Anyone know of any good resources for cooking recipes/methods/tools for people with a medical condition that causes chronic fatigue? I'm relying too much on convenience foods and 'tv dinners', because frequently the effort of cooking a decent meal is beyond my energy limits at the end of the day.
I also have neurological disorders that cause symptoms similar to chronic fatigue. Here are a few tricks that have helped me with cooking dinner:
Make sure your kitchen is set up in an efficient organized way. Keeping your kitchen well organized is key to reducing the time you spend cooking. Take your limitations into account when organizing your kitchen. For instance, if bending down flares up your symptoms, keep the items you use the least in the lower cabinets.
Purchased pre-chopped veggies
Use tin foil / parchment paper on cookie sheets and casserole dishes as much as possible. This will limit clean up.
Try sitting as much as possible while cooking. Here is a stool that rolls around.
As alluded to in other responses, try recipes that allow you to prepare much of the meal ahead of time - while you have more energy.
Look for recipes where the majority or all of the cooking is in the oven as opposed to over the stove. While the cook times may be similar, you can take a load off if you are primarily using the oven.
Once every 3 months I cook up (in the oven) and shred a 'big buy' of chicken and store it in the freezer. I use the cooked meat for risottos, soups, pasta dishes that call for cooked chicken.
Finally, here is a resource for quick recipes: allrecipes
A quick and relatively effort free method of cooking is the electric steamer. It's simplicity itself to cook a salmon fillet, some baby new potatos and a selection of veg (which you could purchase pre-chopped for those days when you're really flagging) and then sit and wait for it to cook.
The other advantage of steaming is that you loose less of the nutrients than through boiling so that should help you a little bit as well =)
A slow cooker is helpful in that you can plop in vegetables and meat in the morning and let it cook all day so when you get home, dinner will be ready. It doesn't take much effort to get great meals that way and there are tons of recipes on the internet. I use mine often and I don't even work. They aren't expensive to buy.
Having a wife with CF, I can appreciate your difficulty. You have the combination of not being able to put the effort into cooking, and the decreased ability to handle food with poor nutritional content (like most TV dinners).
One thing I do is to always cook about about double what we need for a meal and then either refrigerate or freeze the leftovers in meal-sized portions. Otherwise, we try and have healthy foods easily available for snacking - pre-washed spinach, good hearty bread, nuts, etc...
Quinoa salad is easy and doesn't take a lot of effort. Cook the quinoa like rice - twice as much water as quinoa and then bring to a boil, turn it down to a simmer for about 15 minutes covered. Then toss that with whatever veggies you have on hand - I love it with tomatoes, cucumber, feta and olives for a "greek" twist.
Then you dress with either bottled dressing or vinegar/lemon juice and olive oil. Versatile and its even better the second day.
Get a good blender. Blending food is a way to make quick drinks and soups. There are tons of quick recipes online. Vegetable drinks require just a quick rinse and minimal chop. Same with fruit smoothies. Yogurt smoothies are easy. A good blender will even heat a soup just from blending it for 5-10 minutes on high. You can even add (cooked) meats, eggs, or other proteins to the mix.
The obvious advantage is no pans, no cooking, minimal prep and cleanup. On the gustatory side, I'm not trying to recommend a bland, geriatric, babyfood diet. Blended foods can be well-seasoned and taste great. Add oil, onions, spices, salt, pepper to savory dishes. Honey, cinnamon, vanilla to smoothies. Lemon juice, lime juice, even condiments can add zip.
A big blended drink or soup with a hunk of toasted whole grain bread and butter is an easy and delicious combo. You could make bulk amounts and easily save leftovers.
Plus, it's fun to experiment, and doesn't require too much hassle or expertise.
It's well outside the scope of this site, but blending foods makes them easier to digest. Complete speculation, but I bet that easier nutrient absorption would be good for CFS.
There are some commercial products: the Vitamix, Montel William's blender, the Juiceman juicer which target some of these goals. I find a regular blender works great, though it obviously doesn't remove fiber (like a juicer, not always a good thing anyway), and you have to cut you food a little smaller if it's a lower powered machine.
Aside from the main discussion point of this article (why it's okay for men to eat salads), the author does mention an interesting technique - they pre-chop all the ingredients needed for a salad when they have time, like on the weekends, and store them in individual containers. When they want to make salads, it's a pretty quick matter to pull out a few containers, grab some lettuce, toss ingredients+dressing, and have a nutritious meal ready to go.
Some other authors (I'm thinking specifically of Tosca Reno, of "Clean Eating" fame) recommend a similar technique: when she's cooking chicken breasts, she typically grills a few extra to use over the next day or two.
I'd also +1 the quinoa suggestion above - quinoa is a pretty quick way to pack in a hearty and healthy meal quickly. You can also cook quinoa in the microwave - I haven't mastered the technique (how long to cook, water ratio, etc.), but it's usually around 5 minutes.