Hunger

>As a college student who really enjoys to eat…I always make time for a meal. But at last week’s Badger Homecoming game the excitement of keeping the axe kept me from eating lunch at the stadium and the heat overwhelmed my oatmeal and banana breakfast. So, right after I jumped around, I felt quite a bit light headed and had to get some water and hot dog. Now, nothing tastes better than when your hunger is overwhelming to the point of fainting (it was probably a combination of heat, hunger, and lack of sleep too!). That lukewarm hot dog, soggy bun, ketchup and spicy mustard tasted better than anything I had had in quite a while. So when I got home I decided I wanted hot dogs for dinner.

After walking to the grocery store to buy hot dogs, spicy brown mustard, and hot dog buns I sat about making my meal. I understand why some people choose to not eat hot dogs but they are pretty darn delicious with the right toppings. My first hot dog was too hot and the bun was too sturdy. I let my second hot dog sit in the bun for about 15 minutes before I ate it and it was too cold. Halfway through my third failed hot dog I was not only full, but frustrated at the fact that I couldn’t recreate the magnificent hot dog.

Conclusion: 1) There is no way to make something taste as good as it did when you were so hungry you couldn’t stand in the student section of Camp Randall for the rest of 4th quarter unless you had something to eat. 2) There is no way to make hot dogs taste as good at home as they do at a stadium (any type of stadium usually has good hot dogs!).

Moral of the story: Spend the $4 at Camp Randall to get the stadium hot dog experience and don’t wait till it is absolutely needed just to make it t0 5th Quarter!

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Deciphering Recipes

>One of the most fun things about eating at a restaurant is trying to figure out how to make some of the dishes. For the past year or two I have been going to the Ethiopian restaurant on State Street, Baraka. They serve stews with potatoes, lentils, chicken, carrots, and beef. I usually get the combination platter that has a stew with chicken, carrots, and a savory red sauce and a stew with lentils, potatoes, and a spicy brown sauce. I am not a very big fan of the Ethiopian sour bread so I usually get my stews over rice. But the showcase reason I keep returning to Baraka (even their lunch cart on Library Mall!) is the cold lentil salad that comes with entrees on the lunch menu. Dinner entrees come with a generic dinner salad so whenever I go I always ask to substitute the salad for the lentils!

I have been trying to figure out what is in the lentil salad for quite a while and recently got some help from one of the servers who gave up some of the secrets. It is made with brown lentils that are not cooked to mush (which is like a lot), chopped onions, chopped green peppers, and is marinated in olive oil and apple cider vinegar. The only thing missing are the spices. I have decided it is probably salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic (a lot of it!), and cumin.

I just purchased all of the ingredients and am looking forward to figuring out if my recipe tastes like the original Buraka salad! If you’ve had the Buraka lentil salad and have suggestions for my recipe let me know!

What’s your guilty food pleasure?

>Most people have some type of food or specific food that they know is bad for them or too expensive but they eat it anyway because they love it too much! I agree with this philosophy…you have to live your life the way you want and eat what you want because if food can’t be enjoyable then that would really put a damper on my day!

Other than Dr. Pepper (I know, it’s not a food but in my mind it is still a guilty pleasure) and red velvet cupcakes, my guilty pleasure is an entire grocery store. I am secretly addicted to Whole Foods. I have heard they have bad policies and are a not-s0-good corporation but I just don’t care! If you can make organic spinach and black beans look good I give you props! Just walking into Whole Foods I am taken aback by how nice everything is displayed and everything looks good…even some of the more questionably “fancy” organic food that shall go unmentioned.

My guilty pleasures are specifically in four sections of the store. I wish I had the type of money to spend $11.99 per pound on chicken and buy the really prettily displayed seafood but I am a college student with a budget! My first guilty pleasure are the free samples in the produce department! You have to go between 11am and 12:30ish (or until they run out) and usually only on weekends. They give you whole strawberries, half of a banana, chunks of mango, different prepared dips and salsas, and if you really look…there are free cheese samples in the back by the cheese counter. The other secret is that if you really look like your trying to decide between different deli-counter options they will inevitably offer you a sample! LOVE IT!

My second guilty pleasure is the olive bar. At $12 a pound…I usually get 8 or 9 dollars worth and absolutely love it! They have traditional green and black olives but they also have marinated artichoke hearts, marinated feta cheese, spicy green olives, blue cheese stuffed olives (these are kind of nasty!), garlic stuffed olives, and (my favorite) marinated mega white beans! Sometimes you can go on a lucky day and they have toothpicks to try everything…that’s the best! Everything is pretty good on the olive bar even though I stick to the marinated feta, marinated artichokes, spicy and garlic stuffed olives, and the white beans! However, beware of the wrinkly black olive…my mom and I were trying everything when we first went to Whole Foods and I asked her to try that one…she said it tasted like vomit…BEWARE!

