Peppermint Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies. Haha. Funny, right? Maybe it is just my inner five-year-old coming out, but I must say that is a hilarious name for a cute dessert. Apparently, when this little treat first became popular on the East Coast, everyone would shout “Whoopie!” when they got one. So, with finals ridding all of us college kids of sunshine and smiles, I figured we needed a little “Whoopie!” in our lives.

Take an hour or two break from your studying, whip out your favorite apron, blast the tunes, and make some whoopie.

Peppermint Whoopie Pies 

Makes 24 pies

The Ingredients: 

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 4 tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 tbs. vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 can of vanilla frosting
  • 30 mini peppermint candy canes

The Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with a silpat or parchment paper. In a bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. (I own no sieve, so what you see below is actually a pasta strainer because I refuse to skip sifting steps. Why I feel this step is so important, I do not know. Just get creative and don’t skip the sifting!)

In another bowl, beat butter, shortening, and sugar with a mixer on low until just combined. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes. (If you don’t have an electric mixer, just use a whisk and beat your little heart out. Everything will turn out the same, trust me.)

Add egg and vanilla and beat for two more minutes. (Keep whisking, baby! I know you can do it.)

Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk and beat on low until incorporated. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk and beat until combined.

Using a tablespoon, drop batter on baking sheet, at least two inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until pies spring back when pressed gently. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Pair cookies together by size.

Place candy canes in a bag, and bang with all your might until they are crushed up into tiny pieces.

From here on out, you’ll have to use your imagination; I forgot to take pictures! Drop a dollop of frosting in the center of one cookie per pair. Place the other cookie on top and gently press down. Roll the exposed frosting edges of each pie in the crushed candy canes until completely coated.


The Break-Down:

I won’t lie to you, my friends. The recipe is a bit tedious but really it isn’t that hard. You can make the cookies a day or two ahead of time so that you aren’t baking and putting together all at once.

Also, whoopie pies can be made in so many different combinations and flavors for both the cookies and the frosting. I’m dying to try red velvet cookies or peanut butter frosting!

Total Time:

1 hour baking, 30 min assembling

Total Cost:

$0.26 per whoopie pie. Now that deserves a (say it with me) “Whoopie!”

Recipe adapted from Bakerella.

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Thanksgiving from The College Gal’s (Parents’) Kitchen

Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday of the year. Fitting for a food-lover, no? Since my family moved when I was nine years old, we have had Thanksgiving at our house every year. I’m pretty sure the first year started with about 15 or 20 people. Five years later we had upwards of 25 people coming over to eat each Turkey Day. As of late, our house has turned into a family and friends banquet hall of sorts, with at least a solid 30 people coming for Thanksgiving. This year we had 37. Yes, it does get as crazy as you are imagining it would. Take a peek.

From left to right:

  1. Daddy got a brand new turkey cooking pan this year. It was shiny. He was happy. I took a picture.
  2. There are about a gazillion potatoes all up in that pot, waiting to get mashed. Mmm mmm good.
  3. Haha. Haha. Funny, huh? We thought so. That’s why these little cards were sprinkled all over the tables.
  4. Bacon wrapped turkey in the early stages. Let me tell you, friends. That is the best bacon you will ever eat. Ever.
  5. I made these place cards for everyone about four Thanksgivings ago. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but how cute are these little things?
  6. Mommy made the yummiest cauliflower this year. Want the recipe? Huh? Huh? Huh? Well since you asked, you might get lucky at the end of this post.
  7. Our living room, sans furniture (it was banished to the garage), plus three tables and a million chairs.
  8. Sweet potato pie. Not my cup of tea, but I had seven other pies to choose from so it was all good.
  9. The only way to truly begin Thanksgiving: with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Duh.

From left to right:

  1. Cheddar biscuits about to be put in the oven. What’s that? You want this recipe, too? Well, hm. I’ll see what I can do.
  2. It isn’t Thanksgiving unless there is a festive, appropriately-colored wreath hanging on the front door.
  3. Chocolate cream pie, my favorite. There may or may not have been a tiny food fight with this baby after everyone left.
  4. The turkey says, “You only love us for our breasts.” Haha. Haha. Haha. Oh my gosh, stop it. I can’t breathe.
  5. Remember that pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe? I made those and some cupcakes, Thanksgiving style.
  6. Anything that says party pack is bound to make Thanksgiving dinner 20 times more fun, right?
  7. Well that was good. What you can’t see right behind that plate is me, in a serious food coma.
  8. And I thought my kitchen gets messy after I cook. You don’t even want to know how high the dishes were piled in that sink.
  9. Mashed potatoes and turkey making their official debut. So fantastic. So filling. Such Thanksgiving magic.

