Lemony Rice & Spinach Salad with Feta

I thought by now I might have come back to the ground, having read every single one of your incredibly kind and thoughtful comments (and emails, and tweets), many of them more than once, and known exactly what to say. But I can’t seem to come up with more than one-syllable words, like wow. And thanks! And sniff. And then I go back to read some more. What an amazing gift, all this. I didn’t think it was possible to get choked up when I’m not even talking. You’ve gone and blown my mind.

Honestly, you have all relieved me of an enormous weight I didn’t even realize I had been carrying. The weight of my weight, I suppose. Collectively lifted it up and carried it away. I just wish I could pull up a chair and continue each and every conversation that has started here. I might try to take a stab at it, I think. I have a plan. I want to have a potluck, just for us, and I want as many of you as are able to come. Would you be up for that? Life’s too short not to.

Meanwhile, guess what? I made dinner. It’s funny how easily I forget that there is plenty of good, healthy food out there that I love as much as the not so good for me stuff. It has become ingrained somewhere deep that junk food will make me happy. It did as a kid, when we weren’t really allowed to have it, and I became somewhat obsessed. I yearned for the Hostess Fruit Pies and Ding Dongs I saw advertised on the backs of Archie comics, and when I finally made it to the states and got my hands on some, my brain refused to believe they weren’t as spectacular as I had built them up to be.

When I was pregnant with W, I lost my appetite all but entirely. For real. It was weird. I didn’t recognize myself. I finally understood those people who get caught up in stuff and forget to eat. How do you forget to eat? Do you forget to breathe, too? The concept has always been inconceivable.

And when W was born, everyone told me my appetite would come back. It didn’t. During those first few weeks even with the lack of sleep and breastfeeding I wasn’t that hungry. I panicked. One day there was a bowl of peanut M&Ms on the kitchen counter, and I didn’t want any. I told myself to just give them a try, that once I was eating them I’d remember that I really do like chocolate, and they would be delicious, and everything would be OK.

That must have been the sleep deprivation talking.

The interesting part of all this is that my connection with food runs so deep, I don’t recognize myself without an appetite. If I was given the option to flip some switch that dulled my hunger, made me uninterested in food, I wouldn’t do it, no question. Not even if it simultaneously eliminated all my weight issues. I would not give it up, not ever. No question. I choose this appetite.

Knowing that makes me feel better.

Which is all to say I have to consciously remind myself that I do actually like healthy food. I’m not 10 anymore, I do not gag at the sight of pan-fried fish. I DO NOT BEG FOR WONDER BREAD ANYMORE. I’m particularly hip on grainy salads, and so I’ve decided to make a habit of having one or two in the fridge at all times so that there’s always something proper for lunch or dinner or a quick nibble. Being prepared is a very Good Thing; hungry Julie is very convincing and can easily talk the rest of me into eating too much and starting tomorrow. The habit of starting tomorrow (and thus eating as much as I can tonight, in order to get it out of my system) is a big reason why I weighed over 300 pounds in the first place. Some days, just not falling into the “I’ll start tomorrow” trap is considered a triumph.

Oh! I also went to Pilates today! I did. Oy.

I sure can ramble over a rice salad. Especially when feeling speechless.

You won’t need a recipe for this salad, but more a general formula. My mom and I came up with it years ago, for a baby shower, I think. Sometimes we make it with orzo (small rice-shaped pasta) and sometimes with rice. It would be fine with brown rice, although this time I used white Jasmine rice.

Cook a cup or two of it as you normally would, and cool it completely. Toss it in a bowl with lots of sliced or torn fresh spinach (more than it looks like there is in the photo above), and a small chunk of slivered purple onion, some crumbled feta and the grated zest of a lemon. Add a drizzle of olive oil and the juice of the lemon, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Adjust quantities of each as you see fit. Enjoy, and keep in the fridge if you need something to dip into.


