Archive for Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Edible escapades: Two KU seniors blog to prove that eating like a co-ed doesn’t have to mean pizza

KU students Nina Riley, left, and Nancy Griego write the Edible Escapes cooking blog.

KU students Nina Riley, left, and Nancy Griego write the Edible Escapes cooking blog.

December 2, 2009


KU students Nina Riley, left, and Nancy Griego live, cook and blog the many recipes they use together.

KU students Nina Riley, left, and Nancy Griego live, cook and blog the many recipes they use together.

On the street

How often do you cook at home?

About once a week, mostly spaghetti, something simple.

More responses

Come over for dinner at the right college-kid abode and you won't find the typical student-poor gourmet menu of pasta with red sauce, sale frozen dinners or takeout.

Instead, if you happen to be at the apartment of Nina Riley and Nancy Griego, you might find Saucy Stir-Fry with Awesome Sauce served in a pita, red coconut curry and Not Yo Grammama's Fruit Cake for dessert.

"Usually we make a whole lot of food and shove it on other people," says Riley, laughing in the apartment she and Griego picked up specifically for its full-sized kitchen.

Besides filling their friends' bellies, the Kansas University seniors aim to prove that cooking as a co-ed can be cheap, easy and fun no matter your budget or class schedule. And since not everyone can squeeze into their apartment to learn their point one delicious taste at a time, the two got on what is today's equivalent of a soapbox: the Internet. Blogging semi-regularly at Nina & Nancy's Edible Escapades: Tales of the College Cook, they share recipes and finish each other's sentences in goofy videos of simple, cheap and yummy meals including Spring Rolls with Awesome Sauce, Gloriously Massive Cookies and Graham Thingies with Icing and Sprinkles.

They're not going to win the women any Michelin stars, but with wide-ranging tastes (Asian, Mexican, Italian, dessert) and a purposefully inexpensive ingredient list, the recipes might just help alleviate the old college stand-by of night after night of pasta with bottled sauce.

"Our goal is just to show people that you can cook and that it's really easy," Griego says. "That's what we were shocked (about) when we started making this stuff is that it's not actually that hard to make any of these dishes."

Nina Riley decorates the top of a chocolate frosting white cake with strawberries and pomegranate.  Riley and her roommate blog together their cooking recipes.

Nina Riley decorates the top of a chocolate frosting white cake with strawberries and pomegranate. Riley and her roommate blog together their cooking recipes.

Tales of the college cook

Riley and Griego got cooking nearly three years ago when they became mid-term potluck roommates in Jayhawker Towers. At first they cooked separately, but after a year of living together they tried cooking together, each bringing their own quirks to the mix.

The results were so good that Griego's father, who works in publishing, suggested they work on a cookbook. But, being full-time college students with jobs, homework and study groups, they decided a blog might be a bit more manageable as they navigated their senior years at KU.

"It was a progression," Riley says. "Came up with the cookbook and then it didn't really work out because we didn't know how to do it. And then we were like, a food blog would be easier."

They started with recipes they had been successfully making for years - Greek Pizza was an early favorite concoction - before deciding to copy-cat dishes that would break the bank if a college-poor student were to order them in a restaurant. The most recently posted copycat recipe is for spring rolls made much more cheaply than the $7 the girls spent for two at a Lawrence restaurant. In fact, it's the copycat recipes that they feel are their most successful escapades to date.

"I'm pretty proud of our drunken noodles recipe because we figured that out," Griego says before looking to Nina to add her two cents.

"I really like the chicken carbonara, it's really good because it has bacon," Riley says. "Bacon is so good. I love bacon."

"Bacon makes Nina happy," Griego says, laughing, before getting a bit more serious. "You can go to a restaurant and order those and ours taste a lot like the stuff we've ordered at restaurants. So, I'd say it's a two-way tie between those two."

Not that everything they make is a restaurant-quality success, as they explain in their ESP rat-a-tat-tat style:

Griego: "Last month we tried to make candy apples."

Riley: "For Halloween. Total failure."

Griego: "Total failure. Everything was sticky."

Riley: "It was like liquid apple."

Griego: "It was awful."

Riley: "Yeah. We thought about buying the candy apples and being like, 'This is how they turned out.'"

Cheap and simple

Despite the misses, the bloggers have no plans on stopping anytime soon, because even if they never write their cookbook, they know there are college kids and out-of-college folks alike who need a helping hand in the kitchen, if they've ever been in there in the first place.

"Some people ask us, 'Do you cook every day?' And I'm like, 'Why would I not cook every day?'" Griego says of kids her age. "I talk to a lot of people who say they don't even know how to make an egg. And it's like, 'That's really easy!'"

Not to mention cheap. Money and food isn't a factor for the bloggers, who usually shop together for ingredients and occasionally break down the cost of each meal on Edible Escapades. Like Easy Enchiladas for two to three hungry people, which Riley and Griego estimate would cost just over $9 total - meaning it's possible to have a serving of fresh Mexican food for less than the cost of one frozen dinner serving.

"I think most people are on the go," Griego says of what might keep 20-somethings out of the kitchen. "But once you know the basics, you know, like how not to burn chicken or how to make toast, you're pretty much good to go."

Saucy Stir-fry with Awesome Sauce.

Saucy Stir-fry with Awesome Sauce.

