Sunday, December 1, 2013

And the Winning Pie is...


It was requested that I just go ahead and make both pies for Thanksgiving. And, although it required carrying about 10 pounds of pie in one arm, and a suitcase in the other, 1 mile to the bus, on the bus, and on the train all the way home, I think it was worth it. Everybody loved these pies.

Here are some pictures of the pies. I made them according to the recipes I previously posted (Blackberry Apple Pie and Caramel Apple Pie). Following the recipe I posted earlier (which includes more flower than I originally used), the slices of pie came out cleanly and the filling wasn't like soup. These two recipes are definitely ones to follow in the future.

 Berry Apple Pie

The berry apple pie featured the same pie crust as I used with my Triple Berry Pie. The design, however, was slightly different. This design featured an autumn tree with autumn leaf designs on the tree and on the edge of the crust. I used these cookie cutters for both of these pies.

Caramel Apple Pie

Using the same pie crust recipe, I created a latticed top on this pie. I used leaf shaped dough on the lattice, and created a pattern using apple shapes and acorn shapes on the edge of the pie.

It was a fabulous Thanksgiving. These pies were a delicious ending to an incredible feast. Everyone won with these pies.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Spinach Au Gratin

You probably already know that spinach is good for you. And I'm probably the only person in the world who actually likes it. But even if you don't, or especially if you don't, this spinach au gratin recipe is perfect for you. What's better than covering a vegetable with cheese? Making it low-fat and guilt free, that's what.
This recipe is adapted from Skinny Taste, which was a makeover recipe from Barefoot Contessa. Both recipes say it's the perfect recipe for the holidays. And I believe them. However, it's also good to make as a mini-meal or side dish. In fact, I reheated a large helping of it for dinner last night and was fully satisfied. It also went great with sweet apple chicken sausage. Make it on Sunday and reheat it for the next week and you'll be a well fed college student.

4 Tablespoons of light butter
1 cup of finely chopped onion (about half an onion)
1/4 cup of flour
1/3 teaspoon of nutmeg
3 cups of fat free or low fat milk
3 pounds (3 16-oz packages) of chopped spinach, defrosted.
3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon of salt
Black pepper (to taste, 1/2 teaspoon is recommended, but I didn't use any at all)
3/4 cup of shredded Swiss Gruyere cheese

First, drain the previously frozen but now defrosted spinach. To do this, put one bag at a time into a strainer and mash it with a potato masher, large slotted spoon, or a fork, to drain all the excess liquid. Move to a large bowl and then do the next bag. Alternatively, the comment section on the Skinny Taste post had the suggestion of using a potato ricer. Do whatever you have to do to drain as much liquid as you can from the spinach.
Next, melt the butter in a large saute pan. Saute the onions over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
Then, add the flour and the nutmeg. Cook for about 2 more minutes while stirring occasionally.
After 2 minutes, add the milk. Cook for about 5 more minutes, while the mixture thickens.
At this point you should begin to preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Then, slowly stir the spinach into the mixture. Add in 1/2 a cup of Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of Swiss Gruyere cheese..
Next, spoon this into a large casserole dish. Spread it evenly, then cover with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan and 1/2 cup of Swiss Gruyere cheeses.
Then, place on the center rack of your oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese has melted and it becomes hot and bubbly. You'll be able to tell when it's ready, don't worry.
Allow to cool slightly before serving. And enjoy. My goodness you should enjoy this recipe because it is delicious.

I'm still trying to decide if it's worth trying to make this on Thanksgiving. It is not the kind of dish that can be prepared ahead of time and I don't want to crowd an already crowded kitchen. However, I do highly suggest this recipe and I recommend trying it if you have the time and the kitchen ability.
This is definitely not a dorm-friendly recipe. But it is good for any student living off-campus or anyone trying to prepare something when they are home for the holidays.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Grown Up Mac and Dogs

