Olivia Pennelle loves cooking. She particularly enjoys experimenting with new recipes, especially ones with punchy and fresh flavors.
Cooking and getting creative in the kitchen has been one of the main tools of recovery — I’d go as far as saying that learning how to effectively nourish my body has been fundamental to my recovery. And it’s particularly important right now, during the pandemic, more than ever.
We all know that what we eat impacts how we feel. Food has the power to:
- Boost immunity
- Increase and sustain energy
- Improve mental health
- Increase memory
- Lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes
- Decrease blood pressure
The main impact of eating a nutritious diet for my body is my energy and mental health. When I eat a diet high in processed food I feel terrible: lethargic and low energy, increased cravings for sweet food, depression, headaches, and zero motivation.
Another positive effect of cooking is that it is a creative pursuit for me. Experimenting with different flavors, textures, and colors is another form of nourishment: we eat with our eyes as well as our mouths. I find food so much more enjoyable when it looks interesting and colorful.
I can’t emphasize enough how helpful it is to be eating well during the pandemic. My body and mind need that extra support of a healthy diet, even though it can be very tempting to get takeout or survive on pancakes. Now, I’m not saying that I’m a saint — I’m fallible, like every other human. And I’ve definitely ordered takeout over the last few weeks, but I’ve tried to make my other meals on those days more nutritious to balance it out.
It’s also worth noting that the pandemic has impacted our capacity to handle our emotions. Some days we have more energy than others, and sometimes we may feel mentally and physically exhausted. During those times I find it most helpful to cook bulk recipes. That takes the thought out of deciding what to cook and when and ensures I have food ready to go when I’m not feeling like cooking.
Here are some of my favorite go-to recipes to sustain my body during challenging times.
I love this recipe because it’s so easy and can last for around 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Originally from The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook, I’ve adapted this recipe to suit my tastes. I’ve probably cooked this meal at least 20 times. It’s definitely a staple in my home.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups crushed tomatoes
½ cup water
1 pound ground turkey
½ cup long-grain white rice
1 teaspoon ras el hanout spice (you can find this in a big grocery store with a Middle Eastern section)
1 tsp salt
Squeeze of lemon juice
Sliced green onions
- Make the sauce by selecting the saute setting on the Instant Pot. Heat the olive oil and fry the onions for 10 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and water, stir, and simmer.
- Make the meatballs by combining the rice, turkey, spice, and salt in a bowl. Ensure everything is combined, then start to shape meatballs. They should be about the size of a golf ball and you should be able to make 12 from the mixture.
- Add the meatballs to the bottom of the Instant Pot and a little of the sauce over the top of the meatballs.
- Secure the lid onto the pot, select sealing, press cancel, then select the poultry setting and cook for 15 minutes on high pressure.
- When the timer goes off, you can do a quick release, ensuring the valve is recessed before opening the top.
- Serve the meatballs with chopped cilantro and green onions. I like to serve these with green beans or a side salad.
This dish is adapted from Alison Wu’s recipe. I adore her food and creations. I serve the congee with grilled chicken or roasted veggies. Alison serves it with roasted cauliflower, shaved fennel, and pine nuts. It is delicious and gets better every day. It also freezes really well.
1 cup brown rice
½ cup white rice
¼ cup millet
9 cups chicken stock
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp ground turmeric
1 large piece of ginger (around 3 inches), peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large lemon, skin peeled
2 green onions, sliced
¼ cup pistachios (shells removed)
- Place all ingredients in the Instant Pot, stir, secure the lid and set the pressure valve to sealing. Cook on manual for 30 minutes, letting the valve release naturally. Ensure the valve is completely recessed before opening the lid.
- While the congee is cooking, you can grill chicken thighs, or prepare whatever other topping you’d like.
- I top the congee with green onions and pistachios.
Pear chia puddings
This recipe is adapted from Amy Chaplin’s book Whole Food Cooking Every Day. I rarely try every recipe in a book, but this book contains so many awesome recipes that I keep making meals out of it every week.
What I love about this recipe is that it is so quick and easy to make and gives you breakfast all week.
3 firm but ripe pears, diced
½ cup of orange juice (or water if you don’t have OJ).
Pinch of sea salt
½ cup of cashews
2 tablespoons of coconut butter
6 tablespoons of chia seeds
- Combine the pears, orange juice (or water) and salt in a pan. Bring to boil and then simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Leave to cool slightly. The pears should be cooked through.
- Blend the mixture with the cashews and coconut butter in a blender until smooth.
- Pour into an airtight container and mix in the chia seeds, stirring and making sure they are combined.
- Let the mixture cool and stir again before transferring to the refrigerator.
- Serve with berries and a sprinkle of granola.