Simple, inexpensive, commons-centric recipes

By Erin Cressy

I love to cook and bake, but as a college kid, I sadly lack the time and money to do it constantly, especially when I know there’s food I paid for waiting for me in the Commons every day. For those of us on a meal plan, it’s easy to feel like we’re stuck eating whatever is offered to us, for fear of wasting meals.

However, I’ve recently realized that the Commons offers a lot of food that can be used to make significantly better food with a little assistance from my dorm kitchen.

Here are two simple, inexpensive, Commons-centric recipes that I’ve really enjoyed making and eating over the past few weeks.

Asian-esque Vegetable Noodle Soup

This soup is a delicious, easy dinner on nights when the Commons selection is lacking. Just take home the veggies you need, and throw it together back in your kitchen.

(I make this soup with Japanese soba noodles I buy at home, but since I’ve yet to find them at a Georgetown grocery store, feel free to sub in whole-wheat spaghetti for a similar taste and texture.)

2 oz. soba noodles or whole-wheat spaghetti

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1-2 tbsp. soy sauce (or to taste)

2-3 thin slices ginger root

¼ cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 handful raw broccoli florets (Commons salad bar)

6-8 sliced mushrooms (Commons salad bar)

*If you wish to add other veggies, raw ones work best.*

– Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.

– Add vegetable stock, ginger, onion, and garlic to medium-sized pot; bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat.

– Add vegetables and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

– Add soy sauce and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes.

– Put noodles in empty bowl. Pour broth and vegetables over noodles; serve.

This recipe serves 1, but can easily be adjusted for more people. It’s almost impossible to mess up, and comes together in about 15 minutes. Oh, and it’s super good.

Accidentally Vegan Banana Nut Muffins

The other day, I had a massive muffin craving. I also had two slightly over-ripe Commons bananas getting lonely on my desk, so I managed to devise a fairly healthy, very yummy solution. It just so happens to not require any dairy or eggs, too—mostly because I was too lazy to go to the grocery store and get them. They don’t seem to need either, though.

Muffins:

1/3 cup vegetable, canola, or olive oil (I used olive)

1/2 cup sugar 1 1/2 tbsp. peanut butter (swiped from Commons)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 ripe bananas, mashed (thank you, Commons)

1/2 cup vanilla almond milk (regular milk, or any other non-dairy milk, is fine)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup chopped peanuts (optional)

Oatmeal Streusel Topping (optional, but delicious):

1/3 cup all purpose flour

3 tbsp dark brown sugar

2 tbsp margarine

2 tbsp quick cooking rolled oats (i.e. Quaker)

Directions:

– Preheat oven to 350.

Muffins:

– Whisk oil, sugar, and peanut butter together. Stir in flour. Then add bananas, milk, vanilla, and nuts if desired. Stir until combined.

Topping:

– Combine flour, sugar, margarine, and oats together in a small bowl, using a fork. (It’ll be crumbly.)

– Line muffin tins with papers or coat with cooking spray.

– Spoon mixture into tins. (I got 12 muffins with a little batter left over, but my tins were pretty tiny.)

– Sprinkle muffins with streusel topping, as you see fit.

– Bake on 350 for 25-30 minutes. When covered, these will keep for 3-4 days. If they make it till then.

Apple Treat Perfect for Fall

Courtesy Google Images.

Apple Crisp
Total Time (Approximately): 1 hour and 10 minutes or 1 hour and 50 minutes
Preparation: 20 minutes (with food processor), 1 hour (without food processor)
Cook: 35 to 40 minutes

Ingredients
Filling:
• 5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped small (Tip: Do before because it’s
tedious and takes a while. If you have a food processor then use it instead)
• 1/4 cup of brown sugar (separate)
• 2 tablespoons of cinnamon (separate)
• 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Topping:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350º F.
For the Filling:
1. Peel, slice, and chop apples
2. Mix the apples with the separate cinnamon and brown sugar into a bag or bowl and keep them
in the fridge until you’re ready to cook
3. Mix all the ingredients together. Place into 9 x 9 two inch pan or into 7 to 8-ounce ramekins.

For topping:
1. Mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt into large bowl. Blend the butter into the
mixture until it forms pea size lumps. Stir in pecans (optional) and sprinkle over filling evenly.
2. Also if you want, you can sprinkle some more of the brown sugar and cinnamon over the even
spread, for more flavor.
3. Bake crisp for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Megaphood: Nutty Cinnamon Apples

Whether you’re working on an
assignment that’s depriving you of
sleep or enjoying the comfort of the
story tree and friends in the middle of
the night, a late night snack is
sometimes just the thing you need and
crave.

