My College Life Without a Kitchen–Get Ready Because it’s not Going to be Pretty

I seem to be in a throwback kind of mood this week and it got me thinking about all the food I’ve had over my four years at Boston–most of it amazing, but some of it that’s just god-awful (and leaves me wondering ‘what was I thinking??’). So here it goes.

The college experience wouldn’t be the same if no one gained weight–it’s just a fact of life. While most people gain the ‘freshman fifteen,’ I seemed to also pile on the ‘sophomore seven‘. How does this happen? It’s simple, really.  Take carb-heavy dining hall food (“sure, I’ll have more mashed potatoes and maybe a side of fries…”) and combine it with the Junk Food Wonderland that becomes part of daily existence. I must have thought that never having unlimited pizza at home justified me eating about 5 slices… I ate everything from Easy Mac, to ice cream sandwiches, to Lays, an endless amount of Dominos pizza, and quite sadly the list goes on and on. Somebody was either ordering, bringing in, going out for or in the mood for something greasy, salty, fatty or just plain BAD.  And talk about a group dynamic—all it takes is two people and suddenly, you’re outnumbered.  The idea of a salad or a turkey sandwich disappears instantly, to be replaced by a cheddar-bacon-triple-stacked Gutbuster burger and a side of fries.

Now that I have my own apartment my junk food days are behind me (or at least I tell myself that….I caved and had KFC the other week), and I have switched to a more balanced and healthier diet. While I have to admit I do get lazy and end up making frozen food, I couldn’t imagine my life if I had to rely on the dining hall for all my meals. But that’s not to say I don’t splurge and get the greasiest food known to mankind once in a while, it would be a lie if I said I didn’t. And as a bonus, I do have to say eating better has helped me drop the unwanted pounds (that, and about a zillion steps on the elliptical….). So I hope you all take the time to splurge once a while and get that greasy burger with a side of fries (that I know you all secretly want, even if you don’t admit to it)–no one is going to judge you 🙂 But until next time, keep eating!

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A Lobster Kind of Summer

One of my absolute favorite meals was had sitting at a picnic table in Maine. My great-grandmother had her lobsterman friend pull up one of his traps and she steamed lobsters that had been out of the ocean for all of half an hour (talk about fresh). The richest, tenderest lobster, that you ate with your bare hands, and dipped it in this fabulous melted butter sauce. You could practically taste the salt water! It was the perfect meal on a hot summer day! Sweet, ears of corn, that had a slight crunch, as a side dish, and Maine blueberries (that we handpicked in the field earlier that day) baked in a cobbler for dessert. Simple, incredibly fresh, and outstanding! Well tonight I had a meal that reminded me of those days: Maine lobster, artichoke, and Mornay (which I had no clue WHAT that was and later figured out, with some assistance from Google, that it is a cheese sauce) flatbread that was utterly delicious.

ImageAs I took the first bite, memories of my time in Maine started to come back to me. My great-grandmother would always tells us that if you eat too much lobster, you’ll get sick of it (I would ask myself—how can anyone possibly be sick of too much lobster???) It just didn’t make sense—and honestly I love lobster too much to prove her wrong. I always associate lobster with summer. It’s so fun to sit outside on your deck, a fresh, juicy lobster in front of you and a cracker for the shells by your side—oh and of course one of those always fashionable bibs! While they aren’t much of a fashion statement they are essential when consuming lobster.

Unfortunately lobsters aren’t the most practical food to cook in an on-campus apartment with windows that don’t open—seafood in general can always be very fragrant. So I’m left dreaming of those summer nights where we have lobster for dinner (and they can’t come soon enough). If you love lobster check out the Artisan Bistro, and order the Maine lobster flatbread—and while a butter sauce doesn’t accompany the dish, it was still extremely delicious. I hope there are some people out there that share my love for lobster—but until next time, keep eating!

Remarkable Ramen

A successful night out never ends without food. My food of choice is usually something greasy, like a burger, pizza or fries and onion rings–that is until I had ramen. It’s not a typical late night food item (at least for me) but I am so glad I decided to be adventurous and stray from the norm.

Ramen. Noodles in a spicy broth, with egg, pork and topped with seaweed. Absolute heaven. This bowl of deliciousness is located at Uni in the Elliot Hotel on the corner of Mass Ave. and Commonwealth. The unique thing about this place is that they don’t start serving ramen till 11pm (which is great for anyone who enjoys a night out on the town) and stop when the last table is finished. Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long. We sat down and I literally could not stop drooling over the food on their cool cardboard menus. I wanted everything. I knew this was going to be good.

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I opted for their traditional ramen bowl with extra spice. The spice of the broth was just right. The noodles were cooked to perfection. The pork was incredibly tender and paired perfectly with the broth. The egg was absolutely delicious. The seaweed strips on top completed the dish. I couldn’t have asked for a better meal. I wanted to drink the ramen straight from the bowl yet thankfully I realized I was in public (that would have been embarrassing).

