Sunday, November 1, 2009

You Can Fondue It!

I love my boyfriend Jeff. I also happen to love cheese fondue. So when he suggested last Halloween that we stay in and cook, a tradition was born!

Fondue is one of the simplest meals anyone can add to their catalog. What's great about it is that most people consider this Swiss classic something terribly elegant and difficult to master when in reality it takes no more than 20 minutes to prepare and is essentially a few tricks to throwing cheese in a pot of broth!

There are literally hundreds of fondue recipes available but our absolute favorite is this classic cheddar cheese fondue. Simple, delicious, done!

Classic Cheddar Cheese Fondue

Serves two

A note about hardware:

It is not necessary to own a special fondue pot for this recipe, but it helps. You can find an electric fondue set for under 30 dollars at Target, Walmart or Kmart. The set will include a metal pot with handles, detachable power cord with adjustable temperature settings, color coordinated fondue forks, and a plastic fork rest that you will more than likely never use. Avoid buying a set that is not electric--these sets usually require the use of Sterno which causes burnt cheese and an uneven distribution of heat. If you don't want to spend the money, place a deep metal bowl(about 2 quarts) atop a pot of water with about two inches of water.

What you need:

4 ounces of light beer, with about 2 additional tbsp in reserve
1 tsp garlic
mustard powder
2 cups cheddar cheese (sharp or mild variety is fine)
1-3 tsp all purpose flour
Worcester sauce
Fresh black pepper

Bakery bread, fresh veggies, Granny Smith apples

In a shallow bowl, toss the cheese with 1 tsp of flour to coat. Use more if required until the cheese has an ashy look to it. Set the cheese aside.

Next, slice the bread, apples, and vegetables into bite sized pieces and either arrange in bowls or on a platter. You will want to soak the apples in a bath of lemon water to prevent browning due to oxidation.

Pre-heat the fondue pot to 375. If using the double boiler method, heat the pot on medium. Add the beer and allow to come to a light boil. Add the garlic and stir together. If you are like me and love garlic, you can use more. It will only add to the flavor. Add about 5 dashes of the ground mustard powder.

Begin to slowly add the cheese, a small handful at a time. The best way to stir at this point is in a figure-8 motion with a fork. This allows the cheese to become better incorporated into the broth without gumming up. Its also fun to pull the cheese out of the pot with a little artistic flair--c'mon, who doesn't like showing off! Continue to add the cheese until the texture is between thick and thin. The best way to test the texture is to see if it coats the back of the fork. If it runs off, add more cheese. If it sticks but is very thick, add a tablespoon more of the beer until the desired consistency occurs.

Add 5 dashes of the Worcester sauce and about 5 turns of fresh black better. Drop the heat to warm and serve, not forgetting to drain the apples and pat them dry.

Bon Appetit my cheesy friends!


Shauna, aka The College Gastronome

Quick and Dirty Q&A with TCG

1)I really don't like beer, or I'm under 18,19,21 or whatever the legal age to purchase beer is in my home state. Does that mean fondue is lost to me?

No; if you dislike the taste of beer, or aren't able to get a hold of any, a few substitutions are available. Chicken or vegetable broth from a can work wonderful. Bouillon dissolved in water is good as well. Milk can be used but try to avoid using whole varieties--it tends to make the mixture much thicker than it is supposed to be. You can use the same amount as the beer (4 ounces) but be sure to have some liquid on reserve to combat thickness.

2)You mention vegetables, but none specific. What are the best to use?

My staples for fresh veggies with fondue are celery, baby carrots, and broccoli. Really, you can use any vegetable from leeks, radishes, or cauliflower. The important aspect here is that the vegetables are fresh, free from blemish, and have a good crunch.

3)Why is there flour on the cheese? Won't it taste terrible?

The flour acts as a thickening agent for the cheese. It also prevents the cheese from hardening into clumps when cooking. If you don't flour your cheese it will end up sticking everywhere and will lack the velvety texture it needs to be delicious.

Questions? Comment below XOXO

Monday, October 26, 2009


I love marinated foods!

Asparagus and potatoes rubbed with olive oil and rosemary, chicken covered in lemon pepper, lamb in tamarind sauce or steak in delicious!

