Sunday, March 14, 2010

the cost of cooking

College is expensive. I can empathize with money problems more than most. I have three jobs just to keep up with my expenses. Groceries can be a huge expense, but we all have to eat.

In a survey of 40 Ohio University students I took (yes, I used Facebook), I found that the average amount spent on groceries is about 25 dollars a week. That's 100 dollars a month, and 900 for the school year. Just thinking about that makes my head spin. It adds up quickly. But there are several things that can be done to help save money.

This one may be obvious, but the easiest way to save money on food is to not eat out as much. Paying 10 dollars for a meal is ridiculous. Not to mention the two dollars you're paying for a soda. It's unbelievable. Cooking your own food will save you a ton of money. After spending the quarter with me learning to cook a few a few meals, Alli J is hooked. "It's not too hard to cook a few times a week and eat the leftovers," she said. "It's saved me some money and I still get to eat good food."

Make a list
The most important thing about making that list is to actually stick to it. Don't venture away from your list. A lot of times I go to the store for a few things and end up getting a lot more than I had anticipated. This kills the budget. Also, never EVER shop when you're hungry. It always turns out disastrous. Everything in the store looks good when you're hungry.

Look for a sale
There are always sales going on. Kroger does a lot of great 10 for $10 sales. But look around elsewhere, too. There are plenty of stores around Athens to check out, so take a look around and figure out which stores have the best sales. Senior Brett Strickland shops at ALDI. "They always have cheap stuff," Strickland said. "It's really nice to save a little bit of money."

Go generic
Sometimes generic brands suck. But usually, they offer the same value product for a couple dollars cheaper. Saving a couple dollars on several items on your shopping list will really add up.

Look at the top and bottom of the shelf
This is one of the many tricky little things stores to do. The "nicer," more expensive product will be found at waist to eye level on the shelf. The less expensive items will be located at the top and bottom of the shelf. Tricky, I know.

Cut Coupons

Coupons are easy to find, so why wouldn't you use them? Pick up a copy of the Athens Messenger on Sunday and get coupons for local stores. Junior Brittany Brunty cuts coupons every week to keep her costs down. "You'd be surprised at how much cutting coupons really helps," she said. "I usually save 10 to 15 dollars each time I go to the store."

WLWT did a story about grocery shopping on a budget. They targeted women for this story but I believe it applies to anyone looking to save some money on food.

Eating on a college student's budget can be hard. It takes a little more work but it is definitely manageable with these tips in mind.

Have fun and good luck.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

take a break for breakfast

You've probably heard that breakfast is important. It's probably the most important meal of the day but is the most commonly skipped meal. This is problematic. Here are a few reasons breakfast should never be skipped.

Eating breakfast kick-starts your metabolism and gives you energy for the day ahead
According to the Better Health Channel, "Glucose is the body’s energy source. It is broken down and absorbed from the carbohydrates you eat. In the morning, after you have gone without food for as long as 12 hours, your glucose levels have dropped. Your body compensates by releasing the glucose that has been stored in your muscle tissue and liver, called glycogen. Once all of the energy from the glycogen stores is used up, your body starts to break down fatty acids to produce the energy it needs. Without carbohydrate, fatty acids are only partially oxidised, which can cause reduced energy levels." So, when you skip breakfast, you are not getting the energy boost your body needs to function.

People who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight
This totally crushes the myth that skipping breakfast can help you lose weight. In fact, studies have shown that people who skip breakfast are heavier than people who eat breakfast. This happens because by the time the person that skipped breakfast makes it to lunch, they are starving and tend to overeat or have a mid-morning snack. Eating a healthy breakfast is a much better plan.

Breakfast provides nutrients essential to your diet
Even a nice, sugary bowl of Lucky Charms has a significant amount of iron in it, among other nutrients. Breakfast provides a variety of vitamins and minerals that are important for your stable health.

