Cara is a co-founder of Big Girls, Small Kitchen. Her first New York apartment was in a dreary East Village walk-up, and it was the first place where she got to embrace the freedom of cooking for herself. In college, she made chocolate bark for herself and her friends in her dorm room microwave which lived, grossly, in the bathroom.

Favorite Guilty Pleasure: Overbuttered Toast

Favorite Kitchen Object: Sunbeam Handheld Mixer

Favorite Kitchen Task: Creaming Butter and Sugar

Favorite Cocktail: Whisky on the Rocks

Favorite Potluck Theme: Dishes Based on Magazine Articles

The Best Dorm Room Meals


Cooking in a college dorm is certainly a challenge, but we’re here to tell you that making food in your dorm is way easier (and cheaper) than it seems. Here are 7 of our best dorm-friendly meals (some don’t even need an oven!) so you can come to school fully prepared. Plus, having food around always helps you make new friends.

(If you’ve arrived here from How Not to Look Like a Freshman–welcome! Eating well will help you avoid the freshman 15, one easy way not to appear like a freshman.)


Study Break Snacks: Popcorn with Herb Butter & Almonds


Snack: Popcorn with Herb Butter & Almonds
Brain Booster Rating: 8 out of 10. There’s definitely some extra fat in here from the butter, but lots of fiber from the popcorn and protein from the almonds balances everything out.
Equipment: Heavy lidded pot
Ingredients: popcorn kernels, lemon, herbs, butter, salt

Popcorn is a VIP of the snacking world. It’s not bad for you, and you can eat a lot without feeling too much guilt. And if it’s just one of the days when eating a lot is what your mind and/or soul needs, then popcorn is the logical choice. Better …


Chipotle Barley Salad with Corn, Zucchini, and Radishes


One of the perks of having written a cookbook besides, well, pride and joy, is having an archive of perfectly tested recipes that cater precisely to your tastes. While it’s rare that I follow a recipe in the kitchen, choosing instead to follow my whims and the ingredients in my fridge, it is nice to have a base formula that I know I can count on. You know, rather than changing everything about a recipe, I can just throw in additions and substitutions here and there.

This one was published in In the Small Kitchen. Until I bastardized it, adding …


Southwestern Artichoke Dip with Sweet Corn and Cayenne

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With Memorial Day approaching, I bet you’ve got some weekends away with friends planned. Pack swimsuits, booze, maybe a cute dress – and this recipe for Southwestern Artichoke Dip with Sweet Corn.

There’s a reason dips are great for groups: they’re fun, they’re filling, and they’re easy to make in massive proportions. As the countdown begins to summer we highly recommend mastering a few dips and putting them into your weekend-away repertoire. Mexican flavors seem to score extra points–cheese solidifies your status as Weekend Away Chef of the Summer.


-Free Food: Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes


Studying abroad in Israel started sounding like just about the greatest idea when I read Sarah’s post last week about Date Charoset. In Ashkenazi traditions, Passover means no oats or rice in addition to no wheat (except for matzoh). In Sepharic Judaism – what’s practiced in Israel – rice is A-OK. That makes getting through the week easy.

But here it’s matzoh, more matzoh, and potatoes. So: skipping past the matzoh, let’s talk about potatoes. Milk-free potatoes. Milk-free mashed potatoes. Wow: I know.


Look Ma, No Oven! Peach Salsa


I’ve always had a little trouble not going the extra mile when it comes to entertaining. Even though I know I should KISS (keep it simple, stupid), some part of me always wants to fancy up a meal a bit, whether it’s with from-scratch pulled pork or a homemade dessert.

That’s why when I’m hosting something like a Super Bowl party and know I could just go out and buy some Green Mountain Gringo salsa (what’s your favorite store-bought brand?) I’ll sometimes wind up throwing together a simple dish like this–spicy, tangy, peach salsa. (You can also use mangoes …


-Free Food: Carrot Cake, Hold the Dairy


I may be a decent baker, but I’m not so good with surprises. So when, for Alex’s birthday, I determined I’d make him a cake, I didn’t have the wherewithal to kick him out of my studio apartment while I did so. He claims to have guessed at the nature of my concoction long before the scent of the cake wafted out of my kitchen to the desk where I’d exiled him, eight feet away. It was the sound of me grating a vegetable drawer’s worth of carrots, apparently, that tipped him off. Anyway, before we went out for the evening I made the cake as fast as I could. By the time we left, I had the cake nearly cooled, frosted (well, the frosting melted into the layers a tad), and hiding in plain sight on a cake plate on my table.


On Tap: Pacifico


Since so many Super Bowl dishes wind up being Mexican-inspired (like Gooey Mexican Dip, Corn & Leek Flautas, and Pulled Pork Quesadillas), a cerveza from south of the border is a good bet, especially if you aren’t hosting and don’t know exactly what you’ll be eating at your TV-watching festivities.

In my experience, the six pack of Pacifico Clara is usually the first gone from the fridge at parties. Not to be sexist, but sometimes I think it’s because both genders like it: it has more personality than Miller Lite (for sure) but it just doesn’t sit so heavy.


The Dorm Room Bar: Warm Whisky Cider


A warming pot of spiced cider on the stove sets the scene for holiday festivities to come. Phoebe and I first drank this cider at one of our favorite events of the year–our friend Kate’s Christmas party. Kate’s mom would simply mull the cider with cinnamon sticks, warm it over the stove, and then add whisky at the end. While this is not the booziest of holiday drinks (you’ll need a lot to really get smashed), it does an expert job of setting the scene for the holidays.


Eat Under $10: Maple-Mustard Chicken with Potato Wedges


One of my favorite meals these days is a whole chicken roasted on top of potatoes. The chicken is flavorful with garlic, olive oil, and herbs. The potatoes are perhaps even better: they get seasoned with the chicken’s juices, plus more olive oil and more herbs.

Easy as it may be, roasting a whole chicken isn’t that cheap, and it takes a while. So I’ve been experimenting with roasting chicken thighs and legs, and trying to add flavor even during a shorter cooking time. In my experiments, I haven’t eliminated the potatoes, since they’re cheap and so filling.