Menu of Meals: Week 2 of Our “Clean Slate Diet” Challenge, Plus a Recipe Poll

Dieting is hard. After completing the first week of our “clean slate diet” (where we eliminate gluten, dairy, beef/pork, added sugar, and other allergens like eggs), I honestly feel great. Scarily, I have a lot more energy throughout the day (I’m already known to be quite hyper), my attention span has lengthened a great deal, and I’ve weirdly lost five pounds. However, I cannot stop craving the following foods: pizza (I have dreams of shotgunning a large everything pie), mac n cheese, porchetta sandwich, soft boiled eggs, and steak. Though I’ve done all I can to make the first week of meals as exciting as possible despite this diet’s hard restrictions, there is something I miss not only about the taste of these forbidden ingredients, but also the texture. I haven’t yet been able to figure out how to recreate the creaminess of melted cheese, the dual texture of things like bread (crispy on the outside, soft on the inside), or the chewiness of red meat, and I find myself wanting those things more than anything, right now.

I’ve heard that the first few days of a diet is the hardest. My husband and I are committed to competing this six-week regimen, but it’s a little sad. This isn’t to say that each meal hasn’t been delicious. Here’s a sampling of what we ate last week:

Meals (clockwise starting on the top left): ginger/scallion chicken soup with rice noodles, shredded chicken and garlic sautéed bok choy; mushu chicken with brown rice; brown rice noodles stir-fried with vegetables in almond butter/soy sauce with broiled salmon and roasted broccoli and cauliflower; turkey meatball soup with escarole and kale; green lentils with roasted brussel sprouts with jasmine rice

Meals (clockwise starting on the top left): ginger/scallion chicken soup with rice noodles, shredded chicken and garlic sautéed bok choy; mushu chicken with brown rice; brown rice noodles stir-fried with vegetables in almond butter/soy sauce with broiled salmon and roasted broccoli and cauliflower; turkey meatball soup with escarole and kale; green lentils with roasted brussel sprouts with jasmine rice

True to form, I went overboard during week one and spent an unnecessary amount of time in the kitchen to compensate for what we were going to miss. But let’s be real. A cheese-less and bread-less life is not the merriest life. In any case, this week, I’m not going to be as insane in the kitchen because I don’t want to burn out. Without further ado, here’s the menu for the week.

Menu of Meals for Week 2 (January 10th-17th):

Sunday, January 10th

  • B: Sliced apple with almond butter
  • L: Nha Minh smoked fish rice bowl
  • D: Roasted butternut squash, chickpea, and coconut curry w/ white rice
    * Make hummus

Monday, January 11th

  • B: Fruit
  • L: Leftover butternut squash, chickpea, and coconut curry with white rice
  • D: Scallion ginger shrimp with brown rice and roasted broccoli/cauliflower

Tuesday, January 12th

  • B: Chocolate chia seed pudding with berries
  • L: Leftover scallion ginger shrimp with brown rice and roasted broccoli/cauliflower
  • D: Lamb and mint meatballs with brown rice and salad
    * make chicken broth

Wednesday, January 13th

  • B: Quinoa porridge with frozen berries, banana, and walnut
  • L: Leftover lamb and mint meatballs with brown rice
  • D: Hainanese chicken with garlic rice and garlic bok choy

Thursday, January 14th

  • B: Coconut milk yogurt with fruit
  • L: Leftover hainanese chicken with garlic rice and garlic bok choy
  • D: Broiled salmon with quinoa and roasted brussel sprouts and cranberry beans with radicchio

Friday, January 15th

  • B: Brown rice porridge with fruit and almonds  
  • L:  Leftover salmon with quinoa and roasted brussel sprouts and cranberry beans with raddichio
  • D: Roasted cornish hen with brown rice, salad, and roasted brussel sprouts

Saturday, January 16th

  • B:  Chia seed pudding
  • L: Leftover roasted cornish hen with brown rice and roasted brussel sprouts
  • D: Braised collard greens with cranberry beans and turkey andouille sausage and brown rice
    * Make chicken broth

Sunday, January 17th

  • B: Fruit  
  • L: Leftovers
  • D: Roasted butternut squash risotto with roasted vegetables 

I know I owe my little community of readers a post on meal planning when cooking just seems like the worst thing ever, and I promise it will come sometime this month. This diet is taking more of my time than I thought it would. Plus being back at work full-force after a 10-day break is harder as a supervisor. But I’m on it, my dears!

Meal Planning 101: On Cooking with Limited Time and Energy, plus a Menu of Meals

A couple of entries ago, I shared with you all my maniacal approach to finding co-curricular fulfillment and how my body failed to keep up. After a much-needed therapy session, I had hoped that I would easily be able to drop an activity or two, or at least dampen my must-approach-everything-with-100-percent-intensity modus operandi. No dice. I tend to feel like there is no point to doing anything if I’m not giving it my all, or producing at high levels. In any case, it is clearly (and frustratingly) going to take me a long time to figure out why my drive seems to be so dogmatic, unforgiving and cruel. In the meantime, however, I need to make more time for myself, but how do I do that? I refuse to drop my Italian tutoring sessions. I shouldn’t give up my volunteer work. I will always make room for my husband and my dog. Spending more time with my friends/chosen family is generative and important. And at this point, I need to strengthen my body so that it can better withstand stress, so I won’t be canceling my gym membership anytime soon.

