Food

Dorm Cooking 101: Parfaits

Parfaits are ideal dorm food. They have healthy yoghurt, fruit and some nice, fibre-rich granola. If you get the healthy kind, it can be one of the healthiest, yummiest snack or dessert. I’m not one of those people that reaches out for a parfait at Second Cup, I usually make a beeline for the chocolate cake. It’s probably because all the parfaits in stores & cafes look so dead and dull. They don’t look delicious. These ones, they have these amazing contrasting flavours that explode in your mouth– the cool yoghurt with the warm granola, the soft yoghurt and blueberries with the crunchy almonds and caramelized oats, the tangyness of the greek yoghurt and the sweet, smokey caramelized brown sugar on the granola, all make spending an extra ten minutes making your own granola worthwhile.

I was watching Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network and one of the chefs, I think it was Tyler Florence who said the best thing (crunchy or sweet, I can’t remember) he’d eaten was some sort of granola at a cafe. The chef at the cafe cooked it over a stove and then baked it, making it super crunchy and warm. I loved the idea of making your own granola. I also have a jar of oats and a bag of brown sugar both of which need to be used up soon so I decided to make my own granola. I’ve also taken a serious liking to Mediterranean probiotic yoghurt (which has a lot of health benefits, one of which is reducing chances of colon cancer) which is creamy and tangy. I figured the sweet granola would go amazingly with the tangy yoghurt.

Here’s a picture and a quick way to make your own granola!

What you need:
(Measurements are according to your taste, if you like more oats than yoghurt, add more oats, if you like lesser almonds, put lesser almonds)

Some rolled oats
Some roughly chopped almonds
Brown Sugar
Butter
Water
Salt to taste

Toast the almonds on a pan without any oil or butter. They are done when they smell nutty. Add some oats and toast them a little bit too, add a tiny pad of butter, maybe around a teaspoon. Crumble about one and a half to two tablespoons of brown sugar and sprinkle some salt. Keep stirring and add about two tablespoons of water to let the sugar caramelize around your oats and nuts. You can add cinnamon if you like, but the brown sugar and almonds make it so flavourful, you really don’t need it.

Serve on top of yoghurt with fresh berries. I used blueberries because I recently learnt that they are very high in anti-oxidants and great for you.

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Food

Dorm Cooking 101: Everything Meatballs

I’ve been wanting to buy ground chicken for a while (I call it minced chicken, but I’ve been told that ‘minced’ chicken is chopped up chicken), but I always forget and every time I do remember, I’m too lazy to go to the store. Now that I live near three 24 hour groceries, I can buy it whenever I remember, and that’s what I did. I initially planned to make burgers, but Ikea’s website inspired me to make meatballs instead. It was something I’d never tried before and really, how hard could it be?

I call them everything meatballs because I literally put everything in my fridge door in them, except for milk and orange juice. They were delicious. Except for the ground chicken, eggs and flour, all the ingredients are optional. I know, don’t I make cooking seem easy?

Ingredients:
– 450 gram package of ground chicken (I used half of this to make six meatballs)
– 1 egg
– 2 tablespoons of flour or breadcrumbs (I used flour– made it stickier)
– 1 spring onion (optional)
– Some feta, mozarella or cheddar cheese (I’m a boss & a fatty so I used all)
– Jack Daniels’ Barbeque sauce
– Franks Hot Sauce
– Franks Buffalo Wing Sauce
– Salt & Pepper
– Couple of cloves of garlic

Finely chop (I say finely because I hate biting into a large piece of garlic or onion) the garlic and spring onion. Grate the cheese. Add the chopped/grated ingredients, sauces and a beaten egg to the chicken and mix well. I suggest using your hands because even though it feels gross, it is the best way to incorporate all the ingredients into the chicken. Add the flour or breadcrumbs to hold it all together. I rolled the meatballs in flour when I was done. I’m not sure why I did this, I’m not sure if it made a difference. I made them around lunch time and ate them for dinner.
When you’re cooking them, you can either fry them or bake them, I browned them on a pan and then put the pan in the oven so they could cook on the inside. If your pan has a plastic handle I wouldn’t suggest this.
They were juicy and delicious and the tiny pieces of feta and the slight barbecue flavour was dynamite. They got my picky room mate’s approval too, so I think I did a pretty good job!
Meatball mission: Use as many items from the fridge door as possible!