People often skip breakfast because they just don't have time or don't think it's important. Well I've hopefully convinced you that it is important, and taking an extra five minutes in the morning to eat a bowl of cereal is not a difficult task. Make time.

Have fun and good luck.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

love your leftovers

As a college student, I am on a tight budget. In fact, I currently have three jobs just to keep up with my bills. Money is a large factor in any of the decisions that I make. Food is expensive. Trying to cook on a budget can be very difficult. One of the best ways I have found to cut costs is to make use of leftovers. Sometimes eating the same thing can be fine, but more often than not, I would rather not repeat my meals. Below I've listed a few ideas to spice up your leftover life.

  1. Make Pot Pie: I love Pot Pie and never would have thought to do this if I didn't stumble upon this recipe. It's easy and I'm willing to bet it tastes good, and that's all that matters, right?
  2. Stir in chopped ham or a can of chili to your leftover Macaroni and Cheese (which you know you have frequently. It's ok, you're a college kid). It may sound gross right now, but give this a chance. It definitely puts a new spin on your typical leftover Macaroni and Cheese.
  3. Make grilled sandwiches or Monte Cristo Sandwiches with leftover meats. This is a simple way to use the meat that's drying up in your refrigerator.
  4. Check out the BigOven Leftover Wizard. This is pretty cool. You tell the wizard three ingredients that are in your refrigerator and it gives you a recipe using the food you already have. This can be a lifesaver.
There are a ton of different ideas out there to use and abuse the leftovers that are undoubtedly around your house. For a student on a budget, there is no excuse not to use your leftovers. What is your favorite thing to do with leftovers?

Have fun and good luck.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

homemade chicken noodle soup

I'm still working on getting over a cold this week, so I decided to make some chicken noodle soup. As I said, it's my comfort food. At least it is when I'm sick. I got this recipe from a friend's mom and would like to thank her because it doesn't get much easier than this.

I thought I'd try something a little different with this recipe since it is so easy. I kept track of what was happening throughout my experience making the soup.

9:10 - Filled large pot with the 10 cups of water and placed it on the burner.

9:11 - Placed chicken breast in the water.

9:22 - Jersey wants in on the cooking action. He tackled me, knocking over the jar of chicken bouillon cubs.

9:25 - Got our mess cleaned up. Thanks, Jersey.

9:31 - Water is finally starting to boil.

9:36 - Jersey must have had enough playing. He is passed out under the kitchen table.

9:43 - Pulled the chicken breast out of the water. Attempted to start cutting the chicken and burnt my finger. It's hot.

9:45 - Dropped the chicken bouillon cubes in the boiling water.

9:46 - Finished cutting the chicken breast.

9:47 - Dropped cut up chicken in water with chicken bouillon cubes. Added noodles.

9:51 - The scent of chicken has taken over my kitchen and woken Jersey up. He's hungry.

9:55 - Soup is ready to be consumed. Let the healing begin.

Here's what you need:

10 cups of water
7 cubes of Chicken Bouillon
1 Chicken breast

Have fun and good luck.

Monday, March 1, 2010

give me pizza. p-i-z-z-a.

Cooking all the time never happens. We all need a break. Pizza is one of my favorite things to buy because it's fast and usually tastes good. Usually. Athens has several different places to try. I've highlighted a few of my favorite spots around town.

View Athens' Best Pizza Joints in a larger map

Have fun and good luck.

Friday, February 26, 2010

avoiding the skip

This week has been a little crazy for me. I'm in the running for an internship with the American Junior Golf Association and am spending the weekend in Atlanta, Ga., for their intern recruiting weekend.

Since I am not at home and was too busy preparing myself for this weekend, I did not have time to cook. I think that happens a lot. Life gets crazy and one of the first things that we put on the back burner is cooking. We rely on whatever questionable food we find in the refrigerator or maybe skip meals altogether. This is when problems arise.