Ok, so you already know how much I love sweet apple chicken sausage. But, you should know that my absolute favorite food in the whole wide world is four cheese corkscrew pasta, you know like the kind that comes from a box? I guess I have a pretty simple palate. When I was little, my mom used to make Mac and Dogs, using four cheese corkscrew pasta, sliced up hot dogs, about 1/2 a Tablespoon of Dijon mustard. As a kid, I would have eaten the whole pot if my mom didn't stop me.
Now that I'm all grown up, the only thing that stops me from eating a whole pot is the fact that I would like to fit all of my jeans tomorrow, please. Well, that and the fact that until recently I could no find any Pasta-Roni four cheese corkscrew pasta. Which is horribly depressing because it's my favorite food in the whole wide world. The other day, just by happy coincidence, I was shopping at a different grocery store. And while I was in the mac and cheese aisle, I happened upon a small collection of that beautiful blue box. It wasn't with the Rice-A-Roni, or with pasta, but with the mac and cheese, right under a box of Velveeta mac and cheese.
So, of course, I bought a box, even though it wasn't on sale or anything. And right away I decided to make some for dinner. But, when I got home I realized I didn't have any hot dogs. Woah is me, right? So, I decided to try it with sweet apple chicken sausage instead. And I must say, it tasted better this way.

1 box of four cheese corkscrew noodles (I used Pasta-Roni)
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cups of milk
2 Tablespoons of butter
1 sweet apple chicken sausage, sliced
1/2 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard * (Optional)

First, bring the water, milk, and butter to a boil. Yes, it does actually have to be 1 1/2 cups of water. Be precise.
As it comes to a boil, heat and prepare chicken sausage. I used a pre-cooked sausage this time, which meant it just had to be microwaved for a minute.
Once it is boiling, slowly add the noodles and special seasoning. Return this to a boil.
Reduce heat to a medium heat and boil, uncovered, for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently.
After 7 minutes, stir in the slices of chicken sausage. If desired, add in the mustard at this point as well. Let sit for about 5 minutes while the sauce thickens. Be patient with this because it makes all the difference.

If I was on death row and had one last meal before I died, I would probably request this. And steak. And lobster. And cake. And cookies. And cookie dough ice cream. And whipped cream. And an entire container of sprinkles. I would cause a lot of trouble if I was on death row.
Anyway, I highly recommend that you try this recipe. It's simple, but it's delicious. Sometimes simple is good.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Battle of the Pies

So, as you probably have read, I have been making pies in preparation for Thanksgiving. And I can't decide which one to make. I narrowed it down to two: Caramel Apple Pie and Blackberry Apple Pie. But now I need your help. Which of these wonderful pies should I make? Fill out the survey here to give your opinion, and voice any questions or comments in the comment section below (or on the posts for either of the pies).
And now, some information about our contenders.

Contender Number 1 is quite rich. He blends well with the other rich fall flavors to be expected at Thanksgiving, including pumpkin and pecan pies. If you weren't full before dessert, you will be after eating this pie. Completed with caramel drizzle, this pie is sure to be enjoyed until your gut explodes, which is both good and bad. Contender Number 1 is certainly a heavy weight Thanksgiving Pie, both in richness of flavor and caloric weight.

Contender Number 2 is a humble fellow. He isn't rich, which makes him unique on the Thanksgiving desert table. What he lacks in richness, Contender number 2 makes up for with a certain tart sweetness. Unlike Contender Number 1, Contender Number 2 is patient and is therefore willing to wait until a more appropriate season before being devoured.

So, who will win in this ultimate battle of the pies? Only time and a survey will tell.

Blackberry Apple Pie

In quite the contest against this pie, I decided to try one other pie recipe.This recipe is for blackberry apple pie, thanks to the wonderful Martha Stuart (who, as I've mentioned previously is one of my idols). The original recipe can be found here, though I made a few adaptations.

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 cups of assorted apples, peeled and thinly sliced (again, try crisp and tart apples such as Granny Smith, Gala, Honeycrisp, and Jonagold)
10 ounces (2 1/4 cups) of fresh or frozen blackberries, thawed

First, wash, peel, and slice (in that order) your apples. I strongly recommend using Granny Smith and at least one other type of apple. To slice, I took an apple cutter like this to slice the peeled apples. Then, I sliced each of these pieces in half, thirds, or quarters, depending on the size of the slice. 
Next, whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.
Then, add the apples and mostly drained blackberries and toss to coat (I forgot to drain my blackberries and ended up with a very runny pie).
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
While the oven preheats, spoon the filling into a prepared pie crust. Be sure with this pie that you either cover the top with more crust (latticed, designed, or completely covered with some holes) or cover in tin foil for the first 40 minutes of baking.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes (removing tin foil after 40 minutes, if applicable).

