Cook for Me, Please

It's Friday, but this week, I won't be able to join you for cocktails. No playtime for KOD this weekend, I'm afraid. All week long, I've been burning the midnight oil, working into the wee hours of the morning in order to meet a deadline for my forthcoming holiday cookbook, and the frantic pace will continue right into the weekend. Yeah, I know, whine, complain.

Pity me not (Although a massage would be lovely right about now, and there's a pimple on my right cheek that needs to disappear); I willingly embarked on this train and must endure the crazy ride for a little bit longer.

But really what I need this weekend is a cook, someone who knows exactly how to feed a brain in overdrive, a nervous system that's a bit rattled and a spirit that could easily be defeated. Someone, please save me from the Pringles can (Yes, I'll admit it; in times of stress, I crave fake potato chips) and the peanut M&Ms.

Yesterday, I hardly ate at all -- a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as I recall -- and that, as you know, is not the way I roll.

In this week's What's Cooking, a reader asked what I cook when I'm stressed out, and based on the events of the past few days, I'd have to say, not much. Does coffee count?

I won't get into what's in the fridge or in the pantry, because frankly, I think I'm far too gone to be brought back to my senses. My condition is helpless and chronic (and hopefully temporary), but in the meantime, this kitchen witch needs someone else to stir the pot.

So, today, I'm turning the tables and asking you for advice. In lieu of food deliveries, please help this mad writer off the ledge and feed me with ideas on how to keep my energy and enthusiasm alive over what will be a very taxing, mind-binding 60 hours. Or at the very least, tell me what you plan to cook this weekend, so I may live vicariously through your adventures. Have a delicious weekend!

By Kim ODonnel |  October 5, 2007; 1:08 PM ET Nutrition
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I was going to make a cornbread with sausage, onion and apples. But it's going to be unseasonably hot and humid here this weekend. So we may go out instead. That's just fine. Will fire up the oven though, to make a coffee cake with the last of the Italian prune plums for Sunday brunch.

Posted by: kary | October 5, 2007 1:35 PM

my stress food is pasta with anchovied bread crumb as a "sauce". carbo-load, sure, but it's what I need for cranking.

for this weekend, plan to make the delicious "fresh tomato sauce" the post printed a few weeks ago. it's fantastic!!

Posted by: meg | October 5, 2007 1:56 PM

Pasta with garlic and anchovies (and a sprinkle of parmesan) and a salad got me through the first couple of weeks with our first child, so it might work for book crunch-time, too. You do not have to worry about bad breath, as no one other than Mr. Mighty Appetite will come near while in your editing frenzy - and he loves you just the way you are, I'm sure.

Posted by: lipsticklibrarian | October 5, 2007 1:57 PM

I was planning on making some mandu soup(Korean dumpling soup). I made some dumplings last weekend and put some in the freezer but you can also buy some at the Asian grocery. You want to heat up a beef broth to a boil and throw your dumplings in for probably 7-10 minutes. You could add green onions and/or some eggs threads like in hot & sour soup. For a short cut I use Korean beef broth powder (seogogi dashida) which I think is pretty good as long as you go easy on the stuff(the beef broth should be light as to not overpower the dumplings). Very yummy and quick if you take the short cuts. Plus, soup is just such a comfort food for me.

Posted by: Josephine | October 5, 2007 2:03 PM

Hurray for overworked non-cooking meals!

-Grilled cheese and canned low-salt tomato soup with a whole lot of black pepper. If Mister MA can cook it, double points.

-Get up and do yoga or stretches at least once an hour. If you hate yoga, then turn on your loudest party music and jump around for 5 minutes each hour...this got me thru many a long night!

-When you only have a while left, crack open a beer.

-What good is a husband if you can't get a little massage?

good luck! go team mighty appetite!

Posted by: kathryn | October 5, 2007 2:03 PM

I second the grilled cheese/tomato soup idea. I find eggs in the form of omelets or frittata with toast or english muffins a good "clutch" meal too.

Posted by: kml | October 5, 2007 2:09 PM

Breakfast for dinner, in any of its forms (fancy pancakes (banana, sweet potato spice), omeletes or frittatas, fruit salad, steel-cut oatmeal) is hugely comforting to me. Protein is important when you're working hard- think egg whites and turkey bacon.
Or my grandma's lentil and brown rice soup. It's a hug in a bowl.

I know Mister MA will step up recognize that this weekend is *his* time to shine in the kitchen!

