As musicians, our diet hugely affects our performance. On bad days, one of my trumpet professors would squint at me and say “what’s the matter – got potato chip lips?” My boss jokes how part of being a recording musician requires an appreciation for cold pizza, cold Chinese food, and warm beer. Unfortunately I think we can all relate to that feeling.
At the end of a stressful day I like to cook. I am Greek, my husband is Italian, and our combined backgrounds provide a lot of great food that helps repair and energize tired muscles and brains. Here are some favorite recipes from my kitchen, and one of my favorite desserts from my friend Christine Holm, that will help you repair and revive for the next round of playing.
Did you ever just kill your face during a long rehearsal, recording session, or recital? Much like body building, your face muscles are getting torn down and can use help to repair. This recipe incorporates:
• chicken for protein to aid those muscles
• turmeric which fights inflammation
• garlic which helps heal wounds and boosts your immune system
1.5 lb Chicken Breast cut into strips or Chicken tenders
1 small onion finely chopped
2 tsp. Turmeric
1 Tbsp. Garlic
2 tsp. Greek Oregano
1 tsp. Allspice
Salt and Pepper to taste
Juice from 1 lemon
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Put chicken in a large Ziploc bag. Add all the spices, followed by the olive oil and lemon juice. Seal bag and mix the contents until the chicken is evenly coated. Marinate on counter for 30 minutes in cool room, or in the fridge for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours). To cook, either BBQ or fry in pan with a little olive oil. Thoroughly cook all poultry so no pink remains.
Serving suggestions: Serve with fresh sliced tomatoes, onions, pita, and tzatziki sauce on the side.
Utica Greens: Swiss Chard
My husband’s very musical family is from a city in central NY, Utica. Along with a very heavy Italian population, Utica provides uniquely delicious greens of all types. A local dish found in most of the restaurants is “Utica Greens”. Normally made with Escarole, here is my version using Swiss chard.
• Swiss chard provides vitamins C, E, and K, fiber, zinc, and calcium, supporting bone health, fights stress-related disease, and holds anti-inflammatory properties.
• Garlic which helps heal wounds and boosts your immune system
2 bunches of fresh Swiss Chard (fresh or frozen spinach, or Escarole work well too)
3 cloves of Garlic, crushed… or as much as you feel safe to add!
Chicken or Vegetable Broth
Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
Add a Tbsp. of salt to a large pot of water and boil. While waiting for water to boil, carefully clean all dirt from your fresh greens, and lightly chop to make easier for eating. When water is boiling, add greens. Reduce heat to a healthy simmer for 10 minutes. Strain greens when they’re cooked and let drain while preparing the next step. Take a large non-stick frying pan and lightly cover the bottom with olive oil. Heat the oil on a medium flame and add the garlic. Be careful that the flame is low and the oil not too hot, lest you burn your garlic and make a stinky mess! Add the greens and sauté them in the garlic oil. Add about 1 cup chicken broth. The broth should just soak the greens, not drown them. Cook the greens in the pan for about 5 minutes (liquid should be bubbling). Cover the top of the greens with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and mix in to the greens. Allow to cook a few more minutes, until the remaining liquid looks a little milky from the melted cheese.
***Add hot Italian Cherry Peppers for some extra spice, and/or bacon, ham, or prosciutto for some extra protein.
Forget-Me-Not Fish (fish, olive oil, garlic, lemon, tomato)
As musicians, our memory is very important. The Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, Vitamin C that the ingredients in this dish provide are just a few of the many aids to brain health and memory. Add some sliced Avocado on the side for an extra burst of Vitamin E & C and Potassium, Vitamin B, Folate, fiber… to name a few. It’s a miracle fruit!
Ingredients per packet of fish:
Cod, Tilapia, or your favorite fish
1 – 2 Tbsp Chopped Onions
Prepare your grill, or preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut a 1 ft piece of heavy duty foil. Brush the center area (where the fish will lie) with olive oil. In a dish, thoroughly cover your piece of fish with olive oil and place in the center of the oiled foil. Season the fish with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (a light sprinkling of garlic powder over the top of the fish should be adequate. Add more if you like garlic!). Follow with oregano, sliced tomato to cover the fish piece, and chopped onions over the tomatoes. At this point, bend up the short sides of the foil, pull in the long side and pinch & roll to seal either end of the packet, leaving the top open. Now squeeze the juice from ½ of a lemon into the packet. Cuts some fresh lemon slices to lay over the top of the onions. Now completely seal the rest of the packet so no liquid can escape. Either place over indirect heat on the grill, or in your preheated oven/ toaster oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes. You may need more or less time depending on how thick your piece of fish is.
Christine’s Dutch Chocolate Cookies
Cocoa is a mood enhancer, aphrodisiac, and provides a nice punch of caffeine. So, after an exhausting bad practice session, you can eat one of these cookies to perk back up, put yourself in a better mood, so you can give one of these cookies to that cute musician across the room you’ve been dying to meet!
1 ¼ C. Flour
½ C unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ C sugar
½ C plus 2 Tbsp(1 ¼ stick) butter, softened
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line cookie tray with piece of parchment paper
In a food processor or using an electric mixer, thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients together. Pulsing at a low speed, slowly add the butter, then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until the dough comes together in a mass. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on the baking sheet w/ parchment paper, approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes. Take the cookies out of the oven and let them cool (allows cookie to solidify) for one minute before moving them to a cooling rack.