This pie. Oh my this pie. If I don't make it again for Thanksgiving, I'll definitely be making it at some point again (maybe in the summer). It's definitely sweet, but more on the tart side of sweet. The blackberry and the apple compliment each other splendidly. I highly recommend that you try this recipe. But it is definitely more of a summer pie (perhaps late August/early September when blackberries are still in season at the grocery store).
Please, again, leave any questions or opinions in the comment section below. A survey post is soon to follow. I look forward to seeing your views on this ultimate of questions: WHICH PIE SHOULD I MAKE?!

Caramel Apple Pie

After making my first pie a little while ago and being rather successful at it, my mother requested that I make another pie for Thanksgiving this year. I filled up my pinterest boards with way too many pie recipes. Then, I narrowed it down to two: caramel apple pie or blackberry apple pie. I'm going to need your help deciding which one to make, so look for the upcoming post where I will include a survey. But that's all later. For now, here is the caramel apple pie (recipe adapted from Pillsbury):

Pie crust (frozen, homemade, or refrigerated)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 cups of peeled and thinly sliced apples (use a variety of tart and crispy apples, I used Granny Smith, Gala, and Honeycrisp)
1/2 cup caramel apple dip (I used Light dip because that's all I could find)
5 Tablespoons milk
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup softened butter

First, wash, peel, and slice (in that order) your apples. I strongly recommend using Granny Smith and at least one other type of apple. To slice, I took an apple cutter like this to slice the peeled apples. Then, I sliced each of these pieces in half, thirds, or quarters, depending on the size of the slice.
In a large bowl, mix sugar, 1/3 cup of flour, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the apples and toss to coat.. Spoon this pie filling into the crust.
In a small bowl, mix about 3 Tablespoons of caramel apple dip with about 3 Tablespoons of milk. Mix thoroughly, adding more caramel to make thicker, or more milk to make thinner. Drizzle this over the pie.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
While the oven preheats, mix 1 cup of flour, the brown sugar, and the butter in a medium sized bowl to create a crumb topping. Sprinkle this topping over your pie filling. This is an optional step, but you should either use this or have a top to your pie (be it a latticed top or a solid top with holes punched in it, or what have you).
Next, bake for about 50 to 60 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown. Allow the pie to cool for 10 minutes.
After the pie has cooled, take your remaining caramel apple dip and add more caramel and/or milk 1 Tablespoon at a time, until it is a sufficient amount. Then, drizzle the caramel over the cooled pie.
It is recommended that you allow the pie to cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

This is a very good autumn pie. The caramel was sweet without being too sweet, and the apple was tart without being too tart. It was also extremely rich tasting, which is both good and bad.
So, here is pie number one. Pie number two is soon to follow. Please leave any questions or opinions in the comment section below.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Cake

My mother's birthday is Halloween. You may remember that from the last time I made a cake for her birthday. Last time I tried my hand at latticed frosting, but this time my experimentation wasn't immediately obvious. The cake sat out on the counter looking pretty for most of our family gathering. My grandmother even commented on the cake to my mother, thinking it had been purchased from a bakery. Now, that makes me feel just a little bit of pride. Especially since, really, it looked like a simple tiered cake, with white frosting, orange sprinkles on top, store bought chocolate covered pretzels on the side, and chunks of broken Hershey's bars on the bottom tier.
The surprise came later, when we finally cut the cake. I had been waiting eagerly while my aunts and grandparents and siblings and assorted guests discussed, well, just about everything. Come on, get to the cake, I kept thinking impatiently. But finally, it was time. 
Are you ready for the surprise about this cake? Well, find your seats everybody. It's time for the grande finalle:

Bet you didn't see that one coming, did you?
For this cake, I decided to try my hand at making a zebra cake. I tried teaching myself, which went ok. I made a purple zebra cake for a second time the next week for a friend's birthday adapting the directions from King Arthur Flour and it went much better. The key is to make one of the two batters thinner than the other, so that it will spread when given the weight of the thicker cake batter. If made properly and with white cake instead of green cake (thank you food dye), it will look more like an actual zebra, which is great for kid's birthdays. Anyway, let's cut to the chase. Here's the proper way to make a zebra cake.

