Portia Placino

Repository of my thoughts and images of art, literature, travel, and life.

Diary of a Grad Student: My Summer Cooking Saga

Last semester was toxic. I had deadlines till Black Saturday. What’s more, I am still working on something exciting up to this date, but I won’t reveal it till it’s done. I hope it turns out great. Needless to say, I was really tired. So I rested.

But then, I grew restless. Someone advised me to go out of my comfort zone. So I tried. But walking around town and eating at random places on my own didn’t work out to well. It’s summer, so it’s really hot. Then I get accosted every block or so, with people asking me where I was going and why was I alone. I go to a mall in the nearest city here and I run into someone I know even in the ladies’ restroom. Ever so often I also get the “are you married?” question as well. Such is the life in a small town.

I considered taking on an internship that opened over the summer. But my mom was adamant. I go home so seldom now. And as I take on my thesis in June, that’s going to be deadly. Also, cousins will be coming home from California, Canada, and Italy. I haven’t seen them in 5 years or so. I can’t miss their visit. Who knows when they will be able to visit again? So I am staying here until June.

What will I do now?

Then I saw some baking materials that my Mom haven’t used in AGES. And I’m so bad at the kitchen to the point that I burn and break stuff on a regular basis, I guess I might work on that. It’s outside my comfort zone after all.


First stop was a recipe that I found online. It’s a peanut butter and chocolate mini lava cake. I doubled the recipe because my Mom thought it was so small. I decided to bake it in a smallish oven. It turned out great. We thought it looked raw-ish so I extended the baking time. Apparently, I need not do so, because it hardens a bit when cooled. Also, it had too much sugar. I wanted to cut it down but I decided to follow the recipe to the letter. Next time I do this, I will half the sugar portion and not add the 5 minutes I did to the baking time. It was a relative success, as the Hershey’s chocolate chips I used was a pretty good base. We enjoyed this cake. And now, I want to make more.


Next up, was pasta night. I have been craving pasta for the longest time here. There is just no pasta that I am used to available here. I even bought a block of parmesan cheese that my Mom was very doubtful of. Turned out it was worth it. As well as the bottled pesto that I bought. I know, that is cheating, but there is no fresh basil in the supermarket. So, that is that. I made two pastas in one night because they might not appreciate the pesto cream pasta I was craving. I was inspired by the one in Cibo. So I fixed a sweet red sauce one with sausages. Then for the other option, the cream pesto. Turned out, they like it both! I wanted spaghetti for the meat sauce but apparently, we were out, so I also used the multi-colored vegetable pasta that I intended for the pesto cream. I played this by ear, working on stuff that we have, rather than working on a recipe. And no, I didn’t burn anything. I worked on memory from Cibo’s pastas.



Next stop is the squash soup. This recipe, i have been adjusting and readjusting so long, I think I finally made it right. The online recipe I found originally calls for the use of chicken stock. We don’t have that in the grocery. Making one from scratch is tedious. I used to put in that Knorr chicken cube, but that is just terrible and unhealthy. I do not like msg on my food. So I adjusted the milk and cream with the squash and did without the chicken. I think it’s pretty good, especially with nutmeg. Cooking the squash in extra virgin olive oil also adds a lot of healthy flavor. It’s the same case with pasta. Yum on a warm summer night. Or on any night.


The cooking saga continues. I was contemplating on making brownies or cookies, but then my Mom found me an easier recipe from a newspaper. The chocolate chip pudding. It was divine. I think I got that one right the first time. Except that I forgot to butter the Pyrex, so the chocolate now keeps on getting stuck there. Aside from that, yum! Pudding is pretty easy, but the use of an electric mixer is a little challenging. I wish I can get one of those professional ones like those seen on cooking shows, but that could get really expensive. There is a lot to one recipe as well, so my Mom bought some to the office. I think I am gaining weight from all this cooking! But I am enjoying it, I never really had the time to learn before.



Finally, just this morning, since we have some white bread left over from the night before… Pudding is supposed to be made from left over bread, but I do not like the idea of eating old bread, so I bought a fresh pack. Well, what can we do with left over bread? Make an egg salad spread for it. I have not eaten one in ages. I wish I know how to make an eggless mayonnaise or an eggless egg salad, butI don’t. Again, I just played with this one by combining sandwich spread, salt, pepper and hard-boiled eggs. Yummy breakfast.


Well, that is it for the cooking saga. I will have more in the coming days. I also have lots of blog backlog that I hope to get published. Happy eating everyone! And here’s to coming out of my comfort zone šŸ™‚


4 comments on “Diary of a Grad Student: My Summer Cooking Saga

  1. The Mommy Movement
    April 19, 2012

    Way to go, Portia! I find cooking to be quite relaxing when I’m not worried about the outcome.Bring some goodies over when you return to UP. Enjoy your summer! šŸ™‚ –Ria

    • Portia Placino
      April 19, 2012

      Thanks Ria! With the first cake I was afraid it might not even solidify! Hope I perfect something before I get back there. My summer cooking experiment continues!

  2. DC!
    May 6, 2012

    I’m doing the cooking thing as well this summer.;) Been doing more savory stuff though since its for the bf’s baon to work. Haha. I’ll try my hand at baking too and I’ll let you know how it turns out! That peanut butter choco lave cake looks yummy!

    • Portia Placino
      May 26, 2012

      Hi! Cooking over the summer is fun. I never can find the time during regular semesters. Now, though, I have completely ignored my blog! Yikes! About savory meals, that is my weakness. I managed to make some baked fish, but that’s about it. The best meals I can prepare are pasta meals. You have one lucky boyfriend. I did love that cake, but now, the best I can make are different cookies. They make good gifts and baon. Summer is ending though, looks likes I’m going back to regular programming.

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