The Hungry Musician

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Maple Date Cornbread

This cornbread is adapted from a recipe by Paula Deen, but does not contain butter, refined sugar, or milk products of any kind. It is, however, incredibly delicious and moist. (Note: I hate the word moist, but I can’t think of any other word to accurately describe this bread’s moistness.) It also goes absolutely perfectly with my Pumpkin Kale Turkey Chili.



Maple Date Cornbread
Serves 15
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  1. 1 cup cornmeal
  2. 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  3. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  4. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  5. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  7. 3 tbs. maple syrup
  8. 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  9. 1 1/2 cups vanilla unsweetened almond milk
  10. 1/2 cup dates, coarsely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Combine cornmeal, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, maple syrup, and almond milk. Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and mix well.
  4. Once fully combined, add melted coconut oil and stir. It's okay if the resulting batter is somewhat lumpy.
  5. Add the dates, stir, and pour the batter into a greased baking dish. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  1. Mine took about a half hour because I used a deeper, narrower baking dish. In the last 5-10 minutes of baking, I put foil over the dish to keep the heat from escaping.
Adapted from Paula Deen
Adapted from Paula Deen


This week’s buzzword is balanceI have spent four years of college desperately trying to figure out what balance actually means in the context of my daily life. Each year, balance has meant something different to me. Let me take you on a virtual tour.
Freshman Year:
  • The act of practicing violin into the wee hours of the morning, with only the wrapper of a 7/11 turkey sandwich as witness to your hard work. Gym sessions are included once every few weeks when a new pair of pants ceases to fit. i.e. “I got a B+ in Secondary Piano, but at least I still found balance.”
Sophomore Year:
  • Worrying so much about your love social life that you almost forget to focus, but still (by some divine miracle) manage to pull off straight A’s, lose 20 pounds, and get much better at violin on little to no sleep. i.e. “Practicing is really important, and so are men friends. Add some studying all-nighters, and you too can achieve balance.”

Junior Year:

  • Not falling over. i.e. “I’m trying really hard to balance 23 credits with this VERY non-required recital I’m giving.”

This trip down memory lane brings me now to my definition of balance today, in my senior year of college. Up until quite recently, it was the following:

  • Sketching out each day in a planner to include well-crafted increments for studying, practicing, rehearsals, fitness, eating, lessons, and errands, and then beating yourself up when your days don’t go as you carefully designed. “Well, I planned to practice from 4-6:30 and go to the gym at 7, but I ended up napping at 6 and getting to the gym at 8 instead. Let’s hope I can still find balance as a mediocre, out-of-shape violinist.”
Then, I had an epiphany. Balance isn’t achieved by keeping to a rigid schedule that offers little to no room for flexibility. This is not to say that scheduling your days hour by hour isn’t a great tool, because it is and I HIGHLY recommend it. Sometimes, however, it must act more as a guideline.


Last week, I planned out my days to include everything I needed for success. I scheduled in ample practice and gym time, and plenty of time to work on my long term projects. I wrote in lectures, classes, recitals, and other additional events that I had to attend, most of which were in the evenings. I even penciled in an hour for American Horror Story (I know…), just to make sure that I’d make time to watch with my roommates. What actually ended up happening was that after my practicing was done, my workload and other school-related obligations became so burdensome, that I was up until all hours almost every night trying to get everything done well and on time. Basically, I kissed all glimpses of early morning gym sessions goodbye. In the midst of all this, I was able to enjoy a little taste of freedom on Wednesday when a few friends and I went to the bar for an hour after a concert. Still, once the the weekend came, I felt I had to completely let myself go. I celebrated a friend’s birthday, and had a tapas brunch with my cousin on Saturday (which, by the way, was aaaaamazing). For the rest of the weekend, I was either practicing or sleeping. I didn’t keep up my gym schedule like I had planned for the week, which was disappointing. I had just come off of a glorious three-week streak of getting to the gym consistently, which has been making a great difference. Unfortunately, my body just couldn’t do any extra work last week, and the weekend offered a time and place to recuperate.

In addition to all of this, I made an executive decision not to run the 8K next week. Since my knee had been acting up, my fitness focus has turned mostly to strength training, and I think it’s best not to push myself to run in the cold on an early Saturday morning before a really pivotal week (I’ll get to that).

