pot and mixed together.

      My favourites are: Stuffed peppers (I often just make the filling and have it as a side dish but it can also be a full meal), potato and chickpea salad, and chili. Chili does have a lot of ingredients but it’s a simple process. If you haven’t yet, organize your kitchen and keep things like breakfast foods/ingredients separate from lunch and dinner food/ingredients. I found that helped me a lot. Also, I’ve got a blog with other hacks, I’m a coach and I have ADHD+ASD, so everything is coming from first hand experience.

    • #113977

      I use recipes more as suggestive guidelines and usually substitute with what I have on hand, unless I’m baking. That’s more of a science, but even baking recipes have some wiggle room. If it requires a rubber spatula though, I will have almost all 8 of them dirty by the time I finish.

      Watching Rachel Ray when I was young had a huge impact on how I cook. I pull out everything that I need beforehand, throw my scraps in an old yogurt container that I use for compostables, I even cut my onions like her.

      Huh. I always thought it was my grandmother who taught me how to cook but now I realize it was really Rachel Ray. Lol

    • #113992

      I’m actually pretty good with following recipes. I always have to read the recipe a few times before I start and I always get all the ingredients out before I start, though occasionally I have to send mom to the store because I overestimated how much of something was left in the bag. I also read each step a few times before I do it and read the steps before and after as well to make sure I’m not missing anything. It slows me down a bit but I’m a fast reader.

      I’ve noticed, though, that I get nervous when the instructions aren’t particularly exact, which is why I prefer baking to actual cooking. It’s especially frustrating for me to make something the first time when my mom will only give me vague instructions from the living room rather than walking me through it. But baking, which has instructions and times for how long It should be the oven is much better. If it gives me at least a minimum time then I can set a timer and not worry about burning it. being told to cook something “until it’s done” is incredibly stressful for me because I’m relatively inexperienced and terrified of burning things.

      I also hate cooking a lot of things at once. I’m getting more used to things like cooking eggs without burning the bacon, but if it’s more than two things that need constant attention, I usually forget about one of them whilst doing everything else at the same time.

      I also agree that recipie times are ridiculous and you should always budget at least an hour unless it’s something very simple.

    • #114014

      I cant believe those long posts. I put all ingredients on counter. As i use each one i put it away. I have put something in oven only to take it right out again and add ingredient. We do have to work hard on mindfulness and meditation does help. When my brain flits i say no what am i doing now.

    • #114079

      You are definitely not alone 🙂

      I love, love, LOVE to cook but Im not at the level of some of these other people responding where I can just play it by ear. I ALWAYS need a recipe and I have to measure exactly which can be irritating to someone watching me. I tried sticking to minimal ingredients or sheet pan type meals but get frustrated with a lack of variety. And thank God Im not the only one who the time on recipes seems ridiculously short compared to reality. I just thought for the longest time I was a special kind of stupid. I also have a hard time keeping track of my implements, sometimes forget a needed item and have to go to the store midway or have to use substitutions which usually come out unbelievably well. I also run through paper towels while cooking which is ironic (to say the least) when I try my best to recycle and care for the environment in other ways. I think its my OCD thats causing that though because I cant stand measuring or placing ingredients on the bare kitchen counter (never know how clean it really is). Long story short I feel your pain.

    • #114095

      Haha! You need an app called Yummly in your life 😊. Once you choose a recipe you can add all of your ingredients to a shopping list. You then tick off each ingredient on your phone as you put it in the trolley 👍.

      I don’t struggle as much following lists, but my mum (also diagnosed ADD) does! Guaranteed she will leave a few things off from a paper list, bless her!

    • #114139

      OP: “Can anybody with ADHD actually get through a recipe?”
      Sure, I can. Fortunately, my husband and I will eat anything, even if I’ve made dog food out of it.
      It’s gotten harder since turning 40. My perfectionism is openly hostile to my distraction. I try to line up all my ingredients, prep my “mise en place,” but then I leave the room to pee or something, and all hell breaks loose!
      It makes it harder that I never make the same recipe twice, and I’m too forgetful to remember to go with what I know about, say, searing a salmon fillet instead of trusting the words on the recipe.
      Some people find cooking relaxing. I enjoy cooking, but it is the FARTHEST thing from relaxing!! It’s a competitive sport against myself, and depending on my mood, I’m destined to fail or destined to win!
      At least I put something reasonably nutritious in our bellies, and my huband (and I) is grateful for the gift.

    • #114446

      I recently made a recipe I had been wanting to try for a while, but then accidentally started making the one on the next page halfway through! It didn’t help that the next recipe had several ingredients in common with the first! Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out well. Definitely start simple and work your way up. I bought a spice rack with the spices already in it, so I only have to get more when one runs out. I would research common pantry items to try and build up a stock you can pull from. Then, when you run out of something, put it on the grocery list RIGHT AWAY.

    • #114469

      Thanks for all tne replies! But am shocked at how…functional some of you seem. I mean, yeah, get out everything you need…and watch it disappear, right? Just tonight, I searched for, and found, a pastry brush. Less than a minute later, it was gone again. It was in my hand, then it wasn’t. After 10-15 minues of fruitless searching, I gave up and walked to the store to buy a new one. I ended up just getting some olive oil spray. I have no idea what I did with that brush, or if I’ll ever see it again. I have “disappeared” plenty of things, some permanently, without ever leaving the room with them.
      I am going to lose multiple objects during every task. I just am. Then I have to stop and search, or substitute something else, or just do without. It’s a constant struggle. I thought this happened to everyone with ADHD, but maybe not. Or maybe not as much.

    • #114486

      My child has ADHD, but I have MS, which has given me a variety of cognitive issues, some of which resemble ADHD. I even take a stimulant medication! So I understand what you’re talking about. My main issue is saving energy, i.e. no extra trips to the store and no vague recipes. (As for the time listed with recipes–pay no attention to that. Always assume it’ll take longer. And never cook a NEW recipe when you’re under pressure, like for a special occasion.) Be sure to read the recipe thoroughly a few times before you even consider cooking it. Plan ahead; what day will you make it, do you have other commitments that day, and do you have the ingredients on hand?. I try to keep a running inventory of what supplies I have. I make a list of what’s in each cabinet and tape it to the inside of the associated cabinet door. That way, I can just go down the list before I even start cooking (helps to alphabetize the list, if you can stand to be that fussy). Then I do the mise en place thing, too (see another reader’s earlier comment). But the biggest help for me has been Cooks Country magazine (and no, I don’t work for them). They test every recipe to death and give really explicit instructions. This way, I know the recipe is “valid.” That way I’m less likely to burn my energy trying to follow a poorly documented recipe. Organizing and planning ahead are, I know, desperately boring, but they really help me get through a recipe from start to finish without a crisis erupting. Good luck!

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