I don’t cook. I think I’ve been pretty goddamn clear about this. I don’t like to cook, which is not to say that I can’t cook. I’m not very good at it because I don’t do it often, but I know the basic principles. I will admit I do struggle with how to pace everything so they come out done at the same time. I’m getting better at it, but it’s still not natural to me.
One thing I’ve learned is that sauces/condiments are life. They can make a big difference in a simple dish, and it’s hard for me not to keep piling them on. For example, when I make a ‘burger’ (fake meat), this is the breakdown. I use vegan butter and lactose-free cream cheese on the bread, oh, and fake cheeze. On the burger itself, I put ketchup and mustard, relish, and bread and butter pickle chips. And spinach. So, yeah, it’s definitely hard to put my hands around it and sometimes my mouth.
I’d like to sing the praises of the Mina sauces. Yes, I picked up the first one in part because of the name, but also because I was curious about harissa sauce. Then, I discovered they had a shakshuka sauce, and I was more than intrigued because I had been thinking of attempting shakshuka for a month or so. It has onions and garlic, which I’m trying to avoid, but I can take in small amounts. I also am allergic to cilantro, but that’s just a taste thing. Ugh, soap.
I found an easy recipe for the sauce, and I had almost everything I needed outside the sauce and the tomatoes. Both which I could get easily. Oh, and no feta cheese, but I had my fake cheeze substitute. Also my fake sausage. I cut the recipe in half because four eggs is too much, and two eggs plus sauce ended up being too much, too. That’s fine! I wrapped half and put it in the fridge for the next day. Oh, what I actually put in the stew. A bit of spaghetti sauce to stretch it, a splash of harissa to spice it up, chopped spinach, shredded cheddar and mozz cheeze, Basic step–sauce in pan. Simmer. Add all the extras–cheeze, spinach, sausage, pepper and salt, etc. Then, once that simmers a bit, add the eggs. You’re supposed to poach them until the whites turn white but the yolks are supposed to be a tad soft and runny. I think I had too much stew because the whites weren’t whitening. I shook ’em too hard and the eggs became a bit more scrambled than poached. Who cares, though? Eggs are good in almost any form, so bring it on. Ok, I got the terms wrong. I ended up with a poached egg (with the yolk covered up) rather than a runny-yolk egg. It doesn’t matter. It was still tasty.
How was the easy-to-make shakshuka? Delicious! It was spicy and warming and oh-so-comforting. I ladled it over rice, and what a perfect meal for an autumn evening. I know there are some people who think it’s cheating not to make the stew myself, but fuck that noise. If my choice is between making the stew with the hack and not making it at all, well, it’s definitely the former. It’s so good. Hearty and filling, and it’s healthy (ish), too.
It’s fifty degrees here, and I have a warm cat on my legs. I’m in the mood for comfort, so I’m going to make it again today. Maybe for lunch. Maybe for dinner. The best thing about this recipe is that it only takes five minutes. A one-pot stew with minimal prep and wash-up? Sign me up!
I think my biggest mental adjustment has been to realize that I don’t have to prepare these elaborate dishes in order for it to be considered cooking. At least by me. I know that others may scoff, but I don’t care. In the long run, is it better that I make, say, one meal a day than none at all? I have enough internalized shame about being lazy and not doing things the right way. I don’t need to add to it by imagining all the voices who would pooh-pooh my shortcuts and hacks.
Side note: Eggs are fucking amazing. I can’t believe how much enjoyment I’m getting out of them. They are versatile and yet so compact. I know I know cholesterol blah, blah, blah. I had a doctor tell me I could eat an egg a day and not worry about it. Which I now do. One egg, maybe two if I’m making an omelet. But my god, they are so fucking good.
I’m eating much less meat than I used to. All of the meat I buy is free range, and it’s mostly chicken. I know that’s common, but it’s what I prefer on the regular. I’m eating more fruits and vegetables, and I’m finding new pockets of intolerance. Grapes, for one. Raw cherry tomatoes for two, but they’re fine cooked. I tried golden kiwi. I don’t like regular kiwi at all (it’s a texture thing), and while golden kiwi are better, I won’t be buying them again. The strawberries I’ve been buying have gotten white on day three, but only recently. I am not happy about that, obviously.
Next up? Potatoes. I love them. I remember how much I love them. But how am I going to cook them? Not in the instapot. I’ve learned my lesson about that.
Side note II: I’ve read several people talk about their own disappointment with the instapot, and I feel validated. I really should have researched it better before buying it, but oh well. I especially appreciate the people who noted that all cooking times did not include pressurizing, depressurizing, warming up times, etc. One person said unless you were cooking a lot of meats, the instapot was basically useless. Yes, validation, shovel it into my face!
So, yes. Potatoes will be next. I’ll start with baked potatoes and maybe expand from there. The thing I have to keep in mind is that I’m going to put in as little effort as possible. I know myself. This is what I do. So I need to stay in my lane and not come up with grandiose plans that I will never execute.
Oh! Also, I’ve been eating peanut butter and jelly (with banana and chocolate spread) sandwiches because I’m a grownup who wants some childhood comfort. It’s organic peanut butter and organic blackberry jam because I’m a grown-ass adult with some sense of culture, damn it!
It’s all about finding food that nourishes me (physically and emotionally) while also not being too difficult to make. I know my limitations. I need to stick to them. That’s the only chance I have of succeeding.