Mucho Gusto

Pillsbury Dough Reimagined

It’s 4 AM. Birds chirp as I walk home from O’Neill Library. My head spins after countless hours spent on an International Relations paper, studying for a Microeconomic Theory exam, Econometrics projects, and Philosophy terms and definitions. An impending sense of doom filled my mind as I collapsed into my twin XL bed. Before I could process anything, my 8:25 AM alarm jolted me awake for my 9 AM class. Head and heart pounding, the only thing that ran through my mind was a question: Why? Why do I do this to myself? What does all this studying do for me, since I seem to still be doing poorly no matter how much time and effort I give? I returned to my feeble mantra: one day, all this work will pay off. However, as I often do, I proceeded to sacrifice mental, physical, and emotional health to complete my academic work.

As I reflect on my sophomore year, I have learned multiple things about myself and my choices. I will share two here: the first, I seem to be afraid of free time; the second, I restrict myself to the confines of my all-powerful schedule. Without my watch, I don’t know what to do with myself. In the rare case that I forget to wear it, I’ll be looking for any display of the passage of time: checking clocks all around me, asking a friend, or repeatedly checking my phone. If I don’t schedule my appointments, fitness activities, or meals with friends, I’ll become immensely stressed. As I cram and pour my energy into these assignments, I respond to school pressure by shutting myself into an isolated box in order to complete my work. Going through the motions of life is not a new process for me, I seem to have perfected my own game. Although I am familiar with academic challenges and high stress levels, the past months have become a new record for the most academically challenging and nerve-wracking. Despite encouragement from family, friends, and professors as to how to manage this work, among other stress-coping mechanisms, I inevitably return to old unhealthy habits without my own realization. However, I am blessed with wonderful friends and peers who know me well, and immediately know when something is off. I am eternally grateful for their kindness and support, and I will never take them for granted.

One Sunday night, before a hellish week filled with exams, someone close to me saw that I was struggling. He woke up the next morning, went across the street to buy Pillsbury cookie dough from Richdale’s, and made me cookies all before he went to his classes. The moment I received the tupperware, with his handwritten note on top, I felt an immense sense of relief, mixed with gratefulness and humility. In my sleep deprived state, I went outside and cried. On the outside, it appeared as though my lack of control demonstrated weakness, maybe my inability to control things. However, I think that this display of emotion shows internal strength. Accepting help from others requires you to let go of what you think you can control (in my case, stubbornness). The realization that you cannot control everything, no matter how much you try, is a core part of the human experience. Regardless of how we respond to this fact—whether we run, hide, or refuse to accept—does not matter. In the end, the truth remains that we must be open to receiving help from others. That day, I learned that his simple thoughtfulness and kindness in the act of preparing me those cookies was everything I needed to get through my work. He laughed when I said that these were the best cookies I’ve ever had, but I meant it. I hope you’ll experience this same release when you try this classic childhood recipe.

Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookies:


¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 large egg

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup coarsely chopped nuts

1 bag (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)


  1. Heat oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat granulated sugar, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and egg with an electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with a spoon. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt (dough will be stiff). Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.
  3. On an ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart.
  4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown (centers will be soft). Cool 1 to 2 minutes; transfer from cookie sheet to wire rack.

 This article is dedicated to Nik Simonsen.

Cover photo courtesy of King Arthur Baking

Mucho Gusto

Dad’s Favorite French Toast

As I step into the front hall of my house, my five siblings crowd around me as I wonder what the next few days will bring. I come home for short school breaks, during which I attempt to fix my sleep and eating schedule. My house is always loud and bustling with activity, and I have grown so accustomed to it that I don’t notice our chaos anymore. My dad, the clear ringleader of our chaotic lives, always makes breakfast on the weekends. As a child, I impatiently anticipated the Sunday scent of fresh eggs and pancakes. The whole house smells delicious and warm and lively. Throughout my life, his meals have been ones of comfort and joy. 

At school, I rarely, if ever, have breakfast. It is my second nature to roll out of bed and start my day without consideration or fuel for my body. Most days, I settle for an easy on-the-go protein shake, which limits my ability to relax and reflect on what I am doing that day. A few weeks ago, when I returned home on a Friday evening, I was exhausted and needed sleep desperately. I quickly made my way to my room, and fell asleep peacefully. I woke to music playing downstairs, my siblings watching TV, and a delicious breakfast on the table. I hesitated, my college routine disrupted by the care of another person. I took a deep breath, and refused the meal; I didn’t even know what my dad was serving me. The only thing I registered was that someone else would be feeding and taking care of me—an uncomfortable and foreign feeling, to say the least. 

