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E6: Savoring Success

You are listening to Cooking with the U of U Health Crew:

E6: Savoring Success

Nov 09, 2023

The Cooking Crew wraps up their Make More Meals at Home challenge with a lip-smacking review of the Vietnamese-inspired Turkey Meatballs. Reflecting on their journey, the crew contemplates the challenge's impact, insights, and whether they'll continue to embrace homemade meals.

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All thoughts and opinions expressed by hosts and guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views held by the institutions with which they are affiliated.


Scot: I've got a good feeling about this week's recipe review, and I hope you loved it as much as I did. We're going to find out right now. It's "Cooking with the U of U Health Crew," the Make More Meals at Home Challenge. And today, we're going to review the fourth and the last recipe of the challenge, Vietnamese-inspired turkey meatball rice bowls.

All right. First of all, Cooking Crew, it's the last episode. Alex, how does that make you feel?

Alex: I am kind of sad. This has been a very fun adventure.

Scot: All right. How about you, Nayeli?

Nayeli: I'm really sad too. I really enjoyed this experience and I wish we could get more recipes. Maybe we can.

Scot: Okay. If you beg real nice, Theresa will help us out.

Nayeli: Please, please, please.

Theresa: We'll take it on the road.

Scot: Jhonny, how about you?

Jhonny: For some reason, I thought we were getting a recipe today, so I'm kind of really sad.

Theresa: I'm so sorry to disappoint.

Jhonny: I may have to pay Theresa on the side to give me an extra one.

Theresa: I like it, Jhonny. Jhonny, I got you a hookup.

Scot: All right. Also joining us, you've already heard her, our recipe architect, and nutrition expert, Theresa Dvorak. She's a Registered Dietician and the Director of Culinary Medicine in the University of Utah College of Health's Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology. How are you feeling? Are you happy? Sad? Where are you at on this last episode?

Theresa: Oh, this has been really fun. Yeah, kind of a mixed bag, right? I don't have to run to the microphone, but at the same time, this is what I love to do. So it's been really fun.

Scot: Okay, crew. How were the Vietnamese-inspired turkey meatball rice bowls? We're going to try this. We're going to rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 lip smacks. Was it lip-smacking good? One is no and 5 is "that's a lot of good lips smacks." Nayeli, where are you at?

Nayeli: I'm a 6 out of 5. This was my favorite meal.

Theresa: Yeah!

Scot: Oh, was it?

Nayeli: I loved it. It was so good. If I were to describe it, I would say that it's fresh. Although when I was preparing for it, I did have a few struggles, but nonetheless I feel like that always happens. I feel like it's just part of the process.

Theresa: Definitely. Nayeli, am I correct in remembering that this was a cuisine that you either hadn't cooked before or even hadn't tried before?

Nayeli: It was both.

Theresa: Fantastic. So some learning curve, which is awesome.

Scot: And got it done to the point where you gave it 6 out of 5. All right. Jhonny, how about you? On a scale of 1 to 5 lip smacks, how did yours turn out?

Jhonny: Are we giving the number or are we actually smacking our lips, like ASMR content?

Theresa: Jhonny can lip-smack.

Scot: You are actually smacking your lips.

Theresa: That was five. I counted five. Was that right?

Jhonny: Yeah, that was five.

Theresa: Nice.

Scot: So big fan. Tell us what you loved about it.

Jhonny: I put it through . . . there are basically two stress tests. One, that was me, because I generally don't eat vegetables, and the second one was actually my mom, because she hates turkey.

But actually, I loved it. I had seconds and then I had thirds, and then I took it to my mom and she was like, "This doesn't taste like turkey. This is great." She had seconds as well. So on those accounts, it definitely passes. I would definitely eat this again.

Scot: How about you, Alex? How many lip smacks?

Alex: I'm not going to smack my lips, but I really appreciated that, Jhonny. You really went out there. I give it a solid 4.

Theresa: Nice.

Alex: I would make this again. It was very tasty and it's been, I think, one of my favorite meals that we've done.

