How To Build A Better: Pasta

I have never met an individual who detested pasta. And for anyone who does, there are countless more who love it to such a degree to override such hate. With the exception of Italians, the greatest subset of its admirers is students. For many, it’s the first dish they learn to cook and becomes a mainstay of their repertoire after graduation. Its components are cheap and have a long shelf life. Often without even trying, when my fridge is bare, I still find everything I need for satisfying pasta in my cupboards. However, despite our love, there is always room for improvement. I am not here to suggest you make your noodles by hand, but with some slight adjustments to your process, you’ll uncover a handful more reasons to love it.


Use your noodle

Arguably the only aspect of pasta that can be enjoyed on its own (say with a knob of butter and seasoning), don’t take noodles for granted and remain curious. Sure, you could buy the same old spaghetti, but on your next grocery shop explore the shelves above and below. Since pasta is such a reliable dish, it’s worth taking a risk to search out a new signature noodle. Even lasagna noodles can be cooked and sliced lengthwise for a wide noodle suitable for anything from Bolognese to Alfredo. In the case of any noodle, the same principle applies: al dente is king.

Drop the jar

Premade sauces are appropriate training wheels for kitchen newbies. However, there comes a time when you have to rid your pantry of jars or cans of pasta sauce. Remember when it comes to noodles, I did not propose you make your own. I respect your limited time and patience. However, the sauce is another matter entirely. With little effort and skill, you can produce as delicious an equivalent. Combine a mix of canned crushed and chopped tomatoes, some fresh herbs, sugar or a grated carrot, garlic and seasoning and allow to simmer for as little as thirty minutes—enough to boil your noodles, prep an accompanying side and pour yourself a drink—for a respectable tomato sauce. Another classic in my kitchen, fried egg pasta is spaghetti noodles dressed in parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and topped with two over easy eggs. Once you burst the runny yolks with the gentle prod of your folk, they coat your noodles in a rich pseudo sauce. So suck it up, make your own sauce (and then suck that up too).

To top it off

You thought you could call it a day after a mess of noodles and a slap of sauce, huh? Forget it. With the appropriate garnish, you can add flavour, texture and maybe even some wise servings of protein or veggies to round out your meal. Try toasting a handful of breadcrumbs in a frying pan until crisp and brown, combine with chopped fresh herbs and salt before sprinkling over practically any pasta. Or rather than grated cheese, why not top your pasta with a dollop of ricotta or a slice of fresh mozzarella, allowing it to soften and ooze over your noodles?

3 recipes from 1 pumpkin

Don’t limit pumpkins to jack o’lanterns! The brightly colored squash lends itself (each and every part of itself) to the nose-to-tail approach. Or in this case skin-to-seed. Here are three recipes that incorporate the entire pumpkin minus the stalk.

…although it could make for a nice centerpiece on your dining room table.

Three recipes for one pumpkin

Choose a pie or sugar pumpkin, the smaller, deeper orange in color variety. Not only a more manageable size to breakdown, they also deliver better on flavor and structural integrity than their carve-able counterpart. Pie or sugar pumpkins are found in the produce aisle of most grocery stores.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • 1 pie or sugar pumpkin
  • smoked paprika, cinnamon, or spice of choice (either savoury or sweet)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Cut the pumpkin down the middle and scoop the seeds and attached stringy flesh into a bowl of water. Set aside the rest of the pumpkin for the puree recipe below.
  3. Work the seeds between your hands, removing them from the stringy flesh. (Patience is key!) Once cleaned thoroughly dry the seeds using a cloth or paper towels. Drain the stringy flesh and set aside for the puree recipe below.
  4. Sprinkle the seeds on a lined baking sheet and toss with enough smoked paprika, salt, pepper and olive oil to evenly coat them.
  5. Prepare the first two steps of the puree below.
  6. Bake on the top rack (with the wedges for the puree on the bottom rack) until lightly browned (approximately 15 to 20 minutes), stirring occasionally throughout baking without opening the oven too wide for too long and allowing the temperature to drop.
  7. Enjoy as a snack or as a textual additional to other dishes like the Triple Pumpkin Salad below.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

  • 1 pie or sugar pumpkin, seeds and stringy flesh removed
  • smoked paprika, cinnamon, or spice of choice (either savoury or sweet)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil


  1. Slice the pumpkin into 1-inch wedges, removing the stalk. Lay the wedges on a lined baking sheet, rind side down, and season with enough smoked paprika, salt, pepper and olive oil to evenly coat them.
  2. Bake on the bottom rack (with the seeds on the top rack) until a fork easily pierces through the flesh (approximately 45 to 60 minutes).
  3. Once baked, allow to cool before pureeing half the wedges with the stringy flesh saved from the seed recipe above until smooth in a food processor, blender or piece-by-piece with a hand blender, adding more seasoning as desired. Set aside the remaining wedges for the salad recipe below.
  4. Enjoy as a snack or use as you would applesauce in oatmeal, smoothies, baked goods or salad dressing like in the Triple Pumpkin Salad below.

Triple Pumpkin Salad

  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • mustard
  • pumpkin puree
  • salt
  • pepper
  • red onion, finely diced
  • brown rice, cooked
  • kale, leaves roughly and stalks finely chopped
  • corn, canned, frozen or cut off the cob
  • pumpkin seeds
  • pumpkin wedges, chopped into bite-sized pieces


  1. Make the dressing. Whisk together a 2:1 ratio of oil and vinegar with a teaspoon (or more!) of mustard and puree and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  2. Add the onion, rice, kale, corn, seeds and wedges to the bowl and, using your hands, mix until thoroughly dressed. Use your own judgement adding as much or as little of each ingredient according to personal taste and depending on the amount of desired servings.
  3. Allow to sit for a minute or two in order for the kale to absorb the dressing and serve.

What Every Foodie Needs In Their First Apartment

After weeks of searching PadMapper, questioning your future roommates’ intelligence and eventually losing yourself under piles of cardboard boxes, moving day arrives. Your first apartment is a young adult milestone like your first time booking a doctor’s appointment by yourself or discovering binge drinking isn’t worth the hangover. Yet amongst the thrill of independence, you’re likely to forget something. Let me ease your mind and provide you a list of your basic kitchen needs. You can survive on these few items until your next pay cheque arrives or you choose to delay paying off your credit card for another month—whichever comes first. For more indulgent (and fun) food apartment purchases, check out Danielle’s countdown of graduation-worthy kitchen gadgets.

what every foodie needs in their first apartment

Pasta pot and strainer

I am not accusing North American college and university students of a limited culinary imagination. However, they do eat a lot of spaghetti. And, honestly, after a move, who wants to cook anything more complicated? When you do return to or start exploring more demanding recipes a large pot covers most of the bases: boiling, frying and sautéing.


The spatula is another catch-all kitchen utensil. Purchase a sturdy, high-quality one though. Unlike a wooden spoon, you can stir, wipe down, spread and sauté with a spatula. It’s ideal for cooking as well as baking. Once you adopt a regular cooking routine, you’ll see what other utensils your needs require.

Can opener

It’s not until you unpack a can of chickpeas from your first grocery shop that you realize you have absolutely no means to access the legume inside of it. And no app, Google search or bout of tears can help you. Too often forgotten, can openers hold this odd power over us simple humans. So let me remind you again, before you go forgetting it again: buy a can opener. Now.

The trio: fork, spoon and knife

Sure, you can eat with your hands or lick your dinner clean off the plate, but the classic trio serve other purposes in the kitchen. Ketchup stuck in the bottle? Knife. Soup require taste test? Spoon. Toast stuck in the toaster? Fork. (JUST UNPLUG THE TOASTER FIRST THOUGH, DUDE.) Aim to purchase two sets per person in the apartment. It’ll save you eating off of dirty cutlery and endless washing-up as well as allowing for dinner parties down the road.

A proper knife

It makes both Danielle’s and my list for a reason: any cook (first-time or pro) needs a solid cutting knife. Like the can opener, it’s too often forgotten until the worse time. It slices open everything from onions, stubborn bags of potato chips and sometimes even fingers. If you have to skimp on any of the above items—even the spatula—at the very least invest in the knife. If you buy sensibly, it’ll last you numerous apartments. (Yes, you will likely have to move several more times in your life). Sensibility is key. Don’t choose anything, you’re too scared to touch let alone cut with.