To find the perfect snack that
is easy, delicious, and won’t make you
regret your midnight munches, look
no further than “The Rainbow
Cookbook,” a cookbook written by
Southwestern alumna, Gillian
Graham, who graduated in May.

Although the title may aim at younger
appetites, the cookbook offers some
simple but great recipes that college
students would enjoy as well. Graham
is in the process of creating more
cookbooks to complete a series in
order to offer a range of recipes.

Nutty Cinnamon Apples

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1 red or green apple, sliced

Instructions:
1.In a bowl, mix cinnamon, brown
sugar, and butter.
2. Microwave the mixture on the
defrost setting until the butter is
melted. Stir well.
3. Add the chopped nuts to the mixture
and stir evenly until each nut is
covered.
4. Drizzle the mixture over the apples
until slices are covered.
5. Enjoy!

MegaPhood: Gluten free baking

A gluten intolerant friend of mine once expressed her frustration in describing her condition to others.

“But what can you eat?” people would ask her.

The answer is complex. Gluten intolerance is a broad term. Some people may confuse gluten intolerance with celiac disease, which is also caused by gluten but is not the same condition. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that results in the immune system overreacting to the protein found in gluten. Antibodies are then released, which, over time, erode the body’s ability to process nutrition. Gluten intolerance, though it takes many forms, is the body’s instant reaction to a food component that it perceives to be an invader. Both conditions are treated primarily by following a gluten-free diet.

Those with gluten intolerance of some sort can still eat a wide range of foods, though they may have to be specially prepared. For instance, there is a range of alternative flours. Popular ones are rice flour and bean flour. However, when baking with these items it is typically advised to add agents such as xantham gum to help maintain the same texture in baked goods.

Cooking like this can, indeed, be a challenge. As first-year Kati Eason said, “The list of ingredients are all things that a college student doesn’t have money or time for.”
Luckily, in recent years many strides have been made to make more considerations for gluten intolerance. Gluten free items can be found in most mainstream grocery stores. Betty Crocker has a line of gluten free mixes. For something a little more upscale, Namaste Foods, found in Whole Foods and other specialty stores, has everything from biscuit mix to pizza crust.

However, Eason said, “Gluten is in so many foods, the obvious being breads and pastas, but it’s also in a lot of sauces and soups, too, because manufacturers add flour to thicken them. Gluten is pretty hard to avoid.”

The restrictions extend beyond the obvious. Fast food companies put wheat in meat patties to stretch them out. Also, many restaurants do not take precautions for the gluten intolerant or offer alternative menus, though some restaurants are beginning to.
Eason said, “French fries are also hard to eat, not because of the potatoes, but because they may be fried in oil that breaded things have been fried in, like onion rings. It’s definitely been hard to adjust to.”

It is hard, but not impossible. Even if you are not gluten intolerant, eating less gluten does have benefits, since a gluten free diet is devoid of refined wheat, such as white bread. This diet can lower cholesterol and increase energy.

Gluten Free Chocolate Financiers. Courtesty Google Images.

Recipe of the Week

Gluten-Free Chocolate Financiers

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup almond flour*
4 tablespoons Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup egg whites (approx. two large)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease and flour financier molds or mini-muffin tins. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and set it aside until it reaches room temperature.

Mix the almond flour with the cocoa powder, salt, and powdered sugar. Stir the egg whites and almond extract into the almond mixture, then gradually stir in the melted butter until incorporated and smooth. Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them three-quarters full.

Bake the financiers for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are slightly puffed and springy to the touch. Remove them from the oven and let cool completely before removing the financiers from the molds.

Once cooled, financiers can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

* I made this by pulsing blanched almonds in the food processor until they were reduced to a powder.

Recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, originally found in Gluten-Free Girl by David Lebovitz.

Amante’s Sans Amoure.

the offical amante's on the square shot

the offical amante's on the square shot

Sometimes reading the listserv without a doubt pays off. I have been eying the Palace Theatre in our quaint little square ever since they put on Best Little Whorehouse in Texas last year, but am generally put-off by the $16 *discounted price tag. Hidden amongst the usual dribble, someone fabulous on campus was offering free tickets for students [obviously to promote a younger crowd attendance] so for my accomplice & my faux anniversary date we decided to see Nunsense II: The Second Coming ((and it was nearly as good as the implication.))

Anywho, so the point is we got a coupon for Amante‘s &/or WildFire, and since neither of us particularly has an interest in “wild game” [except, of course, for the accomplice's idiotic obsession with lion farming] we decided to check out the new Italian place on the square & make it an entirely bourge evening out.

atmosphere = crowded

atmosphere = crowded

Obviously slightlyover-dressed for the 5:30 time we went, [happy hour ended at 6] we were pleasantly surprised by the romantic ambiance and generally amicable old-timey restaurant appeal.

