Problem? Solution. Recipe Inside.

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Ten days ago, I got sick. No, this is not a post from the archives—I got sick, AGAIN. This time, the culprit was the most glamorous viral infection of all: the dreaded “stomach bug”. I didn’t even attempt to go see a doctor. The symptoms were obvious and I had been in close contact with patient zero, Mark, who had had a bout of it earlier in the week.

Normally, I just deal with whatever symptoms and it’s business as usual even if I’m slower. This time, exhausted from a few hectic months of stress and lack of sleep, my body surrendered. It sounds oh-so-dramatic but it just translated into going to bed and waking up sporadically for a few hours before falling back asleep. I didn’t eat, didn’t take drugs, didn’t attempt to do anything. I just let it pass. In a way, it was the best thing to do and giving in was strangely comforting. The timing wasn’t bad either, I had just finished a big project and work had slowed down. And what if something came up? I didn’t care! I had an excuse! I was sick, legitimately sick!

Eventually, the symptoms stopped and I came out of it with a slightly flatter stomach (diet secret discovered—just don’t eat!). Problem was, I had no appetite. I knew I had to eat, I was hungry, but I had zero cravings.

Meals are a recurring problem here, a typical “but” issue. I like to eat BUT I want it to be a relaxing moment, so I can’t do fast food or half-eaten meals trying to parent Mark. I like to cook BUT I don’t have the time to make Mark’s lunch box and his dinner plus my own food and time it right for us to have a family meal. In theory the three of us could eat the same thing BUT really we don’t, as Feng eats a lot of meat, Mark tends to favour kid-friendly food like pasta and chicken nuggets and I love grains and veggies.

Typically, we use the same basic ingredients (veggies, carbs, etc.) but Feng and I cook them our way. For instance, I will use the sweet potatoes we bake with a pile of veggies and some cheese and Feng will use them in a stew with pork ribs.

For the past few months, I’ve been eating a variant of the same main course: savoury oatmeal and a soup. I prepare oatmeal (or some other quick grain) from scratch and mix it with vegetables and some protein, like egg or tofu. Seriously, it’s good. And above all, it’s easy, healthy and cheap. I make it at the same time as Mark’s lunch box, dump it in a bowl and reheat it later when I’m finally ready to eat.

But after the stomach bug, I didn’t feel like eating oatmeal anymore. It just… didn’t feel right.

In a pinch, I made ramen noodles. But I can’t exactly eat ramen every day.

I stood there in a kitchen and started crying.

“I have no idea hat to make!” I bawled. “I’m so fucking sick and tired of buying food, cutting food, cooking food, cleaning up food!”

“We can… follow a recipe,” Feng suggested, slightly taken aback by my sudden existential crisis.

“Yeah, sure, one night, for fun, we can cook something fancy. But I don’t have the time nor the will to do that every day!” I claimed.

“… Er… get take out? That’s what people do in North America, you know,” he added, pointing to the pile of junk mail on the table, mostly fast food coupons and menus.

“Same problem. I can’t get take out every day. The only reason why I made oatmeal every freaking day for the past few months is because I can make it in my sleep. Yeah, it’s good too, but mostly it’s relatively healthy and easy. I need easy, healthy and filling recipes.”

Feng sighed. He cares about food too, but not as much as me. If he’s hungry, he eats. As simple as that.

I resorted to Google. I didn’t need new specific recipes, I needed general ideas. Food is carbs, veggies, proteins. What could I make with these jigsaw pieces? I’m not a bad cook, I can adapt.

Suddenly, a light went on in my head. What does half of the world eat? Rice and beans. And I love rice and beans, it’s versatile enough to be topped or mixed with a bunch of different veggies and spices to create various flavours.

That’s also when I realized Feng had bought me a slow cooker for Christmas, and me, the ungrateful wife, had yet to try it.

I went to the supermarket, bought groceries, and I stopped by Bulk Burn next door to buy spices.

If I could make a meal out of the slow cooker… oh, the possibilities!

I washed, chopped, sliced and dumped everything in the big bowl. I put the lid on and left it to cook. I wanted to believe in the magic of slow cooking.

Magic was delivered a few hours later. It had worked! My raw ingredients had mixed beautifully and I had two portions of a very nice Spanish rice meal.

So now, I’m experimenting with the slow cooker. It takes a bit of fine tuning, for example, one time, my rice was mushy because I added too much water. But then, it can also produce beautiful meals, like this gallo pinto inspired dish.

Care for the recipe?

1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped white onion
3/4 cup bell pepper
2 small green chili
2 minced cloves of garlic
1 cup black beans (from a can)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup basmati rice
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon cumin
a pinch of salt

Cook for about 4 hours on low.

Towards the end, I cooked an egg directly on the rice until the white was set.

