Keurig Coffee Makers and EkoBrew

I have never been a fan of coffee. I don’t mind the taste– I sometimes enjoy coffee flavored ice cream or chocolate. It is the fact that it is hot liquid that gets me. I hate any hot drinks. My friends never understood how I could dislike hot chocolate or hot apple cider. But I do.

People tried to reassure me that my tastes would change once I got to college. That I would stay up so late that I would need to start drinking coffee. They were all wrong.

However, I know a lot of my fellow college students could not survive without coffee. Having your own coffee maker can be great, but most students can’t drink an entire pot of coffee. That is why a lot of my friends swear by the Keurig single-cup coffee maker.

I have tried coffee made from my boyfriend’s Keurig. I feel guilty not finishing my cup, because the K-cups that are necessary can be expensive. So I have powered through both times he’s made me a cup, thinking if I tried some different flavors I would like coffee more.

That’s why I was so excited to find a refillable K-cup, EkoBrew. I bought it for him for Valentines (and he bought me a Pasta Boat–we are so romantic) and he has been using it ever since. He loves being able to choose whatever coffee he wants and not having to buy the  expensive K-cups. And I feel better trying some of it and then promptly throwing it out. If you have a Keurig, I highly recommend checking out the EkoBrew!


Microwave Granola Bars

In high school I think I made friends in some of my classes based solely off the fact that I had a seemingly constant supply of granola bars and Fruit by the Foot in my bag.

My parents frequented Costco, so we had boxes of the Fruit by the Foot and granola bars so big we had to keep them on top of our fridge instead of in the pantry. Each day I grabbed two granola bars and two Fruit by the Foot. I didn’t always need both, so I would let them accumulate in my purse until I was put into a group and I offered the treats to my classmates. Or sometimes someone would mention that they couldn’t wait for lunch, and I pulled out my supply of Fruit by the Foot and asked whether they wanted Strawberry or Color By The Foot.

I could pretend the reason they approached me was because I was charming or interesting or funny, but I think they mostly started talking to me because I was willing to share my snacks. And that is okay with me.

I let that habit die once I went to college, but lately I’ve been eating a lot of granola bars again. Every Tuesday I have class from 9:30 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon with no time to eat lunch. I value sleep too much to get up to eat a healthy breakfast before class, so I have become reliant on granola bars. They are relatively cheap, easy to grab and bring to class with me, and I enjoy eating them. They don’t have a distinct smell that would make everyone around me hate me. They aren’t particularly loud. They are perfect to eat in a lecture.

And, apparently, they are easy enough to make in a dorm. This recipe from Bakerita requires more equipment (read: basic items such as bowls, spoons, and measuring cups) than most students have in their dorm, but it is entirely doable. Even if you still only have non-microwaveable bowls. I honestly have no idea what those bowls could be doing to me. Every time I use them I expect to open the microwave to a bowl that has cracked in half. Since that hasn’t happened yet, I’m going to continue to use them until I can sneak one of my parent’s old bowls back to school with me.

Homemade Granola Bars
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup crispy rice cereal
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

Stir the cereal and cooking oats together in a bowl

In a microwave safe dish, stir together butter, honey, and brown sugar. Microwave for 3 minutes. The bowl will be HOT and the mixture should be bubbling.

Add the vanilla–this will cause the mixture to bubble up again. This worried me at first, but it ended up fine. Stir in the peanut butter until the mixture is smooth and fully combined.

Mix the dry ingredients and the peanut butter mixture together. Pour it onto whatever plate or pan you have and pat down until it is one even sheet– I put mine in a disposable serving tray I had leftover from when I made taco dip.

Finish by refrigerating for half an hour or let sit at room temperature for about two hours.

I really enjoyed this recipe. To be honest, I really did not want to deal with cleaning out a honey or peanut butter filled measuring cup in my tiny dorm sink, so I just guessed how much to put in. I am not a huge fan of honey, so I put more peanut butter than I did honey. The results are absolutely delicious.

The Hy Vee brand granola bars (right) I have are easier to take to class and they are much more solid. The homemade granola bars fall apart relatively easily, but I much prefer the taste. They are chewier than the other bars. I will definitely be making this recipe again.

Pasta without a Pasta Boat

As I mentioned in my Creamy Bow Tie Pasta post, I just recently realized that making pasta in a dorm is completely possible. For some reason, although pasta is my favorite food to eat, it never occurred to me in my 1.5 years in the dorms to just try boiling pasta in the microwave. So I finally tried it today.