Unfortunately, as soon as people started arriving, “quaint” and “cozy” became “loud” and “awkward”. The tables for 2 are literally spaced with just enough room for are thin-waisted waitress to fit, and might as well be one bench seat with the capacity for conversation quickly dwindling to none.

The artisan-baked bread [we were assured by the very cute manager], which has to be requested, is thankfully still complementary but unfortunately was so bland I, plain bread enthusiast, wouldn’t eat it without tons of fresh parmesan & olive oil and the accomplice whined about it being far too crusty. We were allotted a free appetizer with our coupon so we got (my favorite appetizer) bruschetta, which turned out to be more of a tomato relish on a large crouton than true bruschetta. Obviously, we should have opted for the fried mozzarella sticks or fried raviolis, but I am firmly in the camp that doesn’t see “fried” as an appropriate option in an Italian restaurant, much less one that attempts to hint at quality. Call me a snob, but I would have been paying “9.” for it so I feel the sentiment is only fitting.

Anywho, our waitress was nice, if over-attentive, and our food arrived quite quickly (it is only fair to alert fellow thrifty college kids that they charge extra to split it in the back, although it’s free to split it yourself). The linguine  [which is supposed to be a long, thin, flat noodle] was more like spaghetti, and there really was nothing impressive about the marinara sauce– which arguably for Italian places should be what sets them apart– the sauce.

As far as vegetarian options go (obviously there’s nothing vegan beyond the salads– this is Italian), your options are mostly pasta and cheese with cream sauce [way heavy], or what I got, which I wouldn’t recommend [the linguine with marinara and olives & mushrooms]. Nothing stuffed, no lasagna, nothing new or exciting.

So, dear vegetarians, if you’re looking for somewhere to spend at minimum “35.” for 2, look elsewhere– & I’ll keep you updated on where exactly.

happy rainy monday.

Snuggie Up With a Book

In lieu of the recent weather that encourages rainboots and snuggies, I thought I’d advocate for a form of entertainment that is conducive to staying in your bed.  Don’t use too much imagination here, I’m suggesting reading, though I don’t mean for homework.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m suggesting that you read for pleasure.  But, before you get too scandalized by the preposterous idea that a college student should or could read for fun, let me suggest a few of my favorite books that might actually make a night in, worth your while…

extremely_loud_and_incredibly_close.largeExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Given to me as a present by my sister, (possibly one of the few people who reads this blog) I effortlessly fell in love with this story.  A familiar protagonist, much like that of the late Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, Oskar Schell is an eccentric nine-year-old whose great insight and curiosity toward the world  gives this story the vibrancy it needs to survive its sometimes depressing post 9-11 backdrop.  Oskar searches for his place amidst a chaotic New York, traveling between his family’s past through stories and journals, to the present where he persistently tries to discover and demystify the world in which he lives.  If you’re familiar with Foer’s other, more popular work, “Everything is Illuminated”, you know this author is a must-read.

fraction-of-the-wholeA Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

Before spending last summer fulfilling the stereotype of a liberal arts student traveling around Europe “finding myself”, I searched for a book that would accompany me through the many hours I would inevitably sit on a plane, train or bus.  I wanted something more than a novel with Fabio on the cover, but easier to casually read than Tolstoy.  I went to Book People in Austin and decided then that I would go against everything I was ever taught in first grade and judge a book by its cover.  That’s right, the book that surpassed even my favorite classics gained its prestige because the cover looked like someone had (purposely) taken a hole punch to it.

Told in a narrative style that I find witty, grotesquely candid and snarky, the established narrator, Jasper Dean, weaves the story of his father’s life that spans the coasts of Australia, bohemian Paris, the hidden jungles of Thailand, asylums, labyrinths and criminal lairs. To give you any more than this would, I fear, spoil a story that is best discovered by simply experiencing.  If you read one book this year, this is the one…

eat-pray-loveEat Love Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book is definitely more mainstream than my other two suggestions  (just check the NY Times bestseller list) and is probably best enjoyed by females or those experiencing a deep existential crisis.  Written in an autobiographical style, Gilbert tracks her three-part yearlong journey to Italy, India and Indonesia.  She takes an honest approach to her story leaving readers feeling comforted despite her struggles.  (You might have also heard about the movie version starring Julia Roberts, though I have my doubts about how the heart of this story could translate to film… best to read the book first. )

Recommended by friends and critics alike (and on my bookshelf queue because of… well, life):

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill

If you have any favorite books to recommend or ideas on those listed, please comment and share your thoughts!

