At the end of each semester, I take inventory of the food that lingers in my rented microfridge and in my designated snacks-and-ingredients crates nestled beneath my bed. The excess flour, sugar, baking powder and vanilla extract doesn’t worry me too much because I normally go on an all-out baking spree on one of my free days during finals week. I can easily polish off those ingredients in the form of cookies, cupcakes, brownies and other delectable desserts.
Five bags of frozen vegetables and a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints, on the other hand? That’s going to be more of a challenge.
When I stumbled across the vegetables tucked away in my freezer earlier this week, I found myself stumped. I vaguely remembered that I’d bought the vegetables a couple months ago with the resolved intention to cook for myself more often; however, as the papers, projects and prelims piled up, my intentions slowly dissolved and the vegetables tucked away further into the corners of my freezer.
At first, I had no idea how I was going to polish off nearly four pounds of corn, green beans, peas, broccoli and cauliflower with only three weeks left in the semester. The easy answer, of course, would be to simply steam them and have a few weeks’ worth of steamed vegetables to make up a quick meal. However, I couldn’t bring myself to succumb to such a basic solution to my vegetable-overload problem. If all I wanted was steamed vegetables, I could just go to any dining hall to satisfy that craving.
The answer to my vegetable woes? A healthier take on vegetarian curry with a slight kick from cayenne pepper and the sharp, sinus-clearing spice of fresh ginger.
As for the Thin Mints, the quickest solution, of course, would be to enjoy them in their purest form. But, just as I felt about the frozen vegetables, I couldn’t just eat them plain. I wanted to do something different with the rich yet refreshing chocolate-mint cookies, something that made them a bit more special.
The answer to my ordinary-cookie issues? A quick, semi-homemade bar cookie/cake bar hybrid that enhances the chocolate and mint flavors with Andes candies, but uses a simple yellow cake base to keep the dessert from being overly sweet.
I’ll admit, I won’t have the chance to actually try these recipes until this weekend, thanks to the hectic life that comes with the ending of another semester. However, when I do, I’ll know that I’ll have a healthy, comforting curry that will energize me to push through this last week of papers and projects.
And if I need a break from grinding away at my work? A small indulgence in a chocolate-and-mint-laced dessert isn’t such a bad way to go.
Cauliflower Curry with Red Lentils
(adapted from a recipe by Bob Greene from The Best Life Diet Cookbook)
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 yellow or white onion, sliced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon cayenne
2 cups canned tomatoes (Chopped is preferable, but you can buy canned whole tomatoes and chop them yourself)
4 to 4 ½ cups water
1 ¼ cups red lentils
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
1 ½ cups frozen cauliflower
1 cup frozen peas
1 ⅓ cups frozen broccoli
1 ⅓ cups green beans
1 ⅓ cups corn
1. Heat a large heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium heat. (If you don’t have a stock pot, you can use a large saucepan; just remember that you may need to divide the curry recipe so that everything can fit.) Coat bottom with cooking spray add onion, and cook until onion becomes translucent, roughly 5 minutes.
2. Add cumin, mustard powder, ginger, garlic, and cayenne. Cook for 2 more minutes and stir constantly.
3. Add tomatoes, water, lentils, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Cook until lentils become tender, roughly 20 minutes.
4. Add cauliflower and broccoli and cook until the curry begins to simmer. Once the curry simmers, add the green beans, peas and corn. Cook on low heat for roughly 2-3 more minutes. Enjoy!
Girl Scout Cookie Thin Mint Gooey Cake Bars
(adapted from Picky Palate)
Nonstick baking spray
1 box yellow cake mix (I’m using Duncan Hines, but you can pick whatever brand you like.)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup Andes Candies, chopped
1 small can sweetened condensed milk
20 Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies, halved
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9” x 13” pan with nonstick baking spray.
2. Place cake mix, butter and egg into a large bowl,. Mix with hands until dough forms.
3. Press dough into bottom of pan. On top of dough, evenly spread chocolate chips and Andes Candies.
4. Drizzle condensed milk over top. Finish topping with Thin Mint Cookies halves.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Immediately after removing from oven, use a knife around edges to loosen. Let cool completely before cutting into squares and serving.