Tips: Jasmin rice was too mushy and sticky. So far, I found parboiled long-grain rice and Basmati rice work best. Don’t add too much water! Use the broth and the bean juice, it should be enough.

Do you have any cool slow cooker recipe to share? What’s your quick-and-easy meal? Do you mind eating the same thing every day or do you need variety?

Gallo Pinto Meal

Gallo Pinto Meal

Gallo Pinto Meal

Gallo Pinto Meal

Life is just better with Hello Kitty chopsticks

Life is just better with Hello Kitty chopsticks

Gallo Pinto Meal

Gallo Pinto Meal

The Crock Pot

The Crock Pot

Gallo Pinto Meal

Gallo Pinto Meal


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Your crockpot is fancier than mine! Meals have been an issue here too with me out of action, we have mostly been eating frozen meals! Hopefully I will be able to get back into it though!

    • Poor you! Are you feeling any better? As in, able to keep some food down?

      The crock pot is a basic model I think, but it does the job beautifully.

    • Thank you so much for sharing recipes! They both look great, I will try them. Like you, I’m a huge fan of these quick and easy recipes. “Authentic” Asian food is best shared, I find. Like if we make dumplings, we have to make a huge batch otherwise it’s not worth it. It’s not exactly your everyday food, which is why many Asian families just eat rice and a few dishes like sautéed veggies and meat. It’s less fancy than in Chinese restaurants 🙂

      • There are so many crock pot recipes where prepping everything takes as long as if I had just cooked something on the stove/in the oven.

        I’m going to try out a General Tso Chicken recipe this week. Yes, I know that is completely North American and not at all Chinese, but I really love it and miss it. It won’t be quite the same as I searched for a recipe that doesn’t involved frying the chicken.

        • I like it too! Eh, it’s not because it’s not authentically Chinese that it’s not good!

          Let me know how it turns out… I expect a full report and recipe if it was yummy 😉

  2. Finally, someone else who doesn’t eat the same as their other half lol I’ve always felt a little guilty and weird that we often make two meals and only share the veggies or the garlic bread…
    I’m afraid my comment probably doesn’t help you much for coming up with new ideas lol but I feel less alone now 😉
    Have you tried different cereals like quinoa, buckwheat, millet etc.? They’re pretty tasty and a nice change of texture / flavor as well. At the moment, I’m craving ratatouille

    • YES! YOU GET IT! You’re the first person I know who mentions the need for “a change of texture”. It’s exactly what you get when you experiment with various grains. I did, even with my basic oatmeal, I tried different grains, like Kamut (very buttery taste), Scottish oatmeal, bulgur, etc.

      I think many couples don’t eat exactly the same thing. Basic ingredients, yes, but then you adapt based on your taste, especially when you come from different cultures. Feng like oil, I like butter, I like dairy, he likes fatty meat, etc.

      • I have a simple rule at home: if I cook, you eat. I you cook, I eat. It’s working fine! 😀 We don’t have the same tastes at all but as we’re too lazy to cook 2 different meals, we just eat whatever the other will cook.

        • Yum Scottish oatmeal! I loved it when I lived there.
          And my Scotsman doesn’t understand the appeal of all the grains (bird food as he calls it) haha I love Kamut too 🙂
          Isa, we sometimes do that too, and there are a few things we will both eat (prawns, fajitas) but most of the time we end up cooking 2 meals :/

    • Franchement, je fais rarement de la pub… mais vas-y, achète! C’est pas cher (je crois que la mienne coûte environ 40 $) et le gain de temps est hallucinant.

      Ça va mieux, merci 😉

    • 😆 I came to realize that ANY veggie can impress people who don’t usually cook them. Artichoke, well, the art of eating it, impresses many people here.

      So what’s a typical meal you share, chez vous?

  3. The crockpot will seriously change your life, even if you only use it one night a week. It’s so nice to just cut everything up, throw it in the crockpot, turn it on in the morning, and it’s done and ready to eat in the evening. I prep stuff the night before so I just have to turn it on in the morning. It’s great for those nights when you know you’ll be getting home later and won’t feel like cooking. I tend to scour Pinterest for recipes that look yummy, and save them there. It’s nice to have a visual to refer back to. Glad to hear you’re feeling better 🙂

    • It’s so awesome. One of these “duh, why didn’t I try earlier!” moments, especially I remember you mentioning it.

      I have a couple of cool recipes now, will pass along the next time we meet. Healthy for now! 😉

  4. I hAve a beef and broccoli slow cooker recipe but I don’t remember it by head. sorry 🙁
    The quickest meal we do is fried egg sandwich for us and blueberries for the kid. I like variety but my hubby can eat the same thing for a week which is a bit strange to me.

    • Do you have a slow cooker? I’ll share a few recipes if you want 😉

      Fried egg sandwich… funny, we like bread and eggs but rarely combine both, although Mark loves Feng’s grilled cheese sandwiches!

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