This is one of the quickest dinners I’ve made in a while, and it was well-timed with this last, busy week of my internship. Somehow, in spite of the speed and the fact that I didn’t think very much about it as it came together, it’s one of my favorite meals I’ve had in a while, probably because it would be very hard indeed for me to dislike any combination of the ingredients here. (Dill alone is a selling point.)
The reason it came together so fast is my unabashed reliance on frozen rice these days. I get bags of it at Whole Foods (it’s the 365 brand) and am always so grateful when I remember that it’s sitting in my freezer. It’s no big deal to cook rice, I know, and whenever I mention this little hack (or whatever you want to call it) I feel sheepish. But rice doesn’t exactly cook instantaneously—it’s not quinoa, after all!—and it’s an ingredient I use a lot in last-minute bowls and tacos, or as a base for curries.
If you have pre-cooked rice of any kind and a can of chickpeas (or some frozen, cooked ones that you can defrost ahead of time), this meal is so simple; popping a tray of zucchini in the oven to roast is the biggest step, and that cooking is totally inactive. I came home from work last Friday, roasted the zucchini, and got some work done; by the time the vegetables were ready I had everything else lined up to heat and serve. Dinner was on the table in no time.
Here’s the oh-so-simple recipe. It speaks for itself, which is a nice thing, since I’m too tired to speak for it 🙂
Lemon Dill Zucchini & Chickpea Rice
1 lb zucchini (about two medium/large), diced
1 tablespoon neutral-tasting vegetable cooking oil (such as grapeseed or refined avocado)
1 cup short grain brown rice <u>or</u> 3 cups cooked brown rice
2 teaspoons olive oil <u>or</u> a few tablespoons vegetable broth
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Toss the zucchini with the vegetable oil and transfer to the sheet. Roast for 35 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender and browning.
If using dry rice, cook rice according to package instructions while zucchini roasts.
Heat the olive oil or broth in a roomy skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the shallot is clear and soft. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute, stirring often. Stir in the cooked rice, chickpeas, and roasted zucchini. Add the lemon juice, dill, and parsley; stir well. When everything is warmed through, taste and add salt and pepper to your preference. Serve.
I hope you might turn to it on a busy night, like I did, and find that it’s as filling and flavorful as you need it to be.
I’ve got one more day to go, and the fact that my DI is over still hasn’t really hit me. But I’m sure that, at this point tomorrow evening, I’ll be feeling very differently . . . and, I hope, very relieved.
I’ll “see” you this weekend—have a peaceful end to your weeks, friends.
This year has been more extroverted than I’m used to, but also more solitary. On the one hand, I’ve been in busy workplace environments each day, constantly exposed to new colleagues and new patients. This is a far cry from the quiet, work-from-home life that I’ve been living as a self-employed graduate student for the last many years. It’s been invigorating at times, draining at others; if nothing else, a big adjustment.
On the other hand, I haven’t had the energy to spend much time around friends this year. I do my best to keep up with people and prioritize high-quality friend time when I can. But I’ve often been too tired to make plans in the free time that I get, when I’m not trying to catch up on schoolwork and the blog. And the last few months have been trying in ways that I haven’t really felt like talking about. Catching up with most friends means answering the question of how I’m doing, and I just haven’t wanted to get into it.
I always assumed that the DI would draw to a close and that I’d gradually rest up and start reconnecting with people. I didn’t expect to make a new friend in the midst of it—certainly not a close one—but that’s what’s happened. At one of my two elective sites, I’ve been blessed with the company of a co-intern who is quickly becoming a new, dear friend.
I say “blessed” intentionally. This last stretch of my internship hasn’t been what I expected and has been difficult all around, personally and professionally. To have a colleague and an ally has been incredibly comforting; it reminds me of what it used to feel like to have close coworkers, which is something I was fortunate to find in my first career.