I mentioned to my therapist that I have been cooking an average of 2-3 hours per day for the last two months, and that more than half of every week’s meals were brand new dishes and experiments. I also articulated that I feel a building internal pressure around cooking (because I need to measure personal achievement) and this blog (because I need external validation for my personal achievements). Though I continue to experience a great deal of joy when I cook and eat, I’ve found myself getting grumpier in the kitchen. I HATE being grumpy when I’m around food. So, I decided that I would try to forcibly de-escalate my growing personal expectations around cooking. And I’m doing this by setting parameters. This week, I will spend no more than an average of 45-minutes/day cooking our meals. 

I know I may be in the minority when I say this, but planning is awesome. If you spend a little bit of time intentionally crafting your week’s meals, particularly when you know you’ll be frenzied and busy, I promise it will really help you save both time and energy. Here are some of the things to consider.

Note, I’ve added gifs to make this more exciting. 

Prepare stock items when you have some free time and stick that shit in the freezer.

I can’t tell you how amazing it is to open the freezer and see an arsenal of useful homemade goods, like tomato sauce, chicken or vegetable broth, ragu, dough, or dumpling skins. In the fall and winter, I’m very frequently cooking soups, stews, and risotto, so I always make sure to have some broth in hand. Actually, making broth is one of my most favorite things to do. Since it takes a few hours, I’ll usually position myself in front of the TV and occasionally return to the kitchen to skim off some fat. This process forces me to relax, which is something I desperately need help doing. In any case, several of this week’s dishes require chicken broth (split pea soup, garlic rice, farro). If it’s already made, the amount of time I’m spending preparing and cooking decreases a lot. A lot a lot.

Choose dishes that utilize a crock pot.

I used to think crock pots were for cheaters, but I was wrong – they are simply amazing. If you don’t have one, ask for one for the holidays, or treat yo’self. They’re only like $30.

Because things are being consistently slow-cooked or braised, there is really no need to check on your dish, and usually you can just plop all your ingredients in at once, cover the lid, and call it a day. I don’t know about other people, but I feel comfortable leaving the appliance unattended, especially if the setting is on “low.” This means you can make something overnight, or cook your delicious meal while you’re at work. I did once make the grave mistake of making slow-cooker ragu overnight. The smells were so amazing and distracting, that sleep did not come so easy. This week, I’ll be using the crock pot for split pea soup.

Choose meals/dishes you know so well that you no longer need to use a recipe.

Whenever I make something new, my brain is tired from the experience, even if it only takes 30 minutes to prepare and cook. Perhaps it’s because I’m some mutated form of a perfectionist, but there is something kind of exhausting about quadruple-checking ingredients and instructions when I’m already sort of spent from the day. If I don’t need a recipe, it usually means a dish is relatively simple (even if I’ve made a beef bourguignon dozens of times, I cannot for the life of me remember how much of everything to use). These are always pretty good go-to meals when you have limited time and energy. This week, for example, I’ve included these dishes that I can cook easily, quickly, and from memory: (1) penne w/ cauliflower, bacon, and peas; (2) Korean pan-fried fish fillets (jeon); and (3) farfalle w/ smashed broccoli and garlic.

Pick dishes that require fewer ingredients.

Last weekend, I cooked the best stew I’ve ever made (lamb tagine), but it took forever, and I used about a zillion spices. It was totally worth it, but this is not the sort of thing I’m about to make when I’m stressed and have little time/energy. This week, I chose entrees and side dishes that are simple so I don’t have to think about much. For example, the Korean fried fish fillets require a white fish, salt, flour, and egg, and the side requires chopped bok choy, garlic, water, salt, and white pepper. One of the pastas has bacon, cauliflower, and peas, and the other entree simply has boiled broccoli, garlic, anchovies, and olive oil. Obviously, if you’re using fewer ingredients, than you’ll have less shit to prepare and cook. SCIENCE.

On days when you have a little more time and energy, prepare and/or pre-cook your side dishes.

When I’m feeling especially drained, I get annoyed when I have to split my energy/time between cooking an entree and side dishes. So, sometimes it is really helpful to pre-cook certain side dishes. For example, one can cook a bunch of rice, store it in the fridge, and reheat the amount you need for each meal (the refrigerator life of cooked rice is usually between 4-6 days). You can do the same thing with blanched vegetables (though it’s always good to look up the refrigerator life of different cooked vegetables). I also find that on some days, I love chopping vegetables. I usually take advantage of those spurts, look at my meal schedule, and chop up items for use the next few days.

When cooking your dinners, make enough so you can have leftovers for lunch. 

I am really not a morning (or evening) person. Is it possible to be an afternoon person? That sounds super lame. In any case, I don’t like to spend time doing anything in the morning before work – I can barely get myself to take a shower and chug a cup of coffee. All this to say: I despise preparing lunch for myself in the AM. For me, it is a billion percent better to pack dinner leftovers and just shove some filled tupperware into my purse.

