Posted in Dinner Done Right, Sneak a Snack

Finals Got Me Like….

The end is in sight, y’all. Only one more week left and then winter break can start. I am looking forward to 5 straight weeks of no homework, no studying, no essays, and no bloody group projects! I’m planning on taking full advantage of this break; this will probably be the last time I have this much free time, since I plan on (hopefully) getting a job after graduating in May. Not many jobs give five weeks of vacation time, and four months in the summer off.

Do I really have to become a Certified Adult™ I think I’d be okay with staying an Adult In Training™ for the rest of my life….

Anyway, that brings me to now. It is currently 2 am on a Thursday as I write this. It’s due tomorrow before 10:20, and yes, I did have the whole week to start it. No, I did not remember it until an hour ago (ease up, it’s been a rough few weeks). I would get up early in the morning and do it, but I have a debriefing with Public Safety then about proper protesting guidelines. Students on campus are holding a peaceful protest for our food service workers to get more hours and all-around better contracts.

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How you doin’?

So, I open my laptop to do homework and immediately procrastinate by making English Muffin Pizzas. I like how they each have a half pepperoni that makes it look like they’re winking. Seriously, finals is getting to me, guys.

Wish me luck,

XOXXO Maddie

P.S. Read this article by my writer and friend Roslin. I’m the Director for The Rival UHart, check us out and like us on Facebook!

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Posted in Dining with Friends, Dinner Done Right

Cooking As A College Student

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So, in case you were wondering what it’s like being a college student trying to maintain a healthy diet, let me tell you right now: more often than not it just won’t happen. I know this, because I have eaten scrambled eggs twice this week for dinner. Most days I combine breakfast and lunch. But not in a fun, “let’s all have a Sunday brunch catch-up meal” type of brunch. I’m talking, “I woke up late for my first class and spent all the time between my other classes doing homework that I never finished so I have to eat at Starbucks in the Library at 1:50 again” type of breakfast-lunch combo.

So when I get a chance to eat right, I lunge at it faster than most people when they grab for the newest iPhone. Last night my roommates and I got together to make dinner and watch the final presidential debate between Senator Clinton and The Donald. This is a run-down of how the meal went.

(P.S. I also had this meal tonight in the form of leftovers. Sorry, but I’m broke)

To start off the meal, we bought chicken strips, green beans, and pasta from the grocery store on campus. And, why yes, it was grossly underpriced, thank you for noticing!

My roommate Jean and I preheated the oven while Ally bought the food (thanks Ally!). The real question was what were we going to season the chicken with?

Well, this is a fallback meal for me, so we had the “recipe” down pretty well. First, after preheating the oven to 375 degrees, peel and mince a few cloves of garlic, and cut one lemon into wedges. If you want to get real fancy, cut an onion in half, then in quarters, and place around the chicken.

As for the herbs that go on the chicken, use whatever you want, but we used what happened to be in the pantry: dried oregano and thyme! Not terribly chicken-y, but we like it enough to use it every time. This is also because the campus grocery store doesn’t carry any other spices…

Arrange the chicken equally on a baking pan lined with aluminum foil, with the garlic, lemon wedges, and onion chunks distributed as well. Cook for 12-15 minutes until the chicken is white throughout.*

As for the green beans, steam them in a colander until they are as tender as you like. If you don’t have a colander, they you could just boil them (but know: boiling washes away most of the nutritional values from veggies!). Or if you are lucky like us, you buy the green beans that come in a microwavable bag that just needs a couple of vents and a five minute nuke session.

For the pasta: I really hope I don’t need to tell you how to make pasta. Step one: boil water (and season with oil and salt if you’re fancy like me). Step two: boil the pasta until it’s al dente, or as tender as you prefer. Step three: drain, and then add noodles back to the pot along with as much or as little of your favorite sauce.

Also, everything should have butter on it. Just a little piece of advice from one chef to another J

And there you have it! A delicious meal that is also nutritious: protein, veggies, grains, and fruits (if you include the wine and fruit punch that we drank it with)… the perfect balance for the growing college kid.

This meal is enjoyed best with a little wine, and a lot of friends!!

Comment if you watched the debate and whether you’re a “bad hombre” or a “nasty woman”

*If your chicken is extremely juicy but shows no signs of being undercooked, do not grow paranoid and put back into the oven to dry the hell out of it like a ~certain~ blogger. Otherwise you may ruin the juiciest chicken of your life.

Posted in Dinner Done Right

Risotto, The Right Way

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BACON!

Now that I have your attention, let me tell you about the world’s easiest recipe for risotto. I know what you’re thinking: we can’t make risotto, Maddie! We aren’t professional chefs! But wait—your life is about to change for ever.

I once had a photography professor tell me that making a great print was like making a great risotto; it could take years as well as many failed attempts until you get something you’re happy with.

Let me tell you all right here and right now, that photography isn’t as easy as you may think. Risotto, however, is as simple as breathing (and knowing how to handle a knife).

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The first thing you need to do before you start making the risotto is to cook some bacon. Normally my mom says she only uses half the rasher of bacon, but what kind of reasoning is that?! Bacon makes everything better; ergo more bacon will make the dish taste even better!

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So, while your pound of bacon is cooking, begin chopping one yellow onion. Remove all of the papery outer layers until you get to the more moist, almost sticky under-layers. Cut the onion cross-wise, keeping sure to have half the root on each piece, like in the picture.