I kind of burnt a couple of them, I was a little distracted when I was ‘browning’ them–

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Food

Dorm Cooking 101: Ugly Cheesecake

Cheesecake is one of my favorite cakes. I love the fact that two of my favorite foods, sugar and cheese can come together in this amazingly creamy combo. I always thought cheesecake is one of the hardest things to make– mostly because it resembles a souffle of some sort– but I assure you it’s the easiest. If I can make it in my ill equipped university dorm room, so can you. If you’re a university student you probably have lemons, eggs, sugar and even cheese lying around at home.
This recipe is improvised based on what I have, how much I am willing to use and what is available to me. Dorm food is all about being minimalistic, so you don’t need too much more than the basics.

Ingredients

Cheesecake
– 1 package of cream cheese (The regular size, I believe it’s 250g)
– 1 egg
– 1 tablespoon of flour
– 1 teaspoon of baking powder
– 4-5 tablespoons of sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
– 1 graham cracker crust (If you want to make it from scratch, it’s simply 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs & 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir it together until the texture looks like moist sand and press it against your pan. Stick it in the oven at 350 for about 15-20 mins) 

Topping
– 3 tablespoons of sugar
– Juice of half lemon
– Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries (as many as you want)

Beat an egg into the with the flour and sugar and add softened cream cheese. Add vanilla essence. Mix/fold/beat until it is smooth. Mine was lumpy because I’m lazy, so I didn’t bother. Works both ways.
Pour this mixture into the store brought graham cracker crust. I bought it from the store because it’s super easy and I’m lazy. You can also beat/crush biscuits like Digestive, Graham Crackers or Ginger Snaps in a blender or by hand and add some butter and line a baking tray with it for a crust.
Back to the mixture– bake it for about 20 minutes or until the top is firm. When the top is firm, pull it out and stick it in the fridge over night. You can make the topping the night before or the next day, I would suggest next day (as in the day you eat it) because old strawberries do not look as appetizing.
For the topping, heat some butter in a pan and toss the strawberries in. As they soften and a pink liquid forms, add the sugar and lemon juice. You should have a sticky red syrup with strawberries floating in it. It’s pretty easy, don’t go for perfection. Taste it.
Pour this on top of your set cheesecake and enjoy!

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Food

Dorm Cooking 101: No Measurements Pasta

Cooking in your dorm room means that you have to improvise and use what you have. Luckily, my dorm room for the summer is located within 10 minutes of three different 24 hour grocery stores. However, because this is Dorm Food 101, there are no measurements and all ingredients (except for the spaghetti) are optional.
If there are no measurements, how do you know the pasta turned out alright? Like all great chefs, taste it from time to time.

Ingredients (Makes two servings)
– Asparagus
– Broccoli
– Mushrooms
– Feta/Mozarella/Cheddar/Parmesan (you choose)
– Tomato sauce/tomato puree/tomato paste
– Onions
– Garlic
– Salt & pepper
– Cream/Milk/Yoghurt
– Pasta, cooked.

Chop the onions and garlic and fry them, add your alternative to chopped tomatoes. Add cream or alternatives. While you’re chopping/frying, steam the asparagus and broccoli. Plop the vegetables into the sauce and add your cooked pasta.

I used feta, tomato paste and cream.

You can add meat if you like, but I was too lazy to cut and clean the chicken I have in my freezer.

Preparation time: 10 minutes (excluding the time taken to steam vegetables and cook the pasta)

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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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