My co-intern and friend is already a dietitian abroad, shadowing here for the sake of her professional development, and we share a love of food as well as nutrition. We grabbed dinner this week, and it was full of laughter and fun; we traded stories and shared impressions as if we were old friends rather than recet ones. I was reminded of how important friendship is, how much it gives meaning to everything.
I’m glad I’ve indulged the need to keep to myself lately. Sometimes socializing really doesn’t feel good, which is something I’ve been reminded of from time to time this year when I push myself too hard to make plans, more out of a sense of duty or guilt at being out of touch than a real desire to listen or share. Yet it’s important for me to keep friendships healthy even when my bandwidth is low. And what a nice surprise to be given this new camaraderie at exactly the moment when I thought turning inward and forging ahead was the only thing I could do.
I’ve got one week of rotations left, and I’m so tired that I haven’t really processed the reality of being this close to done. By the next time I check in on a Sunday, though, it will be very real indeed—and I’ll be able to tell you how that feels.
2. Leaky gut syndrome (also known as intestinal hyperpermeability) is incompletely understood in medicine so far, and like many diagnoses for which we lack a lot of knowledge, there’s unfortunately a lot of misinformation about it online. It may be some time before we have enough evidence to develop an understanding about it and clarify the contention that exists among practitioners about its very existence. In the meantime, I’m so glad that Food & Nutrition is making an effort to explain and explore this syndrome and its potential nutritional implications.
It’s interesting, what gets unearthed during stressful times. It was a long week, in spite of the July 4th holiday, thanks to my internship wrapping up and my mom’s knee replacement surgery. She’s doing really well, but these moments are fraught and trying for everyone. I haven’t exactly been a picture of equanimity or grace over the last seven days.
What I have been, though—and it’s been interesting to notice this—is honest. I’ve honestly expressed my needs (which included asking for help last week) and honestly communicated my feelings. Those feelings have been all over the map this week; they’ve included anger, frustration, resentment, fatigue, and anxiety. But I’ve allowed them to be what they are, and I haven’t edited myself around either loved ones or strangers.
I didn’t use to think of myself as being overly contained; after all, I share a lot of myself online, and I have no trouble opening up about seemingly intimate topics. The older I get, though, the more I realize how contained and controlled I can be. It’s not withholding of information so much as editing the narrative or the delivery in such a way as to make things sound a lot prettier than they’ve felt.
There’s much to be said for discretion and a health degree of privacy. But I’m always conscious of my impulse to control things, myself included. It’s important for me to close up the distance that I sometimes create between my inner experience and my outward behavior—a distance I maintain in order to make myself more palatable and pleasing—in the interest of giving others access to a more honest self.
This work, if you can call it that, includes being a little more impulsive, expressive, and not thinking so hard before I utter a word or give a response. It can mean stating boundaries when I sense that they’ve been trampled on or having the guts to articulate discomfort when I feel it. It means relaying sensations of vulnerability or hurt, rather than trying to maintain a posture of toughness around them.
None of this is easy for me, no matter how “in touch” with my feelings I consider myself to be. In many ways, the intensity of the last few months has exposed my nerves a bit, and while I dislike being irritable (which I am right now!), it’s not a terrible thing for me to in touch with a less edited, much messier self.
She’s interesting, this self; she’s pretty good at saying what she needs without stopping to worry about how she’ll be perceived. And in making a little space for her, I’m learning that my impulses and instincts are more trustworthy than I give them credit for being. My intuition endures a lot of cross-examination by my hyper-analytical, questioning mind; maybe I should spend more time listening to it.
I certainly haven’t found a way of communicating that’s a perfect balance of honest and conscious—both thinking and feeling, I guess. Maybe the deeper truth here is that a “perfect” balance is as much of an illusion as any kind of perfection is. My attempts to chart new territory, one exchange at a time, is the best that I can do.
Starting a fresh week with the intention of staying in touch with my experience—whatever that means and however it leads me. Wishing you a good one, too. Here are some recipes and reads.
Tomato season is in full swing where I live, and I’ll be soaking up every second between now and October. This simple heirloom salad looks like a perfect way to celebrate.
