I’M BACK!

And with food to boot! Specifically a pasta back filled with the richness and goodness of grandma’s cooking.

Last August, I said I was back in action, ready to report to you with food and photos and feedback on life. Unfortunately, I bit off more than I could chew and choked through a semester of difficult classes, two jobs, and student organizations, leaving all my free time for sleeping (and maybe a bit of Netflix). But here I am again, hoping this New Year’s Resolution sticks better than previous ones!

So today let’s just focus on food. FOOD. If you’re like me and are just coming back to college, getting back into cooking-mode can be a bit of a struggle. First, you come back to your apartment and there’s no food. So you haul your booty to the store and buy way too many groceries without any idea what you’re going to make from all these random bits and pieces. Then you sit in your apartment for three days, munching on toasted bread because you have no motivation to actually cook after three weeks of being spoiled with home-cooked meals. And then finally — finally — on day four you become desperate and you find yourself with a few empty hours and you COOK. BAM.

Or if you’re like every other non-college student on earth, you cook like normal and wonder why we students complain so much.

Anyway, I’m a college cook so congrats to me for forcing myself to be productive and cooking something! This was a pretty simple recipe but filled with lots of different ingredients and plenty of leftovers to keep me well fed. If I had all the time in the world, I would have used all fresh ingredients but instead — let’s reiterate — I’m a college student and am as lazy and broke as a sloth (yes, think about it, sloths are broke too).

So, without further ado…. Cheesy Chicken Pasta Bake!

STEP 1: You guessed it – ingredients! As always, we begin with all those puzzle pieces that make up this delicious meal. If you are feeling ambitious, feel free to use all fresh ingredients and save the world from a few more cans, but until I have days to cook and hundred dollar bills to just toss around, I shall continue with cans:

  • 1 and 1/3 uncooked pasta (I recommend: penne or spiral shapes)
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 jar (aka 14.5 oz) spaghetti sauce
  • 1 can (aka 14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (aka 14.5 oz) corn
  • shredded cheese

STEP 2: P-p-p-prep time! Luckily this recipe has extremely little pre-cooking preparation needed. Make sure to cut your chicken breasts into bite-size pieces and finely chop your basil if you use fresh leaves like I did. Other than that, just drain your diced tomatoes and corn to avoid any excess water and we can get cooking!

prep

STEP 3: In anticipation of later steps, heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

STEP 4: Cook your pasta as directed on the package. Usually this involves boiling some water and tossing in your pasta for anywhere from 7-11 minutes. Once cooked, drain and set aside.

pasta

STEP 5: In a large (and I mean large) pan, heat your olive oil on a medium-high heat and toss in your chicken and basil. Mix and turn the chicken pieces frequently for even cooking and let cook for about 3 minutes.

chicken basil

STEP 6: Turn the heat low and add in the diced tomatoes and spaghetti sauce. After mixing it all up, turn the heat back up to medium-high or high and bring the mixture to a boil.

tomato

STEP 7: Finally, add the corn! (Easiest step ever, right?)

corn

STEP 8: If you’re smarter than me and actually have a giant pan, mix your pasta from earlier into the chicken-tomato-corn mixture. Then pour the whole mixture into a casserole-type dish, sprinkle a bit of shredded cheese over the top, and stick it in the oven! It may look like not everything will fit in your casserole pan but I promise it will! Bake for about 20 minutes.

pasta bake 1

cheese

STEP 9: After making sure the cheese is well melted (but not burnt), pull your pasta bake out and DIG IN!!

final

Now you have plenty of food to stave off hunger until you can regain the motivation to cook again! Here’s to hoping you’ll hear from me again extremely soon! In the meantime, NOM ON!!

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Nom noms: MAGIC PASTA

Bonjour mes amis!

Yes, I know, it’s been way too long since I last blogged. Specifically since I last food-blogged. But I’m back! Back in action and planning to stay in action! Coming at you today with the most delicious food I’ve had in weeks. And I made it myself, which just makes it taste even better! So what is this magical food you ask? Well, it’s pasta. One-pot pasta. With chicken sausage, mushrooms, kale, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and just ALL of the deliciousness. BOOM. Are you excited yet? No? Well you better get excited BECAUSE WE’RE ABOUT TO GET COOKING WOO!!

