Sliced avocado topped with Trader Joe's "Everything But the Bagel" mix and served with fresh blackberries and a simple café au last. This mid-morning snack is perfect brain food to keep you focused and satisfied during finals period. (Sanjana Kaicker / Sun Contributor)

December 11, 2020

Eating Clean During Finals

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As the semester draws to a close and finals loom in the near future, many of us might be more concerned about our precarious grades than what we’re fueling our bodies with. However, it’s more important than ever to make sure we provide ourselves with proper nutrition during academically stressful times. Throughout Quarantine 2.0 — a.k.a, the gap between the in-person portions of the school year — I have spent quality time trying new foods and cooking up a storm in my parents’ kitchen. The result of all of this hard work? I’ve put together a day in the life of eating entirely from scratch (as a vegetarian).


BREAKFAST

Arguably the most important meal of the day, if for no other reason than getting me up and going, my mom has taught me plenty of strategies for making breakfast eggs. My favorite one so far has been making shakshuka: a low-carb, veggie-packed dish of eggs poached delicately in a mixture of tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and various spices. Bonus: If you’re meat-free like me, try adding some black or refried beans for a protein boost and a fusion of flavors.

MID-MORNING SNACK

This simple plate is one of my favorite healthy snack combinations of all times. The first piece is one small avocado topped with Trader Joe’s “Everything But The Bagel” mix (an irresistible combination of sea salt, sesame seeds, garlic powder and onion powder). If you’re a fan of everything bagels, you’ll fall in love in a second. I then add a third of a cup of blackberries, which are possibly the superior fruit (yes, blackberries are fruit, not berries). 

Lastly, I make a café au lait by grinding locally roasted beans at home using a spice grinder to make drip coffee. I then added a generous serving of frothed oat milk on top. If you own any type of simple grinding appliance, I highly recommend buying whole-bean coffee and grinding it as close as possible to the brewing time. The coffee will retain its flavor much better.

LUNCH

While Pizza Napoletana admittedly isn’t the most carb-conscious meal, this crust is so thin and crispy that it barely has an impact on your diet. Plus, making the dough is always a satisfying endeavor. For the crust, I use a recipe from Roberta’s, a Brooklyn pizzeria renowned for its upscale New York-style pies, which required less yeast than usual in order to create a thin crust. On top, I use homemade tomato sauce, made from peeled tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of fresh garlic, salt and a smattering of dried Italian herbs (thyme, basil, oregano and rosemary). To complete the colors of the Italian flag, I add slices of fresh mozzarella and beefsteak tomato, as well as basil leaves directly plucked from our basil plant. For extra flavor, I top off the pizza with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a dusting of the aforementioned herbs.

Surprisingly simple and quick to make, Pizza Napoletana makes for a delicious homemade lunch. (Sanjana Kaicker / Sun Contributor)

DINNER

Do you adore pasta but are trying to eat more vegetables? This meal is the perfect solution. Instead of opening a box of dried spaghetti, I use a spiralizer to create zucchini noodles (“zoodles”) and sweet potato noodles. While the veggie noodles boil, I sauteé some garlic, onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and baby spinach in olive oil. After adding in the noodles, I then add some tomato sauce, sprinkled fresh rosemary, salt, dried Italian herbs and finally add a touch of smoked paprika. For extra crispiness, I top the pasta off with shredded mozzarella and bake it at 425 degrees for five minutes.

DESSERT

One of my favorite snacks as a child were almonds, which my mom always claimed would “sharpen my brain.” I’ve since become immersed in gluten-free baking, of which almond flour is often the star, and my favorite quick dessert is almond flour chocolate chip cookies. I cream together butter, coconut oil and sugar, for which Swerve is a great carb-free substitute. I add an egg, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt, then fold in the chocolate chips and almond flour. After letting the dough rest for an hour, I shape the cookies and let them bake for around twelve minutes. The result? A perfectly crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside gluten-free cookie.

Sanjana Kaicker is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at skaicker@cornellsun.com