2 cake mixes (1 chocolate and 1 white)
7 eggs (yes, you read that right, 7 eggs)
Black food dye (optional but recommended)
2 2/3 cups milk
1 cup vegetable oil (or for a richer cake, use melted butter)

In one medium-large bowl, mix together white cake mix, 3 egg whites (do not include the yokes!), 1 1/3 cup of milk, and 1/2 of vegetable oil or butter. Mix well using a mixer.
In another medium-large bowl, mix together chocolate cake mix, 4 whole eggs, 1 1/3 cup of milk, 1/2 of vegetable oil or butter, and several drops of black food dye.
In a greased, round cake pan place 2 large spoonfuls of the thinner white cake mix, directly to the center of the pan.
Then, on top of that, place 2 large spoonfuls of the thicker chocolate cake mix, directly in the center of the white cake mix, so that it looks like a bulls eye.
Place 2 large spoonfuls of white cake mix in the center on top of that, then 2 large spoonfuls of chocolate in the center on top of that, and so on and so forth. Watch as the thinner batter continues to spread under the weight of the thicker chocolate batter. Be warned, this is enough cake batter to make a 4 layered cake. If desired, you may make a two layer cake and use the left over batter to make both vanilla and chocolate cupcakes. Or, do what I did and make a tiered 4 layer cake, using 2 round cake pans of different sizes, then just eat the cake batter that's left over. Yummy.
Bake according to the directions on the box (typically 350 degrees for anywhere between 28 and 28 minutes depending on the size of the cake pan). The cake is ready when a toothpick can be inserted into the center of the cake and removed cleanly or with crumbs. Then remove from the oven and allow to cool.
After cooling, frost and layer the cake according to whatever grand master plan you have created. Then decorate as desired.

This cake was deliciously moist and looked SO COOL! I highly recommending making a cake like this. It's so much more fun than a marbled cake. It looks incredibly impressive. And it's super easy! Seriously, making this kind of cake will change your life. You'll never want bake a cake any other way again!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I was in a baking mood the other day. Ok, I'm always in a baking mood. I also had some very ripe bananas sitting out, waiting to be used for something. I could have made my Vegan Banana Bread recipe, but that just didn't seem quite enough. I needed chocolate. So, I wandered around the baking aisle of the grocery store until I found something to make the perfect dorm/college friendly recipe. Martha White makes chocolate chip muffin mix in small enough to make only 6 muffins at a time. Of course, this recipe makes 12 because I added to it. Even so, that's a small amount of muffins when you're only cooking for yourself.

Martha White - Chocolate chip muffin mix
2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup 1% milk

First, peel and mash the bananas in a medium sized mixing bowl. This part is really fun and a great way to relieve stress. Mash the heck out of them using whatever tools you have (a fork, a spatula, a slotted spoon, whatever).
Next, preheat the oven according to the packaging, most likely around 425 degrees.
While the oven preheats, mix the bananas with the muffin mix and milk.
Place 12 muffin tins (pre-made or dorm-made like this) in a muffin pan. Scoop approximately 2 Tablespoons of batter into each tin.
Bake for approximately 12-14 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean or with crumbs. Then, remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.

This recipe is great for college baking. It makes only 12 muffins, so you are able to share with a few friends and keep a few for yourself, without wasting any by allowing them to go stale. They're also great because they're relatively healthy compared to other muffins. Muffins made with recipe contain only 97 calories each (compared to 160 calories). Plus, they contain calcium, vitamin B, and vitamin B12 from the milk and mix and potassium and fiber from the bananas. And, as an added bonus, they actually taste good! Enjoy for breakfast with a side of fruit and a glass of milk to start your day right, as a healthy snack between classes, or as a post-exam treat.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Perfect Fall Dinner

After a very, very long and unusually warm summer, fall has finally arrived. And with it has come the rain. Soon, there will be mushy leaf puddles to stomp in as I venture from between home, classes, and teaching. I'm about to begin working my first real job as an after school program assistant, in addition to nannying, and working with 3rd graders, and choir, and orchestra, and harp lessons, oh and regular school. And though I am nervous about the busy schedule I know awaits me as soon as October begins, I am thrilled for fall to begin. I cannot wait to bike home after school and orchestra on crisp autumn nights, or to drink cider while watching scary movies. Yes, I think fall will be okay.

Yesterday, as it rained outside, I came to the sudden realization that fall was, indeed, here. The forecast no longer predicts any 80 degree days, and the probability of precipitation is nearing 100% each day. I already had Al Fresco sweet apple chicken sausage, which I picked up 5 for $3.99 at Fred Meyer a while ago and had defrosting in the fridge.


