Work with what you got

My online search began with “recipes without stove or oven.” I self-filtered results that required knives, measuring cups and large amounts of refrigerator space.

For three years, an antiquated microwave and beat-up toaster have comprised my entire kitchen. Oh, and a communal refrigerator.

Living in a sorority house has its setbacks.

Somewhat underwhelmed by my online options, the simplicity of deceptively rich Oreo balls caught my attention. The dish required three ingredients: cream cheese, Oreos and melting chocolate.


Ready to rumble.

Ready to rumble.

1. Finely crush Oreo cookies.

Some might use a food processor to pulse the sandwich cookies into a fine powder. I settled with a Ziploc bag and elbow grease.

Crushing the cookies with my hands served as a wonderful stress reliever but earned glares from the dining room’s other occupants. I retreated to the enclosed kitchen, where I found an abandoned soup can that I transformed into a rolling pin.

Who needs rolling pins?

Who needs rolling pins anyway?

2. Mix cookie crumbs and cream cheese until blended.

Staring at a mess that resembled black, oxygen-rich soil, I knew blending in cream cheese without a spatula might pose a problem.

“Use another Ziploc. It’s so much easier that way,” said a junior who wandered in. “I made Oreo Balls in my dorm all the time freshman year.”

Taking the expert’s advice, I poured the cream cheese and crumbs into a bag and squished and squeezed the ingredients together “until blended.”

3. Shape into 1-inch balls. Freeze for 10 minutes.

I rolled the sticky mixture into lop-sided balls between the palms of my hands, aiming for quantity rather than quality; people would appreciate varying sizes.

Clean hands are a must.

Clean hands are a must.

In lieu of a freezer, I placed the misshapen balls toward the back of the refrigerator and sat vigil for 20 minutes. Field studies reveal hungry sorority women can sniff out chocolate within a mile radius.

4. Dip balls into melted chocolate and place on wax paper.

Finding a glass container large enough to melt my chocolate proved to be less of a challenge than I thought. My sister’s oversized coffee mug fit four squares of white chocolate comfortably, and the handle expedited the dipping process.

Fighting a line of women armed with un-popped popcorn, I nuked the perfectly shaped squares into a gooey liquid and prepared an Oreo ball assembly line.

By the fourth ball, I developed a rhythm: skewer, dip, shake, drop and sprinkle.

Shout out to my sister for lending me her coffee mug.

Shout out to my sister for lending me her coffee mug.

Instead of wax paper, I repurposed the Styrofoam plates our banner chair uses as paint palettes.

5. Refrigerate one hour or until firm.

Ready to finish my dish, I dumped the mostly-firm Oreo balls into a plastic container. Taping a note saying I would murder anyone who ate my creations to the lid, I pushed the container behind a milk jug for good measure.

As I looked at the mess of crumbs, sprinkles and stray white chocolate, I decided that the limitation of a microwave and toaster might be for the best.


Trick or Treat?

Rip. Crunch. Chew. Swallow. Halloween candy disappears in mindless raze.

Even the most disciplined dietitians crumble in the sugar-soaked holiday’s wake. It’s impossible to stop with just one piece.

While ghosts and witches elicit screams and terror, the scariest part of Halloween lies in the bottom of pillowcases and plastic pumpkins. Seemingly innocent “fun-sized” chocolate bars and candy hold a horrifyingly high amount of fat, sugar and calories.

What’s worse, the individually wrapped treats rarely include nutritional information. Instead, companies list calories and ingredients on the wholesale bags.

So, before you inhale your sixth miniature Snickers, take a moment to realize what you’re putting into your body.

Halloween takes no prisoners.

Halloween takes no prisoners.

Here’s some of Halloween’s most popular candies. Information from Cooking Light.

1. M&M’s Milk Chocolate Fun Size

73 calories, 2g saturated fat, 9.3g sugar

2. M&M’s Peanut Fun Size

90 calories, 1.8g saturated fat, 9g sugar

3. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Fun Size 

77 calories, 2.7g saturated fat, 7g sugar

4. Branch’s Candy Corn

53 calories, 0g saturated fat, 11.7g sugar

5. Snickers Fun Size

80 calories, 1.5g saturated fat, 8.5g sugar

6. Sour Patch Kids Mini Bag

50 calories, 0g fat, 10g sugar

7. Baby Ruth Fun Size

85 calories, 2.3g saturated fat, 10g sugar

8. Tootsie Pop

60 calories, 0g saturated fat, 10g sugar (contains trans fat)

9. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Snack Size

110 calories, 2.5g saturated fat, 11g sugar

10. Skittles Fun Size

60 calories, 0.7g saturated fat, 11.3g sugar

11. Almond Joy Snack Size

80 calories, 3g saturated fat, 8g sugar

12. Twix Fun Size

80 calories, 3g saturated fat, 8g sugar

13. Kit Kat Wafer Bar Snack Size

 70 calories, 2.3g saturated fat, 7g sugar

14. Starburst Fun Size

2 Starburst candies: 40 calories, 0.8g saturated fat, 6g sugar

15. Milk Duds Snack Size

53 calories, 1.2g saturated fat, 9g sugar


Losing Control

It’s a test: twelve choices of cold, creamy frozen yogurt.

Staring at my options, I debate between chocolate, peanut butter, pistachio and banana nut bread. Tough decision.

What keeps me up at night.

What keeps me up at night.

Seven sample cups later, I’m slightly full and increasingly torn. Pistachio it is.

I pull the lever and pour one, two, three swirls around the bathtub-sized “cup.” It’s time to move on to toppings.

In a move half science, half artistry, I add cookie dough and chocolate sprinkles to my froyo. My sister suggests condensed milk. I acquiesce.

The artist at work.

The artist at work.

The combination scale/cash register reveals the damage. I walk away 6 oz. heaver and $4.37 lighter.

The first bite tastes heavenly; the second, just as good. But three bites into my masterpiece I hit a wall.

I’m full.

But I keep eating. By the time I finish, I’m uncomfortable.

I’ve always had difficulty with portion control. The deadly combination of eyes-bigger-than-stomach syndrome plus there’s-starving-children-in-Africa guilt created a supersized problem.

With its unlimited samples, massive cups and generous self-serve set-up, Yogurtland presents a particularly challenging environment.

However, it isn’t unique. Most restaurants and fast food chains offer more than we can, and should, chew. In the past twenty years alone, serving sizes increased by more than 30 percent.

Likewise, super stores like Sam’s Club and Costco fuel the portion distortion. We can buy more, so we do.

Curbing our appetites can be difficult, but it’s possible. Taking the time to consciously eat and enjoy each bite keeps us from overindulging.

Maybe if we prioritize quality over quantity, it will make eating a little sweeter.