Since I’ve just come back to college, I’ve been eating a few too many microwavable meals and I’m back to my dinky kitchen where a can opener is the most technologically-advanced cooking tool I have. But this morning I began craving the sweet, sweet flavor of fresh, home-cooked food and set my sights on an exciting one-pot pasta I discovered over summer but never got the chance to try. So I rallied myself to walk the half-mile to the grocery store, assembleeeee my ingredients, and cook my little heart out. So here we go – pasta. Thing. Epic pasta thing. That’s magical. Magic pasta.

STEP 1: Ingredients! Yes, as always, we begin with ingredients! There’s actually quite a few of them for this recipe but, as a college student, I cut out ones I couldn’t afford from the original recipe, so definitely play with what you choose to include. This amount of ingredients should easily serve 4-6 hungry college kids:

  • Olive oil – 2 tablespoons
  • Chicken sausage (I used Chicken Apple but pick your favorite!) – 12 oz
  • Mushrooms – 8 oz
  • Yellow onion – 1 half
  • Chicken broth – 4 cups
  • Shaped pasta – 1 lb (aka 1 box)
  • Kale leaves, chopped – 2-4 cups
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved – 3 cups
  • Garlic – 5 cloves
  • Salt – a few pinches

The recipe I followed included other things like red chili pepper flakes, parsley, and some fancy buttery hermed bread crumbs, but I kept it simple!

ingredients

STEP 2: Prep time! Unfortunately, this receipt does require quite a bit more prep than some of my other recipes. As my roommate said as she watched me cook today, “I have never seen you more patient” as I spent 20 minutes meticulously chopping all of my ingredients like a crazy chef perfectionist. Chef-ectionist. Anyway, chop your sausage into little coin-medallion type things to brown them nicely. Next, chop your mushrooms (or be lazy like me and buy pre-chopped mushrooms) into slices, slice-and-dice your onion, halve your cherry tomatoes (or just use tomato puree), and thinly slice your garlic cloves. Finally, the worst part, chop your kale. If you’re an idiot like me, you’ll buy regular kale leaves and then spend 15 infuriating minutes trying to de-stem and de-spine itty-bitty baby kale leaves. (Hey, even though I live in LA, I am not well educated on the kale universe.) As someone who had never worked with kale before (and might not ever again after today), be smart please and buy pre-chopped kale!

prep

STEP 3: Start cooking! Grab a BIG pot or high-sided pan and stick in on a medium heat on the stove. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and toss in your sausage coin-thingys. Let them cook about 2-3 minutes each side to get a nice brown on them. Luckily, if you buy pre-cooked sausage then you don’t need to be too concerned if your sausage doesn’t brown too too much. Take these off and keep them to the side in a separate bowl once they’re done!

sausage cooking

STEP 4: Now comes the fun part – start your pan again on a medium heat, coating the bottom with 1 tablespoon of olive oil like before.  Toss in your onions and mushrooms and let those sit and stew for about 2 minutes before mixing and making sure they’re browning a bit. Then add basically everything else: chicken broth, pasta, kale, tomatoes, garlic, and a bit of salt. Turn up the heat juuuust a tad to help bring the pot to boil and mix everything together. Once at a boil, turn the heat back down to medium-low and let it cook for about 20-25 minutes or until the pasta is tender and the chicken broth has mostly cooked off. Don’t forget to mix back in your sausage in the last few minutes of cooking!

mush onion

cook

STEP 5: VOILA! You now have MAGICAL PASTA. Okay, not magical, but delicious.

done

I realize this was more complex than some of my previous cooking adventures but it’s still simple, healthy, and easy to do, even on a budget! My food-baby and I are well stuffed and I have enough leftovers to last me at least a few more meals! I hope you enjoyed this cooking adventure and I promise, I’m back!!! Nom on!!

Note: Food baby not included.

Nom noms: Bacon-Wrapped Hotdogs

Happy 4th of July, America!! Yep, it’s that time of year again – Americans gets to spend a whole 24 hours yelling “MURICA”, drowning themselves in beer, and setting off obnoxiously-loud fireworks. As silly as it sounds, it’s a celebration of independence and freedom, based upon this country of opportunity. And what better way to celebrate than with some good ol’ American food? Yep, I’m talking hotdogs!

