Colleen Bierstine

Colleen Bierstine

Public Relations major

Food & fitness enthusiast

Passionate about cooking, baking, eating, and working out.



How to Be a Better Commuter

Feb 17, 2014 | Author: Colleen Bierstine
Campus-by-Romano1-1024x685

Photo by The Tangerine

Utica College has a fairly large commuter base. It attracts a lot of local folks, myself included, who choose to go home at the end of every day and drive back again in the morning. Some of us have a quick five-minute drive while others devote an hour or more there and back.

We all have our reasons for why we prefer it this way. And as with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages. One of the hardest things about being a commuter is dealing with harsh CNY winter travel and making that dreaded decision of whether or not to take your chances driving to school every time the snow rolls around.

There are several things to do to lessen the inconvenience and dangers posed by nasty weather. For starters, be smart when you’re making the decision of whether to face the commute or not. If you can afford to miss the class without severely getting points docked from your grade, then it might be best to not go in. Even if there’s important material, you can always try speaking to your professor or getting notes from a friend. Class is very important, and so is attendance, but your safety is the most important of all.

That being said, I am not in any way condoning skipping classes without a darn good reason. After all,we are seasoned veterans here in CNY when it comes to driving in harsh elements, so if you can, get your butt to class. It’s a given that you should drive slow, and always leave early on a bad weather day so you don’t feel the need to rush. But if you can’t avoid leaving late, do not try to rush there. It’s better to make it to class safely and a few minutes late.

It’s a good idea to even leave for class early on a good day when you’re a commuter. You never know what kind of traffic snafus or incompetent people you’ll encounter along your journey.

In fact, getting there early means better chances of a better parking spot. You can’t argue with that!

Being a commuter can also be tricky if you’ve got a long day with back-to-back classes and/or work. You don’t have time to run home again, so it is key to plan ahead when packing for the day. More obviously, you’ll need all your books, papers, etc. for your classes. But you also want to make sure you have tons of food to get you through the day. I recommend bringing more than you think you’ll need in case you get stuck being out later than you originally intended.

On a similar note, I recommend getting yourself a Brita water bottle. It has a built-in filter, so you can feel safe drinking tap water. That means you’ll have water all day long, and won’t have to bring or buy a million plastic water bottles.

It’s also not a bad idea to keep your car stocked with essentials like tissues, Advil, and your chargers for your phone/laptop/etc. This way, you won’t find yourself running to the store or back home when you unexpectedly need something.

If you have a laptop or tablet, I definitely recommend bringing it to school with you as a commuter. You never know when you might need it. If one of your classes gets canceled and you’ve got time to kill, you’ll be glad you brought it along.

Be sure to have a back-up plan for rides. Just last week when it snowed on Friday, I got completely blocked in by snow thanks to the snow plowers at my apartment complex, and couldn’t get out of the parking lot. Luckily, I had a friend who was willing to pick me up on her way into school.

Finally, try to be as picky with your class schedule as you can be. Some classes are only offered at one time, and you have to deal with that. But if you can choose classes so that you have to make as few trips to campus as possible, then do it. Your gas tank will thank you.

Are you a commuter? What do you do to make your life a little bit easier?

TwitterStumbleUponLinkedInWordPressTumblrFacebookGoogle+Blogger PostEmailPinterestShare

How to Survive Night Class If You’re Not a Night Owl

Feb 10, 2014 | Author: Colleen Bierstine
night-owl

Photo from camelcitydispatch.com

Some people thrive in night classes. In fact, some people actually prefer to take them  because night classes are generally only one night out of the week as opposed to the typical Tuesday/Thursday or Monday/Wednesday/Friday combination.

However, there are also a lot of folks like me who would much rather take an earlier class, and often avoid night classes like the plague. On top of not being an evening person, I am also night-blind (it’s a legitimate genetic condition; look it up), so driving at night is a struggle. Night classes are basically my worst nightmare.

I successfully avoided taking any until this semester in my senior year when two classes I needed to take were only offered at night. I’m sure many of you have run into this as well, and the most we can do is suck it up.

