Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back to school muffins!

Back to school means very little to me (except that I am officially a 5th year student in my program... shudder). I stopped taking classes at the end of my second year of school - and I haven't had a summer break since I was 21. Actually- I technically get no breaks now, but I do manage to take AS MANY AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE TO SAVE MY SANITY. Caps, aside, the only thing that does affect me is the fact that I have to prepare for lectures. This year- I have new topics, meaning I actually have to create new powerpoint presentations, thus causing me to have to go to lab/work at a decent hour (not noon). Hey, I do human research - sometimes I am working only evenings or on the weekends, so when I don't have that going on, I don' rush in.

Back to school also means that my husband is back at school, teaching high school. That means that he is gone super early- leaving me some quiet time to enjoy my coffee, listen to NPR, and catch up on my non-science related reading (a.g. food-involved reading). This past Sunday I made muffins, strawberry-goji muffins to be exact, to grab on my way out to work, or to enjoy with my morning coffee at home if I have more time. They are very good and VERY low in calories!

The muffin recipe comes from Nava Atlas' The Vegetarian Family Cookbook, which is absolutely one of my favorites. The muffin base is the "basic muffins, seven ways recipe:"

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tsp baking soda
1/3 cup natural granulated sugar
1 cup yogurt (I used coconut) or applesauce
2 Tbsp safflower oil
1/3 milk (I used plain soy)

Mix dry ingredients, add wet and stir. For fillings I added 1 cup fresh strawberries and 1/3 cup goji berries.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes - makes 12 muffins!

Without fruit, they have 126 calories each - so they are a great snack with my coffee!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tofu Etouffee

Some days the universe aligns to find a perfect meal. I always end up buying different produce at the store - of which I need a very small amount for a recipe. I refuse to let food go to waste- so today I was trying to use up: red potatoes, celery, one green pepper, one lone tofurkey sausage, and some tofu. I went to Vegan Dad - one of my very favorite recipe sites. I searched for a tofu meal - and lo and behold - found one that I had EACH AND EVERY ingredient for. This very rarely happens! The quick and easy tofu etouffee turned out awesome! (Dave put his over brown rice, I can't take too much starch).

Speaking of starch- I had some potatoes I really need to use up as well. I have no idea why I grabbed so many. I went to the quick recipe section of Nava Atlas' Vegan Express. The paprika sauteed potatoes sounded awesome- and tasted great as well. Basically you take red skinned potatoes that have been microwaved until soft, slice them, and sautee in olive oil with some garlic until browned. When browned add some paprika and scallions and you're set. And my fridge is a little emptier - making me a little happier! The all day Ron Hawkins marathon helped also. I miss Canadian music so much!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Morning Smoothie 2

Frozen strawberries (they were buy 1 get 2 free all this week, so I bought 6 and chopped and froze them all), 1/2 banana, 1/2 mango, hemp seeds, coconut yogurt, orange juice, cinnamon and splenda.

*** since I do not eat meat (no, not even fish) - I have to derive my omega 3's from other sources. Hemp seeds are a great source.

Friday, August 27, 2010

It's the little things....

I have been working on a draft of a protocol (an outline of a study to submit to a university, who judges it ethical or not) for about 6 weeks. I have written 2 before, without problem or any major concerns. When my advisor, amongst the list of three other things he had given me to work on for the upcoming week, told me to "start a protocol" I made the mistake of saying "oh sure, no problem, that won't take me long! I have it all written in my grant anyway." Something inside of him must have said "no problem? We'll see about that!"

Needless to say, six weeks of nitpicking away at sentence length and left justification - I got the okay to hand it in. He called me up for our weekly meeting, and when I opened the door, just said "this wont' be long, you're good to go." And actually shooed me away with his hand. That is pretty good for positive reinforcement from him in my experience. Later, he accused me of copying my work from my lab mate - though in reality I copied my OWN work from the past two I have successfully completed. But that's a whole other annoying story, which ends with him saying "oh, my bad." My bad? First of all- why would you accuse me of not doing my own work after 3 years of independent work, and secondly - who the hell says "my bad?" Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, that's who!

Well, after being accused of blatant plagiarizing, I lost my appetite. Husband decided he wanted to cash in the raincheck on margaritas, so we had a great mexican dinner. They apparently had no dessert, so we went to a local gelato place for another beer - and gelato obviously. One of the flavors - avocado! I asked to sample it, and it was super good! So I went with it and I suggest you do the same should you ever encounter it!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Quick taquitos and "taco" salad

Yesterday I did end up going into work, though I vowed not to. I had updated comments from my advisor at home - and they could be easily addressed from my desk. However, I got an email around noon that said

"come to lab. See items on bookshelves. Take what is yours. Everything not taken I will throw out at 5pm."

