We all have those days. The ones where we’re feeling blue or anxious or angry—emotions that aren’t pleasant to sit with. My sister likes to remind me that we need the lows to appreciate the highs, that it’s all just a part of the human experience. And she’s not wrong. But those days still suck.
Cooking doesn’t cure a bad day, but I use it as a way to cope. There’s something so peaceful in the repetitive tasks of stirring and slicing and shredding. I can lean on a recipe to tell me what to do, allowing it to take me out of my mood and into the moment.
Sometimes, I’m up for the challenge of a new or arduous recipe. But on the really not-so-easy days, I need a simple, straightforward dish to nourish me. Here, I’ve gathered seven of my favorite ways to be kind to myself. Hopefully, they’ll bring you some peace, too.
A comforting, creamy quinoa-lentil risotto that comes together with minimal stove-hovering. Top with just-barely-cooked asparagus and peas, and a generous sprinkle of Parmesan, and you’ve got self-care in a bowl.
What’s great about this slaw is that it uses Julia Turshen’s cabbage-massaging technique, which is the food-equivalent to a stress ball. And then you get to eat it.
Save this low-maintenance wrap for the nights where you just can’t cook. It’s filled with vegetables that are already hanging in your crisper drawer—bagged spinach, cucumbers, and carrots. To bulk it up, add chilled tofu, buttery avocado slices, and any nutty dressing your heart desires.
If you’re looking for something cooling, creamy, and a little spicy (who isn’t?), then pull out your leftover rice. Yes, that leftover rice that you thought you were going to throw away. See, second chances do happen!
A pasta to remind you there’s good in the world. Boil dry pasta in a mixture of milk and broth and it releases its starches as the liquids reduce and concentrate. You end up with a creamy, flavorful coating, and only one pot to clean.
Treat yourself and unwrap a package of buttery, lemony scallops (although you can use this technique for anything that swims). What’s even better? It cooks in less than 10 minutes.
This dish checks all the boxes: simple, cozy, soothing. And if you have any extra, add an egg and it’s the perfect brunch.
What's a dish that helps you turn around a bad day? Share in the comments below.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).Order now