The “freshman 15” is a pretty predictable college situation. The combination of 24-hour dining halls, lack of organized mealtimes and homecooked food, lack of structured sports practices, and, well, beer, can all be blamed. In my case, going from a home where my parents cooked delicious food to a dorm where the food was, in my opinion, subpar, and walking everywhere had a surprisingly opposite effect – I lost my freshman 15. In the dining hall, everything tasted about the same level of “blah” but nutrition information was displayed so I always just picked the healthiest option, drowned it in cholula or sriracha, and went from there.
Oddly, hominy was a staple of the Texas Tech dining hall in the early 2000s. I had never encountered hominy before college, so I lovingly referred to it as “mutant corn” – and I usually ate a scoop if it was an option (I actually wasn’t far off – hominy IS kind of a mutant corn). During that same time, I started dating my husband and his family also, shockingly, served mutant corn often. Their hominy was far superior to dorm hominy, so in the 13 years since eating it the first time, I’ve never found a need to cook it any other way.
This hominy is the ultimate comfort casserole. It’s totally benign, it’s good leftover, and it’s so easy, I’m kind of embarrassed to put it in a blog, except that my only copy of the recipe exists in an email from my mother-in-law from 2005.
2 cans hominy (white, yellow, or one of each)
3/4 cup sour cream
1 large or 2 small cans of diced green chiles
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- Preheat your oven to 350°. Stir the drained hominy, sour cream, and green chiles together. Fold in half of the cheese.
- Pour the mixture into an 8×8 casserole dish, season with salt and pepper, and top with the remaining cheese.
- Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling.
I don’t have much to say about these cupcakes other than that they’re basically the perfect chocolate cupcake. They’re moist, rich, not lacking in chocolate, and don’t have any weird specialty ingredients. I haven’t made another chocolate cupcake in years because these are, actually, the best.
They’re great topped with a basic buttercream, French buttercream (if you’re a true player), chocolate frosting, cream cheese frosting, or as a hi-hat. They’re the perfect chocolate cupcake base. They DO have coffee in them (divided out it’s a pretty negligible amount), but while I wouldn’t send them to school, I don’t mind if my kids have one.
yields 24 cupcakes
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee (my Nespresso only makes a bit more than a cup, so I use a strong variety and top it off with hot water).
3/4 cups cocoa powder
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat your oven to 350°.
- Stir the cocoa powder into the hot coffee until dissolved. Set aside.
- Cream the butter and both sugars for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla extract and beat until fully combined. Stir the baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the flour in a small bowl.
- Add the flour mixture and coffee mixture to the batter in a few alternating additions. I usually do about 1/3 of the flour, then 1/2 of the coffee, and so on until everything is combined and smooth.
- Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full (be careful not to overfill – they will grow) and bake 18-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.
P.S. I used this same batter to make my son’s birthday cake last year – it easily can convert to 2 8″ or 9″ round pans, but you’ll need to bake for quite a bit longer (30-40 minutes).
I love autumn, with the crisp air, jeans and sweaters, changing leaves, and firepit evenings. Unfortunately, in North Texas fall doesn’t actually start until about November. It’s still hot, we’re still wearing shorts, and if we go out after dark we still get eaten by mosquitoes. It’s a difficult time because we get these little teases of cooler weather – we’ll get a few mornings in the high 60s, the leaves do change, and our power lines are filled with birds flying south. But then we still have to plan flexible Halloween costumes because it could be anywhere from 25 to 95° when we trick-or-treat.
That said, it’s hard to not start buying into all the fall hype – the clothes, the activities, and, of course, the food (sparing pumpkin spice lattes because it seems weird to order them iced). So we’re sweating in our scarves and boots, wearing tank tops to the pumpkin patch, and eating lamb meatballs anyways because it’s October and we’re tired of salad. These meatballs taste like fall, they’re easy, and make your house smell amazing. This recipe will feed 4-6 adults. They do, however, take a bit of time, so plan accordingly.
2 lbs. ground lamb
1 normal sized bag spinach
1 large (or 2 small) red onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 small container of feta cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup panko
2 cups orzo
3-4 cups chicken or beef broth (water will work in a pinch)
lemon and mint leaves for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Pour the spinach into a large bowl and microwave for about a minute until it’s nice and wilted. Set aside to cool. In the meantime, mix together the lamb, onion, garlic, panko, eggs, and about 3/4 of the feta cheese. When cooled, add the spinach, a generous shake of salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and, using your hands, squish everything together and form into meatballs a bit smaller than ping pong balls.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet (I use a dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Fry the meatballs for a few minutes on each side until they’re browned on each side (10-12 minutes). I usually fry mine in 2-3 batches. Move the cooked meatballs to a plate to cool.
- When all meatballs are cooked through, in the same pan add the orzo and 3 cups of broth and stir together. Put the meatballs on top of the orzo, cover, and bake for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, check and see if the broth has been absorbed – if it seems dry add in a bit more, and bake uncovered for 10 more minutes. Serve with lemon wedges, mint leaves, and top with the remaining feta.