3 Things You Need To Do Before The End Of Summer

by Madeleine Brown

News flash: summer ends in approximately one month. I know, I know, I hate to be a nagging Nancy as much as anyone, but it had to be said. Use this alert to consider everything you have yet to accomplish—just this summer, don’t get into the unfulfilled life goals. (There’s never enough time for that.) As during the school year itself, it’s not until the end draw nears—or any deadline for that matter—that we realize our own negligence. Thankfully, a month in context to a deadline is a surprising amount of time. When do you ever start an assignment a month in advance? Even if you create a plan of action, you’ll have at least a few weeks worth of days to throw away and label as wasted. Ultimately, wasted summers are looked back upon fondly when we’re in the thick of midterms or finals. So I say, do or do not, either way you can call your summer successful. It’s all in your mindset.

things you must do this summer

Spark a friendship

Summer flings are never as exciting as the ones we imagine in our heads. And contrary to the word “fling”, they take a surprising amount of focus and determination to occur in the first place. Forget physical attraction and romance, aim for friendship. It sounds pathetic, but impromptu conversations with a stranger on a restaurant patio or at an outdoor movie screening can be equally thrilling. When do you ever have time to properly socialize during the year let alone with a random? And unlike the end of a summer fling, which leaves you questioning your worth, sudden conversations (as long as they don’t turn nasty and even then they sound fun) with strangers are enough in themselves. No one ever expects to talk to some unknown, let alone have the interaction develop further. Perhaps “friendship” is too much of a title; pleasantry is plenty.

Spend a day (or two) doing absolutely nothing

So you ask, “But how is doing nothing any different than those wasted summer days you cruelly accused me of in your opening paragraph?” It’s all in the intention. You never intend to waste a day you intend to do nothing. And that’s a beautiful, freeing sensation. It’s a giant dis to a world built on a foundation of overwhelming schedules and a constant loss of time. Wake up whenever, eat whatever and proceed to laze around however. My personal preference is in front of the television. In the case of an indulgent movie marathon, it’s the ideal opportunity to watch movies you’d otherwise deem too long yet classic like Pulp Fiction, The Godfather or Gone with the Wind. Other acceptable options for doing nothing include playing video games, sleeping or watching paint dry.

Learn a new skill

Hold your breath before you scoff at the word, “learn.” Unlike 100-level biology, there’s no exam or test to mark how well you mastered your new skill. So whether you spend a day throwing around some old tennis balls in your basement or attend circus camp and leave not only juggling, but also eating fire and jumping through hoops, you succeeded. And we all love to succeed, right? Don’t limit yourself to the obvious like juggling though. How about such skills as ironing shirts, hand washing delicates, canning preserves or organizing personal finances? There’s much fun to be had.

What Your Most Used Food Emoji Says About You

by Danielle Del Vicario


In recent years the internet’s food obsession has been blessed by the advent of emojis. They provide clarity in a complicated world, for example a coffee cup emoji for your Facebook post of your morning cuppa. (It drives the point home, right?) But as emojis become more and more common and going on the assumption that people emoji (yep, it’s a verb now) like they Instagram, what do your most used food emojis say about you?

Coffee cup: You’re the queen bee of Starbucks, Instagram and just everyday life. (At least that’s what you’re probably thinking as you snap yet another shot of your fat-free caramel macchiato and flip through to get that perfect filter.) The irony? If you find yourself tapping regularly on that virtual cup, your drink of choice probably doesn’t even really qualify as coffee.


Pizza slice: You’re pretty down to earth; the kind of person who uses their Instagram account at most once a month (if you remember it’s just something you’re apparently supposed to do). Your Saturday standard is good vegetarian pizza and a few growlers of your favourite craft brew, shared with your Birkenstock-wearing friends on your tiny yet overcrowded patio. And you wouldn’t have it any other way.


Wine glass: You’re one of two people: a fine diner, with an amazing significant other and regular date nights, or a single gal at home with her bottle, watching food shows by herself on Friday night and eating dinner straight from the pot. You probably all know where I fall…


Birthday cake slice: You’re a birthday baker, something not to be confused with an everyday baker. You pull off some crazy aesthetic cakes, ones that look great but taste, well, a little less great. Unlike the everyday baker who bakes regularly and whose friends know that whatever they make will be melt-in-your-mouth excellent (even when cut into sloppy squares and thrown in an old yogurt container), your exploits are infrequent three-hour bursts of energy, complete with icing pipes, layers and maybe even some DIY fondant. It’s a feat of culinary exertion that demands outside validation.