Alright, foodies. Here are those recipes I promised you. Cook away! They aren’t just for Thanksgiving.

Garlic Roasted Cauliflower

(Recipe from Ladies Home Journal, November 2010, originally published in Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That?)

The Ingredients:

  • 1 head large garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
  • 1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into large florets
  • 4 ½ tbs. olive oil
  • 2 ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tbs. pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tbs. fresh lemon juice

The Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 450. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the garlic cloves. Boil for 15 seconds; drain and peel. Cut the largest cloves in half lengthwise.
  2. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with the garlic, 3 tbs. olive oil, 2 tsp. salt and black pepper. Spread into a single layer and roast, stirring twice, until the cauliflower is tender and the garlic is lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl with the garlic and pan juices. Add the remaining 1 ½ tbs. olive oil, parsley, pine nuts and lemon juice. Sprinkle ½ tsp. salt, toss well and serve hot or warm.

Cheddar Biscuits with Butter Garlic Sauce

(Recipe from my brother’s school cooking class)

The Ingredients:


  • 2 ½ cups Bisquick baking mix
  • 3/4 cup cold whole milk
  • 4 tbs. cold butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese


  • 2 tbs. butter, melted
  • ¼ tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt

The Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Combine Bisquick and 4 tbs. cold butter in medium bowl and mix. Add cheese, milk, and ¼ tsp. garlic powder.
  3. Drop ¼ cup portions of dough on cookie sheet.
  4. Bake about 15 to 17 minutes.
  5. Melt 2 tbs. butter and stir in ¼ tsp. dried parsley flakes, ½ tsp. garlic powder, and salt. Pour as desired over biscuits.

And, last but not least, you didn’t think I would end this post without showing you that little chocolate cream pie battle did you?

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Cream Cheese and Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Hey readers, thanks for sticking by me after last week’s trying kitchen disaster. It was a really tough time for me; I’m sure you can imagine. I mean, every time I looked in the refrigerator, that barely used, broken container  of pesto just sat there, staring at me. (I got really upset after the recipe didn’t turn out right. Just kidding. I totally dropped it. I’m a walking accident in the kitchen.)

I couldn’t take the agonizing reminder anymore. I really couldn’t. Plus the expiration date was coming up. So, I scoured my cookbooks and the internet for a great (foolproof) recipe to use up some more of my pesto and fell in love with this chicken recipe.

Yumminess exploded in my mouth with each bite. And, I got to use those chicken butterflying skills I’ve been working so hard on. Go me.

Cream Cheese and Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts

The Ingredients: 

  • 2 tbs. cream cheese
  • 1 tbs. pesto
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 egg white
  • ½ cup plain, dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

The Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine cream cheese and pesto in a small bowl. Like my spoon mixer? Super handy.

Butterfly each chicken breast; don’t completely separate the halves. I hope you’ve been practicing. If not, shame on you, but I forgive you. Watch this video.

Open up each chicken breast and place a quarter of the cream cheese-pesto mixture in the center.

Close the breast back up and press the edges together to seal. I sincerely apologize for this creepy picture of my fingers. I promise they are attached to my hands and look way better in real life.

Beat the egg white in a bowl and spread the bread crumbs out on a plate.

Holding the edges together, dip each breast in the egg white and then coat it with bread crumbs.

Heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook until brown on one side.

Place the chicken (with the browned side up) on the baking sheet. Bake in the oven about 20 minutes or until no longer pink inside.

Add some veggies to your plate, ‘cause Mom and Dad said they’re good for you, and dig in!

The Break-Down:

Do not be intimidated by the many directions; this recipe is surprisingly easy. The cream cheese-pesto filling makes the chicken extra moist and super fun to cut in to. Everyone likes a surprise in the middle of their food! Well, most of the time.

Total Time:

33 minutes (Not 30 minutes. Not 35 minutes. Just 33 minutes.)

Total Cost:

$1.40 per chicken breast

Recipe adapted from

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That’s Not What Was Supposed To Happen

I love a recipe that not only has an amazing taste, but that has an amazing finished appearance as well. Presentation is key to a creative perfectionist like me. I mean, I drink tap water out of my prettiest mugs and eat Cheezits out of my fanciest bowls just so they look nice.

Naturally, when I saw these pesto rolls that Alice from Savory Sweet Life had made, I was beyond excited to get to work on them immediately. Perfectly rounded puffs with simple swirls of pesto equals the cutest dinner rolls I’ve ever laid eyes on. After a quick supermarket run, I was ready to begin the cooking task at hand. Fast forward to my kitchen 45 minutes later and add a tube of the wrong dough and I got some very interesting creations.