Ok, time to go in. I get in, and what do you think is sitting there - ready to be chucked into the bin??? Mine and my labmates coffee cups and tupperware. You see, we have a sink and drying rack in our lab. Every day we WASH our dishes and set them out to dry, before taking them home later that day. Apparently that is no longer acceptable so I have to hide my fork at my desk.

I was annoyed about some other things as well, so I tried to convince the husband to go out for margaritas and tacos to celebrate his "last day at school before the students start." (Yeah right, I wanted tequila on a week night). He had a departmental meeting at Buffalo Wild WINGS (what a jerk, wings and beer for work? I can't even have a coffee cup). I tried to go for a swim - but my Y CLOSES the pool when it storms. Really? It's INSIDE.

So I was on my own - which meant I came home and cleaned (my favorite past time) and made a super quick dinner.

Here: the before

Here - the after. I made some quick taquitos - put some leftover gazpacho in a bowl, and made a chopped salad. Start to finish - 10 minutes.

The taquitos - made into a recipe of things I had:
2 corn tortillas
4 Tbsp refried beans (I used whole foods chile and lime)
1 tsp nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp salsa

Mix together, put about 2 Tbsp of filling in each tortilla- roll up. Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes. The site I saw these on said to broil them for 1-2 minutes for crispiness at the end - and 2 minutes was too much!

The salad - romaine lettuce, black beans, tomato, corn, avocado, scallion, salsa. Topped with some of my home made strawberry vinaigrette. It was quick, and by the time I finished up, the husband was bouncing into the house - happy from all the beer he had consumed in the name of special education. I wasn't really in the mood for alcohol anymore, but I poured a glass of Round Peak's fiddle's red. It's a red blend of cab franc, cab sauv, and merlot. Very tasty. I sat down to watch Teen Mom, only to discover it wasn't new this week. So I had to read instead! Damn.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Salty Chocolate Balls

My very favorite show, since I was in 5th grade, has been South Park.

One of my favorite South Park memories of all time is Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls. The song makes me crack up every time I hear it.

Well - I have been making raw balls for snacks for the past two weeks or so. One batch goes a long way. I wanted some sweetness after my healthy day - so I decided I would make a batch. Today I found that I only had 3 dates left- and the only nuts I had were salted. Hence, the chocolate salty balls. My recipe:

1/2 cup salted nuts
3 dates
2 Tbsp natural peanut butter (I grind my own at Whole Foods)
1 Tbsp dark cocoa powder

Get out your food processor, and process each ingredient in succession (first nuts, then add dates, PB, and powder). They take about 3 minutes total to make. If they are not sweet enough, add a squirt of agave nectar to your balls. Ta-da! Chocolate salty balls that Chef would approve of. Pop them in the freezer, then pop them into your mouth.

Say everybody have you seen my balls
They're big and salty and brown
If you ever need a quick pick me up
Just stick my balls in your mouth.

Oooo suck on my chocolate salted balls

Stick em in your mouth, and suck em

Miso-glazed tofu and soba noodles

I am avoiding work again in a desperate attempt to control my blood pressure. Every time I get a morning email from my advisor with silly comments on something I have written.... I just know I cannot interact with others nicely.

So, let me talk about my dinner last night instead. Miso glazed tofu, and soba noodles with swiss chard.

The tofu was glazed with miso sauce - a recipe from the Moosewood Simple Suppers cookbook. I made it for some salmon the husband was having (see I won't cook meat, but I will make a glaze for it, I am very nice).

Miso glaze-
2 Tbsp miso
1.5 Tbsp mirin
1.5 tsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar or cider vinegar

I had made this awhile ago, so I froze it and it kept perfectly. I set the oven to 450, put the glaze over the tofu (use tin foil, it burns), and baked until it smelled like burning.

The soba noodles are actually a remnant from my weight watchers days. It calls for spinach, but the chard looked great. Use a ton of greens- they shrink down to NOTHING.

8 oz uncooked soba noodles
8 cups swiss chard (or spinach)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp honey
2 scallions, sliced
1 tsp sesame oil
1 garlic clove (I had none, so I just used some ginger)

Boil noodles- drain. Saute garlic (or ginger) in the sesame oil - add chard, cook. Add scallions, cook a minute or so. Add the liquid ingredients. Toss together noodles with chard mixture- and it's done.

I just gone done with my second cup of coffee and my favorite strawberry oatmeal. (I added more strawberries, so it looks prettier today).

