[by Sadie Scheffer ’10]
College? It’s about classes and professors and shirts and ties! What am I not prepared for?
Nowadays, most high school students will be leaving home to go to a university knowing little about life outside of their parents’ houses. Everything from how to clean your room to how to decide whether you should go to class can be a totally new experience for college freshmen. One of the most important changes for most people is the task of cooking meals. With LaVerde’s open until 3am daily and 7-11 a quick walk away, it is hard to motivate yourself to learn how to cook. This blog will give you a few tips on eating well on the fly, and will hopefully inspire you to do a little kitchen chemistry on your own!
A quick introduction to my recent kitchen escapades: I have been cooking for a long time with food I buy from grocery stores, but I haven’t thought about where that food comes from. This semester I have decided to look into that topic some more, and here is what I have learned:
Dried fruit is perhaps the easiest snack you can make if you have an oven and a day to wait. Simply cut up your favorite fruits (I highly recommend kiwis, red pears, grapes and bananas) into thin slices, get a drying rack (although a baking pan or even just foil will work) and arrange the fruit so that it is exposed to the air (i.e. don’t overlap). Stick the tray in an oven on the lowest setting and wait a day. Check on your fruit periodically, you may need to flip it, and some pieces may dry sooner than others.
Fond of granola bars? Throw together some oats, nuts, chopped dates and any other seeds or fruits you like and spread them into a sheet on a baking pan. Cook this for a few hours at low heat, slice, and you’ve just made your own healthy energy bars! Another snack I recommend is banana chips with sesame seeds and honey. Just mix hot water with honey and sesame seeds (throw in a touch of sesame oil or hot sesame oil for a twist) and add some sliced bananas before drying them.
The contraption I used to dry fruit is actually called a dehydrator. I thought it was a big deal to use this over an oven until I looked at the inside. It contains a twisted bar of aluminum that plugs into an outlet, just a simple heat source! So anything with a heating coil will work! You can even make your own dehydrator with a little bit of solder or electrical tape (The dehydrator has nicely stacking trays, but don’t go out an buy one).
What better way to accompany your home-dried fruit than with some fresh yogurt? Yogurt is great for your body because of all the live cultures it contains, and making your own yogurt ensures that they are active.
To make a whole bunch of yogurt: pour a gallon of milk (any variety you like) into a large pot and heat it slowly. When the milk is about to boil (but before it does boil) turn off the heat and let it sit until it cools. This is important, because hot milk will kill the cultures in your yogurt. When the milk is still warm but comfortable enough to dip your finger in, you are ready to add your cultures.
Here’s the awesomely simple part: Add 2-3 tablespoons of any store bought (plain) yogurt. This is where all your cultures come from, and just 3 tablespoons will give you a pot of yogurt that you can cut with a knife, as some saying i heard once goes…
Once you have mixed your milk and yogurt, cover the pot with a plate and wrap it in a cloth or towel. Let it rest in a warm place overnight. I used the microwave once, and the oven another time (just write a note on the door to anyone on your hall that might be using said microwave or oven that night!). In the morning you will have a delicious pot of unsweetened yogurt. Add a little maple syrup or honey and it is a sweet snack.
For those of you who like Greek style yogurt, pick up a cheesecloth at the grocery store along with a mini container of Greek yogurt (it uses a different culture than normal yogurt). When you have your gallon pot of yogurt in the morning, strain it through your cheesecloth with weights above it for 4-6 hours. This process can be a little oozy, but it is TOTALLY worth it when you get your Greek yogurt in the end. Ever wonder why Greek yogurt is so expensive? Try this and you will know why!
Finally, wash down your awesome yogurt and dried fruit breakfast with a cup of non-alcoholic ginger beer! Start with a whole bunch of fresh ginger (or some powdered ginger) and grate it or cut it into little pieces. We used 40 tablespoons of fresh cut ginger to make 4L of ginger beer. It was super strong, so use as much ginger as you feel you can handle! Mix in a little cayenne pepper for an added kick, or some fresh berry pulp for a fruity flavor. Put your ginger mix into a cloth bag or cheesecloth bundle and drop it into a sealable bottle. Fill it with water, a ton of sugar (start out with about a cup and a half for a 2L batch of ginger beer). Stir it up and add about a teaspoon of active dry yeast. Cap it tightly and wrap it up in a towel. Leave it in a bath tub or something comparable over night. You’ll see the bottle start to pressurize, so make sure to check on it after a day.
Taste your ginger beer. If it is still very sweet, the yeast has not eaten up enough sugar, leave it for another day. If it is the right sweetness but not carbonated enough, add a touch more sugar. If it is perfectly carbonated, remove as much of the yeast as you can (it should be mostly on top) and add sugar to your desired sweetness.
Warning: These bottles will get HIGHLY pressurized. “Burp” them every day at least once. If you forget for a few days, the bottle may explode. Not the biggest deal but definitely the biggest mess! It happened to us on a car ride, but at least the car smelled like ginger the rest of the way! Even if you have removed the yeast, continue to burp the bottle until you have finished drinking it.
Needless to say, there are a gazillion variations of all the foods listed above, and you should experiment on your own! Hopefully you will make yourself some delicious snacks that you didn’t pay an arm and a leg for at Whole Foods. Post any recipes you think are stellar! I’d love to try them out!
That’s all for now!