How to: Prepare your kitchen for break

If you’re anything like us, your break schedule is a little weird. We go home for five days, return to school for a week, take our finals and then leave again for four weeks. This makes food planning hard, and making sure you don’t leave something in your fridge you don’t want to rot even harder.

I bet you thought I was going to teach you how to cook this. You're not in luck - that's advanced cooking!

I bet you thought I was going to teach you how to cook this. You’re not in luck – that’s advanced cooking

Here’s some top tips for getting through your weird break periods while eating great and keeping your kitchen clean.

1) Clean up. While it might seem appealing to say “I’ll clean up the kitchen when I need to cook again,” it also leads to more of a stink and makes it harder to get grime off. Give the kitchen a wipe-down before Thanksgiving break and then a full scrub before Winter break. You will never regret coming home to a clean kitchen.

2) Speaking of which, pare down the clutter in your fridge. Have a look around and figure out what you can toss. The crisper can become a trap for rotting fruits and vegetables. Try cooking with the ingredients left in your fridge, instead of buying new ones. Keeping the fridge free of clutter will allow for a quicker clean up when you leave for the winter.

3) Buy ONLY things you need. Buy fruits, but only in small amounts, and only if you’ll eat them. Don’t get too fancy with refrigerated ingredients. Making the most of what you have will keep the food in your fridge at a minimum, and prevent you from buying things that you’ll only have to throw out in a few weeks.

What are your top tips for when you’re leaving your house for a good period of time? This can be good when preparing for vacation as well!

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The Fitzwater Family Lasagna

I cannot tell you how much I love this recipe, so I’m just going to jump into it.

You will need:

1 lb. pkg. lasagna; 3 Tbs. olive oil; 1 lb. chopped beef; ½ c. chopped onions; ½ tsp. garlic powder; 2 tsp. parsley; 2 – 6 oz. cans tomato paste; 2 ½ c. water; 1 ½ tsp. salt;  ½ tsp. black pepper; 1 lb. ricotta cheese; 1/8 c. parmesan cheese

To cook:

Boil lasagna for 12 minutes; drain and add 1 tsp. olive oil. Set to cool. Sauté beef and onions in 2 Tbs. oil. Add water and simmer for 2 to 5 minutes. Alternate layers of lasagna, sauce, ricotta, and parmesan cheeses, ending with sauce and parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes for 350 degrees. Yield: 6 – 8 servings.

This recipe also reheats EXTREMELY well. Just cover it with a paper towel and microwave until warm. It normally takes about 1 – 2 minutes. If you bake this the Sunday of finals week, you can just reheat it the rest of the week, or have it for a midnight indulgence.

Love for the slow cooker: Stew!

So in the midst of fall semester when I don’t feel like getting out of bed, let alone making food, making something in the slow cooker is definitely the way to go. So, one Sunday, before I headed out to work, I prepared and set this stew to cook. 

I was so hungry I ate this before I took a picture... whoops.

I was so hungry I ate this before I took a picture… whoops.

What you’ll need:

  • One packet of stew meat (two if you’re making a whole lotta stew)
  • Three potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • A carrot, chopped
  • Onion, peeled and chopped
  • One stick of celery, chopped
  • One packet McCormick stew mix
  • Water

Put all of your ingredients in the crock pot. Add the amount of water listed on the stew packet, then add the mix. Put the lid on the crock pot and cook for three to four hours on high. Make sure the meat is tender prior to serving.

My favorite thing about this recipe? How it smells when you walk through the front door. I would suggest pairing it with some crusty bread and a rainy day. What are your favorite rainy day foods? Let me know below.

Tacos for those who don’t like tacos

We’re fans of tacos in our house. Maybe it’s because I spent the summer basically in Mexico, or because we three just love Mexican food. In any case, tacos make it so frequently into our routine that we once had three bags of shredded cheese at once. Three-cheese, of course. phototaco

To start out, we’re going to share Kristina’s recipe for tacos. This is less seasoned than regular tacos, and uses turkey or ground hamburger. It’s a very Americanized taco, but I can’t turn up my nose because it’s delightful. This also is super quick and cheap. I asked Kristina to message me the recipe, and this was all she had to send:

Brown the package of ground hamburger or turkey, then drain the excess fat. Add about half a can of tomato sauce. Season with a teaspoon (or more) of chili powder. Put on whole wheat, hard or soft tortillas. Add any typical taco toppings that you want!

We typically get five or six tacos out of this recipe. If you like a little more spiciness, add some chili flakes or some hot sauce. I like mine with lettuce, cheese, onions and with a spattering of cilantro.

What do you like on your tacos? Post your results from this recipe and your suggestions for spicing it up down below.

Pick of the week: Lean Cuisines

I know, I know, this blog is supposed to be our foray OUTSIDE a dorm room microwave. This is a kitchen microwave … it’s completely different.

SOMETIMES WE GET BUSY, OK?!?!

SOMETIMES WE GET BUSY, OK?!?

All kidding aside, sometimes there’s not time or effort to prepare a meal. There’s also that awkward end-of-the-week period where there’s only leftovers and no ingredients in the fridge. During these times, I like (and Paige likes) to microwave up Lean Cuisines.

One of my favorites is pictured, the sesame chicken. Some other great ones are the pizzas, which come in a bunch of different types, and the Southwest chicken panini, which I maintain is one of the best microwavable meals I’ve ever had.

One misconception about any “healthy” microwavable meal though is that it is healthy. These meals are often loaded with sodium. Double check the labels before you eat these kinds of meals if you’re looking for something that is nutritionally sound. Otherwise, do what I do and devour these things at full speed.

What do you do when you’re in a pinch for ingredients or cooking ideas?