I Love to Eat

Posted on April 13, 2011

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Everyone knows what causes the Freshman Fifteen. After you leave home, you’re not getting the home-cooked meals that your parents serve you. Instead, you’re eating at the fast food establishments on campus (which can be a financial problem if you don’t have a meal plan), all serving unhealthy foods in quantities that cause weight gain. Or you’re in the Aztec Markets buying junk food. Or you’re eating at the cheap cafeteria-style dining hall, like SDSU’s very own Cuicacalli Suites. I made the mistake of eating there for the first time in a few years. The stomachache I endured was enough to remind me why I stopped eating campus food and why I wanted to improve my own cooking talents (which is today’s topic, if you hadn’t already guessed).

For the past few months, I’ve been trying to cook at home as often as I can. My forays into chef-dom in the past have been a little lackluster, sticking largely to microwaved quesadillas (put cheese between tortillas, melt it somehow… done) or plain old scrambled eggs (which I burned and avoided). So, I’ve tried my best to kick it up a notch and prepare more elaborate meals.

It’s funny how your cooking methods can tell you a little bit about yourself. In all the meals I have made, I have NEVER checked to see what temperature I had things at, or timed how long it took to cook them, or measured out my ingredients. Those sorts of things seem tedious to me. Instead, I do it all on taste tests and visuals. If I’m cooking meat of any sort, I use the finger test to make sure its done or cut it open to see  how it’s looking inside. And often I don’t really prepare in advance for my meals by grabbing ingredients from the market specific to a certain type of meal I want to make. As you’ll see below in #3, I like to grab whatever I can out of the fridge or off the spice rack and see what happens when I throw everything together. It’s kind of fun that way! It doesn’t always lead to success, but sometimes it provides something totally unexpected.

If you had told me as a college freshman that I was going to be able to successfully concoct the meals below, I would have told you that there was no way- all I was capable of making was a bowl of Fruity Pebbles or a Hot Pocket. That’s why I surpassed the Freshman Fifteen and went to the Freshman Forty instead, yeesh! My home cooking has helped with my current attempts at weight loss, and is certainly an overall self-improvement that I’m pleased with.

Bon apétit!

1) Lemon-Garlic Chicken with Peas. I made a sauce for the chicken to cook in using lemon juice, diced garlic, salted butter, herb-garlic powder, and pepper. I let the chicken absorb what it could from the sauce before putting it into the oven in a glass pan at somewhere around 400 degrees Fahrenheit. What was really weird about this dinner was that I actually made vegetables as a side dish… which I hardly ever do. I love peas! Salt and butter them and they’re a wonderful addition to the lemon-garlic chicken.

2) Sauteed Portobello Mushrooms. It’s hard to find a vegetarian option that fills me up. These did the trick. I sautéed both mushrooms in a pan with Worcestershire sauce and butter, salted and peppered them during the sautéing, and tossed in the chopped white onions and red bell peppers to cook with them. Fairly simple but looks delicious!

3) Baked Stuffed Portobello. Sadly, this turned out to be my least delightful cooking adventure. I cleaned out the inside of a portobello mushroom and filled it with Ralph’s Deli spinach dip, sliced red onions, cheddar and Asiago cheese. I then made a doughy substance from vegetable oil, diced garlic, flour, and an egg. I thought it would turn out a lot better than it did, but the oil in the doughy substance mostly ran off into the pan and actually fried the dough into a cheesy crust… just not on the mushroom, as intended. I also don’t believe I put it in long enough. Oh well. It was good, just not what I hoped for.

4) Greek Salad with Spicy Beer Chicken. Now, I understand that making a salad isn’t cooking, but I feel that what you put into a salad makes all the difference. Otherwise, it can be boring and unappetizing. I sliced romaine hearts for the salad bed, then tossed in Feta cheese, sliced white onions, garlic-stuffed olives, artichoke hearts, and the chicken! The chicken tenders were fun to make- I fried them with Sriracha and Fat Tire beer, both of which boil and crackle in the pan. Delicious and added protein to the salad.

5) Corned Beef and Potatoes. A St. Patrick’s Day favorite for my family. I chopped up about ten potatoes into six pieces each, then threw them into two pans with five diced carrots, a whole chopped brown onion, and two cans of corned beef! Salt and pepper as needed. Fairly simple but I still felt pretty awesome preparing a dish that my parents have made for me every St. Patty’s as long as I can remember. I didn’t manage to buy an cabbage for the dish; the supermarkets were all fresh out when I went in to get some. And yes, that is green Jameson whiskey.

6) Fried Plantains. My Costa Rican Aunt Elsa taught me how to make this one, and it’s been VERY popular with my friends as an unorthodox dessert. Plantains are cousins to the banana, and are starchier and heartier and less sweet. I cut them into four pieces (in half and then length wise) and toss them into the pan with salted butter. I add splash of Sailor Jerry’s rum for added flavor, but it’s not necessary. Once cooked, you place the pieces in a bowl and can top it with a variety of things. The batch pictured used vanilla Greek yogurt, brown sugar, and a drizzle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup and Kahlua coffee liquer for a Latin American treat.

I can also make French Toast and Hash Browns, and a lethal amount of Sandwiches.

Also, as a side note and a follow-up to a previous entry- shopping at grocery stores and getting things for cooking a meal is collectively so much cheaper than eating out every day. My weekly figure of $200 eating out almost every meal is grossly enormous compared to a $50 market run that lasts me a week or more! I can also reap the benefits of places that favor SDSU students, like Windmill Farms’ 20% student discount during March and September, and use my parents’ Ralph’s membership for price cuts and coupons. Very nifty.

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Posted in: Cooking