Comps and Carbs

Yikes. It has been a hot minute since I’ve published anything over here. Pretty much the first half of my PhD has gone by without so much as an update. I finished my Master’s degree in May 2020 (yes, please shake your head sympathetically), and began my PhD in fall of 2020. I just finished coursework in December, and today is my first day of studying for my comprehensive exams.

So here we are, day one. What are comprehensive exams, you ask? For an English PhD, they are a series of four lists, two short lists and two long lists. Short lists have 7-8 works on them, while long lists have about 15 works. My lists are as follows: Early American (short); 19th Century American (long); 20th Century American (short); and Ecocriticism/Ecofeminism/New Materialism (long).

Today I began my Early American short list. If you are interested in reading along with me on anything, I’ll include the list below. My goal is to complete this list in 2-2.5 weeks. Most works I will only spend one day on.

  • On Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford
  • The New English Canaan by Thomas Morton
  • Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan
  • Selected Poems of Anne Bradstreet
  • Selected Poems of Phyllis Wheatley Peters
  • Selected Puritan Sermons
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • Moby Dick by Herman Mellville

The unifying theme of this list is Puritan theology/ideology and those who both adhered to Puritan beliefs and those who reacted against those beliefs, but still wrote in the shadow of Puritan influence on early American culture.

From time to time over the next four months as I read, I’ll share some updates on what I’m reading, what I’m cooking, and my thoughts on the overall scenery change, moving from course work to comps work. I’m not good with unstructured time, so this season of PhD life will be quite a challenge.

A few things I made over the holidays – very carb-heavy, because what else are the holidays for, but to eat lots of carbohydrates and delicious things!

I’ve decided that risotto is my love language. You can see below a luxurious butternut risotto I made a few weeks back, followed by the best lasagna recipe in the world, from Alexandra Cooks, her roasted butternut lasagna.

For New Year’s Eve, my partner and I had a quiet night in, where we made our favorite of Samin Nosrat’s seasonal panzanellas, her winter recipe, and the New York Times‘s delicious Brussels Sprouts au gratin. I’m vegetarian, but my partner made himself a ribeye steak as well. You can also see below the start of a pear, apple, and cranberry tarte tatin.

What are you eating and reading this new year? I’d love to hear about it 🙂

Celebrations and Caramelization!

Baked Polenta with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms, and Marinara

So I finally defended my Master’s Thesis on Friday! I am absolutely thrilled, relieved, and grateful for everyone who loved, supported, and prayed for me through this process. To celebrate, I went out and drank my first ever shot (yeah, call me a late bloomer, it’s fine), and went to Trader Joe’s and bought a fortune’s worth of deliciousness (which I will now share what I did with it!).

In the defense room!
Celebrating with my people!

So with my heap of spoils, I made another recipe from my fav cookbook, Allison Day’s Whole Bowls, the Baked Polenta with Caramelized Onions, Mushrooms, and Marinara. I’ll share my version of it with you now.

  • 2 logs premade polenta (Day has a recipe for homemade polenta, but I bought some premade polenta at TJ’s)
  • 2 Tbs. evoo
  • 1 lb. of mixed mushrooms (I used cremini and shiitake), sliced thin
  • 1 large onions, sliced thin into half moons
  • 2 Tbs. maple syrup
  • 1 Tbs. fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 24 oz. jar of marinara (I used the Italian Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine from TJ’s, but, again, Day has a recipe for a homemade sauce if you’re feeling more work on your plate)
  • Grated fresh parmesan to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice the polenta into 1-inch rounds, placing on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and brushing with olive oil and sprinkling with kosher salt. Bake for 25 minutes.

All coming together!

While the polenta bakes, cook the onions, mushrooms, rosemary, maple syrup, and salt in a cast iron skillet over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, until very soft and jammy in texture. Add the red wine in the last 5 minutes of cooking time to deglaze the pan and add flavor.

Heat the marinara on the stove.