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43 comments on “Lemony Rice & Spinach Salad with Feta

  1. Erin
    May 6, 2011 at 7:07 am

    Gorgeous! Would be perfect for a bbq on a hot summer day…or eaten with a spoon straight from the fridge-which is the way these types of salads meet their fate in my kitchen:)
    Glad to hear that your spirit is being restored! There’s nothing like a new whole-health resolve to inspire some fresh and exciting recipe ideas too! Bonus!
    Keep it up Julie!
    PS-Yay for a potluck!!!!!

  2. Lana
    May 6, 2011 at 7:15 am

    That looks so good! Perfect for summer- I love lemony dishes.
    With enough notice for the potluck- anything might be possible…

  3. CC
    May 6, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Ohhhh, we’ve all been there. “I’ll start tomorrow,” which gives a wonderful excuse for eating everything in sight tonight! If we think we’re going to be deprived tomorrow then we can go crazy tonight!

    On another note, do you know when your bean cookbook comes out? I’d love to incorporate more beans in my meals.

  4. Natalie (ga)
    May 6, 2011 at 7:28 am

    I am sheepish writing this, because I am sure you already know all of this – who am I? But I thought that I would throw it out there…. I have found that the best way to maintain weight is to HAVE to eat certain things. So, that you are eating all of the time and don’t really have room for anything else.. For example, having to eat 1/4 c. of beans at every meal. eating protein at every meal…. eating vegies 6 times a day…. eating nuts 3 times a day etc. I don’t know what is right for you… Just the logic of “oh I have to eat now” rather than “I can’t eat now” helps. I had a refried bean/scrambled egg burrito this morning and it was delish…
    Thanks for being so honest. I so enjoy you!

  5. JulieVR
    May 6, 2011 at 7:35 am

    Natalie – don’t feel sheepish! everyone is different – we all have techniques that work for us. What works for me won’t work for everyone. We’re all so unique, as are our daily routines!

    I TOTALLY agree about the “I can’t” thought process.. I much prefer “I choose” rather than “I can’t”. It’s all in the mind, isn’t it? “I can’t” makes you feel deprived and like it’s just not fair. “I choose” makes you feel empowered and in control and proud of yourself for making healthy choices!

  6. Marilyn
    May 6, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Hey Julie, thanks for the new idea for lunch. I’m already coming up with ideas for grainy salads that I can store in the fridge for a quick lunch– quinoa with grapes and feta anyone?

    Your passion for good food combined with your understanding that most of us also need to choose our calories wisely is what makes you unique in the blogger world. Fabulous food that incorporates generous lashings of cream and butter is common, but fabulous food that helps me lose those pesky pounds is not. Keep those ideas coming; I’ll be following you on my own journey to shed some extra weight!

  7. Michelle
    May 6, 2011 at 9:30 am

    You can do it woman. Use the support that you have created with your very public line of work and be an inspiration to other women in the same situation. More people than you realize are facing the same battle. Have a wonderful weekend!

  8. H-woman
    May 6, 2011 at 9:34 am

    And I have everything to make such a salad today! Mmmm…

    A potluck would be so much fun!!


  9. Anonymous
    May 6, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Hi Julie,

    That looks delicious. I am a fan of rice salad – and here is one I have made over and over after trying it for the first time just after having Rebecca. Funny – my pregnancy food habits were exactly the opposite of yours. I still have hormonal reactions to foods that I had shortly after giving birth – I actually salivate over watermelon Jugo Juice smoothies, brown rice salad, coffee cake and fruit salad. Here you go:

    4 – 6 cups of cooked brown rice, warm or cold.
    3 green onions
    red pepper flakes – to taste
    3 tbsp canola oil
    2 tbsp sesame oil
    3 tbsp soy sauce
    Asparagus, snow peas or green beans cooked and cut in to large pieces
    Toss the oils and soy sauce together with the rice, add the green onions and green veggies. Shake on enough red pepper flakes to give it a bite, and you can even sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on the salad.



