My First Week as a Grad Student (And What I Fed Myself)

In my first week as a graduate student, I realized that I haven’t really been properly warned about a lot of really RANDOM things. In no particular order:  

1) Nobody warned me that on some days, my violin just won’t love me back.

2) Nobody warned me that ceramic knives are just as good at slicing fingers as they are onions.

3) Nobody warned me that someone would come to my door claiming to be MY electric company and SOMEHOW convince me to sign up for a DIFFERENT electric company. (Note to self: Don’t be so nice – you live in New York now. Your idea of “rude” is everyone else’s normal.)

4) Nobody warned me that I would see TIM GUNN in the book store while going to pick up How Sweet Eats’s new cookbook. I have also seen him in public once before, at a train station in Philly. Unfortunately, my outfit was not “making it work” either time, so I’ve never gone up to him. Potentially awesome selfies with Tim Gunn: 2. Awesome selfies with Tim Gunn? 0. 

5) After a few weeks of not getting to yoga, nobody warned me that this evening’s yoga class would be changed from “Mixed Level” to “Vinyasa.” Woops. My legs are gummi worms.

6) Finally, nobody warned me that organic whole chickens cost upwards of $27.00. Can’t a girl just get her roasted chicken on without having to file for bankruptcy? Damn. So, instead of doing the wise thing and buying the chicken and having meat for the week, yours truly bought a half pound of wild sockeye salmon for $9.00 and had enough fish for two meals… Practical. But what I did with that salmon. Ooooh, what I did with that salmon…. IMG_6166   Crispy Honey Maple Dijon Salmon (serves 1-2) (GF):

  • 1/2 lb. wild salmon, whole or cut into 2 filets
  • 1/2 tbs. dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tbs. pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

If making two filets, cut salmon in half before preparing. With the skin side facing down, coat the flesh of the salmon with a sprinkling of olive oil, spreading to coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Combine mustard, maple syrup, and honey. Drizzle on top of salmon. In a skillet over medium-low heat, place the filet(s) skin side up so that the flesh is being seared. Cook until the flesh becomes light orange all the way up to the skin, about 5-7 minutes. I covered the pan in the last minute or so to speed along the process. Remove the skin, and then remove the filets from the pan to serve. I served it with coconut cilantro jasmine rice and a kale-onion-garlic stir fry.  One super tasty example of when frugality just isn’t necessary.

I do have plenty of good tidbits to report, however.

1) I was able to free up my afternoons and leave more time for building up a private teaching studio here in New York City. Anybody need some violin lessons? 🙂

2) I met up with an Instagram friend, Drew (@thatviolakid) and went busking in Washington Square park last week, which was a BLAST. Drew is an incredibly talented violist at Juilliard, and regularly offers useful, inspirational tips for his Instagram followers. How fortunate that I’ve only been in school for a week, and already I’m meeting wonderful musicians and having great playing opportunities! It was also fascinating to observe the culture on the streets of NYC while standing in one place. It all just plays out in front of you. 

Busking shot, courtesy of Drew!

Busking shot, courtesy of Drew!

3) I won a string lottery at school orientation, and coincidentally won a pack of the gut strings I already use (which are super expensive but yet I still justify buying repeatedly, because they sound like butter and honey made a baby in audible form). For the freakin’ WIN.

4) My new violin bag from Evening Phoenix Designs came. It’s reeeeal purty and Casper is super happy to now be even more protected from the “elements” (i.e. flying rosin bits).

5) I currently have breakfast plans tomorrow at a place called “Oatmeals.” Which is, as you may have guessed, an OATMEAL BAR. I heard about the place through a fellow blogger, and I literally could not imagine a more perfect food establishment.

6) It’s September, so it’s time for pumpkin to start reappearing. Which means summer is fading, which is FABULOUS, because I’m kinda done with summer. The season was pretty good to me in general, but I had to turn my life upside down in the middle of it. So to me, the return of pumpkin is vaguely symbolic of a return to normalcy.  Therefore, I did two awesome things to honor pumpkin this week. 