To serve, layer all the ingredients and top with grazed parmesan. I made a side dish of oven roasted asparagus with garlic and lemon. Enjoy!

Bon appetit!

Weeknight Garlicky Greens

My favorite part is the crunchy tofu!

Over the holidays, university towns become ghost towns, and it’s really quite wonderful. But, if you happen to be the one graduate student who isn’t traveling to see family over the holidays, you are given all the [fill-in-the-blank]-sitting jobs. Don’t get me wrong; I am ALL about the side-hustles. In addition to being a full-time graduate student and part-time university employee, I also teach at a local fitness studio (check out Refit online! It’s an amazing body-positive fitness movement!), clean a friend’s Air B&B, do freelance writing, and donate plasma (for money, obvs). But holidays take it to a whole new level. I apartment-sat, plant-sat, dog-sat, and cat-sat. Let’s be real. I will do almost anything for bookstore/coffee shop gift cards. But the best offer I got over the holidays was to pick up my friend’s CSA (which, if you don’t know, stands for community supported agriculture, which is where you as a community member support a local farm and receive a dividend of produce in return! See if there are any local CSAs in your area; they can be surprisingly reasonable in price and the money supports local farmers. Can you think of a better use of your money?) share while she was out of town, and it was a field greens bomb. Seriously, the first day I picked up all of the produce, it took me a full hour and a half to wash, chop, and process all of it.

I was so proud of my jarring; check out Brown Kids instagram to learn more about the jar method of storing produce! It’s been a life-saver.

So I was drowning in greens, quite happily. But what’s a girl to do with 4 jars of bitter greens? Stir-fry, duh. So here’s my quick weeknight garlicky greens recipe; feel free to adjust the flavor profile as you see fit. I went a more Asian-style route, but you could really do whatever you want. Always keep in mind, these ingredient measurements are approximations. I tend to cook by feel, rather than precise measurements. Also, I found that this meal takes about 30 minutes to prepare, and will leave leftovers that are great warmed up the next day for lunch! Just be sure to add some water or broth to the rice so that it isn’t dry and gross.

  • 6 cups minimum of your choice of field greens, chopped (I used mustard, turnip, kale, collard, radish, and mature arugula). NOTE BENE: I really like the stems, but separate these out from the leaves.
  • ALL OF THE GARLIC. Like seriously, knock yourself out. Slice, mince, whatever suits your fancy.
  • 2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsps. minced ginger or ginger paste
  • 1 Tbs. white miso paste
  • 1 dried Thai chili (or if you can’t find this, try a teaspoon of Sambal, an Asian chili paste)
  • 2 Tbs. sweet chili sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup tamari soy sauce (preferably low sodium)
  • 1 Tbs. sesame seeds
  • 2 cups of jasmine rice
  • 4 cups broth (PS, I make my own veggie broth with kitchen scraps. It takes so much better than store bought, it’s free, and I can control the sodium levels)
  • 1/2 a package of extra firm tofu, diced (or 1 chicken breast, chopped, if you are a meat-eater like my husband)
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. neutral oil
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Cook your jasmine rice in a pot or rice cooker while you make the stir fry. (Come on; it’s 2020. If you aren’t using a rice cooker or InstaPot for your grains, what are you doing with your life?) I find that rice takes about 30-40 minutes to cook, depending on the portion sizes, so time your stir-frying accordingly.

In a large skillet or wok, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the garlic, ginger, miso, green stems (if using) and Thai chili, stirring often until just tender. Add sweet chili, rice vinegar, and tamari, letting the ingredients heat through. Add in all greens, coating in the sauce. Adjust sauce as necessary, adding more of whatever your tastebuds require. Put the lid on the skillet or wok, and let the greens sweat down, stirring often (about 5 minutes). Toss in sesame seeds in the last minute, stirring to incorporate.