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If you’re tired of greasy late night food, I urge you to check this place out. Be adventurous–I promise you won’t regret it. I can’t imagine going back to pizza (ok fine I can’t give it up completely) but this ramen sure gave my late night greasy food choices a run for their money. It’s too bad this place doesn’t deliver. I’m already thinking about the next time I’ll go back. But until next time, keep eating!

A Reason to get Crabby?

There is something about crab and citrus that makes for an unbelievable combo. Lump fresh crab, some arugula, grapefruit, orange, and a creamy dressing—can anything be better on a hot, sunny day? It is the perfect refresher after walking around in the sun.

The best thing about this salad (besides the crab) is that you can modify it any way you want—the only thing I would keep would be the fresh crab—head to the local supermarket, pick up some crab and whatever else you want and voila! You have the perfect lunch on a spring or summer day.

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I would add some type of citrus fruit (think grapefruit or oranges, watermelon, even mango if you’re feeling adventurous), some fresh avocado, mixed greens—arugula, spinach, or a salad blend—and as for the dressing it’s up to you, but I do recommend sprinkling some fresh lime juice over the top. It’s your own crab salad with a twist (and yes you can say you actually made it—next stop, Food Network’s Chopped).

If you want to try this check out this awesome recipe I found on Pinterest—I promise it’s not as hard as it looks! If you need more variety—particularly food for those hot summer days—make this awesome crab salad, you won’t regret it (a regular salad won’t cut it anymore). But until next time, keep eating!

Love for Lox

If I could live off one thing for the rest of my life it would be smoked salmon (aside from Jamaican barbeque and tzatziki of course). I know it’s an acquired taste for many, but man I could eat it for days—and that’s what I did.  Over the past week and a half, I had smoked salmon for either breakfast or lunch (and sometimes both).

It pairs so incredibly well with cream cheese (I tried it with an herb cream cheese, which may just beat plain old cream cheese), fresh tomatoes, red onion slices, capers, and a soft, doughy, plain bagel. As if this couldn’t get any better, you must top it off with some fresh lemon juice—seriously you won’t want to eat anything else.

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While I haven’t truly explored to find the best smoked salmon in Boston, I must say that Espresso Royale Café on Commonwealth Avenue, part of Boston University’s campus, does make a mean smoked salmon bagel–the Santa Monica. If consuming that much raw fish wasn’t bad for you, I would eat it all day, every day, breakfast, lunch and even dinner. Some would say that’s excessive, but I beg to differ. The thing that I like about that sandwich is that they add an avocado spread, which makes the rest of the flavors of the sandwich pop (particularly the smoked salmon).  Discovering the Santa Monica has made my college experience that much better (but can’t say the same for my wallet).

The funny thing is, is that while I absolutely love smoked salmon, I don’t ever buy it when grocery shopping. How strange. They do say there is a first for everything, so maybe I should start now? If you haven’t already experienced the wonderfulness of smoked salmon, I strongly recommend you do (especially with a bagel)—I now can’t imagine my life without it. But until next time, keep eating!

Jamaican Me Crazy!

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Goodbye my obsession for tzatziki and hello to my new love affair with Jamaican food! I recently returned from a spectacular spring break–one that was many firsts for me. My first time on a cruise, my first time in Jamaica and the Grand Cayman islands, and my first time experiencing the food all these wonderful places have to offer. While my spring break could not have been any better (the sun, the warm weather, and the glory of not wearing a single article of winter clothing), there is one thing I can not get off my mind: the endless amounts of Jamaican barbeque I experienced. There is something about that Jamaican BBQ jerk chicken that kept me coming back for more.

My love affair started when our cruise ship docked into the port of Falmouth, Jamaica. From there my friends and I hopped on a bus and headed to the spectacular beach. The trip included lunch, leaving us not sure what to expect. But oh did I ever underestimate the lunch we had. I practically ran over to the buffet table and started to fill my plate with seasoned rice and beans, grilled corn, jerk style pork and BBQ jerk chicken. The flavors of all these foods combined was all one could ever imagine. The meat practically melted in your mouth. The sauce accompanying the meat left you wanting to lick your plate clean. I stopped counting how many plates I went back for, and it’s probably for the best. Lunch was easily the best part of my day.

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It’s going to be hard to even come close to finding the food I ate that day in Jamaica in Boston–if anyone knows of a place, I will be forever grateful. Needless to say, I will be on the hunt. If I could, I would fly a private jet back to that little beach where they cooked the food right in front of you and consume as much Jamaican food as humanly possible. But until next time, keep eating!

It’s All Greek to Me!

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Since it’s a Saturday and my day is more relaxing (or at least that’s what I keep telling myself as I stare at mounds of books…) I decided to be adventurous and make dinner, something fancier than I normally would. My inspiration for my meal came from Pinterest—probably one of the best sites for pictures of mouth-watering food.  As I was practically drooling in my seat, I came across a recipe for a Mediterranean salad. That was it. That was what I wanted for dinner. So I practically jogged to Shaw’s to get the ingredients.