Marinades are a great way to add flavor and tenderness to any cut of meat. There are infinite varieties one could purchase at any megamart but why? These imitations of the real thing are normally over-prices at around $2.50 a bottle and are loaded with copious amounts of unnecessary sugar and sodium! Making a marinade from scratch takes nothing more than ingredients one already has at home. Salt, pepper, oil, and some sort of acidic like lemon juice or vinegar are the foundations for any good marinade.

Anyways, I got onto this tangent because tonight my sister and I craved salad and what goes great with a salad?

Marinated chili-lime steak!

Before you begin, a few tips on how to buy steak:

The best kind of steak for this recipe is sirloin. Other cuts used could be round or filet. Make sure whichever you pick is free from sour odors. It should either smell like nothing, or faintly like blood.

Also, the meat should be a deep red color with no brown or grey throughout it. Choose packages that are free from tears, warping, and dirt. If you are unsure of what sirloin looks like, you can choose what some stores will label it as “fajita meat” or “meat for stir-fry”. These packages will be already sliced into thin strips and are more convenient for people who are afraid of knives!

And of course, if all else fails, walk up to your butcher counter and ask your local meat man for help (tehe, meat man!). No butcher= no dice. I don’t shop in stores that don’t have their own meat department and neither should you!

Okay, onto the salad!

Chili-Lime Steak Salad

Serves 2

10 ounces sirloin or round steak
2 tsp oil(any variety is fine, I prefer vegetable for its mild flavor)
1/4 cup lime juice (fresh is always best but those little lime-shaped juice containers are O.K. too)
black pepper
chili powder

Cayenne pepper (can be omitted if you don’t like heat)
garlic salt
onion powder

In a shallow baking dish(non-metal) lay the steak(or steak strips) fat and cover with oil. Gently massage the oil into either side of the meat to form a sticky coating. Top with lime juice and repeat. Sprinkle on spices from above to taste. For example, I love pepper, so I tend to use a lot more pepper than salt. Also, go very gingerly on the cayenne pepper—a sprinkle will do you just fine!

After you rub all the spices in and the meat is thoroughly seasoned, cover and allow absorption at room temperature for 20 minutes. Do not worry about your meat spoiling—this is not chicken or pork and steak cooks much better when at room temperature.

Pre-heat your grill, grill-pan or sauté pan to 350 degrees F. Spray with cooking spray or lightly coat with oil to prevent sticking. Add meat to the pan and be careful to avoid touching or overlaps. You may need to do this in two batches if you are using a grill/sauté pan.

Okay, now here’s where it may get dicey. I LOVE my meat medium-rare to medium. My sister and roommate (the same person btw) will only eat steak if it’s super well done, no pink at ALL. If your new to steak, or new to cooking, you’re probably like her.

So, a simple guide to temperatures of steak:

Invest in a meat thermometer. You can find an analog for less than 5 dollars at Wal-Mart and a good Taylor digital one runs about 15 or 20. Go in sideways and take the temperature from the middle:

Rare 125º

Medium-Rare 130º

Medium 140º

Medium Well 155º

Well 160º

Remove the meat from the grill and cover with aluminum foil for 5 minutes. This will allow the meat to rest and the juices to redistribute. If using whole steak or steaks, slice into strips.


Combine romaine lettuce, chopped cherry tomatoes, canned corn, canned beans, and any other fresh veggies in a bowl and toss with your favorite dressing. I used ranch and my sister used Italian. If you’re feeling ambitious you can make your own lime vinaigrette by combining olive oil, salt, pepper, honey and lime juice in a bowl. Then, portion salad out onto two plates. Top with 4 ounces or a half a cup of steak, and any toppings you desire. Some ideas are cheddar or chunks of queso fresco cheese, mini-quesadillas, scallions, cilantro, or strips of of baked tortillas. I used olives but only because I think they are the world’s most perfect food!



College Gastronome, Q&A session!

1) Man, I'm a dirty hippie who hates red meat, does that mean this recipe is out for me?

No. Some good substitutions for this recipe would be pork, or chicken, or even a mild fish like tilapia. Shrimp also works really well, especially if you leave the tails on! Keep in mind that though you still want to marinade for at least 20 minutes, you will want to out your baking dish in the fridge to prevent rapid spoilage/bacteria goblins.

