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Who would’ve guessed that it would be hard to blog about food when school is actually in session? Mallory and I both get incredibly swamped and not only do we not have the time to blog about food, we barely have time to make food!

One cool night during fall when I was feeling like I needed a break from the constant of school, I decided to make warm soup. I found a recipe at The Food Network for basic vegetable soup. I’ve gotten into the habit of listening to cooking playlists while I’m in the kitchen, thanks to the wonderful playlist website Songza. You should check it out for all occasions, including cooking. For this meal, the Frank Sinatra playlist was PERFECT — you should definitely listen to it while preparing vegetable soup! My prep took longer than the projected ten minutes because I’m not an experienced vegetable cutter… yet. I substituted the chicken broth for Trader Joe’s Organic Low Sodium Vegetable broth in order to make my soup vegan. Since I lacked orzo noodles, I used pasta shells which made my soup surprisingly more enjoyable. The recipe made a little less than four servings, and I recommend making a double batch and freezing your leftovers for a later date. My friend Alyssa gave me some shared her mom’s trick with me: save your leftovers in mugs for the perfect portion! If you freeze the whole thing, you’d have to thaw the entire batch. By placing a ziploc bag into a mug and filling it with soup to freeze, you can thaw only one serving and are able to let the rest remain frozen. You should definitely do this if you’re tight on time like the typical college student!

Lesson learned: Cooking playlists make kitchen time even better

- B

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This summer, I made a lot of guacamole. I repeat, A LOT of guacamole. I realize this recipe is a little not in season now (because I tried to make it again recently and it’s very difficult to find appropriate avocados lately), but I forgot to post this earlier. Whoops. 

I used this recipe and followed it almost exactly (I added a bit more lime juice because that’s how I like it) and it tasted wonderfully. It produced a very large amount of guacamole appropriate for a gathering of 3-5 individuals, but I managed to go into a food coma by eating it all with one other person (over the span of two days).

I definitely recommend making guacamole at any point because it’s super delicious. I even added this to a sandwich once and it was beyond awesome. I’m excited to try this recipe for avocado pasta the next time I can get my hands on some ripe avocados. 

Lesson learned: Guacamole might only be enjoyed during the summer

- B

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Buttered noodles are my comfort food. They’re what my best friend from high school made me whenever I had a bad day and they’re my go to order at Noodles and Co. So one night when I was feeling a little bleh, we decided to conjure up some buttered noodles with a twist. 

This meal is extremely simple and perfect for a rainy day. First, we cooked some broccoli and then set it aside while we boiled our noodles (and then drained them) and added a bit of butter to the mix (I can’t remember how much), along with some parmesan cheese. We then thew in our already cooked broccoli and seasoned individually (Justin decided to add some sriracha sauce for an extra kick). 

Lesson learned: comfort food can be one of the easiest things to make

- B

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I’m very particular when it comes to smoothies — I don’t like them to have dairy included. This is something I’ve always prepared since I was a kid — I’m much more fond of having them be juice based without any milk added. 

After buying a huge box of peaches at Trader Joe’s, we had to come up with ways to use them before they went bad. Thus, we decided to make Peach Banana smoothies (we added more juice than called for and didn’t add yogurt). We also wanted to make these Chunky Peach Popsicles, but we ran out of peaches. 

This recipe was relatively simple. First we added the ice, followed by bananas that we sliced directly into the blender. We left the skin on the peaches and then cut them into four pieces and removed the seed before adding them to our creation. Last, we added the orange juice. All in all, this took about ten minutes to make and was a great cool down to a warm day. 

Lesson learned: fruit spoils super fast, so it’s better to only buy for three days instead of bulking up.

- B

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I made another recipe from Kate Legere’s Intoxicated Cupcakes — this time with booze! I invited my friends Ann (good luck at grad school!) and Michael (enjoy Europe!) over to make some Dark and Stormy Cupcakes (page 57). The ingredients consisted of butter, ginger beer, rum, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ginger, flour, sugar, salt, eggs, buttermilk, and baking soda. Before this, I didn’t even know ginger beer existed, but it’s similar to root beer in that it’s not alcoholic. If you’re a fan of ginger ale, you’ll definitely enjoy ginger beer. 

We had to grind our own ginger (something I had never seen in its natural form before). We essentially mixed all of the ingredients in a giant mixing bowl. However, the mix seemed a little too liquid-y when compared to the other cupcakes we’ve made previously. 

We poured the cakes into my cupcake maker, but they took much longer than we thought they would to cook. My cupcake maker is supposed to cook the cakes much faster than an oven, but we cooked them longer than the recipe requested. We checked them frequently, but each time the cupcakes had a weird consistency like they weren’t completely cooked. However, when I placed a fork in them, it came out completely clean. The consistency made me really nervous, but we eventually took them out after they had cooked for 25 minutes. 

Again, we chose to use store bought frosting because we didn’t have the main ingredient (cream cheese) to make it. Next time, I will definitely make homemade frosting because I was disappointed in the chocolate frosting that I purchased. 

Overall, the cupcakes were still tasty, but the consistency of the cupcakes really made me nervous about whether the cupcakes were actually cooked or not. The flavors of ginger, cinnamon, rum, and chocolate mixed really well together and I would have enjoyed them a lot more without the added anxiety. 

