Mission Statement

Culinary Adventures in a College Kitchen

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

Ever hear this? In my experience, it's true. Tell a guy that you cook and suddenly you're the most interesting person in the room. Tell them you cook bacon; well, you might as well just get those marriage certificates ready.

I honestly don't understand the mystical power that bacon seems to have over guys. Saturday I had my housewarming party and I had an entire menu planned with a variety of foods. I had hummus with veggies and pita chips. Gorgonzola and cherry tomato pizzettes. Chickpea and sundried tomato pizzettes.

Do you know what I ended up whipping another batch of half way through the party? The bacon wrapped asparagus that I decided to make fifteen minutes before the party started. The guys were literally obsessed with these. They finished an entire platter in ten minutes.

Therefore, I think that old adage of how to get to a man's heart needs a little sprucing up.

The way to a man's heart is through bacon.

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus


1 package of bacon
1 bunch of asparagus


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Clean the asparagus, and break the stalks.

Next, wrap half a slice of bacon around the asparagus, leaving the tips and bottom visible. Arrange on a baking sheet and sprinkle salt and pepper.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the bacon is cooked and asparagus tender. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lemon Lentil Soup

This week has been a whirlwind of moving trucks, interviews, and meetings. I moved into my new apartment Sunday and have been busy making countless trips to Bed Bath & Beyond and Whole Foods. I never realized how exhausting it is to stock an entire kitchen. So many things that I took for granted.

Like, ketchup? BBQ sauce? Rice? Yep, they don't just magically appear in your pantry. They aren't just chilling in the back of your fridge like they are at home, waiting for you to pull them out. You actually have to buy them. I must have gone to the grocery store five times since I've moved in with each subsequent "I forgot to buy ___!" moment. My doorman must think that all I do is grocery shop.

I finally got down to cooking my first meal a few days ago. I knew I had an entire day to myself and could think of no better way to utilize it than to dirty up my kitchen. Despite the sweltering Chicago weather, I wanted soup. To be more exact, I wanted amazing soup. Awesome soup. Mama Pea soup.

Lemon Lentil Soup


4 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3/4 tsp coriander
4 cups broth
1 cup red lentils (Do not sub in brown for these! Makes all the difference!)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp raw cashews (plus another cup to nosh on while cooking if your name is Liz)
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
salt/pepper to taste


Heat a soup pot over medium heat and add oil. Add the carrots, celery, and coriander and cook until the vegetables are tender, roughly 10 minutes. Next, add the broth and lentils. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, covering the pot. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked.

Meanwhile, make your cashew cream. In a food processor, combine the cashews and lemon juice. Wash and chop spinach. If you are like me and bought the unpackaged bundle spinach that was on sale at Whole Foods, feel free to use colorful language here.

Once the lentils are done, stir in the cashew cream and spinach until everything is evenly heated. Finally, eat.

Source: Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Series of Firsts

In life there are many firsts.

First word.

First step.

First kiss.

And now...

First banana soft serve.

Yes, it was a momentous occasion my friends. Pictures were taken. Tweets were sent. One taste and I couldn't believe how I had lived so long without it. To quote one of my favorite films:

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Taste of Fall: Pumpkin Parfait

I love Fall.

I love the changing leaves.

Crisp weather.

Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

Cozy Coats.

Cozy Sweaters.

To me, Fall is curling up on a couch with a book and tea while swaddled in the warmest, coziest blanket. It's walks through the city with friends. Dinner parties with warm soups and bread pudding. I clearly see it all through rose-tinted, pumpkin-scented glasses, but Fall still truly is my favorite season. And I look forward to it every year.

Now, why isn't it Fall yet??

Pumpkin Parfait


1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
2 tbsp crushed almonds
4 dates, sliced
slurry of maple syrup

Combine all ingredients and enjoy. Feel free to position yours on the last Harry Potter book, too, and hold a photo shoot. Only makes it taste better ;)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Caramelized Onion and Chickpea Wrap

The past week can be described with one word. Insane. I'm moving into my very first apartment soon (!!!) and my days have been filled with trips to Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and the host of cleaning supplies in our basement. Hey--why buy 'em when you can shop in your own basement!