When you skip a meal, your body goes into what FIT Lauch calls "fasting mode." While in this altered state, your body uses carbs, proteins and fats to for energy. According to FIT Launch, if your body remains in "fasting mode," the glycogen storage deposits found in the liver and muscle become depleted. As the glucose levels drop, the body looks for other sources of fuel. Since the brain and nerves prefer energy from glucose, protein tissues (muscle and liver) are broken down. In efforts to preserve the remaining protein, the body starts to metabolize fat for energy in the form of ketone bodies.

This process of using ketone bodies can bring on a lot of unwanted side effects such as fatigue, nausea and constipation among many others. If this process continues, the body enters "starvation mode," which leads to a slower metabolism because of the muscle loss it is enduring. A slower metabolism, as you may know, means gaining weight just got a whole lot easier (as if it wasn't easy enough).

While occasionally skipping a meal will not have a great effect on you, making a habit of skipping meals will. It's important to take some time to eat a small meal. And it may seem like there just is not enough time in a day to get everything done, sometimes take 15 minutes to eat and clear your head can really help you out when things get out of control.

Have fun and good luck.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

dutch baby

I love breakfast. It's by far my favorite meal of the day. I love pancakes and would live off cereal if I could. While I firmly believe you can't go wrong with the classics (french toast, pancakes, eggs, etc.) I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite breakfast items, the Dutch Baby. It's going to change your life. Ok, it probably won't really change your life, but it's really good nonetheless.

A Dutch Baby is a German pancake and that's the only thing I can say to describe it. It's different. You just need to try it and you'll understand what I'm saying here. You may have encountered the Dutch Baby before if you have been to The Original Pancake House, as it's one of their specialties. While I think The Original Pancake House makes a mean Dutch Baby, I still prefer the homemade ones. So, I'm going to let you in on a little recipe that my grandma always used.

Here's what you need:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk milk, flour, sugar and eggs together until smooth. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Tilt pan so butter coats sides. Pour mixture into hot skillet and cook without stirring for one minute. Place skillet in oven and bake until buffed and golden (12-15 minutes). After removing from oven, top with butter and powdered sugar.

Definitely try this out one morning. It's delicious. And filling. AKA the perfect breakfast.

Have fun and good luck.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

cooking from the heart

In case you missed all the pink and red that bombard you when you walk in the door at Wal-Mart, it’s Valentine's Day. Now while I really do think it’s a pretty cheesy holiday, I’m always a supporter of any excuse to eat chocolate. Chocolate is marvelous. And it makes you happy. But I digress.

I’m going to bet that most people simply go out and buy and box of chocolates for their significant other, which is fine. Like I said, chocolate is marvelous. But I think some of the best Valentine's Day gifts I’ve gotten are homemade. I think it’s nice when someone takes the time to actually make me something. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, but baking a few heart-shaped cookies isn’t very difficult. And there are plenty of Web sites out there that will give you step-by-step instructions to anything you could possibly want to bake.

I looked around at what is out there this year. Out of all the sites I looked at, I thought Family Fun had some of the best stuff because there were some really simple recipes. I highly suggest you check out this site for any last second Valentine's Day gift ideas.

My challenge to you is to make your own gifts this year. I think it really helps to show that you care about the recipient. Taking the time to bake is much more personal. Even if your baking adventure turns into a disaster (which, let’s face it, many of them do), I truly do believe it’s the thought that counts. If it turns out appalling, get some chocolate. It makes you happy.

Have fun and good luck.

Friday, February 12, 2010

chicken noodle soup and mashed potatoes

I need to vent, so read on only if you dare to venture into the depths of my mind. This week I’ve been sick, and when I’m sick, I’m absolutely miserable. It’s terrible. One thing that really makes me feel better, at least for the five minutes that I’m consuming it, is food. I always have some kind of craving when I’m sick. That craving tends to be chicken noodle soup and mashed potatoes. Yes, in the same bowl.