It works.

I measured out the water for two servings in my Pasta Boat and found that for one cup of pasta, you need five cups of water. I poured the water and the pasta in a microwave safe bowl and microwaved it on high for 18 minutes.

The pasta came out just as well as it does in the pasta boat. However, the bowl got so hot I had to use a thick sweatshirt of mine as a makeshift pot holder. It was also very hard to drain the pasta without a strainer. I ended up putting my pasta into my Pasta Boat just so I could put the lid on and easily strain it.

From now on, I will continue to use my Pasta Boat. But it is nice to know my recipes can still be made in a dorm for those who don’t have a pasta cooking container.

This time I added Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh Buffalo Style Chicken Breast. For some reason, I cannot find a link to this anywhere on the Oscar Mayer website. Maybe this is like Oscar Mayer’s weird cousin that they’re ashamed of? I’m not sure. I just know that I love anything buffalo chicken, so I decided to try it. The chicken strips are 110 calories for 3 oz and are precooked. I am back to not having a working camera, or else I would show you what they look like. Walmart’s picture looks different than what I am seeing in front of me right now– the edges on mine are bright orange, but the shape of the chicken is the same.

I added the chicken to my cooked mostaccioli and then poured four cheese Alfredo sauce over it. I stirred in some pepper and Cheddar Jack cheese and microwaved for 45 seconds.

The buffalo chicken doesn’t add a huge kick to the pasta unless you have a full piece in every bite. Otherwise, I would say it is worth trying. Is it as good as normal buffalo chicken pasta? No. But does it satisfy a craving for it with little effort? Yup.

For those lucky enough to have a kitchen, here is the recipe that inspired me to pick up buffalo chicken strips in the first place. It is from How Sweet It Is. When I get to visit my boyfriend and use his kitchen, that recipe is almost always what we make. It is the best buffalo chicken pasta we’ve tried so far, and one of the recipes with the least ingredients that I’ve seen, which is always nice for people on a budget.

Pasta Boat Bow Tie with Creamy Tomato Sauce

I have used my pasta boat six times since my last post about it. Five of the six times were within one week. Having pasta so readily available to me is probably not the most healthy thing. I had opened a jar of Alfredo sauce and just could not bring myself to throw it out. My mom has always been very strict about expiration dates–that sauce should stay in my fridge three to four days, tops. My dad on the other hand has used Miracle Whip months past the best if used by date because he just can’t eat a sandwich without it. I followed my dad’s example and ate it on the fifth day. Not quite as worrisome as months old mayonnaise, but my mom still would not approve. And I’m alive to tell the tale (while on that subject, nothing seems to have come from my possibly toxic bowl either).

Anyway, I thought I’d share how I eat my pasta in my dorm. My dad insisted that I didn’t need dry spices because 1. the jars of sauce are already seasoned and 2. I don’t have a stove, therefore they won’t have time to simmer. I said that I wanted them anyway because my palate is not sophisticated enough to notice the difference pre-simmer and post-simmer. I won.

The process is so simple that pictures really aren’t necessary. I just got a camera back though and I really wanted to take pictures. So here they are!

Pasta Boat Bow Tie with Creamy Tomato Sauce
(makes one generous serving)

What you need:
Pasta boat*
I cup farfalle (bow tie) pasta
1/3 cup red sauce (I use Ragu because it is smooth and what I ate growing up)
1/2 cup Alfredo sauce (I LOVE Classico Four Cheese Alfredo. You can use whatever brand you’d like though)
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon italian seasoning
1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic power
handful of shredded mozzarella cheese (this was a last-minute decision and I forgot to take a picture of it)

My pasta boat!

The pasta was perfectly cooked after 18 minutes in the microwave. It was worth the wait.

Pour the sauces into the bowl. If you enjoy tomato sauce more than Alfredo,  you can switch it up so there is more tomato sauce than Alfredo.

Stir the sauces together until the color is uniform and add the salt, pepper, garlic powder, italian spices, and oregano.

Stir the seasonings in completely and then top with shredded mozzarella. Microwave on high for 45 seconds, stir the cheese into the pasta, and then microwave for another 45 seconds to 1 minute.

The finished product. Absolutely delicious.