  10. Christina
    May 6, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Hi Julie. So I read your post from a few days ago minutes after it was posted and then I read it again later in the day. I read it again before bed and then the next day and the day after that, each time tearing up. I wanted to comment right away but it brought on so many feelings. Even writing this comment is very emotional. I can relate to such a incredible extent I can’t even put it into words. I need to start by saying what everyone else has said, you are awesome. You brighten my day, everyday with your blog posting, your tweets, your honesty and your funny, positive attitude! I have never followed a blog as long as I’ve followed yours and I am such a fan of not only your blog but of you! You are AWESOME.
    Secondly, the weight struggle, the food struggle, the fear of summer, shorts and bathing suits hits way to close to me and I have to thank you!! THANK YOU!!! Thank you for saying what I’ve felt for so long and never had the courage to say. Thank you for being so honest!
    I feel awkward and uncomfortable too, I am tired of it too. I’m tired of being in situations where I’m meeting new people (especially when out with my musician husband) and worrying what they’re going to think. Even acknowledging that right is so damn hard but to be honest, it’s been going on for so long I’m almost use to it … I hate it … but I’m getting use to that particular feeling of fear. Terrible. I feel like my life has revolved around guilt of food and weight.
    Anyway, my intention was not to make this about me but to tell you how amazingly wonderful you and and how I really do look up to you! You’re an amazing mom, wife, aunty, sister,daughter, food blogger, writer, photographer, media personality and just all round person! I feel like my life is better because you’re in it (even if it is through the internet).
    Keep doing what you’re doing because you are so very loved! xo

  11. the other Al
    May 6, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Julie, by all the comments posted in support and understanding for your food/weight/esteem struggles, it’s obvious to me that we ALL have them! In order to sympathize with another, you have to understand first hand what they are going through. We do.
    My only advice and one which I try to live by, is to eat and exercise to be healthy, to improve/maintain my quality of life and to cherish that life. When excess weight is causing other parts of the body to become injured, then it must go.
    I was in really bad shape after my third child. Overweight, my back was out, my knees shot, I was sleep deprived and had very low body self esteem. I could not keep up with my kids, had no patience for my best friend/husband and felt resentful. I went like this for a year or two and finally decided I’d had enough of being a miserable bi*@h. I also reslised my whole life I had linked MY VALUE AS A PERSON WITH MY APPEARANCE. BIG issue to deal with.
    My goal was simply to be able to keep up with my family and not be the miserable one in the bunch. I was tired of being the straight man, Mrs. Unfun. Not so much to be skinny but more to be healthy and stronger. I knew if I didn’t do something my knees were going to pack it in. It took a lot of work but with constant rewards. My optimism came back. I body didn’t hurt in the morning. Libido crept back slowly(cause lets face it, that ones all about self esteem!) but mostly I had energy for life. I also came to accept that this carcass I am inside of is just that. An envelope that holds me. Don’t enhance it, inject it, cut it, plump it, break it,stress it, or disrespect it. If you found out tomorrow that you had one week left to live, would you really care what you looked like? Life is a gift…

  12. sarah
    May 6, 2011 at 11:16 am

    This looks fantastic. I do a similar salad with my newest favorite: farro! Try it next time; you won’t be disappointed. (Another new favorite salad to keep around as a healthy snack is farro with kalamata olives, diced roasted tomatoes, feta, and balsamic vinegar…fantastic served warm or cold!)

  13. Erica B.
    May 6, 2011 at 11:43 am

    The best thing I ever did was find It Must Have Been Something I Ate and then find my way over here of course. Finding your blog meant I found someone who loves food as much as I do had done it, someone who’d eschewed the advertised diet centres/books etc and found her own way to lose weight and was successful. It was my kinda “omg it’s possible!” moment.

    I dropped 50lbs through semi regular exercise (brisk walks on the treadmill) and tracking calories. Then we moved and the with stress associated with all that I started ignoring the scale and applying chocolate like it was a band aid and put 30ish pounds back on in the last 18 months. I ignored that til I had to start buying bigger clothes then decided enough was enough.

    It’s been ten days (the first three days were the toughest) and I’m down 4 lbs from where I started(some of that was probably salt but I’ll take it). Now that I have some momentum I’m hoping to be comfortable in my own skin by the next beach season(no way will that happen by this June but by June 2012 perhaps) My life will still include chocolate, there’ll just be less of it 🙂

    So Julie, thanks for putting in to words what so many of us are going through.