AND in case you haven’t turned on the radio, been on facebook, or walked down that pink and red aisle at the grocery store, Valentine’s day is just around the corner and so is my blog on ideas for dates and group hangouts alike.

‘Till then night owls!

Vedge Pizza.

Like this... but with better and MORE veggies.

Like this... but with better and MORE veggies.

With the clean-up intensity of last week’s recipe, and the stress-level of this week’s SU-sized workload, I decided to do something considerably less work-intense and much more kid (or, more obviously, boyfriend) -friendly. [or ((excuse my binary assumption)) really any other kitchen-dysfunctional loved ones.]

Admittedly, I am not a “pizza” fan, when referring to the greasy-fastfoody-delivery type slab covered in Mozzarella Americana. [call me a snob] but I do love flat bread, which is much closer to the original intention of pizza than the gross overhaul that now frequents sport-watching events and whatnot. [no really, I am not quite sure why anyone eats it.]

So put on some Dean Martin and pop in a movie, [{ or the superbowl, i guess }] and have your cooking accomplice (dysfunctional or not) do the rest.

Also, I put the low-fat recipe here (my accomplice is self-conscious), but obviously you can use all the full-fat products exactly the same and I’m sure it will taste a little bit more like heaven.

  • 1 Pillsbury (or preferably off-brand) refrigerated low-fat crescent rolls package (it’s 8 oz)
  • 1 c room-temp cream cheese (low-fat, garden vegetable, or garlic herb are the best)
  • 1 tomato (Roma or House, whichever you prefer)*
  • 1/2 c sliced olives (generally canned)*
  • 1 bell pepper (preferably yellow or orange- NOT GREEN)
  • 1 cucumber, skinned and chopped*
  • 3/4 c chopped red onion (or about half a large red onion)
  • 1 can diced pineapple (or about 1&1/2 c fresh)
  • 1/2 c shredded carrot (fresh is best)

*i stole these from the commons (1 c halved the cherry tomatoes) and they worked out splendidly and “free”.

  1. Heat oven to 375veggie pizza
  2. Roll out dough without separating the crescents, like one big rectangle, and carefully pinch together any threatening-to-separate pieces as you stretch the dough nice and thin, shooting for about 1/4″ thick– but not too thin!
  3. Pop it in the oven (middle rack) for as long as it says on the package you ended up buying, or until golden brown
  4. Prep/chop/grate/open-cans-of all veggies
  5. If you’re using plain cream cheese, mix in a little garlic powder or fresh garlic. (because I assume you love garlic as much as me)
  6. Pull dough out of oven and let cool completely (or near to)
  7. Generously spread cream cheese evenly on all of the now baked and cooled crust– right to the edge!
  8. Sprinkle all of your fix’ns onto the cream cheese evenly, especially in the corners. It should look like a rainbow at this point. Mmm.
  9. Cut in rectangles and use spatula to remove. Enjoy.

Keep in mind you can add/remove any ingredients at will, if you are allergic to something or have leftover raw zucchini/squash/broccoli, etcetera.

Happy superbowl weekend [& of course superbowl monday].

Quinoa & Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

mmm peppersThe weather is teasing me with this sunny-hints-of-spring days and harsh bitter (mid 40s!) nights regiment. To combat my nostalgic spring-fever, on Monday Night #1 we decided to have a quasi-Mexican style evening {{ quasi because there were [very unfortunately] no margaritas.}} however, we [ possibly mostly I ] managed to eat something like 20 avocados worth of guac and spill [clearly hyperbolic] gallons of tomato sauce all over elJ’s floor (( because everyone deserves a Jersey Shore-esque “nickname”. )) thus the evening can still be deemed a success.

Anywho here’s the recpie:

[{ i learned a little too late in life that reading a recipe All the way through makes a huge difference. }]

Mmm...peppers.

Mmm...peppers.

* = I stole it from the commons and it worked out just fine for free.

** if you are doubling this (because leftovers are the best) make sure to have extra big pots/pans/etc.

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onions in olive oil for 3ish minutes, until onions are translucent.

2. Add garlic (lots!) and mushrooms; sauté about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms have released their moisture– when they shrink up.

3. Stir in the chili powder (to taste) and salt.

4. Add the quinoa and 1 cup of the tomato sauce (reserve the rest) and the water; lower the heat and cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring once.

5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350º F, or have your friends do this.

Finished peppers!

Finished peppers!

6. Put a pot of water to boil the peppers in on the stove.Cut the tops off the peppers (but keep them if you want cutesy caps) and remove the seeds and ribs.