*I realized recently (read: right now) that I could probably boil pasta without the boat, i would just have a harder time straining it. I haven’t tested this because my bowls are not microwave safe, but I am going to try to get new ones over break to see. It takes 18 minutes for 1 cup of bow tie pasta to cook in the pasta boat, so I would assume it would be the same in any other bowl with the proper amount of water.

My “Chopped” Salad

I’ve mentioned before that there is no room in my mini fridge for one-time use items. That is what makes my recent impulse buy somewhat surprising. I usually try to buy the least expensive items I can, as long as it doesn’t make me skimp on quality too much. I’m also very picky.

And yet I bought goat cheese anyway.

I was trying to think of something interesting to put on top of a salad. I was sick of my usual bagged American blend and ranch dressing. So when my boyfriend picked up a container of goat cheese and said, “this looks kinda classy” I decided to buy it.

I love the show Chopped on Food Network. Enough that I had a dream that I was on the show and got chopped after making a barbecue potato chip encrusted chicken with a spinach salad. My boyfriend will name off ingredients and I have to say how I would put it together if I were on the show: Okay, you have tilapia, rice cereal, cherries, and serrano peppers for a main dish. What would you make?

I’m not sure that we ever really know if what we make up would actually taste good. But we get a lot of entertainment out of it.

Anyway, I see goat cheese used a lot on Food Network, but I’ve never actually tried it.  I decided goat cheese would be my secret ingredient for the night. I put it together in a salad with some other toppings I had on hand. The end result was extremely satisfying and  made me feel like I was in a nice restaurant, not sitting on the floor in my dorm eating from a plastic bowl. And I think a fancy feeling yet extremely easy recipe is something everyone needs once in a while.

My “Chopped” Salad–for two servings
romaine lettuce
1/2 an apple, chopped (I used a pink lady apple)
a handful of pistachios (no shell), chopped
a handful of goat cheese crumbles
raspberry vinaigrette

Mix all the ingredients together and enjoy your fresh, delicious salad.

Sorry for the bad quality of the picture–My camera has been out of battery and I haven’t had a charger with me at school. The salad was so pretty looking, I just had to take a picture with my phone.

Meatless Fridays and Beef Rice

I don’t remember the exact age that I began refraining from eating meat on Fridays during Lent. I don’t remember what my parents used to do before my brother and I were old enough to follow that rule–cook us chicken and order themselves pizza? I don’t even remember ever being taught that a good Catholic never eats meat (unless it was fish, which was completely unlikely in my family) on a Friday during Lent. It was just something I knew. I thought it was the greatest honor the first year I was told to participate. I felt so grown up.

By the time I was in 7th grade, I had started getting bad at remembering. Most of my Friday nights were spent away from home, without my parents to remind me. Two of my best friends were also Catholic, so sometimes one of us would remember and warn the others not to order that chicken taco with sour cream. Usually, though, we would do something like order a pepperoni pizza and then wait until midnight to let anyone–our meat-eating Lutheran friend included–eat a slice.

Knorr Rice Sides Beef flavor was a staple in my group of friends. It was a side dish my parents had always prepared for meals that I hated, like pot roast or roast beef, so I grew to love it as a main dish. I converted my friends, one by one, from resistance (does it actually taste like beef?) to obsession (I’m still not sure what it tastes like*, but it is delicious). We got into legitimate fights over whose bowl had more rice. I brought a bag of the rice with me to every sleepover.

I remember coming home one Saturday morning during Lent and proudly announcing to my parents that I had remembered not to eat meat. I only ate beef rice! I bragged, No real meat in it! My parents informed me that my favorite meal still counted as meat and I shouldn’t eat it on Fridays.

Instead of dealing with the temptation of eating it on Fridays (it still didn’t seem to count in my mind) I decided to give it up for good. And by good, I mean the last thirty-some days of Lent. I ended up giving up my rice for Lent from the ages 13 to 18.

Beef rice has become what I want when I’m sick or on those nights that I wish I had gone to the same school as my best friends from high school, many of whom have stayed the same since those meatless Fridays in junior high.

After so many years of cooking those packets of rice, I am shocked I never noticed the rice has microwave directions. I’ve missed out on my “rice and pasta blend in a savory beef flavored sauce” for the past year and a half of school. But all that ended today.

