Food

Dorm Cooking 101: Rice on the side

I always have rice and lentils or beans in my kitchen cupboards. Both are versatile and last for a long time. I keep a little tupperware box of beans soaking in water in the fridge. That is how I came up with this recipe. A big box of soaked beans, a can of tomato paste that needed to be used up and rice that I didn’t want to carry from my summer residence to my regular residence. This rice dish is great for a meal on its own, like a light lunch, or as a side to grilled chicken, fish or even eggs. I sometimes eat it for breakfast, topped with a fried or boiled egg. It’s flavourful, wholesome and delicious.

The best part is, you can make a giant pot of it and eat it over a week, or you can scoop little personal portions into ziplock bags and freeze it. Dump it into a bowl, microwave, and ta-da!

Ingredients

  • A cup & a half of rice (Brown, basmati or long grain, but brown is healthiest.)
  • A cup of mixed lentils & beans (or just one kind, whatever you have. Or none, works too.)
  • Vegetables (Anything works, some vegetables I’ve used before are carrots, broccoli, green onions, butternut squash, zucchini, eggplant, green peppers, mushrooms.)
  • Half an onion
  • A teaspoon of minced garlic
  • Some tomato paste (This is optional)
  • Chicken/vegetable stock cubes or powder
  • Dried thyme (Rosemary and basil works too, although basil tastes best fresh)
  • Salt & pepper
  • A little olive oil

The night before you want to make the rice, soak the beans in water and leave them in the fridge over night. If you forget to do this, you can soak them an hour before and cook them in a slow cooker, boil them or steam them. What I usually do is, soak the beans and lentils in water over night and then cook them along with the rice in a rice cooker. That way, they’re soft but have a slight bite to them.

Once you’ve prepared your rice and lentils, chop up your onion and fry it along with the garlic in some olive oil. Once the onions are translucent, add bite sized vegetables. Do not over cook them (broccoli & green peppers should be a bright green, mushrooms should be gray or brown, not black or dark brown). If you are using tomato paste, add it along with some water (to dilute it, because tomato paste is concentrated) at this point. Add the stock cubes or powder, dried herbs. Toss your rice and lentils into the pot and mix it well. Salt and pepper the rice according to taste. If you are using fresh herbs, add them right at the end.

Serve it in a bowl for a light lunch or pair it with some grilled meat. Delicious!

I love how the veggies & tomato paste contrast-- beautiful!

A steaming hot bowl of this rice by the window, in the rain... perfection!

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Dorm Cooking 101: Breakfast for Two

University dorm food is supposed to  be Mr. Noodles, eggs and cereal. I like to do things differently– especially because I have a tendency to get bored easily. I also detest fast food in North America (hence the need to cook rather than eat at readily available Wendy’s and Popeye’s). Having a mini-kitchen in my suite (a word used to refer to smaller dorms that include about 2-4 single rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom) definitely helps. It has allowed me to experiment with food and although I’m not quite sure whether I like cooking, I’ve come up with some pretty darn delicious dishes– a lot of which are not as visually appealing as this one.

Summer has begun and I now have more time for each of my meals than I did during the school year. No longer do I have to run out in the mornings with a toaster strudel dripping painfully hot filling on my fingers and no longer do I have to grab Jamaican patties on the go. I can actually cook. Too bad I’m moody with cooking. There are times when I abhor it and times when I adore it. I guess the morning I made french toast was an ‘adore’ day.

French toast as always been “slumber party breakfast”, a meal that us giggling girls would make, huddled around the stove, the morning after a night of make up, movies and boy-talk. The ‘many’ steps involved in making french toast, made it feel like a cooking adventure.

I’ve always made french toast with only milk and eggs. I don’t know where I got that recipe from, but that’s how I made it and I guess, that’s why I was never a fan. I read somewhere that making french toast involves vanilla and sugar. The last time I made it, about a week ago, this is what I did. One egg, about half a cup of milk, a tablespoon of sugar, a few drops of vanilla. Dip, fry, dip, fry and repeat. It’s so quick and easy, I think it should be considered “dorm food”. The only extra ingredient you would have to buy is vanilla essence. French toast made like this tastes almost like a cake or pancake. It’s soft, fluffy and has a slight crunch from the sugar caramelizing. I topped it with whipped cream and strawberries, but I’ve since discovered that whipped cream cheese, honey and almonds are an exotic, delicious topping.

You can even modify it to make it healthy– use skimmed milk, go easy on the sugar (or use Splenda), use whole grain or brown bread and top with honey or light whipped cream cheese.
Watch this space for more food– and my attempts at food photography.

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