No, by pesto roll Alice did not mean mini taco, deformed cookie, or wannabe pretzel, all of which I ended up with. You can thank my need to salvage anything I could from the recipe’s ingredients for those delightful looking disasters. Yet in the end, while not exactly the finished product Alice originally made or I intended for, these bite-sized mishaps tasted decent and provided the night’s entertainment for the residents of my apartment.

Doo-doo-doo-dooooo! (That was a trumpet noise. Just in case we weren’t on the same page.) Important conclusion time. For a novice cook, which I can assume a majority of college students are, cooking mistakes are inevitable. And, when you are particularly accident-prone in the kitchen like me (I swear, I just look at the freezer and something falls out), your chances are doubled. But don’t give up! Where would the fun be in that? Nowhere, I tell you. Absolutely nowhere.

So, in honor of the wonderful lesson I learned from my pesto roll disaster, I asked Alice to share one of her kitchen catastrophes. Find out how she learned the hard way that drinking glasses are not good substitutes for mixing bowls.


“An unorganized kitchen is a recipe for disaster. Our galley style kitchen has very little counter space to cook and is often times cluttered with ingredients. On a very hot summer day a few years ago I was making an Asian dish which required a mixture of soy sauce, sugar and fish sauce. I mixed these ingredients in a tall clear drinking glass, allowing it to rest and giving the sugar time to dissolve. I left the house to run an errand and when I arrived home I was so thirsty from the warm weather. I walked into the kitchen to get something to drink. What I wanted was a Diet Coke which I had been drinking earlier in the day. I saw my drinking glass and took a big gulp of cola only to discover it wasn’t cola at all. I had accidentally taken a big drink of the soy sauce-fish sauce mixture I had made earlier in the day. A split second later after I realized what had happened, I forcefully spit it out.  The displeasing aftertaste of fish sauce lingered in my mouth the rest of the day.  Needless to say, I never mix ingredients in drinking glasses anymore and recommend other people also do the same.” -Alice from Savory Sweet Life

Lessons learned from this post: buy the correct dough and invest in some good mixing bowls! Any recipe suggestions to use up the rest of my pesto? Unfortunately, it didn’t quite get to serve its original purpose.

Posted in Bread, Random Ramblings | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Egg with Potato, Pepper, and Onion Medley

Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day. Therefore, I don’t just eat it in the morning. That would be too normal. I’m definitely not normal.

Breakfast dishes have been known to make their way onto my plate for a lunch meal, for a dinner meal, for a midnight snack, for a midday pick-me-up, for a yay-I-totally-aced-my-journalism-quiz treat. Dare me to continue?

So, as I stared into the refrigerator one lazy evening, ready to resign to a PB&J, I saw the eggs. “Anything goes with eggs,” the box read.

So true, I thought, cocking my head to the side. So true. That’s when I saw the potatoes, the mesh bag of colorful potatoes that had been sitting atop my fridge for at least two weeks, waiting for its chance to be picked as the day’s big food star. Well, that time had come. And so had my genius idea. Breakfast for dinner. Forget the PB&J. What am I, five years old? Ok, I admit I still totally eat PB&J’s. Don’t tell.

And so it happened. A beautiful fall medley of colors right on my plate. Red, purple, and yellow potatoes. Orange bell peppers. White onions, almost translucent. And two eggs, over-easy. Hello gorgeous.

Egg with Potato, Pepper, and Onion Medley

The Ingredients: 

  • 3 small potatoes or 1 large potato
  • ¾ bell pepper
  • ¼ white onion
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
  • 1 tsp. butter

The Directions:

It’s a potato party! Say hello to Red Randolph, Purple Penelope, and Yellow Yolanda. They’ll be the stars of the meal.

Grab the uncooked potatoes and rinse ‘em, scrub ‘em, and chop ‘em. Then admire. Pretty colors never cease to distract amaze me.

Throw the chopped potatoes in a bowl. Microwave for 5 minutes.

Coarsely chop the onion and pepper, spread them out in a large skillet and drizzle oil over them. Sauté for 3 minutes.

Add the potatoes to the skillet and sauté them with the pepper and onion for another 3 minutes.

Place everything in a bowl.

Melt butter in a small pan. Crack eggs into the pan.

Turn around to grab a spatula (you forgot to get one before, naturally) and encounter your roommate’s AMAZING chili bowl lined with blue tortilla chips. Stop to wish you liked chili so you could make something that cool. Suddenly remember that you have an egg cooking and get back to it.

