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!