The Lesson of Burned Salmon

Do you smell that? Is it smoking in here? A quick glance around the room proves, yes indeed the room is filled with smoke.  How did it spread out so quickly without our realization? A moment of panic and then quick thinking.  Fling the windows open (But bugs!) Forget the bugs for this moment, the fear of a fire alarm and sprinklers is too great. Flip the oven vent on (who knew that existed?) run to the door and begin to furiously open and close it.  This makes sense in my head, let the smoke escape the room and spread out into the whole building.  A second of silence listening for the now inevitable fire alarm.  Nothing.  IT’S BURNING! Oh yes, the fish.  The outside of the once originally red salmon now has a… dark black crusty outside, but somehow defying the laws of physics, the inside is still pink.  We can’t turn back now.  Look on the bright side,  instead of pan-seared we will call it blackened.  It’s all about perspective.  Did you use oil? Some… Pour or spray? Spray.  Ah… the mystery has been solved, but a lesson has also been learned hopefully one that is remembered the next time around… if there is a next time.  Somehow burned food is not repulsive when you have purchased and cooked it. Sweat rolling down our faces and trying to maintain a conversation over the roar of the oven vent we discuss the taste and texture of this fish.  We conclude that no, fish is not easy to cook, but yes, we will do better next time.  Our one sense of accomplishment out of this failed endeavor is that we, sneaky and ingenious girls that we are, fooled that evil fire alarm from tattling on us and drawing crowds to our room, pointing and laughing, YOU BURNED THE SALMON?  The memory of our mistake and imperfection lasts for days through the slight tinge of smoky fish that greets you as you walk off the elevator and completely envelops you when you open the door.  Ah, it is nice to be home.IMG_0728

The Grocery Store

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Sarah Grace and I loved having a grocery store right down the road from our dorm.  Almost every weekend we would grab our recyclable bags and make the ten minute walk to Publix.  The grocery store got us out of our dorm room, provided exercise, and gave us a time to talk to each other about our weeks. Going to the grocery store may seem like a hassle to some, but we always looked forward to our trips; it’s the simple things that count.  While buying groceries weekly does mean spending extra money in addition to your meal plan, we found that it was the best way for us to stay happy and healthy with quality food stocked in our room. We were willing to sacrifice around 30-40 dollars a week in order to cut back on eating junk food from vending machines and cafeteria food. Here is a list of some of the items we regularly purchase at the store.

BREAKFAST:

We ate breakfast in our dorm room every day because it was healthier and more convenient. Watch out though, because a lot of breakfast foods can contain a lot of sugar.

Plain instant oatmeal – look for the brands with no added salt and sugar, then add your own fresh fruit or nuts

Greek Yogurt – we started out eating fruit flavors, but after realizing how much sugar they contained we slowly transitioned to plain yogurt

Granola – watch out for sugar content on this as well. Our favorite brand was Bear Naked + Protein

Coffee

Coconut Creamer – a lot less fat than half and half

Bananas – try to buy them green and no more than 5 so they don’t ruin before your next grocery run

Kashi Go Lean Cereal – we loved the high fiber and protein and low sugar content of this cereal

Bread – always try for whole wheat

Avocado – great for avocado toast; buy one ripe avocado and one green one to last you throughout the week

LUNCH:

We typically only ate lunch in the room on weekends or if we had a busy day

Loaf of bread

Peanut butter

Hard Boiled Eggs – can be boiled in a rice cooker and last about a week

SNACKS:

Snacks are essential to living in a dorm, but make sure to keep them healthy

Trail Mix

Nuts – if you can, eat unsalted nuts due to the high sodium content of salted nuts.

Carrot Sticks

Grapes – during the fall and spring, we put our grapes in the freezer for a nice cold treat to cool down from the heat outside

Apples – we ate our weight in apples this past year because they are such an easy, filling snack.

Wheat Thins

Cheese

Lara/Kind Bars – these have high sugar content but are the better choices of other snack bars out there

DINNER:

Like lunch we only ate in our dorm occasionally

Sweet Potatoes – can be steamed in a rice cooker and are delicious!

Amy’s Organic Frozen Dinners– we loved the black eyed peas, rice and mixed veggies one the best

Salad mix

SWEETS:

Frozen Andes Chocolate Mints/ Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate almond milk -great post-exercise drink

Our dorm did not have a kitchen so we only purchased food that could be prepared in a rice cooker or microwave.  Try to buy foods in small amounts and most fruits and veggies can be purchased in small quantities.  We would split foods like bread that are only sold in bulk.  We were good about splitting food prices pretty evenly, and we learned to share foods so that we didn’t waste anything.  If you want to live a healthy lifestyle while living in a dorm, buying healthy food is key.