Still, despite how great the weekend was, the disappointment came from several angles. I hadn’t gone to the gym. My planning had failed. I practiced a lot, but I still felt guilty. I had two or three “treat” meals in one weekend, which didn’t even feel deserved. I wasn’t going to run the race, which I’d been looking forward to for months.

Now, here are the dictionary definitions for “balance.”

{bal·ance [ˈbaləns] • noun} 

  1. an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
  2. a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.


My new mindset acknowledges that my lazy weekend was completely justified. I may not have earned each extra calorie in the gym, but I definitely deserved them. Why should I beat myself up for things I genuinely enjoyed? Sure, I could have skimped on some aspects of my work to get to the gym and make everything even out. But, in the long run, I’ll remember the meticulous effort I gave to my project, and I’ll remember how well I practiced. So what, if my days seemed uneven? They still had the correct proportions.

After an added sick day and a huge motivational deficit, I finally got back in the gym yesterday, and it was a beautiful reunion. Next week is an orchestra hell week and is also the week in which I’ll start to make my prescreening recordings for Master’s programs. Realistically, I may not make it to the gym five days next week. I may not make it four times, or even three. But I will schedule it in, and I will NOT beat myself up if things change.

SO, basically…

Balance consists of whatever proportions feel natural to make YOU feel accomplished and/or satisfied. You aren’t guaranteed to feel both accomplishment AND satisfaction all the time, and that’s just a fact of life (especially as a creative/artistic type ;) ) that all of us need to come to terms with for our own health and happiness. Work and play can’t always come in the proportions we want them to. So, work your butt off, and feel successful at whatever it is you desire to be successful at. Once you’ve worked hard, if you feel that you need to have a whole weekend plus a tapas brunch to recover, do that. Or, if you choose to have a few times over the week where you “treat” yourself, that’s fine. Treat yourself whenever and to whatever it is that gives your body and mind the chance to unwind and reset. Nobody will be judging you, not even yourself. Because you work hard, and you deserve balance.

Vegan Baked Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese

Even as a food blogger and lover of cooking, sometimes I just don’t want to be in the kitchen, especially when I get back late from a rehearsal or the gym and am too burnt to even think.  And, on those occasions, sometimes leftovers just won’t cut it. So, I head for the healthiest frozen comfort food I know – Amy’s vegan mac ‘n cheeze with rice pasta. I usually like to add some vegetables to it (steamed broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, etc.) to make it a bit more nutritious, but when I reached for the freezer this past week, a new addition crossed my mind. You’ve probably already guessed it.

“What about pumpkin?” I know, I know, I’m still in the pumpkin phase. But Halloween’s over, so I’ll be buying 20-30 cans of pumpkin to last me through the year I’ll be over it soon.


Anyway, at the thought of this, I called in one of my roommates and ran the idea past her, which she promptly made a face at and declared was disgusting. I was still determined, so I headed to Google, where I found a Vegan Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheeze recipe by the wonderful Oh She Glows. Therefore, I owe a lot of credit for this recipe to Angela, and to Bob. Bob’s Red Mill, that is. Their nutritional yeast has a recipe for vegan cheeze on the back :P I don’t eat vegan, and I LOVE cheese, although I do like to keep dairy as a “once-in-a-while” food. Also, if you’re like me and you love cooking for others and entertaining, it’s nice to have tricks up your sleeve to meet different dietary needs. Plus, this is so flavorful that your omnivorous guests hopefully won’t care that there’s no actual cheese in it.


For this recipe, I also used Ancient Harvest brand quinoa pasta. I like quinoa pasta a lot, because its taste and texture are (to me) most akin to that of regular pasta. It feels sinful to eat, but it actually isn’t! Plus, quinoa pasta is a great substitute for all the gluten-free folks out there.