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Cut parallel and perpendicular on the onion, and then cut cross-ways to ensure you get dices instead of julienne or slices. We want small squares, not onion rings. (Make sure your knife is sharp. I can practically hear Alton Brown telling me, “Remember: when you start forcing knives around, Bad Things happen.”)

**Make sure to keep an eye on your bacon while cutting your onion***

Once the bacon is fully cooked—making sure it’s on the crispy end of the spectrum, remove the bacon and let it drain on a paper plate layered in paper towels. Drain all of the bacon fat into a separate bowl, then put about 2 tablespoons back into the pan.

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Toss all of the onion in the hot pan and cook until translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Once the opaque onion has become see-through, add 1 to 1 ½ cups of short grain Arborio rice. Stir to combine, then cover with chicken or beef broth. *I would not recommend vegetable broth unless you are vegetarian, for it makes the dish rather sweet.*

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Every time the chicken stock has cooked down, stir the rice and add enough broth to cover rice and onions once again. Do this until the rice is soft all the way through; then cook off the rest of the liquid. Crumble the bacon into the pan, and grate a little (or a lot if you’re like me) of Parmesan cheese over the rice. Stir until it’s all melted and delicious, then serve and devour!

This recipe just popped into my family’s repertoire of staple meals that we always make. I have no idea where it comes from, but I’ll see what I can dig up. All I know is that is has way too much bacon and Parmesan for Gordon Ramsey.

*Sorry there is no final product picture: that is because bacon risotto is best enjoyed with a glass of wine while watching reruns of Vikings on the History Channel!

Posted in Dining with Friends, Dinner Done Right, Grilling and Barbeque, Seasonal Cooking

A Standing Ovation for Summer

 

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Summer is almost ready to take its bow, allowing for autumn to take the stage. And while fall is my favorite time of the year, I can’t quite let go of summer just yet.

Summer isn’t just a feeling; it’s a state of being. Summer is standing in the warm rays of sun that filter through the glass windows while I wait for my coffee to brew. Summer is tossing a sundress over my head and being dressed within seconds. Summer is grilling on the back deck with friends while you wait for the sun to sink below the tree line.

Grilling steak is much simpler than people think. Yes, it’s hard to gauge temperature, and no, there is no way to tell how cooked it is until you cut into it, but that is all part of the mystery. You have to throw away your fears and forget about how good or bad that it may come out. This isn’t just a meal: this is the final curtain call for summer.

The first thing to look for when cooking steak is the right cut of steak. Steak comes from cows, and cows are big, with each cut of meat serving a different purpose. The shank is a tough piece of meat, and is usually sold with the bones in and is excellent for stews; the tenderloin is the most versatile cut. You can slice it into medallions for fillet minion, or you could cut closer to the front and have a nice, thick T-bone and reenact the scene from Law Abiding Citizen.

beef-ribeye.jpgFor grilling, a good cut would be rib-eye. This comes from the rib area, and is most often served without the bone. If you had it served bone-in, then it would get the nickname “cowboy rib-eye”. Make sure that your rib-eye is about 1” thick, with lots of good marbling. Marbling refers to all the little veins of fat running through the meat. As the steak is cooked, the fat renders and provides flavor and moisture.

 

If you are cooking on a gas grill, turn the burners up to high, making sure that the racks are scraped clean of debris that may catch fire or alter the flavor of your steaks. If you are using a charcoal grill, make a small pile of about one to two quarts of hard lump charcoal, or a pile of around 100 charcoal briquettes. Yes, there is a difference, but that’s for another post! 😉

About 20 to 30 minutes before you start grilling, take your steaks out of the fridge to get room temperature. Make sure that they are dry, and pat them with a paper towel if they seem damp. Liberally season with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper on both sides of the meat, and brush some oil or butter on your grill.

Once you lay your steak down, DON’T TOUCH IT! Let it sit on the grill for at least 90 seconds so that grill marks appear and the seasoning forms a crust. After another 15 to 20 seconds, rotate the steak 90 degrees so that you will get that legendary crisscross grill mark that is only attainable at restaurants and Food Network. Not anymore, Grill Master!

 

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Is your mouth watering yet?

Once you do this to both sides of your steak, move it to the cool side if it needs further cooking. Any more time over the direct heat could cause overcharring and blackening, which you don’t always want.  The internal temp for medium-rare is around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, with medium-well landing at 150° or higher.

A good way to tell how far your meat is cooked is to firmly poke it. And I don’t mean jabbing at it with your tongs—which better be spring loaded stainless steel—I mean pressing your finger into the meat to gauge its firmness. The best way to learn is to check the temp of the meat once it’s to your liking, then press your finger into it once it’s cool.

The firmness of meat will correspond to the fleshy part of your hand right below your thumb. For raw meat, the easy give of when your hand is flat will give the best feel. For rare, touch your index finger to your thumb and press on the round part of where your thumb meets your palm. For each next finger, that is a further cooking step. The more cooked your meat is, the firmer to the touch it will feel.

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An inforgraphic that shows what meat feels like at each stage of cooking

After taking the meat off the grill and putting it on a platter, place a pat of butter onto each steak that you cooked, no more than a tablespoon each. Then, wrap the whole platter in aluminum foil and let stand to rest. Resting allows the juices to ‘settle’ within the meat, so that when you cut into it, the juices don’t spill out onto the plate; they stay inside and keep your steak nice and moist.

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This is a pretty fool-proof way to grill meat, so now you can eat like a king (or queen!) any night of the year. Now, gather all your friends around, pour the wine and open the beers, because summer just got an encore.