Dorm Food 101


            A week or so has passed and the new college semester is under way. The books have been purchased class schedules filled and a new start underway.  If you are new to the dorm life there may be some changes that you may need to get used to. The dorms are cramped and the cooking facilities maybe next to adequate, but there are a few things you can do to fight against the dreaded freshmen 15 (or so). Yes I said it, with a few steps you can eat well and fend off that extra weight or at least eat better then your average dorm resident

If you are new to my articles let me tell you some basics so you know what you are getting into. I am vegetable enthusiast. What this means is that overtime I have recognized the benefits of eating more vegetables then meat products. That being said I do enjoy a good hot dog and a greasy cheeseburger. I have just changed my personal diet to not eat a dozen hot dogs when given the opportunity (I have done this trust me). I want to offer you, the current residents of the dorms around the FM area an option from just Ramen noodles and pizza or E-ZMac.  I will be working with in a shoe-string budget. I will also be divulging the best meals around town for the best prices.


With limited space and money the key to being able to eat well is to stock up on dried goods that can be stored almost anywhere in an airtight container. With a good supply of dried goods you can purchase fresh veggies and meat products as needed to finish any meal. Rice and beans, as unexciting as they may sound are a great place to start with a pantry. I also suggest taking a good personal inventory of the types of food that you enjoy. If you like to eat a lot of Mexican foods there are a few spices that you will need such as cumin, coriander, chili powder and any dried peppers you can find. I would also suggest canned tomatoes. With these few ingredients you have what you need to make a simple Spanish rice. With space being at a premium, the more you can use your ingredients all around the better. The trick is not to get bored of the things that you have and to make them convenient.


Starting school can be a bit expensive but even beyond the price of books there are a few pieces of cooking gear that should be purchased. With the right equipment cooking can be convenient and fast. Knives, pots and pans all of things can be a little pricey but well worth the purchase. A sharp cooking knife is an essential piece of equipment.  The Asian American Market on Main Ave in Fargo has 2 pieces of equipment that I think no dorm room should be with out. The AAM (Asian American Market) carries chef knives for less then ten dollars that hold an edge and rice cookers. Rice cookers are fantastic for easy rice preparation. This will more then likely be your first purchase of pots and pans I will say that stainless steel is your best bet, it isn’t the cheapest but it is the best bang for your buck. Ok so this is a basic start to the things needed for a small kitchen.


Simple Spanish Rice



  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked white rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup chunky salsa


  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Mix rice into skillet, stirring often. When rice begins to brown, stir in chicken broth and salsa. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes, until liquid has been absorbed.

Eat well; your body will appreciate it.

Pete Nielson


Carrots and the back of a motorcycle


Saturday started out as most Saturdays do, a little slow and boring. I woke up with a hangover from Friday night’s adventures in downtown Fargo. So a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee was in order. I jumped on the computer and started my routine of wasting time, Facebook and emails. Little did I know that last weeks article about canning would turn into an adventure. I received a message from a good friend Nick Goodroad (aka DJ Joyride) about how he had enjoyed the article and would like some help sometime canning some of the veggies from his garden. Well with just the slightest of coaxing I was able to convince Nick to get his motorcycle and go out to the lakes to raid the family garden for all that we needed for a canning session.

Nick decided that he would like to can some cauliflower and spicy carrots for the first session of canning. Ok, easy enough I have most of the spices and plenty of vinegar from last year. We decided that we would check the farmers markets on the way through lakes country for the cauliflower and any other produce that may be tasty in a can of spicy vegetables. I should mention that Nick doesn’t mess around when it comes to hot food he enjoys a spice like I enjoy it, this is the same guy that introduced me to some of the hottest hot sauce and venison steaks I have ever eaten. We knew that the family garden would have the carrots that we were after and probably some hot peppers. The markets would need to produce the rest of the goods.


1pm Saturday afternoon and off we headed me clutching onto the bake of Nicks motorcycle. Lakes country, on the back of a motorcycle, in search of fresh produce, what a great Saturday. We made it to the Pelican Lake inside of 45 minutes and I will say it was a great ride, the clouds were perfect and it wasn’t to hot outside. We quickly went to work getting as many veggies out of the garden as possible and even found a few surprise vegetables to bring back with us for dinner while we canned up the carrot cauliflower mix. We packed up the veggies into our back packs and off we went.


