foods i made because it was sunday

[content note: this is like the longest post ever, but it contains SECRET TIPS FOR LIFE (by which I mean cooking) and so you should probably read it anyway]

So, I donate platelets on the regular because I'm a baller (actually it's because I'm blood type A+ and that's a good one for donating platelets) EXCEPT for that I'm mostly a vegetarian and that means it's kind of hard for me to keep my iron up and I keep going in and they're like, "Sorry, sweetie, you're 37 today," and I'm like, "SERIOUSLY? I basically mainlined black beans this morning," and they pat me on the arm and say, "It's only a one-day delay!"

SO ANYWAY, I decided I was going to go proactive on my low iron count and went directly to the grocery store for some leafy greens and beans. And then I went kind of nuts on vegetables.

Of course, I didn't think to take pictures of my groceries or the cooking process, so, TOO BAD, you'll only get finished products. I'm sorry. If I do this again, I'll do a better job.

Also, so you know, before we get into this, pretty much whenever I cook anything, I eyeball it. I only use measurements when I'm trying to get a specific result on something new, like a new weird cupcake or something. Pretty much everything else, I just wing it.

SECRET PRO-TIP FOR COOKING GENERALLY: If it smells good, it will probably taste good. Don't be shy about smelling or tasting whatever you're making. If your roommates/housemates/spouse(s)/pets don't come into the kitchen saying, "Oh man, what is happening here? Can I have some?" then you are doing it wrong. Because food is wonderful and delicious.

ANYWAY. Sorry. Back to food.

In approximately two hours total, including the cooking part where you just leave stuff alone, I managed to make two gigantic batches of things I'm going to be able to eat for quite a while. I used a strainer, a casserole dish, a sauté pan, a big pot, a chef's knife, and a cutting board. These are your supplies! If you're going to do this all at once, which is how people who are pretending to be adults do it, because, you know, it's like, look! I'm feeding myself! So what if I had to do it all at once on a Sunday because that is all the motivation I can get together?

Here's what I got at the grocery store:

  • mozzarella (I got part-skim mozz because I was feeling like, I'M BEING HEALTHY, DAMMIT, and it melted just fine)
  • ricotta (full-fat, because, um, it was different than the mozzarella for some reason? SHUT UP)
  • cherry tomatoes (1 box-type thing - there were a bunch of boxes with moldy tomatoes, which leads me to believe it is not so much tomato season right now maybe, so keep an eye out when you're shopping)
  • black beans (1 can)
  • kidney beans (1 can)
  • Newman's roasted garlic tomato sauce (1 jar, because I was feeling lazy, and just really did not feel up to making my own pasta sauce - sorry Mom)
  • shiitake mushrooms (there were probably like seven in the package, with stems - you could just do caps if you want I guess, but whatev)
  • arugula (1 box)
  • baby spinach (1 box)
  • eggplant (1 already chopped because those things are a pain in the butt)
  • squash of some kind (it was orange, and in an already-chopped box, because I'm lazy)
  • applesauce (we will get there, friends, just trust me)
  • lasagna noodles (1 box)
  • orzo (1 box)
Here's what I used from my stockpiles at home:
  • olive oil
  • parsley
  • rosemary
  • salt
  • hot sauce
  • cinnamon
  • oregano
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • chili powder
  • water, I guess? from the sink?
ANYWAY. Basically I was just going to make lasagna, but then I realized I was going to end up with way too much of everything, because that is a lot of food I just listed, and I knew that if I left any of it in the fridge uncooked, it would just sit there until it was covered in some sort of psychrophilic mold (lol@my biology degree). SO I COOKED IT ALL. And made part of it into this like stew-type situation? Though it could be reinterpreted as a pasta salad now that it's been in the fridge.

I started with the arugula and spinach, because that seems like as good a base as any. Well, I guess FIRST first I put a layer of lasagna noodles in the casserole dish, but just assume from now on that between any two things there are lasagna noodles unless they're in the stew-salad thing. I put some olive oil in the pan and sweated the arugula and spinach over medium heat for maybe 2-3 minutes (sweating is where you put a lid on the pan and let everything get all wilty). That stuff flattened really quickly, and I stirred it a bunch. Then I put it in the casserole. 