It tastes just as wonderful made in the microwave as it does from the stove. I found out after I made my steaming plate of deliciousness that the bowl I used was not microwave safe. I’m hoping that is because the bowl gets extremely hot and not because it was releasing some sort of toxin into my beautiful beef rice… but if that were the case, I can assure you it would be worth it.

*According to the Knorr website, the rice tastes like “Rice and pasta blend in a hearty, beef-flavored sauce with onions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, paprika and diced carrots.” I can’t say my palette is refined enough to get all those flavors, but it is refined enough to know that the rice is absolutely delicious.

Cake Batter Dip

Cooking in a dorm means cooking with very limited space. My mini fridge can barely hold a Brita pitcher in it, let alone a weeks worth of groceries. That is why I’ve found it is important that I buy ingredients that can work in multiple recipes. I can buy precooked chicken strips and shredded cheese which will work for salads, wraps, and quesadillas. There is no room in my fridge for something that will be used once and never again (I learned that from the jalapeño mustard I bought on an impulse).

I saw this recipe for cake batter dip around the same time I saw the recipe for 1, 2, 3 cake.  Both recipes require full boxes of cake, so I bought one angel food cake mix and one devil’s food cake mix. I knew I would never be able to eat all the dip that one full box would make, so I set aside some devil’s food cake mix before combining the mixes for the 1, 2, 3 cake.

I changed the measurements from the original recipe to make a smaller batch and added peanut butter. This recipe still makes enough for 2-4 people, depending on how much of a sweet tooth you and your friends have. I enjoyed it, but I think the mug cake was a much more satisfying use of the cake mix.

Cake Batter Dip
3 oz. plain yogurt
3/4 cup whipped cream
1/2 cup devil’s food cake mix
1/4 cup peanut butter
Graham crackers, Nilla Wafers, or whatever you’d like to eat your dip with. I used Chocolate Chip Teddy Grahams.

1. Melt the peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl for 20 seconds. Stir, and put it back in the microwave for 20 more seconds.
2. Combine the whipped cream and the yogurt.
3. Mix in the devil’s food cake mix
4. Add the peanut butter and mix until everything is fully combined
5. Serve with your choice of crackers and enjoy!

1, 2, 3 Cake (Take 4)

I’m obsessed with Pinterest. I’ve heard someone say it is where boring girls go to congregate, but I disagree. I mean, I am pretty boring most of the time. But not because I love Pinterest. Plenty of my other interesting, active friends use Pinterest in very interesting ways.

I love Pinterest because I find inspiring pictures, ideas for weekend craft projects, and awesome recipes.

I also love Pinterest because it is where I found my latest study break obsession.

Remember my last study break snack? Where I said maybe my next one will be healthier? Well this one has strawberries. In my book, that counts.

I found this recipe for an easy mug cake on Pinterest and knew right away I had to try it. I brought a mug from home, even though I don’t drink coffee, specifically for this recipe.

That made it even sadder when my first attempt at 1, 2, 3 Cake ended in failure. I forgot to mix the batter. Half the cake rose and the rest was powdered mix sitting at the bottom of the mug.

My second attempt, I mixed the batter thoroughly before putting my mug in the microwave. 1, 2, 3 Cake (Take 2) was definitely a cake… just not a very good one. It was dry and it made me realize that the main reason I like cake is frosting.

I decided to try one more time, this time adding more than the two tablespoons of water the recipe calls for. My cake was moister, but I still wasn’t impressed. I was ready to give up on the whole mug cake genre until I opened my fridge to get a bottle of water. It was then I noticed the whipped cream and strawberries I had for another recipe. Perfect! I chopped up some strawberries, threw them into my mug, and covered it in whipped cream. The strawberries were nice and cold and the whipped cream helped the cake seem more moist. Take 3 was a success.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this blog that I realized I had mini chocolate chips in my room. Thus, 1, 2, 3 Cake (Take 4) was born.

1, 2, 3 Cake (Take 4)

What you need for the cake base:
1 box angel food cake mix (it MUST be angel food cake to work)
1 box any other cake mix (I used devil’s food cake)

Combine the box of angel food cake with your other cake mix and store in an airtight container or ziplock bag. You only need 3 tablespoons of this mixture each time you make a cake, so it will last you awhile.