But there are ways to make it more bearable, tolerable even.

  1. Start by looking on the bright side. You only have to take this class once a week! That means less trips to campus and less days to worry about the class in general. It also usually means you have more time in between classes to get your assignments done. If you play your cards right, this could mean having a day or two off except for the night class(es).
  2. Learn to reverse your homework schedule. If you’re like me and you’re used to getting your homework done at night, you’re going to have to learn to switch that around on the days you have night classes. Get your work done early in the day so you don’t have to tackle it when you roll in at 10 o’ clock at night.
  3. Eat a light dinner beforehand. You want to make sure you’re not going to class on an empty stomach because that’s miserable and distracting, but you also want to make sure you don’t overeat so you aren’t uncomfortably full during class.
  4. Check the weather a day or two in advance. This only applies to commuters, but you want to be prepared if you’re going to have bad weather while traveling at night. Plan to leave a few minutes early so you can take your time. Also get your professor’s cell number so you can contact them if the weather is making it completely impossible for you to finish the trip safely.
  5. Carpool, if possible. Again, this is just for commuters, but you can arrange to carpool with a friend, switching off each week. Driving at night is just annoying, so it helps to share the burden. Plus, you can make it a point to stop and get ice cream or something on the way home, giving you something to look forward to.
  6. Bring snacks. Your mind is bound to wander during three straight hours of class, so keep yourself focused with energizing snacks. Just be wary of the super loud and crunchy snacks like carrots and chips that could be distracting in class.
  7. Ideally, have a classmate walk to your car with you. There’s safety in numbers, people!
  8. If that’s not possible, call a friend or family member while you’re walking to the car. Have a safeword agreed upon so if anything happens, you can say it to them so they can call the police for you. I know this stuff is ominous, but it’s good to be prepared.
  9. Don’t go the gym right beforehand. Okay, this one is really just for me. I took a cardio fitness class right before my night class and didn’t have time to shower or cool down in between. It was rough.
  10. Caffeine! An obvious one, but essential. If you’re not a night owl, you’re going to need a little pick-me-up in order to stay focused at the end of the day.
  11. Don’t wear uncomfortable clothing. It’s college; nobody cares if you wear sweats, and you aren’t going to want to sit there in your Sunday’s best at 9 o’ clock at night.
  12. Get a friend to take the class with you. Even if it’s not related to their major, there’s a good chance they can get elective or liberal arts credits for it. And obviously, class is a heck of a lot more fun with a buddy.

What are your opinions on night classes? Are you a night owl or a morning person?

The Blame Game Won’t Fix Negative Female Body Images

Feb 5, 2014 | Author: Colleen Bierstine

short and fat pooh

In one of my communication classes, we have a lot of interesting discussions about gender differences and the effects of these differences on American society. In one of our conversations the other day, I watched the blame game play out: men vs. women arguing over whose fault it is that women feel pressured to meet an impossible physical appearance standard.

It’s no secret that these body image issues are particularly prevalent in college-age women. Eating disorders are frighteningly common among college students, and according to Brown University, “74.4% of the normal-weight women stated that they thought about their weight or appearance ‘all the time’ or ‘frequently.’”

Photo by Brittney Sabo

Photo by Brittney Sabo

But can we really say this is because men have unrealistic expectations of women, or conversely, that women pressure each other into looking a certain way?

As I watched my classmates go back and forth defending their own gender and condemning the other, I realized herein lies the problem. If all we ever do is declare that the fault belongs to someone else, then we ourselves will never change.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my short 20 years, it’s that you cannot change people who don’t want to change. The most you can do is work on improving yourself.

Of course, changing yourself isn’t much easier than changing someone else. In the past year, I have done a lot of work on self-improvement – not physically per se, but mentally. I used to be like many other women who look at 6-foot, stick thin models and flawless celebrities and felt the crushing self-criticism as I analyzed every difference, every thing I thought I lacked.

I’m 5’1″ and not stick-thin. I knew I couldn’t change my height, but I thought losing weight was the most important thing in the world. Slowly, I have been trying to change this mentality. I am trying to accept my body as unique and beautiful for what it is. It’s a simple enough concept, but an incredibly difficult process, and it’s easy to fall off track.

