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
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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
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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)

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!

On Breathing and Eating: Our Time in Maine and a List of Meals


My husband, dog and I were in Maine for a whole week, and though time moved slowly, steadily, and beautifully while we were there, the moment we were back in Brooklyn, it felt like it all passed in the blink of an eye. Sigh.

Our vacation camp in the Frye Mountain Game Preserve

Our vacation camp in the Frye Mountain Game Preserve

We stayed at an amazing solar-powered camp located in the Frye Mountain Game Preserve, 15 minutes from Belfast, the cutest town of all time. The view was nothing short of breathtaking (literally), the silence was ever-present (the kind that rings in your ears from shock), and, importantly, the kitchens were incredible. Yes, plural. The cabin had an indoor and outdoor kitchen. WHAT.

A wonderful kitchen in the cabin

A wonderful kitchen in the cabin

The outdoor kitchen had a commercial range, wood fired pizza oven, and a manual wood fire ‘grill’, and the cabin was equipped with three differently sized and shaped cast iron pans, seasoned to perfection, and three dutch ovens. Oh, and there was a delectable herb garden, with basil you could smell from inside the camp.

In the outdoor kitchen

In the outdoor kitchen

For the first time in a long while, I didn’t schedule our meals in advance of the trip. I approached this vacation as a sort of experiment, to see whether I could even stand the idea of not planning every element of the vacation. I did it! Sort of. Because we were close to a wonderful food co-op (apparently the oldest one in Maine) and had access to delicious and local meat, dairy, produce, and seafood, it was easy/easier to play it by ear. And by ‘play it by ear,’ of course I mean that I scheduled our menu in two day increments. Baby steps, people. Baby steps. Here’s what we ended up cooking and/or eating*:

*If you want a recipe for any of the dishes below, let me know in a comment.

Dinner: Marinated and grilled flank steak, sticky purple rice, and a salad (red leaf lettuce, carrots, radicchio, fennel, cocktail tomatoes, and radishes)

SUNDAY, 6/21

Breakfast: Fried eggs, apple smoked bacon, and toast (all local)

Lunch: Salad with sliced flank steak (all local)

Dinner: Boiled lobster, twice baked potatoes stuffed with yogurt, herbs, and cheese, and clarified butter with garlic and herbs (all local)

MONDAY, 6/22

Breakfast: Toast, butter, and blueberry jam (all local)
Lunch: Tarragon lobster rolls on butter-toasted rolls (all local)

Dinner: Wood fired pizzas (all local)

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Brunch: Lemon yogurt pancakes, scrambled eggs, and apple smoked bacon (all local)

Dinner: Pappardelle with a tomato cream sauce (cocktail tomatoes were roasted and then stewed with caramelized shallots, garlic, goats milk, basil, and parsley) and a salad (all local, except for pasta)

Breakfast: Toast, butter, and blueberry jam (all local)
Snack: Boiled lobster

Dinner: Bruschetta (w/ grilled bread, fire roasted cocktail tomatoes, and basil), salad, and lobster & pea risotto (made with roasted vegetable, chicken, and lobster carcass stock) (all local)

Dessert: Maple walnut oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Breakfast: Toast, butter, and blueberry jam (all local)
Lunch: Fried clams and haddock (our first purchased meal)
Dinner: Tagliolini w/ sweet peas, shallots, lemon, butter, mint, parsley, basil, and cheese, and a salad

Friday, 6/24
Breakfast: Maple almond scones

Lunch: Boiled lobster and steamers (second purchased meal) at Young’s Lobster Pound (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)

Dinner, the last hurrah: Wood fire grilled rib eye steak; pan seared hake with lemon, butter, and herb sauce; scalloped potatoes with caramelized onions, cheese, chicken bone broth, and parsley; wood fire grilled eggplant and zucchini; and a salad (all local)

I’ve never really given much thought to cooking and eating local, but it was a particularly easy endeavor in Belfast. And, I have to say, I’m hooked. To be frank, however, I was less cognizant of my spending on groceries because we were on vacation – I’m not sure we can eat with the same kind of accidental commitment to local eating here in Brooklyn.

We didn’t spend ALL of our time cooking and eating. Just most of our time. Usually, we justify the mass amounts of food consumed by hiking and swimming. We did go on some beautiful walks and hikes, but definitely not enough to adequately combat the mild and happy plumpness that overtook my body.

Hiking with Mandu is one of the best things ever

Hiking with Mandu is one of the best things ever

My boys

Finally, I want to mention how excited I am about the week we’ve had with SCOTUS. Obviously, as a married person, I believe there is something wonderful about marriage, my marriage, and I’m pleased that this country has finally made a commitment to some form of equity. However, I will not yet say that I am proud to be an American. Until anti-LGBTQ violence, murderous transphobia, homelessness, deportation, state-sanctioned anti-POC violence, and the invisibility of POC women are also on the forefront of our national consciousness, enough to change institutions and culture, I won’t say that I am proud to be an American. We have work to do. I will say that I take great pride and joy in knowing and loving people and organizations committed to the transformation of this country. And I will say that to fight against the systemic cruelty and oppression practiced by this nation is to believe in it, and to love it.

Maine, thank you for bringing me some peace, sanity, and deliciousness.

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