The sausage I bought was raw, which made for a bit of a challenge just because I was so worried about undercooking it and then making myself ill. But, I've done it twice and have lived to tell the tale!
It's actually pretty simple. I just fried them in a frying pan for about 20 to 25 minutes. The package said to turn it occaisionally, but I actually turned the sausage about once every minute because I was afraid of cooking it unevenly. I might have been a bit too worried about it, though. Anyway, it turned out ok. I liked it, at least. And really, apple sausage is the most underrated form of sausage. It's so good. Great for summer because it's sweet, but even better for fall because of the apple.

But what goes with apple sausage in the fall?

I went to the grocery store to figure this out (before I started cooking dinner, of course). That's when I noticed microwavable sweet potatoes in the veggie section. I LOVE sweet potatoes. They are my favorite thing at Thanksgiving dinner, but why wait until then?

Sweet Potato

The best part about these sweet potatoes, though, were the fact that they are so easy. They're wrapped in special plastic, so just pop them in the microwave for 5 to 8 minutes (until tender, as desired) and WAM! You've got yourself a steamed sweet potato. No work, no mess, no fuss. How dorm friendly is that?
You can enjoy your sweet potato plain, or add brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and/or whipped cream, as desired. I chose to add about half a Tablespoon of brown sugar (because you doesn't love brown sugar and sweet potatoes?) and such a small hint of Allspice that you almost didn't know it was there. And, of course, whipped cream because we already had some in the fridge so why not?

Green Beans

I decided that since I was kind of cheating with my sweet potatoes, I would learn at least one new cooking method. Afterall, I'm in school, I'm supposed to learn things, right?
So, I learned how to cook fresh green beans. Not the kind in the can (though, I remembered once I got home that I had some of those already). The actual kind. Good old Wikihow taught me how to make these. Here's my preferred method:

Fresh green beans
Water in a medium sized pot
Salt (you can use pepper if you desire, too, but I hate pepper so I didn't)

Fill a medium sized pot with just enough water to cover all of your green beans. Boil the water, don't add in the green beans yet.
Clean the green beans. Then, snap them and pull off the stringy stem. Or, alternatively, just cut the ends, to speed up the process. You can cut one or both ends, but make sure there's no stem attached, that's the important part.
Once the water is boiling, add your green beans. Wait until the water returns to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low heat and let them simmer for about 4 minutes. I did 5 because I was distracted. Just make sure they are as tender as you'd like.
Then, drain your green beans. Return them to the pot and season as desired, with salt and/or pepper.

In the end this was really a fantastic dinner. It reminded me of some my favorite parts of Thanksgiving dinner, without all that yucky turkey. Of course, it was missing my Grandma's homemade rolls, but, it was as close as I could get. And, really, for a quick and easy dinner, I was pretty glad.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Triple Berry Pie

Years ago, Martha Stuart was asked in an interview if she had ever used a frozen pie shell. Deeply offended, she denied it, saying it was too quick and easy to make a pie crust from scratch. My mother, upon hearing this, laughed at Martha.
For years, I thought my mom, who could make the perfect blackberry pie filling with her eyes closed, was just being lazy, or was using the wrong recipe, or was impatient, or something. I mean, there's no way Martha Stuart would lie, right?
Well, of course, we all know Martha Stuart is capable of telling a lie or two here and there.

Anyhow, my mom wanted a pie and I decided to take her on, proving once and for all how simple it must be to make a pie entirely from scratch. I poured through recipe after recipe, trying to find one that I could make with the ingredients already in our kitchen. I ended up finding a berry pie recipe from Instructables. Though I didn't end up using the recipe for the berry filling, I found the dough recipe and instructions to be incredibly helpful.

I'm not going to share the recipe with you, though. If you visit the website, you'll see what I mean. There is no way to make that dorm (or college student) friendly. Absolutely no way. It takes way too much time (read: energy) and ingredients (read: money) for a college student to be making this. If you really want to make a berry pie, just be like my mother and use a frozen pie shell. Nobody's going to judge you. You're a college student, after all. Plus, this berry filling recipe is so good, nobody will notice your pie shell.
But I digress. Here is a slightly altered, dorm/college student friendly version of this pie

1 package of frozen pie shell (contains two shells). Don't cheap out on this part.
4 cups of fresh and juicy berries (I used 2 cups blueberries, 1 cup blackberries, 1 cup raspberries). But, really, any combination of any berries would work. Avoid strawberries if possible, though, as they are more acidic and may alter the chemistry in the filling)
2/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice (from the bottle works great, or if you just want to squeeze half a lemon over the bowl, that will work too).
1 egg white mixed with 1 Tablespoon of milk OR 1-2 Tablespoons of butter (optional)

