What did I do with the gigantic zucchini, you may ask? Well I didn't let it go to waste of course! I'm poor, I've gotta use up all the free food I can get. On our grilling day, Tom and I cooked up some yummy zucchini slices.

zucchini, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1/2 stick of butter
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp minced garlic

Heat the butter, lemon juice, garlic powder, oregano and minced garlic in a small saucepan so the butter melts and the garlic cooks. Brush butter mixture on either side of the zucchini, and cook both sides until golden brown. Top with a little bit of cheese before you remove from grill. (We used our leftover fiesta cheese, but it be great with Parmesan as well.)

Chicken Marinade

My boyfriend and I also did some grilling this weekend. I found this recipe online but made my own alterations to it, and my chicken came out really well. You can definitely make this on the stove top if you don't have a grill, and you can use any cut of chicken you want. I happened to be in the mood for wings.
Here is the chicken on the grill. Tom decided to go with his own made up marinade, but we ended up agreeing that mine was better. Mine are the yellowish ones.

2 tbsp oil
1/4 onion, chopped
1/4 cup vinegar (calls for apple cider but all I had was white)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 lb chicken wings

Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour in oil and onions, and let the onions cook so that the flavor sinks into the sauce. Add vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, honey and chili powder and stir. Meanwhile, cook the chicken for 5 minutes on the grill, then turn. Coat one side with sauce, cook for 5 minutes, then coat the other side. Every 2 minutes or so, turn the chicken and add another coat, until the chicken is cooked and the sauce is used up.

Should look something like this when you're done.

Spinach Quesadillas

These are ridiculously good. My boyfriend and I cooked them over the weekend and they were hands down the best meal we made.

1 flour tortilla
1/2 cup grated cheese (We used a Mexican fiesta mix from Wal Mart. Some type of jack cheese would work best for this dish)
about 2 oz of fresh spinach
1 tbsp garlic

Saute garlic and spinach in a pan. Put another pan on medium heat and pour in enough oil that it will spread out to cover the pan. Then, place the tortilla in the pan. Transfer the cooked spinach to the tortilla, add cheese and then fold in half. Cook both sides until the tortilla is slightly brown and the cheese has melted (about 1 minute per side). Top with sour cream, salsa or your favorite topping and enjoy! 

Breakfast Sandwiches

Being a former employee of Dunkin Donuts (note: FORMER), I know all about breakfast sandwiches. I frequently cook my own at home, which are WAY better than the processed crap you get in the drive-thru window. And it's pretty damn simple.

Pick a bread. I usually use english muffins. If I happen to have bagels around I'll use those. Any type works; even something sweet like cinnomen raisin works well because it compliments the taste of the egg and cheese. Toast your bread for a much tastier sandwich.

Cook an egg. I usually do mine over easy because I love the runny yolk in my sandwich. This is something Dunkin Donuts can not offer. Scrambled works well if you want something a little less messy.

Find a meat. You could just make an egg and cheese, but I prefer to beef up my sandwich just a bit. Generally I use deli ham because I always have it around. You can use sausage or bacon if you have it. Or get creative, and saute some peppers and onions instead.

Add the cheese. Do this right after you take the egg out of the pan, because the warm egg will help melt it. I usually use American (that's what Dunkins uses if you're interested) but anything works.

From eating so many breakfast sandwiches on my break, I've found that ketchup is really good on a breakfast sandwich. Also lots of pepper. I even used mayo sometimes. (Had to drown out the nastiness somehow.)

And now, I will tell you the ULTIMATE breakfast sandwich. The kind that will make your heart stop but your stomach say "YUM!". I was given this creation by a co-worker. It sounds kind of nasty but it will BLOW YOUR MIND.

You need a sausage patty (two if you're feeling really daring), cream cheese, and some bread. Personally I like it on a croissant. Bagels work well too. Slather each slice with cream cheese, then put the sausage in the middle and enjoy.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

These are literally the best oatmeal cookies you will ever eat. I've been debating whether or not to give out this recipe, because it is a family recipe, but so far no one else in my family has been able to make them as well as I have. (Not to brag or anything)

1 1/4 cups butter, melted (Yes, this is 1 1/2 sticks. But worth it.)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
cinnamon and nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add flour, baking soda and oats. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (this is where it becomes my recipe; I'm not quite sure how much I add. I just add enough that it's to my satisfaction. I think I might do about a tsp of each, maybe more. If it's too sweet, add more nutmeg, if the flavor is too strong, add more cinnamon.) Finally, add the raisins. Drop rounded tbsp on cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
There's a key to baking cookies. If you like soft cookies, you need to take them out of the oven when they still looked slightly uncooked; when the are a little wet on top but starting to turn golden brown. When you let them cool, the heat in the cookies will finish cooking them so that they aren't gooey but you'll have nice soft cookies.