So, with all this in mind, here is the menu for the week:

Menu of Meals: Week of November 9, 2015

  • Monday
    • D: Korean pan-fried white fish (jeon) with jasmine rice and garlic bok choy
  • Tuesday
    • L: Leftover fish jeon
    • D: Hainanese chicken with garlic rice and spicy cucumber salad
  • Wednesday
    • L: Leftover chicken and rice
    • D: Farfalle w. smashed broccoli and garlic
  • Thursday
    • L: Leftover farfalle
    • D: Split pea soup w/ baguette and salad
  • Friday
    • L: Leftover split pea soup and bread
    • D: Chicken fried rice and sugar snap peas
  • Saturday
    • L: Leftover fried rice
    • D: Penne w/ cauliflower, peas, and bacon and sautéed garlic swiss chard
  • Sunday
    • L: Leftover penne
    • D: Freekah or farro salad with roasted kale and cabbage and fried egg

Coming Up…Five Cooking Tools I Cannot Live Without, plus a Poll for What Recipe to Share Next

Happy Things, and a Vegetarian/Pescatarian and Somewhat Gluten-Free Menu of Meals

It’s been a while! These last few weeks have been so full and happy, but exhausting all the same. In fact, I write this after taking a sick day to nurse my irritatingly fragile constitution. One, my husband’s amazing parents were visiting for Italy for a couple of weeks. I really struck gold with them – they are brilliant, supportive, energetic, and loving people. Also, I’ve recently been voted onto the Steering Committee of a remarkable organization called KALCA (Korean American League for Civic Action), which works to encourage Asian Americans to become more civically and politically engaged. I’ve found myself an Italian language tutor to help me structure my learning so that I no longer have an excuse to lazily try to “learn” the language via osmosis. Finally, I’m en route to finding a gym. Though I’ve been spending a lot of time and energy on my emotional and mental health and well-being, I’ve still ignored the real importance of physical health (I probably walk 1-2 miles/day in NYC, but clearly that isn’t enough to strengthen me against sickness, back and neck pain, and other boring ailments). With all these new and exciting endeavors, I have been hard pressed to find the luxury of time I experienced over the summer. And this has definitely impacted my energy-level and desire to cook with my usual gusto. And I feel super guilty about that. Womp.

Anywho, while Nico’s parents were here, we ate incredibly well. Combining Nico’s family and mine, we all spent a four-day weekend in Vermont. There, we saw a huge surge in consumption of cheese, pasta, meat, alcohol, and fatty things, which makes me really happy (and definitely made me a bit rounder). However, too much of all of this goodness has resulted in a more fatigued body and mind, and I’m going to have to get used to having other activities beyond work and cooking/eating, so this week’s meals are going to be about balance. Please enjoy this uncharacteristically vegetarian/pescatarian and somewhat gluten-free menu of meals:


  • L: Vegetable soup
  • D: Fish in a bag (cod steamed in a pouch with potatoes, fennel, olives, cherry tomatoes, and lemons) + salad
    *make pickled eggs and egg salad


  • L: Pickled egg salad sandwiches with avocado and lettuce
  • D: Quinoa & chickpea patties with tzatziki sauce, cucumber salad, and roasted lemon potatoes
    *roast fennel/stem, potatoes, shallots, and beet and


  • L: Leftover quinoa & chickpea patties
  • D: Olive oil poached salmon salad with roasted veggies, potatoes, and mustard vinaigrette
    *make cherry and dark chocolate cashew granola bars


  • L: Leftover salmon salad
  • D: Eggplant and stringbean stir fry with rice and steamed egg custard


  • L: Leftover eggplant and stringbean stir fry
  • D: Bibimbahp (with farro)


  • L: Pickled egg salad sandwiches
  • D: Leftovers

Coming Up: On evaluating my value and worth, my indedible meal of the year, and (a considerably more edible) porchetta recipe

For those of you interested in our trip to Vermont, here are some photos!

The house we rented in Vermont for 4 nights

The cabin we rented in Vermont 

Failing at pool (both feet were considerably off the floor)

Failing at pool (both feet were considerably off the floor)



Looking more uncomfortable than badass on my dad's motorcycle

Looking more uncomfortable than badass on my dad’s motorcycle

The best kind of selfie

The best kind of selfie

Grilled vegetables for sammies

Grilled vegetables for sammies

Da sammie

Da sammie

Pond relaxation

Pond relaxation

Porchetta prep

Porchetta prep

Porchetta, slow roasted for 5 hours

Porchetta, slow roasted for 5 hours

Late night fire pit fun

Late night fire pit fun

We didn't forget about Mandu

We didn’t forget about Mandu

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

My baby

Meal Planning 101: Organizing around a Budget, plus a Pickled Egg Salad Recipe

In my first installment of the Meal Planning 101 series, I wrote about reusing versatile ingredients, which helps to tighten parameters, develop one’s palate, and save time and money. Truth be told, in response to my recent week-long “funk,” I went all out and spent way too much money on groceries for last week’s menu. I tend to function like a pendulum –either I’m on one side of an extreme or the other, and if I’m not, I’ve stopped moving and am probably dead. In any case, I thought it would be helpful to talk about budgeting. As you likely know by now, I like to impose limits and parameters on everything that I do, because the burden of choice can be too much for an anxious person like me. A budget is one of the most important frameworks, and can be really annoying to navigate when you’re a cravings-centric person like I am (lobster all the time, dammit!).

So, I’m not going to go through exactly how to budget one’s meal, because I think that the process, amount, and priorities are different for everyone depending on circumstances and preferences. What I’ll do, instead, is walk you through my general approach to choosing ingredients and meals based on a budget. To be clear, this post is not primarily about creating a menu based on a small/tight budget. I’ll do that another time.

