Posts filed under 'food & recipes'

Cheap + Easy College Recipes: Butternut Squash Soup

I have a confession to make. Before my sweetie started med school, I didn’t cook. I can cook (sort of), I just… didn’t. He was happy to do it, and I was happy not to. But as we’ve worked through the new dynamics of our relationship-in-med-school (he studies, I cook) I’ve discovered that I actually like it! And trying to eat well on a student’s budget makes it almost like a game; I have to find good new fresh foods for super cheap.

And butternut squash, right now, is about $0.99/lb at my grocery store, which is why I searched out a recipe for some yummy (and EASY) soup. Try it out – it is SO yummy for a cold fall evening!

Butternut Squash Soup
simplified from this recipe

3 1/2 c peeled butternut squash
2 1/2 c  fat free less sodium broth OR vegetable stock (I used veggie stock and it was perfect)
3/4 c chopped carrots
1/4 c milk
1 Tbsp butter
1/8 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

1. Start by peeling and chopping your squash, using a large sharp knife and a cutting board. (Directions how to do it here; don’t worry it’s easy.) Cube it, measure out your 3 1/2 c, and set aside.

2. Chop your carrots, measure, set aside.

3. Put the butter in a medium saucepan (any medium-to-large pot) and heat to medium-high (about a 7 on your stove). Add squash and carrots, and sauté for about 12 minutes.

(If you’re not sure what sauté means, basically you just toss your veggies in with your butter and stir every 20-30 seconds so it doesn’t burn. It will start to smell nice and buttery!)

4. Pour in your broth or stock, and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, put a lid on your pot, lower the heat to medium (a 5 on the stove dial) and let simmer for 30 minutes. You don’t have to stir.

5. When 30 mins are up and your veggies are nice and soft, take the pot off the heat, stir in the milk and salt, and then pour into a blender. Blend to a nice smooth consistency.

6. Ladle into bowls, add pepper to taste (I used just a little), and eat. 


Butternut squash has a sweet, almost pumpkin-y taste to it, but without the stringy factor. It blends up smooth and creamy.

The original recipe calls for chopped onions to be sauteed and mixed in as well. I didn’t do that.

The original recipe also calls for chicken broth, but I used veggie stock for a more uniform flavor and really liked it–makes this a great, filling vegetarian option, too.

Serve with toasted french bread for some crunch. 🙂

Bon appetit!

photo from Cooking Light

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1 comment November 16th, 2009

Not Your Average Dinner Party

Food is a big deal in college, whether you’re on campus or off campus–especially when your main source of nutrition is ramen and cereal. Why not make dinner (or breakfast! Sorry I know that picture is of breakfast… But doesn’t it look amazing??) a little more interesting, and kick your social life up a notch in the process?

Round and Round

Starting a dinner club could be the best thing that ever happened to you if you’re tired of eating at the caf for every meal. Just pick a few people (preferably people who can cook a little!), and take turns cooking meals for each other. It will help everyone save money, and it means a fresh cooked meal a couple times a week.

Plus, if you all eat together, you get some bonus socialization.

True Cuisine

Already mastered the art of boiling water? Start a monthly food club where you can challenge your skills (and your taste buds!) A group of my friends started doing this their second year, and it was amazing. Each week they’d pick out a meal they’d always wanted to try, and get together and (at least try to) cook it. Sometimes they invited other people (like me! woohoo!) to stop by for samples. They honed their cooking skills, and had some pretty funny stories to tell by the end of the year.

A Little Friendly Competition

If any of you caught the Top Chef All-Stars this summer, I hope you saw the episode where the chefs had to cook amazing food in a dorm. It was awesome–I couldn’t believe the food they came up with using just microwaves, toasters, and hot plates!

Whip up a super-amusing dinner party Iron Chef style, using only the cooking utensils and items you have available. Your required ingredient can be anything you want, but keep it dorm-themed to be extra amusing. Gum? Easy Mac? You get the idea.

Get a couple of groups together, and assign judges to award a title to the winners. (Just keep in mind, this could go horribly wrong, so plan on ordering pizza afterward so you have something to eat!)

Looking for more ways to expand your social circle? Check out these ideas for parties (and here) and meeting people (and more here)!

If you’re more concerned with food than friends, why not take a peak at our cheap + easy college recipes? 🙂


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1 comment October 13th, 2009

Cheap Easy College Recipes: Yummy Morning Granola

Until a few months ago, I would have chosen an afternoon snack of m&m’s over granola any day. But then I tried this fantastic Trader Joe’s granola, and I was floored. It was actually good. Really good. And it has a lot more health benefits than junk food.

