Mission Statement

Culinary Adventures in a College Kitchen

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Life = Complete

I need to share something with you all. Earlier this month I sent Giada DeLaurentiis a tweet. It had something to do with her cookies or something (rather silly, actually) and I never expected her to actually read it or respond.

My life is officially complete.

Oh..and if you have a twitter feel free to follow me! I occasionally say amusing things.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pasta Ponza

Yesterday I was intent on making myself a real dinner. I have been a bit lax with my cooking lately, living on cafeteria sandwiches and frozen veggie burgers. It's not that I haven't had time because I have. It is just so much easier to have someone else make you a panini. Or to throw a frozen burger into the microwave and press go. Presto! Dinner in seconds.

All of you were the ones to finally get me into the kitchen. I thought, I want to post but I'm not going to write about veggie burgers and frozen vegetables. So, I sat in our library and instead of doing my readings for my class I leafed through Giada at Home and chose my dinner.

I did all of this at 9 in the morning, too.

I found a nice quick pasta dish that only required me buying one ingredient. It also used copious amounts of cheese and breadcrumbs which pretty much sold me on the dish. It is a very easy recipe and will be one that I will be making again and again. Seriously, easy AND cheesy?! How can you not make this dish?

Pasta Ponza


Unsalted butter for greasing
2 cups red cherry tomatoes halved
2 cups yellow cherry tomatoes halved
1/4 cup capers
1 tbsp olive oil plus more for drizzling
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of blackpepper
1/2 cup Italian style dried breadcrumbs
1 pound ziti
1 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano grated
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf pasta


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8 x 8 glass baking dish and add the tomatoes, capers, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix to combine and then sprinkle on the bread crumbs. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown.

Meanwhile, boil the ziti according to the package's instructions, roughly 8-10 minutes.

Drain pasta and save 1 cup of cooking water. Add the pasta to the tomato-bread crumb mixture and toss to coat the pasta. Add pasta water where necessary and all of the cheese.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Salmon and Warm Olive and Tomato Salad

I consider myself an accomplished cook yet as of yesterday I had never ordered meat/fish from a butcher. I've cooked with meat and fish. I've been up to my elbows in homemade meatballs and seasoned chicken breasts. I just always got the meat from the prepackaged meat aisles.

I'd like to say that this was simply a product of convenience but it really comes down to one thing. Butchers scare me. Something about them intimidates me, maybe it's the white aprons or my inferior knowledge of cuts. Whatever the reasons, I pushed past them yesterday and ordered my salmon.

So, fear conquered! If only conquering all my other fears led to a meal...

Salmon and Warm Olive and Tomato Salad


4 6 oz salmon filets
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 stalk of celery with leaves (from inside)
1/2 cup kalamata olives
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tbs plus 1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp honey
pinch salt


Whisk together 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, honey, and salt in a small bowl. Place the salmon skin side down on a broiling pan and brush tops and sides with honey glaze. Broil for 4-6 minutes.

In a small sauce pan combine the remaining oil, vinegar, salt, and kalamata olives. Heat until the oil begins to bubble, roughly 3 minutes. Put into a bowl and add the halved tomatoes and chopped celery. Stir to combine.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cafe Descartes

Good morning everyone!!

You may not know this about me but I sort of like coffee. And by sort of like I mean that I give Lorelai Gilmore a run for her money. Living in the city, I am determined to test what Chicago has to offer and find the best non-Starbucks coffee.

A note on Starbucks- I don't dislike the place. We all know I am a slave to their pumpkin spice lattes and they make a darn good cappuccino. The problem is that every city has a Starbucks. There is nothing unique about them. There is nothing special.

Enter Cafe Descartes

This place is ├╝ber-cool. The decor features a slew of philosophers and it has a really European and relaxed vibe.

Oh, and there's coffee.

