Life without a meal plan

With JMU’s food being ranked the 5th best in the country, it’s hard to come by students who don’t have a meal plan. But that’s not the case for Ame Wood, a junior SMAD major who chooses to cook all her food on her own.

It all started when Ame had a summer job lined up after her freshman year at the JMU Help Desk. Since she was staying in Harrisonburg for the summer, she needed to learn how to do her own cooking because no meal plans are offered at JMU during the summer months.

“Rather than have easy mac and PB&J sandwiches every day, I decided to start cooking by recipes and just see where it went. I ended up finding I was pretty good at it,” said Wood.

Her first successful recipe that she made was a simple spaghetti dish. But through experimentation, Ame’s perfected this dish so that it’s a step above bland pasta and marinara sauce.

“Spaghetti with Italian sausage and green pepper has become my favorite food in the entire world. It is always going to make me smile and I could eat it every single day.”

Ame’s come far from spaghetti. By trying out new recipes, Ame says that she’s seen her cooking improve since she started. She’s now able to figure out what works and what doesn’t and knows how to get creative with different ingredients.

One time, Ame’s roommate had a giant tub of leftover spaghetti sauce but no pasta noodles. Ame decided to experiment and make a soup from the spaghetti sauce by adding a bunch of extra vegetables and some broth. She said the soup turned out being very good and was a big hit with her roommates.

“Sometimes weird food combinations surprise you and turn out to be quite delicious. You just have to be adventurous and be able to take risks with your food,” said Wood.

But not all of Ame’s cooking experiments have been a success.

“The worst thing I ever made was when I tried to make garlic knots, which you’d think is one of the easiest things ever to make. But I really screwed them up and they tasted like really bad biscuits. I couldn’t understand how I could mess up dough with garlic and parmesan!”

Ame seems to be her toughest critic though, because the people who eat Ame’s cooking never seem to complain. Morgan Galea, a freshman SCOM major and one of Ame’s friends, always knows she’s in for a treat whenever she eats over at Ame’s house.

“Ame’s food is delicious! Since I’m a freshman, I’m always eating on campus so it’s so nice to have a home cooked meal every now and then,” said Galea.

Morgan isn’t the only person Ame cooks for. Whether it be for her boyfriend, roommates, co-workers, or friends, Ame loves making meals for others.

“I really like to have people over and cook for them. I prefer that over sitting and eating alone,” said Wood. “When I grew up with my family you all ate dinner together, so it’s always been a very family or friend oriented thing, not just a get-food-in-my-mouth type of situation.”

By cooking her own meals, Ame’s also been able to save money. She said that she calculated the cost of JMU’s dining plans, and in order to get your money’s worth, you’d have to eat every meal at either E-hall or D-hall, the all-you-can-eat dining buffets on campus.

Ame says it’s easy to save money as long as you can be a smart shopper. For example, doing simple things like buying a head of lettuce instead of buying bagged salad. Ame says she spends about $1.50 less on a head of lettuce compared to a bagged salad and you get about three times as much lettuce for half the price.

“Anybody who tells you that you have to either keep to a budget or eat healthy is not looking in the right place because grocery stores have weekly specials and you can buy produce that’s in season and not from far away tropical places,” said Wood. “You can easily eat healthy foods and stay on your budget; I have a very tight budget and I keep to it.”

On top of constantly improving her cooking skills, Ame has recently started writing her own food blog, where she posts about the different recipes that she makes.

“My food blog surprisingly started out of boredom; I created it this past summer when I didn’t have much to do,” said Wood. “I’ve always been a decent writer, I’d like to think, and I thought that starting up a food blog would be fun.”

Friends of Ame are avid readers of her food blog, like Megan Burks, a junior Kinesiology major.

“I love checking out Ame’s blog and reading about the different recipes that she makes,” said Burks. “She even inspired me to start writing my own blog which focuses on having a healthy lifestyle.”