Some of you may be thinking, whoever invented the hotdog should be burned at the stake. I mean, what type of meat is really in those Oscar Meyer weiners anyway? Well, the 4th of the July is the perfect time to give the hotdog another chance, making it just that little bit better by adding, yes you guessed it, BACON. A food group all its own, bacon may not be the nutritional holy land but it gets elevated to almost god-like flavor status when cooked properly and added to your favorite foods. This is honestly one of my favorite tailgating meals and is the perfect thing to get you in the zone for sports or any sort of American pastime. So, here we go America (and everyone else), bacon-wrapped MURICA dogs!

STEP 1: As always, start with ingredients! This one’s pretty simple in terms of types of ingredients. But to make your food even tastier, try different types of hotdog variations. For this round, I used German beef frankfurters, but you could try sausage, pork, or just your standard Oscar Meyer hotdogs!

  • Hotdogs (as many as you want!)
  • Bacon (1 bacon slice for every hotdog)
  • Toothpicks (1 toothpick for every hotdog; cut in half)

Toothpicks? What? You can’t eat those… Don’t worry! You won’t be eating toothpicks any time soon! Toothpicks are the secret trick to this meal and as long as you follow along you won’t get any weird woody surprises in your lunch!

ingredients

STEP 2: GET WRAPPING! Wiggidy-wiggidy-wrap. Okay, sorry, wrong rapping. (Man, I’m a dork.) The trick here is to use your toothpicks to hold the bacon in place on the hotdog so it doesn’t peel off as you’re cooking. Grab one toothpick-half and pin the end of a bacon strip to the top of your hotdog.

toothpick 1

Then, simply start winding the bacon around your hotdog until your hotdog is enveloped in bacon. Or, alternatively, if the winding is too difficult, lay your bacon out flat and roll your hotdog into your bacon. However you do it, you should end up with something that looks like this:

wrapped

Finally, once your hotdog is blanketed in bacon (if you’re ambitious, go for a second layer of bacon!), take your other toothpick-half and pin the opposite end of your bacon strip to the end of your hotdog. Not every rolled hot dog is perfect so don’t fret if your hotdogs look a little funky – it’s the thought that counts!

toothpick 2

STEP 3: Time to cook! We return to the stove for this cooking adventure (if you have a grill, even better! but I don’t know how to use one so you’re on your own)! Grab a pan and place it on the stove over a medium heat. Don’t worry about adding any oil since there’s enough bacon fat to keep your hotdogs nice and juicy. Add your bacon-wrapped hot dogs to the pan and get ready with your tongs. Your bacon might at first appear to stick to the pan or smoke (especially until some of that bacon fat drips into the pan) so make sure to keep rotating your hotdogs.Cook your hotdogs for about 6-8 minutes, rotating them until every side is nicely browned and cooked. For this dish, it’s okay to err on the side of over-cooking since it will allow your bacon to crisp up, adding a crunchy element to your meal!

pan

Don’t worry if one of your toothpicks doesn’t hold properly and starts to unravel from a hotdog – not every dog is perfect! And you can usually rewrap the bacon around the hotdog after you’ve finished cooking.

STEP 4: The IMPORTANT step. Remove your hot dogs from the heat and before you plate them for serving, remove your toothpicks! Now that your bacon has fully cooked around your hotdog, it shouldn’t want to unravel, so you’re safe to pull out each toothpick-half from each hotdog. Do not forget this! If you do, you will eat wood, possibly hurt yourself, and die. Okay maybe it won’t be that bad but it’ll definitely be uncomfortable. So, I repeat, remove your toothpicks!

final

Once you’ve done that, stick your bacon-wrapped hotdog in a bun, add your favorite condiments, sauces, and toppings, and ENJOY!! Paired with some chips and guacamole and your favorite cold beer, this simple dish is sure to take your July 4th celebrations to the next level!! Comment below on your favorite July 4th recipes or any variations you did to this recipe!

HAPPY MURICA DAY, AMERICA!! Nom on!!

Nom noms: Lettuce Wraps

Happy Hump Day!! So, it’s the middle of the week and cooking is becoming a drag. You’re about ready to just boil some water and eat some starchy pasta. Or worse, grab some grapes, eat Cheetos straight out of the bag, and call it a modern salad. STOP! NO! We can eat good food and it won’t be that hard! I promise! Because today -drumroll- we make lettuce wraps!