Saucy Stir-fry with Awesome Sauce

1-2 chicken breasts

Veggies, either frozen or fresh

Soy or teriyaki or sesame seed sauce (or all three!)

Hot sauce

Fresh onion


Garlic powder


Black pepper

Crushed red pepper

Garlic salt


Dice up the chicken and season it with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper.

Cook up chicken in a skillet on medium-high. Add chopped onion and minced garlic to the skillet with chicken. After the chicken is cooked, add in the vegetables. Add a little bit of soy sauce to the stir-fry.

When everything is done cooking, cut the pitas in half and fill them with stir-fry. Spoon on some awesome sauce.

Awesome Sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup sugar

Lime juice

Hot sauce

2 cloves minced garlic

Mix together.

— Recipe by Nina Riley and Nancy Griego

Chicken Carbonara

1-2 chicken breasts

Box of spaghetti


1/2 an onion

2 cloves garlic


Bacon, turkey bacon or some sort of fancy ham

Dice up the chicken and the onion and mince the garlic. Throw all these into a skillet greased with some butter to cook. When the chicken is cooked, add however many peas you like to it. Make sure they get warmed through.

Meanwhile, dice up the bacon! Use as much bacon as you like, the more usually means the better. Then fry them up in a separate skillet until very crisp. Drain fat.

Boil the spaghetti, the entire box (ours was just over 13 ounces). Once the spaghetti is cooked, strain it, then add it back into the large pot. Then turn off the burner.

Then add the sauce to the noodles and stir it until it thickens slightly.

Then turn up the burner to medium-low and add the finished chicken/pea mixture to the big pot and mix it up.

Lastly, top it off with your bacon!

There is nothing else to do now but to feast upon your masterpiece.


1 1/2- 2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (add more if you like)

4 egg yolks

Tablespoon parsley (dried)

2 teaspoons basil (dried)

Pinch of salt and pepper

To make sauce, in large bowl, add the cream, egg yolks, cheese, herbs, and the salt and pepper. Mix everything up with a whisk, then set aside until your spaghetti is ready.

Greek Pizza

Pizza dough


Mozzarella cheese

Spinach leaves


Olive Oil

Roasted Red Peppers


Black Pepper


Garlic Powder

Make pizza dough, roll into a greased pan.

Dice chicken into cubes, season as desired, and cook.

Chop up desired amount of red peppers. When chicken is nearly done cooking, heat peppers up in a skillet.

Wilt/steam spinach in a pot on low heat. Add chopped garlic and olive oil if desired. Spinach wilts quickly, keep an eye on it!

Once the chicken is cooked thoroughly, remove the peppers and spinach from heat.

Top pizza with cooked red peppers. Spread evenly.

Add the cooked spinach, spread evenly.

Add the feta, spread evenly.

Add the chicken and desired amount of shredded mozzarella cheese.

Cook time in the oven will depend on the dough instructions. If dough is already cooked, let the cheese melt and pizza heat through.

Slice up some of that tasty pizza and feast!

Not Yo Grammama's Fruit Cake

Any kind of cake mix

Any kind of frosting

Any kind of baking dish

Any kind of fruit - either fresh or canned

Bake your cakes according to the directions. Slice desired amount of fruit. Thin slices are the easiest to work with. Ice the cake. Decorate with fruit. Eat. Repeat.


Nathan Anderson 8 years, 6 months ago

I didn't realize it's a big secret that making food from scratch is cheaper than buying crappy processed food. Red peppers aren't cheap. Chicken breasts aren't cheap. Feta isn't cheap.

Here's my poor man's meal. I make chili and serve it w/ a variety of different grains, which makes about 14 big servings at $16. I'll make the chili w/ 3 bags of dry beans (I usually use black, kidney and red), 3# ground meat (whatever's on sale, usually I can find something @ $1.50/#), 2 cans diced toms w/ jalapeños, 2 big cans green chilis, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper. Nothing fancy. I'll eat that w/ brown rice, homemade cornbread, or homemade biscuits. If I want to dress it up a bit, I'll add some enchilada sauce, cheese, etc. and serve in homemade corn tortillas (really easy to make).

make_a_difference 8 years, 6 months ago

Smart women & obviously having a great time! I love what you're doing...keep spreading the word!!

Maybe you already know about it, but if not...check out the Lawrence Community The 9th & Iowa. You can purchase spices/herbs from their bulk department much cheaper...fresher...and in any amount you wish. When buying standbys, I frequently look to see if there's something unfamilar to me that I'd like to try. I've discovered new adventures in cooking with spices/herbs because of this. There's also a great selection of grains, rice, legumes, flours, etc, available in the bulk department. (if you already know this info...well...never mind!)

Not only have these women discovered that it's cheaper & not difficult to cook for themselves/friends, but it's obvious that they've discovered that it's a fun, enjoyable way to socialize...and their diet is healthier. Smart women.

myron 8 years, 6 months ago

Wow! What a great blog! Inspires me to cook delicious food on the cheap.I think jhawk0097 missed the point.Clearly cooking your own meals is cheaper than eating out and,no,it isn't a state secret.You merely point the way to creative,inexpensive dining.Yoo hoo,jhawk0097, get your head out of your butt so you can eat your boring poor man's meal.

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