First there was this stack of super sexy whole wheat pumpkin pancakes. With a syrup pour that might be borderline NSFW.

IMG_6061

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes (makes 8 mini pancakes):

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat or oat flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened canned pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract (may sub. vanilla)
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • ~1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp coconut oil, divided

Combine all ingredients (except almond milk/coconut oil) in a small mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Add almond milk until the batter is a pourable consistency (~1/3 cup, probably more). Over medium heat, melt half of the coconut oil in a large skillet or griddle pan. Create four small pancakes using a 1/4 cup measure, and flip when the edges look dry (about 2-3 mins each side). Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with pure maple syrup.

Then, I made oil-free pumpkin bread. It turned out kind of dry, so I won’t give you a recipe. But it has been awwwwwesome re-toasted in the morning, and I’ve been putting alllll of the things on it. And by all of the things, I mean different flavors of peanut butter. Usually with blueberry jam. But sometimes with roasted bananas. I can be adventurous.

IMG_6103

IMG_6190

Speaking of roasted bananas, I also figured out that they are more than amazing when put on COLD cereal. If you were ever into banana-flavored milk as a kid (or even if you weren’t… this is better) you NEED to try this.

I've really been nailing the mid-pour shots lately. And by me, I mean the iPhone's burst feature.

I’ve really been nailing the mid-pour shots lately. And by me, I mean the iPhone’s burst feature.

Roasted Bananas (Vegan/GF):

  • 1 large ripe banana, sliced into coins
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil
  • cinnamon to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Warm the coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add bananas. once they start to sizzle, add cinnamon and vanilla. With a ripe banana, no need for any added sweetness!

Okay, so I’m ALMOST out of things to share with you, but if you’re still with me and haven’t already left the building, here’s one more recipe. The last thing I’ve noticed being a graduate student is that I’m no longer in such a hurry to be an adult. Yes, the drive to succeed and build a career for myself is all still there, but I miss the days when I was a happily oblivious six-year-old and didn’t know what bills were and how to pay them. And when I was six years old, I also loooooved chicken nuggets. Dinosaur-shaped nuggets, to be specific. But now that we know what actually goes into those chicken nuggets, I prefer to pass. See? Life was so simple when I didn’t know what pink slime was (side note: does anybody really know EXACTLY what it is? I think that’s why it’s so scary…). And last week, after a long day of really hard placement tests, all I wanted to do was go back to first grade. So I made tofu nuggets. AND baked curly fries using my veggie spiralizer. If I’d only had a coloring book to go along with this meal, I would have been set.

IMG_5961 Tofu Nuggets (Vegan/GF):

  • 1 block extra-firm tofu, drained of liquid 
  • 1/3 cup oats 
  • 1/3 cup organic yellow cornmeal 
  • Extra virgin olive oil (~2 to 3 tbs. total) 
  • Trader Joe’s South African Smoke Seasoning, cayenne pepper, sea salt, and pepper to taste

Cube the drained tofu into thick chunks, about 1 inch long x 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. In a food processor, combine cornmeal and oats. Pulse until oats are crumbly. Add smoke seasoning, cayenne (sparingly!), sea salt, and pepper to taste. Toss the tofu cubes in about 1-2 tbs. of the oil, then transfer cubes to a bowl with the oat mixture, and toss gently to combine, being careful not to break up the tofu. Prepare a large pan with a very slight coating of olive oil. With the heat on medium, place the nuggets into the pan, rotating them occasionally until all sides are golden brown and crispy. Served here with some Annie’s organic ketchup, the baked “curly fries,” and garlicky kale.

…OK, I lied, there’s one more thing. IMG_6199

Make a mixing bowl salad. Put roasted chickpeas on it. (1 can chickpeas rinsed and drained + olive oil + salt + pepper + smoke seasoning in a 425˚F oven until creeeespy. Toss frequently and monitor to prevent burning.) Oh so fresh, oh so healthy, oh so satisfying.

And now, off to go find that coloring book.  

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