You’re probably thinking that’s disgusting, but don’t judge until you try it. Soup is excellent when you’re sick and I love mashed potatoes, so putting the two together does not seem too weird to me. It all goes to the same place anyway. The chicken noodle soup acts as the perfect gravy to the mashed potatoes. It’s delicious. And it’s easy to make, which is an extremely important factor. Nobody really wants to spend a lot of time cooking when they are sick.

Now while you may have gotten nothing out of my little rant, here me out for the point. When I’m sitting at home, sick and miserable, my chicken noodle soup and mashed potatoes combination really can brighten my day. Food can do that. I think that’s interesting. There’s a possibility that I’m unusual, but I think everyone has some kind of food that they just love and when you get to eat it, your day seems a little better. So how about you? What kind of food brightens your day? What do you like to eat when you’re sick?

Have fun and good luck.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

superbowl antics

Life played a couple cruel jokes on me this week. Instead of getting to cook all the amazing snacks I planned on cooking, I spent the afternoon with Jersey because I got a flat tire. Yes, I am capable of changing a tire myself but not without a jack. I’m not quite strong enough to lift up my car with one hand yet. I’m working on it though. I’ll make a couple extra trips out to Ping this week.

I did get to make my Cheesy Salsa Dip though, so I suppose everything turned out ok. I highly recommend this snack for your superbowl menu tonight.

Here’s what you need:

1 pound of Velveeta Cheese

1 jar of salsa

1/2 pound of hamburger

1 bag of chips


Cook hamburger.

Melt cheese and salsa together in a crock-pot.

Add hamburger.

I’m also adding in a recipe for Applebee’s Spinach and Artichoke Dip. I highly, highly recommend this one, even though it’s a little harder to make. It’s pretty good.

Here’s what you need:

1 (10 ounce) box frozen, chopped spinach, thawed

1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and rough chopped

1 cup shredded parmesan/Romano cheese blend

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

10 ounces prepared Alfredo sauce

1 teaspoon minced garlic

4 ounces (1/2 package) softened cream cheese


Combine ingredients thoroughly in a bowl and spread mixture into a small baking dish.

Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until cheeses are bubbling and melted.

Have fun and good luck.

Friday, February 5, 2010

comfort cake

Sorry this post is a day late. Flikr and I had an argument yesterday but after a nice chat, we have sorted out our issues.

Since it's midterm week here in Athens, I decided it would be a good time to break out some comfort food. And I wanted chocolate cake. Enjoy the slideshow and try out the recipe. It's really good.

Chocolate Cake Recipe:

Here's what you need:
  • 1 cup boiling-hot water
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • Rounded 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minute

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two small pans.

Whisk together hot water and cocoa powder in a bowl until smooth, then whisk in milk and vanilla.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in another bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add flour and cocoa mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture (batter may look curdled).

Divide batter between cake pans, smoothing tops. Bake until a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean and edges of cake begin to pull away from sides of pans, 25 to 35 minutes total. Cool layers in pans on racks 10 minutes, then invert onto racks, removing wax paper, and cool completely.

Put 1 cake layer, rounded side up, on a cake stand or platter and, using offset spatula, spread top with icing. Top with remaining cake layer, rounded side down, and frost side and top of cake.

To make Buttercream Icing:

Here's what you need:
  • 1/2 cup of shortening
  • 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of milk

Creme butter and shortening with an electric mixer. Add vanilla. Add powdered sugar gradually (one cup at a time) while mixing at medium speed. Add milk. Beat on high until fluffy.