Layer eggs over potato, pepper, and onion medley. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese over everything if desired.

The Break-Down:

This meal is classic comfort food in my mind, whether you eat it on Sunday morning of Wednesday night. I actually adapted the recipe from my dad. He chops the potatoes, peppers, and onions and then bakes them in the oven for 20 minutes. This way seems easier to me, but the taste exactly the same.

Total Time:

20 minutes

Total Cost:

$2.75 per serving (This only makes one serving. If you aren’t super hungry you’ll have some leftover potato medley that you can eat the next morning!)

Recipe adapted from…my dad.

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Friday’s Fun Food Fact: Milk with Dinner

I absolutely hate drinking milk with dinner. Pork with milk? Orange chicken with milk? Ew, no way. (Exceptions made when eating breakfast for dinner. But is that really dinner?)

How do you feel about drinking milk during dinnertime? Do you have any fun food facts to share?

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My Kitchen Is Sponsored by Trader Joe’s

Ok, not really. But Trader Joe’s, if you’re reading, I’d be happy to assume this position immediately.

On to the real, important matters. Readers, I feel the need to level with you. While you may have visions of me toiling away in the kitchen all day long, wearing the most adorable cupcake apron, sunshine dancing across my face, armed with a constant smile thanks to my unfailingly perfect cooking adventures, this just isn’t so. I’m sorry to have led you along for so long.

Sometimes I only have ten minutes to make dinner before I’m attempting to scratch off the next thing on my to-do list. My apron doesn’t always find its way around my waist. My kitchen can get dark and gloomy. I’m definitely not smiling as I drop the third egg of the night on the floor.

These are the times I rely on Trader Joe’s. Delicious frozen meals. Fabulous low prices. Quick and simple directions. What more could a college gal really ask for? Nothing, I tell you. Absolutely nothing.

Without further ado, I bring you “Easy, Easier, and Easiest” featuring Trader Joe’s.

Easy: Orange Chicken with Rice and Broccoli

Time needed: 20 minutes, Trader Joe’s Product: Mandarin Orange Chicken (in the freezer section)

Cook a package (about three servings) of Trader Joe’s orange chicken in the oven according to directions on the package. Make some rice and broccoli and mix it all together. Drizzle sauce over everything. Easy. Eat.

Easier: Vegetable Pad Thai with Shrimp and Snap Peas

Time needed: 10 minutes, Trader Joe’s Product: Vegetable Pad Thai (in the freezer section)

Cook a package of Trader Joe’s vegetable pad thai in the microwave according to directions on the package. Cook as many shrimp as you want and mix them into the pad thai. Cook as many snap peas as you want in the microwave for about 40 seconds, cut them into smaller pieces and mix them into the pad thai. Easier. Eat.

Easiest: California Rolls

Time needed: 20 seconds…to open the package, Trader Joe’s Product: California Rolls (near the meats and prepared food in the refrigerator section)

Open the package. Easiest. Eat.

Posted in Asian, Random Ramblings | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Caramelized Asian Pork Chops

When I was little I was the definition of a picky eater. To the contrary, my younger brother ate anything, everything. My parents used to joke that the five foods I liked were the five foods he didn’t, causing many a dilemma during dinnertime. There may or may not have been a few bites fed to dogs, dumped in the garbage, thrown down the disposal, the usual techniques in which we picky eaters are well versed.

Meat was a particularly sore spot. When I ate it, which was rare, it was quite possibly in the form of a chicken nugget or corn dog. Classy, I know. While I’ll still choose a pasta or salad dish over a hunk of meat any day, I am slowly morphing into a carnivore. I can almost hear my parents cheering in the background.

These pork chops defy everything I hate about meat. They aren’t dry and bland, but instead juicy and flavorful. They aren’t thick and chewy slabs, they’re thin and tender. And, on a completely unrelated note, the word caramel is in the name. Sold yet?

Caramelized Asian Pork Chops

The Ingredients: 

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tbs. sugar
  • 1½ tbs. vegetable oil
  • 4 thin pork rib chops           
  • Rice (type/amount of your choosing)
  • Vegetable (type/amount of your choosing)

The Directions:

Whisk together garlic, soy sauce, sugar, and ½ tbs. oil to make a marinade.

Cut the fat off each of the pork chops if there is any.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place the pork chops on it, side by side.

Pour the marinade evenly over the pork chops. Turn to coat the chops. Let stand for about 15 minutes.