Scot: Yeah. What in particular did you love about it?

Alex: I actually started eating turkey a couple of years ago, and so I really like it. And the turkey meatballs were so good. I've actually never made a turkey meatball, but that was my favorite part. Again, I added a little bit of rice, but I just kept eating the meatballs. They were so yummy.

Again, for me, it was like, "Time management? How am I going to plan this out?" So I did the pickling the day before, and then kind of went through the process the next day.

Again, I feel like time in the kitchen is just kind of . . . it is what it is. I am a new chef, and so it takes a little bit of time, but I would spend extra time to make this again, if that makes sense.

Theresa: I think that's positive. Wow. I think that's a 180 from our first conversation.

Alex: I know. It really is.

Theresa: It is, because you were so almost really hesitant about taking time to prepare foods and that seemed like a barrier to not preparing fresh foods, because of the amount of time. And now you just said that you would willingly take that time, so that's awesome.

Alex: Yay. I feel like it's a graduation and I just graduated.

Theresa: I love it. In a short four weeks.

Alex: Yes. You, too, can make this transformation.

Theresa: I love that, Alex.

Scot: Theresa, I'm glad you pointed that out about how it's a 180 from where she was. And I also, Alex, love that you have figured out how to make it work. When I got my degree as a non-traditional student, I did it in 15-minute chunks in between the rest of my life. And it sounds like you're kind of preparing some of these recipes in a similar way.

You get a 15-minute break where maybe the kiddo is taking a nap or whatever, you got a couple of seconds, and you make one part of it. You get another 15 minutes, and you make another part of it, as opposed to investing all of the time at once. And I think that's an awesome strategy.

Alex: I think that's the biggest takeaway for me, was I don't have to do this all . . . crank it out in 30 minutes or two hours. There are times of the day when you can, "Oh, let me just make this part here and then I'll finish this part here." And at the end of the day, it's a nice nutritious, healthy meal. I'm working on that.

Scot: Yeah. And did everybody else hear what she called herself? An aspiring chef.

Theresa: A chef. No, she called herself a chef.

Alex: Not even aspiring. I mean, I'm there.

Theresa: Not even aspiring. She is there. I love it.

Scot: I mean, taking on an identity like that, that's a big step to call yourself something like that. A lot of people will go, "Oh, I'm not really a chef." But you did. You're identifying with that. I loved it.

Alex: Thank you. After that chicken, I really did feel like I could take on the world.

Theresa: It's so empowering.

Scot: I thought that these meatballs . . . I'm with Nayeli. Six lip smacks out of 5. It was so good. I loved it.

I thought the meatball sauce and the meatballs were good. The quick pickle of the carrots and the radishes, kind of that taste was great in combination with the meatball sauce. I loved the raw and crispy vegetables. I thought that was an awesome texture.

And then the temperature contrast between the meatballs and the rice, which were hot, and the veggies, which were cold, I liked that as well a lot. I don't know why that was appealing to me, but it was.

So much so that I started eating it while I was doing dishes because I was just by myself. Unfortunately, my wife wasn't there. I ate about half of it by myself, and I just kept going back and putting more veggies and meatballs in. I ate a lot more of the veggies than the rice.

Like Theresa pointed out, that was a neat little thing. You can choose what it is you want to really put in there. Do you want to put more veggies than rice? Do you want to put more meatballs, like Alex did? I just really loved it.

Now, I'm going to say it took me an hour and a half to make it. What did you say it should take, Theresa? About an hour?

Theresa: Yeah, I think so.

Scot: All right. Again, I feel like I'm on the long end of things. How about you guys? How was it for you? How long did it take you all to make it?

Nayeli: It also took me an hour and a half to make. When I was cutting stuff up, I decided to take a shortcut and I used the food processor to cut up carrots. It came out differently than maybe what everybody else made, but it just worked for me and it was faster and I just wanted to get it done with. But yeah, it was like an hour and a half for me.

Theresa: The food processor, using the shredder or grater attachment, is a great idea. So that's fantastic, way to be resourceful on that. That's perfect.

