The First Thing a College Student Eats When He Gets Home

I had heard about these Vanilla Pudding Chocolate Chip Cookies before but was always wary of any recipe involving cake or pudding mixes, as if for some reason it wasn’t “authentic”. However, I clearly have no problem buying these store-bought supplies, as shown in my attempt to make cupcakes (Sometimes I think I’m better at Eating Than Baking).

A good friend at school told me the first thing he ate when he went home for a weekend was these cookies straight from the oven. So they must be good.

And they were good, and more. Chewy but still golden brown on the outside with melted Ghiradelli chocolate and a slight sweetness that was remarkable for any cookie I have made.

Source: Two Peas and Their Pod 

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3.4 oz. package vanilla instant pudding mix
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi-sweet Ghiradelli chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a mixer, beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add in pudding mix, eggs, and vanilla extract. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop tablespoons of cookie dough onto baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until slight golden and set.

Smoked Mozzarella and Sundried Tomato Ravioli

I have an unreasonable obsession with farmers’ markets. I enjoy the good food, colorful produce, free samples, people-watching, and knowledge that is spread. The past few days of rain wiped out the strawberry crops. And while that is unfortunate, it provides a good lesson of following mother nature and determining what you eat based on what is in the garden. So I bought some tomatoes.

And some Sundried Tomato and Smoked Mozzarella Ravioli from Nella Pasta. Made in Jamaica Plain, MA, this pasta was phenomenal. The two women owners suggest serving the pasta with just a bit of butter or extra virgin olive oil. The pasta cooks up in mere minutes, so this is the perfect solution for a scrumptious, quick meal. I ended up making a small side of Homemade No-Oil No-Nut Basil Pesto. My dad had a baked chicken breast as well, and I served a simple cucumber, tomato, onion salad with vinegar.

I made half of the recipe for Homemade No-Oil No-Nut Basil Pesto because I only needed a small amount to serve next to the pasta. Pesto without pine nuts is a different taste, with more emphasis on the basil flavor. This was garlicky and full of basil, a perfect complement to the pasta. I suppose a store bought pesto would be tasty next to the pasta, but fresh basil is just so satisfying.

When I volunteered at the farmers’ market, I learned about the oxidation of basil leaves in pesto. If your pesto looks dark, as mine did, it can be attributed to both the tomatoes and also oxidation. Over time as the pesto sits in your refrigerator, the color will deepen. With a good stir, you should see more green appear. This is a good sign of how fresh your pesto is: if your store bought pesto takes a while to darken, there may be additives.

1/2 cup fresh basil, well-packed

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

1 clove garlic, minced

pinch of salt

1/8-1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated

In a small processor, blend all ingredients including the cheese, which can be added to your preference. Blend until smooth. Keep refrigerated.

How My Conscience Failed Me: Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Joining the stay-at-home moms in yoga pants and the retired couples who eat organically, I enjoy my trips to Whole Foods. Fact: I spend more at the store than I would at at a typical grocery store. Fiction: the food I purchase is healthier than the food at a typical grocery store. Fact: there are always good free samples.

On a recent trip to Whole Foods, I spotted some heirloom tomatoes that looked juicy and fresh. They probably weren’t as fresh as I assumed, seeing as they were grown in Mexico. However, sometimes when I see something that I want to eat, my conscience about eating locally gets thrown out the window. Oops.

This is why my conscience failed me:

I threw together a panzanella salad for dinner using these yummy fruits. My Dad and I wanted something light, and this hit the spot.

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad

Stale bread (I used half of a baguette)

2 tbs. Red Wine Vinegar

2-3 tbs. Olive Oil

1 clove garlic, minced

3 Heirloom Tomatoes, chopped

1 Cucumber, Diced

A handful of fresh basil, chopped

Sea salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Optional: fresh Mozzarella Cheese, sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the stale bread into cubes. Place cubes in a Ziploc bag and drizzle olive oil into bag. Shake the bag so that the olive oil spreads onto the bread. On a baking sheet, lay the oiled bread and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake the bread for approximately 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted.

In a small dish, whisk the vinegar, oil and minced garlic together.

In a large bowl, mix chopped tomatoes and cucumber together. Add toasted bread. Pour the oil and vinegar dressing onto the salad. Garnish with chopped basil leaves, and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.

My Take on Foodie Lingo: “Eating Simply”

In the food world, there has been a trend of “going back to our roots” and “eating simply”.

If I want to eat simply, I will eat some Cheerios.

Or make some scrumptious gluten-free peanut butter cookies.

One of my best friends is gluten intolerant, and quite frankly I couldn’t imagine being in her shoes. What would I do without gluten? I couldn’t “eat simply” with my Cheerios!