While it's been a bit stressful, I'm starting to get really excited. I've never had a place that is completely mine. After living in a dorm room with three other girls, I'm looking forward to the perks of just being on my own.

No sharing the TV.

No fighting for space in a cubicle of a kitchen.

Singing as loudly as I want in the shower.

(Although I did this at the dorm too...)

Using the entire sitting room as a drying area for my Royal Icing Cookies.

(Also did this at the dorm---it's a wonder they liked me)

With all of the pandemonium with moving into the apartment, we really haven't had time to cook here. After several days of powdered soup, I caved and broke out the pots and pans. This came together in about fifteen minutes and surprised even me in how delicious it was. Definitely something I will be whipping up again. Perhaps in the new apartment ;)

Caramelized Onion and Chickpea Wrap


1 onion, sliced
1/2 cup chickpeas
1 wheat wrap
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter (or Earth Balance)
1 tsp brown sugar


Place a saute pan over medium heat. Once it is properly heated, add the oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add the onion. Cook until the onion has reduced. At the end, add the brown sugar and stir.

Pour the chickpeas into the pan an toss with the onions to heat. Next, place the onion-chickpea mixture in the wrap, folding up the bottom and then turning the sides in. Fold the top flap over and then cut at middle.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ginger Beer

Earlier this week I went to dinner with my old neighbors. We have a tradition of going out at least once over breaks and we always go to PF Changs.

There are many reasons to love PF Changs. For starters, it has reproduction terra cotta soldiers chillin' in the dining area. If you don't think that is cool, well, then there is something wrong with you. And then you have the lettuce wraps, which hardly need an introduction. The crispy honey shrimp that I possibly ate in its entirety (8..err..9 shrimp...plus several lettuce wraps). The cute little shooter desserts.

And now Ginger Beer gets added to the list.

It is non-alcoholic. Just a lot of ginger goodness. Warning--it is not for the ginger-faint-of-heart. Even me, a ginger lover, pulled a little lemon face when I first tasted it. But once your taste buds acclimate to the tartness-which takes no time at all-you are left with a delicious, refreshing drink.


Ginger Beer

Fresh lemon juice
Fresh ginger, grated

Combine the lemon and ginger, adding more or less ginger/lemon to your taste preferences. Sweeten as much as you desire!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Caramel and Macadamia Cheesecake

This cheesecake made me realize several valuable things.

- I never put my springform pan back in the correct spot. Thus, I can never find it.

- I cannot spell springform. For most of this post I've typed springfoarm. Yes, I am one year away from being college educated.

- Caramel is much harder to make than it looks.

- Remnants of said caramel on pans is much harder to get off than it looks.

The cheesecake was part of a challenge from the Heavenly Housewife's blog. With my love of all things cheese and dessert, my participation was a no-brainer. It's a bit more involved than my usual dessert, but definitely manageable. Believe me, if I can make it while belting Glee songs and slamming cabinet doors looking for that damn springform pan, anyone can.

Caramel and Macadamia Cheesecake


1 1/4 cup graham crackers, crushed
4 1/2 tbsp butter

2 blocks cream cheese
1 small package sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs

1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup macadamia nuts (or your choice)

1 cup sugar
6 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the cake:

Melt the butter for the crust in a microwave save bowl. Add the crushed graham crackers and mix together. Press into the bottom of a springform pan. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugar. Add the cream cheese, breaking it into smaller pieces before adding it to the bowl. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla. Pour over the graham cracker crust. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the top is firm. Let cool on a wire rack.

For the nut topping:

In your preheated oven, roast the nuts for 10-15 minutes. Remove and let cool on a parchment covered cookie sheet. Meanwhile, heat the sugar in a heavy bottomed skillet.