You groan. Lettuce wraps. It sounds disgustingly healthy and also difficult to make. But don’t judge a food by it’s name until you’ve tasted it! This is a perfectly simple, 10-minute recipe, perfect for the lazy cook, like myself, annnnnnd still healthy without gagging you with lettuce. Lettuce wraps can be a really easy healthy twist on some of your favorite foods and you can stuff them with almost anything. Plus, they can be a light snack or a full meal and are a great summer food, even on a hot day. Follow along for my favorite lettuce wrap recipe and, unlike motorcycle stunts, DO try this at home!

STEP 1: Ingredients ingredients ingredients! One of the biggest things I’ve learned as a lazy cook is get all your ingredients together before you start cooking. That way you can just sit around and watch your food cook without you having to scramble around the kitchen getting whatever is needed next in the recipe. If you’re going to mimic my every move in this recipe then make sure to get the following (tsp = teaspoons; tbsp = tablespoons):

  • Ground beef – 1 lb
  • Veggie oil – 2 tsps
  • Mushrooms – approx. 8
  • Green onions (aka “scallions” if you’re fancy) – approx. 3
  • Garlic – 2 cloves
  • Ginger (or ginger paste) – 2 tsps
  • Red pepper flakes – 1 tsp
  • Soy sauce – 2 tbsp
  • Hoisin sauce – ¼ cup
  • Lettuce – one head

For these lettuce wraps I used some pretty traditional ingredients but I definitely encourage you to experiment! Try chipotle sauce instead of red pepper flakes or add carrots and peppers! Be creative! Cooking can be an art, it can be a science, or it can just be a crazy fun time in the kitchen – just get loose and go with the flow.

prep

STEP 2: Cut allllll the things! Chop your mushrooms, your green onions, your garlic, and whatever other ingredients you may have chosen to include that require cutting. If it seems like you have a disproportionate amount of mushrooms to everything else, don’t fret – as they cook, the mushrooms tend to shrink until they are much less noticeable. If, however, you are not a huge mushroom fan, cut down on your mushrooms until you’re comfortable with your chopped pile.

cut veggies

STEP 3: Now don’t get scared… but turn on the stove. Yes, I know, we’re using fire, things are getting a little intense but just stay calm and keep the flame on a medium-high and all will be well. Take a pan and place it over the flame on the stove. Yes, easy there, you’re doing fine! Now, should you choose to, add in the veggie oil and let it heat. If you want to be uber-healthy then you can skip the veggie oil entirely. You’ll know the veggie oil is hot when you can move the pan and it runs around really quickly, rather than slowly like oil usually moves.

oil

STEP 4: Throw in your meat! Don’t worry about breaking it up beforehand, just dump it in and as you stir it, it will break up in tiny bits. Keep stirring it until every last little meaty morsel is a nice earthy brown color. No pink meat! I don’t care if pink is your favorite color, pink meat bad! Once your meat is fully cooked (aka all brown) turn down the stove to a low-medium/low. If you feel like your meat is kind of oily or greasy, you can drain it off using a simple pasta strainer.

meat cooking

STEP 5: Toss in all your other ingredients! Mix, mix, mix your mushrooms, green onions, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce all together. Let the whole yummy mixture cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until your mushrooms (or other add-in ingredients) taste cooked! Then turn the heat off and we’re almost ready to eat!

almost done

STEP 6: Now to tackle the lettuce. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a head of lettuce that is easy to peel and can pull off large leaves to act as your lettuce wrap. If you’re not so lucky, you can still pull off small chunks and make bite-size lettuce wraps. I actually prefer the smaller ones since they’re much easier to manage and a little less messy. Or more messy, depending on how you eat. One tip: if you cut off the stem on the bottom of the lettuce, it’s sometimes easier to peel off the individual leaves.

lettuce pic

STEP 7: Add as much of your lovely meat mixture to your lettuce leaves, wrap or fold them up as best you can, and NOM! These can get a bit messy if you’re not careful so don’t expect to impress any company with your eating skills with this dinner!