Have fun a good luck.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

13 things you may not have known about food

While researching for my post, I stumbled upon this website with a large list of interesting facts about food. Alli J and I went on to search for more facts and were intrigued, disgusted and, overall, enlightened by what we found. Here are a few of the best:

  1. Corn always has an even number of ears.
  2. A typical American eats 28 pigs in his/her lifetime.
  3. A “brain freeze” was invented in 1994 by 7-Eleven to explain the pain one feels when drinking a Slurpee too fast. The medical term is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.
  4. An apple is made up of 25 percent air, which is why it floats.
  5. Chocolate may have its romantic effect due to the effects on the brain of a naturally occurring substance called phenylethylamine which enhances endorphin levels, increase libido and act a natural antidepressant.
  6. You are more likely to be hungry if you are cold.
  7. When a source of Vitamin C (orange, lemon, grapefruit, strawberry, tomato, potato, etc.) is eaten with meat, the body makes better use of the iron in the protein food.
  8. The FDA allows an average of 30 or more insect fragments and one or more rodent hairs per 100 grams of peanut butter.
  9. Lemons contain more sugar than strawberries.
  10. Ice cream was brought back by Marco Polo from China in 1295, from a recipe called "milk ice." Europeans substituted cream for the milk to create “ice cream.”
  11. Aunt Jemima pancake flour, invented in 1889, was the first ready-mix food to be sold commercially.
  12. Hamburgerology can be studied at Hamburger University, located in Elk Grove, Illinois.
  13. Bakers used to be fined if their loaves were under weight, so they would add an extra loaf to every dozen, just in case. Hence, the expression “baker's dozen.”

While some of this information may be completely useless, there are a few things you can take away from doing a little research about the food you consume on a regular basis.

For more interesting facts check out these Web sites:

-Fun Facts, Strange Facts, and Trivia about Food

-Fun Food Facts

-Arrow Scientific – Amazing facts to do with food

Have fun and good luck.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"that chicken thingy"

I thought for a while about what I wanted to cook for my first post. There are so many things to choose from, I was actually slightly overwhelmed. I wanted it to be good. Well, I wanted it to great but I would have settled for good. My partner in crime, Alli J, had a craving that made my decision much easier (by the way, Alli J is going to be cooking with me as a little trainee, so world, meet Alli J. Alli J, meet world).

“Make that chicken thingy,” she told me. Yes, Chicken Tetrazzini is a great choice. It makes me miss mom-cooked meals and since we are learning to support ourselves, it may ease the process if we started with something familiar.

Here’s what you need:
1/4 cup of flour
1 stick of butter
1 pint of whipping cream
1 can of chicken broth
Chicken (we usually use 4 Tyson chicken strips)
Spaghetti noodles
1 bag of shredded cheddar cheese

To make it:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

To make sauce:
Heat butter and flour on stovetop. When butter is melted, add whipping cream and chicken broth. Heat until boiling, stirring occasionally. Continue to heat for a few minutes after boiling to allow sauce to thicken.

Cook chicken (we usually simply fry it up but there are other options).

Cook noodles.

Combine noodles and sauce in a large oven-safe pan. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and add chicken to noodles and sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top of mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

I’ll admit I’ve cooked this a few times, so no major disasters occurred this time around. Unless you count when I was a little off when I poured the noodles into the strainer. I never have had the best hand-eye coordination. No big deal, it’s food for the dog. He loves when we cook.

I think you’ll really enjoy this if you dare to give it a try. This meal is actually the most popular in our household. So try it out with a friend. Cooking has been a great bonding experience with my friends this year. It’s always a good time.

Have fun and good luck.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

the journey begins...

As a junior in college, I am experiencing new things everyday. One of the larger adjustments I made this school year was moving off-campus. Since I moved, I have learned a lot about how to take care of a house and myself. One of the greatest challenges for many students in my situation is learning to cook their own food. Students are ready to ditch the dining hall meals in a heartbeat, without thinking about how they are going to feed themselves. Luckily, I’ve had a little experience with cooking but I have a few friends that are rather challenged in that particular area. I am dedicating this blog to anyone who is ready to learn to cook a few easy meals and toss out the boxes of microwavable food. This is your chance to gain a little independence from the freezer and learn about the art of cooking. There will undoubtedly be mistakes made along the way, but I have faith that it will all turn out respectable in the end.

Have fun and good luck.