Now I will address comments. While listening to an NPR show on the neurobiological implications of stress. How awesome.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Staying away from work

Everyone has some interesting personality quirks. One of mine is that I constantly feel the need to be at work- even if I am not working. Human research is a lot of hard work, punctuated by long, extended periods in which there is very little to do. I remember when I first switched to human work one of the directors pointed this out to me- and told me it was important to keep myself motivated through these lulls. Well, right now I am in one of those down times. I am writing, but writing is a long process, especially when you are only writing to please your advisor on a weekly basis - and you cannot turn in work within less than a week, because it is unacceptable. Anyway - it's 9:45am, I woke up at 6 this morning to drive back from Chapel Hill. Because sometimes a one day vacation is better than nothing.

I am sitting here riddled with guilt because I feel that I need to be at work right now. What do I have to do today you ask? I have a meeting at 3 about a course I am a part of teaching. I also am having lunch with a friend. Additionally, I have some addresses at work I need to add to thank yous before I can send them out. My work consists only of a back and forth with my advisor about a draft I am preparing.

Do I have any work to do? No. I finished it last week, and have to wait until TOMORROW at two to submit it. Why do I feel I need to go to work then? My advisor doesn't know if I am there or not, I have nothing productive to do.... who knows. All I know is that it is Monday - and I already need another mini vacation.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fun with advisors and Polenta!

Describing the relationship of an advisor to an advisee sometimes proves to be difficult. It's kind of like a mix between a boss, parent, Drill Sargent, and babysitter. Everything you want to do requires their permission. They guide your career, serve as the rate-limiting factor for your progression through school, make you feel like crap, and serve as your biggest fan. No matter what - they are the ones that will get you to graduate. You need their help to put out publications, okay your dissertation, and ultimately provide a recommendation for you. It's a very complex relationship - and it's different with everyone. Thinking your advisor hates you is a pretty common theme in grad school. Google "my advisor hates me" and you'll get several thousand hits. However, by the end most realize that their advisor does not in fact hate them... after several years of therapy.

My dad went to business school, and told me that my advisor uses a management style known as "everything is an emergency." Everything has to be done RIGHT away, and ASAP emails are abundant. This morning, I decided I would sleep in. It's Friday - and I had finished my work due NEXT week, so I decided to sleep in. At about 9, my phone starts buzzing at me- alerting me to a new email. It was from my advisor -saying to email him AS SOON AS POSSIBLE when I arrive at work. Well, crap. I throw on clothes, rush out the door, arrive at work unshowered and smelly - to email my advisor back. His reply? "Let's meet in 2 hours." UGH.

Anyway- the husband was gone last night, so I got to cook for myself yet again. I make a fun polenta dish when I don't feel like throwing anything too complicated together- so I saute up some veggies, and warm two slices of polenta in the microwave. Add veggies (onion, pepper and broc) to top, smother with tomato sauce and a sprinkling of Daiya and nuke again... and dinner is done. I was CRAVING carbs last night so I bought some sour dough bread. The wine is Skull camp's "anticipation" made by Round Peak vineyards. A young un-oaked chardonnay with less than 4% residual sugar- a nice semi-sweet wine. Perfect to accompany the 50 thank you notes I got through yesterday.
Now I am off for a swim - that will serve as my first "shower" of the day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sometimes winning can be fun

Being in grad school gets pretty depressing. Spending your days writing and writing, usually not even speaking to an actual human being all day. After 4 years, you get pretty worn down and are just ready to leave. I am in need-to-graduate mode, so I spend all of my hours writing, addressing corrections, and meeting with my advisor. There is no joy in my day, that's for sure. The only things that seem to brighten my day are food, sunshine (when I get to see it), when something unfortunate happens to a person I dislike, and chocolate.

Today - I was not feeling well, and I was exhausted from another running workout last night. The husband left at 5:30 to go play hockey, leaving on hall lights galore. I put a pillow over my head and vowed to sleep until I wanted to wake up. The cat woke me up at 8- I checked my phone and realized I had forgotten all about my dentist appointment today. I rushed out of the house, into the pouring rain, unshowered and miserable, ready to be pumped full of novocaine. One injection and two fillings later- I was rewarded with an Otis Spunkenmeyer cookie, which I could not resist and chewed with half of my face.

I returned home to find a package on my front porch - which I assumed were my wedding thank-you's.... which reminded me how many of them we now have to write, and I became more miserable. Instead- I found the contents of a giveaway I had won from Chai & Yoga. I was so thrilled that I won something - and even decided to work from home today - to spare myself from the florescent lights and smelly cubicle for at least one day. Yay! And no one had to get rejected from 12 grad schools to make me smile.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Jamaican rice and beans (quick)

My advisor is not only a scientist- but also an actor. He does community theater. I guess it is a good thing to have someone in science support having outside interests. Sometimes your life had to revolve around science, and you can never leave the lab. The environment I work in now is pretty laid back work-wise because of that - which really means I have to motivate myself.