French fries: You’re probably not an Instagrammer—just a drunk millennial texting a friend and begging for McD’s at three in the morning. After all, why text words when you could use a picture, right? As an emoji-novice, you probably thought in your drunken state that your use of that little French fry icon was ironic.


Banana: If you’re really using a banana emoji, you either missed the point or are way too keen on sharing your pre-workout morning snack. Either way, it might be time to reassess.

Three (And A Half) Summer Foods We’ve Been Craving All Year

We made it! Whether it was too short, too long, too mild or too cold, we survived winter. As our reward, we welcome summer and its joys: constant boredom, failed beach bods and lack of employment. Well, at least you can gorge yourself on traditional summer eats. Yeah, sure, you can eat ice cream anytime of year, but there’s nothing like a late-night impromptu Dairy Queen run. (I blame the later sunset.) Here’s my five crave-worthy summer favourites.

 summer foods we've been craving

Iced drinks

Come June, steamed milk seems cloying and heavy and brew coffee induces excessive sweating (thanks to the heat, not the caffeine). Cue every restaurant and coffee shop’s summer lifesaver: the ice machine. With the first iced tea and coffee of the season, comes endless “aha” moments. It’s certainly far more refreshing than a forgotten cup of joe lost amongst the clutter of your desk.

Barbeque and picnics

At Boost Life we celebrated National Grill Month back in May, but now the perfect barbeque weather has arrived. Whether you take to the grill for the first time or as many times as you can, summer is the time to light up. (Your barbeque that is.) Given students’ inherent lack of access to quality stovetops—if one at all, here’s looking at you, dorm room—a barbeque is an affordable way to infuse your cooking with smoky flavour. For the less daring, summertime is also picnic time. It’s as easy as throwing whatever sharable snacks live in your cupboards, a bottle of wine, couple cans of beer or sparkling water in a backpack and venturing to your nearest green space. A pack of cards or board game add to the outdoor fun.

Ice cream and smores

Across the country, your favourite local ice cream shops turn the closed sign over and open their doors from Victoria Day weekend through to Thanksgiving. Wherever or however you fill your summer days, there’s always a moment for ice cream. Given the bounty of opportunity, it’s the chance to experiment and try as many flavours as possible. (Not all at once though.) And there’s no reason not to mix-up another classic summer dessert, smores. How about switch your graham crackers for chocolate chip cookies, milk for dark chocolate or white for coloured marshmallows? For city slickers, thankfully you can achieve the same melty gooiness of a campfire via the oven or microwave.  


Okay, no, you can’t eat a patio, but suddenly doesn’t everything taste a million times better on one? Dine al fresco and something about the summer air turns a burger and fries into a starred meal. Even if you don’t have one at home, take advantage of the likely numerous restaurants cashing in on patio season with a set-up of their own. Strive to be extra considerate to your serving staff though—speaking from experience, patio season tends to make you hate your restaurant work life more than usual. Cheers to a summer of patio-appropriate weather.

Three Reasons To Jump On The Avocado Train

They’re tacky, I know—the butt of endless food jokes even. Finding their company among kale, Greek yogurt and salmon, they’re like the cool aunt in the family of trendy health foods. And image aside—in fact almost as an act of defiance against that image—they’re always either under- or overripe. The grace period of actual ripeness is limited and often goes unnoticed until it’s too late. Yet despite everything, the avocado still reins supreme. It’s become a household favourite, nestled in next to bananas and kiwis in the family fruit bowl. And students in particular have an inexplicable attraction to its dark green, leather-like exterior. Surely, they have their reasons—these are mine.

How Research Says Food Can Affect Your Mood

To think food serves to satisfy hunger alone is simplistic. What you ate for breakfast directly impacts your emotional state, concentration and energy level. The vitamins, carbohydrates and proteins that compose your bagel and cream cheese have the potential to influence your neurotransmitter system, the system by which chemicals in your brain communicate via synapses, and in turn your mood.

how food affects your mood

The internet holds a plethora of sources indicating what foods—or more specifically the elements that compose such foods—can increase your happiness, focus and tranquility. (See Best Health Magazine’s extensive run-down for an example.) However, before whatever you ingest can affect your mood, your body and physical history affects the aforementioned ingested substance. Therefore, remember you can’t adjust your whole outlook on life with a single dose of vitamin C just because some article said so. But why not conduct your own research? Here are three steps to discover (generally) how you are what you eat.