Here is the thing that fashion magazines don’t tell us: we’re all built differently; our bodies don’t do the same things. You and I could have the same diet and workout regime, and still look drastically different.

If you think about it, it’s sort of ridiculous that we should find one very specific body type beautiful when there is such a rainbow of body types out there. Why not embrace all the differences?

Everyone, including men, needs to try to join me in this process of changing our own thoughts. Don’t worry about anyone else right now; just concentrate on you. Start looking at your body differently, and when you feel those negative thoughts coming, remember that there are parts of you that other people are jealous of. Your beauty is different from everyone else’s, and that’s what makes you so incredible.

sizeawesome

Remember to be realistic. You can beat yourself up endlessly for not having longer legs, but is that going to change anything? Stop fighting yourself, because the second you start working what you’ve got, you’ll become exponentially more beautiful.

It’s all much easier said than done, but the first step to improving society’s feelings toward female body image is reevaluating our own thoughts first. The next time you look at a female and start picking out what’s “wrong” with her, stop and ask why you’re doing that. Is there really anything wrong with her, or is that just what you’ve been made to think? Are you just jealous of things she has that you don’t?

And don’t forget to include your own body in this. Unless your “problem” is endangering your health, it’s not a “problem” at all.

Change how you think; it’s infectious – others will follow.

justbecause

So You’re Single on Valentine’s Day

Jan 27, 2014 | Author: Colleen Bierstine

vday13

I’ve stopped looking at Valentine’s Day as a day allotted for celebrating your sweetheart, and instead started looking at it as an excuse for celebrating whatever you love most. For me, that’s food, family, and cats. In that order.

It might seem hard to face V-Day alone, especially if you’re living on campus while your family is miles away and your roommate happens to have a hot date. But don’t let your relationship status get you down; there’s so much more to February 14th than romance.

If nothing else, V-Day is a great excuse to binge-eat chocolate, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. It’s also a good reason to show some love to yourself. You can make it a day about you, and use it to indulge and treat yourself more than you normally would. There are so many possibilities and so many reasons why it doesn’t have to stink.

The key is changing how you think. Get the idea of candle-lit dinners with a significant other out of your head. Yes, for some people, that’s what V-Day means. But for others, it has a whole different meaning. What means the most to you? What do you love? That should be what the day centers around.

There are plenty of things to do on Friday, Feb. 14th that will make it an awesome day regardless of your relationship status. You can have a movie marathon. It doesn’t have to be rom-coms; watch a marathon of blood and gore if that’s what you’re into. Just pick you favorites, pull on your pj’s, and settle in with a smorgasbord of snacks.

Here’s my favorite: eat as much chocolate as you want. Forget your diet; it’s one day out of the year. Grab as much chocolate as you can handle from the store then eat it with every meal: chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, Nutella-peanut butter-banana sandwiches for lunch, your favorite dish with hot cocoa to drink for dinner, and endless chocolate candies for dessert.

It’s all about treating yourself. Grab another single friend and head to your favorite restaurant to indulge in comfort foods. Or, stay in and get your favorite take-out. You could even cook a fancy meal for your friends or family.

Heck, spoil your pets too while you’re at it. Make it a day of appreciation for them. I love my cats like they’re my children, so I’ll happily throw them a V-Day celebration. Animals are much easier to please than people anyway.

You could even go on a little shopping spree to treat yourself. Chances are, you’ll have the mall to yourself since all the lovebirds will be off having fancy dinners.

And, if nothing else, rejoice for the awesome sales on Valentine’s Day candy the day after.

What Not to Forget When You Return From Winter Break

Jan 22, 2014 | Author: Colleen Bierstine
031A6993-BFD2-C3A7-E30DC9EA3EF06744

Photo from Utica College

I know nobody wants to talk about it (I certainly don’t), but we’ve got to address this pressing matter regardless: winter break is over.

But I’ve done my crying, and I’ve dried my tears, and now it’s time to man-up and prepare. We’ve got a long couple of months ahead of us until summer warmly welcomes us with open arms, and I want to make sure you make it to see the sun.