While the greens cook, in a separate skillet, heat your neutral oil over med-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add in the tofu or chicken, seasoning with the salt, garlic, paprika, and cayenne. Cook tofu until crispy, stirring often (may require high heat) or chicken until cooked through, but tender.

Place a bed of rice in the bottom of the bowl, topped with greens, then your protein of choice. Garnish with more sesame seeds and tamari, if desired. Dig in!

Healthy-is comfort food!

Roasted Butternut Squash Orzo

Yeah, you will want to eat this.

Life update: taking three graduate courses was way harder than I anticipated, hence not posting on this site for three billion years. Prepare for several months of backlogged recipes. I’m currently in the middle of writing my Master’s Thesis, which I may share bits and pieces about from time to time. While this is primarily a food blog, it does have “Graduate” in the title, so you’re just going to have to deal with my academic side too 🙂 I do apologize for my negligence to this site; I promise to be better in the New Year! (isn’t that how all failed New Year’s resolutions begin?)

When I made this recipe, it was chilly (for Texas) and nothing warms me up like oven-roasted squash. I made this recipe years ago, but couldn’t find where I got it from, so I re-made it up out of my head and here we go.

  • 1.5 cups of orzo
  • 1 small onion, diced (I’ve used white, yellow, and red; experiment to see what you like best. Shallot could taste great too)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 cups of butternut squash, cubed
  • 4 cups of spinach
  • Freshly grated parmesan or asiago cheese
  • Salt and pepper, ground to taste

Preheat over to 400F, and toss the butternut cubes in olive oil, salt, and pepper. You can experiment with adding other spices and seasonings, depending on your mood. I’ve done a 1/4 cup of orange juice for sweetness, or you could go smoky and earthy with some smoked paprika. Your preference! Roast the squash on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, stir, then roast for 10 minutes more. Remove from oven.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add in the orzo. I find that orzo takes anywhere from 12-15 minutes to cook. I like al dente, but orzo is so dense that sometimes getting an even al dente is tricky. At the 12-minute mark, test the orzo to see if you like the consistency and tweak remaining cooking time from there. When orzo is fully cooked, drain.

While the orzo boils and the squash roasts, bring 2 Tbs. olive oil to a shimmer in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, sautéing until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add spinach and wilt down, about 2 minutes at the most (another option, if you like your spinach a little more fresh, is to just add the spinach at the end to the serving bowl and let the heat of the cooked pasta and squash wilt it naturally).

When all the elements are cooked, add to a serving bowl and combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you are feeling fresh and fancy, try a splash of white wine vinegar to brighten up the palate. Grate fresh cheese over top and serve.

Purple Power

A super nutrient-packed veggie rice bowl to make you feel like a rockstar.

It’s she a beaut?

Now that it’s summer, I’m loving cooking again and using all the lovely seasonal ingredients. After awhile, some of those veggies start to pile up in the fridge, and this recipe is a great way to use a ton of them at once!

Disclaimer: You’re going to see a lot of recipes from Whole Bowls on here, my favorite cookbook written by Allison Day. So do yourself a favor, and just go buy it. You’ll thank me, and eventually name your first child after me. You’re welcome.

I still can’t get over the dressing for this dish. It’s phenomenal. I made a double batch and used it all week. So here’s the skinny. In the cookbook, it only makes one serving, so I’ve upped the quantities to feed about 4. Enjoy.

Bowl Ingredients

  • 4 small/medium beets, whole
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup brown rice (I love basmati, but you do you)
  • 2 cups of cooked chickpeas (canned is fine, just rinse them so you don’t die of a sodium overdose)
  • 2 cups finely shredded red cabbage
  • 16 radishes, quartered
  • 1/2 a head of radicchio, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 8 sprigs of fresh cilantro

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ground black pepper to taste

To Make the Bowls

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Cover the beets in foil and roast for 1-2 hours, or until tender when pierced with a knife. Once the beets have cooled, remove the foil, peel off the skin (should fall off when you rub it with your fingers), cut off the top and bottom of the beet, and slice into wedges.