Nick says that there is no reason to go the same way home as we came when on a motorcycle. Who am I to say no? After about an hour at the lake we decided to head up to Ulen, MN for their 125-anniversary turkey BBQ. This is a fantastic idea food on a food adventure, perfect combo. 30 minutes later and a small rain delay in Zorbaz, we are seated amongst 200 or so Ulen residents eating turkey legs and talking to the people at the BBQ. The BBQwas a great stop and we even found a market with some fresh broccoli for sale, no cauliflower. After many a question about the carrot tops sticking out of my back pack we headed out, back to Fargo to get to canning.


The final ingredient for Nick’s pickled vegetables was acquired at Cashwise and we were back at my apartment by 6:30pm. I could have stopped right there and been pretty content with my day. We still needed to can all of these veggies to make it a complete success. The veggies got washed of all of the lovely rich black dirt and cut into bite-sized bits for canning. I made a basic pickling brine and set out a number of spices to be used in the jars. Nick, Lre (Nicks wonderful girlfriend) and I worked on the vegetables and a dinner made from all of the goods that we had found on the lakes country motorcycle adventure. Nick and Lre chopped vegtables while I made a fresh tomato, garlic sauce with spicy red bell peppers (a nice surprise from the garden) tossed with penne. This dish was simple and delicious; the garden vegetables spoke for them selves, I even sprinkled a little fresh basil on the top at the very end.


With a little help from the internet we found some basic pickling spice combinations and proceeded to experiment with flavors. I will give you a list of different ingredients that were used but by no means do I have specific amounts.



Olive oil

12 ripe garden fresh tomatoes

4 cloves garlic

fresh basil to taste

1 package gluten free penne

Potato Bake:


Olive oil

6 or so garden fresh red potatos

yellow squash ( from Heather’s garden)

3-4 cloves garlic


Feta cheese

Canning goods:


white vinegar




3 heads cauliflower

hot peppers such as jalapenos, Serrano, mystery spicy bell peppers


whole cloves of garlic


Spices for canning:


Cinnamon stick

Fresh dill


Cardamon pods



With all of these ingredients you can trust that we had a great dinner and in a couple of weeks we will find out how well the canning went. The pasta turned out great along with the potato bake. I will have a full break down of the methods and techniques up on my food blog.


Thanks Nick for the Saturday afternoon adventure, and thank you Lre for bringing over more fresh herbs to add to the canning.


Eat well; your body will appreciate it.

Pete Nielson

Saving the garden for winter meals


            It’s August and there may be a few people who are thinking of the long cold months a head of us. I am not and I will sincerely apologize for using the “W” word. I do want to get a few ideas rolling around in peoples heads about preserving that garden that you have been so diligently working on all summer.

I have been helping out with a garden at a community garden plot by Oak Grove Park and school and am simply amazed at how quickly the garden went from seedlings and a prayer to a full fledged feast. The days of plenty have yet to arrive completely but the squash and beans have been producing heavily, so before things get out of control I would like to go over some basics of preserving all this hard work for some great winter time use.


There are a few ways that one can save the summers bounty for winter meals. Water bath canning, pressure cooker canning, freezing, and drying also the use of a root cellar are the most common practices in the upper Midwest. You could also ferment different vegetables and meats but I will leave that for another article.


There are some advantages and disadvantages for each method; also each method may not work as well or at all for some vegetables. Certain produce must just be used fresh.  The net and the library are great resources for specific recipes for canning. At the end of this article are a list of resources and websites to get you going on your canning adventures.


The water bath canning method is the one method that most people are familiar with in this region. I am almost positive that most people in the FM area has at least had a   coworker bring in a jar of pickles that his or her grandma made. That would be the water bath method of canning. This is not a difficult procedure, but it is best suited for high acid vegetables and sauces or fruits that are naturally higher in acid. When looking at equipment needed for water bath canning there are plenty of starter kits on the market but honestly head to your local thrift store and look around. You are going to need a large pot big enough to put half dozen or more jars in at a time and cover them with at least 2 inches of water. You can get special tongs for lifting jars out of the water when there hot and I highly suggest it. Use the correct jars lids and screw fasteners for all canning and please follow the instructions on the packaging. I always use new lids every season and replace my jars at any hint of cracks or chips. The screw bands are also very inexpensive so I keep backups on hand. The jars and initial equipment do cost a little at first but just as long as your friends and family return the jars you can reuse them for years to come.