I have to say, if you’re on a budget, this meal is perfect for you. Luckily today, some of the produce at Shaw’s was on sale (the lottery for a broke college girl like me), so nothing cost me over fifteen dollars. All you need is quinoa, a cucumber, olive oil, grape tomatoes, olives, feta, and a red onion. Unfortunately I didn’t incorporate red onions into my meal because Shaw’s had an ominous-looking selection and I didn’t want to take my chances.

There’s an even better reason why you need to make this meal. You don’t even need to be a “chef” to make it. The hardest part is cooking the quinoa according to the instructions on the bag. No measuring needed. After the quinoa is done, chop up all your veggies—as many or as little as you want—toss in some feta, drizzle it with olive oil and a pinch of lemon juice and viola! there you have it—a deliciously cooked meal. I took some liberties with the recipe and mixed in a few heaping scoops of tzatziki sauce (it has become my new favorite thing, I try to find excuses to use it with everything).

I’ve never been to Greece and have accepted that this is as close as I’ll probably ever get. Even though my meal might not have been as good as a meal from Greece (I would argue that is debatable), it was an easy, quick, and cheap meal that I would definitely make again. But until next time, keep eating!

Top Five Things I’ve Learned About Cooking that I Never Knew (in the past four years)

1. Mis en place—let me tell you, getting all your ingredients measured and ready BEFORE you cook is the key to successful cooking (at least in my book). I cannot tell you how many times I’ve scrambled to measure ingredients as I go and have successfully managed to ruin a dish. Take my advice, it’s all about mis en place.

2. Freeze an onion to prevent yourself from crying. This is something I’m ashamed to admit I did not learn until recently. I was always the one to be chopping an onion and end up completely bawling by the time I was finished chopping it. (Note to self: wear waterproof mascara JUST in case).

3. Smack the sides of the lid with a knife to open a jar. This is honestly one of the most useful tricks I’ve learned. Have you ever purchased a jar of something, let’s say jam, and the lid is literally hermetically sealed? It’s the absolute worst and you’re left struggling for what seems like hours straining your muscles trying to open the jar. Well here’s a trick of the trade that’s pretty reliable. Just hit the sides of the lid with a regular dinner knife and viola! your hermetically sealed jar should open. No more need to work on your upper body at the gym.

4. ALWAYS use a serrated knife for tomatoes, always. I learned this trick from my mother and thankfully I did. Before this extraordinary bit of knowledge, I was using a regular knife to cut tomatoes, a regular knife. When you use a regular knife, the juice oozes out from inside the tomato, leaving the surface you’re cutting on slimy and gross. The tomato at this point is practically squished; looking like you deliberately smashed it to oblivion. A serrated knife will leave the tomato looking round with nice smooth edges. Never again will I use a regular knife when cutting a tomato.

5. Add a slice of bread to your cookie container to keep your cookies fresh for longer. I never knew why my mom insisted on putting a piece of bread at the bottom of the cookie container, it just seemed weird. Bread and cookies didn’t seem to mix. And now I do. The bread keeps the cookies moist and will keep them fresh for days; so all your hard work baking will pay off. Whenever I bake and store cookies, I make sure to add that slice of bread to the bottom of the container.

Now you know some essential tricks of the trade. Until next time, keep eating!

A Moveable Feast–City Living and Having to Travel with Groceries

The one downside to living in a city without a car? Grocery shopping. At home you simply go to the grocery store and when you’re done, load up your trunk and off you go. Here in Boston, you have to lug all your groceries back to where you live, counting every step while trying to figure out how 3 bags of groceries can weigh 1,000 pounds.

The past two years I have had the luxury of living in an apartment on campus. This means I don’t have to suffer through dining hall meals. It also means I have to cook all my meals myself.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook, I just wish I could have the food supplies I need instantly teleported to my apartment without ever having to set one foot inside a grocery store. Yet I do have to say, I have just about perfected my grocery purchasing skills. Here’s my advice: If you do have to walk a far distance home, try to avoid liters of soda or gallons of milk (unless they are an absolute must; or buy them once and they’ll last you a while). DO buy bread; it’s nice and light! Frozen, easy to cook veggies, can be manageable, just keep it to a few bags. Keep canned items to two per bag and load up on fresh fruit. Except for grapefruit or watermelon, fruit is fairly light (learn to love grapes).

Bagging is another obstacle I have overcome. It’s all about balance. Put ONE or TWO of your heaviest items in one bag and then pack the rest of the bag with lighter options. Always choose paper over plastic because they’re sturdier and better for the environment (now you can say you did your part).

The absolute best grocery tactic? If, in fact, you’ve gone overboard and feel like you’re carrying two barbells, do what I do—and look for the cutest guy around. Then quickly—and quietly—break one of the handles on your bag.

Until next time, keep eating!