30 May 2011

College Cooking 102-"Stocking" The Refrigerator

I cannot wait to move into a house with my friends next year.  Of course, I'm glad I spent my first year in halls, but the truth is that I hate living out of one room, with a scheduled meal time and being woken up by people who come back from drunken nights at three am.  Not to mention the fire alarm going off the night before a big exam because someone burnt their bacon sandwich.  Oh yeah, hall life is fun.

Still, I realize it is an integral part of the university experience and something that I'm lucky I don't have to do for all four years of my degree. Frankly, I'm sick of eating the junk they serve us here.  I'm not too big on meat, which just makes the sunday roast a bit less eventful.  Cooking for myself is one of the reasons I'm most excited to live in my own house.  That way I'll know if anyone took my food, though I don't see rice milk being the most popular item to pilfer any time soon!

I have to cook for myself Saturday and Sunday evenings as my hall only does brunch on the weekends.  Fine by me!  I enjoy taking up the challenge to cook myself healthy, quick and fun meals.  Usually I take Saturday morning (or Friday afternoon if I don't have anything to do or know I'll be busy on Saturday) to go and do some grocery shopping.  I only buy what I'll need for the weekend and try to buy things that can be easily hidden in our communal fridge.  A microwave meal might be tempting, but it's a whole lot more likely to get stolen than some precut vegetables!

Here is my general grocery list:
-Pre-cut vegetables for stir-frys (Sainsbury's and Waitrose sell some nice ones with a variety of different flavours and vegetables, I usually get two and make one each day as I love loads of vegetables for my dinner)
-Pre-cut marinated tofu
-Pre-packaged quinoa/lentils
-Frozen fruit
-Pre-cut vegetables for roasting (incredibly easy and very few dishes to wash afterwards!)
-Yogurt/smoothies (be careful with this one as they are super easy for people to take)
-Veggie Burgers

Combining the above with the non-perishable grocery list will provide you with an array of different options for cooking at the weekend, in the evening, or whenever you feel the need for some real food instead of the wonders of industrial-style cooking.

Un Bacione,


29 May 2011

Breakfast in Halls, or how to not die when only eating cereal

I hate cereal.  My memories of it surround eating stale cheerios in the morning before school when I could barely stomach eating anything.  Generally, from kindergarten through twelfth grade I hated breakfast.  It was always such a nothing meal when all I wanted was to be asleep.

Well things change.

Living in halls at university breakfast is a great chance to jump start your day, talk to people and fuel your body.  Of course, it isn't always easy to make good choices when surrounded by cereals and all the components of a full english fry up.  Here is one of my favourite ways to have a good breakfast, that is actually quite tasty too!

Muesli/Faux Oatmeal "cookie"

Scoop of yogurt (my hall only offers plain, but try it with all kinds, any kinds, coconut yogurt, soy yogurt, whatever you please!)

Heaping scoop of muesli/oats

Any Add ins you can think of (chocolate chips, raisins, dried fruit, peanut butter, all are good!)

Mix everything together.  If you want a runnier "cookie" add some milk.

Okay, it isn't exactly gourmet, but certainly tastes yummy and starts the day off nicely.

Un Bacione,


College Cooking 101-An Introduction

Yes, the title is mostly a joke.  I'm not in college, it's called university, and all of my courses have long number codes like 10027 (Reading Renaissance Culture, I believe it was).

Yet, what's not a joke is making food for yourself in college/university/higher education.  When Sunday evening rolls around and I start to get hungry I don't always want to make myself a nice meal.  That being said I know that if I get chinese takeaway, domino's pizza, or just microwave a meal I'm not going to be feeling too hot.  Take it from me, it is possible to cook decent food in university, even if you have a meal plan.

A grilled mozzarella sandwich with pesto and mushrooms?  I wish I could eat like this every day!  Only at home.

Although I might not be capable of making myself any gourmet meals, knowing some quick tricks and what to buy at the supermarket can help make those times when you need to cook for yourself so much easier!

The first rule of college cooking is always having some staples on hand.  Non-perishables that can keep in your room are crucial as you know they will be there when you need them.  Anything put into a communal refrigerator can easily be nabbed by people with the drunken munchies.

Emilia's Must-Haves (non-refrigerator)
-Pasta, preferably whole-wheat
-Microwave rice packets (brown rice)
-Olive oil
-Instant oatmeal (I always get original)
-Fruit and nut/Granola bars (I choose larabars, but be smart, we'll talk about this later)
-Dried Fruit (apricots, dates, raisins, choose whatever you can find!)
-Nuts (I like almonds and hazelnuts, though peanuts are always a good choice)
-Nut butter (my favourite is almond butter)
-Chocolate (good quality, dark)

From these basic ingredients you can add a variety of perishable items to create quick, decently rounded meals.  It's also a good idea to at least have a pot, a bowl, a plate, some cutlery and a strainer to cook with, but we'll discuss this more in detail later.

Un bacione,


28 May 2011

Red Velvet Chocolate Tea

Also known as one of the most amazing teas in the universe.  Perfect way to spend a chilly spring evening after a crazy busy week.  Phew, I certainly need some time to relax!

But that's not all I wanted to talk about, or type, about.  Today was pretty awesome, and that's what I wanted to discuss.  A couple months ago a day like the one I had today would have been boring, depressing and really long (I blame the lack of vitamin D that england gets in the winter months, it is seriously brutal).  Now, however, I am in a place where I was able to ENJOY the day for, well, kind of being all of those things.