My preferred method of canning is with a pressure cooker. Pressure cookers work faster and I feel that they are a bit safer as fare as insuring that my items are canned properly. The old canners and the stories of them exploding are long gone during the mid 70s canners went through a redesign for safety and are now set with multiple fail safes for home usage. Pressure canning is best for low acid canning for things such as salsa or even meat products. Pressure canning does have its negatives; the design of a pressure canner is such that the internal temperature gets much higher then that of a water bath canner so fragile vegetables may get overcooked during the canning process. This is where a little experimentation and experience come into play. My poor Asian pickles as tasty as they may have been they sure were soggy, not what I had envisioned for my experimental batch of pickles last year. The pressure canner itself is a more expensive then the starter kit for water bath canning but it is an investment that will quickly pay for itself. I do not suggest buying a used pressure canner and again follow the instructions carefully because you are working with dangerous equipment and you do want to preserve the food not make yourself sick or worse.


Freezing is by the easiest but it’s a bit limiting in the amount of space that is needed and what vegetables can be froze with success. Freezing vegetables if one has a deep freeze in the garage or basement can work out really well especially if you would like to have garden fresh green vegetables like broccoli on hand. I unfortunately do not have the space to freeze I have a small fridge and freezer making not worth my time. I have also found that certain vegetables will just not freeze well. Lettuces for instance just become a mess of green goo after froze and then thawed. Many vegetables have the greatest results after a quick blanching (being submerged in boiling water for a brief amount of time then instantly placed in ice water to stop the cooking process) then being placed in thin layers to freeze before bagging. Since this topic is so large I would suggest a Google search for freezing methods on individual vegetables.


Enjoy your summer harvest all winter long and have fun with the canning. It is a lot of work so get a few people together and have a canning party. I suggest finding someone with a turkey fryer so that you can do a good portion of the hot work outside enjoy a beer and a little BBQ while you stock up for the winter months. Also if a garden didn’t produce what you were expecting this summer or you need some more ingredients for the award winning jar of salsa the farmers markets are a great place to pick up supplies. The prices will be cheaper and who knows maybe you can get some tips from the vendors.


For a great reference guide to canning take a look at the info block with this article. The USDA posts the safest methods for canning and different safety precautions to be aware of.

Info block :

USDA Publications

USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, 2009 revision


Eat well; your body will appreciate it.

Pete Nielson

Tzatziki Sauce



1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded

2 cups Greek yogurt

3-4 cloves garlic minced

2 tbls lemon juice

2 tsp dried dill or 2 tbls fresh dill

½ tsp coriander ground

¼ tsp Spanish chili powder

¼ tsp paprika

Pinch of sea salt

  • Peel cucumbers and slice into quarters length wise, deseed cucumbers by cutting out the middle section of each quarter.
  • Mince garlic
  • Place all ingredients except yogurt in food processor and process to a small dice, if no food processer is available, mince garlic and cucumbers as small as possible and place all ingredients in a bowl an mix with a whisk.
  • Place Greek yogurt in mixing bowl and add all ingredients from processor, mix well with hand whisk. * If Greek yogurt is unavailable use plain yogurt. Strain yogurt over bowl or sink, using a coffee filter or a sieve with cheesecloth. This will drain a lot of the extra liquid off of the plain yogurt.
  • Refrigerate up to a week

Eat well; your body will appreciate it.

Pete Nielson

Dinner for Two


Dinner for Two

            The past couple of weeks I have been working on my own homemade bread dough. This little adventure started from a visit to a friends house after a yoga session in the park. The guests were hungry and wanted to make some hummus so what better to dip in your hummus but pita bread. I have made pita bread a bunch of times before so a quick search on the net and a recipe was found.  With in the next few days I found myself craving some more pita and hummus, so I decided to make a whole dinner based around the homemade pita and hummus.


The menu: Homemade pita, homemade falafel, homemade hummus, and homemade tzatziki sauce. We also had a garden fresh salad of cucumbers and radishes. The time it takes to make all of these individual ingredients for dinner is relatively small but the pleasure in knowing you actually hand made it all is so fulfilling.