2) Why can't I use metal to marinade my meat?

Coated non-stick metal pans work fine for this but I would really avoid any metal pan that could rust. Acid on a rusty pan equals nasty tasting meat. Plus metal tends to hold old flavors for longer than neutral hardware like porcelain and plastic. Don't ask me why...

3) Shauna, don't you know that we're in an economic crisis and I can't afford to buy $10 worth of spices for one meal!?

Spices like garlic salt, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and chili powder are staples in my home. I use these things everyday on pasta, tuna salad, pizza and more! I strongly recommend making the investment now because these ingredients basically last until the Apocalypse. If you don't want to make the leap, or simply can't then there are a few options.

  • Dollar stores or discount shops often have these seasonings for 1/3 the cost of the regular megamart. The problem is the texture or the flavor of the spices are not great quality and you will notice a difference.
  • You could buy fresh garlic and fresh chili peppers or jalepenos for this recipe. These items tend to be even cheaper than the knock-off dollar store brand (a head of garlic usually costs less than 60 cents a bulb and fresh peppers are even cheaper if you only buy a few). This will however create more work for yourself in the end because you will have to dice and chop these items pretty fine before incorporating them into the marinade. If you do go this route (and it is a good one, fresh is always a wonderful place to start) please wear gloves. Garlic tends to make fingers smelly for weeks and pepper juice will burn like hell if you get it in your pores, or worse, eyes.
  • My last option for this recipe is to purchase a 99 cent packet of taco seasoning. You can use one or two teaspoons of this powdered mix and it will taste nearly the same. There is a lot of sodium still but it is way better than using store-bought marinades and if you're careful you can stretch it over a few recipes.
4. Why shouldn't I buy meat from places where there's no butcher? It's cheaper there!

The reason those meats that don't come from a butcher's counter are cheaper is because they are pre-packed and most likely frozen then thawed out. The flavor is not fresh, and could be likened to something like cardboard or gym socks. Besides, there's a certain magic in learning new things from your butcher. Sometimes you can get special recommendations from them about how to cook a certain cut of meat, and they will break packages for you and also trim the fat off most cuts if you ask real nice. It's a nice person-to-person relationship that you just miss out on if do it the other way!

Questions? Send me a comment!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Beginnings...Tales of a Fat Freshman


Several days before making the move to college for my freshman year, my parents took me to the Kash-N-Karry to stock up on goodies . My cart was bursting with things I assumed every college student on-the-go would eat: Doritos, Oreos, beef jerky, candy, and a ton of those little microwavable cups of nacho cheese that taste sooooo good after a night of binge drinking in the student center.

It's painful to revisit those few months in my mind...the loneliness of being away from home for the first time, coupled with the load of classes I was taking (but rarely going to, and hardly passing) made it easy for that box of Famous Amos cookies to be my BFF. Rarely did I utilize the meal plan pass my parents paid so much money for...and when I did it was for pizza, waffles, or ice cream.

The truth is I was depressed. I was also lazy, and more than likely, I went a little hog-wild when off the reigns of my parents. Meal times were mandatory in my family growing up and consisted of homemade things prepared by my mother and to a lesser extent my father, older sister and self: tacos, goulash, or baked chicken. Grilled kabobs, pork chops, and beef stew. Always with some vegetable side and always a salad to start. We rarely ate fast food for dinner, and because there were six of us, chips, soda and snacks went fast.

So at college, I ditched the healthy values my parents gave me and ate everything in sight.

And gained something like 20 pounds freshman year. And tried to lose them over the next four years. And have been largely unsuccessful in doing so.

But the story doesn't end there :)

The next year, I ditched the dorm life, and the bad habits I had accumulated. I still love my Oreos, and eat out but I have made a commitment to cooking, to measuring and caring about what goes into my body.

I love entertaining, I love having friends over and making them be my "sous chefs" (my friend Diana is especially good at this game :P).

So, the point of this blog is simple:

  • I'm going to post recipes, meal ideas and dining out tips for college students and working professionals who *think* they're too busy to cook. For the student who always resorts to pre-packaged, nutrition-less fast food, vending machines and corporate chain restaurants.

I hope you'll enjoy my blog :) Comments are welcome and encouraged.

-Shauna, aka The College Gastronome