FIN

I dunno about you, but I ate about four of these for dinner and am now so pleasantly stuffed I don’t know if I’ll ever move again. Even better, I have leftovers for lunch or dinner tomorrow too! I hope you’re as stuffed as I am and let me know about any modifications or experimentations you did for your own lettuce wraps! Nom on!!

Nom noms: Guacamole

Raise your hand if you’re hungry all the time. Now raise your hand if you suck at cooking. Well, it seems like we are at an impasse.

Fear not! I–a frugal, health-nut, inclined-to-setting-things-on-fire-using-stoves-and-ovens, always-munching, college student–am here to help!

One of the best things to munch on when you’re bored/working/hanging out is chips and salsa. But why not mix it up a bit and make some guacamole instead? It may not be the healthiest thing on the block, but hey, it has some fruits so it’s gotta have some benefits right? Which I guess are cancelled out with the addition of chips. But whatever. Today, I’m going to walk you through my favorite easy recipe for guacamole, step by baby step, for all us out there who struggle with even opening a banana. Credit goes to my college roommate for this recipe and for inspiring my guacamole tastebuds!

STEP 1: Assembleeeeeeeee your ingredients. For an average size bowl of guac, I tend to use the following ingredients, but definitely adjust quantities to your preferences:

  • 1 and ½ avocados
  • ½ a tomato
  • lemon
  • lime
  • garlic

begin

STEP 2: Cut open your avocado! For those of you who have never cut an avocado (don’t worry, I was one of you until very recently), I’m going to walk you through the process. First, get a knife – it doesn’t need to be too sharp, it just needs to be able to cut things. Line it up vertically with the avocado (as shown!) and then cut all the way around the avocado, cutting up until the pit in the center. Once you’ve done that, simple twist the two halves in opposite directions and the avocado should pop apart into two halves! If it doesn’t, then I’m sorry you’ve done something terribly wrong and I don’t know how to help you anymore.

avoooo

STEP 3: Mush it all up. The avocado should remove easily from it’s black skin-shell-thing using your utensil of choice. Set the pit aside for now (don’t throw it out!). Then dump all your avocado in a bowl and just mush it all up. I’ve found that a fork works well for this, but for those of you who want some extra creamy guac (I’m looking at you roomie), pull out your Magic Bullet (or what ever other blender type device you have) and blend your avocado until you’re satisfied with its smoothness.

guac 1

STEP 4: Chop your tomato! Yes, I am going through every tiny little step. I apologize to those of you who think this is too obvious. Anyway, cut up your tomato into tiny pieces, maybe the size of the fingernail on your pinky (unless you have giant fingernails… then just make small pieces). Next, throw all your diced tomatoes into your mushy avocado and mix it all up. If you’re like me and love tomatoes then feel free to add even more tomato to give your guac some more acidity. Or, if you’re like my best friend and hate tomatoes, then just skip this step entirely.

tomatoooo

STEP 5: Add some flavor! My choice flavor ingredients are lemon juice, lime zest, and garlic, but the great thing about guacamole is that you can add just about anything – onions, peppers, chilis, etc.

For the lemon juice, cut the lemon in half and then squeeeeeeeze one lemon half until you see a nice pool of lemon juice on top of your guac. This usually uses about half the juice you can get out of one lemon half. Again, you may choose to add more or less lemon depending on how tangy you like your guac.

For the lime zest, if you have a zester-tool-thing (pictured) then simple scrape that against your lime to get some good, fresh lime zest. Or, if you’re a broke college student like I am usually (my mother supplied the zester-thing) and can’t afford fancy kitchen tools, follow the instructions above for lemon juice and add a few drops of lime juice.

Finally, for the garlic, if you have a garlic crusher (again, my mother) crush one clove of garlic into your mixture. If you don’t have the fancy gadget, then simply cut up a clove of garlic into as tiny pieces as you can (don’t forget to remove the flakey peel first!).

flavorrrrr

STEP 6: Once you’ve added all your desired ingredients, mix it all up, grab your favorite bag of tortilla chips, and ENJOY!!

guac final

Pro-Tip: Adding the pit back to the guac should help prevent your guac from browning too quickly! And it makes it look fancy!

Well, now that I’m stuffing my face with my own guacamole, I hope you’ve enjoyed this guacamole adventure and will go on to experiment with your own twists on this recipe. Comment below with some of your own favorite ingredients and twists! Nom on!!