And finally, a breathtaking vegan pavlova, thanks to the magic of aquafaba—and Agnes’ talent. (I used the translate function in Chrome to access the recipe.)
1. This carb champion never doubted the value of the macronutrient! But I was glad to see Carrie Dennett address one of the benefits of carbohydrates, which is gut health. Dennett accessibly covers new research into the disease-fighting potential of microbiota-accessible carbohydrates, or MACs. This is fancy terminology for the type of carbohydrates that feed healthful microbiota in our large intestine, thereby lowering inflammation and helping our bodies to fend off pathogens.
3. Hospitals are loud! It’s one of the sensory experiences of working in clinical settings that I’ve noted most often in the past year. I’m pretty sensitive to sound, so I’ve wondered if it was just me. But this article in The Atlantic suggests that it’s not.
5. I’ve become a fan of Caroline Wright’s writing through Food52, and this essay is a reminder of why—so human and touching. Caroline writes about how her cancer diagnosis changed her relationship with tiramisu and with her parents (how’s that for zeugma?). Among other things, it’s a lovely expression of what it means to get older and to reconcile one’s ideals about how life should be with the reality that each one of us gets. It was a very good thing for me to read this week.
I’m signing off to gather up the last few hours of Sunday. Love and appreciation to you all.
When I was testing recipes for Power Plates, I feasted on bowls for weeks at a time. Bowls were one of the main recipe categories in the book, so for a while I ate them for lunch, dinner, and sometimes breakfast, too.
I still make a lot of lunch bowls on the weekend, but since my internship started I’ve eaten less bowls than I was accustomed to doing a couple years ago. Bowls work most easily when one has components and a fridge and little counter space to compose them. For take-to-work meals, it’s been easier for me to pack up grain salads, sandwiches, or leftovers.
It’s hard to believe, but a mere two and half weeks from now my internship will officially be behind me. I can’t wait to have some cooking time back—not only weekends, but weekdays and weeknights, too. I suspect that diving back into a steady habit of bowl-making will be one of my first orders of business. These chili-roasted cauliflower, brown rice, and kimchi bowls are a sneak peek.
I know, I know—here we are at the start of summer, with salad recipes abounding, and I’m posting a hearty grain bowl. But the honest truth is that I crave grounding food like this in any and every season, the warm months included. It’s not hard for me to find cauliflower at any time of year, and roasting it with gochujang is a delicious, new (to me) preparation method, one that I’ll make again soon. In the meantime, steamed snow peas give the dish some sweet freshness and a pop of green color.
The real star of this dish, though, is the wonderfully flavorful kimchi from Nasoya. Nasoya is already my favorite brand for tofu and creative soy foods, and I was delighted to learn that it now offers four flavors of kimchi, all of which are vegan. As many of you probably know already, many varieties of kimchi contain fish sauce. It’s a rewarding dish to make at home, but when time is short—which it is for me lately, and for so many of us in general—it’s nice to have a store-bought option that is authentic and 100% plant-based.
Nasoya is offering four flavors of kimchi: spicy, mild, white (made with napa cabbage and radish, and without chili), and radish, which is also mild. I’ve tried and loved all of them, but I’m sensitive to heat, so the three mild varieties are my favorites so far.
In this recipe, I liked balancing the mild kimchi—which still has plenty of kick, thanks to umami and acidity—with spicy roasted cauliflower, sweet snap peas, earthy brown rice, and savory baked tofu. (I used Nasoya’s sesame ginger TofuBaked, which is an easy, ready-to-eat protein.) To make the dish at home, you could use your favorite homemade, baked tofu recipe or any store-bought option you like. You could also substitute beans as a protein instead.
Thanks to some semi-homemade components, the dish comes together quickly and easily, despite having lots of variety of texture and taste. You can head on over to the Nasoya website to get the instructions!
