Best Essentials to Always Stock In Your Pantry

According to Mr. Chi City, keeping your refrigerator stocked will get you many women. Well according to me, keeping your pantry stocked will keep you from starving on nights when you are lazy, tired, or too darn cheap to go buy something.

If you constantly travel for work, pleasure, or are just busy, keeping your pantry stocked might just save you from eating whatever that chicken looking thing covered in mold in your fridge might be, even if you are pretty sure that it has only been there for five-ish days. Here are the recommended items you can always have available for sustenance in a flash. Many of the things listed last weeks, even months and are pretty darn easy to work with.


Olive oil, coconut oil, ghee (clarified butter)

Unless you are cooking meat, which can cook in its own fat, you should always put at least a tablespoon of oil into the pan before cooking anything (unless a recipe or technique specifically says otherwise). Ghee is my favorite because unlike butter, it never burns.


A rue is a typical base for most sauces and is equal parts water, flour, and butter. Flour is also required for almost every baking recipe and is also integral to frying. Fun fact: flour can also be thrown on a popcorn fire (when a bag of popcorn lights up in your microwave) to extinguish it quickly without having to unplug any appliances. Keep sealed in an air tight ziplock bag.

Canned Goods

Canned Soup

What is easier than heating up a can of soup? Soup is delicious, easy, and cheap. A meal by itself, soup can also be used to add flavor to rice, grains, and meat. In an emergency scenario, also a lifesaver.


Chock full of protein, canned beans can be used to make chili, are a great addition to salads, can be served as a side dish, and can be stored in the pantry for years.

Chickpeas aka Garbanzo Beans

Garbanzo beans can be used in salads or to make amazing hummus! Just add olive oil, tahini, lemon, paprika, and blend until smooth.

Or you can make “leblebi” a Turkish delicacy by roasting the chickpeas and covering them with seasoning. Corum, the city I lived in in Turkey is famous for leblebi and have hundreds of different flavors.

Seasonings and Sauce Ingredients

Soy Sauce

One of the most basic recipes or what I like to call an easy weeknight dinner is the stir-fry. You can literally take any vegetables and protein that you have, chop it up, and throw it all into a pan with some soy sauce for 15-20 minutes and BAM! You are done. Throw it on some rice, noodles, or just in a bowl by itself and you’ve got yourself a meal. Fun fact: soy sauce does not have to be refrigerated.

Pasta Sauce

Who doesn’t love spaghetti? Especially on a weeknight when you invite your friends over for dinner and realize you have nothing in the house to make. Boil the water, cook the pasta, add the sauce, PRESTO! Spaghetti alla Pantry for the whole group. Add some chopped onion and ground beef to the sauce and you’ve made Pasta Bolognese.

Onion and garlic

These two pantry staples are the key to every one of your meals being a success. They just make everything taste better. One of my favorite things to whip up is an omelet. I chop up an onion and throw it in a pan with some olive oil. I cook it until it is soft and translucent and I add in some sliced mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon, basically whatever I have available, throw in some eggs, and boom, I’ve got myself an omelet. You know what goes well with omelets?

Hot Sauce

Everything tastes better with hot sauce. My favorite is the chili garlic sauce that they sell in Asian markets. Sriracha, Tapatillo, and Chalula are some of my other favorites. Put hot sauce on your stir-fry and omelets to make them an unforgettable experience for guests. Just make sure you have water on hand in case they can’t take the heat.

But you know what they say: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”.

Fillers and Fibers


Whether you eat carbs or not, it is always a good idea to have some emergency grains and legumes in your house. Your options are limitless: white rice, brown rice, farrow, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa, bread, noodles, etc. These pantry staples are great for nights when you don’t have a plan, but don’t want to spend $12 on gross “cheap” Mexican food. Grains and legumes fill you up and soak up the yummy sauce from your stir-fry, win-win. If your bored with Italian style pasta, hit up your local Asian market and grab some authentic Asian noodles for a changeup.


Canned meat or fish

A can of tuna has come to my rescue more than once. I’m sure you’ve been there. You get home after a long day of work and you are starving. You don’t want to cook, you want as little cleanup as possible and you want to eat something more than a piece of toast. Tuna is great because all you have to do is open the can, pour it into a bowl, add some mayonnaise and some onion if you are feeling fancy, and throw it in between two pieces of bread. Hell, I’ve been known to eat it with a fork, straight out of the bowl.