But now, I have no worries if I ever become gluten intolerant. I can eat peanut butter cookies for every meal. And I can still eat simply.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup creamy Peanut Butter (I used Jiff)

1 cup white sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 egg

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cream the peanut butter and sugar in a bowl. Beat in baking powder and add the egg. Mix well.

Make teaspoon-sized balls of dough. Lightly roll the dough in white sugar and then place balls of dough on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Use a fork to flatten the cookie, imprinting a criss-cross pattern on top. Bake for about 10 minutes. The cookies should still be slightly soft.


Sometimes I think I’m better at eating than baking

It’s raining out. My boyfriend gets home from a hiking trip today. Two perfectly sound reasons to bake.

I chose a Small Batch Vanilla Cupcake recipe, which turned out well. It made exactly six golden cupcakes. This would be the only success of my day.

3/4 c cake flour

1/2 c sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

5 tbs unsalted butter

2 large egg whites, room temperature

1/3 cup milk

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a six-cupcake pan.

Combine and mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt. Add stick of butter and the milk. Mix with an electric mixer for two minutes until fluffy.

Whisk egg whites and vanilla in separate bowl until combined. Pour slowly into the batter and mix on medium speed until just combined.

Bake 20-24 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when inserted into the cupcakes.

Okay, so those turned out wonderfully.

And now here is why I sometimes doubt my cooking abilities, or general intelligence. I wanted to try a chocolate frosting recipe, involving sour cream, semisweet chocolate, corn starch, vanilla and instant espresso. Everything looked great. The chocolate came together nicely, but the end result had too much tang from the sour cream. I added corn starch, but then it was too sweet, with a tangy aftertaste.

Then I remembered my boyfriend hates sour cream.

So in multiple respects, my first chocolate frosting of the day failed.

In an attempt to reclaim my confidence in frosting-making, I tried a vanilla frosting recipe from the New York Times Cookbook. That ought to be tasty, right?

Well, it probably would be, if I had enough confectioner’s sugar. I realized while the butter and granulated sugar was boiling on the stove that the box of confectioner’s sugar in my cupboard was empty. I never understand how empty boxes of food end up in my cabinets and not in the trash. But alas, I had been teased and did not have any confectioner’s sugar.

So my second frosting of the day failed. I guess this is why I do not own a cupcake store.

The next step in my rainy day baking project was one I hate to admit: I bought a can of frosting at the supermarket. I’m sure that’s the number one thing all the famous food bloggers would never do, or at least never admit. I don’t even want to know what sort of junk is in the frosting, but I can tell you one thing: it tasted a hell of a lot better than the stuff I had been concocting. I enjoyed eating a knife-full of frosting once I was finished. It was a closed-eyes-saying-mmm, hoping-no-one-is-watching sort of enjoyment.

I think this is firm proof that I will not, in fact, be the next Martha Stewart. I know, I know, you’re shocked.


Nicaraguan Staple

There is a reason why rice and beans are staples of many diets: they are satiating and the cost-benefit is great. My time in Nicaragua was filled (no pun intended) with rice and beans, and the occasional scrambled egg or piece of fish. And each time was delicious.

I spent today at the beach, enjoying the longest day of the year and simultaneously getting sunburnt. I biked to the farmers’ market after the beach, where I purchased greenhouse tomatoes and a quart of strawberries. Money well spent.

You know that feeling after you spend a day at the beach? Tired, happy, sandy, even dazed? I needed an easy and filling dinner. What better opportunity to make simple rice and beans.

This may not be the most “local” meal, particularly because I used a mango which must have traveled some extraordinary amount of miles. But with just a few (and inexpensive) ingredients, this meal was perfect after a day spent in the sun. To add some spice, I made a simple mango salsa and served the dish with guacamole that I found in my fridge.

Mango Salsa

1 ripe mango, diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (add seeds for more heat)

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/3 cup diced red onion

Several sprigs of cilantro

Pinch salt

Place all the ingredients in a small food processor and pulse until the ingredients are combined but retain a chopped texture. Serve with black beans and rice. Garnish with cilantro, lime juice, guacamole, cheese or other toppings.

Café Luna, Cambridge, MA

After an exhilarating Bruins parade, my friends and I trekked across the bridge to Cambridge where we stopped for lunch at Café Luna. The café is small, but appeared to be a popular spot for Saturday brunch, which the manager told us is what the café is known for. We opted for the lunch menu, seeing as we had woken up early and wanted something refreshing in the summer heat. I ordered a Greek salad, which was served in a funky huge wooden bowl with two slices of Iggy’s baguette. The salad certainly hit the spot.