And in the meantime, I can’t vouch highly enough for this spicy roasted cauliflower. I tend to prefer gochujang to sriracha—the former is a little sweeter and less garlicky—but sriracha would be a perfectly good substitute here. For me, the spicy roasted cauliflower and the super flavorful kimchi is enough to give the bowls all the flavor they need. But you can add an optional topping or two—toasted sesame seeds, vinegar, sesame oil—or add a drizzle of a dressing that you like (this one would work well).
Thank you all for the kind wishes to my mom this week. She’s home, recuperating, and the positive energy I got in this space was felt and appreciated. You have my gratitude and hers!
I hope that those of you who were busy celebrating the 4th yesterday had a fun time, and I’ll see you on Sunday.
Today’s salad is a great example of how recycling a recipe—keeping it intact, but with a few key tweaks—can pay off. It’s based off of my mustardy lentil sweet potato salad, which isn’t a green leafy salad so much as a spread of sorts, in the same way that chicken salad and egg salad are salads. I love that recipe. And it happens to be one of the more popular recipes on this blog.
I make that salad often enough to have noticed some of my own tendencies in preparing and serving it. I often serve it with toast, but I serve it over a bed of greens a lot, too, and often a side of crackers to help me scoop everything up. I like the addition of greens, especially arugula; it gives the salad some peppery brightness and crunch. I like it with other greens, too, including baby spinach and chopped romaine.
So lately, I’ve been experimenting with transforming this salad into more of a leafy salad. And I’ve been eating and enjoying it regularly enough that I figured it was worth sharing the reimagined recipe.
What I love here is that the greens give the salad lightness and freshness, but it retains its heartiness and heft. It’s earthy and substantial enough to be a winter salad, too, and since sweet potatoes are available for me year round, I’ll enjoy it in every season.
I also love that that the salad is good for serving with, or on toast, because when don’t I want an excuse to bake some bread? I usually make a full batch of the salad, store the leftovers (they keep pretty well for 2 days), and serve it with a slice of homemade bread or a couple whole grain crackers, if for no other reason than to scoop everything on the plate up.
The other new addition here is cherry tomatoes, which add a lovely bite of sweet juiciness. And I’ll take any opportunity at all to eat more tomatoes when they’re in season, which they finally are. Without further ado, the new-ish recipe.
Tahini Mustard Sweet Potato, Lentil, and Arugula Salad
1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil, such as safflower, grapeseed, or refined avocado
2 medium or large sweet potatoes, cubed (about 3/4 inch)
1/2 cup brown, green, or black lentils <strong>or </strong>1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (1 can, drained and rinsed)
4 cups baby arugula or roughly chopped arugula, loosely packed
1 cup halved or quartered cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple or agave syrup
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Toss the cubed sweet potato in oil and place them on the baking sheet. Transfer the sheet to the oven. Roast the sweet potatoes for 35-40 minutes, stirring once halfway through, or until the sweet potatoes are tender and crispy at the edges.
While the potatoes roast, bring a pot of water to boil. Add the lentils and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain the lentils. (If you're using pre-cooked/canned lentils, you can skip this step.)
Whisk together the tahini, water, vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, and salt.
Place the roasted sweet potatoes, cooked lentils, tomatoes, and arugula into a large mixing bowl. Add the dressing. Toss well to combine. Taste the salad and add a pinch of salt if desired and black pepper to taste. Serve the recipe on its own or with whole grain toast or crackers.
In years past, I’ve felt that writing about food means constantly challenging myself to try, and post about, new combinations and new recipe concepts. This was a pretty good assumption in the past, especially since I started writing about food as a person who still had a lot of fear foods and unexplored culinary territories thanks to my eating disorder history.
Nowadays, as a recovered person with a solid love of food and a busy schedule, I appreciate echoes: recipes that can be reinvented in lots of ways, favorite combinations that I indulge whenever the craving hits. And I recognize how much of the joy of cooking can be found in nuances, in little adjustments between and among well-loved things.