Once she leaves JMU, Ame’s not quite sure if any culinary plans will be part of her future. But she does say that it is her dream to open up a small restaurant or bakery at some point in her life.

For now, Ame’s more than content with making her own healthy meals while saving money and blogging about her cooking experiments.

“I love the variety I have by making my own food and knowing what goes into it. I’m able to know what goes into my body and know that I’m eating healthy.”

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FLOW- Free Lunch On Wednesdays

At the sound of the words “free food”, people’s ears tend to perk up. Especially college students who usually don’t have that much cash on hand or can’t afford one of JMU’s expensive meal plans. Well right next to JMU’s campus, there’s a place where you can get a free lunch every Wednesday during the school year!

Located at the corner of South Main Street and Cantrell Avenue, you’ll find the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) House. The students of BCM started an outreach event at the beginning of this semester called “FLOW” (Free Lunch On Wednesdays) and offer students who come to the house free lunch every Wednesday, between 11am and 1pm. There’s no catch, it’s just a time for free food and hanging out with some awesome people!

This past week, I went to the BCM house for FLOW for my first time this semester and was pleasantly surprised. As soon as I walked into the house, I saw a table full of people sitting together having great conversation, and then next to them was another table full of food. From seeing the different kinds of sandwiches, chips, vegetables, cookies, and cupcakes, I knew I would be getting a substantial lunch that day. And I couldn’t believe it was all free!

After I piled my plate high with food, I sat down to talk with Jay Stanley, a junior Psychology major who was the mastermind behind starting up FLOW. She said that since starting FLOW at the beginning of the semester, the outreach event has been successful, with around 30 people coming out to it every week.

“I think the one ways to connect to college students is through food, because we definitely all need to eat, and us broke college students sometimes can’t afford meal plans”, said Stanley.

The students at BCM make the food for FLOW at the BCM house each week. The food each week is different, with the main courses varying from either grilled cheese sandwiches, baked potatoes, spaghetti, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, or deli sandwiches. They also serve many different sides and desserts to go along with the meal.

After my first experience at FLOW, with the welcoming people and the free, delicious food, I know I’ll be making a trip back there next semester! Go ahead and check it out with a friend–you can never go wrong with free food!

Homemade Eats at O’Neill’s Grill

If you’re looking for a great local place to eat where you don’t have to worry about getting a hefty bill at the end of the night, then head on over to O’Neill’s Grill!

Just like it says on the front of their menu, O’Neill’s food is “freshly homemade…so it’s delicious every day!” And I couldn’t agree more.

My boyfriend and I decided on checking out O’Neill’s Grill for one of our date nights since we had never been before. And since we both have the budget of a typical college student, we loved that we both had a wide variety of sandwiches and wraps to choose from for under 8 bucks! And the meal also comes with one of their delicious, homemade sides. Some of the sides include homemade mac & cheese, seasoned sweet potato fries, cajun rice, and homemade coleslaw.

For my meal, I got the Kickin’ Chicken sandwich with fries and absolutely loved it! The sandwich included a fresh hand-breaded chicken breast, fried golden brown and dipped in their original barbecue sauce. You can choose from a variety of their sauces, ranging from mild to very hot, but since I’m not a fan of really spicy things, I went with one of the more mild sauces. The chicken was served on a warm ciabatta roll with ranch dressing.

For dessert, my boyfriend and I decided on splitting a cookie skillet. Now if you’ve never had a cookie skillet before, you’re truly missing out. My friends have raved to me about the cookie skillets at O’Neill’s multiple times so I knew that I had to get one before we left.

Now if you don’t know what a cookie skillet is, let me paint a picture for you. It’s freshly baked chocolate chip cookie dough served hot and gooey topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. When I was eating it, it was like heaven in my mouth. And for under $5, it’d be a sin not to get one!

So with O’Neill’s Grill being only about a mile from JMU’s campus at 221 University Boulevard, you should definitely stop by because their food is not something to pass up! And don’t just take my word for it, check out these reviews from other O’Neill’s customers!

