Tag Archives: Cooking

College Cooking Skills & Tools

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BigLotsReady  #CollectiveBias

collegeMy daughter, Christy, an incoming college junior, has got it all – a lovely room, stove, fridge, counters, cabinets. Now we’re talking!collegeLet me tell you, this girl loves her full size bed and takes full advantage of her kitchen. She cooks every day. Although it’s more work for her to cook her own meals, I know she eats a lot better for at least half the cost of the meal plan at school.

Last year was her first year in a college apartment. When she moved in, her roommates had already lived there for a year, so the kitchen was full of essential equipment. This year, two of the roommates moved out taking some of the kitchen stuff with them.

Before the school year ended, Christy made a list of the things she’ll need for back- to- college in August. The list included a toaster, coffee maker, some bowls, as well as smaller things such as pens, paper, toiletries, laundry detergent, etc.

Last week, we went to Big Lots and found everything  she needed. We also found items she didn’t need but were too hard to pass up. Like this super soft chevron blanket. Let me show you some of the things we bought.

back to collegeBefore we even made it to the kitchen essentials aisle, Christy spotted all this softness. The girl cannot walk past cozy blankets. I can’t really blame her. How cute and modern is this chevron pattern? Big Lots offers such a wide selection of fashionable products.  It’s hard to only pick one.Back to college

college EssentialsNot only is this blanket soft, it will also add a fabulous touch to her room.

back to collegeBig Lots carries lots of comfy blankets, comforters, sheets, throws;  all value- priced to outfit a dorm room or college apartment. Keep in mind, styles and assortment vary by store.  back to collegeIn the electronics aisle, Christy found these cute purple wireless mini speakers. The speakers are portable and rechargeable… perfect for college kids.

college EssentialsAlthough speakers weren’t on Christy’s list, she loves to listen to music while she cooks. She has already tried the speakers at home while preparing her favorite dish: veggie stir-fry with basmati rice. back to collegeNext, Christy chose this Sunbeam toaster for her morning toast, which goes perfectly with the much needed Mr. Coffee. college EssentialsShe starts each morning with a run,  a cup of coffee, cottage cheese or yogurt  with fruit and toast. A coffee maker is essential during finals when she spends up to 12 hours in the library.college EssentialsThe size of this coffee maker is perfect for her small kitchen.


back to collegeHere, she grabbed a few school supplies for her upcoming junior year. During the school year, getting to a store isn’t easy for her since she doesn’t have a car.  Summer is a good time for her to stock up on things she’ll need and I feel better knowing that she has everything she needs for the school year ahead.

college Essentials These bowls will be perfect for her stir-fries, soups,  cottage cheese, and cereal.

college Essentials

We love shopping at Big Lots. They carry a wonderful assortment of high quality back-to-college items.  Really, Big Lots has all the essentials whether it’s for a dorm room, living space, or kitchen area. In addition to smaller college essentials, Big Lots carries mattresses and ready to assemble furniture including desks, chairs and bookshelves. I got so excited when they opened a Big Lots store in our neighborhood. Their cashiers are always friendly and helpful. Did you know you can also shop Big Lots (biglots.com) online?



As a junior, this will be my second year living in an apartment, and I can assure you that cooking’s not as daunting as it may initially seem. Stocking the right foods in your kitchen is going to take you a long way toward a good start.

I think healthy eating is an amazing stress relief tool that a lot of college students don’t use. Ever since I’ve made it a point to eat healthy balanced meals and drink more water my stress levels are way down. The act of cooking can be relaxing too, knowing that you are nourishing your body and treating it with kindness. Whenever I come back from a busy day of classes, it’s always wonderful to put on a pot of something or other and start heating, mixing, and then experimenting with tastes. It’s a wonderful way to blow off steam. Lots of college students think eating healthy is such a hassle but it’s FUN!


Your first trip to the grocery store should include some products that will get you through an entire semester of eating, in addition to those that you’ll replenish regularly.  Buy staples like olive oil and salt. On move-in day, my mom and I hit the grocery store and stock up on rice, dried beans, lentils, nuts,  sweet potatoes, dried spices, peanut butter, almond milk, frozen chicken, lots of fruits and veggies, yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs and butter. I don’t buy any junk food. If I have it in my kitchen I will eat it.


You’ll need at least one pan (a 10-inch skillet, nonstick) and one pot (large enough to cook pasta and rice), plates, small bowls, as well as a can opener, a paring knife, a chef’s knife, a large bowl (for mixing), a plastic cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, a couple of wooden spoons, a spatula, a baking pan, a cheese grater, and colander.  Plus a few dish towels and tupper wear. You can also add a blender, toaster, and  coffee maker.


My advice, cook simply and often. Lean on lunch and dinner formats like pasta; meat, fish, or vegetables; salads; rice bowls and stir-fry. For breakfast, stick with standards like eggs and toast, yogurt, fruit and oatmeal. Rice bowls are my favorite. They are easy and quick to make and can be changed up with herbs, vegetables, and protein. Something I usually do is chop and cook a bunch of assorted fresh veggies at the beginning of the week and use them all week-long in wraps, tossed into pasta or mixed into brown rice.

