“Recipes” – or, “Food ideas for when your brain isn’t braining good.”
I wanted to compile a list of easy food recipes for when you’re not feeling well, or your ADHD/sensory overload is going ham, etc. Please keep in mind, I’m not a nutritionist ~at all~ but it doesn’t take specific training to know that when we’re not eating well, or barely eating at all, we don’t function well. You can’t force a car to leave its parking spot if its tank is empty, and what is a human if not a flesh car? (Perfect metaphor, nailed it.)
Some of these will require a little bit of prep, but there are workarounds for most things. Obviously please make adjustments as needed for your food allergies/sensitivities and preferences. Some of these will require an instant pot which I *highly* recommend because it’s so easy to throw stuff into and have a good soup/meal in an hour or less. Most of them have meat, but could be made without it if you don’t eat meat.
(Kitchen items you might need: a stock pot for soup; Instant Pot [highly recommend, it can pressure cook fast but can also do slow cooking]; blender of some kind [powerful ones work best and cause the least rage in my experience – so check out Black Friday deals or collect amazon gift cards at birthday/holiday time, or Facebook marketplace for a strong Ninja brand or even Vitamix]; small pot or saucepan; hands or forks/spoons)
1. Congee: this is an Asian rice porridge! I forget where I learned about this originally, but my favorite recipe is from Budget Bytes: https://www.budgetbytes.com/instant-pot-congee-jook/
You need an Instant Pot for this recipe. Changes I’ve made: Most congee recipes I’ve come across have a large water/broth to rice ratio (7-9 cups of liquid to one cup of rice), and that’s too much for me. I’d rather it be on the thicker side since I can water it down if needed, so I normally will only use 4-6 cups of chicken or vegetable broth. I prefer using boneless skinless chicken thighs because it’s less work than having to remove the thighs and pull meat off the bone and add it back into the pot.
Great for: Executive Dysfunction Overload days, burnout days, sick days with a cold or nauseated tummy (be mindful of what your own limits are re: nausea & various foods)
Overall I like this recipe because it’s relatively simple and comforting. It reminds me of chicken and dumplings, without the dumplings.
One recipe I haven’t tried yet because it’s way more involved and has more complex and expensive ingredients, but sounds super delicious: https://healthynibblesandbits.com/basic-congee-recipe-jook/
2. Kitchari: https://realandvibrant.com/healing-ayurvedic-kitchari/#recipe a tasty Indian dish! You just need a big stock pot for this one. It’s got a variety of carbs between rice & mung beans. I think this one is great for when you have a cold because of the turmeric and ginger which have anti-inflammatory properties and are usually gentle on your tummy. I prefer using powdered cumin to cumin seeds, but that’s just a personal preference because I don’t care for the texture of cumin seeds.
Great for: general burnout days where you can’t think of what to eat.
3. My personal favorite is to mix the two recipes above: the kitchari and congee. I basically just follow the Instant Pot Congee recipe, but I use half to ¾ cup of mung beans and half to ¼ cup of jasmine rice. This way I’m getting some fiber in (great for feeling fuller a little longer), as well as protein from both the mung beans and the chicken! I highly recommend the cilantro and green onions to garnish, as well as a splash of soy sauce or coconut aminos if you have them.
I like this and the Kitchari above because they’re also simple (or can be made simple- i.e., just using ground cumin instead of sautéing cumin seeds, etc), and comforting.
4. Taco soup. https://www.thediaryofarealhousewife.com/taco-soup/#recipe Y’all. Taco soup. Come on. There are a ton of recipes out there. This is one I’ve loved over and over. You decide how spicy to make it according to your tastes. If your tummy is really sensitive, go easy, use ‘mild’ taco seasoning, salsa, and chiles, or skip this recipe.
Great for: “I want good food but I don’t want to do a ton of cooking.” You just need a big pot.
5. Sweet potato & white bean smoothie: https://www.youregreat.com/blog/2022/5/4/warm-sweet-potato-white-bean-smoothie
You’ll need a decent blender for this one. This recipe honestly sounded a little ‘no, thanks’ to me at first, but I ended up really liking it. You can just pop a sweet potato in the microwave for a few minutes and you’ll have a couple smoothies’ worth of sweet potato in no time. Great for: “I want a good breakfast but not a ton of effort and I’m tired of cereal.”
It can be a pain in the ass for neurodivergent brains, but it can help to cook the sweet potato and rinse your canned beans the night before. Or honestly, just make the smoothie at night and put it in the fridge for the morning. Or eat it for dinner. It’s your life, do what works best! I never have oranges or orange juice on hand, so I make this without those. If you don’t already have all those spices on hand and/or don’t want to buy them, just use or buy a bottle of pumpkin pie spice. You’d still need to add turmeric though – or leave it out if you want but turmeric is potentially good for inflammation.
Great for: when you don’t feel like chewing but know you need a little veggies and fiber.
6. Overnight oats: https://feelgoodfoodie.net/recipe/overnight-oats/#wprm-recipe-container-8144
This one is great for doing some prep at night, and waking up to breakfast. This website recommends a “base” of oats you can add different ingredients to. I make the base with regular full-fat vanilla greek yogurt which has sugar in it, so I omit the maple syrup/honey to keep it from being overly sweet (and I love sweet stuff, so that’s saying a lot). Personally, I just make the base and sprinkle in pumpkin pie spice and top it with cashews or other nuts. It’s also good with blueberries! But you should experiment and see what you like best.
Great for: “I don’t have time to make breakfast in the morning” – cool, so front load the effort before bed, and blammo, you’ve got breakfast when you wake up.
7. Ramen, but make it extra: make your usual favorite ramen, but add some vegetables to it. I like to sauté bell pepper and broccoli and add some garlic powder, but you can use whatever veggies you prefer. You could probably also just nuke some frozen veggies in the microwave and toss them in at the end, if the idea of sautéing something is too overwhelming. Protein bonus points: add an egg to the ramen during its last minute or so of cooking. You can stir it up immediately so that it blends in with the broth, or let it sit and cook in the boiling water for a bit. Or, add some rotisserie chicken meat to it. Broad City once referenced the delight of a Costco rotisserie chicken, and after trying one myself when Little Rock got a Costco — I have to agree. If you have a Costco nearby and a friend with a membership (you might have to go with them or ask them to pick one up, if you don’t have a membership), I highly recommend it, and it’s only like $5.
8. Crockpot ‘dump’ meals: I hate the phrase “dump” related to food, but those are easy peasy ones – google ‘dump dinner’ and see what you get. You can just dump ingredients into a crockpot or instant pot in the morning, and come home to hot food. Thank jod for electricity.
9. Instant Pot Mississippi pot roast: This is a great example of a dump meal. Most recipes call for searing the roast in the instant pot before you add everything else in, but this recipe has instructions for just tossing everything in and cooking. I’ve always done the just-toss-it-in method, and it comes out GREAT every time. Microwave some frozen veg, or cook some mashed potatoes, etc., to go with it. Delish.
Lastly, don’t forget the power of a good adult Lunchable – aka, a random assortment of protein, veggies, and other snacky things. If you don’t have the brainpower to make a whole ass sandwich, just eat some deli meat right out of the package and pair it with some baby carrots. Eat bites right off a whole bell pepper as if it’s an apple. Bite off chunks of cucumber like it’s a banana. Eat a banana. Etc. Pour some ranch on it if that helps get more veggies in. Whatever. Remember, the car isn’t going to get far if it’s out of gas – fuel up!
(See also: protein shakes, Soylent, other snack bars, etc. Those things aren’t meant to be dietary replacements so don’t live on them forever, but they can get you through a rough patch!)