  14. Amy
    May 6, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    thanks for bringing back some more of the healthy receipes again Julie – I constantly struggle with my weight too, and the ‘good stuff’ really is good stuff! Brown rice would stick with a body longer than the white rice, reducing temptation to snack. If I get too hungry, I can’t seem to stop eating, and can eat long past the point of feeling full [a family gift/curse whatever]. Keeping blood sugar balanced has helped me enormously. Also – you’re so right, EVERY mouthful we take is our choice. Let’s keep on choosing health!

  15. June
    May 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    I think you have more company out here than you’d ever believe. Most of us at one point or another struggle with weight and self esteem issues. They kind of are one and the same aren’t they? I applaud you for having the courage to talk about how you’re feeling. I personally struggle to get my butt on the elliptical every day (hate sweating) and it’s in my living room under the AC! The only other hint I can pass along is DITCH the sweatpants and guy shirts. When your clothing expands as you do, you’ve no way of knowing what’s really happening. I mean, I don’t know about you but I avoid the mirror as much as possible and as for the scale …it lies… the extra lbs. are really only “water retention”. When your jeans don’t zip, that’s when you know the real story and when they get baggy – even better! Good luck! By the way, how you look doesn’t matter to us, your fan club, half as much as it matters to you. We love you cause you’re our JULIE!

  16. Melissa W
    May 6, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    I make a similar incarnation of this salad using quinoa, sautéed leeks, celery, lemon/olive oil, feta and cranberries. Oh, and toasted pine nuts or toasted almonds. Glorious!
    It is magical. We call it Magic Salad, in fact.

  17. Sam
    May 6, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    potluck? With THE Julie van Rosendaal? I don;t care if I have to duct tape my kids to their beds to get some free time (that may be an exaggeration), I am so IN!!!

  18. Ginette
    May 6, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    mmmmm … this rice salad concoction looks so good. And so simple! Now, why didn’t I think of that before? I guess that’s why I drop in regularly to your blog to see what you’re up to in the kitchen and to find inspiration for my own kitchen, and for life in general!
    Also – a belated note to tell you how I admire your courage and openness and honesty -with yourself and with all of us, your invisible blog fanbase out here.
    I discovered this site when I started staying home when my first child was born just over 2 years ago and now, still at home with a newborn and a 2-yr old, this is still my favourite place to come. And you’re my best food-blogger friend out there! I know this comes from a sleep-deprived mom who sometimes craves adult company as much as good food but … I hope you do take it as a compliment.
    Can’t imagine how difficult it must be to try to deal with a tricky rel’p with food when it is also part of your daily work but … I have faith you can do it and I hope you’ll be able to believe in yourself too (most days, anyways … !).

  19. rose
    May 6, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Julie, I would LOVE to attend a potluck!! I’d fly out from Vancouver if the dates work!!! I’d bring the new salad I’m going to try with farro. Have you ever cooked with that grain? I haven’t yet, but will try it this week. Will also do your rice salad!


  20. Erin
    May 6, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Love your potluck idea and would happily attend — and bring my friend who first got me reading here. I was amazed by the Japan fund-raiser potluck and have been mulling and mulling a concept that I can’t quite nail. I’d love your input, Julie, and any comments from your dedicated readers, soon to be potluck-attenders. The organization I work for helps families in which a parent has an intellectual disability. The work our staff do – modelling parenting skills, figuring out how to convey things that the rest of us just absorb or go find a book to learn from. This family dinner movement, potluck-idea — the grassroots feel of it all — the emphasis on sitting WITH people and talking — it all makes sense to me as the style of event I want to host to become our annual fund-raiser. There are just too many silent auctions and galas. Who needs another? But sitting down to a family dinner is something our families with intellectual disabilities need to do and it’s just as important for the rest of the community. So if any of this gives people ideas they could throw my way or tell me if I’m off track or what about it might make sense, please let me know. I’d be fine with you sharing my email with people, Julie, if someone is interested in helping me shape this into something — it’s so close, I can feel it.