Put your multitasking hat on and get ready to work. This is the really tough part. Cook a serving of rice and vegetables according to the directions on the package.

Heat the remaining 1 tbs. of oil in a pan. Cook the pork chops about 3 minutes on each side.

Layer the pork and you’re vegetable over the rice and drizzle any leftover sauce in the pan over everything. Chow down!

The Break-Down:

The pork chops had an amazing sweet and salty taste due to the marinade. Plus, I definitely felt like a big girl making a meal that involved a marinade. Go grown-up meals! As I mentioned, it’s up to you what type of rice and vegetable you want to use. I chose Boil-in-Bag brown rice and steamed some frozen, chopped broccoli. One thing I would have changed was to double the ingredients for the marinade. By doing that, there would be a good amount of extra sauce to mix with the rice and vegetable.

Total Time:

30 minutes (Includes marinating time.)

Total Cost:

$1.91 per serving (This cost is record-breakingly low. Let’s pause for a collective rejoice from college students across the world.)

P.s. Making this meal for more than just yourself? Watch this video below for tips on how to marinate large amounts of meat.

Recipe adapted from

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I’m not quite sure what possessed me to make these muffins when I first saw the recipe. Was it my complete aversion to the smell of canned pumpkin? My dodging of pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving since I can remember, despite my family’s protests? No. No, I don’t think so.

Maybe it was the adorable way they were photographed and discussed on the blog that I first saw them? Or the way they make it seem like fall is finally here, despite the unbelievably fickle weather we’ve been experiencing as of late. Yes. Yes, I think that was probably it.

Let me tell you, to whatever prompted me to make the decision, I’ll be forever grateful. These muffins are the ideal treat for breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. Or breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Your secret is safe with me.

Though I thought I hated pumpkin (and I still kind of do in any other recipe), these muffins made me change my mind. The slight sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and just-right amount of chocolate chips takes away the usually overpowering taste of pumpkin and leaves you with a perfect, barely noticeable hint to please your palate.

So pumpkin-lovers and pumpkin-haters alike, let us come together over the glorious goodness of these spectacular muffins.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

The Ingredients: 

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour       
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup solid-pack pumpkin (8 oz.)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice OR ½ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. nutmeg, and ¼ tsp. allspice
  • 1 ¼ cups (plus one tbs.) sugar
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (Optional, if you must.)

The Directions:

Whisk together pumpkin, oil, pumpkin pie spice(s), 1 ¼ cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Then, whisk in flour and baking powder until just combined.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide batter evenly among lined muffin cups, each should be about ¾ full.

Lick the bowl. C’mon, you know you want to. It’s sooo yummy.

Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tbs. sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the mixture.

Bake 25 minutes, or until puffed and golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into the top of the muffin comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack until room temperature.

Devour and enjoy!

The Break-Down:

Though I’m learning to enjoy cooking more and more (funny how we like things more as we get better at them), my real love will always be baking. These muffins were extremely easy to make and dirtied very few dishes. If you hail from Crazy Town and don’t like chocolate chips, just leave them out. Don’t tell me, just do it. If you want to make these jumbo size, because sometimes a regular size muffin just isn’t enough, bake for 20 minutes instead of 25, checking frequently. It will make about 8-9 muffins.

Total Time:

40 minutes (Includes baking and cleaning time. How spiffy.)

Total Cost:

About 60 cents per muffin (Take that Starbucks, and your incredibly overpriced muffins.)

P.s. If you’re looking to get extra, super, fancy and creative, you can puree your own pumpkin instead of buying it canned. Ooo la la. Do you dare? Watch this video for a how-to.

Recipe adapted from Cupcakes and Cashmere, originally from Letters, Gourmet, November 2006 Adapted from the American club, in Kohler, Wisconsin

Posted in Desserts, Muffins | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Quesadilla Casserole

Welcome to this week’s installment of “It Looks Disgusting but Tastes Delicious” starring the one and only, Quesadilla Casserole. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a bit of a perfectionist. Food included, I like every project I complete to be beautiful as well as serve its intended purpose. I mean, I was the second grader who stayed up past her bedtime not to watch one more episode of Rugrats, but to refine her “About Me” poster for class: no glue showing, perfectly aligned pictures, you get the point. So, when it comes to the recipes I take on, I want them to be tasty, but for the sake of my sanity and this blog I need them to look and photograph attractively. Well, I’m sad to say I only hit one out of two goals with this casserole consisting of layer upon layer of deliciousness.