Back to the acting, way back before I was a vegetarian - some then co-workers and I decided to go see my advisor perform in a play in a small town about an hour away. We figured we'd grab dinner out there- expecting no more than BBQ or friend chicken. Lo and behold, there was a Jamaican restaurant - right there in the middle of nowhere. The food was great, and my vegetarian coworker went nuts over the rice and beans- which were made in a thick, delicious coconut base.

Now that I am a vegetarian, I realize what a go-to rice and beans are. So simple! Following is the recipe I made, from the suggestions of both the restaurant owner and my coworker. This was easily made from all pantry food- I love emptying out my cans - and didn't have time to soak any beans.

Brown jasmine rice (enough for 4) - I stick mine in the rice cooker.
2 cans red kidney beans
1 can coconut milk
2 Tbsp jerk seasoning
Salt and Pepper

Make rice. Dump beans (juices too) into large pot. Add coconut milk and seasoning. Simmer. After about 20 minutes, I take a potato masher and mash a few of the beans to get them to break down to thicken the sauce further. It was awesome - and I am having some of the leftovers for lunch. Start to finish - 1 hour!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The most INSANE oatmeal of all time.

I am back home from my whirlwind weekend in New York. Leaving home always sucks - I miss my family, my friends, the weather, my parent's pool, and the free food! The one thing I don't miss is cooking my own stuff. My first day home my mom had croissants. I love criossants, but I can never eat them because my whole life is a diet. I usually have smoothies or oatmeal for breakfast - or sometimes only coffee. Before I left - I discovered the wondrous oatmeals of Chocolate-Covered Katie. Oh my goodness. Tofu, fruit, cooked oatmeal and creamer blended together for breakfast into a mousse-style dessert? Oh my goodness, again.

I had just bought two quarts of strawberries when I saw this post. The recipe calls for Bulgur, of which I had none, so I used oatmeal, and her trick for cooking the oats. I could NOT wait to get home and make this awesome oatmeal again. Sometimes you just have to be late for work to enjoy some good breakfast.
My messy bowl that I ate at my computer!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

New York, New York

I love when I tell people that I am from New York. In reality I have only been to NYC twice, but everyone else in the world assumes that the city takes up the entire state. People always ask how often I go there - but it's an 8 hour drive from my parent's house. Well, there is much more to NY than New York City - and Western New York is a great place to live and visit.

The food is wonderful - and I always overindulge. Every time I come home I am drinking too much wine, eating too much cheese, an excess of bean burritos, partaking in canadian chocolate, and eating the cheese omelets my mother makes for me each morning. I usually have a stomach ache the whole time I am here. But I have a hard time not being adamant about my diet. I don't want to be a bother- and would rather not inconvenience other people by having them accommodate me at their homes, or in restaurants. One day I will learn to be pickier- but in the meantime I am chugging Maalox each morning and enjoying cannoli's.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tempeh and Temperature intolerance

It is HOT outside. Seriously. The heat index today was 100. Growing up in WNY - summers didn't get so warm. I remember lifeguarding in August wearing jogging pants and a hoodie. Well, those days do not exist here until December. Once it hits over 90 degrees- I whine. I know I do, and I feel bad that people have to listen to me, BUT DAMN IT IT'S HOT.

Anyway - I got home at a reasonable time today to do some "work" (read: writing. Blah). I made some for real rabbit food today - mashed cauliflower and kale with garlic chips. I threw some tempeh in after I sauteed the kale in sesame oil - even though I said I would have no more soy today. I couldn't help it, it sounded good. I made some shiitake miso gravy and smothered that all over the tempeh and cauliflower. Seriously - if you haven't made it - you have to try it. Just steam a head for 15 minutes, then chuck it in your food processor with some earth balance/silk creamer/salt and pepper or whatever you so choose as an embellishment. It was AWESOME. I also ate a lot of Kale. Go veggies. BUT I am still sweaty and gross and don't think I have any trash tv to watch tonight.

Am I half way done with my wine you may ask? No, that's actually a correct serving. Each bottle should yield 6 glasses. Try answering some questions on your current drinking now - alcoholic.

The wine is a Shelton riesling. I like it because it's more flavorful than a typical riesling, and much heavier on the tongue/palette, and almost tastes effervescent. Pretty good for a monster winery.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Szechwan style tofu and eggplant

Back to the tofu - I love it. And I had half an eggplant to get rid of. Another from Vegan Express (155 calories). Dave is gone so he can't complain about all the veggies.

