Comfort Food: Baked Squash with Lentils and Rice

I had this marathon dentist appointment yesterday.

Dentist: Well, not quite a marathon, more of a half marathon.   (True, he actually said this.)

Emily: My half marathon PR is about an hour shorter than this appointment.

I went in at 9:30 and left at 12:15, is what I’m saying.  And that was for four cavities, as mentioned previously.  Yikes. That much terror is exhausting, though luckily the appointment was relatively pain-free.

So with Bryan out of town and the election results not coming up in favor of the candidates I was backing (Go Tammy Baldwin, though!  I’m so glad she beat Chad Lee, who was an ass of the first degree), I needed something comforting to eat.  Comforting and soft.  And easy.

Then I remembered we had an acorn squash!  Since Bryan dislikes squash, I told him I would be cooking and eating a bunch of it while he was gone.  Alas, all the recipes I found on the internet were for squash coated in brown sugar.  Now brown sugar and squash are a good combination, but after all that dental work I was a bit reluctant to make something hugely sugary (this resolution lasted until 22:00).  So I had to make up a recipe.  This is it.  It takes about an hour to make, but that’s about fifteen minutes of actually doing things and the other forty-five minutes of sitting in the next room reading blogs doing homework.



  • 1 acorn squash, cut in half (equatorial, not longitudinally–you want to wind up with rings of squash when you are done) seeds removed.
  • About 1 tsp of pesto and 2 tsp of margarine, mixed, with a pinch of rosemary and cayenne.
  • 1/3 c. of (brown or green) lentils and 1/3 c. rice.  The lentils I buy are brown in color but technically I think they are green lentils.  I don’t know.  Lentils.
  • 1/4 c. of red lentils.
  • 2/3 c. + 1/4 c. water.
  • Spices like 1 cube veggie bouillon, a bit of the margarine/pesto mix, whatever you like on your lentils.
  • A handful of sliced Crimini mushrooms.
  • A splash of Marsala.
  • Some pasta sauce (I like Newman’s Own).

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.  Smear the insides of the halved squashes with the butter/pesto mixture and drizzle with balsamic vinegar if you want.  You may want to score the squashes — I didn’t but it would have been a good idea.  Also salt and pepper (I forgot).  Put the squash in a foil-lined baking dish and stick them in the oven.  Set timer for 30 minutes and get the rice cooker ready to go on the rice and lentils, but don’t turn it on yet.
  2. At the 30 minute mark, turn on the rice cooker and set the timer for 15 more minutes.
  3. At the 45 minute mark, check the squash.  If it’s done, take it out, otherwise give it another 10 or so.  Saute the mushrooms in a little butter.  I usually do this over high heat because I like my veggies to get brown and kind of seared.  Bryan thinks this is heretical and does them over medium when he’s cooking.  So pick the method you’re comfortable with.
  4. When the mushrooms are done, deglaze the pan with Marsala and add a half cup or a cup of tomato sauce, just long enough to warm up.
  5. Plating: Ring of squash on the bottom, stuffed with lentil/rice mixture in the middle, topped with mushrooms and sauce and Parmesan cheese after that (if you want cheese).

This recipe would be good without the tomato sauce too.  Go with what you’re feeling, that’s what I’m saying.

Em ơi! #331: Keeping Fear Alive

"Odontophobia" is the pathological fear of dentists.So while I was driving to Barriques I heard a song on the radio.  The only lyrics I understood were “You could be a G.”  The rest of the song was in Hindi (or I assume it was Hindi).  If that is gangsta rap in India I am all for it, it was quite good.

No, okay.  I’ll tell you what you want to know: Four cavities.  Me.  Tomorrow.  So I did this comic in advance because maybe I won’t survive?  And Bryan is working the night shift out in VA, so I wanted to give him something to amuse him.

I’m not exactly afraid of dentists per se.  I’m just not fond of them.  And afraid of whirring tools in my mouth.  And afraid of pain.  When I went for my first checkup in a number of years two weeks ago, the dentist and the hygienist were trading quips about how difficult two of the cavities were going to be to fill.  That was really reassuring.  Bryan just said, “Dentistry isn’t scary.  It’s warm and fuzzy.”  I’ve been repeating this to myself like a mantra.

It is weird having to amuse myself all day and night.  Not that I am complaining about the ability to get up when I want without someone suggesting that it is too damn early and maybe I should come back to bed, but the evening does get a bit lengthy and dull.  I spent three episodes of the Daily Show/Colbert Report drawing the comic.  Then I realized it was only seven, and what the hell do I do with myself for the rest of the night?

That’s a rhetorical question.  The answer is “Go to a cafe to write overly dramatic blog posts and not do work.”

This comic is filed under RK60 .L86 2010, for Dentistry–Dentistry as a profession.  Dental hygiene as a profession–General works.  Although there is a “fear of doctors” heading, there’s no heading for fear of dentists.  Apparently all the headings contain the fear.