  21. Colleen
    May 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    What Sam said – except I don’t have to duct tape any kids. I’d love to potluck with you.

  22. Jacqui
    May 6, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Potluck sounds like fun to me.
    Could you please take lotsa photos for those of us Down Under? Heard tell there is only a set amount of time you can humanely duct tape your kiddies down. Even with time zone manipulation I don’t think an over seas trip can be fit into that time frame…drat!
    I adore your blog and loved those shots of you in your trackie dacks.You still look fabulous in your daggy clothes!
    Hugs to you and yours,

  23. Lori
    May 6, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    My heart broke with yours when I read your post the other day. I can closely identify with a lot of what you said, but especially ‘the look’. I was one who didn’t write to encourage you, but wanted to. When you think of all the wonderful things all those wonderful people said imagine that there are many who thought wonderful things about and to you that didn’t write. I think you are wonderful and brilliant. I love your giggle on The Eyeopener and your passion for food and cooking and how smart you are and that you teach and inspire and encourage. I wish I had the courage to stop what I’m doing and do what you do.
    If you host a potluck, I’d be thrilled to attend! I met you once briefly, but I’d love to meet you again and give you a hug.
    Remember when you and AK made lemonade at the CBC and had a drive through lemonade stand? I was the first one to drive through and taste the watermelon lemonade. My friend made fun of me because I was on the radio describing it as not very watermelony because watermelony isn’t a word. It didn’t matter because I met YOU.

  24. Colleen
    May 6, 2011 at 8:13 pm


    You are an awesome woman, mother, food blogger and CBC personality, etc. I follow your blog religiously and listen to you on CBC every Tuesday morning. Thank you for being YOU. I met you once at the Suncor bakesale and I would love to be part of a potluck.

  25. colesangel
    May 6, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    why have i never thought of rice salad before? YUM!

    and Sarah…what’s farro? never heard of it???

    Julie…for a giggle, look up “The Fit Desk” online,thanks for making me bawl at work (and several times since) while reading your May post cause i’m one of those who can relate, and it’s soo nice to remember that i am not alone.

    i second Jacqui’s comment…please post potluck pics for those of us who can’t make it?!

    oh, and THANKS for your book Grazing…it’s wonderful! 😀

  26. Kelly
    May 6, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    As so many have already said we are all in this together. I have even compared it to someone who keeps hitting rehab, how much money have I spent trying to be what I think is right? I try it. Go great guns at it until something or someone blocks me and throws me off my train again. Then when I hit bottom I jump back in the ring for another round. That is just as hard on me, when I think people give up on my attempts because I have failed so many times. My biggest challenge now is to do that, get my health back, all the while being mindful of my 11 yr old daughter watching me and learning from me. It is a vicious cycle.

    You are fabulous, and I am so thrilled to have found your Grazing book on our little Bookmobile so many year ago… #1 borrower ever! 🙂
    I wrote you then to tell you how much I loved your books, and all the recipes I had tried. I was even more thrilled when you had written back!! That was WAY back before you blogged!

    If having hundreds of your biggest supporters tell you how spot on and fabulous you are, then heck, nothing will. You are worth every moment you give yourself, and you give to us each day with all your wonderful witty stories and FABULOUS meals. You are a gift to us, and this is our way of telling you how great you are. We are all in this together.
    🙂 With love from the east coast!
    (AND should you even choose to vacation here instead of Tofino, I have a fabulous little spot you should visit, our version of Charcut! It is the best burger and beer battered fries ever! And all local foods used there too.)
    You are my FAVOURITE cook, and even my kids know that!

  27. Karen
    May 6, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    I would totally be ALL over a potluck. What at time we’d have – a bunch of like-minded, slightly food-obsessed women, who are just having fun doing the best they can and encouraging each other! And yes, it does sound kind of ‘grass-roots-y’ and lovely. But what the heck would I bring to have dinner with Julie? 🙂

    @Erica B “applying chocolate like it was a band aid”. Best. Sentence. Ever.

  28. SitkaSpruce
    May 6, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    I’m in for a good potluck! Just tell me when and where and I’ll bring the sheet cake & bocce ball set.