Last week I tried making my own, and it came out really good. I’m addicted–I have it at least once a day now.

First-Timer Yummy Morning Granola
(my novice version of this one from–where else–Cooking Light.)

  • 5  cups  regular oats (not instant microwave kind)
  • 3  cups  puffed rice cereal
  • 3  tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4  cup  pineapple juice (if you don’t have this, using all apple juice is fine)
  • 1/2  cup  apple juice
  • 1/4  cup  honey
  • Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Combine oats and rice cereal in a large bowl.

3. Combine the juices in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook until reduced to 2/3 cup. Remove from heat; stir in honey.

4. Slowly pour juice mixture over oat mixture, tossing to coat. Spread oat mixture evenly onto a pan coated with cooking spray.

5. Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. (Cook longer for crunchier granola.)

6. Cool completely, and store in an airtight container.

Make it Better: For more crunch and pizazz, consider replacing 1 cup of the oats and 1 cup of rice cereal with fruit (dried cranberries, apples, blueberries, etc.), nuts (walnuts, toasted almonds) and/or oat bran, wheat germ, or other healthy alternatives. It will cost a little more, but it is super yummy.

Mix it Up

Granola on its own is okay, but mix-ins are the spice of life if you ask me. Try eating your fresh-baked granola:

  • With fruit flavored yogurt
  • Topped with berries over milk (or vanilla yogurt)
  • Ice cream (a yummy topping, I’d pair it with chocolate or berry syrup)
  • In a fruit parfait with alternating layers of granola, fresh fruit, and frozen yogurt
  • Mixed into oatmeal for crunch
  • With fruit juice
  • As an addition to cookie-and-ice cream sandwiches (roll the open sides of your ice cream sandwich in granola… mmm!)


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Add comment October 8th, 2009

Fast Food: Easy Snacks + Meals for College

As I was rummaging through our surprisingly full fridge today trying to think of what to eat my brain kept coming back to cereal. I can’t tell you how many bowls of Waffle Crisp I downed during my freshman year (but my roommate probably could…) but I know it was probably 75% more than it should have been. Well, okay, I am no longer a freshman, so why am I still thinking of cereal as a viable lunch (or dinner) option?

If you’re still finding yourself craving Coco Puffs at two in the afternoon, here are a couple ideas for beefing up your “fast food” options the healthy way. 🙂

Wrap it Up

I kept reading about wraps, but I wasn’t convinced until I gave them a try–now I’m an honest convert from sandwiches and bagels. In fact, I eat a wrap almost every day. Not only are they cheap and easy to make, they are also perfect to eat one-handed while you’re driving to work, texting your bff, or whatever. 😉

How: Grab a whole wheat tortilla (you can get them in several sizes) and pile on your toppings of choice. Wrap it up burrito style: fold the top and bottom over your filling, then roll from one side to the other. Nice and neat and ready to eat!

Filling ideas:

  • Caesar Wrap: Lettuce, chicken, Caesar dressing
  • Apple Wrap: Apple slices, shredded cheese, chicken
  • Thanksgiving Wrap: Cream cheese, cranberries, turkey
  • Fruit Salad: Cream cheese, peaches, strawberries
  • Leftovers from last night (ground hamburger, fajita stuff, salad, whatever you want)

Slice and Dice

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to eat less sugar–I cut back to just one dessert per day, which with my chocoholic ways was pretty tricky! One of the easiest ways to beat those mid-afternoon sugar cravings is to have other (healthier) stuff on hand and ready to go. For example, I buy carrots and celery to snack on and cut them all up and bag them on the weekend so they’re ready to grab and go during the week.


  • Baby carrots (+ dressing)
  • Celery (+ peanut butter)
  • Trail mix (raisins, nuts, maybe a little chocolate!)
  • Granola/granola bar (+ yogurt)
  • Pretzels
  • Pita bread (+ hummus or a fruity salsa)

Plus, did you know that having sugar in the afternoon can actually make you feel more tired? The initial kick of eating a sweet will give you energy for a while, but afterwards your body will experience a sugar crash, making you crave even more. So opt for something flavorful but healthy so you can get your studying done and get on with your life. 😉

photo by lhunt

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Add comment August 21st, 2009

Summer Wise: Cooking Prep

I’ve always had a hard time keeping myself entertained during summer break, so I thought it might be kind of fun to do a series of posts about how you can use the break to prepare for next year. So watch for these “Summer Wise” posts over the coming weeks, and let me know if you have any ideas!