Typically, I’m okay with spending an average of $14/day per person on groceries, and maybe a tad more when we host dinners with friends. Keep in mind that my husband and I rarely eat out or get delivery, even for lunch. This will cover breakfast, lunch, dinner, and when I’m feeling especially naughty, desserts and snacks. And, for the most part, my husband and I eat really, really well. There are definitely occasions when I need to spend less on groceries, whether it’s because I’ve just made a big purchase, and really need to replenish my piggy bank, or, those fleeting moments when I realize that I should have a LOT more dough stashed in a retirement fund, or when things are just generally tight. When that happens, here’s what I consider:

What can I spend?

The easiest and most important parameter is the actual budget. What can you/are you willing to spend on groceries, this week? This week, I gave myself a $120 budget.

What essential ingredients should I have in stock?

You may want to consider joining a place like Costco or Sam’s Club to stock up on essentials. Canned tomatoes and beans are always good to have on hand and are probably cheaper when buying in bulk. You can also grab important items like olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and other condiments when they’re on mega-sale somewhere, so you don’t have to constantly add these things to your grocery list.

What are some cheap go-to meals?

It’s always good to have some inexpensive meals in your pocket. I always make sure to have a pile of canned goods (tomatoes, beans), a variety of pastas, and rice. Also, I always have in stock essential items like onions, garlic, crushed red peppers, and anchovies. With these in place, I’m poised to make a cheap (and usually, quick) meal. Some of my go-to meals are: spaghetti aglio e olio (garlic and oil), pasta all’amatriciana, rice and beans, and pasta al pomodoro. This week, these dishes include a pasta al pomodoro, and a pickled egg salad.

What are cheaper ingredients?

When thinking about your meal for the week, it’s good to already have a sense of what foods are generally less expensive. For example, if you’re a meat-eater, chicken and pork are usually the cheaper options. Within the poultry category, dark meat is usually more affordable (and delicious), and bone-in cuts are generally even more forgiving on your wallet. I bought boneless/skinless chicken thighs for a katsu, and didn’t have to spend much dough for what will be a super filling and hearty meal. Consider the same thing with vegetables/produce, which are sadly often even more expensive than meat (thank the government’s insane subsidization of the meat industry) – generally, potatoes, cabbages, onions, carrots, and cauliflower are on the cheaper side of town. This may seem like a bummer, but there are so many wonderful things you can do with each of these ingredients. Cabbage was a good bet, and I’ve been enjoying a simple summer salad with raw red cabbage, carrots, and edamame.

What’s on sale?

Sales. Duh. Look at what’s on sale, see if anything is calling to you, and try to use those items as the basis for your menu. I saw that mussels were on sale, this week, and bought 2 pounds for a nice Moules Marinieres dish, that I’ll have with bread and a cabbage salad. Also, I got some beautiful branzino for roasting, which was only a whopping $5.99/lb.

Are there any foods/meals I MUST have, no question?

Admittedly, this isn’t always something we can ask ourselves when meal planning. I could say “I’m on a budget, but I must have caviar for breakfast every morning,” but that would be insane. However, if you are very in tune with what your body, heart, and soul crave, it can be helpful in setting more parameters for the rest of your meals. For example, this week’s menu is cheaper on the grocery-front, but I made sure I could still eat seafood, because that is what I’ve been craving. After purchasing crab meat, branzino, and mussels, it became clear that I had to be very mindful about the cost of ingredients for side dishes and the other meals. Though quinoa isn’t the most affordable grain out there, it was on sale, and I could combine some cheap canned goods (artichoke hearts and chickpeas) and some fresh vegetables for a hearty, filling, and relatively inexpensive meal/side dish.

Using these questions as a guide, here’s the menu I’ve come up with for the week (items in italics were on sale)

Monday, August 17

  • L: Salade Nicoise
  • D: Moules Marinieres (mussels cooked with garlic, shallots, white wine, and broth) + red cabbage, carrot and edamame salad + toasted bread

Tuesday, August 18

  • L: Quinoa salad w/ edamame, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, yellow peppers, and chick peas
  • D: Roasted branzino + quinoa salad + asparagus

Wednesday, August 19

  • L: Leftover branzino w/ jasmine rice
  • D: Kimchi pancake + chicken thigh katsu + jasmine rice + red cabbage, carrot and edamame salad
  • Dessert: Homemade oreo ice cream sandwiches

Thursday, August 20

  • L: Chicken katsu sandwiches
  • D: Crab-fried rice + red cabbage, carrot and edamame salad

Friday, August 21

  • L: Pickled egg salad sandwiches
  • D: Spaghetti all’amatriciana

Saturday, August 22

  • L: Leftover pasta
  • D: Visiting family in NJ

Including breakfasts, which usually include toast, or granola + yogurt (not worthy of listing above), my husband and I spent a total of $24/day for what’s still a relatively happening menu. This also factors in extra groceries for certain meals since we will be hosting guests. I totally acknowledge that what I’ve spent is certainly not nothing, and that it may not be a reasonable budget for many. But, the questions I posed above can help someone navigate a budget of any size.

And now, for my favorite egg salad recipe.