Cole Slaw

I personally can't have a summer without cole slaw. I had never made it before until recently. Homemade cole slaw is so much better because you can make it just how you like it. Everyone has their own style of cole slaw that they enjoy. I love my cole slaw when it's juicy and flavorful but not too strong. This is my recipe that I created by taking parts of a bunch of different recipes and putting it together.

1/2 head of cabbage, shredded (this will make PLENTY)
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 cup mayo (you can adjust this depending on how thick you want it)
1 tbsp vinegar (I used white vinegar because this is all I had, but I bet it would be great with apple cider vinegar)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 lemon, juiced (you can use a splash of lemon juice if you don't have real lemon)

Mix the mayo, vinegar, sugar, mustard and lemon juice together in a bowl. Toss the mixture with the cabbage, carrot and onion. Let sit for 1/2 hr-1 hr in room temperature so that the cabbage has time to wilt. Refrigerate.

Best way to shred the cabbage so it's nice and fine like in restaurants? Chopping with a knife does not work as well. Most sites suggest a mandoline, but if you don't have that on hand you can use the biggest size of your cheese grater. 

Pasta Salad

Today I went to work and came home with giant vegetables. Don't ask how this happened, I'm not quite sure myself. I was overjoyed, however; seeing as how I haven't been grocery shopping in about a month and the only food I own seems to be copious amounts of pasta and a can of refried beans. Add some squash to that and it's something I can work with. I found this recipe, but I'll give you my abridged version.

1 pound pasta (I used penne, but it calls for farfalle)
1 yellow squash, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes (I didn't have any tomatoes but I'm sure they would be delicious in this!)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp garlic
1 tsp stone ground mustard
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil (I used corn oil and it was fine)

Cook the pasta and drain well. For the dressing, mix together the vinegar, garlic, mustard, spices and oil. (The recipe says to do this in a blender, which I don't have. I just used a spoon and it worked fine.) Toss together the pasta, tomatoes, squash and zucchini with the dressing and serve cold.

I enjoyed this meal, especially because it was still delicious with the ingredients that I had. Next time I make it I would definitely add some chopped up onion and I would like to try it with the tomatoes. It was still good as I made it though. This recipe makes a lot of food (I only used a half box of pasta and still had leftovers), but it makes a great snack for later! Experiment with other additions and let me know if you find anything super delicious!

Honey Mustard

I am personally a huge fan of honey mustard. I hate buying dressings, however; because they never have the right honey-to-mustard ratio. One day I discovered a simple recipe on the back of an english muffin package.

Basically, it's two parts mayo, one part honey and one part mustard. I found it works the best with Grey Poupon or other spicy mustards. So if you have all three of these things in your apartment, you can make honey mustard instead of buying it! Plus you can make it as honey-y or mustard-y as you want.

The rest of the recipe was great too. Take maybe 1/4 cup of chicken (I like to make this when I have chicken leftovers because you don't need a lot and it's quick if the chicken is pre-cooked) and throw it in a pan on medium heat. Mix about half of the honey mustard you have just made in with the chicken until the chicken has absorbed the dressing. Meanwhile, toast the english muffin (or even better, toast it in the pan after the chicken is done). Pour the other half of your honey mustard over the english muffin. Then top with the chicken and some lettuce, and you have a great meal!

Sloppy Joes

I'm giving total credit to my boyfriend for this recipe. He likes cooking as much as I do; one day he decided to make Sloppy Joes but he revamped the recipe he found and they were the best Sloppy Joes I ever had.

1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp yellow mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup BBQ sauce (he uses Sweet Baby Ray's)
2 tsp brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
hamburger buns

In a skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef, onion and green pepper. Drain the liquids. Then stir in the garlic powder, mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce and brown sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Healthy Hummus and Cucumber Sandwich

Pretty much all I eat during my lunch break every day is sandwiches. I've kind of gone crazy with them. This is probably my favorite however, because it's delicious and very good for me. It's not as cheap a meal as mac & cheese, but still not bad for eating healthy, something I find hard to do cheaply.

2 slices of bread
2 slices of American cheese (optional)
alfalfa sprouts (optional)
about 1 tbsp of hummus (my favorite flavor is "garlic lovers")
spicy mustard (of course any type of mustard will do)
5ish slices of cucumber

I'm figuring this is pretty self explanatory. Cut up the cucumber, put it in the sandwich along with all the other ingredients. Delicious. Experiment with other healthy vegetables.