My third guilty pleasure is the cheese counter. I (being a true Sconnie!) love the artisan Wisconsin cheese they feature at their cheese counter. I don’t like mushy cheese or goat cheese but for less than $10 I can usually get a pretty decent sized wedge of fancy cheese! There’s nothing better than a fancy cheese to spice up a can of soup or a generic salad!

My fourth guilty pleasure is the deli counter…not only do they give you free samples like I mentioned but they will also give you the recipe if you ask. I don’t like asking for recipes unless I have bought something so after I’ve sample something and I decide I really like it I buy a small container of it and ask for the recipe. I have gotten some of my favorite cold salad recipes from them! It is great to be able to get the recipes off of them because I can make a full batch for the price of 6 ounces at the store! My favorite salad from them has corn, asparagus, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and random other vegetables if you have them. Then you just toss it in a dressing made from cider vinegar, dijon mustard, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper…it is so refreshing!

So my guilty food pleasure is definitely the expensive guilty part but it is totally worth it! Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Restaurant: Buffalo Wild Wings

>My most recent food obsession is with Buffalo Wild Wings. My first trip was last week when I met two friends there to watch a baseball game and chat. I was a little weary of going because I had heard the menu was very extensive and I am not the biggest fan of chicken wings. But, one of my friends had to watch the Twins game and I knew it would be fun no matter my opinion of the food.

After getting there and being informed that you get free refills with a soda because you can’t expect people to pay for refills at a wings joint, I started to look at the menu. It was typical sports bar fare with burgers, uninteresting salads, wraps, sandwiches and deep friend appetizers. But, I couldn’t miss the wings page along with the 14 or so sauce options. I decided while walking to dinner that I was going to get wings because that’s what they are named for! However, I was perplexed as to how I was going to decide which sauce to get…’hotness’ level for foods is definitely subjective! I decided I couldn’t handle a mean of only wings so I also ordered an appetizer. That turned out to be a bad decision because I loved the wings and the appetizer was heavily battered and dry. But the wings! They were very good and the sauce I chose (Spicy Garlic) was not only right in the middle of their sauce scale, it was also the perfect combination of salty, spicy, and tangy! I loved it!

I was also pleasantly surprise that, like the movies, my wings came with celery and blue cheese dressing. I understand the blue cheese dressing…it is to counteract the hottness if you pick a sauce that makes your lips burn. But I didn’t, and still don’t understand the celery. I’m not complaining…I love celery, especially dipped in blue cheese dressing, which is something I learned the same day that I learned I like the spicy garlic traditional wings at Buffalo Wild Wings!

I liked them so much that I decided to go back a couple days later to get a double order to go…with two different sauces. I was contemplating taking a step up the spice ladder but I wanted to try their most popular sauce (The Traditional Mild) just to say that it wasn’t hot enough for me (which is wasn’t)!! That day, I also found out that for $5 I could buy a decent sized bottle of the sauce of my choice…very tempting considering the fact that the draw to Buffalo Wild Wings for me was the sauce. I have decided to get a bottle of the spicy garlic next time I go because with a chicken breast, some blue cheese dressing and celery I could eat BWW-ish food more often and cheaper!

I am not even going to get into the multiple nicknames for this place that confuse me because they don’t sound good or make sense!

Supper Squash Medley

>I just finished prepping my second crock-pot recipe for tomorrow! This one will only take 6 hours…probably because it is vegetarian but I plan on making a chicken breast to go along with it! The recipe called for green chiles but I am a little afraid of using fresh chiles so I used canned ones…don’t get me wrong, I love heat. Just not the kind that makes your eyes burn just from cutting up the pepper. So I thought the more milder canned kind would be better for now! Here is the recipe.

Combine the following ingredients in your crock-pot, cover, cook on LOW for 6 hours:

-2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced (I only had one butternut squash so I added two small acorn squash…hope this ends up working out!)
-1 can of undrained tomatoes (I always buy the no salt added type because it keeps the sodium down!)
– 1 can corn, drained
– 2 onions, chopped (I used small yellow, milder onions)
-2 green bell peppers, chopped
-2 teaspoons minced garlic (I put more than that in there because I love garlic!)
– 2 green chiles, chopped
-1 cup chicken broth
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 can tomato paste

after 6 hours…remove 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and combine it with the tomato paste….add back into the crock-pot, stir well, and cook for another 30 minutes!

I am very excited! I hope my substitutions work out!

Left overs

>There’s something about leftovers…there are many pros and cons of leftover food.

Pros: no preparation time, cheapest way to eat (other than free!), all you have to do is microwave
Cons: you have to eat something for an extended period of time, microwaving isn’t the most appetizing cooking technique

I have taken to making a ton of food all at once and then eating off of leftovers for the rest of the week. I am so torn about that technique because I don’t like eating things for a long time but I love not having to cook and spend a lot of time preparing things when I am busy during the week.