Remove pie shells from freezer.
Prepare berries by picking, hulling, and washing them. Be sure to dry them, as well. This is where a salad spinner comes in handy. But shaking a small amount in a pasta strainer will work well enough for our purposes.
In a large mixing bowl, toss together berries until they are mixed (if using multiple types of berries)
Next, slowly add sugar, flour, and lemon juice. Stir together with a wooden or plastic spoon (anything but metal, if at all possible). The sugary mixture should create a sort of paste that will thicken the berry filling. Be careful when stirring the filling, so as to avoid breaking the berries. It's ok if a few break, as they are fragile it's difficult to avoid, but be cautious not to overwork them.
Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
If desired, use a pastry brush to brush whisked egg yoke and milk mixture onto the bottom of 1 pie shell, or, alternatively, dot melted butter along the bottom of the shell. This will prevent it from getting soggy and messy once the filling has been added.
Next, spoon the filling into that pie shell. Use a spoon or a spatula to make the surface roughly even.
Then, take the other pie shell and place it on top of the 1st pie shell (the top one should be removed from the tin pan that comes with it in the package. If the shell breaks, use the pieces to create a design along the top in whatever artistic fashion you desire. You may always use a knife or a cookie cutter to create shapes to be on the top of your pie.
Now, place the pie in the oven. Bake for approximately 40 minutes to an hour (this all depends on your pie shell and your oven. When in doubt, follow the instructions on the pie shell, since that is the more likely to burn or become overdone than the filling itself. Remove when the pie shell has become golden brown.

Serve this pie while it's still warm, though it will taste good cold as well. Create Pie A La Mode by adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. French vanilla ice cream pairs well with any pie that contains blackberries.

My mom was out of the house when I made this pie. And, of course, when she returned home she had in her hand a strawberry rhubarb pie. However, we did the taste comparison. And mine was better, hands down. Plus, mine was prettier. I mean, look at this thing! This is what all food should look like.

A Summer to Remember

This summer was incredible. There's really no other way to describe it. I visited 8 different countries in 6 weeks. But I'll make it brief. Here's the list of places we visited (in chronological order):
Newport, OR, USA
Portland, OR, USA
Denver, CO, USA
Reykjavik, Iceland
London, England
Lille, France
Bruge, Belgium
Lille, France (again)
Tournai, Belgium
Brussels, Belgium
Rumes, Belgium
Lille, France (once more)
Avignon, France
Montpelier, France
Avignon, France (again)
Port Bou, Spain
Barcelona, Spain
San Sebastian, Spain
Hendaye, France
San Sebastian, Spain (again)
Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France
San Sebastian, Spain (even more)
Hendaye, France (again)
Paris, France
Frankfurt, Germany
Tacoma, WA, USA
Seattle, WA, USA
Victoria, BC, Canada

So, basically, it was an exhausting summer, but oh so much fun. I will remember this summer for the rest of my life.

You haven't been to London until you've taken
a photo in a telephone booth. 

Eating a delicious meat and cheese stuffed waffle
in Brussels, Belgium. Nobody else enjoyed them.

Our lovely hosts in Lille, Cyrielle and Celine. 

Our beautiful host in San Sebastian, Irene.

The incredible beach in San Sebastian, Spain.
Can you imagine living here?

The Eiffel Tower and the Seine, in Paris, France

So, what does this have to do with food?
Well, other than the fact that this is my blog and I get to do whatever I want with it, there is an actual connection between this incredible trip and this awesome blog. You see, food is approached differently in different cultures. Everything tasted just slightly different in each location. And the types of food were different, too.
In London, for example, I enjoyed a British breakfast: toast, eggs, ham, sausage, beans, and stewed tomatoes (ok, I didn't eat the tomatoes, but I ate everything else). And on our first day in San Sebastian, our Spanish breakfasts included: churros, granola with chocolate pieces and unpasteurized milk, cookies, orange juice, and Nesquik. Meanwhile, in Paris, our French breakfast was a croissant and either a very small and very strong hot chocolate or an even smaller and stronger coffee with milk and sugar (not sugar cubes, but sugar rectangular prisms).
Other things were different, too. Meats were fresher, dinner flavors were savory instead of sweet, and desserts were made with actual sugar. Ice cream was fruit flavored, but didn't taste like sorbet. And sausages were actually flavorful.