Nut Butters

The ingredient that can be added to anything! While some people elect to keep their nut butters in the fridge, there are a few brands that have no added sugar that you can leave in the pantry after opening. Nut butters can be cooked into sauce (peanut sauce), added to smoothies, or even eaten by the spoonful. Personally, I enjoy crunchy peanut butter mixed into my plain greek yogurt.


Upgrading Instant Ramen Noodles

Let’s be real – all college students are pros at making instant noodles. Hell, I can make that dish blacked out, crying and half naked and have it come out looking like Chef Ramsey made it. It’s easy and simple and gets the job done. However, as we all know, as we grow older, our metabolism slowly starts to not be so kind to us anymore and devouring instant noodles is probably not the best habit to rely on.  So, how do we turn this starch-heavy dish into a well-balanced “adult-like” meal?

Let’s take it to the next level

Sever the ties with the MSG Packet.

Only use half of the sodium packet – your blood pressure will thank me later and you really don’t need to use it all to get lots of flavor. If you think it’s still lacking, add other condiments, like our well-beloved friend Sriracha or even honey mustard, to the mix instead.

Get your protein fix

The easiest (and cheapest) option is adding an egg. This can be as simple as dropping an egg into the boiling water in the last 1-2 minutes of the noodle’s cooking time.  You can also get real fancy with pan-frying an egg and placing it on top of the noodles once they are done cooking.

Protip: The sodium and water from the broth combined with an egg are GREAT for hangovers (I can personally attest to this and so can science).

If you’re an avid meat-eater, try adding chicken/pork/beef/whatever choice of meat you like. To do so, cut the meat into thin slices and while the noodles are simmering, drop those bad boys in the hot broth.

Get your greens

We may not like these so much, but in the long-run, you won’t regret eating your veggies. If you’re impatient and/or hangry, try adding some quick-cooking vegetables like spinach or bean sprouts.  If you’ve got some time on your hands, throw some cabbage or snow peas in the mix at the beginning of the cook time for the noodles. Frozen vegetables are also great options but just be sure to defrost them completely prior to including them into the broth.

Get those creative juices flowing and experiment with new ingredients! Anybody else have some ideas to upgrade their instant noodles?


The Daily Twenties Guide to Kitchen Basics

Okay, so you need to get your kitchen together ASAP. Maybe you just signed a lease on your first ever apartment. Or maybe it just hit you that your roommate’s parents have been generously furnishing your kitchen this whole time…. and your roommate is moving out. Cool. We got you. This is The Daily Twenties’ list of the 25 most basic items you’ll need to cook for yourself and maybe a roommate or two… if you’re nice like that. Disclaimer— this list only covers the basics. If you’re the Mario Batali of undiscovered culinary talent, you might want to check out this next level kitchen essentials list. Otherwise, read on.


Ben Henderson


1. A catch-all cookware set

A skillet, sauce pan, and large pot are all you should need to get started. It’s usually a better deal when you buy all those items as part of a set, though. Look for an 8-12 piece set somewhere like Amazon, Macy’s, or Costco— those three have the best sales on cookware.

2. Flatware

This one is a no-brainer. You need utensils to consume food (well, at least to consume food in a socially acceptable manner). Consider buying set with 20 pieces or so. You might be just one person, but you eat at least three times per day…. and, how often do you plan to wash your dishes? Thought so.

3. Dinnerware set

Buy more than you think you’ll need— between two and four bowls, plates, cups, mugs, etc. should set you up nicely. Also, it looks organized and impressive when your dishes match.

4. Oven mitts

Sh&%! will get hot when you cook it. That’s a fact. You’re going to need something to protect your hands when you grab baking dishes out of the oven and hot pans off the stove.

5. Tongs

Pretty much the most useful cooking utensil ever invented. Use these to rotate meat or veg on the grill or stovetop, toss salads, and sauté almost anything.

6. Spatula

You’ll use this with anything you throw in a pan to cook— meat, eggs, veg, you name it. Make sure to get a wooden or silicone spatula if you have nonstick pans (otherwise you’ll scratch the surface of your cookware).

7. Stirring spoon

Same idea as the spatula, but you’ll need this one specifically for sauces and soups.


Janice Cullivan


8. Chef’s knife

One chef’s knife will set you up to chop, slice, and dice pretty much everything— fruit, veg, meat, fish, herbs— the list goes on and on.