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Pickled Egg Salad
Recipe taken and modified from Bon Appetit
Servings: 6
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cooking Time: 10


  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives
  • ¼ of finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Bread for serving
  • Serrano ham or prosciutto for serving (optional)


  1. Bring vinegars, sugar, 1½ tsp. salt, and ½ cup water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, place eggs in a medium saucepan and add water to cover by 2”. Bring to a boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit 10 minutes. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain, peel, and return to bowl. Add pickling liquid; cover and chill at least 12 hours. Remove eggs from pickling liquid. Coarsely chop; mix with mayonnaise, scallions or chives, and parsley in a medium bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and some pickling liquid, if desired. (I used about 2 teaspoons.)
  3. Top bread with pickled egg salad, some chervil (if using), and a slice of ham or prosciutto (if using).
  4. Do Ahead: Eggs can be pickled 1 week ahead. Keep chilled.

Coming up on the Meal Planning 101 Series: On Navigating Time Constraints

Menu Series: Forcing Myself Out of a Funk

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I was feeling unmotivated and uninspired, and that I was going to try to embrace a less coordinated approach to meal-planning and cooking.

I lied.

I’m not sure what happened, but after the weekend, I felt inspired again, and created a somewhat intense menu for the week. To be honest, I feel a bit ashamed that I couldn’t hold onto my public commitment to embracing a more nebulous mode-of-being. It would likely be healthy for me to learn how to not plan every day of my life with a high standard of precision. But maybe I’m not ready to embrace the possibility of a new Yejin.

In any case, I was lucky to spend time with lots of loved ones, over the weekend. A part of me wonders if love and good people give me life and inspiration (call me Needy McGee). Strangely enough, my soul’s reaction to being around my ridiculously talented, brilliant, and kind friends vacillates between (1) being driven by love and inspiration to do/be better (in a positive way), and (2) feeling totally unworthy of their friendship (definitely not a positive experience). I’m going to spend the next few weeks thinking about why that is.

In the meantime, here’s the week’s menu, and some pictures of stuff that I’ve cooked, so far:

Monday, August 3rd 

  • D: Broiled Maryland crabcakes, steamed corn, and a cabbage/carrot/edamame salad
    Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Tuesday, August 4th 

  • L: Pasta salad w/ mozzarella, cheddar, olives, cherry tomatoes, tuna, and basil
    Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetD: Whole snapper stuffed with lemon, herbs, and shallots, pan-fried and then roasted w/ bread and steamed asparagus
    Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset
    Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Wednesday, August 5th

  • L: Pasta salad
  • D: Black bean tostada topped w/ lettuce, avocado, roasted corn salad, and sour cream, and a cabbage/carrot salad
  • Des: Double chocolate butter cookies

Thursday, August 6th 

  • L: Leftover black bean tostadas
  • D: Pesto pasta w/ green beans and potatoes, and an arugula salad

Friday, August 7th

  • L: :Leftover pesto pasta
  • D: Kimchi fried rice w/ tofu, and garlic sauteed bok choy

Saturday, August 8th 

  • L: Fried green tomatoes BLT w/ garlic aoili
  • D: Dine out

Sunday, August 9th 

  • B: Sour cream and orange coffee cake with dark chocolate chips
  • D: Homemade steamed buns w/ pickled cucumbers and braised pork belly

Coming Up: On White Chefs and Ethnic Restaurants: the Fetishization, Commodification, and Appropriation of the Other (plus a recipe for Chinese steamed buns)

On Feeling Uninspired (Alternate Title: Who am I?)

It’s been a while, my little doves. For some reason, I’ve been feeling wholly uninspired and directionless for the past three weeks, and it makes no sense. Here’s the source of my confusion: In the last month, I’ve been greatly productive at work and have been gaining confidence as a leader; I’ve been spending a lot more time with my friends/loved ones; and I’ve never experienced so little anxiety about tangible life things (of course, with the notable exception of my acute vertigo episode). So what gives?

From the New Yorker

Perhaps, with all the momentum from my past few posts, I was a little too excited about what was supposed to be the next entry: On White Chefs and Ethnic Restaurants: The Fetishization, Commodification, and Appropriation of the Other. I recently took a look at all my notes from the various books I researched in preparation for that entry, and laughed. I had ten pages of notes, and two-pages worth of seemingly nonsensical or all-too-lofty ideas/theses statements. Because I was trying to do too many things with the essay, I started to feel overwhelmed. And, as I often do, I started to feel stupid.

I’m pretty sure that this isn’t the source of my general ennui, but it is a pretty typical trajectory for my descent into a totally unnecessary path of self-loathing.

In any case, I was wondering, is it possible that I have no frame of reference for the experience of contentment? Is this what life is like when I have more control over both internal and external stressors? Is it a lot like…boredom? Perhaps this feeling comes from the following pairing: the current absence of maniacal anxiety + my penchant for feeling unintelligent or uninteresting.

This is usually how I talk to myself.

Who knows?