I basically repeated this same process (oil, ingredients, sweating) for the following combos: cherry tomatoes (halved) and mushrooms (sliced); eggplant (chopped into squares) and salt (lightly salt the eggplant, this just seemed like a good idea); all the beans (after I rinsed them, and then subsequently almost burned myself because the water that dripped into the pan before the beans got in there made the oil sizzle and spit and it was just great). For all of those things, I put about half of the cooked-up veggies in the lasagna and half in the giant pot, in which there was already olive oil (duh). For the squash (sliced), I decided that the lasagna seemed a little put-upon and so just put that in the giant pot for the stew situation. I also added the Newman's generously in between whichever layers I felt like, and at some point I spread the ricotta around. The best thing about lasagna is that it is nearly impossible to screw up so long as everything gets in there.

Now, to the stew thing. I had just sort of put all these ingredients in a pot over low heat and left it there while I topped off the lasagna with slices of mozzarella and put it in the oven (at 350 degrees F, natch. Another top secret spy cooking tip: when in doubt, 350 degrees F). But now, like, what? What was I doing with all these vegetables in a pot? 

I put in some water and random spices (see all listed above - yes, seriously, I added all of those things - follow the smell tip (further smell tip - smelling a spice in the jar and then the cooking food in quick succession will give you a good idea of whether it should go in there)), because I had thought I had some vegetable stock but that turned out to be a lie. Then I realized I didn't have any root vegetables and that made it seem like I shouldn't be trying to make a stew, unless squash is a root vegetable? 

This is all proof that you really don't need to know much of anything about food to make it tasty. 

I ended up adding the orzo to the stew-type situation that was going on, and a single-serve thing of applesauce. Why? Because it felt like it should be there. I was looking at the squash and I was just like, "There should be some apples happening up in here." 

Then I left all that stuff in the pot with the lid on, with the heat on really low, and the lasagna in the oven, and I went and watched Saturday Night Live with my roommate. I checked on the lasagna about 3/4s of the way through SNL and the cheese was looking pretty bubbly but I felt like the insides needed more time, so I turned the heat down to 200 degrees F and left it there for another while. I don't know, like the rest of the episode? Probably. Or maybe a bit longer. Then I went back in the kitchen, tried to taste some of the orzo-vegetable thing and it was good but then my throat was sort of burning, so that was good. I realized that all of the liquid had more or less been soaked up by the orzo, so I figured it was probably done and turned the heat off but left it on the stove with the lid on a bit longer, just, you know, for good measure. I pulled the lasagna out at about the same time, and my god, was that ish delicious. Seriously. It was so good. 

Here is a picture of HOW AWESOME THIS IS:


(full disclosure: these pics were taken right after I took it out of the fridge, so it looks better when it's warm, so you know.)

And the stew-type-situation (seriously, I'm not sure what to call this):

this tastes better than it looks, but I kinda think it looks really good, so, do with that what you will.

my lasagna packets!
  • If you make a giant lasagna and you live by yourself, get some tinfoil and cut the lasagna into individual serving sizes and then wrap the lasagna in the tinfoil and put it in the freezer - that way, it'll last longer, AND when you're ready to eat it, you can just put the whole thing in the oven, because tinfoil is totally good for that, and if you are like me and don't have a microwave, that is the only way to make your food not cold, AND it'll make it be moist-er on reheating because the foil will keep all the juice inside while it reheats. You're welcome. 
  • Also, if you cut the lasagna into pieces when it's just come out of the fridge, it moves really easily and it stays in one piece easily.
  • If you've ever seen Pinterest ever, you should know that mason jars are the answer to everything. You can use them to put individual serving sizes of your orzo-thing in and then you can take them to work and be like, LUNCH FO' FREE. 
  • According to the blood donation lady I talked to today, if you snack on cereals that are iron-fortified or eat dark-chocolate-covered raisins, those things will also help your blood iron levels. So if you're like me and naturally nosedive into anemia seemingly no matter what you do, these are excellent tips. Or if you're just feeling tired with no discernible reason? It might be your blood iron content! That's a thing.

In case you hadn't realized, this entire thing is about how I am single and young and not particularly good at taking care of myself and have to do things in bulk in order to make myself do them. Whatever, I'm totally going to have my iron at like 40 when I go in the next time to donate platelets. You just wait.