I hope you’ll find something to love in the salad, too. It’s a little more time consuming than other salads I’ve been making this year, but the payoff is good.
Happy Tuesday, and I’ll be back around later this week with a satisfying new bowl!
Years ago, a yoga teacher of mine said something in class that sounded obvious, but wasn’t: “when it can be easy, let it be easy.”
I’ve mentioned her words on the blog before, so in the spirit of the quotation I won’t overanalyze it. But I will tell you that her advice has helped to guide me through this period of anxiety. It’s been especially helpful in the last week.
On Sunday evening, after I vented about my overwhelm here on the blog, I spent some time thinking about what could be simplified or made easier in the week ahead. Work projects couldn’t be, but there were lots of other things that could.
I reached out to a close family friend and asked whether she could help out with some of the care-taking after my mom’s knee replacement surgery on Monday. I ordered my mom some meals from Veestro, so that she wouldn’t have to worry about food during her recuperation, and I threw in a bunch for myself, so that I can spend a little less time on cooking and meal prep during this busy stretch.
I cancelled some work calls that didn’t need to happen right away and extended the deadline for a job that had snuck up on me. I asked a peer to walk me through an assignment I’d been struggling with. I delayed making plans with friends, explaining that it would be better to catch up when my rotations were winding down. I sent emails that were shorter and more to-the-point than mine usually are; I turned in a couple projects that I gave about 80% of my effort to, but not more, trusting that they were good enough as they were.
I asked my closest friend here in the city to keep me company at the hospital on Monday; I didn’t ask for company during my mom’s last knee replacement, and it turned into an unnecessarily lonely, tense day. I spent much of it looking around the waiting room at the hospital watching partners and families band together, feeling pangs of envy and sadness. Those feelings were (and are) honest and OK. But I don’t have to go it alone all the time, either, and I’m glad that I asked my friend for a little companionship during the wait.
It’s my tendency to take charge of things and then give them my all. I’m not ashamed of this; it’s part of how I work, live, and love. But I’m learning as I get older the profound truth of the observation that no man—or woman—is an island. It takes courage and wisdom to ask for help, to choose against things being harder or more onerous than they need to be.
This past week wasn’t easy, and the week ahead won’t be, either. Things will feel challenging until my rotations are over, and my RD journey won’t stop there: there’s an RD exam to take, and then planning what comes next. One lesson I learned as a post-bacc student is that it’s easy to live in constant anticipation of an easier, smoother, less demanding moment in time, telling oneself that the business of being at peace can be delayed until then.
It really shouldn’t be, though. There are always upswings and downswings in life, including periods that feel either especially stressful or especially sweet. But very rarely do the clouds part entirely, which makes it important to cultivate calm no matter how hectic things are. I’m beginning to understand that it’s almost always possible to simplify something, to put down an unnecessary burden or two.
That’s the spirit with which I’m looking ahead to tomorrow, anyway. And I’ll continue to issue myself a gentle invitation to let go of what I can and ask for help with what I can’t. Fingers crossed. Here are some recipes and reads.
2. Hypercholesterolemia, or clinically high levels of blood serum cholesterol, are improving but still far from ideal among American kids and teens. I like RD Keri Gans’ tips for prevention, which include increasing fiber, focusing on whole grains, and limiting fatty foods. To her suggestions for boosting omega-3 fatty acid intake, I’d offer a focus on chia, flax, hemp, walnuts, soy, and vegan DHA/EPA supplements.
4. Until I read this article I hadn’t given enough thought to the need for low-cost care for companion animals. I’m glad that New York City’s resources for vulnerable animals is growing.
5. Finally, happy Pride. The celebration in NYC has been inspiring so far. While I was thinking about the Pride March today and its meaning, I stumbled on Eric Kim’s article for Food52 about coming out to his parents. Kimchi fried rice plays a pivotal role in the family’s shared story—Kim is Korean American—and his compassion shines through every word.
In the spirit of compassion, connection, and celebration of who we are, happy Sunday, friends. I’ll be looping back soon with a new summer salad recipe.
