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Ah, summer. Free from the flurry of p-sets, labs, and tests burying us in a pile of work, I finally have time to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of life: leisurely reading books instead of hastily cramming for a HASS paper, staying up until 3 a.m. watching Doctor Who without worrying about sleeping through an alarm, and having time to explore Boston with my friends while the temperature permits shorts.

Food tends to fall to the wayside during the school year as hurried students empty their wallets and fill their stomachs with whatever fast food is at hand. But now we can slow down and rediscover the pleasures of a home-cooked dinner. The vegetables are in season, the company gregarious, and the air conditioner cool.

I’ve found that I greatly enjoy cooking for a group of my friends at pika, an independent living group. Since I’m terminally cheap, I’m loath to invest in a diversity of spices and ingredients that might spoil before I’ve used them, but pika provides a wall full of every ingredient imaginable, from coriander to cardamom and staples such as flour and potatoes. This variety of options encourages experimentation, such as curry-flavored yellow cake and berbere-roasted sweet potatoes.

Here is a selection of recipes that are welcome at pika’s table and should be invited over to yours.

Candied Nut Salad

Using candied nuts in salad was popularized by pikan Brandon N. Sorbom G. Although pricey, they add a sweet and crunchy surprise to this salad. If you’re making more salad than can be eaten immediately, serve dressing on the side — not mixed into the salad — so that any leftovers will keep longer.

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 bag salad greens

1 half cucumber or 1 small cucumber

1 ounce candied nuts

1/4 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

Wash salad greens and let drain. Peel and chop cucumber into slices. Add candied nuts, cranberries, and cucumber to salad greens and toss. Serves two to three.

Vegan Mac-n-Cheese

This recipe is a favorite of Audrey M. Healy ’14, the vegan who developed it. Hummus, cashews, and nutritional yeast add a cheesy flavor to this non-dairy dish. Making mac-n-cheese vegan also reduces the amount of calories, from 400 calories per serving for Kraft’s mac-n-cheese to about 300 calories.

Cooking time: 30 to 40 minutes

Ingredients:

2 boxes pasta

1 head broccoli, cut in pieces

1/2 onion, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup cashews

1 cup soymilk

12 ounces hummus

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions. Five minutes before it is set to be done, add the broccoli. Strain and place in a large bowl or pot.

In a separate pot, sauté the onion and carrot. When onions are translucent, add garlic and cashews. Put this mixture and the soymilk in a blender (preferably a high-speed blender, such as a Vitamix). Blend until smooth. Pour mixture back into the pot and add hummus, nutritional yeast, and mustard. Add more soymilk to adjust consistency. Heat the mixture and pour over the pasta and broccoli. Serves 16.

Kitchen Sink Soup

Kitchen sink soup gets its name because it contains “everything but the kitchen sink.”

Feel free to experiment by adding whatever vegetables you happen to have lying around. This recipe is also great for freezing in bulk, so you can have a quick and nutritious hot meal waiting for you at any time.

Cooking Time: 20 to 30 minutes

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped onions

1/2 cup chopped potatoes

2 quarts water or broth

1/2 cup tomato paste

1 15.5-ounce can of beans

1/4 pound ground beef (optional)

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Fry carrots, celery, onions, and ground beef in bottom of soup pot with vegetable oil. When carrots are tender, add water, beans, tomato paste, dried parsley, and dried basil and boil until flavors mingle, about 20 minutes. Dissolve flour in 1 tablespoon water and pour in soup to thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 4 servings.

Quinoa Salad

This recipe was inspired by the quinoa salad served at Chancellor Grimson’s welcoming celebration and by Thomas B. Thompson ’13’s frequent dish of “poteets,” a portmanteau of “potato” and “beets.”

The beets dye the quinoa a pinkish-purple color, as well as your bodily waste, so don’t be concerned if there’s some red in your toilet bowl the next day.

Quinoa is a non-traditional grain that has more protein than wheat and is also gluten free.

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water or vegetable broth

1 beet, finely diced

1 onion, chopped

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Add quinoa and water to pot and heat until boiling, then reduce to simmer. The quinoa is cooked when the entire grain is soft, with no hard center. Sauté the diced beet and onion with the vegetable oil. When the beet is tender, add mixture to cooked quinoa as well as the dried cranberries. Mix thoroughly and season to taste. Serves two to four.

Moosewood’s Six Minute Vegan Chocolate Cake

There’s no excuse not to make a cake and eat it too with this easy, one-dish recipe. Adding some optional cayenne powder will give the cake a spicy kick. In order to melt chocolate over the stove, it’s important to use a double boiler to prevent the chocolate from burning. If you don’t happen to own one, you can improvise by setting a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Reprinted with permission from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts, by The Moosewood Collective, Clarkson Potter Publishers, New York, NY, 1997.

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Cake Ingredients:

1.5 cups unbleached white flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup cold water or coffee

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)

Chocolate Glaze Ingredients:

1/2 pound semi-sweet chocolate

3/4 cup hot water

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Directions:

Sift or mix together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar directly into the cake pan. In the measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, cold water or coffee, and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. There will be pale swirls in the batter as the baking soda and vinegar react. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes and set aside to cool.

To make the optional glaze, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, microwave oven, or reset the oven to 300°F and melt the chocolate in the oven for about 15 minutes in a small, ovenproof bowl or heavy skillet. Stir the hot water and vanilla into the melted chocolate until smooth. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake. Serves eight slices.