I tried so many foods that inspired me to attempt to create, myself. And it's probably a good thing that I have an actual kitchen in an actual house this year.
Which reminds me! You may have noticed that the name of this blog has changed. As I am no longer in the dorms, my new blog title is "The College Food Blog". This means some of the recipes will be a bit more complicated than dorm food. However, I will be sure to clearly identify the differences and, whenever possible, post dorm-friendly alternatives for you to use yourself.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Steak Fajitas Rice

I've heard from way too many college students that the only nice thing they know how to make is steak. Which is odd. I don't know how to make steak very well. I like it rare, but I'm always afraid it's under cooked. Maybe other people's parents teach them how to grill steak in the summer. Or they watch it pan fried often enough that they're able to make it. I don't know how, but quite a few people know how to make it.
If you know how to make steak, then you can make steak fajitas rice. Heck, even if you don't personally know how to make steak, but have access to leftover steak or precooked steak or if you know somebody in your dorm that knows how to make steak. It's super easy. Just look.

2 cups water
Knorr brand Rice Sides (Menu flavors, steak fajitas flavor). This is a rice and pasta blend with steak flavor, bell peppers, and fajita seasoning.
Steak (cubed and warm)
(Optional) Diced tomatoes, red kidney beans, chopped onion, diced bell peppers, salsa, cheese, and sour cream.

First, in a medium sized sauce pan, bring two cups of water AND the rice package to a boil. Be sure to add the rice package into the sauce pan and water BEFORE you turn on the stove. AND, be sure that it's actually 2 cups of water, no more, no less.
Next, stir the rice, cover the pot and allow the rice to simmer for 7 minutes, or until the rice is tender. While you do this, heat up the steak and cut it into cubes. If you're adding kidney beans, heat these during this time as well.
After 7 minutes, stir in steak and anything else you desire to add in. Really, the possibilities are endless. Then, allow the rice to sit, removed from heat and uncovered for 2 minutes.
Finally, top with salsa, sour cream, cheese, or whatever other toppings you'd enjoy.

Confession time. I hate bell peppers. And rice. And just about everything else in this recipe (except of course the steak). So, I didn't eat this one. But my parents did. And they seemed to enjoy it a lot.
According to my mother, who's opinion I hold very highly, this would taste great in a warm tortilla. You could also probably use ground beef or ground turkey to make this more of a fajita chili con carne-type recipe. Just use a bit less water and add the meat in before bringing it to a simmer.
So, while I cannot personally recommend this recipe because you'll probably never catch me dead eating something like this, my parents highly recommend it. And, once you have the steak part figured out, it's really not too hard.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

One Pot Macaroni and Cheese

If you make things like food simple, it allows you to focus on more important things, like an upcoming geology test or that psychology project that you have only two hours left to finish. While this recipe may not be quick or easy enough for finals week, it is a good recipe for your regular learning-about-the-solar-system-and-trying-not-to-fall-asleep-while-your-professor-talks-about-someone-that-died-two-hundred-years-ago week. But, hey, you need your brain for that, too.
Anyway, mac and cheese is a really good comfort-brain-food. And this one is so easy that it will leave your brain with enough energy to actually READ that ten page article.
The original recipe comes from Clever Crafty Cookin Mama. It's supposed to taste like boxed macaroni and cheese, but without as many nasty chemicals.I did make a few tweaks on this.

1 box of noodles (I used medium shell noodles)
4 Tablespoons butter
1 can cheddar cheese soup
6 oz (half a can) of fat-free evaporated milk
About 3/4 cup of medium cheddar cheese, shredded (add more, only if deemed necessary)
Salt, Pepper, and/or Johnny's Seasoning as desired (I probably used about 3 or 4 Tablespoons, in the end)
(Optional) Hot dogs (or, in my case, kielbasa and summer sausage)
(Optional) Mustard (Dejon, honey, or onion) to taste

First, boil water in a large pot. Once water is boiled, add the box of noodles to the water. Stir constantly and add a splash of oil in order to keep the noodles from sticking together. Then, strain the noodles.
Put the noodles back in the original pot. Add 4 Tablespoons of butter and allow to melt. This will go faster if you cut the butter into small cubes. Then, place it on the stove top on a medium or medium-low heat.
Next, add half a can of fat-free evaporated milk. Stir in the can of cheddar cheese soup.
Then, add in 3/4 cup of shredded medium cheddar cheese. If necessary, add more cheese or more milk to taste. Stir constantly to encorperate, and heat until melted.
Next, season with salt, pepper, and/or Johnny's Seasoning, to taste. Use a lot.