Posted by: Arlington Gal | October 5, 2007 2:17 PM

How about a big bowl of pasta with some of your roasted tomatoes, a bit of basil, good olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan? You could always throw in some chicken for protein.

Me? I have two lovely and large bunches of sorrel that I picked up at the farmers' market and will be using for sorrel vichyssoise. I have a butternut squash that I was planning to use along with sausage in risotto. But with our summer-like weather, I may end up doing something lighter. And my spicy ginger cookie recipe has been calling me so I plan to whip up a batch and crank the AC if necessary.

Good luck with your cookbook and just think, in a few days, you'll be able to have a fabulous celebration dinner when you are finished!

Posted by: Allison | October 5, 2007 2:30 PM

Whenever I'm too stressed and busy to cook, I make tomato-butter sauce. Open a big can of plum tomatoes, add half a stick of butter and an onion (halved and peeled) and a couple of garlic cloves. Simmer on low heat until it's saucelike, breaking the big pieces of tomato up about 20 minutes in with a wooden spoon and removing the onion at the end (or cutting it up at the end.) The smell itself is inspiring, and if you get impatient, you can just dump uncooked pasta in the sauce to absorb extra liquid.

Posted by: Tanya | October 5, 2007 2:35 PM

I'd take one of those Pringles, gently schmear on some of that peanut butter, dollop on a little grape jelly, and then top with another pringle.

It's a PB&J... _on a Pringle_

Posted by: Wendy | October 5, 2007 2:44 PM

Oatmeal is my easy, go-to comfort meal. Load up with banana and raisins (at the very least). Healthy, filling and easy. Also, my grandfather used to add an egg to oatmeal to add protien (very important as brain food). I don't like eggs so I've always been hesitant to try it, but my cousin is always talking about it and what a genius idea it is. Good luck!

Posted by: Lizka | October 5, 2007 3:19 PM

Hello Kim

Ah, guilty pleasures! Beside my computer I keep a large tin of macadamia nuts (courtesy of Costco!) as well as an outsize bag of "red hot blue" corn chips (wish they would make an orgy size, the party size goes too soon!) and a bag of garlic & jalapeño crostini. Saves me from having to go to the fridge when writer's block strikes -- if I did that I'd probably smear some triple crème La Tur on the crostini, earning a stern look from my acupuncturist who wants me to lose weight! To which I counter: No no, it's the Deliciousness Index that rules, life is too short to eat anything that's less than eleven on the DI.
Enough rambling, back to writing/surfing.


Posted by: David Lewiston | October 5, 2007 3:23 PM

I am in the same situation as you - only I am pathetically and frantically doing homework and studying for the GRE's (at age 40!) - so I have chosen bits of some "healthy foods" for when I'm in this type of situation - I can't do big meals and really hate to take any time out so here goes . . .
1. Almonds - Trader Joe's even has them in these nifty single serve packs so you don't accidentally overdue. I buy them unsalted and raw - but if you are a salty/crunchy person then choose a type to suit your tastes.
2. Frozen cherries that I let thaw slightly - I love ice cream so this is my ode to ice cream in a non-fat version.
3. Fresh or frozen grapes - Sometimes adding any more caffeine will do me in; also, sugar - like in an ice cold REGULAR coke - yum! -- but both of those get me too edgy to concentrate . . . so my "natural" remedy is grapes. They have sugar for pep, they quench your thirst, give you something to munch and munch and munch on - and they aren't messy.
4. Yogurt and oatmeal - this may sound gross but I like it -- I pour a Dannon Light & Fit Smoothie over some raw oatmeal. I leave it to sit for a few minutes and then throw in a couple of broken up walnuts, and frozen blueberries (another weird substitute for ice cream).
5. For protein cravings . . . a good rotisserie chicken, hardboiled eggs or some rice & beans.
6. VERY IMPORTANT -- drink lots of water -- when it's icy cold, it really gives you a little burst of energy - especially since shortly after you drink it you need to go to the bathroom -- and then, since you're already up and about -- run up and down the stairs a couple of times.

Have a productive and healthy weekend!

Posted by: Shelly | October 5, 2007 3:24 PM

I LOVE the Pringle pb&j idea! I'm going to try it.

Okay, make yourself a meal of appetizer type things. Have a cheese plate with some fruit (can you get honey crisp apples there now?), and maybe some wine. Some of the best writers were drinkers! : ) Or do what my husband loves--buy some serrano ham or chorizo, some manchego and some good crusty bread and make a tasty bocadillo.