There are obvious things you need to have ready to go with you like clothes and money, but I’ve got a list for you of a few things you might not have thought of.

  1. Textbooks – Yeah, an obvious one it would seem, but I guarantee there are a few people reading this right now and exclaiming, “Crap!” because they forgot to order them yet. Get on it.
  2. Family photos – Even if your dorm’s already decked out in photos, I’m sure you’ve acquired a few new ones over break. Hang ‘em up in your dorm to make it feel a little more like home and freshen up the room you became so used to last semester.
  3. Recipes – Remember all those great dorm-ready recipes you saw on Pinterest that you said you were going to make? Unless you print them out and have a tangible version, you’re going to forget about them. So, go ahead and print out recipes you like, then compile them into a folder or binder like your own little cookbook.
  4. Holiday decor – this one might be more for the females, but you’d be surprised how festive you’ll feel with just a few cheap decorations for your dorm. You’ll have Valentine’s Day and Easter to decorate for this semester, and although it may be early to shop for Easter stuff, the V-Day decor is already out. Little things like this will keep your mood lifted.
  5. Emergency comfort food supply – I don’t care how healthy you eat on a daily basis; everyone needs a little bit of chocolate or instant mac & cheese or whatever it is that tickles your fancy. Have a little bit on hand, and keep it hidden, so you don’t have to rush out to the store when you desperately need it.
  6. Reusable water bottle with filter – Ever since I bought my water bottle with a built-in Brita filter, my life has been so much better. You’ll save a ton of money not buying bottles all the time, it’s environmentally friendly, and you can feel safe drinking from most faucets.
  7. Back-up hard drive – This sounds like something only high-tech people need, but if you’re a student, or just someone who relies on their computer for things like picture and music storage, then you NEED a back-up hard drive. What would you do if your computer crashed in the middle of the semester? That would stink, wouldn’t it? These guys aren’t that expensive, about $60 for a decent amount of space, and definitely worth it. They will save your life.
  8. Notepad – Just a tiny one is all you need. You’d be amazed the difference writing down little reminders can make. “Run the dishwasher,” “Do laundry,” “Remember your book for class tomorrow,” etc. It is so helpful for a scatter-brained person like myself. You can also use it to write down long-term stuff like papers, final projects, and goals. And of course, write out those grocery lists.
  9. Way more pens than you think you need – Because they get up and walk away when you’re not looking, am I right?
  10. Extra underwear and socks – Because doing laundry is the worst.

What non-traditional stuff do you tote along to school each semester?

How to Trick Yourself into Getting Fit Without Leaving Campus

Jan 9, 2014 | Author: Colleen Bierstine
Frisbee

Photo by Kevin Waldron

With the recently relentless cold, we’re all about ready to go into hibernation mode. But it’s important to keep yourself moving so that, come summertime, you’re in great shape to enjoy the sunshine and freedom. And of course, your health doesn’t become any less essential in the winter.

For me, an hour or two at the gym each day is my way of staying active and fit. But some folks just aren’t gym people, and that’s okay. You can work little spurts of fitness into your already existing daily routine, and you don’t even have to step foot off campus to do it.