I have a lot of studying to do, but not so much that it's all I need to be doing.  Focusing on revision for certain periods of the day has helped me to better structure my day and just be more productive.  Sometimes when I don't have a billion things to do I don't do anything at all.  Recently, I've been trying to focus on making everything deliberate, even my random internet surfing, in order to feel a better sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

So, the little accomplishments that made my day, despite the cold and the rain, absolutely lovely:

-Studying with friends in the library.  Seriously, I cannot tell you how much getting out of my room helps me to study.  Yes, the library in my hall is kind of depressing, but on a rainy day and with friends it feels like university.  I'm okay with not having a great ambiance to get work done in a communal environment.

-Cooking lunch.  Oh my gosh, it was only roasted vegetables, tofu and a wholewheat roll with marmite, but it was amazing.  Totally fueled me for my afternoon and made me feel proud about cooking myself food I actually enjoy.

-Translating articles.  I hate going over verbs tenses, they bore me and at a certain point aren't going to help me learn Italian.  Working on translation allows me to measure how much I've done, helps me learn vocabulary and, since I get to pick the articles, can actually be entertaining.  Winner.

-Doing Yoga.  I was insanely sore from going to the gym yesterday and sitting outside in the freezing cold to watch A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Seriously felt better after doing some deep stretching.  Plus, yoga is a good way to set and achieve goals.

-Eating Valrhona chocolate.  Enough said.

And now I still have some of the evening left, with my red velvet chocolate tea.  Relaxation, here we come!

Un bacione,


26 May 2011

There's Always Sun in New York

Because I'm freezing.  And it's raining.

Reasons why I suddenly want to watch The Hills when studying Italian grammar

Arts and Social Sciences Library.  Before noon.  Sitting on a couch with the book "English Grammar for Students of Italian" and a list of verbs conjugated in the passato remoto (which the book doesn't seem to recognize as having an english equivalent).  My neighbours (neighbors?) seem to be second year law students.  They have not studied.  They have an essay-based exam soon.  They are using words that seem to belong on a court room day-time tv program.

I am studying grammar.

This is the state of mind that makes me think I would like to watch The Hills.  A second later I feel like barfing.  Why on earth would I want to watch The Hills, the epitome of un-reality tv, when my reality is so much more...real?

Here is a list of reasons.

1.  My planner lists the days of the week in different languages and Monday says Montag.  It makes me think that the name 'Heidi Montag' sounds really German.  I cringe that this is the first thing that comes to mind and make a mental note to research something else about German culture.

2.  If I analyzed the techniques used by the director of The Hills to make everything seem so ridiculous, I'm sure you could make a good reality tv show about a library during exam time.  I have everything I need right here, the geeks, the people-who-study-hard-because-all-they-do-is-party-during-term-time and the guys who aren't really studying at all.  Frankly, I don't think they even have any books with them.

3.  Grammar is pretty dull.  I'm starting to write sentences that say things like 'I believed the flowers looked pretty when I was young'.  I don't think that has any meaning in English or Italian.  At least, no person ever needs to say that ever.  Although you could probably hear someone say something equally stupid on a reality tv show.

4.  It's raining outside.  I wish it was sunny.  It is sunny in California. The Hills is set in California.  I have officially been studying too long and my brain is beginning to free associate.

5.  I wonder how my hair would look slightly blonder?  I like Lauren Conrad's hair color, just blonde enough and not fake looking.  I should watch some of The Hills to debate if it would look good on me.

6.  I wish it was warmer here.  You know where it's warmer?  California!  You know what is set in California?  Oh please someone shoot me know.

7.  I bet you other people here watch The Hills.  I bet money some of them even watch Jersey Shore.  I bet most of them will watch Geordie Shore.  This makes me want to cry even more than conjugating verbs in the passato remoto.

8.  Someone just walked by me wearing Hollister sweatpants.  I wonder if people really wear Hollister in California.  I've never been out there, though I get the idea from The Hills.  They drive a lot.  I cannot drive.  I'd most likely die.

9.  I haven't watched too much tv while avoiding work recently.  I wonder if I should watch some of The Hills this evening?

10.  I'm going home soon!!  Though people here think America and equate it with things like The Hills, Abercrombie and Sarah Palin.  I need to go cry now.  Maybe I should study up on my own culture and watch some of The Hills.

Ultimately I take a study break.  I don't watch The Hills.  I eat a veggie burger for lunch and write some postcards to friends back home.  It's still rainy though.

Un Bacione,


25 May 2011

Dear Person Sitting Next to me in the library,

I understand that you may be bored from studying, I'm sorry, revising.  I understand, I really do.  But that doesn't mean that you should be facebook stalking your ex while the rest of us are trying to work.  Trust me, I have a hard enough time trying to think about anything original to say about Italian crime novels as you have a difficult time remembering anything about economics, at least that's what I think you are studying from the huge stack of economics books sitting next to me precariously invading the little area I have carved out with my pencil case.

If I was you, I would begin by getting off facebook, at least while on public use computers.  This is why they invented the iphone/blackberry/whatever kind of expensive phone you have app for facebook, so you can check it compulsively when in public places.  Of course, if you are like me, the La Repubblica app will send you more notifications than facebook.  Especially for soccer, I mean football, updates when you are trying to go to sleep on sunday evenings.

Now where was I?  Oh that's right, uses of public computers during finals.  Or is it exam time?  Let's call them interchangeable.  All I'd really like right now is for Mr.Facebook-Stalker-in-the-library to get off and move some of his unopened economics books so I can open the fully annotated edition of Il Cortegiano and Italian Culture: An Introduction and get some of this essay done.

But that's probably too much to ask.  So I'll just say I'm Emilia.  I study Italian.  Welcome.

Un Bacione,