This isn’t a recipe post, but it touches on something that has been near and dear to my heart this year, as a dietetic intern: leftover storage.
During my clinical rotations, half of every Saturday and Sunday were dedicated to meal prep and batch cooking. Yes, it was a lot of time, and yes, I often wanted to be doing other things with my weekend afternoons, but in that period I got home pretty late each evening. Cooking after a long day of acute care and commuting wasn’t an option, and I still wanted to enjoy homemade meals. Batch cooking and freezing was the solution. Below you’ll see a typical week’s Sunday bounty.
Now that I’ve moved into community and food service I have more leeway, either because my schedule is more lenient (which was true in my last rotation) or because I have less cooking to do (this is true at the moment because I get complimentary lunch and breakfast at work). Still, I batch cook my weekly dinners, and the need for efficient storage is as real as ever.
When the folks at Foodsaver offered to send me one of their FoodSaver® FM2000 Vacuum Sealing System, I was intrigued but unsure: I’ve never used this kind of storage system, and I figured maybe I didn’t need another appliance in my little NYC kitchen. Now that I’ve had a chance to get to know the machine, I’m so glad to have it, and it’s getting plenty of use.
The advantage of the Foodsaver is that it reduces oxygen in stored food. Less oxygen means that food is less susceptible to bacteria and other pathogens growing. This means that food leftovers can be stored safely for longer—I’ll get to that in a second—and that the quality is stretched for more time, too.
Foodsaver’s real super strength is in freezing. Whereas food can usually be kept in the freezer for 3-6 months, food that’s been vacuum sealed with the Foodsaver can be stored for 2-3 years. When I first read this, my reaction was to think that nothing would ever want or need to hang out in my freezer for a matter of years. But then I asked myself whether or not I’ve ever pulled food out of my fridge that’s at least 6-8 months old, and the answer is…yes. Definitely yes. And wouldn’t it be great if I could eat that slice of bread, those tortillas, or those frozen chickpeas?
Freezing aside, Foodsaver extends the life of fridge and pantry leftovers, too. The life of most produce (including the baby bok choy you see above!) can be prolonged to 2 weeks, rather than the usual 3-6 days. Even berries can be extended to 1-2 weeks—much longer than their usual fridge life (I feel as though berries in particular often go bad before I’ve been able to use them). If you’re curious, you can check out this chart on the Foodsaver website to check approximate storage times for various foods, as compared to conventional storage time.
I often bake a block of tofu over the weekend for use in salads and bowls through the week, but it’s not uncommon for me to have a half or a quarter of the batch that sits in my fridge for too long. Cubes can be vacuum sealed beautifully with the food saver, as can my cooked grains and beans; you can see that I vacuum sealed some black and short grain brown rice together (rice is another grain I tend to make a lot of and sometimes waste).
The appliance is super easy to use—it would have to be, for me to figure it out as quickly as I did! You simply insert the open end of a bag into the device and turn it on. The machine removes air on its own and creates an airtight seal. To re-open the leftovers, you can simply cut the bag open.
My machine came with a roll that could be shaped into bags and pre-shaped bags. So far I’ve been relying on the bags and would probably opt to keep doing that, but the roll is good for larger items. It comes with a five-year warranty, is ETL safety certified, and I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that Foodsaver is the leading vacuum sealer brand in the country.
When you live alone and cook a lot, it’s easy to misjudge and waste food. I do this as seldom as I can, but it happens, and this machine is allowing it to happen less often. As I said, I know this isn’t a recipe post, but storing food is as much a part of being a home cook as everything else. I’ve had a great time using the FM2000, and if you do a lot of freezing and storing of your own, I suspect you might have a similar experience.
On that note, it’s time for me to wrap up my second week of food service management and to think about what I’m cooking this weekend. Happy Friday, friends!
This post is sponsored by Foodsaver. All opinions are my own, and I love this means of extending the life of my food. Thanks for your support!