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!


  • 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!


Dorm Cooking 101: Fridge Soup & Chevre-Mushroom Crostini

I live about 15 hours (by flight) away from my mom and one of the things she often worries about is the food I eat. One of the things she remembers well about my university is the fact that most eateries are fast food places and that there is no green grocer close by. This means that I can’t get fresh vegetables as often as she’d like me to and this worries her a lot. I was brought up eating good, fresh food straight from my mother’s little kitchen garden, so you can see why she worries about the lack of fresh food. Doesn’t get any fresher than a kitchen garden!

It’s definitely difficult to eat well in university what with all the running around, the time consuming assignments and lack of convenient access to good home cooked food. Luckily enough, during my second year, my university residence began a program called the Good Food Box program. For $12 every two weeks you can order in a Good Food Box which contains a mix of fresh, local fruits and vegetables.

I first made this soup when my fridge was full of Good Food Box vegetables. I thought a soup would be the best way to incorporate a little bit of every vegetable and make a little space in my fridge. However, a little bit of every vegetable is a giant pot of soup that went back in the fridge and was eaten over a span of three days. That’s pretty much why I call it fridge soup. It’s a very convenient thing to have in the fridge because all you have to do is heat it up in the microwave for a couple of minutes and it’s a hearty, filling meal each time. Unlike some foods, the flavour does not deteriorate from just sitting around in the fridge. I believe it should last about a week in the refrigerator. Although this is still a no-no when it comes to my mother’s idea of fresh, it is a much healthier and purer alternative to what is offered on campus!

You can make the soup with pretty much any vegetables you have in your fridge. I kind of wish I had butternut squash for this one, it’s one of my favorite things to put in a soup!

Without further ado, here’s a picture & recipe!

Sorry for the terrible colour/lighting, it looks like murky kitchen sink water in this picture. I often experiment for dinner (so it’s dark by then) and I only have yellow light in my room! I promise you though, it was wonderfully vibrant and delicious smelling. Nothing like kitchen sink water.

You can use any vegetables you want, but to give you an idea, here’s an ingredient list.

Ingredients (Makes enough for about four-five bowls of soup)

Half an onion
1 carrot
1/4 of a green pepper
1 tomato
About 4 to 5 florets of cauliflower
2 spring onions
4 large button mushrooms
3 small cremini mushrooms
1/2 a zucchini
1 stick of celery
1/4th cup of corn
A couple of cloves of garlic
*Other vegetables you can use are: Butternut squash, radish, parsnip, potato, eggplant, okra, spinach, kale, cabbage.
Half a cup of mixture of beans and lentils (I bought this from the store, it’s all sorts of beans and lentils in one package, called a lentil soup mix. Remember to pre-soak this the night before)
Half a teaspoon of thyme
A chicken breast
Some olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
About 3-4 cups of chicken stock

Prepare the chicken breast the way you like it. I like all my chicken marinated in garlic and ginger so it doesn’t smell so chickeny. I then fried it a little bit before I made the soup to get a little golden crust on it.

Prepare your vegetables by cutting them all up into bite size chunks.

Start your soup by frying half a sliced onion and a peeled (genius, quick way to do it: cut the skin with a knife and drop the tomato in a pot of boiling water for about 5-10 seconds and the skin comes right off), cubed tomato in some olive oil. Fry till the onion is translucent then add the chunky bits starting with the lentil-bean mixture and the vegetables that take longest to cook and ending with the vegetables that cook quickest, in this case mushrooms and peppers. Pop in your chicken, chicken stock, thyme, salt and pepper. Let the soup boil away until the vegetables and lentils are tender with a bite and not too mushy. When it begins to bubble throw in some chopped up spring onion and let it boil for a couple of more minutes. Take it off the stove, serve in a big bowl and enjooooy.

At home, my mother often serves soup with some sort of crusty bread with a topping. On lazy days its baked beans and mozarella on crusty bread and on her I-love-to-cook days it’s her own creations that often consist of more healthy vegetables and meat.

I’ve been in love with goat cheese since I ate it on a burger at The Football Factory at the Spain-Paraguay semi-final. I’ve been dreaming about it since. Today I was determined to be creative like my mom and eat my soup with crusty bread avec topping. So I kept the goat cheese in mind when I went grocery shopping. At the bakery, I found some beautiful Italian crusty bread and at the supermarket I found a small sized, affordable chevre. Perfect.

Here’s what I did with it and my 2 for $4 cremini mushrooms

Ingredients (Makes 4 crostini)
Crusty Italian bread or French baguette
1 1/2 tablespoon of chevre
1/4 of an onion
6 cremini mushrooms
1 clove of garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste
Roast chicken slices
Mozzarella cheese

Cut the Italian bread into slices so you have little round crostini that’s perfect for toppings. Fry chopped up mushrooms with sliced onions, minced ginger and salt and pepper to taste. Take it off the stove once the mushrooms are brown and let them sit. You let them sit because they release water and you wanna drain the water before you add the chevre. Once the water is released, drain it and add the chevre and mix. Top each slice of bread with the mixture , top with half a slice of chicken and grate some mozzarella over it. Stick it in the oven, on the top most rack for a couple of minutes and serve with the soup!

I know the crostini recipe doesn’t count as dorm food but I currently am living in a dorm and I made it, so can you!