1 Tbsp peanut oil
1 Tbsp Sesame oil
1 small onion, minced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced (I used 1 glove elephant garlic)
2 japanese eggplants or one medium eggplant
16 ounce tub extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup dry white wine (an excuse to drink with dinner!)
1/4 cup H2O
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tsp grated fresh ginger (I had none, so I used curry instead - it worked in the best way)
4 stalks bok choy (I have spinach to use up, so I used that)
Hot chile oil or Thai red curry paste
Soy sauce

Heat oils, add onion and garlic and saute them up. Chop up your eggplant, cube your tofu, and add to the oil/onion/garlic. Add wine, water, hoisin and ginger - cook for about 5 minutes covered, 5 minutes uncovered. Add bok choy and stir fry. Add soy sauce/chile oil/curry paste to taste.

I boiled some soba noodles and had it over those with some sriracha and the wine I opened. Very good and super filling.


My Morning Smoothie

Frozen banana, blueberries, almond milk, coconut yogurt, vanilla extract, cinnamon, kale and hemp seeds. :-)

Monday, August 9, 2010

And I was run-ning

I am no Forrest Gump. Forrest as you know, was very fast. I however, am very slow for anything over 100 meters. I used to be a sprinter and a long/triple jumper in high school - but now I am old and my knees swell up when I run. Regardless- a friend of mine is a Crossfit trainer and is running a little endurance clinic for myself and some other girls. Let me tell you, what a great workout - even if I probably appeared to be walking. It was 86-90 degrees - and I felt every bit of it. I am not going to pretend I have great temperature regulation - it sucks and I hate when it gets over 90. When I got home I walked the dog and still felt like I was going to burn up. I had been planning for days to make mashed cauliflower and potatoes - but the thought of eating something I had to boil disgusted me, as I tried to convince myself that I was not melting. A made a light (300 calorie) dinner from Vegan Express (I love this cookbook - everything is 30 minutes or less and I am hungry when I start cooking!) I scaled this WAY back to feed just myself - and ate every last bit.

Polenta, Black Beans and Greens

2 tubes polenta (each tube should = about 8 slices)
1-2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic (I used one HUGE clove of elephant garlic and was very pleased)
1 can black beans
1 tsp cumin
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes ( I didn't have any left - so I went CRAZY and used salsa!)
As much spinach as you can eat

Saute sliced polenta in one pan, about 8 minutes on each side in a little olive oil. Meanwhile, saute the garlic with remaining oil in another pan until it is fragrant. When garlic smells nice and garlic-y, add teh black beans, cumin, and tomatoes. Cook that up until it looks nice. Add the spinach, put a lid-like contraption on top of your pan and steam until spinach is just wilted. Pile 4 rounds of polenta on each plate and top with black-bean spinach mixture. I've made this before and it was good as usual.

I wanted to make some raw balls but now it is late and I need to get my Teen Mom fix. My TV watching scheudle is very shameful.

Quick Quesadillas and vampires

Sunday is True Blood night... obviously. After drinking way too much wine and staying over AT the winery (problem?) - Sunday was a rough morning. I felt bad melted into my couch, watching RELIGULOUS. So I ventured out to a friend's pool, to lay in the sun there, and felt pretty good about myself! I left the house - hooray! Pool time was followed by a quick Sunday gym session - leaving me very little time to make dinner and head over to another dear friend's house for our precious TRUE BLOOD viewing! (What is Bill still doing there? Come on Eric, move!)

I threw together a recipe from Vegan Express- mushroom, broccoli and black bean quesadillas. (Pool friend said she was making them and I got jealous). They are supposed to be on huge 12 inch tortillas, but I just used standard whole wheat fajita size ones.

Basically, mix some black beans together with some salsa (I mashed the black beans). Meanwhile, steam the mushrooms and broccoli in a little water. Fill up a tortilla with your nice little mixture and fold over - bake at 450 for 10 minutes. Nava suggests topping the quesadillas with a roasted red pepper sauce, which I will definitely try next time. I added a simple green salad and I made it in time to see Bill return to Bon Temps.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I like swimming. I started swimming competitively back when I was 8! I swam club, summer team and Varsity. By the time I was ready for college - I couldn't wait to be done with competitive swimming. I got some letters from nearby colleges- but my thoughts at that time were that you either went to college to play a sport- or went for academics. That being said, I bypassed all offers and stopped swimming. Throughout the years, I life-guarded at local pools and kept up my swimming to the required 20 laps per shift. Recently, I decided to get back into swimming - and joined the local Master's swim team . We practiced at 6:00 am, but I LOVED IT! I loved being back on a team, completing workouts, and seeing myself improve as an athlete! I was recovering from a overuse injury I developed from running, and poured all of the energy I was using to tri-sport train into swimming.