You can make the rice in a pot of boiling water, but if you don’t own a rice cooker, what are you doing with your life??? Go get one!

To Make the Dressing

Combine all of the ingredients in a mason jar, put the lid on, and shake it like a polaroid picture. It’s not rocket science.

To (Avengers) Assemble

Take your bowls and layer in sections the cooked rice, the chickpeas, cabbage, radishes, and radicchio. Pour over the dressing to taste. Top with crushed hazelnuts and cilantro sprigs (the toasted hazelnuts MAKE this meal). Optional, pour some balsamic glaze or balsamic vinegar over top.

Things I Might Do Differently Next Time

So this dish was great, and everything Alison Day tells me to make, I will do so with joy and gladness. However, there are some things I’d do differently next time.

  1. Make a lifetime supply of the dressing
  2. Either don’t add the radicchio, or sauté it slightly. It is just SO bitter to have alongside other raw veggies, like cabbage and radishes, which have strong flavors all on their own.
  3. Day actually suggests lightly sautéing or steaming the veggies to make it a warm bowl, rather than predominantly cold, and I think that would be fun to try and see how it shakes things up.

Have you made this? What would you do differently? Let me know in the comments below!

Thai Red Curry

We’re back and better than ever, baby.

My apologies for not posting for the last three billion years. Taking 3 graduate courses turned out to be far more work than I had anticipated. Rookie move. But we’re back now, and I have months of recipes backlogged to blog about, so great ready.

My favorite thing in the world is Trader Joe’s, but we don’t have one where we live now. So, from time to time, my husband and I put the cooler in our trunk and make a pilgrimage to Austin, TX to hit up Trader Joe’s. And one of the best things TJ’s has (in my humble opinion) is their Thai Red Curry Sauce. Currys are delicious, but building up layers of flavor can be difficult for weeknight cooking. Trader Joe’s simmer sauces are a perfect solution to complex flavors on the go. Here’s everything you need for a beautiful, weeknight red curry. Serves 4-6.

  • 2 Tbs. coconut oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. ginger (I use a paste)
  • 1 dried chili, whole
  • 1 eggplant, chopped into 1-inch squares
  • 3 bell peppers (I love using red, yellow, and orange for a visual feast!), chopped into bite-sized pieces.
  • 2 cups haricot verts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 can coconut milk, full-fat
  • 1 bottle of Trader Joe’s Red Curry Sauce
  • 6 baby bok choi, halved.
  • 8 leaves of basil (Thai basil preferred)
Onion, garlic, ginger
Dried chilis; be sure to remove after cooking! They continue to leech heat as long as they are left in the curry.

Heat coconut oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and whole chili and cook for 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add eggplant and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often. Add bell peppers and haricots vests, cooking for another 3 minutes.

Beautiful, ain’t it?
Ingredients of the curry sauce, if you’re curious.

Pour in can of coconut milk and curry sauce. Simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally, add in bok choi and basil, cooking for 2 more minutes, until the bok choi is just wilted. Remove from heat and serve over brown rice. Top with more basil, if desired.


I’m Just Here For the Food

I like to cook, and I’m in graduate school. Somehow, a blog.

Hey there. I’m Anna. Welcome to my hungry graduate life. I haven’t always loved to cook, but when I got my first apartment in college and had free cable access to food network, a whole new work opened up for me. It also helped that my landlady was an incredible cook and would send down to my basement abode plates of mushroom risotto and spring rolls.

Many friends over the years have encouraged me to start a food blog. So here I am, and here you are. My goal is to publish bi- or try-weekly updates on what I’m cooking, favorite cookbooks or cooking techniques. There will also often be glimpses of my larger context of marriage, graduate school, home ownership, and my weird dog.

I look forward to getting to know you, reader, and sharing a little bit of life together across the distances.

Grilled Peaches and Corn with Chimichurri, a favorite recipe from Alison Day over at yummy