When I first started this blog, I thought I was a amazing cook. I thought I was a better cook than all my friends, everything I made was just magically tasty, and I knew everything about food. I was just discovering delicious food, really, and cooking - so when I cooked a steak in a pan, I thought I had performed a miracle. But my knife skills were (are) terrible, I didn't know the first thing about sautéing vegetables, and I only had a few recipes memorized. I was not a great cook.
Sometime in 2015, I discovered just how much of a novice I was. It crushed me. My boyfriend of the time was an honest-to-God spectacular cook, and we fell into the habit of him cooking, me cleaning. I was embarrassed to have a food blog when I had never grilled a burger or made my own cream sauce or gravy. I'll never forget hearing secondhand that a friend had said, "She doesn't even cook - he makes all of their meals." I was scared to learn from him, thinking about just how much I didn't know about making soups, combining dishes to create a cohesive meal, and how to watch a pan to make sure the precious food didn't burn. For years, I had defined myself (internally and externally) by food. If I didn't cook, what right did I have to talk to other people about cooking? I thought about how many other people were more deserving of having their culinary voice heard (and how many voices are already shouting) and so I hid from cooking.
We're past that now. No longer living in fear of "What if I'm not a good enough cook? What if I mess it up?"
When I moved across the country away from said boyfriend, I had to quickly become self-sufficient.
None of that bullshit matters. If I can cut up vegetables and stir them in a pot, if I can put meat in the oven and use a thermometer to tell if it's done - then I can cook. And you can, too. Who cares if it turns out perfect? Sometimes I do mess it up - sometimes the braised oxtail burns and becomes a sticky black tar in the bottom of my favorite pot. Shit happens. That's why I'm attempting oxtail again today -- but in a slow cooker. I cook a lot of my food in advance - leftovers are 95% of my diet.
I'm not trying to teach you how to cook, with this Lip Smackin' Crusade Blog. Head over to my Recommendations page for links to amazing food writers who can actually do that. I'm a total novice, and not particularly interested in becoming a really good cook. I'm just trying to stay alive, and eat food that supports my ideals.
We're aiming for edible, here, and peace of mind. Don't worry about the bullshit. You can do it. You get points for making food that makes you feel good, even if it looks terrible. Bonus points if the food you purchase doesn't have huge detrimental impacts on the environment and the people who produce it.
Food should taste good, ideally. But - more importantly - it should get you to where you need to be, in a state of joy and satisfaction. We're not aspiring to greatness. Perfection is not our goal. A balanced flavor profile is nice - but not a priority. Happiness is the goal, and a happy gut is a happy body. Fear is not a part of this equation. At the end of the day if you are still alive, you have succeeded.
The recipe I want to share today, as my welcome back gift, is the (only) reason I eat vegetables. It's a variation of this breakfast bowl that my old roommate used to make for me every day (but without the expectation that you'll spend 45 minutes cooking every morning). I used to eat it for breakfast, but now I just make it every week and keep it in the fridge. It's surprising how good just straight vegetables can taste, if you cook them. Heat a bowl of it in the microwave and top with a fried egg, a burger, toast, mashed plantain, chopped leftover chicken, throw some in the bottom of a bowl of soup.
This recipe is very flexible. I use different vegetables every week and follow the same format. It's just veggies in a pot. Don't worry about it, just do it. It's easy. You can do it. I can do it. We can cook, and our bodies will thank us.
- Stockpot with a lid
- fat (coconut oil, ghee, butter, tallow, bacon grease, etc etc just not vegetable oil)
- hard vegetables, scrubbed (onions, leeks, green onions, shallots, stems from leafy greens, asparagus, celery, beet, broccoli, carrot, green beans, zucchini, okra, etc etc)
- soft vegetables, rinsed (chard, kale, collards, chicory, escarole, dandelion greens, spinach, lettuce, mustard greens, watercress, etc etc)
- liquid (white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, water, chicken stock, liquid aminos, etc etc)
- salt (I'm partial to San Juan Island Sea Salt, but Himalayan pink or any well-made sea salt will do fine)
1. Melt a few tablespoons of oil in a stockpot on medium heat.
2. While it's melting, slice any hard vegetables about 1/4 inch thick.
3. Sauté the hard vegetables until soft, stirring regularly. Should take anywhere from 10-40 minutes. They're ready when you can indent them with your spoon.
4. Chop (or tear with your hands) the soft vegetables/leafy greens while the others are cooking. Pieces about 1"x1" work best, but bigger's not terrible -- easy is most important.
5. Add the soft vegetables to the pot.
6. Add a few big glugs of the liquid (uhhh... maybe 1/8 cup for a full pot?) to the pot.
7. Turn up the heat to medium-high to steam the veggies.
8. Put on the lid and leave it for 3-8 minutes, until you get worried.
9. Stir the whole mess, decide if you want to cook it down more.
11. Store your vegetables for later eating (either individually or straight in the pot).
12. EAT YOUR VEGETABLES! For breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, at home or on the road. Blend them in a smoothie. Do whatever you need to do.
The more salt you add before eating, the better it will taste, so add more than you think you need -- trust me, it will taste so much better than you think! Here's why I believe more salt is actually good for you.
I used to use balsamic vinegar as my liquid, but its sweetness overpowered the whole dish, so I switched to water and then to white wine vinegar. Use whatever you want! Vinegars are nice because the acidity masks the bitterness of some of the vegetables. Use balsamic vinegar if you don't want to eat vegetables.
Semi-soft vegetables like mushrooms (though credible sources posit fungi like mushrooms are closer related to animals than vegetables) should be added somewhere between the hard and soft veggies.
Adjust temperature up or down, depending on how much attention you want to pay to it and how much time you have. If I'm multi-tasking in the area for hours, I'll keep it around 3 (medium-low), but if it's late and I'm devoting all my attention to making sure it doesn't burn, I'll keep it at 6 (medium-high).
Add more fat as necessary throughout process (I like to use coconut oil and/or ghee), whenever it sticks to the pan or you just feel like it.
I choose my weekly vegetables based on a combination of the Bulletproof diet and the WomanCode (wo)menstrual-cycling diet. Not because I necessarily think those diets are correct, but because I like rules and they narrow my vegetables choices for me. This week I was in my Luteal Phase, so I used: leeks, celery, collard greens, onions, mustard greens, and watercress. The week before, in Ovulatory Phase, I used: asparagus, chard, escarole, scallions, and spinach.
Make sure to rinse your vegetables, massaging away any dirt under running water. Even think about having a dedicated scrubber (I love these spaghetti scrubbers) for harder vegetables. Dirt's actually good for your gut, but you know what's not good for you? Pesticide residues, and whatever germs and lotions are on the hands of the dozens of people who have touched those vegetables before you (harvester, packager, store clerk, other customers). If you want the health benefits of soil, take a soil-based probiotic supplement or grow your own vegetables and do what you will.