Cooking vs Arranging: Why Ariel is better at not cooking than Megan

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The simplest lunch

You all know I don’t cook, right? In my house, my husband Andreas does most of the cooking, vacillating between elaborate terrines and simple stir-fries. But whatever we eat, chances are very good that I had nothing to do with cooking it.

Last night, however, I cooked. Well, that’s the thing: I didn’t really cook. I prepared. Most of my cooking involves melting stuff or boiling stuff, and then artfully arranging stuff. Last night I actually baked stuff. Yes, I poked three potatoes with a fork, and put them in the oven. FOR AN HOUR! Thanks to my excellent fork-poking, the potatoes did not explode their skins in the oven.

Then, I diced half a tomato, some green pepper, and green onion. Then I boiled two pieces of corn. Then I put the potatoes on a plate, cut them open and put butter and the veggies on them with grated cheese. Corn went on plates, and just to make it fancy, I sliced a couple thin spikes of green pepper and arranged it carefully. Oh, and we each got half a pear sprinkled with cinnamon.

And that was it. Potato, corn, pear. But with some artful green pepper arranged on top! Unlike my parents (the people who tried to entice a child by calling lentil stew “poop soup”) or Andreas (“it all looks the same in your stomach”) I’m a big fan of the food always looking good. When it’s pretty, it conveys the love.

This distinction between cooking and preparing is one that always comes up when I talk to Megan about her inability to cook. I’m always like, Bitch, I don’t cook either! That still doesn’t mean you have to eat frozen pizzas for every meal!

Like most Americans, Megan defaults to packaged food… while my hippie parents with their poop soup taught me to default to cutting up produce and cheese and setting them on a plate. Megan’s food might taste better, but my food is infinitely cheaper and definitely healthier.

Sometimes my meals are literally what you see in the photo above: cheese melted on toast, microwaved frozen veggies, sliced fruit, string cheese. It’s simple, it’s healthy, I can prepare it in less than 5 minutes. Some day I’ll convince Megan that she doesn’t need to learn to cook: she just needs to learn to arrange.

So, in the interest of teaching Megan to ARRANGE, what are your favorite whole food meals that taste great? If it takes more than 5 minutes or has more than 5 ingredients, I’m giving it the side-eye.

Comments on Cooking vs Arranging: Why Ariel is better at not cooking than Megan

  1. Minimal cooking for this one: Noodles & Peas. Take whatever pasta you’ve got hanging out in the cabinet, and make it. When it’s about a minute from being done, throw in some frozen peas. Cook another minute, drain. Top that baby with some cheese. Boom. Done.

    My favorite when I’ve got some kind of smoked sausage is to just slice that up and throw it on a plate with some raw vegetables & cheese. Smoked Kielbasa/Pepperoni/Andouille plus extra sharp cheddar, plus cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes & carrots. Mmmmmm.

  2. OMG, this thread is full of so many good ideas!

    I love cooking but I really don’t have time for it during the week and I can’t really get behind the spend-all-weekend/Sunday-cooking philosophy.

    I’m going to bookmark this post for future “crap, what are we going to have for dinner?” days.

  3. Lunch today consists of a slice of homemade molassas bread, smeared with goat cheese and topped with cucumbers. BOSS.

  4. Nuke a can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans. Then put some pesto and feta on them and stir. I love this and can’t wait until my kids eat it.

    Open-faced sandwiches: slice of bread (toast if you want to be fancy), grainy mustard, goat cheese, avocado, fried egg, salt and pepper. Be very generous with the toppings.

    Instant oatmeal with peanut butter and jam. We call this “mama oatmeal”.

  5. I have a couple favorite meals that take no actual cooking, simply cutting and arranging as you put it.

    Pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store is my best friend in the summer time, when the weather turns hot and swampy and the thought of adding more heat to my third floor apartment makes me want to cry.

    Chicken and strawberry salad
    Ingredients:
    Salad greens
    Rotisserie chicken, chopped (feel free to cook the chicken yourself or use whatever left overs you have)
    Strawberries, sliced
    Walnuts
    Crumbled chevre cheese (goat cheese)
    A good slightly sweet balsamic dressing (I like Brianna’s Blush Wine Vinaigrette)

    Directions:
    layer salad greens on plate. Top with chopped chicken. Add sliced strawberries. Sprinkle with walnuts and cheese. Finish with your favorite dressing. Serve with a good crusty bread (that you can pick up from the grocery store bakery), sliced and topped with butter.

    Another similar salad featuring red meat, but requires you to actually cook the steak.

    Flank steak and blue cheese salad:

    Ingredients:
    Flank steak (about a pound will be enough for 4 people)
    Salad greens
    Pecans
    plums, sliced thin (pears also work nicely)
    Crumbled blue cheese

    Directions:
    Sprinkle flank steak with salt and pepper (or your favorite spices. I usually throw cumin and sweet paprika on mine).
    Cook flank steak over medium heat, about 6 minutes per side. Place steak on cutting board and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Cut steak into strips, cutting across the grain (if you think of the steak as vaguely rectangular, typically you will be cutting from the short side of the steak).
    Slice plums. You can leave the peels on.
    Layer salad greens on plate. Top with flank steak. Add sliced plums. Sprinkle with pecans and blue cheese. Add your favorite dressing (I still like Brianna’s Blush Wine). Serve with crusty bread.

    I’ll end with a cold soup and sandwich combo I got from cooking light. These two recipes work really well together.

    Prosciutto, fresh fig, and manchego sandwiches – It’s like a high end ham and cheese. Don’t be afraid of the ingredients. My local grocery store carries everything, though fresh figs can be difficult to find. I’ve only ever been able to find black mission figs.

    http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/prosciutto-fresh-fig-manchego-sandwiches-10000002011011/

    Gazpacho – This is a cold tomato soup. It only requires chopping veggies and throwing everything into a food processor. I have found that gazpacho tastes better the next day, after the flavors get a chance to marry with one another. For this recipe, I use regular red tomatoes and red peppers. Typically, I leave out the garnish and serve with a sandwich.

    http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/yellow-tomato-gazpacho-10000000460045/

  6. One of my favorite breakfasts is simply plain greek yogurt, stevia, chopped fruit, and a small handful of granola. Simple and filling.

  7. Our summer staple-

    Bulgarian cheese (cheese in brine, comes in a can of several of them), watermelon and flatbread. – nom

  8. Even though I LOVE to cook… the microwave is my friend for work lunches or hurried days. Microwaved veggies, pasta sauce, melted regular or soy cheese. Easy comfort food. OR Microwave egg beat with water salt n peppa, scoop out onto broiled tortillas with cheddar (or soy or rice cheese). Scoop avocado on that, throw some cilantro and a hit of sriracha. OR Steam in bag brown rice with steam in bag veggies. Hit with braggs or a little sesamea oil, sea salt, pepper.

  9. One of my favorite midday snacks is:
    toast with peanut butter, topped with banana, drizzled with honey, sprinkled with cinnamon

    A super simple breakfast is:
    toast spread with smashed avocado (smush avocado with a fork, add a squirt of lemon juice, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes if you like), add a fried egg on top with a little hot sauce if you like. Done!

  10. Are we talking 5 minutes of work or 5 minutes of actual cooking? Because the crock pot is my favorite “can’t cook” cheat. I put in a package of chicken, a jar of salsa, and a package of taco seasoning and cook for 8 hours on low. No work required except for pouring! OR I do a package of chicken and pour over some BBQ sauce and cook for 8 hours on low. It shreds as you’re pulling it out of the pot, put it on a roll and you’ve got yourself a yummy pulled chicken sandwich.

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