Kraft Mac & Cheese

Kraft Mac & Cheese is cheap (store brand even cheaper!), and a staple of college life. But when there gets to be nothing in your apartment but mac & cheese it gets pretty damn boring. I've found a couple of ways to mix it up.

Deli ham. I take one or two slices of it, rip it into bite size pieces and mix it into your mac & cheese. Suddenly it becomes much more exciting.

Hot dogs. I've been doing this one all my life. Chop up a hot dog and mix it in. Delicious.

Onions. I tried this one and wasn't a huge fan. But I also used way too much onion. Right now I'm just trying to get your juices flowing. Let me know about your ideas!

Also, if you happen to run out of milk, don't fret. It still tastes good without it. Just add a little bit of water to help the cheese powder mix in better.

Chicken Wrapped in Bacon

I should technically be giving all of the credit to Paula Dean on this one. I did not invent it, but I did make it better.

2 chicken breasts
1/2 package of bacon
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 tbsp chili powder
maple syrup
(makes 2 servings)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut up the chicken breasts into about 1-inch thick strips. The bigger the strips are the harder they are to wrap. Once the chicken is cut up, wrap each strip with a piece of bacon, or more if needed. Use a toothpick at each end of the strip to hold it together. Place these on a rack over a pan. (I found that my toaster oven comes with a removable rack so I used that, but you could also use a cooling rack for cookies. You are supposed to use a broiler pan but I hadn't even heard of that let alone own one. The juices just need to be able to drain into something while it cooks.) Mix the brown sugar and chili powder together, and then sprinkle the mix over the chicken. Cook for about 30 minutes, until the chicken has been cooked all the way through. Dip in maple syrup.

Get the original recipe here.

Pasta with Sauteed Onions

This is my favorite self-made recipe. Pasta is super cheap so always have tons to live off of when I go broke. You can even skip the onion if all you have is pasta and the basics.

1 serving of pasta (I use vermicelli and it's usually 1/4 of the box)
1/4-1/2 of an onion, chopped
1 tsp of garlic
red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste
(makes 1 serving)

Cook the pasta until it's al dente. While the pasta is cooking, saute the onions and garlic in some cooking oil and about a tsp of butter, until the onions are mostly translucent. Before the onions are done, add your red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, and then add it to the saute pan. Keep the heat on low and stir it all together. Add more oil if the texture is too dry. Top with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

My cousin Jessi who is also a great cook (see her recipe for Guacamole) recently sent me a recipe similar to this one, knowing how broke I am. I might add that tuna is another cheap meal. Her addition is:

1 can tuna (preferably in oil, but water is okay)
sml pkg grape tomatoes (cut in half. diced regular tomatoes works too)

After the garlic and onion is cooked, she ads the drained can of tuna to the saute pan. (If tuna is in oil, leaving some oil in is good for flavor. If tuna is in water, it should be drained as much as possible.) Then break up large chunks of tuna and continue heating and occasionally stirring. She tops the meal with grape tomatoes and sharp cheddar cheese.

The Basics

Before you move into your new apartment, while your parents are dealing with their empty nest syndrome and are still willing to buy you things, make sure you realize how many things you take for granted in your cabinets. Apartments don't just come with ketchup and frying pans (unfortunately). Here is my list of things you should get while you still have cash.

-Pots and pans (one big sauce pot, a medium sized saucepan, and a skillet are most important; a small skillet would also be good if you plan on cooking omelets!)
-Pie dish (even if you don't plan on baking pies)
-Can opener
-A couple sharp knives
-Cutting board
-Measuring cups/spoons
-Wooden Spoon
-Pasta spoon
-Cookie sheet (or something that looks relatively like one, it's helpful it you get one with sides so you can cook other things in it)
-Casserole dish

-Baking soda (always have this on hand even if you don't cook with it because it is the way you stop grease fires. DO NOT use water.)
-Vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
-Spices (my most frequently used are: salt, pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, chili powder, Italian seasoning, and oregano)
-Garlic (it's way more cost effective to just get a huge jar of pre-minced garlic, especially if you love garlic as much as I do)
-Your favorite condiments
-A couple of your favorite salad dressings
-White sugar and brown sugar

I'd recommend trying a Building 19, Ocean State Job Lot or a dollar store for pretty much everything when apartment shopping. Yes your hands may feel dusty and gross after going through all of that stuff, but you can get reasonable things for great prices.

I was also browsing Amazon and found this which looks to be super cheap and has a lot of the things you'll need. Farberware Clear Benefits 14-Piece Cookware Set, Black