The sauce for this is also chock-full of warm, woodsy herbs which compliment the pumpkin really well. But, the sweet pumpkin flavor itself it hardly overwhelming. Instead, it thickens the sauce and gives it a beautiful orange color. This sauce could also be repurposed for other things, like vegan nachos. I mean, it tasted pretty good when I scraped the pot with some spicy blue corn chips, so I’m just assuming…


Vegan Baked Pumpkin Mac 'n Cheese
Serves 8
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  1. Dry 8-12 oz. pasta of your choice
  2. 1 & 1/2 cups regular, unsweetened almond milk
  3. 2 tbs. vegan butter substitute (I used earth balance with olive oil)
  4. 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  5. 2 heaping tsp. dijon mustard
  6. 1 cup pumpkin purée
  7. 2 tbs. regular or gluten free oat flour
  8. 1/2 tsp coarsely chopped rosemary (fresh or dried)
  9. 1/2 tsp thyme (fresh or dried)
  10. 1/4 tsp paprika
  11. 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  12. 3/4 cup vegan cheese substitute, like Daiya (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions on box and drain. If using quinoa pasta, the pasta will become very sticky after you drain it, so I would recommend reserving a bit of water or stirring in a teaspoon of your vegan butter substitute to keep the noodles from sticking together.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the almond milk, stirring occasionally.
  4. Whisk in your butter substitute, nutritional yeast, mustard, pumpkin, and oat flour until the sauce has thickened and begins to bubble.
  5. Remove sauce from heat and combine with pasta. (Note: you don't have to use all the sauce, as this recipe makes a LOT... I totally used all of it.)
  6. Prepare a greased skillet or baking dish. If using a vegan cheese substitute, pour in half of the pasta mixture, and sprinkle half of the vegan cheese on the first layer. Then, pour the rest of the pasta on and repeat with the remaining cheese. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and/or the outer layer begins to brown a bit.




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Pumpkin Pie French Toast Sticks

I don’t really consider myself a person that likes to go with fads. I mean, I did start watching Breaking Bad recently. And yes, I guess you could consider the whole “clean eating” thing sort of a fad (although it should really be more standard instead of a fad, but I won’t go there now). Overall, I don’t do what everyone else is doing just for the sake of fitting in. One exception I make, however, is the autumnal fad we all know and love…

Pumpkin. Spice. Everything.

I’m sure you’ve seen memes going around, especially the one that says, “Girls be like, ‘TiMe F0R UgGS anD PuMPKiN SPiCE LAtTeS!!*~’” Minus the Uggs, I am definitely one of those girls. Well, and the latte part, since I’ve given up caffeine. But I definitely subscribe to the whole cult following of “pumpkin spice everything,” and so far this month, I’ve already made and bought several pumpkin-flavored goodies. Pumpkin oatmeal, spicy pumpkin grilled tofu, pumpkin green smoothies, pumpkin greek yogurt, pumpkin salsa, pumpkin tea… Seriously, I will have pumpkin in anything. Autumn is by far my favorite season, fashion-wise, food-wise, and otherwise. There are so many things about it that I absolutely love, that I can’t have during any other season.

Like these “pumpkin pie” french toast sticks. With a pumpkin maple sauce for dipping.


At the risk of sounding obnoxious… You need to make these as soon as possible. They are SO pumpkin-y and tasty, and they fill you up really well, especially when served with a little bit of fruit on the side. They also make your kitchen smell like Thanksgiving. Basically, it’s a win-win.

Pumpkin Pie French Toast Sticks (with Pumpkin Maple Sauce)

Serves: 1 


(For French Toast)
  • 2 slices bread (I used original Ezekiel), each cut into four strips
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin purée
  • 2 tbs. unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • Stevia or honey to sweeten (optional)
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil

(For Sauce)

  • 1 tbs. nut butter
  • 1 tsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin purée
  • 1 tsp. unsweetened almond milk
  • Pumpkin pie spice to taste


For french toast, set aside bread sticks and combine the egg, pumpkin, almond milk, pumpkin spice, and stevia/honey (if you’re using it) in a dish. Whisk thoroughly with a fork until completely combined. In a pan, heat the coconut oil on medium and make sure that it covers the pan evenly. Dredge the bread sticks in your eggy mixture making sure they are covered on all sides, and place them one by one into the pan. For best results, try to keep them from touching. After about 3-5 minutes (or until golden brown), flip the french toast sticks to the other side. After another 3-5 minutes, remove from pan. Assemble your sauce by stirring all the ingredients together, and then serve.