If desired, add sliced hot dogs, kielbasa, and/or summer sausage for extra protein. If you do this, be sure to add before you season, as sausage will add lots of flavor, including salt. Lots of salt.
To add an extra kick of flavor to this recipe, add mustard.I used an onion mustard that I picked up at a fruit stand in Thorpe, WA. You can either add a small spoonful to each serving as desired by the individual, or several Tablespoons as desired to the entire pot. I would not recommend using a regular yellow mustard, however, as the taste that regular yellow mustard provides just isn't as good.

This recipe is the type that you do once, then tweak and do it again, and again, and again, and again. I'm in love with this mac and cheese. It actually does taste like the stuff from the box. But just be sure not to add too much cheese. Because for the first time in my life, I have learned that there is such a thing as too much cheese (crazy, I know).

Dorm Food

 Subscribe in a reader

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Swimmingly Swell Tacos

I always assumed that making homemade fish tacos involved some overly complicated recipe and a million different ingredients. But there's an easy way to make fish tacos if you have a microwave and an oven. And if you have a good fish place that will fry your fish for you, all you really need is a microwave. I know a lot of Fred Meyer or Top Food locations have deep fryers, so just ask for cod or halibut, depending on personal preference, deep fried.

Fried cod or halibut fish (fried fish from your grocery store, or bake frozen fish fillets in your oven following the instructions on the box).
Medium flour tortilla
1 Tablespoon of tarter sauce
Grated cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, salsa, and sour cream, as desired

First, cook the fish, or rewarm the fish in the microwave.
Next, heat your tortilla in the microwave for about 20 seconds.
Then, spread about 1 Tablespoon of tarter sauce on the tortilla.
Then, place warm fish on one half of the tortilla. Add cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, salsa, and/or sour cream, however you desire.
Finally, fold the tortilla over in half, to form the shape of a tortilla.

Now that I know how easy it is to make fish tacos, I don't know why I didn't try them earlier. Plus, if you buy the fish and tarter sauce when it's on sale, you can make these for pretty inexpensively. Now, how's that for dorm food? I say DELICIOUS!

Dorm Food Concoctions

 Subscribe in a reader

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mini Chocolate Doughnuts with Coconut Glaze

I got a wonderful gift for my birthday a few months ago: a Babycakes Doughnut Maker. I've wanted to use it, but haven't had any real reason to make doughnuts. But, today I had my bestest friend over. We wanted to make brownies, but didn't have the ingredients, so we decided mini chocolate doughnuts would be good instead. And boy were they good! Just look at these!

1 egg
1/2 cup water
7 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp melted butter (separated)
2-3 tsp milk
1 package of doughnut baking mix (chocolate with coconut glaze)
       This includes a chocolate doughnut mix and coconut glaze mix

First, whisk together egg, water, and 7 Tbsp of melted butter.
Then, stir in the doughnut mix until it is well combined.The resulting batter will be very sticky. But that's ok.
Meanwhile, preheat the doughnut maker. Once it has been preheated, pipe or spoon about 1 1/2 Tbsp of batter into the greased cooking reservoirs.
Bake the doughnuts for about 4 minutes. Then, remove the cooked doughnuts from the doughnut maker and repeat with the remaining batter.
While the doughnuts cool for at least 5 minutes, combine the glaze mix with 2 Tbsp of melted butter.
Then, add in milk, one teaspoon at a time, until it reaches a thick smooth texture. This is where I made a slight mistake. The box wrote tsp with a capital T, which meant that I misread it and added 2 Tablespoons. Don't do this! But if you do, simply spoon out as much of the milk as you can, then add in powdered sugar until your glaze reaches the desired texture.
Finally,dip the tops of your cooled doughnuts into the glaze. I found it easiest to dip the tops in, and then spin them slightly to gain full and even coverage on the doughnuts. Allow the glaze to harden before serving.

These were so delicious. For the best results, you should avoid overmixing the batter and be careful not to overfill the cooking reservoirs. Also, much like with other makers, try not to check on the doughnuts in the first couple minutes of baking, because opening the lid too early may cause the halves to separate.
I highly recommend making this recipe. It's so tasty. I can't wait to make more doughnuts like these.

 Subscribe in a reader