Williams Sonoma

Williams Sonoma has always been my favorite place to shop, which goes to show that it’s not just for the middle age group and older. As soon as I was old enough to work, I applied to be a holiday worker at WS in Memphis. I was thrilled to get that job and work there for a few consecutive winters, until unfortunately, the store closed. This past winter, WS had an Instagram contest for their peppermint bark and would choose five winners with the most creative way of incorporating the bark to win a $100 gift card. I brainstormed for about a month and finally submitted a picture that ended up being 1 of the 5 winners. YAY! Knowing that Emily and I were about to move into our first apartment in the fall, I decided to buy my home and kitchen essentials at WS with my gift card. I have compiled some kitchen essentials for a first apartment along with some of WS’s greatest buys.

The winning picture for the #barkyeah contest
The winning picture for the #barkyeah contest

Here is a list with pictures of kitchen essentials for a first apartment from WS.

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Panzanella & Salmon

Emily and I just moved into our first apartment! We are thrilled because we don’t have to go to the campus cafeteria anymore. This is a learning process as both of us learn to improve our cooking skills, budgeting, meal planning, and grocery shopping. We are excited to share more of our recipes and tips on cooking healthy dinners while also having an 18 hour school schedule and a part time job. Our first meal that we made in our new place was panzanella and salmon. Knoxville has a great farmer’s market and since tomatoes are well in season currently, this was the perfect meal to start off our week. Recipe and pictures below.

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Photo on 8-17-15 at 6.37 PM #2 Photo on 8-17-15 at 6.37 PM #3

Panzanella (modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

for the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced

for the salad:

  • about 8 slices of day old bread, cut in to chunks (sourdough, Italian)
  • 1.5 lbs of largely diced tomatoes ( We used all different types of tomatoes for color variety)
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 packet of fresh basil leaves, torn into medium size pieces
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, add all of the dressing ingredients except for the olive oil. Once all the ingredients are mixed, slowly pour the olive oil while continuing to stir. When the oil is completely incorporated, set the bowl aside for 10 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, add all of the vegetables for the salad to a large bowl except for the basil. Pour half of the dressing on the vegetables and mix. Set for 10 minutes.
  3. Put the torn bread into the bowl with the remaining dressing and toss. Set for 10 minutes.
  4. Once everything has set, pour the soaked bread into the bowl of veggies and mix in the basil.

Cherry Chocolate Chip Blondies

Saturday night, we had a sweet tooth craving for something sweet and summery. We found this recipe that combines cherries and chocolate chips into a delicious blondie batter. This recipe was very easy and can be changed up with various fruits and simple additions such as toasted coconut. Next time, we want to try using raspberries, dark chocolate chips, and maybe pistachios. This treat was based on an Averie Cooks recipe. IMG_7570 IMG_7572  IMG_7574 IMG_7575  IMG_7586  IMG_7592 IMG_7593  IMG_7599   IMG_7610We ate our fair share of these blondies, but we also loved giving these to friends and family. What dessert do you like to make for sharing?

Biscoff Cookie Ice Cream

I had my first Biscoff cookie last fall and the taste was subtle but sweet and spicy. Then I was introduced into cookie butter, which is basically just the cookies made into a spread like peanut butter or Nutella. This ice cream was a crowd favorite and probably the best recipe I have made yet. Try it out! Pictures and recipe below.

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Biscoff Cookie Ice Cream

  • 1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1.5 cups half and half
  • 1 cup Biscoff Cookie Spread
  • 1 cup crushed Biscoff cookies
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • dash of salt

Directions

  1. In an electric mixer, add cookie spread and sugar and mix on a low speed until smooth
  2. Add vanilla and salt
  3. Slowly add the heavy cream and then the half and half
  4. Continue mixing until the ice cream base is blended
  5. Pour mixture into ice cream maker for 15-18 minutes
  6. During the last 2 minutes, add the crushed cookies to the ice cream maker
  7. Pour in a freezer container and allow to freeze for at least 12 hours

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.

Our Picks: Closet Essentials

In a dorm room, space is limited especially with your closet. Depending on how close you live to campus and how often you go home, you need to be able to pick and choose your clothes according to necessity. We have compiled a list of clothing essentials that we could not have lived without and others that just took up precious closet space.

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Essentials

  1. Long down jacket (similar): The one in the pictures below is from Eddie Bauer and was a great length. While you may be initially resistant to invest in a large coat that slightly resembles marshmallows in a garbage bag, when you have to walk to your 8 am in 10 degree weather, you won’t care what you look like.
  2. Rain boots:
    • SG wore these which are popular in England.
    • Emily enjoyed her Hunter boots along with every other college girl.
  3. Sunglasses: In Knoxville, you typically walk everywhere and on those sunny days it is nice to not have to squint on your way to class.
  4. T-shirt dresses: These are cheap, comfy, and easy to throw on when you’re running late for class, but cute enough to make it look like you have your stuff together.
  5. Yoga pants.  These will greet you like an old friend when you’re ready to strip your jeans off but it’s still a little too early for pajamas.
  6. Cardigans & Chambray: Cardigans help maintain the balance between burning up when walking to class and freezing in air conditioned classrooms.  Always have one handy.

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Non-Essentials

  1. High heels: Maybe bring one pair, but you learn quickly that heels are not practical on a walking campus (especially one with hills).
  2. Special occasion dresses: Unless you are planning on rushing, you do not need any extremely formal dresses. Dressing up in college for most people is exchanging yoga pants for jeans. However, do bring 1 or 2 dresses that can work for date nights, class speeches, and nights out on the town with your roommate!
  3. Clothes you didn’t wear at home: Chances are, if that top still has the tag on it in your closet at home, you probably aren’t going to wear it at college either.  We suggest cleaning out your closet before coming to school to see what clothes you actually wear and still fit.
  4. Shirts with other college logos: That shirt that you got when you toured Harvard just lets everyone know you didn’t get into an Ivy League.

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.