7. Boil the peppers for 5 minutes, then drain them, then place them in a baking dish to await filling.

8. When quinoa is finished simmering, combine the beans and maple syrup with the cooked quinoa mixture.

9. Stuff each pepper with the filling, and stand them upright in a baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the peppers, put their caps on, and bake for 15 minutes.

10. Remove from oven; garnish (envelope) with cilantro, and serve.

    MegaVege & me.

    veg stuff

    In all reality, I wasn’t a huge fan of blogs [ still adamantly non-fanatical ] until it came time to find new veg things to eat/places to eat/foodporn.

    [{ or for those a little more dedicated, actual kitchenporn }]

    Regardless, I live on campus, have limited kitchen access,  am constantly on some sort of budget & am unfortunately consistently health “conscious” [forced health consciousness-- see hypoglycemic], though generally dieting is for suckers.

    Obviously I, like the masses, tire of commons food– especially when my options are veggie burger (made of beans and rice), actual beans and rice, refried beans, oily-flavorless pasta surprise, or a salad. I acknowledge and admit as a part of the food advisory committee [[complain wednesdays at noon]] that they’re doing they’re best for those of us with “dietary restrictions” but sometimes it’s not enough.

    Plus, I am sort of addicted to Mexican food, which is obviously obtainable in Gtown [& to which my accomplice would have us go multiple times week] but moderately expensive/fattening when eaten in the high quantities in which I tend to indulge.

    Anywho. Basically I’ll just let you know recpies that I’ve found/concocted/loved & am cooking this week, so even if you’re not veg [Foer requires that I inform you of the misstep in your lifestyle] you can indulge or prep at your will.

    [{ I am not anti-carnivores. }]

    & restaurant reviews.

    & the occasional look-at-these-crazy-veg-people moment.

    impressively creative vegetarians at work

    impressively creative vegetarians at work

    happy monday.

    A Preview Of The Upcoming Angela Davis Talk

    Angela Davis

    Picture of Angela Davis, courtesy of Google.

    American democratic socialist, political activist, former Black Panther, Civil Rights Movement activist, twice Vice Presidential Communist Party USA candidate, founder of Critical Resistance, feminist and retired professor with the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Angela Davis will be kicking off Black History Month here at Southwestern University at 5:30 p.m. in the ballrooms on Thursday, Jan. 21.
    That’s right, Angela Davis will be speaking here. Laura Burrow, former Senior Advisor for Encouraging Blacks and Others to Never Yield (E.B.O.N.Y.) and ’09 Southwestern graduate, worked with Mary Gonzalez and many other activists on campus to bring someone as influential as Davis to speak at the annual Black History Month Lecture Series.
    Burrow resonated that “having [Davis] as our guest speaker will inspire us to further understand what it means to ‘never yield.’ As we work to make Southwestern University a more socially just and culturally aware campus community, we feel [Davis] can offer us guidance and empowerment.”
    Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Davis was awarded a scholarship to Brandeis University in Massachusetts in the early 60s and was one of three black students in her freshman class. Quickly befriending several young international activists, Davis decided to major in French and study in Europe for a few years. She graduated magna cum laude and a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1965. Davis then went on to study philosophy at Humboldt University in East Berlin, where she received her doctorate.
    While working as a philosophy professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, Davis established herself as an iconic radical feminist and social activist – leading to her termination from the university pressured by then-Governor Ronald Reagan, to be reinstated as director of the Feminist Studies department years later after legal action. Not one to shy away from controversy, Davis was arrested in 1970 and  was the third woman to appear on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List following the abduction and murder of a California judge, though she was acquitted and released two years later.

    Radical Angela

    Picture of Angela Davis, courtesy of Google.

    With a strong network of radical social activists, Davis ran as Vice President to Gus Hall on the Communist Party USA ticket in 1980 and 1984.Although unsuccessful in the pursuit of the executive branch, Davis won the Lenin Peace Prize for her civil rights activism and helped found Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization dedicated to building a movement to abolish the current penile prison system in the United States. Focusing her activism on the abolition, not reform, she will be quick to clarify, of the prison-industrial complex, Davis encourages instead education and building engaged communities to solve various social issues currently handled through state punishment.
    Davis has written several books and articles on race, class, and gender, as well as the abolition of democracy and the current prison system. She is also a popular international keynote speaker, having lectured in all 50 states, as well as in Africa, Europe and the former Soviet Union.
    Burrows concluded that Davis’s lecture is “particularly significant and empowering for E.B.O.N.Y. … but will undoubtedly resonate with students, faculty and staff as a whole.”

    Web Ed: It is now our pleasure to present you with a a video of Angela Davis speaking at the University of California.