Alex: Yeah, it took me some time. I tried not to go rogue this week, but again, with the resources that I had and my patience, I didn't put in the hoisin sauce, if that's even how you say it. What else did I do? I don't like cucumbers, so I didn't put cucumbers in. So I just did like a few different things, but yeah, it took me about an hour and a half, like an hour and 45.

Scot: Yeah. How about you, Johnny?

Jhonny: For me, it was closer to the two-hour mark.

Scot: Really?

Jhonny: But I'll admit that that's because I'm kind of a relaxed cook in the sense that I think I'm in a sitcom and I have music playing in the background. I have this whole atmosphere thing going on.

Theresa: He's checking his phone.

Jhonny: Yeah. So I blame myself.

Scot: Sure.

Theresa: That's awesome.

Scot: I think I want it to go faster than it does, and I think I just need to accept that it's going to take the time it's going to take. I think that might be one of the realizations I had in this process.

And again, the leftovers kind of justify that amount of time, because I'll have a couple more meals out of this, so I'm kind of okay with it. So it's been a mind shift for me.

That's one of the common barriers that we heard, was "just don't have enough time." And I hope that maybe we all have shared some strategies on how maybe listeners could maximize their time, or just readjust the expectations that, "If I want something that tastes like this and that's healthy like this, it just takes time." We're in such a world where we want everything right now that I think sometimes our sense of time can be skewed.

Theresa: Yeah, and really changing sometimes how we think about cooking, right? This has a long history, especially here in the United States, of this cultural shift that food preparation/cooking is work and is something that you shouldn't enjoy doing.

We think back to the '70s when we really started to have convenience meals and convenience foods kind of take over, right? The TV dinners really started to come about and it was that marketing shift of, "Buy this pre-prepared meal because you don't have to waste time in the kitchen. Think of all these other things you could be doing."

When, really, we're maintaining and building that connection with food, with our environment, with our family, and with our own personal health that gets lost if we're constantly looking for that fast fix or that convenience food. We're losing a lot of that connection to the food, to the planet, to our families, and to ourselves.

Scot: That's pretty deep, huh, guys? Do you all feel that way?

Theresa: Sorry. I went down a . . .

Scot: No, that's okay. I think it's wonderful.

Alex: She went there.

Scot: In a previous cooking challenge that we did on our "Who Cares about Men's Health" podcast, I discovered that preparing food can be at times a Zen kind of a moment for me, where you can forget about everything else.

And I also discovered, when I made some of those recipes, my wife was so happy and excited, and it was a great feeling to be able to do this thing for her, to make this food that she enjoyed and that she didn't have to make it, right?

Theresa: Right. You can taste that love in it, very much so, and that sense of pride and accomplishment and "I did this."

Jhonny: If you want to make it more fun, just include a dance break while you're cooking.

Theresa: I like it.

Jhonny: That's my recommendation.

Theresa: Or think about including others, right? So a lot of these recipes had some of that . . . That time-consuming part was a lot of the chopping and the preparation. If you had a friend or a family member that you could share some of that load with, not only is it kind of making the work faster, but it's allowing that time and space for conversation, and connection, and community building as well.

So I think about food and recipes that it's not just the food. And yes, I always agree our food should be delicious. But it's also the connection on some of these other levels. We don't give enough credit to how powerful that can be in our lives and to our overall health, and having that perspective can really help to shift some of that paradigm too.

Scot: Yeah. So now instead of just a waste of time, like marketing would have you believe, or some of us do believe because of marketing, it's an investment of time in a lot of aspects of your health: the social aspect, the emotional health aspect, and then the nutritional aspect as well.

Any questions for Theresa on this week's recipe?

Jhonny: Oh, I just had a question about the brown rice. So whenever I make it, it always comes out . . . The white rice comes out softer, and even though I cook the brown rice for the appropriate amount of time, it's a little bit harder. Is that always the texture that it's supposed to be, and is there a way to make it softer?