  1.  Get walking. You already don’t have much of a choice when it comes to walking to class if you live on campus. However, you can leave your dorm 5, 10, or even 30 minutes early to walk around campus & maybe the local streets before you head to class.  Just a few minutes of walking means extra calorie burn, plus it will wake you up for your class. Even if you commute to school, you can leave early and take a walk before class too.
  2. Pack heavy. Wait…aren’t you supposed to pack light? Not in this case. Take as much junk to class with you as you want: water bottles, all the books you need for the day, laptop, a sweatshirt, food, etc. That extra weight means more work toting it around, so you’ll burn calories and build strength without even trying. It might seem like a pain, but it’ll  be convenient having everything you could need with you so you don’t have to return to your dorm.
  3. Be a stair master. Got a few minutes between classes? Why not take a hike up and down the stairs a few times? There are plenty of staircases to choose from, and you can take different ones if you don’t want to look weird walking up and down the same flight. Climbing stairs will get your blood pumping fast, and it will wake you up after you’ve been sitting most of your day.
  4. Plank like it’s your job. I love planks because you can do them anytime, anywhere – no equipment required. Plus, they are one of the most effective exercises you can do. If you’re in the middle of studying (or more likely, browsing the internet), take a break to do a quick plank. It’s not an hour-long workout commitment; it can be as short as a minute. Make sure your elbows are aligned with your shoulders, and keep your butt down and back flat. Your abs should be doing the work here, not your back. However, this will work your shoulders too. If you don’t do planks often, start with 30 second intervals then work your way up to longer and longer planks.6-exercises-you-are-doing-wrong-plank
  5. Take a seat. Wall sits are another great anytime, anywhere workout as long as you’ve got a wall. You can take study breaks to do these with the planks, or alternate doing them. Wall sits will work the back and front of your legs, and you’ll feel it fast. Again, start with 30-second intervals, then work your way up. Press your back flat against the wall then slide down until your knees are aligned with your toes and bent at a 90-degree angle. It’s like you’re sitting in an invisible chair. Now hold that position. You can make it harder by placing a book in your lap.

    wall-sits

    Photo from Fit Chicks Central

  6. Get creative. You probably don’t have a set of weights in your dorm room, but you don’t need one to get stronger. Anything remotely heavy can serve as a weight, whether it be a water bottle or a book. You can do bicep curls, weighted lunges, dead rows and more with all kinds of objects you already have lying around.
  7. Blow dry your hair. I know this one sounds like a long shot, but you get a serious shoulder workout blow-drying your hair! Try to switch arms halfway through to fatigue each side equally (although this may be difficult if you’re only used to one side).
  8. Get up. If you’re studying or doing something that doesn’t absolutely require sitting, get off your butt! You can pace around your room while doing flashcards or browsing Pinterest on your iPad. I wouldn’t suggest taking this outside your dorm though because then it gets a little dangerous and you run the risk of bumping into something (or someone). You can even take your downtime outside on nice days. Play frisbee with your friends instead of opting for Netflix on the couch.
  9. Jam out. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love to rock out to their favorite music in the privacy of their own room. And if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re probably lying. Turn up the tunes, put on comfy pjs or sweats and dance your heart out. It’s so silly and fun, you don’t even realize you’re torching calories. Get your roommate in on the fun too, if you like. Just make sure you keep your music at a respectable level.
  10. Take the long way. There is usually more than one way to get to whatever class or part of campus you’re heading to, so take the longest one. This little change can make a big difference over time without being a huge inconvenience to you.

Moral of the story: a lot of little changes make for a big pay-off. You don’t have to over-exert yourself to get in better shape. In fact, you just have to trick your brain into thinking you’re not doing anything different than normal. These small tweaks to your day won’t cost you a lot of time or pain, but they’ll trick you into working harder and whipping your body into better shape, all from the comfort of the UC campus.

What are YOUR favorite fitness tricks?

Is Moving Out Right for You?

Dec 11, 2013 | Author: Colleen Bierstine
Boehlert_Hall

Photo by Jamie Callari

I didn’t choose to move out per say. I had every intention of living at home and commuting to school for my entire time at UC. However, my wonderful plan was torn to shreds when my parents decided to up and move right before my junior year.

I was faced with the difficult decision of moving out and being independent or following my parents during their move and having to transfer halfway through my college education. Neither option would be easy, so I ultimately decided I couldn’t give up the public relations program I am so passionate about at UC.

My whole moving out process happened in about two weeks, and it was a whirlwind of changes. I had to find an apartment ASAP, lug all my stuff there, and suddenly learn how to be an independent human being. This also meant that managing my food blog would be twice as hard and time-consuming without my mother to act as my sous-chef, camera woman, and grocery shopper.

I know; it doesn’t sound that appealing at first, does it? It certainly didn’t feel like it to me at the time. But weeks passed, and then months, and suddenly, I was settled in and functioning rather efficiently. Moving out of my parents’ house seemed daunting at first, but I was shocked at how quickly I adapted when forced to do so (and that sentence applies to almost any situation in life).

