It ain’t easy….

Cooking is not easy in college.  Small kitchens with even smaller stoves.  Masses of homework to be done.  The inconvenience of running out to the grocery store when there isn’t a good one close by (and the February weather doesn’t do much to inspire motivation).  The dwindling cash in the “starving” college student’s wallet.  Well, we must eat, to be sure.  I’ve come to accept the fact that I won’t be cooking every day with fresh ingrediants…..or that I’d be cooking every day at all.

When I first toured the UW Green Bay campus two years ago, I was struck by the kitchens in the contemporary apartements.  My dad and I were led into a fully decked-out kitchen that was complete with a stove, double-sink, food disposal, full refrigerator, peninsula, and what caught my eyes the most……spices lined up near the stove.  “They actually have time to cook!” I thought.  Truthfully, that is the reason I ended up choosing to attend UWGB…I liked the kitchens.

Boy, was I naive.

First, I had to go through freshman year without cooking at all.  There was a communal kitchen in the basement of my dorm hall, but no cookware of any sort.  I didn’t have room to store any of that stuff…much less the patience to lugg it up and down.  Eating in the cafeteria was much easier.  Second, when I arrived at my traditional apt. dorm this fall, I was expecting the same kitchen I saw during the tour.  How wrong I was!  I cannot complain, though.  We have a sink, oven, refrigerator, and a table…but the space is puny. 

My visions of turning out excellent, healthy dinners on a nightly basis were quickly overcome by reality.  This is when my lovely roomate, Cassie, and I began our mission to each cook one “meal” a week.  She picks one dinner, and I pick the other.  

Last week commenced the beginning of our plight to each cook AT LEAST twice a week.  Inspired by a recipe in the cookbook my brother gave me for Christmas, College Cooking, I made pork chops topped with carmelized onions and accompanied by buttery mashed potatoes with homemade gravy. 

Cassie and I have a strange harmony in the kitchen.  Both of us know the basic methods of cooking.  If we run out of an ingrediant or come across a minor problem, we put our heads together and come up with a solution. (of course we can always call cassie’s mom for help….but thats for another post 😉 )  We didn’t have any issues with the pork chops, but Cassie took control of the potatoes while I did the rest.  This makes cooking waaaaay easier and definetely more enjoyable.

I got to use the new cast iron skillet my father gave me for the chops!  Those babies are awesome for cooking up succulently moist meat with a crisp, nicely browned exterior.  I’m totally in love with it.

Ok, sorry for my diverging thoughts, I just can’t contain the excitement!…. Cassie’s meal served as lunch for Friday.  We invited our dear friend Carly over and sat down to a luxurious, yet healthful cheesy brocolli soup.  Supplemented with freshly baked (frozen) dinner rolls, the soup warmed our tummies on a chilly afternoon. 

This soup was totally smooth and creamy despite its lack of heavy cream.  Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring.  Cassie did a wonderful job!

Don't mind the creepy face...vintage print bowls are totally stylish!

Before I end this post, I’d like to take the moment to make something clear.  It probably seems like I praise using fresh ingrediants to the point where it seems an unforgivable sin not to do so.  After all, my roommates felt the need last year to make sure I was ok with their using pancake mix or boxed macaroni.  Well, I’m no food snob…at least not to that extent.  Mixes, canned good, frozen foods are fine with me as long as that is not ALL I ever eat.  Cooking without semi-homemade ingrediants is simply unrealistic while living in a dorm.  So in case I’ve come across as a food snob…or if you aren’t open to less than fresh ingrediants yourself, I will be cooking with them. It makes life way easier.

Pork Chops with Carmelized Onions, Mashed Potatoes, and Gravy

adapted from College Cooking by Megan and Jill Carle

1 sweet onion

2 tbls canola oil

4-5 med. russet potatoes

2 pork chops

salt and pepper

2 tsps beef bouillon

3 tbls flour

1 1/2 c. water

3/4 c. milk

2 tbls butter

Method:

Peel onions, cut in half, and slice as thinly as possible.  Heat 1 tbls of oil in large frying pan set to medium-high heat.  Add the onions, and cook for a few mins till limp.  Lower the heat down to medium-low, and simmer slowly for at least 30 mins, until nice and carmelized.

Peel the potatoes and cut into cubes.  Put in saucepan filled with cold water, and add a few dashes of salt.  Bring to a boil adn then simmer over medium heat for roughly 20 mins.  Test with a fork.  It should slide easily into the potatoes.

In a cast iron skillet (or large non-stick frying pan), add remaining tbls of oil andeat to medium-high.  Sesaon the chops with salt and pepper.  When oil is hot, place chops in skillet, turning after 2-3 mins.  Cook other side for roughly same amount.  The secret is to only turn the chops once, however, or they will become tough.

Place beef bouillon in a small bown with the flour.  Slowly add and water while stirring until it is all incorporated and smooth.  Putting all the water in at once will make for lumpy gravy.  Remove pork chops from pan and set aside.  Add the gravy mixture to the skillet and deglaze the pan with a wooden spoon, scraping up any bits of meat stuck to the bottom of the pan (this brings on excellent flavor).  Turn heat up to medium heat and stir till gravy is nice and thick.  Turn down to low and stir in half of the caramelized onions.

Drain the potatoes, add the milk and butter, and mash until they are as smooth or chunky as you like!

Place one pork chop on each plate.  Top each chop with remaining onions.  Add the mashed taters to the plates, and top with a generous amount of gravy!!! You might even want to add gravy to your chops, too 🙂  It’s that good.

For the Cheesy Brocolli Soup, go to:

http://www.weightwatchers.com/food/rcp/index.aspx?recipeid=90071

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