If you are bored and you want to see some of the hundreds of photos I take (well not really, but I take quite a few photos), you can check out my flickr site.  I will try to keep adding stuff for your amusement if you do.

Em ơi!#326: A Valid Strat

More colored pencils.  I am kind of digging the richness of the color, though it is kind of stylized.

File this one under: HE5736 .L86 2010a, for:

Transportation and communications — Bicycles — General works.

If you were wondering, last week I biked 100.5 miles, not including the 2 hours and 40 minutes I spent on the Spin bike at the gym.  It turns out I can read while on the Spin bike, which increases the appeal a little bit.  This week so far I have biked 20.8 miles; today I took the day off because I had a terrible headache.  I have looked back in my running log through to May and I can’t find a day where I didn’t do something – biking used to be what I did on my day off from running (and many of the other days, too).  So this is odd.  Instead, I baked a loaf of bread using whey from a bottle of goat’s milk I made cheese out of.  I also ate a bunch of cookies and studied MySQL.

It is a magical life, I tell you.

Anyway, with regard to the comic (oh yeah): Bryan eventually realized that I had a flat on my bike and not on my car and helped me call a cab to take me downtown.  I finally found out that my brakes had been rubbing on the rear tire and worn a hole through which the tube squished and subsequently ruptured.  It was a trying day, since I went through two tubes before the bike shop figured out I needed a new tire.

I’m for bed.  I have a new story being published (it is actually available for preview/online purchase right now); I’ll put up more details about that tomorrow or Thursday.

Em ơi! #325: I Did Say That

I really like this one, art-wise.

As I mentioned on Facebook, I won’t be doing a marathon this season, or at least not an official one.  My PT guy has diagnosed me with a depressed cuboid bone and told me to stay off running for two weeks, then follow a slow program of building back up to running 30 minutes at a time for another two weeks.  Given where my training is, there’s no way I can be ready for even the Middleton Marathon at the end of October, and that’s pretty much the end of the season, marathon-wise.  So I guess I’ll train hard over the winter and come back fighting at the Mad City 50k or the Madison Marathon or something.  We’ll see how it goes.

This comic is filed under RC1220.R8 L86 2010, for Internal Medicine—Special situations and conditions—Sports medicine—Medical and physiological aspects of special activities.  By activity, A-Z—Running. This is much the same classification as last week (last week was RC1220.M35), but since shin splints are common to more than just marathon runners, I thought this was more appropriate.

Em ơi! #324: Marathon Misery

I know I’ve been posting little snippits concerning my marathon training.  Last week I didn’t do one for a very simple reason – I ran Monday, and then not again for the whole week.  Apparently, I’ve injured my foot, though the PA I saw didn’t actually give me a diagnosis other than it was “some muscle thing.”  (Thanks.)

Yesterday I did 7.3 mi, and the upshot is I need to keep taking time off until my foot is completely better.  I’m really upset about this, but there’s nothing to be done but wait.  I keep telling myself that I may yet make it to the marathon (though I probably won’t be BQing (i.e., Qualifying for the Boston marathon) – I haven’t run farther than 15 miles in one go in several weeks), and I can always run 26 miles any day I want to when my foot allows it.  But somehow that doesn’t make me feel much better.  In the meantime I’ve been biking, both on my regular bike and the spinning bike at the gym, which helps for calorie burn (a little), but just doesn’t make me happy the way running does.

So it’s rough.  I have to continue taking this one day at a time, which for someone who plans things like I do is painful.  My foot aches when the weather changes, makes strange clicking noises when I go down stairs, and sometimes feels better…only to start hurting again when I’ve gotten my hopes up.  Intellectually I know it’s just one marathon and there will be others…but I haven’t really come to terms with it yet.

This comic is filed under RC1220.M35 L86 2010, for Internal medicine — Special situations and conditions — Sports medicine — Medical and physiological aspects of special activities.  By activity, A-Z — Marathon running.

Em ơi! #321: Staff Infection

Bryan asked, when I wrote the script for this comic, if the Dean would recognize herself.  I told him no, because I’ve changed her name, so she can’t find this.  And also, I’ve been introduced to her two or three times now, and I don’t think she knows who I am.

I would totally get a Ph.D.  if I had a way of justifying it, just because I am totally in love with the intellectual exercise of being an intellectual and reading interesting stuff and writing about it.  This is maybe the problem with not being single, I don’t feel like I can just go on getting degrees because I think they would be fun or interesting.  There has to be a (pragmatic) reason to do things.

In other news, I received my first piece of fan mail from someone who I’m not related to today.  (Or, you know, someone I’m friends with on facebook – an email from a random stranger).  All of a sudden I feel like a WRITER.  I should get these novel revisions done tout de suite.  Bryan and I also passed a lovely weekend vacation in Chicago, where we went to the Art Institute, ate a lot of food, and saw some of my favorite relatives.