I was training for my first meet in almost ten years, when I felt a pain under my arm pit when I swam. The pain got worse and worse, until I could no longer take a stroke. I took a break, came back two days later, to find that I couldn't do a single forward pull. I went to the doctor, and he almost laughed as he told me I had a stress fracture. Who even knew you could get them from swimming? I had an X-Ray, and even though stress fractures rarely show up on film - there they were, clear as day. One on my first rib, second rib, and a nice one way down on the 8th - near my sternum. Apparently I upped my yardage too quickly, and the pulling of the muscles caused tiny cracks in the attachment points on the bone to form.

They told me it would take 6 weeks to heal, but at my follow-up, no improvement was to be seen. I was given cortisone injections into my arm pit and sternum, which felt pretty awesome. A bone scan 2 months later showed a new one forming. They had told me cycling was still safe, so I was doing that. I guess the position I hold myself in over my handle bars was putting even more stress on the fractures- causing them to worsen instead of heal.

I was allowed to do exercise that wouldn't engage my upper body - I couldn't even do the elliptical machine because you have to steady yourself as you do it. Soon, 6 months had gone by and the only exercise I was allowed to do was the recumbent bike. I went back for a check up and had a new diagnosis! Chondromalacia Patella! All the stupid recumbent cycling had fired up my cartilage problems in my knee. So - I got an injection right into the space below my kneecap- which was also a dream. So, needless to say - the last year has been hard on my body. Add to that my second dissertation experiment that I finished in 5 months (requiring many, many 12+ hour days) and it's safe to say I am not in great shape. I did yoga (bikram and ashtanga) - trying to get my body to heal on its own, which feels great, but doesn't provide the same cardio benefits of a 20 mile bike ride followed by a 3 mile run, or a 3500 meter swim at 6:00am. So- I'm feeling better and getting back into it. Starting with swimming.

People tell me swimming is boring, and I agree - if you are just swimming laps, alone. I get bored myself, it's like running - but without the iPod. However, workouts break up the monotony of simply counting laps. I completed my first workout yesterday - which was hard, not going to lie. I could not hold the pace as well as I would have hoped - but I got it done. I had a great post-workout smoothie yesterday also. About 1 cup chocolate soy milk, 1 banana, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, and some coffee ice cubes - all whirred in the blender for a minute or two. I poured it into two glasses to share with Dave - since I am a nice wife.

I've been cycling also, but not so much because of the tragedies in the news lately. Some drivers down here are very aggressive and angry at cyclists. Dave and I had a guy rev his engine at us when we were ahead of him in the turning lane, and he proceeded to cut us off, almost flinging Dave from his bike. I've been yelled at countless times, and they love to pretend like they're going to hit you, by swerving into you, hoping you'll fall off.

But anyway - if you are wondering what I am doing these days- it's trying to get back into shape and FINALLY complete in a triathlon before I die.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fried-Chicken .... no meat please

I am running pretty low on groceries right now. Usually I do the whole "meal planning" thing on Sundays, go shopping, pre-cook anything I need to and I have a healthy week ahead of me. This week I am running on pantry staples- so I've already made pizza and pasta this week! And eaten a ton of salads. When I got home, I was scrambling for some meal ideas that involved canned beans and tomatoes, because that's about all we have left.

Then I remembered that I was just talking about fried chicken yesterday with a coworker and fellow vegetarian. Lo and behold, I had chicken- style seitan in the fridge. So why not make it unhealthy to please my husband? I found a recipe for cornmeal-crusted seitan in Nava Atlas' Vegan Express:

1 package chicken-style seitan
1/4 cup cornmeal (I only had white - but it worked) mixed with 3/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast (noosh)
1 1/2 Teaspoon salt-free seasoning (like Mrs. dash)
1/4 tsp salt (to replace the salt you just avoided by using the salt-free seasoning).
Mix it all up and coat the seitan.
Fill a skillet with some olive oil for "frying" It's like frying chicken - so the seitan pieces need room to breathe. Put each piece in until crispy and brown on each side. It took me about 15 minutes to get it all done. Drain on paper-towels of course, you can't eat all of that oil.

On the side: Cheese girts with corn. Basically make some grits (1 cup), throw in some thawed corn kernels (1.5 cups), and some margarine if you like (1.5 tablespoons) and add some vegan cheese (I used Daiya - but it didn't taste super awesome in this recipe).

I had some steamed broccoli on the side - and a salad of course (green, golden beets, cucumber, red peppers, scallions).