With moving out, you garner freedom. And I’m not talking about throwing wild parties; I’m talking about the ability to decide what you want to buy at the grocery store, how to decorate, how messy you can be, and whether or not you’re going to put pants on that day (unless your roommate(s) disagree with any of these things). Suddenly, there’s no authoritative, judgmental eye over you. And for the first time in your life, you really come into your own.

Yes, you take on a lot more responsibilities when you no longer live with your parents, but honestly, this is a good thing. You’re going to have to be an independent, functioning adult at some point, so this is like the trial run before graduation. You’re going to learn a lot of important things like the most efficient way to kill a spider and how to change light bulbs. And although these things might feel like a pain while they’re happening, you can’t help but beam with pride for yourself afterward.

Living independently allows you to focus. It gives you more clarity to think about what it is you want and how to get it. Sometimes it’s something as simple as getting your work done. Without having your family over your shoulders, doing homework and writing papers becomes a bit less about distractions. But you also have more room to pursue and think about your interests. You get to concentrate on you.

The best part is you don’t have to move out forever. Most parents will happily accept you back if you decide that’s what you want after some time. Now is the best time to try it; college is all about having flexibility in your lifestyle and trying new things so you can decide what you want for the rest of your life. Whether you’re moving into a dorm or choosing apartment life, moving out of your parents house will be better for you than you ever imagined. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge.

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Feasting

Dec 2, 2013 | Author: Colleen Bierstine

star

As a devoted food lover, this is my favorite time of year. There are so many seasonal treats to indulge in, and calories don’t count until after the New Year, am I right? Now, perhaps you need some inspiration for what to chow down on this holiday season, or maybe your usual menu is starting to look a little lackluster. Allow me to help you out. I’ve got a smorgasbord of delectable dishes to make this the tastier holiday ever. But I must caution you: Please feast responsibly. Over-indulging in these mouth-watering treats may cause food comas.

Main Dishes to Steal the Show

DSC_3889

  1. Eggplant Parmigiana This overloaded cheesy behemoth is a meal in and of itself. You’ve never seen so much ooey-gooey cheese in one place, plus a sweet yet spicy homemade sauce with fresh basil makes this dish special. And who could resist crispy, golden brown fried eggplant tucked underneath all that goodness?
  2. Vegetable Lasagna with Blush Sauce You’ve probably seen vegetable lasagna with white sauce, but you haven’t lived until you’ve tried it with my rich blush sauce. This substantial main can be customized with your favorite veggies.
  3. Classic Polish Pancakes Whether you’re Polish or not, this recipe is a must-try.

Must-Try SidesDSC_9646

  1. Butternut Squash & Caramelized Onion Mac & Cheese The flavors of this ultra-creamy mac are comforting and warm, and everyone who’s tried it has raved about it.
  2. Cheesy Twice-Bake Sage & Caramelized Onion Sweet Potatoes Words cannot describe how heavenly and flavorful these potatoes are. You’re a fool if you don’t try them.
  3. From-Scratch Cheddar Green Bean Casserole Way better than the canned, chunky version, and just as easy to make.
  4. Ma’s Baked Corn Pudding If you’ve never tried corn pudding, this is the recipe to make you a corn pudding lover. It’s sweet, savory, golden brown, and indulgent.
  5. Ma’s Sweet Potato Casserole Because everyone needs the perfect sweet potato casserole recipe.
  6. Extra Creamy Stovetop 4-Cheese Mac & Cheese Chances are, you’re short on oven space as is. Save yourself stress and make this super creamy & cheesy mac on the stove in about 20 minutes.
  7. Roasted Garlic & Basil 3-Cheese Shells A sea of rich cheese sauce kissed with the robust flavor of roasted garlic and the sweetness of fresh basil blankets mountains of tender pasta shells.