While the cafe really did not work for the studying I intended on doing there (the music was WAY too loud) I thought the coffee was decent. While it is not the best coffee I've had in the city (Intelligentsia and Lavazza-more on that later) it still was decent and I would go back just for the ambiance. And to see the owner ranting in a foreign language. Free entertainment, anyone?

So, if you are ever in Chicago make sure to check out Cafe Descartes!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weekend Shenanigans

So it has definitely been awhile since I have posted. This is Jen by the way if you haven’t figure it out yet. I have been super busy with sorority recruitment but we have some beautiful new women meaning more fun stories and awesome cooking nights!

In honor of the new Sigmas I made a batch of peanut butter cookies but shaped them into my sorority letters! My roommate enjoyed them so I figured it was safe for me to put them on this here blog.



Above it my lovely roommate Kelley or Kell-ay! She’s holding a piece of the cookie which sadly broke but it just tastes just the same!

After baking, I took a trip to see my boyfriend who goes to grad school about 45 minutes away. For the remainder of the weekend we socialized with some of his high school friends, I went shopping and drank some delicious Pinot Grigio.

The Pinot Grigio was leftover from this amazing dish the boy made me. Flounder with a Wine sauce. He is definitely a better cook than I am. But I like to think I can bake better so it’s the perfect combination :)


The fish has a side of mashed potatoes with garlic and butter. The wine sauce was absolutely amazing with red onion, diced tomatoes, garlic and some basil. If I could have extra sauce on the side just to eat I would but I’m pretty sure it would taste better with fish or chicken.

By far one of the best fish meals I have had!

Unfortunately reality is calling as well as homework so goodnight!

Simple Chocolate Croissants

I've never been a big fan of croissants. I know they're supposed to be all buttery and flaky but every croissant that I have eaten has been dry and, well, underwhelming. That is, until I found this gem of a recipe on Joy the Baker.

Now, before the "from-scratch" police start coming after me I have to say from the get-go that this recipe is what Sandra Lee would refer to as semi-homemade. It uses store-bought puff pastry dough but this allows you to create the flakiest, richest, most decadent mini chocolate croissants in less than 30 minutes.

Getting excited yet?

All you need is puff pastry dough, dark chocolate, an egg, and some sea salt. Sounds easy right? And the best part is that it really is easy. This will turn into one of those recipes you keep in your back pocket to whip on a moment's notice. And trust me, it is rarely disappoints.

Simple Chocolate Croissants

Excuse the poor quality of this pic- my camera was having a hissy fit


Puff Pasty Dough (defrosted in the fridge for 2-3 hours) **
Dark chocolate
One beaten egg
Sea Salt


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take your defrosted puff pastry and put it on a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin roll the dough out about one inch on each side. Next, cut the dough into rectangles and then the rectangles into triangles.

Place a small piece of dark chocolate at the bottom of the triangle and fold up toward the point, pressing around the chocolate to seal it in. Fold once more and turn in the ends so that it looks like a croissant.

Brush a bit of the beaten egg on top of the croissant and add a pinch of sea salt. Immediately turn the oven down to 400 degrees and put in the croissants. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the bottoms turn brown.

** If you forget to defrost your puff pastry dough you can put it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Just make sure to watch it carefully so that it doesn't get too soft.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Honey-Almond Tofu

Tofu and I are having a moment.

I bought a few packages from Trader Joes and have been unable to stop thinking of it since. I stay up late at night dreaming up recipes. I steal glances each time I open the fridge. It's getting distracting, people. I want to scramble it. I want to bake it. I want to fry it.

With a little help from my girl Deena (Eat, Drink, Be Vegan) I settled on baking it. And then changed her entire recipe. It started out as ginger-cashew tofu. But then I saw that I had no cashew butter. Or ginger. It's a wonder that I had the tofu. So, with a little ingenuity I changed up the recipe and came up with something so darn tasty that I nearly licked the baking dish. Nearly.