Never be without a deal!

If you could have coupons sent straight to your phone for deals at the dining halls around JMU’s campus, would you sign up for it? I know I would!

And that’s just what I did when I heard about the JMU Dining mobile club. Don’t worry, the club’s not exclusive. Anyone can sign up! All you have to do is text JMUDining to 65374. Simple as that.

Once you’ve sent the text, you’ll be able to receive special deals and coupons sent directly to your phone for food on campus.

My first text from the JMU Dining mobile club went as followed…

“It’s Thirsty Thursday at Market One. Get any 44oz. fountain drink for just 99 cents!”

Sounds like a great deal to me! All I had to do was fill up my cup (with some delicious sweet tea), show the text to the cashier to get the reduced price, and then I was on my way to class fully hydrated.

Can’t wait to see the next deal that the JMU Dining mobile club sends me!

 

And now I’d like to abruptly segue into another way that you can get access to deals in the Harrisonburg area. Because c’mon, who doesn’t like to save money?!

The site is called CampusSpecial.com

Seriously, it’s great. The site it filled with a ridiculously high amount of printable coupons. With 10,000 awesome deals on it, it is definitely something worth taking advantage of.

You can find coupons for your area by just typing it in the search bar. And with 102 cities and 342 universities, you’re bound to find coupons for your favorite local places.

And it’s not just restaurants/grocery stores that CampusSpecial.com offers deals on. You can also look for coupons in categories such as Hair/Nail/Spa to Apartments/Housing to Gyms/Fitness/Nutrition.

So what are you waiting for people! Go start printing some coupons!

Taquitos Time!

Tired of living off of Ramen Noodles and Easy Mac? Well then you need to try these homemade taquitos! This quick and easy-to-make recipe is delicious and budget friendly as well.

I found this recipe for Chicken, Bacon and Cream Cheese Taquitos on Pinterest. Now I’m not the most experienced when it comes to cooking, but these taquitos looked so good that I had to give them a try. And I’m so glad I did! I even tweaked the recipe a bit by not cutting the flour tortillas into mini sizes to make the cooking process a bit easier.

 

 

 

So the ingredients that you’ll need to make these taquitos are:

  • 1/3 of a 16-ounce package of bacon
  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce package of cream cheese
  • 2 12.5 oz cans of chicken, drained
  • A pack of flour tortillas
  • Vegetable Oil

Now I already had cream cheese and vegetable oil at my house so I didn’t have to purchase them for this recipe. But here’s the prices of each item in case you have to purchase them all:

  • Bacon:  $3.99 for 16 oz. Package
  • Cream cheese:  $1.49 for 8 oz box
  • Canned chicken:  $4 for 2 12.5 oz cans
  • Flour tortillas:  $1.79 for 10
  • Vegetable oil:  $2.00 for a quart

The total for all the ingredient is $13.27. But remember, this recipe makes 10 taquitos which is enough to share with others or to save them for leftovers another day. My roommates and I shared this meal together so if you were to split the price between 4 people, it would only end up being $3.32 for each person! Also, you don’t use all of the bacon and cream cheese that comes in the packages for the recipe so you can always use those leftovers for something else.

So here’s the steps to follow to make the taquitos:

  1. Cook the bacon in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon from the skillet and drain on paper towels.
  2. Stir the bacon, cream cheese and chicken in a medium bowl.
  3. Spoon the chicken mixture in the center of each flour tortilla. Roll the tortillas around the filling and secure with toothpicks.
  4. Pour the oil into a heavy 4-quart saucepan to a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil to 350°F.
  5. Add the taquitos to the saucepan in batches and cook until well browned on all sides. Remove the taquitos from the saucepan and let drain on paper towels. Let cool for 5 minutes. Remove the toothpicks before serving.

That’s it! Just 5 ingredients and 5 steps is all it takes to make these wonderful Chicken, Bacon and Cream Cheese Taquitos. Enjoy!