College Eats.

First of all, I apologize for the novice photography; I’m working with an iPad and a smart phone at home. I hope the students out there are killing it in classes this week! For me it’s been a long one. Sometimes, all a girl wants to do when she gets home after her last lecture is take a hot shower, drink tea with honey and watch old movies on the couch. Before studying of course. Today, I started my day with…

BREAKFAST

I go simple for breakfast normally; egg whites and turkey bacon, fruit parfaits or milk and cereal. Sometimes I get dressed up in red lipstick and eat toast with coffee and strawberries, because why not.

LUNCH

Around this time of day, I’m thinking WTF (Where’s the Food). For lunch, I craved something detoxifying and refreshing. Let’s talk salads. Affordable, healthy, colorful ingredients are ideal. I’ve read that colorful foods are high in vitamins and other essential nutrients. It’s important to enjoy your food without a burning hole in your pocket, but also to derive nourishment from it and enjoy looking at it.

Making a recipe for $5 or less always feels like an accomplishment, and this quick Deconstructed Tuna Salad is filling and frugal. I would estimate that this meal cost me less than $5 to make, although I’m not great at calculations. It also leaves me ingredients for a protein salad another day with grilled chicken, boiled eggs, garbanzo beans, or even a few slices of leftover steak from a birthday dinner, if I’m feeling fancy. This is my favorite green salad base, it tastes amazing on its own or as a side dish sans tuna.

Ingredients:
Arugula
Cherry tomatoes, red and orange
Red onion
French Salad Dressing
1 8-oz can of Tuna
Crackers
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:
Drain your canned tuna and set aside. Peel and slice an onion into thin half-moons and slice those in half; big enough to taste, but not to overwhelm. If you’re worried about raw onion breath, try macerating them in red wine vinegar to avoid breath issues, vis-a-vis celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, Here. Cut tomatoes into halves. Toss arugula leaves in a bowl and add onions, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with a little bit of your favorite salad dressing. Toss ingredients with hands to distribute flavors. Arrange a good portion of the tuna in a fan shape on top of the salad and season it with salt and pepper. Enjoy with your favorite crackers.
Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette is my absolute favorite salad dressing. You can get it at HEB and most grocery stores. This stuff goes on everything from salad to pastas to meats. I toss the arugula leaves with my hands because it is the best way to coat the leaves evenly in dressing. One of my favorite foodie magazines, Bon Appetit, gave me this hand-tossing and pre-seasoning tip. Food writer Danielle Walsh provides these tips for making awesome salads, Here. If a $6 bottle of salad dressing feels like an indulgence this week, try a drizzle of olive oil with a quick squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of salt. It makes a simple lemon vinaigrette that is neutral enough to go with any toppings. I used thin slices of orange, red and yellow bell pepper for extra crunch, although I normally wouldn’t.

This brings me to 2 o’clock and snack time. When I’m at school, plastic snack bags and small, lidded containers are indispensable. I’ll often pack hummus with multi-colored bell pepper slices, carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes, peanut butter crackers and fruit, or for example, this heavily shopped plate of cottage cheese and nectarine slices. I had the day off and it looked so pretty, I couldn’t stop myself from giving it a vintage photo look. Healthy, portable food is a necessity for students on a budget.

DINNER

IMG_2737

For dinner, I felt like having my irresistible Spicy Fish Tacos. I’m serious, this dish is addictive so please be sparing in who you give this recipe to, I’m not sure the world is ready for it. Kidding. Anyway, this is a great meal to eat on the patio or by the pool, it’s simple, cheap, and no cutlery is needed.

Ingredients:
2-3 tilapia filets
¼ cup sliced red, yellow and orange bell peppers
¼ cup sliced red onion
2 tbsp. fresh or dried cilantro
½ tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. water
1 tsp. Sambal Oelek chili paste or Sriracha
1 tsp. fresh jalapeño, sliced
1 garlic clove
A pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Chop the garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro, reserving half of the cilantro. To a medium-sized bowl, add your aromatics and the oregano, ½ tsp. basil, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, water, chili paste, sugar, and a bit of salt and pepper. Add the fish fillets and set aside to marinate.

Feel free to use bottled lemon juice instead of fresh. Chop the bell peppers and onions. Mix the veggies with the remaining cilantro, ½ tsp. basil, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Add the fish to a large sauce pan on medium-high heat and cook until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Add the veggies and simmer with the lid on for 20 more minutes.

Serve with lightly toasted corn tortillas, salsa, avocado and a few leaves of cilantro. Serves 3.

This dish can get very spicy, so feel free to adjust the heat content to your preference. You might leave the jalapeño seeds out or put less chili paste, whatever works for you. My secret ingredient to making this dish addictive is the Sambal Oelek chili paste, which is a Thai hot chili sauce you can buy almost anywhere. I got mine at HEB. You can substitute with Sriracha or your hot sauce of choice. Marinating the veggies as well as the meat provides an extra layer of flavor. I buy bags of frozen tilapia for this exact purpose so it’s good to keep an eye out for sales. Each fillet makes two tacos, which means it’s pretty easy to figure out how many fillets you need to cook if you want to have friends over.

Next time, I’ll be spotlighting a few recipes from popular literature. Enjoy your week and see you then!

xx, Cristina

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