When my mother died, the very last thing I ever wanted to do again was cook. The task of conceiving of a meal, shopping for it, preparing it, and cleaning up was a mountain between me and the need to sit with my sorrow. For people with depression, suffering from anxiety, and other difficulties, cooking and eating is hard enough with nutrition as an afterthought. So there’s fast food, taco trucks, frozen dinners — but after a while (I know from personal experience) all of the prepared food gets tiresome.
So here are some chill recipes that don’t take a lot of time and require minimal cleanup. Here’s to throwing some nutrition in a pan and getting it in your mouth — and maybe a tiny sense of accomplishment that you made it.
Basil Parmesan Orzo
This can actually just be Parmesan orzo if the produce aisle feels like work. Even the chicken stock is optional (just lay on the salt and pepper for flavor). These recipes feed two people. Leftovers are magic.
• 2 cups orzo
• 2–3 tablespoons of butter (chef hint: I put in a tablespoon, then add a tablespoon to the top of the orzo)
• Chicken stock
Did I lie?
Put orzo into pot with butter. Toast the orzo until it’s crisp and tan-to-brown looking. If you taste it, it should be nutty crisp. Don’t eat it all yet.
Pour in a can, or 3-4 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a good boil. You can use water, or half chicken stock, half water.
Take down to a simmer, cover, and let the orzo absorb the stock.
Throw some oil and vinegar on some lettuce leaves, salt and pepper, crack open a baguette, and you’ve got dinner.
This dish puts a lot of pressure on each ingredient to be decent, so you will want to pick at least decent produce. You can used canned tomatoes if we’re in the terrible tomato season.
• 15-20 cherry tomatoes
• 4 oz Feta
• 3/4 lb of pasta (I like rotini and fusilli)
• Salt to taste
• Peppery I taste
• Olive oil
Chop the cucumber and quarter the cherry tomatoes. If you are using canned, drain and set aside 1 small can.
Crumble the feta
Chop the basil
Cook the pasta
You’re almost there.
When the pasta is done, drain it. Add 1/2 cup of olive oil (enough to coat the pasta). Add cukes, tomatoes, and basil. Stir it all up. Sat and pepper to taste.
Salad, bread, done.
Great Thai curry is the best balm for all ills. This won’t be restaurant-good, but it’s a worthy substitute.
• 4 oz mushrooms
• 1 piece of ginger, thumb-sized
• Coconut milk
• Hot peppers, either red pepper powered, or actual hot peppers.
• Daikon or cabbage
Heat peanut or coconut oil in a pan or wok. Add ginger and sauté until very golden, just before it turns brown. Add mushrooms. Cook down until tender. Add peppers, carrots, broccoli, and stir fry until crisp-tender. Add cabbage and basil. When all the veggies have cooked down, add coconut milk and salt the heck out of it. Add spice. Serve over rice.