Back to food. I can tell when I’m feeling uninspired, because my menu of meals either ceases to exist, or it doesn’t reflect my usual joy of cooking/eating. It’s possible that this feeling has something to do with cooking for myself for two weeks. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was sort of conducting an experiment to see if I could practice self-love by cooking for one. It was hard. And tiring. And clearly, it was difficult to convince myself that I’m worth my own time, energy, and effort. Anyway, there have been no complaints, but I’ve definitely approached my food in a super half-assed way since then (poor hubby!), and haven’t felt compelled to write. I could look at this dry-spell as a sign that I’m growing. Funny/strange but related anecdote: For the first two months of therapy, I always prepared an agenda, because I wanted to make sure we addressed everything that I identified as a problem, that week. As my seventh session was beginning, I freaked out and told him that I didn’t have a plan for the conversation, and felt extremely guilty. He pointed out that this was a good thing, that perhaps I was slowly learning how to let go. Let go of what, you ask? Let go of my intense desire to control everything that I think and feel, of my urge to orchestrate a maximized process for productivity and intellectual growth, of my fear that I am nothing and no one if I’m not constantly marked by motivation and passion. By letting go of these practices, he says I open myself up to new tools and paths. So, maybe this is like that?

So, rather than do what I would normally do in this type of situation (which would be to force myself to create an inspired and fun menu, as if that would signify that I’m back to being a passionate and ambitious person), I’ll ride this out as a confused and passive passenger, and see where it takes me. I’ll cook what I want, when I feel like it.

Ugh, that sounds so weird.

Even though I’ve been scheduling weekly menus for several years, now, I have not been able to do this for the past couple of weeks. And I can’t get myself to do it, today. However, I do know that I want to eat some, if not all, of the following:

  • Roasted pork belly with lettuce wraps
  • Pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, olives, cheese, tuna, and basil
  • Summer vegetable strata
  • Crabcakes
  • Farro salad with toasted pine nuts, currants & mustard greens
  • Pesto pasta w/ potatoes and string beans
  • Fried green tomatoes
  • Sour cream coffee cake with orange and chocolate

I may make all of these things, or none of them (this is preposterous!) Let’s see where this loosey goosey approach takes us. Maybe it will be SO strange and foreign that I’ll run back to my controlfreak ways. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I promise to post a recipe, soon! And, I am still working on the white chefs entry, a second installment of Pairing TV Shows with Three-Course Meals, and Meal-Planning 102.

In case you are curious, here are some of my less half-assed meals from the last couple of weeks:

Kimchi rice with fried tofu and an egg

Kimchi rice with fried tofu and an egg

Chicken thigh katsu w/ jasmine rice, a salad, and sweet steamed corn

Chicken thigh katsu w/ jasmine rice, a salad, and sweet steamed corn

Herbed chicken roasted on a bed of vegetables (carrots, shallots, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, and lemons) w/ bread

Herbed chicken roasted on a bed of vegetables (carrots, shallots, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, and lemons) w/ bread

Meal Planning 101: On Reusing Versatile Ingredients, plus a “Nourish Bowl” Recipe

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my initial motivation to schedule all my meals came from anxiety – anxiety that I would be wasteful with ingredients (and therefore money), that I wouldn’t enjoy my food. It’s become much more than that, more than a pressure valve for my neurosis. It’s a way for me to think creatively, to exercise a kind of freedom that only exists in the presence of strict parameters.

I’ve tried to outline a Meal Planning 101 entry, but found that a singular post would be far too long and verbose, and probably super boring. So, I’ve decided to start a series, highlighting different elements of my planning process. This first one is going to be about thinking ahead and reusing ingredients, and I’ll go through my thought process behind this week’s menu.

The process of reusing ingredients is important to me for a number of reasons:

  1. It tightens parameters. I don’t know if you know this, but there are like a gazillion food blogs (read: food porn sites) and a bajillion recipes for everything. Diving into the endless abyss of books and blogs to find that perfect dish is probably a gigantic time suck, and this helps. And, even though I like planning stuff out (clearly), sometimes I find it exhausting to make completely new things, everyday, and to find delectable recipes for each. Choosing versatile ingredients that I can reuse gives me a weird sort of peace of mind.
  2. It helps me to develop my palate. I learn more about the ingredient when I cook it in a number of different styles. Also, by focusing on one or more reusable ingredients for a week’s meal, I have the opportunity to actually taste different ingredient pairings and formulate my own opinions.
  3. It can save time. For example, I can prepare the ingredient for the whole week in one fell swoop (e.g. trimming or blanching vegetables), or cook the ingredient(s) in one batch and use them throughout the week.
  4. It can save money. I am often on the prowl for what’s on sale or in season. If I’m okay with reusing an ingredient or two throughout the week, it means that I can spend less money. Also, if I find that I’m reusing a great deal of something (an example for me would be jasmine rice), then I can save some money by purchasing in bulk.

There are obviously other elements to meal-planning. Often, I’ll start with what kind of stuff I’m craving, or what I think my body needs. But the focus on ingredients and how I can make them versatile is a key element to my planning process, one that I use every week.