I’m really not sure that there was any way to make this meal look appealing. (If you find one, let me know.) Nevertheless, my perfectionism was satiated by the adorably well-organized and detailed McCormick Recipe Inspirations that housed the necessary spices and recipe for this meal.

Quesadilla Casserole

The Ingredients (Package includes):

  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • ½ tsp. oregano leaves
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)

The Ingredients (What you’ll need):

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup chopped bell pepper
  • 2 cans (8 oz.) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (8 ¾ oz.) whole kernel corn, undrained
  • 1 can (4 ½ oz.) chopped green chiles, undrained
  • 6 flour tortillas (8-inch)
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

The Directions:

Brown beef, onion, and bell pepper in a large skillet on medium-high heat; drain.

Add tomato sauce, corn, and green chiles. Mix well.

Stir in all of the spices except red pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes. Add red pepper to taste, if desired.

Spread 1/3 of the beef mixture on the bottom of a 13x9x2 baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Top with 3 of the tortillas, overlapping as needed.

Layer ½ of the Cheddar cheese on top of the tortillas.

Continue the layering process as follows, until done. 1/3 beef mixture, 3 tortillas, 1/3 beef mixture, ½ Cheddar cheese. Bake in 350°F oven for 15 minutes or until heated through. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

See? Looks disgusting, but trust me, tastes delicious.

The Break-Down:

This was one of the easiest meals I’ve ever made. As mentioned above, the recipe was included on the back of McCormick’s latest invention: McCormick Recipe Inspirations. My lovely mother sent this to me when I moved back into my apartment after the summer and I’m so glad I finally got around to making it. The original recipe included beans, one of the foods that I absolutely abhor and will not even touch in a meal. And look how well Mommy knows me; she noted on the recipe that I could leave the beans out. How nice.

Instead, I substituted ½ cup of chopped bell peppers. They were fabulous and added a delightful crunch to the casserole. Now, the McCormick layering instructions get completely confusing. I improvised and it turned out awesome. Let’s just pretend my way was the intended way.

The best part about the McCormick Recipe Inspirations is the individually packaged spices in just the amounts you need for the recipe. Let’s face it, no college student has a complete spice assortment and it is a pain to go out and buy a huge bottle for a recipe in which you need one teaspoon. With this, you are given just what you need for under three bucks. Perfect!

Total Time:

30 minutes (From pulling ingredients out of the fridge to putting that first bite into your mouth. So fast and easy.)

Total Cost:

$2.75 per serving (This makes 8 huge servings! Split it with your roommates, cook it for a family dinner, or individually wrap the leftovers and freeze them for a quick, lazy meal.)

Recipe adapted from McCormick Recipe Inspirations.

Posted in Beef, Mexican | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Things My Family Taught Me

*Note: The College Gal is about to get a bit personal on you guys. But, don’t worry. There are definitely some invaluable cooking tips peppered in here somewhere.

At every family get together we’ve ever had at my house, everyone always ends up standing and talking in the kitchen. Why? I don’t know. We have a pretty spacious downstairs area. There are plenty of chairs, stools, and couches to be sat on. We have a nice-sized backyard. There is a lot of patio space to be stood on. But so what? We all gather in the kitchen. Dogs’ tails get stepped on, food is inevitably dropped, cabinets get opened into someone’s face. Fun times are had, no doubt.

I guess it’s no wonder then that I associate the kitchen with family. Sitting and observing these boisterous family gatherings or just watching them in the kitchen cooking, I’ve definitely learned my fair share of lessons. Wanted or not, their voices play in my head every time I cook. So, family, I’d like to say thank you for all you’ve taught me with the following little letters. Readers, read carefully. These are groundbreaking tips. You’re welcome for passing them along.

Dear Mommy,

Thank you for teaching me how to properly make a grilled cheese. Doesn’t everybody know that you must butter the bread instead of spraying the pan for the optimum golden brown sandwich? One day, they will all be on the same page as us. One day.


The College Gal

Dear my cousin Melanie,

Without your expertise I would still be making scrambled eggs wrong. I now know that you must wait for the egg along the edge of the pan to become firm and almost bubbly before carefully scraping from edge to middle around the entire pan. Firm, scrape, repeat. Thank you.


The College Gal

P.s. If we ever find the cooking show video that we taped when you taught me this over ten years ago, I will die of happiness.

Dear Daddy,

I credit you for teaching me the importance of a good dishtowel. Slinging one over your shoulder while you walk around the kitchen like a crazy person because you forgot to cut the onions and you needed them in your recipe, like, two minutes ago may cause people to think you are a bit insane but it is so super helpful. You’re the best.