The Recipes:

Pita Bread

The Bread Bible

By: Rose Levy Beranbaum

Pg 224-227


Unbleached all purpose flour 3 cups plus a scant ¼ cup

Salt 2 teaspoons

Instant yeast 2 teaspoons

Olive oil 2 tablespoons

Water at room temperature 1 ¼ cup

Hand method:

  • In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except scant ¼ cup of the flour. With a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until all flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together
  • Sprinkle a little of the reserved flour onto the counter and scrap the dough onto it. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding as little of the reserved flour as possible. Use a bench scrapper to scrap the dough and gather it together as you knead it. At this point it will be very sticky. Cover it with a inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 5 to 20 minutes. (This rest will make the dough less sticky and easier to work with.)
  • Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is soft and smooth and just a little sticky to the touch. Add a little flour or water if necessary.
  • Cut the dough into 8-12 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest covered with a damp cloth. On a lightly floured counter top, with lightly floured hands, shape each piece into a ball and then flatten it into a disk. Cover the dough with oiled plastic and allow it to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
  • Roll each disk into a circle a little under a ¼ inch thick. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes before baking.
  • Preheat a griddle or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Lightly grease the surface and cook pitas one at a time. Cook for about 20 seconds, then turn the dough and continue cooking for 1 minute or until big bubbles appear. Turn the dough again and cook until the dough balloons. If the dough begins to brown, lower the heat. The entire cooking time for each pita should be about 3 minutes.


I did make these on the stovetop because of my extremely small oven. I also find that it is just more fun to use a griddle. I also made these a day ahead of time and kept them in the fridge. The cooked pitas freeze very well and the dough can be made up to 3 days in advance. The longer the dough is refrigerated the better the flavors will develop.

Baked falafel

Garbanzo beans cooked and drained 1 ½ cups

Red onion small 1

Garlic cloves 2-3

Parsley ¼ cup chopped

Lemon juice 1 teaspoon

Olive oil 1 tablespoon

Coriander ground 1 teaspoon

Cumin ground 1 teaspoon

Red pepper flakes 1 teaspoon

Whole wheat flour 2 tablespoon

Baking powder 1 teaspoon

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Put in a medium sized bowl and smash with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Form into small balls, about 1 1/2″ in diameter and slightly flatten. Place onto an oiled baking pan.
  • Bake for 15 minutes on each side, until nicely browned (since it’s baked, only the part actually touching the pan will be browned and crispy).


Falafel has been a long time favorite treat of mine. It is almost like a veggie burger but lighter. The combination of the cucumber sauce and the veggies added to the pita makes for a great light dinner. I know for a fact that the ingredients freeze well, which makes this recipe a snap to make ahead of time or as a go to meal when you are running short on time.


If you are trying to watch the amount of wheat that you are consuming you can omit the pitas from this menu and make a salad out of all of the fixings and even leave the wheat flour out of the falafel to make this recipe a celiac friendly dish.

I have the tzatziki sauce and the hummus recipes posted on my food blog,

Eat well; your body will appreciate it.

Pete Nielson

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Too Hot to Eat


The dog days of summer are here and they seem to be hotter then I can remember in a long time. I don’t know about you but I cant stand eating anything when its sweltering hot outside. I especially don’t want a hot meal. I have been doing my share of labor type jobs this summer and I know that I need to eat. So what can a guy eat that’s cool filling and still tastes good.

Smoothies have been the rage for a few years and they seem to be gaining popularity around the FM area. There are a number of juice and smoothie type bars that have opened their doors. I have had smoothies at Tea Berry in downtown Fargo along with some different drinks from places like Fusion and similar type powdered smoothie places. They all seem to make about the same types of drinks powdered supplements with some fruit and juice. These are all fine products, my favorite coming from Tea Berry. I want something truly filling and not made with powder supplements.

I have been making my own breakfast smoothie for a while now. This is the perfect start to a day when you know that the temperatures are going to be beaching the triple digits. With just a little effort every weekend I can make the mixes for an entire week and freeze them. I try and use fresh berries as much as possible especially since there is a stand on every major street in south Fargo. You could also go to the number of farms in the area that you can pick your own fresh strawberries. The extras can be washed, placed on baking sheets and froze for later use. This leaves me with breakfast ready to go every morning or a snack for later in the day.

Berry Protein Smoothie

Makes 5 servings

1 quart Greek yogurt

4lbs fresh berries (frozen if you want)

Chunky peanut butter

Soy protein powder (vanilla)

5 ripe bananas

1 ¼ cup organic instant oatmeal

To make

1 cup yogurt

½ cup fresh (frozen) berries

2 Tbls chunky peanut butter

1 scoop protein powder

1 banana sliced

¼ oatmeal

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender or container.
  2. Blend
  3. Enjoy

I use small plastic to go soup containers to make all of my smoothies in. Place in the freezer and you have snacks that are ready to go anytime. Allow the frozen mix to thaw for a day in the fridge and blend with a emersion blender or stand up blender. If you don’t want them as thick as I make then add a little juice or soy milk to thin the smoothie out.