Do not stir. When the sugar has turned golden brown, pour over the nuts. Once cooled, break into uneven pieces.

For the caramel sauce:

In a heavy bottomed soup pan, heat the sugar with the same method as above. Once it has turned golden brown add the butter and whisk vigorously. When the sugar has dissolved, remove the pan from heat and pour in the milk. Mix together and then set aside to cool.

Combine all ingredients once cooled. And...enjoy!

Make sure to check out the other bakers!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Spicy African Peanut Soup

Two months ago I started an internship with a local non-profit. To say that it was a change for me would be an understatement. Suddenly I was waking up at 7:30, neck-deep in Excel sheets, and constantly accidentally hanging up on people because of the office phone. A note on that last one, when people say that using an office phone is easy, they are lying. Seriously. With all those buttons and flashing lights. If you are even slightly technologically challenged watch out.

Another new thing to me was packing my own lunch. The last time I had a packed lunch was high school. And my mother may or may not have packed it for me. Now, though, I obviously can't ask my mom to do it for me. She would, of course, but the heckling I'd receive would far out-weight the extra ten minutes in the morning.

In an effort to have smooth mornings, I've taken to bringing soup to work. First, I used those powdered ones that grocery stores carry. But then I microwaved one and my coworker thought I was burning down the office. Yes, it did smell that bad. So, I threw away the powdered soup with enough sodium for five years, and instead made my own.

You may recognize this recipe. If not, you'll surely recognize the cookbook.

A little note on this cookbook. It is the most amazing thing that will ever pass through your hands. It is vegan without being preachy. The recipes don't include ingredients that cost you a kidney. And it is peppered with the most adorable pictures. Buy it. Now.

Spicy African Peanut Soup


1 14 oz can chickpeas
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 can roasted tomatoes with juice
1 can lite coconut milk
4 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2-1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
dash cinnamon
stevia to taste
2 tbsp peanut butter
1/2 cup red lentils


Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Set it on high and cook for a half hour. Turn down to low and continue to cook for 3-4 hours.


Combine all ingredients into a dutch oven. Bring to a simmer and cook 25-30 minutes.

Source: Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Crinkle-Top Cookies

Last week I was in the kitchen a lot.

A relative of mine was in the hospital and I took it harder than expected. I've grown up with everyone being relatively healthy. At 21 years old I still have four healthy grandparents and minimum health problems with everyone else. Theoretically, I knew there would be a time when someone got sick, but these last 21 years told me, "Not yet." I still had time.

My relative did leave the hospital and is now recovering at home. I get more time. But the incident reminded me of just how quickly and abruptly time can be taken away. We don't live forever-we can't-and it made me recognize that I have to cherish every moment that I have with the ones I love.

Baking got me through last week. I find something calming in the routine tedium of measuring flour, sugar, baking powder. I like the manual labor of combining all of the ingredients with a well-used wooden spoon. It takes my mind off of everything else.

I baked these cookies for my relative and her husband, and they were a hit. While she couldn't eat them in the hospital, she did call me after she was discharged and said they were wonderful.

On a lighter note, I made them only about two hours before leaving for the hospital without realizing the dough had to be chilled. After a chorus of swear words, I plopped the dough in the freezer for a bit and then just added a few minutes to the oven time. Crisis averted.

Crinkle-Top Cookies


2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Combine the flour and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a separate microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Mix in the cocoa and let cool.

Once the butter-cocoa mixture is cooled, add the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and combine with either a whisk or electric mixer. Beat in the flour mixture.

Chill dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Or put in the freezer and say several prayers.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Take out the chilled dough and pull off walnut-sized pieces, forming into balls. Roll the balls around in sugar and then place on cookie sheet. Make sure there is 2 inches between all the cookies.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are firm to touch. The top should look crinkled. Cool completely on wire wracks.

Source: The Best Bake Sale Cookbook