This is filed under LD6115 .L86 2010, for (deep breath): Individual institutions–United States–Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin System–Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin, Madison–Curriculum–Graduate work and courses.

Em ơi! #319: Greek Prefixes Forever

1. For those interested, more on polyphasic sleep here and here.  The idea is that you sleep 20 minutes every four hours (e.g.) instead of 8 hours every 16 hours.  This is quite useful for those of us without enough time to accomplish things, but sadly, it doesn’t seem like it would work well in conjunction with my major hobby (i.e., marathon running, which can require being on one’s feet for 4+ hours).  I was not interested in it sufficiently during the last period of my life in which I could have implemented it (undergrad), so I’ve never tried it.  I really could have used the extra time this summer, but with the two-three week adjustment period being so painful, I couldn’t afford to undergo that and trust that my grades would stay up.  And since having more study/writing time was the whole point of the exercise, well…  My current system of going to bed at 22:00 (which usually means 22:45 or 23:00) and getting up at 6:00 is pretty tenable, but I don’t know that I could do it long-term.

It turns out, believe it or not, that running 5-7 miles per day (up to 16 on the weekend, like yesterday) and biking 17-18 miles per day (my normal commute) takes a lot of sleep to sustain.  Who knew?

2. This site is now accessible via  Please update your bookmarks so that if I move to a new server, the transition will be smooth.

3. This comic is filed under RA786.L86 2010, for Public aspects of medicine — Public health.  Hygiene.  Preventative medicine — Personal health and hygiene — Sleep — General Works

4.  This comic was funnier when I began work on it two weeks ago.  But it is based on an actual conversation.

Em ơi! #317: Highlights From My First Triathlon

Sorry about the sketchiness/relative badness of the art on this one.  I have not had what could be referred to as “free time” lately.

So, the triathlon.  When I first started running, I was kind of overweight and not really very good at it.  In my first 5k, which I ran with my brother Daniel, his then-girlfriend Claire (I may have mentioned them once or twice), and a couple friends of theirs, I finished almost last.  Not just last in my division, but last.  It was great in some ways, because it was a lot of fun to run with everyone, but coming in so close to the end was a bit humiliating.  I didn’t run another race for about two years.

I’ve since got to be a much better runner and recently I’ve been placing in the top 20 in my division and much nearer to the top overall.  People who have met me AFTER a lot of weight loss and hardcore training seem to have this idea of me as a natural athlete, and that just isn’t the case.  I always remember where I used to be…and sometimes, I get to revisit those times.

All in all, I didn’t have a terrible race (except for the swim portion, which was terrifying).  I inhaled about half the lake, and coughed for the rest of the day.  Despite this, I did finish.  Will I do another?  I don’t know.  I might.  I’m off swimming for a while and just relaxing before I have to throw myself into marathon training in earnest.  Of course, the purpose of a race is not to win, and how I placed is largely unimportant compared to how I felt during the race.  But this was definitely a challenge.  I still have somewhat mixed feelings about it.  Glad I tried it though.

I should add that in panel 3, that orange pyramid is the buoy I’m supposed to be swimming toward.  Panel 5 did actually happen.  And I did actually shout “REALLY?”  The guy holding the flags to direct us all around the turns didn’t seem to get it.

Here are two photographs Bryan took of me, one before the race, one after the swim portion.  For two more fun photos, click the “photos” link at the top of this page and put in my number (1354).

Continue reading “Em ơi! #317: Highlights From My First Triathlon”

Em oi! #316: I Paid Good Money to Look this Dumb

To everyone who warned me that this would happen when I started using the clipless pedals: Thanks, you were right.  The bruise that still lingers on my hip tells the tale better than I could.

File this one under: HE5736 .L86 2010, for:

Transportation and communications — Bicycles — General works

Em oi! #301: The Groupies

Happy Tet/Chinese New Year, Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy President’s Day.

I was thinking about how many times over the past three years (I started Em oi! in 2007, believe it or not) I have thought that a particular comic would be my last, or that it wasn’t worth doing and that I would quit.  The answer is – a number of times.  Maybe every six months since I came home from Asia (that would be August of 2007).  At this point it seems clear to me that Em oi! is never going to be big like Pictures for Sad Children or Hark! A Vagrant! People enjoy it, mostly if they know me, but they don’t send it to their friends, twitter about it, do whatever it is that makes some comics famous and other comics failures.

I guess I’ve come to terms with that by now, mostly.  When I draw the comic, it’s because I genuinely enjoy drawing the comic, and the small amount of feedback I get makes me happy enough.  But since I’m now doing this for me and not because I’m going to become famous, you may be seeing larger gaps between updates.  Juggling school, two jobs, planning a wedding, and trying to finish my novel IN ADDITION to drawing the comic is becoming too much some weeks.  I’m sorry; I know there are a lot of people out there who find this entertaining (I assume there are, anyway – some silent minority).

So, thanks for reading.  We’ll see how it goes for the next three hundred.