Decide if you’re the type who can eat the same meal repeatedly. If so, you’ll save energy by cooking a big batch of chili or lentil soup to fill bowls for days. This type of cooking is perfect during finals.


The more you cook, the more of a mess you make. Make it a habit to wash dishes as soon as possible after eating, especially if you are sharing the kitchen.

Cooking in college is a wonderful thing. I feel so blessed having a full kitchen where I can prepare delicious meals. For me, cooking takes less time than walking to the nearest campus cafeteria.  With the right tools, cooking on your own can be done quickly, cheaply and, most importantly, in a healthy way.


RED Tour, Craigslist Scam & Mike’s Ice Cream

Last week, my lovely daughter had a brilliant idea. She invited me to see Taylor Swift’s RED concert here in Nashville at the Bridgestone arena. Even though I’m not a fan of “Pop Star Taylor”, I always liked her country songs from way back when she still had curly hair and wore cowboy boots. But since I love spending time with my daughter and since it was her treat, I said ‘yes’. There was one minor problem; my daughter didn’t have any tickets to the show.

But, you see, the girl is very resourceful and after scanning good old Craigslist for hours, she finally talked a seller down to $70 for two tickets. We sent him money through PayPal and waited at will call while the seller was on the phone with Ticketmaster to transfer the tickets into our names (or so he said).

Well, to make a long, sad story short, the tickets were never transferred into our names. After about 1 ½ hours of waiting, the lady at will call decided to let us know that someone else was already occupying “our” seats. Thanks, lady, you couldn’t have told us that sooner? By then the concert had already started. And through all this, the “seller” swore that he transferred the tickets to will call. He even told us he would refund the money if the transfer for some reason didn’t work.

We felt robbed; financially and emotionally. So what do you do when you hear 17,000 eight-year-olds scream from inside the arena because Taylor is about to perform “Red?” You are darn right, you get something to eat!

RED didn’t work out for us, but Mike’s Ice Cream on lower Broadway certainly did. We didn’t even care that we walked through pouring rain to get there. We were in desperate need of some rich, handmade ice cream.

A quaint little ice cream shop amongst the crazy bars on Broadway, Mike’s Ice Cream has such creative flavors as Red Velvet Cake, Rum Raisin and Tennessee Fudge. We ordered Coconut and Butterscotch Overload. Seriously y’all, the best ice cream I’ve ever had. It has a fresh, creamy and not too sugary taste. Really delicious!

We didn’t see Taylor but we managed to have a nice evening together after all. We weren’t even that upset anymore. Twenty years from now I probably would not have remembered the concert anyway, but I will always cherish the crazy, wonderful evening I had with my daughter, and the lessons learned from it.

1.Do not buy concert tickets on Craigslist.
2.Always bring an umbrella if the weather forecast calls for 80% chance of rain in Nashville.

FYI, we filed a dispute with PayPal who guaranteed us a full refund. Hooray for PayPal, even though you charge a ridiculous fee whenever I withdraw money for deposit in my bank account.

Still excited to see Taylor

Almost inside the Bridgestone to see Taylor

What a bummer!

Almost two hours after the RED fiasco…

Mike's Ice Cream to the rescue

We were so annoyed, we could have eaten the giant fake cone.

We were so annoyed, we could have eaten the giant fake cone.

How to Make Your Own Meal Replacement Shakes

My kids and I are huge fans of smoothies. We drink them for breakfast, as a snack, after a workout, or as a cool treat on a hot day. We love all kinds of smoothies, but our favorite is a blueberry smoothie. It’s full of antioxidants and flavor.

• If you have kids and have a hard time getting a healthy breakfast in them before school, let them drink a smoothie. Some smoothies taste like dessert, yet they are so good for you. There is a lot of hidden nutrition that is masked by the sweet flavor of fruit.

• Great boost after exercise. Smoothies are a perfect post-workout nutrition boost.

• A complete meal in a glass. No need to buy expensive, powdery meal replacement packs or shakes. The combination of oatmeal, flax seeds, yogurt, milk, and fruit makes these smoothies well rounded nutrition. Every smoothie will differ a little in nutrition according to the exact ingredients used.


Flax seeds
Milk (Almond milk, soy milk, rice milk
Orange juice (optional)


• Add oats and flax seeds to blender. Blend on high until you have the consistency of flour. This helps the oats and flax seeds blend into the smoothie without a rough texture. The finer your grind them, the smoother your smoothie will be!
• Add the remaining ingredients.
• Enjoy your smoothie!

Making smoothies is not exact science. Some folks like them thinner, others prefer a thicker smoothie. Play around with other ingredients and find your perfect consistency and flavor. Sometimes I add spinach to my smoothie, avocado, tofu or peanut butter. As long as my kids only taste the sweet flavor of fruit, they drink it all up!