Episode 1: A novice in the kitchen
Welcome to episode one of What I Eat in a Day!
Since I’m no longer on the dining plan, I’ve recently taken a great interest in cooking quick and easy (but healthy!) meals. I’ve learned that college is all about balance — and sometimes it can get hard to justify spending time in the kitchen when you could grab take out from McDonald’s in five minutes and spend the other thirty studying. However, I’ve learned that it isn’t as difficult to whip up a solid, healthy, yet filling meal without thinking twice about whether the onions or broccoli should go on the stovetop first!
So I’ve decided to launch a new series here on Penn Appétit: to survey real Penn students on what they can realistically eat in a day. Hopefully these different features will highlight some options, or maybe even give you inspiration to change things up a bit in the kitchen, adventure out to different restaurants, or spice up your meals in the dining halls!
Breakfast is honestly my favorite (and arguably the most important!) meal of the day. I’m definitely someone who likes to make time in the mornings to sit down and eat before heading off to class. Today, I made a simple rendition of avocado toast.
I first put two slices of Trader Joe’s multigrain sandwich thins into the toaster, and while that was toasting away, cut up my avocado. Make sure the avocado is soft to the touch before cutting into it; if it’s ripe, it’s smoother and easier to spread on your toast.
Personally, I like to cut up the avocado longways and sideways into little cubes in its shell, and then smash it on my toast. Though it may not be as aesthetically pleasing, it does make the eating process a lot cleaner, as I find that the avocado tends to slide around when biting into it if I leave it in slices.
For extra flavor (this is crucial), I love to use the Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoning and the Trader Joe’s Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend. Using a light hand, I sprinkle a little bit of both on top of the avocado, and it’s as easy as that!
The healthy fats from the avocado and the carbs from the toast keep me full for long and it’s the perfect start to my day. If I have time, I’ll also add a fried egg for extra protein.
I had a long block of classes back-to-back on this day, so I remembered to pack a snack with me. Fuji apples are perfect to hold you over until your lunch break! They’re super crunchy and sweet (but envy and honeycrisp apples are other favorites) — especially from the farmer’s market by the bookstore that happens every Wednesday!
I wasn’t too hungry for lunch, so I decided to make something light: a chicken salad with hummus. Though you really can customize it however you’d like, I was running a little low on ingredients so mine turned out really simple.
I warmed up some pre-cooked grilled chicken (sometimes I will meal prep, but I often get lazy) on the stove top, and while that was heating, I chopped and washed a head of romaine lettuce, and placed it into a bowl. After a few minutes, I add the chicken to the bowl as well. Ideally I would’ve added avocado, but I’d already eaten mine for breakfast! Chickpeas, sweet potato, arugula, apples, or walnuts are also great additions. I added some more of the umami seasoning to the chicken and also added a side of tomato and basil hummus!
Following this light lunch, I needed something more to hold me over until dinner. I chose to opt for some green grapes (they’re super crunchy and sweet in the fall!). Other snacks I like to have include granola bars, Trader Joe’s Soft and Juicy dried mangoes, or carrots and hummus!
I decided to go for a quick workout this day, so I also ate half of a protein bar I had left from the day before just to fuel me. These aren’t necessarily my favorite, but it’s all I had! Typically I would go for the ONE bars if I needed the extra protein. They don’t taste like protein powder and are definitely filling! This one was disappointing in that the texture was chalky and you could definitely taste the protein — it also really didn’t taste like ‘brownie crunch.’
For dinner, I chose to make grilled salmon steak with roasted veggies — and trust me, it’s a lot simpler than it sounds!
I buy pre-cut Atlantic salmon from the grocery store and place one piece on the stove top (skin side down) on a low heat. I covered it with a lid and allowed it to cook on one side, periodically checking on it to check the progress from darker to lighter pink. When the sides begin to lighten,flip to cook on the other side. When the entire salmon is that color it’s ready to eat! If you prefer crispy edges, leave it on a bit longer.
As for the vegetables, it’s really up to you! I used what I had (zucchini, mushrooms, onions, cauliflower rice, broccoli, and spinach) and simply put them on a pan at once until everything turned golden-brown. Transfer everything to a plate and that’s it! I added onion powder to the veggies to give it more flavor, but I chose not to add any sauce to the salmon on this night (sometimes I’ll make a sauce or glaze go on top, using coconut aminos/soy sauce, honey, garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil!).
If you’re feeling hungry, you can definitely add a source of carbs, (e.g. brown rice or quinoa) as well.
Another easy way to make all of this is to put all of the ingredients onto one pan and stick it in the oven. That’s even less work, but it does take a bit longer.
Fun fact: I have a crazy sweet tooth. This night I chose to have a few pieces of Thai tea mochi ice cream from Trader Joe’s. It’s the perfect way to kill my sweet craving after dinner (and it’s also vegan!).
Coming up next…
What I Eat in a Day: Freshman edition!