This Week’s Meals

This week, because my husband is on tour (I’m lonely!), I’m making a lot of one-pot meals, reusing loads of ingredients/elements, and cooking things that are easy to bring to work. Additionally, because it’s been getting warmer, I want to cook and eat things that don’t make me feel like a sweaty slimeball. Here were some of my thoughts in coming up with the menu:

  • I wanted a versatile grain that would be good either hot or cold. I chose farro, because it’s not one of the foods that just tastes really healthy (read: boring or icky), it is healthy but has a relatively complex character. I can cook all of my farro at the same time, and use it for different meals to save on time.
  • Honestly, after a week of eating very little meat (since we binged in Maine), I am craving some animal. I decided to go the chicken route, since it’s kind of on the lighter side. And I’m not afraid to admit this to the world: I like eating chicken. Like, I like it a lot. So, I bought enough chicken for roasting, and for ddak bulgogi (Korean chicken BBQ). The latter will be its own meal (with rice or farro), and then serve as toppers for farro bibimbap and bibimguksu.
  • Roasted vegetables are amazing on or with everything. I’m going to roast a bunch of vegetables on a cool morning (w/ my new spice mix obsession for vegetables: salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and paprika). Then, I’ll use them as a side for rice & beans, cheese omelette and fish in a bag. And, they will serve as integral elements to my farro nourish bowl.
  • Eggs. I love them so much. This week, I’ll pickle some soft-boiled eggs as part of all the rice or farro dishes. Also, since I’m allowed to be “lazy” while Nico is on tour, I’m going to make myself a delicious and easy omelette, one night.

I should also add that I needed all the meals to be relatively simple, since I had my first trip to the Emergency Room (as an adult) on Wednesday. Apparently, I have pretty severe vertigo, so lots of movement, or movement at all, is pretty disorienting and disconcerting. WOMP.

Now, with all the context, here is the weeks’ menu:


  • D: Fish in a bag, w/ lemon, fennel, olives, and white wine sauce


  • L: Farro nourish bowl w/ roasted vegetables and a pickled egg, topped w/ lime dressing
  • D: Bibim guksu w/ chicken bulgogi


  • L: Leftover bibimguksu
  • D: Chicken bulgogi w/ jasmine rice and roasted vegetables


  • L: Leftover bulgogi, rice, and vegetables
  • D: Farro bibimbap w/ chicken bulgogi topping and a pickled egg, and an arugula salad


  • L: Leftover farro bibimbap
  • D: Brie omelette, baguette, and an arugula salad


  • L: Leftovers (of anything)
  • D: Roasted chicken thigh w. cherry tomatoes & asparagus, baguette, and an arugula salad


  • L: Leftover chicken
  • D: Rice & beans and roasted vegetables


  • L: Leftover rice & beans
  • D: ORDER DELIVERY (woohoooo)

And, here’s a recipe for an amazingly simple farro nourish bowl that has swept me off my feet. By the way, I think the term “nourish bowl” is the worst, like it’s the top selling (and only) food item at a CA smoothie store. But, it’s easier to say that, than to say “healthy but delicious bowl of grain with other hearty and mostly vegetarian toppings.”

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Farro “Nourish Bowl” with Roasted Vegetables and Lime/Maple Dressing
Adapted from Cookie Monster Cooking’s Blog
Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Roasted Vegetables:
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 2 small or 1 large yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped into ½ inch chunks
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into ½ inch chunks
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 heads of broccoli, chopped
  • 2 ears of corn kernels (cut right off the cob)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon salt
For the dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
For serving:
  • Farro, cooked per instructions
  • Avocado, sliced on top
  • Pickled egg


  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  2. Chop up all the vegetables, and place them into a large bowl. add the cumin, paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, olive oil, and canola oil. Mix well, and place the vegetables onto a baking sheet (use two if necessary – you don’t want to crowd the pan).
  3. Bake for 40 minutes, and stir halfway through. The vegetables should be beautifully browned and aromatic.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing.
  5. To serve, place some farro in a bowl, and add the roasted veggies, sliced avocado, and pickled egg on top. Dress with the lime/maple syrup mixture, and enjoy!

Pairing TV Shows with Three-Course Meals: Part I

Because I am a gigantic dork-bucket, I sometimes find myself coming up with menu-planning etudes. For example, I’ll think about what types of dinner I could create with only one cast-iron skillet and 25 minutes to spare. Then, I’ll make a list of options, pick the yummiest choices, find some recipes, and happily identify the winning dish. I don’t end up cooking any of this, which seems absurd. But, really, I want to keep my mind “sharp” so that whenever I’m in a food or cooking pickle, I have some practiced and seasoned muscles to push me through. Perhaps this is a ridiculous exercise, since I likely will never find myself in some kind of meal-planning apocalypse, but it’s fun for me, and I feel like it provides me with the tools to continue making my weekly food schedule.

ANYWHO, based on the poll from a previous entry,  I’m starting a blog series where I’ll pair my favorite TV shows with three-course meals (dishes I can cook). If you know anything about me, you probably know that I love TV almost as much as I love cooking and eating. So, this is great.

Let the games begin!


Photo taken from Vanity Fair

Why I love the show
Though I was initially very critical of this show for its rather dichotomous dealings around race and gender, I could never deny that The Sopranos was expertly written, directed, and acted. Of all the shows out there that demonstrate the emotional and psychological complexities of (criminal) white men, this one is definitely my favorite.

Thoughts for a Three-Course Meal
Obviously, Italian/Neapolitan food is the way to go, here. I’ve excluded a dessert because there is very little about this excellent show that leaves me feeling sweet. I wanted dishes that could be construed as both hearty (masculine) and delicate (to demonstrate the fragility of masculinity). HA. Also, each dish is named after some of my favorite quotes from the show.