4 Reasons To Add Fish To Your Pre-Exam Meal Plan

by Hannah Lank



Wild salmon, anyone? It’s no exaggeration: fish is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and may even help to improve your mood. It’s always good to go into an exam with a positive attitude, right?

The perfect study fuel

Maybe you’re young and not concerned about your heart health right now?  Understandable. Fish has other benefits including the fact that it’s good for your MEMORY. As in it’s proven to reduce the risk of developing diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. However, research also suggests that people who eat fish “regularly”—once a week, although the recommended intake according to Health Canada is 2 x 75g servings/week—have better brain function than those who don’t.  If there’s a time of year when you need your memory on your side, it’s exam time.

Mental health first

Apparently fish can even help FIGHT depression.  Yes, that’s right that super-nutrient omega-3 may even be beneficial in improving your mental health though more research is needed. Exams are a time of intense pressure and stress. So it’s important to seek professional help if you’re struggling with your mental health, but eating a balanced diet is also an important self-care strategy.

Perfect for beginners

So we get it: fish is healthy. But it’s also super EASY to cook.  It’s naturally flavourful, but if you want to boost its flavour, marinate in a store-bought or homemade marinade, or, for salmon, squeeze some lemon and garlic on top. Then bake at 450 F until the flesh is opaque and flaky, approximately 15 minutes. It’s also super easy to purchase ready-to-bake varieties in the frozen aisle at the grocery store for when you’re in a jam.  Whether frozen or fresh, remember to look for the sustainably caught certification. Our oceans are threatened and it’s important that we are conscious of the impact our agriculture and farming practices can have on species’ populations.

3 Life Hacks For Fueling A Busy Schedule

Half of my student life was cultivating shortcuts from mastering the stacks at the library to figuring out how to cross campus in under five minutes. Shortcuts saved me precious minutes later spent staring at a blank Word doc in a library and screaming internally. Yet feeding myself in the busy season, when being fixed to my desk in the library was paramount, was the toughest shortcut to crack.

Studying is hungry work, but shopping, cooking, even simply leaving the library is time consuming. So we stupidly sit, chained to our desks by the anxiety of a looming deadline, unable to focus for the nagging hunger pangs. But take heart, all ye who dwell in this grim reality. I have struggled and studied and come to the other side to bring you these three shortcuts.


How I learned to stop worrying and love the leftovers

Making a large batch of stir fry on Sunday and eating it throughout the week is boring to the point of soul-destroying. Instead, take a page out of an Italian grandma’s recipe collection and use a one-pot dish of beans, tomato, and kale called ribollita as inspiration. Through transformation, it lasts an entire week. On Monday, it’s a hearty soup. On Tuesday, the leftovers cooked down, it’s a thick pasta sauce. On Wednesday, cooked down more with some chucks of capocollo, it’s a stew. On Thursday, cooked down even more, it tops rice. On Friday your leftovers should be so thick that you can fry them like a pancake. Dishes like ribollita are designed for busy people who like to eat. One afternoon of actual cooking and about fifteen minutes per day after provides delicious, varied food throughout the week. Italian nonnas are the original culinary life hackers. Learn their ways.


Toe the line twixt patron and malingerer

Warning: the folks who abuse this hack are the reason many restaurateurs hate students. Studying at your favourite sushi joint is not an all-day activity. However, an hour or two at nearby restaurant (before, between or after their prime services) could prove both satiating and productive. A change of scenery can jump start productivity. Add to that a filling bento box and the relative anonymity of a campus restaurant and you might just crack your thesis over lunch. Check in with your server at the top of the meal, leave after a maximum of two hours, and drop a generous tip.


Tech yourself full

So class ends at 11:30 am and you’ve got a long day’s study ahead. You’re hungry, you’re cranky, and you’re too busy to cook at home or sit in a restaurant. You want caffeine, food, and a desk at the library, now. Right now. Luckily, there’s an app for that, Boost. Order, pick-up and study. It’s that easy.