Honey-Almond Tofu

1 package of tofu
1/2 cup of almond butter
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 1/2 tablespoons tamari
2 heaping tablespoons honey
1/4 cup water

Combine all ingredients besides the tofu and use a fork to mix into a paste. There will be some chunks of almond left. Next, cube the tofu. Take the sauce and cover the bottom of an 8 x 13 baking dish. Add the tofu and then the remaining sauce. Let this marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Take off the aluminum foil and turn over the tofu. Cook for 5-7 minutes uncovered.

Serve with brown rice.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Polenta Pancakes

Good Morning!

Last night my friend Chrissy stayed for the night. We met wwwayyy back in high school but have still managed to keep in touch.

Chrissy and I: Behold the bangs. I kind of miss them.

Chrissy stayed over in order for us to watch the VMAs and consume an endless amount of sugar-laden snacks. There were pop tarts. There were cookies. And there was a particularly yummy Greek chocolate bar that I pretty much ate half of. Enough about my "lost night", though.

This morning I figured that we needed something a bit more wholesome so I whipped out my Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan and similarly whipped up a batch of the polenta pancakes.

It was my first time making these and while I have to point out that the preparations are a bit messy, they really are easy to make and turned out wonderfully. Even early in the morning with my eyes still bleary from sleep (and my fears that the olive oil I was using would make the pancakes all funky) they came out edible. And dare I say, delicious?

Polenta Pancakes

1 tube of prepared polenta
canola oil (I used olive oil)
Maple syrup


Start off by unwrapping the polenta and taking a vegetable peeler to peel away the waxier outer layer of the polenta. Next, slice the polenta into 1/4 inch discs. In a small bowl mix together the cinnamon and sugar and dredge the polenta slices in it.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a nonstick skillet. Add the polenta slices (you will have to do two flights of them) and cook the first side for 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for 2 minutes. Remove the polenta and sprinkle with any remaining cinnamon and sugar.

Serving with maple syrup is optional BUT I think it really made a difference in the taste.

** Dreena Burton recommends serving these with sliced bananas which I think is pretty much a rad idea. If you are like me, though, and are going through a banana-dry-spell, don't fret. They are just as good without them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mommy's Cookies

So I just got my car back from my brother who took it over Labor Day Weekend and I was quite pleased to see what I found in the back of my car...pause for dramatic effect...

Cookies and Muffins!

Chocolate chip walnut and oatmeal cookies and oatmeal muffins along with pineapple carrot muffins. All so delicious but I have to make sure I don't eat them all at once. I should savor them while they are here.

What is your favorite thing that your mom/dad/whoever made you when you were younger?

I did have a pineapple carrot one for a snack when I got back from class which will hopefully keep me full until dinner time!
This is definitely going to be a short post because I have a bit of homework to finish off as well as Bid Night for my sorority so I have to start getting ready :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Letter to Panda Express

Dear Panda Express,

Please stop making your orange chicken. It is too tasty and I am utterly powerless in resisting its gummy, starchy goodness. So please, for the sake of my waistline, put it to one side and come up with something less scrumptious.



Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Banana Bread Caper

Good morning!

Jen here on this gloomy Wednesday morning in Chicago but I am surprisingly in a good mood
because 1) My two hour class was cancelled and 2) I have a bright highlighter green shirt on! I love bright color shirts, they put me in a better mood and I think they are fun!

Exhibit A:

But I was quite sad when I was looking forward to a big slice of the banana bread I made last night, but when I went into the kitchen, there was only 1/3 of the loaf left and there were two of them last night!

I think it is time to call in the authorities because we have a banana bread caper on the loose!

I was happy to say that I did slice myself a piece of banana and kept to the theme of bananas for all of breakfast!

Exhibit B: Banana bread, banana granola on top yogurt and bananas! Oh and pineapple.

Disregard the fact that pineapple is not sticking with the theme completely. It was worth it though, I assure you! It was so sweet and juicy!

I may have more later while I work on some of my reading before class. Or perhaps I will have another slice of banana bread before the caper returns.

Enjoy your day!