As for myself, I plan to try my hand at fried green tomatoes this weekend. I'm also going to try to make a recipe I found for rosemary parmesan wafers. Other than that, I have a culinary school class tonight, and we're going to be making stocks.

Posted by: Jennifer | October 5, 2007 3:33 PM

Poor Kim! I feel you. When I am busy and stressed out, I forget to eat, overload on coffee, and feel miserable on top of all the stress. This led me to lose 35 pounds in law school, which I guess is the silver lining. :)

My favorite busy snacks are ones you can keep by your side to reach for. Mixed nuts, esp almonds (though I sometimes sneak cashews) or trail mix with dried fruit, apples to munch on for fiber and juiciness, plenty of water, and soy milk to drink instead of coffee. To take a quick break for dinner, I'll make mixed green salad topped with vinegar and a fried egg. (DH thinks this is gross but I find it very energizing.)

Or, just make Mr. MA cook for you.

Good luck, can't wait for the book!

Posted by: DC | October 5, 2007 3:41 PM


My favorite comfort/stress/brain food is a fried egg sandwich. My daughter has refined my original to a science...fried egg, slice of cheese, mustard, QUALITY bread, grilled in butter. A four-star sandwich, which, as mentioned above, is well within the capability of Mr MA.

Enjoy whatever he comes up with!

Posted by: Angus | October 5, 2007 3:48 PM

Breyers Rocky Road (Light, Double Churned) ice cream with a broken up sugar cone sprinkled all over the mound. Absolutely delicious and the sugar cone doesn't get soft and mushy!

Posted by: Luv2laff | October 5, 2007 4:05 PM

I've written and published two books on business with major houses. I assume the process over the final hours of writing must share the same intensity regardless of subject. My advice for what it is worth- don't force the muse - it will happen. Eat what ever you feel like at the moment. Cook if you want. Go for takeout. Relax over a dinner out and let your mind work in the background. It is amazing how much mental editing can be done over a glass of wine and away from the keyboard!

Congratulation on making it to the home stretch and looking forward to the finished product

Posted by: jan | October 5, 2007 6:53 PM

My grandmother used to make "kluski," which were Polish potato noodles. Grate the potatoes on the finest part of the grater, basically turning them to mush. Add a little salt and enough flour to make a soft dough.

Put part of the dough on a plate, and scrape off 1/4-1/2" chunks with a knife so they fall into boiling, salted water. When they float, they're done. 6 medium potatoes will make enough for 3-4 people.

Mix the hot kluski with pats of butter and scoops of cottage cheese, season, eat this great comfort food. You can also add diced onions. Leftover noodles can be sauteed in butter over the next few days.

While I do make it from scratch, fake kluski (also known as frozen gnocchi) works great and is a lot easier.

Posted by: Philadelphia | October 5, 2007 6:59 PM

It does not really matter what it is, as long as someone else makes it, and brings it to you, so that you feel that you are being well taken care of. They should bring you a nice little plate about once per hour. Portions should always be small, and presentation attractive. No fried chicken and no long noodles in sauce. (too messy)

Pot stickers,
Cup of soup with crackers,
Tea with a slice of fresh bread and jam,
Fruit and cheese,
Fruit smoothie,
Slice of pot roast with braised carrots,
Pumkin pie,

I think you see the pattern.

My wife is a proposal manager that routinly produces huge, letter-perfect documents; to very tight, drop-dead schedules. I have spent a good bit of time in kitchens. I plan, use the freezer, and rarely bother with take out.

Posted by: Aaron Lewis | October 5, 2007 8:04 PM

A favorite (concocted by my husband- but he would feed this to me when we were dating in law school)-- kraft mac n cheese mixed with extra shredded cheddar, black beans, and cut up bell peppers. Add hot sauce to taste. There are much worse things you could eat. (Not very foodie of me, but quick, easy and tasty.)

Posted by: Liz | October 6, 2007 10:53 AM

My grandma's Perry County Gumbo. She was a farm wife and canned a mixture of the last of her garaden vegetables - corn, tomataoes, okra. We were sent quart jars of this for Christmas. The carcass of the Christmas turkey was simmered for remove bits of meat and flavor anad the soup mix added. It was bliss! I still make the soup with grocery store frozen vegs and give to friends who are ill or sad. It's still powerfully healing and good. Perhaps I could call it Redneck Chicken Soup.

Posted by: mbishop | October 9, 2007 9:10 AM

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