I am an independent and strong person, and I don’t often let others take an active role in my life. My friends and my sister are the closest people to me, but the rest of my family remains at a distance. Growing up, I never felt like I could gain this distance and apparent freedom. I didn’t realize that this was so important to me until I went to school, 3 hours from home. To me, getting older is learning to let go and accept change. Although I have struggled deeply with this for a long time, I am getting better and adapting to change more calmly. I am able to take criticism and learn from my friends, but I cannot do the same with my family. Emotions and stubbornness prevent me from doing so. This is why, that spring Saturday morning, as my dad handed me a beautiful plate of French toast, I refused. His caring act of home-cooked food repulsed me. However, I realized that I was not against my dad’s cooking; I was simply opposed to the concept of accepting help and love from others.

 Nevertheless, he insisted, and I admittedly was intrigued by the scent of Vermont maple syrup and fresh berries. I sat down, and indulged in his offer. I can say with full honesty– and without exaggeration– that it was the best breakfast I have ever had. In between bites, I asked him his secret recipe. He laughed, and smiled, as though seeing me with new eyes. I hope you have the same breakthrough when you taste your first bite.

Famous French Toast: makes 6 servings


½ teaspoon butter

½ loaf bread of choice

5 Eggs

1 cup Milk

¼ cup Brown sugar

1 pinch Salt (add extra for more flavor)

Vermont Grade A maple syrup

Fresh berries (optional)


Heat a pan to medium heat, add butter, and stir until melted. Mix the eggs, milk, and salt in a large bowl. Place bread in the large bowl and let it soak for 15-30 minutes. Add brown sugar to the mixture and place individual pieces of bread on the pan. Let cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove from the pan and add syrup, berries, and additional toppings of your choice.

Cover photo courtesy of Unsplash

Mucho Gusto

Sauce of Life

One of my first memories of food makes me feel nostalgic, but more importantly, reminds me of what it means to sit back and truly enjoy food. At the age of four, I remember sitting at the kitchen table, tomato sauce everywhere, donning a huge grin as I looked around my family. At this time, I had little awareness of my relationship with food; I was simply enjoying the warmth and heartiness of a delicious pasta dish. My sister and younger brother sat next to me, all enjoying each other’s presence and excitement over the meal. My main sense here was touch. The childlike tendency to get messy, spilling sauce everywhere, filled me with a sense of fearlessness and carefree nature. My mom and dad decided that I was so messy that they had to take off my shirt, and I didn’t care in the slightest. I had sauce all over my chest, and I was only focused on grabbing the pasta with my hands. I laughed, knocking the plastic fork to the ground. I scarcely remember this feeling, the one in which I could be so happy with such little control. 

Hearkening back to this memory, I realize how much my relationship with food has changed over my life. Nowadays, I’m lucky if I sit still for a meal for more than 20 minutes. I often eat on the go, sacrificing the relaxation and joy reminiscent of my childhood. I find that I am stressed when I sit to eat, and I think I know why: our culture, especially the hyper-driven working world in the U.S., has conditioned me to regard eating as bad, and constant work and movement as good. Missing meals with friends, canceling agreed-upon times, and sleeping through breakfast because I can’t sustain my own lifestyle are shockingly revealing about my tendencies. I like to be in control, and I become anxious when I have to let go of the reins. In college, this is nearly impossible. I grasp life, without my childlike hands, but with a metal fork, attempting to cut decisively into things that cannot be split. Like a tough steak, well-done, I have become resistant to the many wonders that could improve me.

Only recently did I realize that I might be doing things wrong. A friend noticed how I was living, and kindly pointed out that there might be a better way. Overbooking myself and creating such a busy schedule makes me calm, because I feel “productive.” However, “productivity” is an overused and over-glorified word. If eating a meal or relaxing for more than five minutes makes me immensely stressed, what has become of my mental and physical health? Where is the girl who sat in her high chair, sauce smeared on her face, not thinking about the next time she would be required to eat? The other day, I realized how much I’d changed when I realized that I would rather not eat or sleep, if I could have the satisfaction of one way of life: working. I feel that my own addiction to working has conditioned me to only feel satisfied when writing an essay, submitting a discussion post, or filling out a job application.

I figure that part of this lifestyle involves my concern about school, messing up and making mistakes. However, this is life in and of itself. Living is so much more than academics and working constantly. I want to create the perfect life for myself, career wise and personally, but there is no “perfect life.” If I wait to live, when will I change my ways? Now more than ever, I realize that I might be wasting my youth with a life of all work, no play. To go back to my childhood has made me realize that I’m forgetting to, metaphorically, eat with my hands. I should get messy, and hug life with open arms. At the risk of sounding cliché, I am accepting the chaos of my life and opening myself up to new experiences and opportunities.

Pasta for Life


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ red onion

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 clove garlic

8 large crushed tomatoes

½ pound penne pasta


Heat a large pot of water to a rolling boil for the pasta. Add olive oil and red onion to a different large sauté pan and cook on medium, until the onion is translucent. Add red pepper flakes and garlic, cooking for two minutes until steaming and fragrant. Add fresh, crushed tomatoes to the pan, and stir to combine for 20 minutes. 

Cook penne pasta according to the package. Add the drained pasta to the sauce, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.


Cover photo courtesy of Bianca Zapatka