The College Gal

Dear Grandma,

Who would’ve known that you should never beat eggs with a fork as it will bruise them? Always, always use a baby whisk. My eggs have never been more grateful. Thanks.


The College Gal

Dear my brother Jordan,

You taught me that it was okay to experiment in the kitchen. Yes, many of your trials were catastrophes and absolutely disgusting, but a few definitely knocked my socks off. For example, the Guacamole Creation of Summer 2009. Best. Guac. Ever.


The College Gal

Finally, and maybe most importantly…

Dear dogs,

How can I ever repay you for teaching me to never, ever leave anything on the edge of the counter. You will find it. You will reach it. You will eat it. I might cry. I forgive you both.


The College Gal

Posted in Random Ramblings | Leave a comment

Herb-Rubbed Grilled Chicken with Creamy Orzo

Food Network, you can quit the search for your next best, greatest, coolest, whatever food star. I’ve got you covered. Don’t fret that this was the first result of my many kitchen adventures that I dubbed hands-down restaurant-worthy like all of your other cooking stars’ regular recipes. Because, seriously, I have no doubt that this meal would fit seamlessly into that pages of any menu. I mean, at least at Olive Garden or Chili’s. And, I know that just two weeks ago I admitted to being a complete amateur in this cooking world, but think of how fun could that be for ratings! Just go with me on this one, okay? It’s a developing idea, but it could so work. Have your people call my people.

With the first bite of this moist chicken and creamy orzo, I lost my mind. It was like magic was happening in my mouth. Give it a try. I swear you’ll feel the same way.

Herb-Rubbed Grilled Chicken with Creamy Orzo

The Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. orzo pasta
  • 2 chicken breasts, butterflied into halves (4 pieces total)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp. Mrs. Dash Seasoning Original Blend
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 2 cups broccoli florets or 1 cup peas
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

The Directions:

Bring a saucepan of salted water to boil. Add the orzo and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving the water.

Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. Sprinkle evenly with Mrs. Dash Seasoning. Heat the olive oil in a 12 or 14 inch skillet over medium-high. Add the chicken breast halves to the pan and cook for about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute.

Add the diced tomatoes, with the juices, and the peas. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer over medium-low.

Cover and let cook for about 10 minutes. Chances are that like any self-respecting college student you do not have a matching set of pots and pans. Instead you have every family member’s rejects and cannot find a cover to go on top of the pan you are using. Find another equal size pan and use it as a cover. Genius! Look how smart college has made me.

Don’t let those 10 minutes go to waste. Start cleaning up the dishes that have begun to collect in your sink.

Remember that water you set aside? Give it a quick hello and then let it get back to enjoying its beautiful view of the apartments across the way.

Organize your shelves and the refrigerator. They could really use it. Oh, shoot, 10 minutes are up? Guess you’ll have to get back to that later.

Stir in the cooked orzo, heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese. If necessary, add some of the reserved pasta water to smooth out the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately and savor every last bite.

The Break-Down:

As you can tell, this meal is one of my favorites. The chicken comes out incredibly juicy and the sauce is to die for. I substituted Mrs. Dash seasoning for Herbes de Provence, simply because I had it in the apartment and had never heard of that fancy French named spice medley. Also, if you never got over your childhood hatred of broccoli –like me –substitute peas for the small, yucky, green tree things. Use only one cup.

As for butterflying a chicken breast -its hard. Really hard. They use the name butterfly and trick you into thinking it will be a happy, simple experience. It isn’t. Practice a lot and be mindeful of your fingers. Follow this video, but cut completely in half rather than keeping the two halves connected.

I got about 4 servings out of this, with a large piece of chicken in each. You might even have some leftover pasta that you can eat as a side dish without chicken.

Total Time:

45 minutes (This includes those 10 minutes in the middle that you got to do all those other fun things like clean or organize, though.)

Total Cost:

$3.46 per serving (Buy chicken in bulk and freeze what you don’t use to save money. On another note, I know you might not want to go out and buy a brand new jar of seasoning, but Mrs. Dash is a really versatile and helpful one to have in your pantry. Use it on any meat, eggs, seafood, vegetables, etc. It may seem expensive at first but it will last forever.)

Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats.

Posted in Chicken, Pasta | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Shrimp, Feta, and Herb Mac and Cheese

Dear Krafts’s Mac and Cheese,

We’re practically BFF. I mean, you’ve always been there for me: throughout my picky eating years, at the end of a bad day, after my wisdom teeth operation. And I cherish all of those times, I really do, but I’m growing up. My taste buds are evolving -finally. I’m starting to enjoy more refined dishes -finally. When I eat mac and cheese, I want to do more than boil a pot of water and toss in some freakishly neon cheese -finally. So, when I say that I may have strayed from our friendship a bit, please keep in mind that I still love you. It just might be time to branch out a bit.