Everything else you need:
2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons water
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
a handful of mini chocolate chips
whipped cream
1-3 strawberries
a mug
measuring spoons

1. Scoop 3 tablespoons of your cake mixture into a mug and add your water and vanilla extract
2.  Stir until all the lumps are gone
3. Dump a handful of mini chocolate chips into your mug
4. Microwave for 1 minute on high power
(Don’t touch the mug right away–it is extremely hot. I learned that the hard way.)
5. Take your mug out of the microwave once it has cooled down a little and top with whipped cream and chopped strawberries.

This recipe has seriously revolutionized the way I crave desserts. It used to be that I waited for someone’s birthday or for the dining center to have a good dessert selection to get to eat cake. Now I am always two to three minutes away from a very satisfying cake. It is a blessing and a curse.

Pasta Boat!

I love pasta. I could eat it every day for a week and not get tired of it. Whenever I want to cook a nice dinner, pasta is always my first option. I have over 50 macaroni and cheese recipes saved in my bookmarks. I have five pages worth of favorites on Food Gawker and a majority of them are pasta. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to make any pasta living in a dorm. It is one of the things I miss most from home. The dining hall’s pasta station only has good sauces once every few days.

So when I got my belated Valentines gift from my boyfriend over the weekend and it was a Pasta Boat, I was beyond excited. Sure, when we’d seen the commercial on TV and he told me I should buy it, I said no. I was skeptical and didn’t think I needed pasta that much.

I was wrong.

To be fair, I’ve only used this once so far. I cooked one serving of angel hair pasta in it today, and it worked perfectly. I accidentally left the lid on (I didn’t realize I was supposed to take it off until I watched the infomercial again) so the handles got pretty hot. My microwave is also a little small, so the Pasta Boat was not able to rotate all the way around. Other than that, it was as easy to use as the commercial makes it look.

I expected my pasta to be a clumpy mess when I took it out of the microwave, but instead it looked just like it does after cooking it in a pot. It takes anywhere from 13 to 18 minutes to cook the pasta in the microwave, but if you have the time, it is definitely worth it.

If you love pasta, and have some money to spare, I would definitely recommend buying a Pasta Boat.

Pasta Boat commercial

I didn’t realize how much time it took before making my pasta today, so I just covered mine in a canned tomato sauce and sprinkled salt, pepper, garlic powder, and italian seasoning in with the sauce. It was much more satisfying than my usual Easy Mac lunch.

I will definitely be posting more recipes for the Pasta Boat in the upcoming weeks.  It came with different recipes (including one for mac and cheese!) that looked interesting to me, so I want to try some of those out.

A Lesson in Patience

I’m not the most patient person. If I get to lunch craving pasta and the line in front of the pasta station is too long, I just find something else to eat. When I’m waiting for friends to arrive, I pace back and forth and check the door every two minutes. And sometimes, when it comes to cooking, I try to take shortcuts. This sandwich needs homemade cranberry mustard? I’ll just buy it, and that will mean I get to eat my sandwich five minutes sooner!

When I found this pizza crackers recipe on pinterest, I thought it was perfect. I love every single ingredient involved. It looked as easy as could be. If you can follow directions, and are patient, your pizza crackers should come out looking like this:

(Photo courtesy of Picky Palate)

Instead, because I was impatient, mine came out looking like this:

I didn’t want to wait for my cream cheese to soften, so I stuck it in the microwave. What came out was closer to the consistency to sour cream than it was to cream cheese. When I added the shredded cheese to my warm cream cheese, the mozzarella melted.

I thought it wouldn’t make much of a difference, but it did. The cracker sandwiches still tasted good, but the consistency was off. And there was something strange about eating a warm cream cheese pizza sandwich.

Learn from my mistakes. Just let the sour cream soften by taking it out of the fridge ten or fifteen minutes before you start assembling your crackers.

Pepperoni “Pizza-wiches”

I didn’t want to make a whole batch, so I used half the amount of cream cheese and just guessed how much sauce, pepperoni, and cheese to put in. The official recipe from Picky Palate is as follows:

8 ounces softened cream cheese
20 pepperonis, quartered
20-30 whole pepperonis
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup pizza or pasta sauce
1 box Town House Crackers (Target only had Ritz when I went, so I used those instead and they worked well)

My cream cheese, post-microwave

Pour the pizza sauce into the cream cheese. This step made my mixture even runnier, but if you follow the recipe your mixture should look more solid.

Add in the pepperonis

And the cheese

Spread mixture onto a cracker, top with a pepperoni (and cheese, if you like cheese as much as me) and enjoy!