The Rice Cooker

When it comes to college dining, most campuses are not too concerned with healthy eating. Emily and I realized early on that the food we ate in the cafeteria was not filling us up which led us to snack more often in our room at night. The rice cooker is the most versatile appliance and it allows you to not only cook rice to perfection, but also it has slow cook functions like a crock pot. We tried out many recipes besides rice in our rice cooker and really enjoyed being able to make healthier (or not) dinner options if we wanted.

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Cinnamon Streusel Pumpkin Cake
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SG being proud of the cake she made.
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Winter Lentil Veggie Soup
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sliced sweet potatoes
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A very low quality picture of us waiting on our rice cooker risotto to be finished.

sweet potatoes – slice sweet potatoes in half, place on steam tray and put on steam setting for about 20-25 minutes

 boiled eggs – put raw eggs on steam tray and “steam” for about 20 minutes

chocolate molten lava cake – if you are planning on making this cake, make sure you have plenty of people to help you because it is the richest dessert we have ever had. Also, we would suggest using a slow cooker liner to avoid the mess.

pumpkin streusel cakethis crumb cake was very simple and not too rich. We made it in the fall to be festive!

risotto – this is a great dinner option as you can add whatever veggies you want! It is difficult to find an exact recipe (here is a general recipe), but we combined many variation and simply kept an eye on the risotto. We excluded the smaller items like onions, garlic, sage, and parsley.

rice – you can make any rice you want; we really liked jasmati

steamed veggies – steam in steam tray 2-7 minutes according to type of vegetable.  Can be steamed while cooking rice

soupwinter lentil soup was perfect for the winter because it is filling, healthy, and simple. It also makes a huge quantity so you can have it for lunch or dinner the next few days. To adjust this recipe for a rice cooker, simply add the ingredients that take longer to cook (tomatoes, sweet potatoes) first and then towards the end add the lentils and kale.

*Disclaimer: Nothing looks good being photographed in a rice cooker especially with florescent dorm lighting.*

In conclusion, if you like to cook and want to eat yummy food in your dorm room, invest in a rice cooker.  It is one of the few cooking appliances that is allowed in dorms, and it is easy to clean and does not take up much room.  We used this aroma rice cooker and loved how simple it was to use and the steam tray that came with it.

Bedding Basics

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Shopping for bedding is probably one of the most exciting things to do when getting ready to move to college.  It signifies that you are moving out of your childhood bedroom and living life on your own.  You get to wonder about your new roommate and all the exciting new changes that will happen all in the confines of a single space.  It can feel like your bedding sets the tone for your first semester of college.  Here is our advice for picking out your bedding.

1.  Do not spend a lot of money

Your bed in college is not just a place to sleep at night.  You will lay on your bed to do homework, eat snacks, watch Netflix, talk with friends, and lay on after a long day at school. Your bedding will get dirty and worn out by the end of the year.  While you may love that $100 duvet from Urban Outfitters, you’ll regret investing your money in something that you only were able to use for one year.  I found my Kate Spade duvet cover for around $20 at TJ Maxx ( I highly recommend looking for bedding here) and Sarah Grace got her comforter on sale at Target.

2. Pick something vibrant and colorful

Both Sarah Grace and I wanted neutral colored bedspreads to reflect our simpler tastes, but farmhouse decorating does not really turn out well in a dorm room. We both ended up getting colorful, patterned bedding to brighten up the gray walls.

3. Don’t get a ton of throw pillows.

I love the idea of mismatched pillows to create eclectic bedding, but these just end up getting in the way of a twin sized bed.  There’s no space on your bed to place them when you go to sleep and they can be uncomfortable when leaning on them doing homework.

4.  Choose something that is easy to make.

SG and I both made our beds everyday so that we could come to a clean room everyday and not be stressed out about a mess in our study space.  You will want a bedspread that can be made in a few seconds before you head out the door.  I (Emily) prefer a duvet while Sarah Grace prefers a comforter.

5. Remind yourself that it’s just bedding.

You are not purchasing a wedding dress and in the end, bedding exists mainly to keep you warm at night. Bedding will not define your college experience or personal style.

6. Make it your own!

*Some websites with unique bedding at a decent price.