The yogurt mix is great and fills a person up for hours. I really cant stand being overly full on hot days and this works just about perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack, giving me plenty of energy to get through a morning of construction work or just to toss in my backpack for a cool snack while I am  out riding bike.

Eat well; your body will appreciate it.

Pete Nielson

Burgers Burgers


It is officially hot out side. Its muggy like you would expect it to be in Georgia or Florida, not Fargo ND. I have taken more showers in the past two weeks then I have all the month of June (ok that may not be saying a lot). The point is that I have no desire to turn on anything in my apartment that causes it to get even hotter. The alternative is the BBQ. I like this alternative, it may be sticky outside but to hell with it I get to play with fire.


Now I have searched long and hard to find a vegetarian burger that is as tasty as a traditional burger. This is a bit of a conundrum since the main ingredient is well beef and I want to replace the beef. I have had the premade frozen Boca burger and a few others. I have also found random recipes using mushrooms, lentils and legumes for the substitution. The trick is to get a burger like consistency with no meat and also have the flavors that are so enjoyed.


If you have read my previous articles you do understand how much I do love the classic American or lets say the California burger. I cant help it I am a Midwest boy. Thick and juicy and I mean bun soaking juicy cooked to a nice med rare. The buns maintaining its structural integrity just long enough to get that first bite of bacon, mayo, tomato, and cheese goodness into your mouth. These are the things of BBQ legends.


Now that you know that I have a serious love affair with the cheeseburger it makes it that much harder to create a vegetarian version of it. I have had the red bean burgers; the lentil and wild mushroom burgers and a stand by, the store bought frozen patties (brown hockey pucks) that are only really good if you can fry them were bacon has been cooked previously. The reoccurring problem that I find is the lack of flavor and the consistency of the patty itself. The flavor is usually bland and needs to be amped up by all of the condiments and sides that you place on it or it just tastes like wild mushrooms and lentils. The burger is the one thing that I really want to taste like a burger. The issue with consistency is that besides the pre-packed veggie burgers from the store I cant seem to get a recipe to hold together like a traditional burger does.  Until now.


The following recipe has worked out the flavor issue and the consistency issue with just some minor adjustments.


Black Bean-Quinoa Burger

Vegetarian Times

Issue: July/Aug 2011

 Pg 60

½ cup Quinoa

1 small onion finely chopped (1 cup)

6 oil packed sun-dried tomatoes (1/4 cup)

1 ½ cups cooked black beans or 1 15oz can black beans, rinsed and divided

2 cloves garlic minced

2 tsp, dried steak seasonings

  1. Stir together quinoa and 1 ¼ cup water in a small sauce pan, and season with salt. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium- low, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed


  1. Meanwhile, place onion and sundried tomatoes in medium non stick skillet, and cook over medium heat (the oil on the tomatoes should be enough to sauté the onion). Cook 3-4 minutes, or until onion has softened. Stir in ¾ cup black beans, garlic, steak seasonings and 1 ½ cups water. Simmer 3 to 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated


  1. Transfer the bean onion mixture to a food processor; add ¾ cup quinoa, process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, stir in remaining ¾ cup quinoa and ¾ cup black beans. Season with salt and pepper, let cool.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, generously coat cookie sheet with cooking spray. Shape bean mixture into 8 patties (½ cup each), and place on prepared cookie sheet. Bake 20 minutes or until golden on top. Flip patties and bake for an additional 10 minutes until both sides are golden brown.


I know I said that this was a BBQ item. I made these a few weeks ago and froze them so that I would have them for just such an occasion as Sundays with Heather. Let it be known that I made these with the use of Worcestershire sauce which makes them non-vegan an also adds to the moisture content. When I first tried this recipe I rushed it and had lots of extra water in my mix. I added oatmeal to my mixture to soak up a lot of the extra moisture. This worked fine and was the only change I made from this recipe. To cook from frozen, simply thaw for an hour or so and place on grill. Make sure to use indirect heat, as these will burn quickly. I also grilled off some onions to place atop our burgers.


Heather made a garden fresh salad with strawberries, green onions, lettuce and mint; quick vinaigrette and we were eating in style. Another delicious Sunday spent with my favorite person.

Eat well; your body will appreciate it.

Pete Nielson