Theresa: Yeah, that's pretty normal. Brown rice is going to have more fiber. It's going to have the germ on the outside of that rice. It's kind of like the difference between a whole-wheat bread versus a white bread. But with brown rice, you're getting more fiber, you're getting some more protein, whereas white rice is obviously just that much more processed, and so you kind of get that fluffiness.

Scot: I felt like mine was a little undercooked even though all the water was absorbed. Could I use more water in the future to maybe solve that problem? What's the solution to that?

Theresa: Yep. So if it seems crunchy or it seems undercooked, go ahead and add a little bit more water. Start with about a quarter to a half a cup, depending on how undercooked it feels, because you can always add more water and then just drain the rice if it doesn't absorb.

Scot: And the brown rice choice by you was for nutrition purposes, as you already explained how brown rice has more fiber and it's less processed.

Theresa: You got it.

Scot: But somebody could use whatever rice they really wanted.

Theresa: Yep. You could use whatever rice or you could use a different grain if you wanted to. If you didn't have rice in the pantry, you could certainly use something like farro or quinoa that maybe you do. If you've got vermicelli noodles or a rice noodle or something like that, or even an egg noodle, that would work certainly as well as something different to put on the bottom.

Scot: Any other thoughts on that last recipe that you would like to share with our audience before we kind of think about, as a whole, our final thoughts on the challenge?

Theresa: I really liked Scot's mention of making extra sauce. My family loves sauce. And I will often keep this particular sauce in my refrigerator and put it over grain bowls or other rice dishes. I think it's just a well-balanced, flavorful sauce that's a really great condiment to have in the refrigerator too.

Scot: I love it. That's a great idea. I'll be doing that.

All right. This overall challenge, how has it changed you? We discussed a little bit about it while we were discussing the meatballs, but any final thoughts as we say goodbye? Let's go ahead and start with Nayeli.

Nayeli: I think the challenge really inspired me to try more recipes or genres of food that I'm not really used to. Just with this last meal, I think that usually when I see ingredients that I'm not familiar with, I kind of get scared to try something new with those new ingredients. So that's definitely one of the takeaways from this challenge.

And also, I will say I think I've also learned that oven meals are really easy to make and I am going to make more meals in the oven just because I feel like I always, always use the stove-top to cook. So I think those are some of my key takeaways from this challenge.

Scot: How about you, Jhonny?

Jhonny: Well, I got that healthy food doesn't have to be tasteless.

Theresa: Yes!

Jhonny: Healthy food can be delicious and it can be affordable. But most importantly, I think the real treasure is the friends we made along the way.

Theresa: Aw, thanks, Jhonny.

Scot: Sorry, you're having a tender moment and I'm laughing at you. I didn't mean to do that.

Jhonny: Well, that's what friends do, right?

Scot: I didn't know that this meant so much to you. That's fantastic. It has been fun getting to know everybody. Alex, takeaways from the challenge?

Alex: I've broken down my walls a little bit. I've become more accepting. I think in my mind I thought, "Oh, I can make a meal in 30 minutes and it's going to be delicious," which actually isn't the case because when I did that it tasted really terrible. So I have learned that nutritious and good meals do take a little bit of time, but you can make that time. It doesn't all, like I said, have to be done in one sitting.

And I feel more confident in being able to cook for my family. So I'm really happy about that.

Theresa: Awesome.

Scot: For me, I would say that the main takeaway, again, is getting realistic about the time that it takes to prepare food, because you do have to go through steps. I mean, none of the recipes that we did were particularly difficult. You just have to invest some time.

And it's my true hope that the more I do this . . . This last time, I tried to utilize more counter space for my prep. I tried to use the tip you gave me, Theresa. Tried to get out all the ingredients for the sauce right away and have them on another counter so they're good to go. And I think that did help.

So I'm going to continue to look for ways to optimize, but I'm also going to be realistic in that it is an investment of time if you want to have meals that you enjoy, that you can continually eat, that are healthy for you. So I just need to accept that and figure out how to make that work. I think that was my big takeaway.