Lesson learned: Alcohol is a weird thing to use when baking

- B

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My aunt bought me some cool popsicle molds and I decided to try them out on a whim. I’m a huge fan of eating pickles as snacks (I know this is gross to some of you, but it’s a common thing in Texas — they serve them at the movies!!) and when I finished my jar of pickles, I decided to use the leftover juice to make popsicles. Probably not the best move. While I don’t mind drinking pickle juice, in a frozen state, something was a little off. Maybe I should have added some water to the mix to dilute it a bit or something. Overall, I don’t recommend doing this. However, I’m excited to make these in the future. 

Lesson learned: Pickle juice popsicles are not a great idea. 

- B

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This meal includes my all time favorite thing I’ve ever made!!! Justin and I had our awesome friend Matt over for a Mexican themed dinner extravaganza. We made avocado and mango salad, along with some basic quesadillas.

Avocados and mangos are both some of my favorite snacks so I was very excited when I found a recipe that listed both of them as main ingredients. I found this awesome recipe at FoodNetwork.com. I modified it slightly by doubling the mango (and leaving out the pineapple because Justin is allergic) and lime juice (because I forgot to buy orange juice), and ignoring the jicama/radish suggestion. This was THE BEST and very easy to make. You simply dice some avocados and mangos, and then add in some cilantro, lime juice, vegetable oil, and salt. This makes a great appetizer for any Mexican night and I definitely recommend. I wish it was acceptable to have this as a main course!

For the quesadillas, we heated refried beans in a pot and then seared green and red peppers in a skillet. Then, we heated our tortillas in the skillet, after spraying it with non-sticking oil. After that, we added whatever ingredients we wanted (beans, peppers, tomatos, and cheese) and then put them on the skillet again to let the cheese get melty. We cut our quesadillas into four pieces with a pizza slicer and had mango salsa (purchased ready made from Jewel Osco) on the side for dipping. Overall, quesadillas are an easy meal to make if you’re having people over as it easily allows for individual customization without affecting the meal choices of the other guests. 

Lesson learned: Tweaking recipes to include more of your favorite ingredients and to leave out ingredients you don’t like works well if you do it in moderation so that what you add in is canceled out by what you left out. 

- B

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I think salad is the perfect meal during the summer. When it’s hot, eating heavy or hot food can make you feel uncomfortable. Salads are cold and light and you can put whatever you want in them. Justin and I had a bunch of strawberries and mangos around so we found a recipe for Strawberry Salad via an app called Food on the Table.

The salad only took 15 minutes to make. We were supposed to let it chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours, but we ate it immediately because we’re bad at planning ahead. The recipe called for strawberries, mixed salad greens, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, walnuts, and balsamic vinegar. We added some mangos for fun. 

We roasted the walnuts in my toaster oven (and may have burned them a tiny bit) and then mixed all of the ingredients in a GIANT mixing bowl. I’ve gotta say, adding cinnamon to salad is THE BEST IDEA EVER, but I’m obsessed with cinnamon, so…

This salad was a wonderful summer meal that’s extremely tasty and super easy to make. I definitely recommend it on a night that you need to make a quick meal!

Lesson learned: Cinnamon should be added to everything

- B

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We made our very own pizza! Considering pizza is a staple in the typical college student’s diet, this was very exciting. What we did for this ended up being very simple, and we’re hoping to be a bit more extravagant next time (as in making our own mozzarella and dough). 

We purchased pre-made dough from Trader Joe’s because it was only $1.19 which seemed unbeatable and we had decided to make a pizza on a whim (upon seeing the cheap dough). We rolled it out … with a wine bottle because a) we didn’t have a rolling pin and b) we had just finished a bottle of wine. FYI, wine bottles make excellent rolling pins. 

Next, we spread out the pizza sauce (again something that was pre-mixed courtesy of Trader Joe’s) and added generous amounts of spinach (which we had to thaw because it was frozen and store bought), followed with a heaping sprinkling of mozzarella. 

Our pizza took a square shape because that was the biggest pan we had available to us. We baked the pizza at 375F until the cheese was a nice golden color as shown. The pizza was DELICIOUS and I can’t wait to make more of the ingredients myself. 

Lesson learned: Wine bottles can be used as rolling pins.

- B

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As a moving in present, my favorite aunt Melissa bought me a cook book by Kate Legere, entitled Intoxicated Cupcakes. The book consists of 41 recipes that add alcohol to cupcake recipes, either through the batter or the frosting or both. However, I left out the alcohol the first time because I was too excited to make cupcakes that I didn’t have time to buy the alcohol at the store. 

I made Legere’s Buttery Cinnamony Cupcakes, found on page 22. I won’t list the exact ingredient amounts (because I think you should buy her cute book), but it calls for flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, salt, butter, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, milk, and butterscotch schnapps. 

The cooking time was cut roughly in half thanks to my lovely cupcake maker that my even lovelier grandmother bought me (which is adorable and looks like a giant cupcake). 

We chose not to follow the icing recipe as we were planning on replicating the icing we had created for our cinnamon rolls. BUT, we hit a speed bump. That icing calls for powdered sugar… and I had thought that powdered and granulated sugar were interchangeable. They’re not. Thus, we made Justin run to the store to pick up some frosting and that’s we used to finish the cupcakes, after sprinkling some cinnamon on top. 

These cakes were absolutely delicious and super easy to make! Plus, the cupcakes encouraged all of my friends to come hang out at my apartment for a bit. I’ve already made them again since the first time, and I added a strawberry on top of each one to spice them up a bit. However, I did cut the recipe in half the second time — my friends and I didn’t come close to finishing the 24 cupcakes the first time around. 

Lesson learned: Powdered sugar and granulated sugar are NOT the same thing.

- B