Top Ramen, Be Gone.

So, clearly, today I wanted to give you a few suggestions about cooking. If you’re going to be lucky enough to have an apartment for school, you’ll have a real kitchen to work in, but even if you won’t I’d recommend getting a jump on your cooking skills. (After all, you’ll have an oven and stove someday so you may as well prepare now.)

Learn the Basics

While you’re home, take the opportunity to practice in the kitchen. If your mom or dad cooks, ask if you can help (you’ll learn more by doing than by watching!). Even just sitting and chatting with the family cook during meal prep can help–I learned a lot of my cooking skills by quietly observing my mom as she prepared dinner. (Sorry, Mom, should have stepped up to help with that…)

If nobody cooks at your place, this is your chance to fill that mold. There are tons of websites that offer how-tos. I am a huge fan of Cooking Light Magazine (nobody paid me to say that, promise!), and they have an AWESOME collection of Cooking 101 videos and articles, teaching you everything from grilling techniques to how to make a marinade.

Try it Out

Once you’ve learned some basics, grab a recipe and try it out.

Cooking Light is also my go-to source for recipes. While you can buy their magazines and cookbooks, they have a huge online recipe collection you can browse for free. Their food is healthy, fresh, and mostly pretty easy to make. They even have a section devoted to meals you can make in 20 minutes–they range from basic chicken dinners to Mediterranean dishes. (On a side note, the only cookbook I use is one of theirs–I like it because it has more than just casseroles in it!)

Feed the Fam

Practiced? Good. Now give yourself a real test–and butter your parents up for that new laptop, maybe?–by making dinner for your family. If you want to really force yourself to learn how to cook, make it a weekly commitment.

Here’s to a little less Easy Mac in your everyday life!

photo from Cooking Light

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1 comment May 30th, 2009

Cheap & Easy College Recipes: Pizza!

With spring beginning to shine down on us and lovely new fruits and veggies popping up at the local farmer’s markets, I am thinking more and more about making good food with fresh ingredients. I found an amazing recipe for a margherita pizza (no, it doesn’t involve alcohol) and have adapted it to be more new-chef friendly. Give it a try! It’s easy and YUMMY!

Pizza Dough

You can always by a pre-made or ready-to-cook dough at the store, but those are pricey and honestly, never taste as good as home made. This dough, adapted from a Martha recipe , is easy and yummy.

  • 1 1/2 c warm water
  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 c olive or canola oil (olive oil is expensive so canola can substitute!)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups flour (leveled off)

1. Pour the warm water into a bowl, and pour the yeast on top of it (you don’t need to stir). Let it sit for about 5 minutes. The yeast should “activate” meaning it will bubble slightly, and begin to smell very… well… yeast-y. 🙂

2. Whisk in sugar, oil, and salt.

3. With a wooden spoon, stir in flour 1 cup at a time until a sticky dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it sit in a warm place for an hour. Dough should “rise” meaning it will about double in size.

4. Turn dough onto a well-floured surface (a countertop is fine). Flour your hands and knead dough for about 15 seconds. Split dough in half. This is enough dough to make two large pizzas! 🙂

Margherita Pizza (adapted from a Cooking Light recipe )

  • Fresh pizza dough or 1  (10-ounce) can refrigerated pizza crust dough
  • Cooking spray
  • 1  teaspoon  olive oil
  • 5  tomatoes, thinly sliced (Roma or on-the-vine tomatoes work great)
  • 1  cup  shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1  teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2  cup  thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. Coat cookie sheet with cooking spray, and spread and pat dough into a 13 x 11-inch rectangle. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes.

3. Remove crust from oven, and brush with 1/2 teaspoon oil. Arrange tomato slices on crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border; sprinkle evenly with cheese.

4. Bake at 450° for an additional 8-10 minutes, or until cheese melts and crust is golden.

5. Sprinkle pizza evenly with sliced basil, salt, and pepper.

6. Whisk together 1/2 teaspoon oil and vinegar. Drizzle the vinegar mixture evenly over the pizza.

Voila! You’re done! Enjoy!

Have a recipe to share? Feel free to leave it in the comments! 🙂

Photo: Cooking Light Magazine

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5 comments April 21st, 2009

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