I have a question for the group. Are the rest of you going to continue? I'm going to be honest, there were a couple of times I would not have made these recipes if I wasn't accountable to the group to have made it, because life was hectic or I didn't feel like it or whatever.

Do you think you'll keep making meals at home? And I know some of you have to because you have to make them for your roommates. Without this challenge, are you going to go back to the way things were? Let's start with Alex, first of all.

Alex: I can't believe I'm saying this about the chicken. I can't wait to go back to the store and buy a chicken and do that again.

Theresa: I love it.

Alex: I'm so scared that I can't replicate that. But I'm telling you, that was the easiest part, which was I think my biggest fear in this whole challenge.

So I do hope to continue. Again, I know it's not going to be every single night. It's unfortunately, for me, not realistic. But I have even talked to my husband about, "Hey, why don't you take two nights and I'll take two nights?" Usually, we go out to eat on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but it's kind of sharing the load. And then yeah, I do hope to continue this. I'm excited.

Scot: Jhonny?

Jhonny: Well, will I eat burritos again? Of course. Will I still eat cheeseburgers? Of course. But I think I will now add more healthy food so that my doctor will finally be happy with my nutrition.

Scot: And did they satisfy you as much as those other foods do?

Jhonny: Oh, definitely. I eat them, then I have seconds, and then I have thirds, and so it works out. Like you said, it's that time.

Scot: Yeah. Nayeli?

Nayeli: Oh, I definitely will continue because, yes, I have roommates to feed, and it just kind of goes back to the thing that I said about trying new things too. So I'm definitely more inspired to try new things.

Scot: Theresa, as we wrap this up, what advice do you have for us to help us continue? And does the crew have any questions for Theresa? As we go out on our own now, we're not going to have her holding our hand anymore.

Theresa: Providing weekly recipes.

Scot: Yeah. I mean, that's a big part of it.

Theresa: It is.

Scot: Trying to find recipes, and you look through them and you're like, "Oh, is this going to be worthwhile? Is this going to be good?" and developing that skill, that's something else entirely.

Theresa: Sometimes it's just being okay with trying something new. And it sounds like we've at least been able to check that box a little bit and get over some of that initial hesitation of trying something new.

Being in a space like this where you are being held accountable to prepare something new, to go outside of kind of your comfort zone within the kitchen, is a really great building block that you can kind of continue off of.

The more you do try new things, or try multiple recipes in different cuisine varieties, or cooking skills, it'll become more intuitive, and it will be much less scary to approach new recipes, because you'll know where to find ingredients in the grocery store and things will feel less foreign.

I think another takeaway that you have alluded to, and I really want to hone in on, is that some of these recipes take a longer amount of time. Some recipes can be relatively short, and meal preparation from fresh ingredients can be relatively quick and easy, 20 or 30 minutes.

And that's maybe where I've got a chicken breast on the grill, or a filet of fish out on the grill or in the oven or something, and I'm sautéing up some vegetables, and serving it over rice or pasta or something like that.

I by no means cook a complicated recipe, a brand new recipe especially, every night of the week. For me, that's not realistic, very much like Alex mentioned. Think about nights of the week that maybe you have a little bit of time or you can spare that time to try a new recipe, or to do a recipe that's a bit more involved, or to double up on those ingredients.

Make a double batch and put some in the freezer so that those nights when you literally don't have time to make dinner, you can pull something out of the freezer, pop it in the microwave, and you have dinner ready in five minutes, right?

So think about some of those strategies for what nights are easier and what nights are maybe a little more challenging to cook a meal from scratch to the get-go.

Scot: All right. Well, it's been fun, crew, but I guess this is goodbye for now.

Theresa: Until next time.

Scot: Yes. For all the hard work she put into this challenge and for all the knowledge she shared, let's all give Theresa some love. Go ahead and give her some love right there.

Alex: Thank you, Theresa. We appreciate it.

Nayeli: Thanks.

Theresa: Anytime.

Scot: We're all clapping for you. And if you missed a recipe or an episode, you can go back and find it. You can find them at

Thanks for joining us and taking the 4-Week Make Your Own Meals Challenge.