The Paulie: Can I just get some macaroni and gravy?
Frittatine (deep-fried pasta balls stuffed with minced pork, bechamel, and peas)

The Tony: I can’t find pussy anywhere OR The Ralphie: She was a whoooooore
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

The Anthony: So what, no fucking ziti now?
Carne alla Pizzaiola (pizzamaker’s beef)


 Image taken from HBOWatch

Why I love the show
Duh, I love the show. Painfully obvious comparisons between vampires and marginalized communities, hot supernatural creatures, delightful sexual fantasy sequences, kind of progressive politics, and insanely stylish femme villains…what isn’t to love (besides the downward spiral the show took after the third season)? Plus, my somewhat embarrassing love for the Sookie Stackhouse novels makes it impossible for me to dislike the show. Quick aside, I made a book cover for the first Sookie Stackhouse novel since I was slightly ashamed by the cover illustration (and the content). On it, I scribbled “OLD MAN AND THE SEA” and felt so very smart. I sat on the subway, took the book out with great confidence, and started reading. The man sitting next to me smirked at me (I fucking hate smirks from men) and said, “That is clearly NOT Old Man and the Sea.” I realized that he was reading over my shoulder, and sadly, I was on an especially smutty part of the book. After that incident, I decided to read my books loud and proud.

Thoughts for a Three-Course Meal
I think it’s important to utilize very seductive and bloody food for this meal. Think: bloody/decadent chic. The name of each course is based on episode titles.

Dead Meat
Steak tartar with quail eggs, horseradish yogurt, and a bright lemon-dressed arugula salad

You Smell Like Dinner
Chateaubriand (cooked RARE) with a red wine sauce, baby potatoes roasted in duck fat, and garlic sauteed julienned vegetables

Plaisir D’Amour
Dark chocolate cake w/ Irish cream buttercream, spiked mascarpone whipped frosting, and whisky ganache

Nothing is sexier than constipation and gout, which are likely outcomes after eating this meal.


Why I love the show
For those of you who don’t know about this wonderful webseries, it follows the life of weed dealer in NYC/Brooklyn as he interacts with his customers. It is a surprisingly tender and loving show, and occasionally reaches some incredible emotional depth. Also, it’s hilarious and sometimes VERY Brooklyn specific.

Thoughts for a Three-Course Meal
I’m basing these dishes off of my initial reaction to some of my favorite episodes. Each dish is named after the episode that inspired it.

Ruth: The Guy sets up Ellen with Victor. The date goes from awkward to funny to great. I came up with an appetizer that is awkward to eat (especially on a date), but ends up being great once you get comfortable enough with the messiness to enjoy the taste.
Rachel: A cross-dressing author struggles with writer’s block, which puts a strain on his marriage. The Guy makes a delivery to him and is introduced to Rachel. The big reveal at the end is unexpectedly sweet, so I picked a dish that starts salty, but ends with a sweet aftertaste.
Matilda: The Guy struggles to entertain his teen-aged niece who is visiting from out of town. He doesn’t want to conduct business in front of her, but when their plans to see “Matilda” get complicated, one of his customers offers to help out. During a DIY “TED Talk” in Brooklyn, the niece has a great time. The episode walks a wonderful line between irony and sincerity, so I chose a dessert that I would both mock and love.

Korean fried chicken wings in a spicy/tangy sauce

Shanghai-style braised pork belly with jasmine rice and garlic sauteed bok choy

Assortment of cronuts

I hope you enjoyed! Write in the comments section if you would have made a different menu. Also, if you want a hand in selecting the next three TV shows to pair with three-course meals, vote below!

Lastly, I know I’m long overdue in posting a recipe, so I promise that the next entry will include one.

Announcing Monday’s Poll Winner, plus this Week’s Menu

We have a winner from Monday’s poll! The next entry will be the start of a series where I’ll pair my favorite TV Shows with three-course meals. Shows to be paired are: The Sopranos, True Blood, and High Maintenance. Check in this weekend for the post!

Now, onto this week’s menu.

Having already posted a very long entry earlier this week, I’m going to keep this one short. A few factors have gone into planning the meals for this week:

  1. Hubby and I ate an insane amount of food while we were in Maine, and, in particular, consumed a great deal of meat. So, we wanted to keep our meals light, flavorful, and satisfying.
  2. Our vacation helped to remind us that we love seafood, so I picked a dish with shrimp, and another with salmon.
  3. I wanted at least one dish that is easy to take to work as lunch.
  4. As much as I love cooking, I wanted things that were easy and quick to make, especially after that culinary marathon in Maine.

So, without further ado, here is the menu:

Dinner: Chipotle shrimp w/ rice, beans, grilled corn, and a salad

Dinner: Miso-glazed Alaskan salmon w/ rice and roasted lemon asparagus
Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 presetDinner: Farro bowl with roasted sweet potatoes, yukon gold potatoes, broccoli, corn, and red onion, dressed in lime/maple syrup vinaigrette, and served with pickled soft-boiled eggs  (leftovers for lunch)
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Dinner: Egg noodle pappardelle w/ peas, lemon, butter, mint, and grana, and a salad

Lunches: Roast beef, caramelized onions, asiago, fig jam, and mustard sandwiches

This week is short since we’ll be going to NJ to visit my father over the weekend.

As always, if any of these meals look particularly interesting to you, let me know in a comment and I’ll be sure to provide the recipe in a later post!