9. Paring knife

Because slicing your finger open is a totally amateur move in the kitchen… you’ll want to use something smaller and easier to handle than a chef’s knife to cut things like cherry tomatoes, strawberries, and the like.

10. Mixing bowl

The title is pretty self explanatory. Use this for making dough, combining pasta with sauce, tossing salads, and anything else you need to mix.

11. Colander

If your pasta consumption habits are anything like mine, you’ll need this just for its pasta-draining capabilities. It’s also great for washing vegetables and rinsing legumes, like chickpeas and black beans.

12. Can opener

Have you ever been can opener-less when you needed to open a can? Yeah, it suddenly feels like you’re in the stone age— which is a ridiculous and easily avoidable scenario.

13. Bottle opener/corkscrew

Maybe you have a bottle opener on your keychain. It’s okay. I’m not judging. You’ll still want one of these to open wine bottles and give to your guests if they need to open their beer (unless you’d like to pass around your keys).


Rubbermaid Products


14. Glassware set

Glassware is the most responsible, sophisticated way to store your leftovers. It’s microwave and dishwasher safe, doesn’t absorb any flavor or odor from your food, and makes you look like you generally have your life together. It’s more expensive than plastic up front, but it will last you way longer.

15. Cutting board

Bamboo is the choice move here. It lasts longer than other materials, doesn’t contain chemicals (like plastic often does), and won’t dull your knives.

16. Measuring cup

Even if you’re not a baker, you can’t really replicate any recipe without a measuring cup. Not even oatmeal. Get a glass one with a lip for pouring. That way, it’ll be useful for both liquid and dry ingredients.

17. Measuring spoons

If you like to go rogue in the kitchen and have never looked at a cookbook in your life, then this might not be a necessary item for you. Otherwise, these should come in handy when you need to precisely follow a recipe.

18. 8×8 baking dish

Contrary to the name, it’s not just for baked goods. You can use this for anything you want to bake in the oven— lasagne, enchiladas, roasted vegetables, chicken, fish, etc.





19. Baking sheet

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, this is different from the baking dish. You’ll need it to make cookies and anything you want to get crispy or flakey, like roast carrots or broiled fish.

20. Whisk

Trust me on this, whisks are superior to spoons for mixing eggs, brownie batter, salad dressings, and more.

21. Cheese grater

Any purchase in the name of cheese is a good investment. You can buy grated cheese from the store, but it will severely limit your selection and it usually costs more.

22. Ice cube tray

Unless you have a fancy freezer with a built-in ice machine…

23. Kitchen towels

Paper towels are great, but they’re not exactly friendly to the environment or good for your wallet. And let’s be honest— at some point in your at-home culinary career, you will spill something.

24. Natural cleaner

Don’t use Windex or Clorox to clean your counter. At some point, you or someone you love will make, drop, or place a sandwich on that counter— and you shouldn’t have to worry about traces of harsh chemicals in that scenario.




25. Dish soap

Get one for hand washing your dishes and another for running your dishwasher, if you have one. Do not make the mistake of using dish soap in your dishwasher… turning your kitchen into a bubble bath might be hilarious in concept, but is actually a pain in the a$$ to clean up (unfortunately, I would know).


10 Essentials to Take Your Kitchen from College to Adult

As my college graduation approached, I felt a glow of self-satisfaction from all of my accomplishments. Between giving up Sunday Funday as a weekly ritual and furnishing my apartment beyond its former Bob-Marley-poster-aesthetic, I was a grown up. Most crucial to my new adult persona— I could cook. One year of cable and an obsession with Food Network had given me that ability, and I was fully prepared demonstrate it. When my parents came up for my graduation, I would cook them a totally impressive, highly sophisticated dinner.

That was my vision, at least. I’ll tell you the reality: total chaos. First, my basil pesto leaked out of my roommate’s blender, making an oily mess on the counter. “It’s missing the rubber thingy,” she later informed me… thanks for that, Jamie. Then I burned myself removing chicken from the oven with salad fork (yep, no tongs). Finally, due to a lack of serveware, I had to present my beautiful creation… in plastic tupperware. Awesome.

Hell's Kitchen food fox cooking gordon ramsay

The above incident is why I want to share how I finally got my s$%! together in the kitchen. Below is a list of my “kitchen heroes,” tools I rely on multiple times per week or even daily. They not only prevent me from turning into a hot mess when I entertain, but improve my daily life too. If you’ve collected the basics (toaster oven, microwave, a few useful pans, etc.), but still feel like your kitchen does not reflect your shiny, new adultness… read on!