Oh and the other delicious looking lump on the plate? I made no-knead honey oat bread. It took 2 days to prepare- but luckily it was worth the wait. HOLY crap it was good! The recipe can be found here. I unfortunately just looked at the calorie content - wowee - but it was very, very, very good.

So yes, vegan cooking can be Southern-ized in the most unhealthy of ways. A day of more salads awaits me now!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pasta with silken tofu sauce

I love TOFU more than I love a lot of things, except for my dog. Seriously, he is so cute I can barely stand it sometimes.

But I digress. Tofu can be used in just about every way imaginable - and comes in different forms (silken, soft, firm, extra firm, baked, smoked) to make it even more adaptable. I rarely cook pasta at home. Mainly because people assume that vegetarians/vegans eat a ton of pasta, and I don't buy that. This an old stand-by I've adapted throughout the years. It's one of my very favorite and fast recipes. The sauce is incredibly creamy and rich - but it's full of great, healthy, soy protein. The sauce is served cold-ish over warm noodles. You MUST try this.

4 peeled medium shallots (or I use a red onion if I don't have shallots on hand)
2 tsp olive oil
8 oz silken tofu, about 1 cup (1 aseptic box of silken mori-nu works for me)
1/2 cup(s) basil leaves
1/4 cup(s) herb of choice (I like cilantro and kale, but parsley or watercress work as well)
3 Tbsp lemon juice
Pinch Na++ (salt for all you lay people out there)
Pinch pepper
PASTA - nice and hot. The sauce makes enough for 4 - so plan accordingly.


Preheat oven to 450°F and start boiling some salted water.

Put shallots or onion on some tin foil. Cover them with some oil. I just kind of ball up my tin foil but I suppose you could be neat and make a little pouch if you want to be a kitchen overachiever. Roast about 25 minutes - but I just take mine out when everything else is done. I'm flexible, and maybe you should work on that too. Make sure you don't put your face all up in there when you open that "pouch", or you'll get a steam burn - and use oven mitts for crying out loud.

Meanwhile - assemble the sauce. Put tofu and herbs in a food processor and whir it for 15-20 seconds. Scrape that mess down, and add the lemon juice and toasty onions/shallots. Whir that sucker again, and TASTE it. (My only tip to beginning cooks - taste as you go!) Determine the amount of salt and pepper it needs to be up to your standards. Whir it one more time, and you're good to go! You have a nice, creamy delicious silken tofu sauce that tastes way richer than it actually is.
Split between 4 servings and you're done! The hardest part is cleaning your food processor!

*** NOTE - you can use SOFT tofu for this recipe- but it will not be as delicious and creamy. Just sayin'

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

South of the Mason-Dixon line

Living in the South is an unforgettable experience for those of you who have never done it before. Yes, southerners are generally nice - they love using the phrase "southern hospitality." But living in a red state is interesting. Here are some fun things I have seen in my time here:

A confederate army cookbook - share the recipes with your favorite "kitchen worker"

Bible-spotting at the airport! They're everywhere!

Legitimate worry that the health-conscious left-wing media may stop production of such tasty foods as COUNTRY HAM (it's a salted, cured meat vacuum sealed and served at room temperature on the most special of holidays)

Inspiring bumper stickers! Who knew the stigmata could be represented so well on the back of a mini-van????

Gun stores! Support your local businesses!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I used to HATE salad- but they're not so bad when you beef them up. Below, my standard lunch for the past few weeks:

Mixed greens, red bell pepper, brown rice, lentils, blueberries, corn, avocado, cucumber, scallions, salsa and some strawberry vinaigrette I've been whipping up at h0me. Not bad for rabbit food.


Through experience, I have determined that after your fourth year, people ask you when you are planning on graduating AT LEAST once a day, but, if you are in this boat, don't be surprised if it is daily. I think people ask so much, because they have really no idea what goes into getting a PhD, and what exactly a dissertation is. A friend of mine had a mother who kept asking her: "how is your paper going?" like it was a book report! At this same friend's graduation, they pronounced her name incorrectly. I said aloud "6 years in this place and she can't get them to say her name right!" To which the woman next to me said "well, that's including undergrad." Um excuse me miss-my-daughter-is-in-PA-school.... I've been in (post high school) since 2001!!! BLAH!!!!

I am going to take this post to answer some PhD FAQ's, based on comments I have heard in my own experience, followed by who I heard them from in (quotes):

Keep in mind, I am getting my PhD in the Biomedical Sciences - so I am sure it differs through disciplines

1) When do you graduate (everyone):
The average length to complete a PhD in the US in 7.5 years. I have heard it said that the average length to complete a PhD in my program is 5.5 years. I am planning on 5 years exactly.