Awesome AppetizersIMG_3389

  1. Best Spinach-Artichoke Dip Seriously, I’m not kidding. This is the creamiest, cheesiest, best spinach-artichoke dip on the planet, and it’s a one-pot dish.
  2. Party Bread Sourdough bread cut into tearable, sharable pieces and stuffed with monterey jack cheese, drenched in butter, & sprinkled with poppy seeds and fresh scallions. It’s all baked until golden brown and melty. Yum.
  3. Tortellini Dippers w/ Pesto Sauce So easy, and yet everyone will rave over how cute and delicious these are.
  4. Easy, Big, Fat Garlic Knots Starts with a can of store-bought biscuit dough, but tastes like homemade.

Delightful Desserts

_DSC8575

  1. Chocolate-Gingerbread Pumpkin Mousse Trifle This pretty dish is a show-stopper, and the perfect dessert to please pumpkin pie lovers and gingerbread lovers alike.
  2. Peppermint-Gingerbread Cookies & Cream Ice Box Cake All the flavors of Christmas in one insanely indulgent and delicious make-ahead dish.
  3. Nutter Butter Penguins Cute, quick, and delicious.
  4. Eggnog Christmas Cookie Milkshakes What else are you going to do with all those Christmas cookies?

Cookies Galore_DSC7509

  1. Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies Everyone needs the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.
  2. Fudge Brownie Thumbprints with Caramel Drizzle These cookies are as gorgeous as they are sinful.
  3. Hello Dollies A 7-layer cookie tradition handed down to me by my grandmother. Just pile all the ingredients in a pan and bake!

What’s on your menu this year?

The Great Mac & Cheese Debate – Elbows or Shapes?

Nov 25, 2013 | Author: Colleen Bierstine

photos & backgrounds2Almost any kid growing up in America enjoyed the iconic blue box of mac and cheese as a main food group. We loved its neon orange hue, the creamy sauce, and bountiful noodles. It’s quite likely that, while growing up, your mother was often frustrated when she’d prepare an elaborate, home-cooked meal, and yet you’d whine for boxed mac and cheese instead.

Some of us have grown out of that favorite childhood food, but many of us, myself included, have not. Even as my culinary tastes have matured, and I’ve become somewhat of a food snob who adores a good homemade mac and cheese, I still think there’s something inexplicably delectable about classic boxed mac and cheese.

However, I have one major criteria that must be met when I pick up a box at the store: it’s got to be the shaped kind. Over the years, I’ve seen Scooby Doo, Spongebob, Monsters Inc., Spiderman, and more formed into pasta and packed into my favorite blue box. I can’t quite explain it, but I think these shaped ones taste so much better than the elbow macaroni. They hold onto more cheese sauce in all their nooks and crannies. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even bother buying the elbow kind.

But that’s just my opinion. Many people feel the exact opposite. If you talk to my sister, she’ll say elbows all the way. So, I started wondering if there were more people out there who are diehard elbow fans, or if most people prefer the shapes.

I asked a few staff and students what their thoughts were on the mac & cheese matter. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Chris Leogrande, director of media relations, said she prefers Velveeta shells over any Kraft mac and cheese, but her son has to have the Kraft shapes, particularly the Spongebob ones.
  • Victoria, a junior public relations major, says she has to have elbows.
  • Kevin Waldron, assistant director of publications, likes to buy an organic version of the Kraft elbows, but even as a kid, he preferred the elbows, and an occasional spiral.
  • Image production assistant Jamie Callari’s vote was for shapes, but she says she also likes the spiral varieties. She said if she’s going to have the elbows, then they’ve got to be a fun flavor variety.
  • Tyler Gardinier, a senior public relations major, said it’s definitely got to be the shapes.

I don’t know folks, but it sounds to me like shapes are the winner here, and I of course agree whole-heartedly. But this was only a small sample of people’s opinions, so tell me, what do you prefer: Kraft macaroni and cheese elbows or shapes?

Fuel for Finals Week: What You Should Snack On

Nov 12, 2013 | Author: Colleen Bierstine

finals-2

There is actual evidence to show that college students gain weight because of the stress from finals week. It’s a natural habit that we like to reach for the snacks to ease the pain of studying. Often times, we’re not even hungry, but we partake in mindless snacking that can go on for hours. And before you know it, you’ve inhaled an entire bag of potato chips and 20 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. You’ve probably got the pizza delivery guy on speed dial too.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, eh?