You see, this past week I made a dish of mac and cheese that didn’t come in a box. It was a lovely medley of sharp feta and swiss cheese, fresh and flavorful herbs, and tender shrimp. And, while it didn’t make your endearing squishy sound when I mixed it and it took a little longer than five minutes to cook, I really did love it.

So, I’m sorry Kraft’s mac and cheese. Can we still be friends?


The College Gal

Anyone else looking to have an amicable yet fulfilling break up with their comfort mac and cheese of choice? Try this recipe out for size.

Shrimp, Feta, and Herb Mac and Cheese

The Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. pasta shapes
  • 1 lb. raw shrimp, uncooked, peeled, and deveined
  • 10 oz. feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 5 tbsp. butter
  • 4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
  • 8 oz. swiss cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

The Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While this is happening, begin to chop up your fresh herbs, defrost your shrimp if they are frozen, and preheat your oven to 400˚ F. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the directions on the box. Drain the pasta and set aside in a large bowl. Add the uncooked shrimp to the warm pasta and mix together.

In a seperate bowl, combine a handful of feta, the breadcrumbs, 2 teaspoons of the parsley, and 1 tablespoon of the butter, melted. Mix ingredients together.

In a medium pot, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, whisk in the flour. This should form a paste. Cook, whisking constantly, for about 1-2 minutes, until the color darkens a bit. Whisk in the milk. Continue stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and bubbles. This should take about 5 minutes. Immediately remove the mixture from the heat and add the rest of the feta, swiss cheese, remaining parsley, dill, salt, and pepper. Pour contents over the pasta and shrimp and mix until completely covered.

Grease a 3-quart baking dish and transfer the pasta and shrimp mixture into it. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the entire dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving.

The Break-Down:

This recipe was extremely easy to make despite the many dishes it created. Though, that might just be my having to use an incredibly unneccesary amount of dishes for each meal I create.

I changed things up a bit from the original recipe, ommitting lemon zest and switching gruyere cheese for swiss to lower costs. To me, the meal was still perfect, with enough gooey cheese and yummy shrimp in each bite. I also made half of this recipe (I provided you with the full amounts, though.) which still got me about 6 medium-sized servings. So, if you are cooking for one, I suggest halving the amount of ingredients like I did.

Total Time:

45 minutes (I know this seems like a while, but think of all of the leftover meals you will have that require no more than 2 minutes to reheat.)

Total Cost:

$3.89 per serving (Shop smart: skip the brand names and look for cheaper substitutes when possible.)

Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats.

Posted in Pasta, Shrimp | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

It Began With an Apron

It hit me. I needed to feed myself. My parents had been lovingly cooking me scrumptious meals up until I came to college. In return, I had fattened them up with my expertly baked goodies. Obviously, a completely fair and fantastic trade for the both of us, don’t you think? But, as I stood in the doorway of my new apartment’s kitchen, toying with the idea of surviving off of sweet treats and scrambled eggs, I resigned myself to the fact that embarking on a “learning to cook” journey was the only option. Despite the countless trays of cookies, batches of brownies, and tins of cupcakes I’d slaved over, I’d never so much as laid a hand on a piece of raw chicken. This journey, scary as it seemed, was necessary. It would begin with the search for the perfect apron.

You see, when I take on a project my inner perfectionist goes a bit crazy. I crave organization. Lists, piles, folders, accessories- they make me inexplicably giddy. So, I figured that any self-respecting cook would undoubtedly tell me to begin my list with one task: finding the apron of my dreams. After all, you must look the part. I debated going the girly route: flowers, ruffles, bows. Or, there was the practical route: pockets, coverage, quite frankly boring. Nothing was quite right. Remembering the most adorable apron I had taken a picture of at the flea market over the summer, I had an epiphany. My aunt, seamstress extraordinaire, could sew me the apron of my dreams. And sew she did.


My lovely inspiration.


The apron turned out identical to my flea market inspiration above (with a slightly different color scheme). Feeling on top of the world in my fancy shmancy new apron, I was ready to begin. One year later, here I am. Though my dinners still don’t hold a candle to my cookies (No seriously, they are pretty darn good. Right, Daddy?), they’re getting there.

With little time and even less money, I’m learning to cook. Care to join?

Posted in Random Ramblings | 3 Comments