2). What do you mean you don't know when you will be finished? (early talk with the now husband):
Many components go into securing a PhD- but the overall point is to become a master of your field. The PhD is the highest degree an individual can earn in most-english speaking countries. Your committee (a group of professors who oversee your academic and research development) meet with you periodically to assess your progress and test your knowledge and writing skills. When they decide you are done you are done.

3). What does a program consist of (new students):
My program is a pretty basic biomedical program. There are a few steps.
- 2 years of general coursework where we must learn everything there is to know to be able to reflect the name of our degree.
- A written comprehensive exam - where we must demonstrate the mastery of our knowledge of each and every piece of information we gleaned from our general coursework. Only passing students are allowed to continue on.
- A thesis proposal - you establish your committee (5 members usually) and meet with them to discuss the plan you have established to graduate. This plan is about 12 pages and lists the scientific aims you will complete while you are there to earn your degree. During this time, each member will take turn asking you questions about your written proposal to find the whole in your knowledge. You can either PASS or FAIL. If you pass- you go on to become a ....
- PhD CANDIDATE!!!! - this means you have been deemed worthy to receive a PhD, and you need to go ahead and start doing all of the work you just told everyone you would do to graduate. This stage is referred to as "ABD" all but dissertation.
- Write your dissertation - it's long, and it's your entire graduate career in written form
- Defend your dissertation - you've performed the experiments, written the dissertation, now you have to defend it publicly in front of your dept, visiting students, and friends and family. Immediately following you PRIVATELY defend to your committee only, making sure you deserve to graduate.
That my friends, is what you have to do.

3) Doctor of Philosophy? Why the hell would someone want to study philosophy? (My brother in law):
Doctor of Philosophy what PhD stands for. This goes back a LONG time, to European Universities in the middle ages. These dudes considered science, math, and art, philosophies. Basically anything besides theology, law and medicine. So no, I do not study Nietzsche.

4) Don't you mean your sister studies Pharmacy? (friend of my bro's):
No, I don't study pharmacy, pharmacists make way more than PhD's for one. I don't administer drugs, or work in a drug store. Pharmacy school consists of two years of undergraduate study, and 4 years of pharmacy school. It is what is known as a professional degree. Pharmacology involves the study of drug and drug actions. We do the testing, pharmacists do the prescribing.

5) So-and-so is getting her doctorate too. She's getting her DPT! (old coworker):
DPT (Doctor of physical therapy) is another professional degree. 4 years undergrad, 3 years graduate. These degrees are not bad degrees, they will make good money also. But a professional degree is not as high as a PhD.

6) Why didn't you go to school to become a real doctor (husband's extended family):
Many people consider MD's the only "real doctor" there is. Is it because they write prescriptions? (PA's and some RN's and Pharmacists can do this), or because they see patients? (MA's in many disciplines see patients, as do clinical PhD's). Or is because they make a buttload? Who knows? But med school is a lot different from graduate school. For one - they don't get paid! I also love to sleep, and wanted a flexible schedule to raise a family and enjoy life. I've never wanted to be on call, or work 40 hours straight - no matter how much money I make. But, regardless I will be a doctor - so all of these people will have to address me as such each time they say my name.... as will my husband, parents and imaginary children.

7) Who pays you? (guy sitting behind me):
You do! Seriously, the government gives grants for good ideas scientists propose to them. Good ideas = money = graduate students. Sometimes individual professors pay students out of their grants, or universities pay students out of institutional grants. Someone told me once that the school uses money directly from the whopping tuition paid by the medical students, but I don't know this for sure.

8) What is your schedule? (friends, all the time):
Technically, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But basically, we work until we are done. Unfortunately science can cause you to never be done, and so it becomes up to you to strike a balance between a semblance of a life and work. There are no official holidays or maternity leave. But we have a lot of flexibility in our field. If you are producing - you are good. if you are not - you are not good. Some weeks I work 20 hours, some I work 80.

9) Are you going to move when you are done? (I get this one from everyone):
The key is flexibility. Jobs are hard to come by - and you need to be willing to move. Yes, I have a preference of where i would like to end up, but there are no guarantees. I need to think of my career and go where the job is. So the answer is YES - I will be moving.

10) What do you do when you are done?
You have many choices. But the filed has changed in the past 20 or so years, and most everyone secures a position called a post-doc. This is a 2-3 year position where you learn how to be a real, grown-up researcher. If you want to stay in academia, they are almost required. If you want to go into industry (pharmaceuticals) or government, you can generally get a job right out of grad school. For teaching, it is sometimes possible to secure a position, but it is advisable to seek a post-doc.

11) So... when are you done?
Next August, 2011. We'll see what happens, but mark my words, I will be done. And there will be a party and everyone is invited.