But there’s more science to tell you that all that junk doesn’t help you much in the long-run. Not only does it do nothing to fuel your brain or aid your test performance, but it’s unhealthy and will expand your waistband in the future. It sounds pretty obvious to me that, if you’ve just got to snack while studying, then you should reach for healthier options.

I know, you’re sitting there thinking, “Girl, I’m young. I don’t have to eat healthy.” And you probably don’t want to either. But the truth is, the earlier you start treating you body better, the better off you will be. I’m not telling you to give up everything delicious in life and never indulge again; I’m just talking about switching out your normal studying snacks for real brain food.

The common misconception is that brain food equates to raw fruits and veggies, but there are much more exciting options out there if you prefer. Here are some of my favorite snacks that will fuel your brain so you can crush those exams without weighing enough to crush your professors after.

  1. Go nuts. No, but really. There are so many different varieties of nuts that there’s one for everybody, plus they’re salty, crunchy, and delicious. They’re proven to reduce stress and help your brain. And they’ve got protein! Just take it easy on these babies; you only need a handful or two.DSC_7293
  2. Cute & delicious. Teddy Grahams are, in my humble opinion, the cutest snack at the grocery store. You’d think because they’re sweet and targeted at kids that they’re also horrible for you and loaded with sugar, but they’re actually not half-bad. You can have about 30 little bears for around 130 cals, 8g of sugar, and 4g of fat. That ain’t bad! And they come in a plethora of flavors: Chocolaty Chip, Chocolate, Apple, Strawberry Banana, Honey, and Cinnamon.

    DSC_8816

    Get the recipe for these PB & Apple Teddy Graham Pretzel Bites on thesmartcookiecook.com

  3. God’s gift to nature: Avocados. I know, you don’t want fruits and veggies, but in my book, avocados don’t count. They are so rich, creamy, and scrumptious that you won’t believe they came straight out of nature. Some people argue they should be classified as cheese because they taste that rich. But half an avocado is only 50 calories, and it’ll amp up anything you spread it on: wraps, sandwiches, veggies, whole wheat pita bread, etc. They are a bit high in fat, but it’s good fat, like in nuts.DSC_6046
  4. Get it poppin’ with plain popcorn. Sound boring? After a lifetime of eating popcorn drenched in fake butter, I never imagined plain popcorn would be any good. As It turns out, I was pleasantly surprised by how addicting and delicious it really is. Just a little bit of salt is enough to make plain popcorn taste like an indulgent snack, but you can have 2 cups for about 40 calories. Score!
  5. Hot and steamy. Did you know sugar-free hot cocoa has only 25 calories? It’s comforting, and it’ll satisfy your sweet tooth, but it won’t put you into a sugar coma afterward.DSC_7464
  6. Cup o’ Joe. Hot coffee has the same comforting qualities as hot cocoa for absolutely zero calories. Just be careful; when you load it up with milk and sugar, it quickly becomes bad for you. Use almond milk or a sugar-free creamer instead. Also, Nectresse is my sugar-free sweetener of choice. It’s not as artificial as other sweeteners.
  7. Take a dip. Hummus is a nutritious but completely delicious and hearty dip that’s perfect for study-time snacking. I only recently fell in love with hummus, but that love quickly grew into an obsession. If you haven’t tried it yet, just give it a shot, and you won’t be disappointed by how creamy and yummy it is. Plus, it tastes good on everything.DSC_8409-6

Those are MY go-to snacks, but here’s what fellow UC students suggested:

  1. Victoria L. – Granola bars (just make sure you look for ones low in sugar), apples, Rice Krispie treats (in moderation – one treat is 90 cal), Subway, and hummus. Did you know you can buy hummus from the Bistro at UC?
  2. Tyler G. – Cheez-Its (in moderation, a handful or two), grapes (try freezing them; they’re like candy), and Chobani yogurt (hello, protein!).

What snacks will you reach for when it’s time to study?