This past week I had leftover tomato soup and quite a big of couscous. So, I decided to put the couscous in the soup and add some hot sauce, garlic, and edamamme. It turned out quite well and now I have three individual servings of it in my freezer! I have also been eating my feta, chicken, lima bean, noodle salad this week. I am about ready to be done with that one! I also finished my beef stroganoff this week (which was pretty salty to begin with) by adding some raw tomatoes and cooked carrots to dilute the salt. I have become pretty good in doctoring up leftovers to make them taste differently than the original meal! That is the only way to eat leftovers!

Crock Pot

>Today, I made my first dinner in a crock pot. I was very excited about the prospect of coming home to dinner hot and ready. I decided to make beef stroganoff and prepped it this morning. While I was prepping it this morning I had quite a few difficulties that probably should have hinted to the fact that the dinner wasn’t going to be good but I ignored them!

I spilled the dry onion soup mix all over my counter and the cork in the wine cracked so I couldn’t get it out. It took me an extra 20 minutes to prep this morning but I was still excited about the meal. At lunch I came home and stirred it and is smelled salty. I decided to add some water to dilute the salt and I went back to class.

When I got home I could smell it in the hallway! But it was a disappointment. It turned out to be a salty, runny beef stew. I am a little annoyed with the crock pot recipe book that came with my crock pot but I will really want try making something it it again. The idea of a crock pot is a great idea but my first recipe was terrible…I am thinking about making a chicken chili next…the recipe is from a different cook book so hopefully it will be better! To make up for the bad stroganoff I had some Starbucks vanilla bean ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream and some sprinkles! That’s the way to end a bad dinner!

Weekend Food!

>It is only Saturday night and I have a lot of food to talk about!

Last night I went to dinner with a friend. We went to Flattop Grill! I absolutely love Flattop…being able to make your own stir fry but not have to cook it is the best thing! I had always thought that people made their Flattop dinners just like mine. I put in a little bit of noodles and a ton of vegetables. However, last night the friend I went with and quite a few people around us made a sort of lo mein (mostly noodles and a small amount of vegetables). I am not sure I would ever make my Flattop dinner like this but it was interesting to realize that everyone personalizes their Flattop experience very differently! Also, if you have ever been to Flattop I have two tidbits of information: 1) don’t put rice in your stir fry bowl because they will bring it to the table for free and 2) you can get more of the really good flat bread for free if you just ask!

After dinner I went grocery shopping and because of that I got to cook this afternoon! One of my favorite cold salads is a combination of my aunt’s recipe and some of my changes. The way she made the feta salad was with noodles, spinach, feta cheese, chicken and balsamic dressing. I am not a fan of spinach but loved the idea of the salad so I changed the spinach to lima beans and started making it with whole wheat noodles! I love making it because all you have to do is boil noodles, thaw a package of lima beans, crumble some feta cheese (I use a really great feta from my hometown dairy!), and cook some chicken breasts! After all of that is done is put it in a bowl and pour the balsamic salad dressing on it. It usually lasts me a week of lunches which is so great because I don’t have to worry about making something in the morning!

For tonight’s dinner I really wanted something warm because it is freezing in my apartment today and I wanted tomato soup because I just bought a loaf of pepper asiago cheese bread and thought it would be good with tomato soup. But Friday night I made a box of plain whole wheat couscous and it tasted like cardboard (I normally make the kind with a flavor packet – Garlic and Olive Oil is the best!). I didn’t want to throw it away but I knew I couldn’t just eat it with a chicken breast because of the way it tasted. So I decided to make some tomato soup, poor the couscous in it and then I had half the bag of lima beans left so i threw them in! It started turning out pretty good but it was lacking flavor. I poured in a bunch of hot sauce, some chili power, some garlic powder and pepper. Once it was heated I grated so Jarlsberg cheese on top and it was great! I love making dinner out of a couple random ingredients, a bunch of spices, and a great topper (the cheese)!

New Blog Topic

>I am now blogging, not about myself, but about food! I absolutely love food and as a college student, plan to not eat like one! Over the summer I have discovered that I am decently talented in the kitchen and love the products of spending time there. In the past I never spent much time in the kitchen and was not very adventurous. I grew up eating meat and potatoes every day of the week except Tuesdays when we had beef tacos with lettuce and shredded lettuce. Because of that limited menu I have become pretty adventurous with new foods and learning how to cook interesting ingredients.

I have conquered some great ingredients this summer including kale, bok choi, squash, and couscous. I can even make my own spaghetti sauce from scratch (I put hot sauce in it to make it a little different)! I have also been a little weary about baking but recently made whole wheat banana muffins from scratch two weeks ago!

I make pretty simple meals but make them special by doctoring up inexpensive ingredients and making things last. I will be blogging about what I cook, recipes I have found and tried, and positive or negative restaurant experiences that have influenced how I may cook in the future.