  29. Corinne
    May 6, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Julie, I was so sad when I read your blog, this is understandable, one is shaken when someone they love is unhappy or feeling blue. Julie I admire you, for your deep honesty, for sharing your insecurities. You help us in many more ways than you could possibly know. You are a beautiful human being, an amazing Mom, a courageous friend, a wonderful cook joyfully sharing your best recipes, and you are so funny reliably brightening my days. I still tear up as I write to you. You are so beautiful and deserve the out pouring of support, love and gratitude that you are receiving. You have enriched my life and my family’s, thanks to you our meals are tastier and more creative and so importantly I am grateful for the authenticity and honesty you model. Please know your are a gift to all of us. Keep happy and share your work load, I am keen to offer my help. Love you.

  30. Trinh
    May 7, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I glad to hear that your spirit is being lifted! I too find the battle with my weight a difficult one, and it broke my heart to read that post. You are strong and beautiful!

  31. Theresa
    May 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I completely agree with June!

    DITCH those sweat pants!!

  32. Carol SB
    May 7, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Rice salad. When there’s nothing in the fridge… oh, yeah.
    Hey, we’ve got sweet little dandelions popping up in our lawn now the snow’s gone… I’m digging them as fast as I spot them… but they’re spray-free, and tender as can be right now. The leaves are SO going into this salad.
    BTW, Julie, gorgeous girl (and yes, we HAVE met)… you keep a level of sanity in my life when things seem to go sideways. I can really relate to the middle of the night, “Horrible things in the world that I cannot fix” thoughts. Lying awake and despairing for, well, for everyone and everything. I sometimes have to shut off the news, and come over to your blog. To where commonplace things have value, people have value, and love is palpable.
    Thank you, gorgeous lady.

  33. Lisa
    May 8, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    I’m SO in for a potluck – food is 10 times better when you share it!

    I make something similar to this with orzo, but add kalamata olives and red peppers. It’s one of my favourite things to take to lunch in the summer…

    I’ve put on about 20 pounds in the last 18 months due to an illness and the subsequent double-barrel of 1) the medications needed to treat it and 2) not enough energy to exercise. I know it’s not the end of the world, and by most standards I “look fine” but I’m also attempting to make some changes to get back to a healthier me. It’s not because my pants don’t fit anymore, I just want to be able to keep up to my nephews when we go hiking together in July.

    Thank you again for that inspiring and honest posting, I’m sending any positive influence I may have in the cosmos your way!

  34. Stacey
    May 9, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Potluck! YES! I heart Karen’s summary of what it would be like….

  35. Christine
    May 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Pot luck??? I’m in!

  36. Cathy N in Inglewood Calgary
    May 10, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    I would oh so love to come to the potluck but unless we have it during the 3rd week of May (when I am back in Calgary) I will be sailing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for the next 6 months… AND no internet connection so I will be missing not only the potluck but my daily fix of Julie! Arrrrggghhh! Is life worth living? Maybe we could do an annual potluck… summer of ’12 and I am in!!
    I love this recipe – it is going into my recipe file for the boat… love you!

  37. Jennifer Jo
    May 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Hey Julie,

    I made this recipe twice now and am totally in love (and addicted). I added fresh dill and a bit of sausage. Lovely.


  38. delphcotecuisine
    May 12, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Gorgeous photos and what a delicious salad!

  39. Inga
    May 14, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    hey Julie,
    Potluck, I would so love to attend. Yours is the blog I refer to first when baking or cooking about ANYTHING these days. In fact am going to source out some cookies for self and other right after posting.
    I wish I had some meaningful words to say on the whole weight thing, but I don’t. Life is just plain hard sometimes and I believe things would also be easier / better in a smaller body, but then there’s always cookies…
    chat soon and keep up the awesome work!

  40. Kari Hill
    March 12, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    Hi, my daughters and I just found your site and have looked at recipes for the next few days — really great effort here and thank you! We’ll be back!

    • Julie
      March 12, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      So great to hear kari! Thanks!

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