Think Fooditude

Hungry for life with an appetite for good food.

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Thanksgiving on a budget

Want to hear all about my Thanksgiving? Click here to listen to my podcast!

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My Thanksgiving experience this year taught me that broke college students can prepare a whole meal, too! Here are some tips that I took away from it:

  • Pardon a turkey, eat chicken. Rotisserie chicken is a great alternative to turkey because it’s ready to eat and inexpensive as well (about $5-$10 at Costco). It may not be traditional, but it does save the sleep effects of tryptophan from the turkey.
  • Cans and boxes are your best friend. As terrible as it sounds, canned food and boxed items are your best friend on a budget, especially if your kitchen does not have an oven. And almost everything is instant nowadays. So, you can have cranberry sauce from a can, boxed stuffing, boxed mashed potatoes, canned or frozen vegetables, and any additional sides such as instant macaroni and cheese.
  • Check if there are any open restaurants in your area. On Thanksgiving, my friends and I found that Boston Market and Uno’s Chicago Grill were open. I’ve never been to Boston Market (shocking, I know), but from what I have heard, they have great Thanksgiving fixings. Unfortunately for us, the line for Boston Market went well past the door (as expected). We picked up a few of the Reese’s Cup desserts from Uno’s. Or, you could even just ditch cooking and eat out.
  • Variety is the spice of life. I spent Thanksgiving with a friend from Hawaii, an Ecuadorian, and two Asians from New York. My Hawaii friend made ham and pineapple, and the Ecuadorian made “tortillas”: saffron-flavored potatoes filled with mozzarella cheese. These were simple meals that added a cool edge to the assortment of food. If you are cooking with others, ask if they know of any simple cultural dishes from their families.

These may not be the healthiest or wholesome options, but hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. It definitely was not like the Thanksgiving dinner prepared by my mom, but I really enjoyed it. And for a bunch of college students with no oven, this was a feast. Thanksgiving dinner does not always have to take two days to prepare. Sometimes, it’s just all about being resourceful.


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Restaurant Review: Benihana, 56th St. Manhattan, NY

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Food: 4/5. I love how Benihana serves SO MUCH FOOD! Particularly with a hibachi order. Out of everything, my favorite is surprisingly the house salad. It is served with a tangy ginger dressing that I love! I think I’m just a sucker for tangy dressings, but this one does not have an acidic taste like Italian dressing as an example. Also, the sushi was tasty! The crispy spicy tuna and shrimp crunchy roll pictured above were excellent. I will say that this category did not receive a 5/5 because my main hibachi entree did not taste as good because it was not prepared in the kitchen as opposed to the open teppanyaki grill.

Ambiance: 5/5. My friend and I sat in the lounge area downstairs instead of the teppanyaki room upstairs because it was too crowded. The lounge was such a great atmosphere! It felt very modern because of the decor and dim lighting. The tables and chairs were smaller than usual, just like what you would find at a Japanese restaurant.

Service: 5/5. I will admit that the friend I dined with works here, so call me biased if you will. But I noticed that the servers were incredibly friendly and outgoing. The food was also prepared very quickly! About 20 minutes after my friend and I ordered, it was brought to our table. And I think we ordered a lot of food. I do think that this is because we were seated in the lounge area. So, BIG TIP: if you are in the mood for teppanyaki but you wish to bypass the show that the chef puts on in the teppanyaki room, opt for lounge seating.

Price: $$$. Benihana is quite expensive (unless you’re dining with someone who works there, like I did. In that case, they can apply their large employee discount). Hibachi plates range from $30-$40. Special sushi rolls range from $5.25-$13.00. AND the extra bonus with sitting at the lounge are the lounge specials! These items, such as the crispy spicy tuna, are in the $10 price range.

*By the way, I just wanted to note that the difference between teppanyaki and hibachi are the way that they are cooked. Teppanyaki uses a flat, iron or steel surface and hibachi is like an open flame barbecue that uses charcoal to heat up. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but according to my research, this is the difference.

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Food Checklist: Sandy Edition

Superstorm Sandy left the tri-state area in a wreck. The storm barraged through the east coast on Monday evening and left a mess that has not been easy to clean up.

Hofstra University has been very fortunate to have minimal damage. There was a power outage on Monday evening for an hour and television cable was out until today. The most that I have seen were fallen trees, but I do understand that there have been water and gas problems that have been delaying classes to resume.

Trees on campus were knocked down from the powerful winds of Sandy. Photo taken on my iPhone.

Strong winds uprooted large trees on campus. Photo taken on my iPhone.

I stocked up on some food essentials to prepare for Sandy’s wrath because I knew I did not want to venture outside much this week. Without these items, I definitely would not have survived.

1. GoPicnic Salami + Cheese

This tasty pack includes beef salami slices, olive oil & sea salt crackers, asiago cheese spread, fruit & nut mix, and a chocolate crunch cluster. I love this because it is a perfect portion and it’s easy to eat wherever you are. It is also the best combination of salty and sweet. I like to think of GoPicnic as the modern day Lunchables except it is non-perishable and healthier. I bought it with the intention of eating it as dinner. It makes a great meal substitution in situations such as storms.

2. Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts

Or any Pop-Tarts flavor for that matter. You can’t go wrong with it because it doesn’t need to be toasted and it’s great for on-the-go, in case you may have to evacuate. I have been eating it for breakfast and it has not failed to satisfy my hunger. It may be loaded with sugar, but drastic times call for drastic measures.

3. Cookie butter and Nutella sandwiches (refer to this post)

I don’t know who else does this, but I keep my peanut butter in the fridge in fear that it will go bad. Cookie butter from Trader Joe’s does not require refrigeration, nor does Nutella. Not to mention the sandwich tastes like a holiday cookie. Bread is a staple for storms because it does not need to be toasted just like Pop-Tarts. I have had so many of these sandwiches this week. Cookie butter and Nutella is one of the best combinations I have found.

4. Annie Chun’s Hot & Sour Soup Bowl

I may not always eat instant ramen, but when I do, it’s Annie Chun’s. I love my Japanese ramen and udon, and this is the closest thing I can find to it without going out to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. This soup bowl was my dinner on the night of the storm. It was only fitting because soup and a rainy day are the perfect pair. It may not be practical if you don’t have power unless you can find a way to boil water. Fortunately for me, I was able to prepare it while I still had power. This soup bowl cooks in the microwave for 90 seconds. It is a bit more expensive, but I prefer it to Top Ramen or any other instant noodles because the fat content is lower. The Hot & Sour bowl contains 1.5 grams of fat whereas a chicken flavored Top Ramen contains 7 grams. It is the best brand of instant noodles, in my opinion.

5. Good ol’ granola bars

Granola bars are a staple to my dorm room because they tide me over until I have access to an actual meal. They are also great on-the-go. I am currently loving the Kashi Layered Dark Chocolate Coconut because the chocolate consistency is like a smooth fudge. It is outstanding. Any type of granola bar is essential for storms.

My thoughts go out to anyone who has been affected by Sandy. I am grateful for all of the men and women working to clean up the debris that Sandy has left behind. I cannot wait for everything to be back to normal again so we can embrace the next upcoming storm: the holidays.

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