Chef’s knife

Don’t sprain your wrist trying to chop a carrot with your dull, $10 knife. Invest in a chef’s knife that’s properly weighted, super sharp, and made to last. It will make you not only more efficient, but also appear to have a set of badass knife skills. Although I’ve linked to my favorite, go to a kitchen supply store and try before you buy— the right knife is all about individual preference.

Utensil crock

No more digging for your spatula at the very moment your omelet needs flipping or running for your slotted spoon as your pasta overcooks. It will all be right there by your stove, and you will feel organized as f*&! every time you reach for a cooking utensil.

Our crock of kitchen utensils, with a very shiny ladle frontmost.

Photo Credit:

Electric kettle

If you’re really busy (lazy) like me, you’ll appreciate how quickly an electric kettle can boil water— way, way faster than your stove. Thanks to my kettle, I now enjoy a flawless cup of pour over coffee every morning. From making a quick Cup Noodles (because somehow that didn’t get old in college) to boiling an egg, the uses go on and on.

Baking dish set

An attractive set of baking dishes will allow you to take your food right from oven to table and still make a great presentation. I use mine to make chicken, fish, veggies, and occasionally lasagne. For the sugar addicts— they’re also great for brownies and cakes. Buy a set with lids, so you can easily store leftovers.

Pyrex glassware

Pyrex has fewer chemicals than plastic, lasts forever, and doesn’t absorb any of the color or flavor from your food. It’s also oven-safe, so you can cook, store, and reheat your food all in the same container. No extra dishes, no extra work, no gross stains from your leftovers— instant life upgrade.

Good blender

For some reason, a lot of blenders are total crap. I once killed an almost-new blender while making hummus. Hummus! No offense, blender, but you had one job to do. Although it’s a splurge, I recommend a Ninja or a Vitamix. Both are made with better materials and much stronger motors than other blenders. Blendtec is another solid blender. It literally blends anything, look!


A mini-prep is a smaller, pared-down food processor. I use mine to chop veggies, blend pesto, and make salad dressing, sauces, and marinades. It’s way less trouble to set up, clean, and store than a full-sized food processor.

Stovetop espresso maker

Serving espresso to your dinner guests after the meal? Instant adult cred. Also, if you’ve never heard of affogato… you’re welcome.


Kitchen shears

You’re a busy adult now, so you don’t have time to wrestle with the plastic seal on the peanut butter jar or pluck the leaves off your parsley one by one. Kitchen shears will help you eliminate that kind of nonsense from your life.


A microplane is basically a super-fine grater that you can use for cheese and citrus alike. Hear me out on this one— adding lemon zest to pasta, chicken, fish, salad dressing, etc. is a pretty next-level move for the home cook. Bonus: impress a date by making a quick pasta and grating fresh Parmesan onto it, Italian restaurant style.
Img4_KitchenEssentialsPhoto Credit: sweetbeetandgreenbean

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Last Minute Meal From Only Your Pantry

One of my favorite dishes to eat in Turkey was “Etli Nohut” or Meat and Chickpea Stew. This is a very easy recipe to make that tastes delicious. And, you can make the whole thing from items in your pantry! Although the traditional recipe calls for meat, I prefer to make it without. You can also make it vegetarian by swapping out the beef or chicken broth for veggie broth or water. This dish serves 4.


  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 dried red pepper/green pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup beef or chicken broth
  • 1 tsp salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp red chili flakes (optional)


  • In a medium pot, sauté chopped onion in olive oil over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until translucent.
  • Then add in the peppers and tomato paste.
  • Stir. Add one cup of beef or chicken broth and the salt.
  • Simmer for five minutes.
  • Then add the chickpeas and simmer for 10 more minutes over a low heat.
  • Serve with rice.


Photo Credit:

Shake It Up | Best Post-Workout Protein Shakes

You just spent 90 minutes pushing your body to its limits and breaking down muscle fibers. The proper way (or should I say whey) to promote recovery and capitalize on gains in the gym is to finish off your workout with a protein shake. There are hundreds of different powders, liquids, and pre-made shakes to choose from, which may be overwhelming if you’re new to the scene.

gym kimbo slice protein ladainian tomlinson

My favorite brand and flavor of protein powder is the cookies and cream flavor of Gold Standard by Optimum Nutrition. I love its taste, and the overall simplicity and efficiency of the nutrient profile make it one of the best on the market in my opinion. Gold Standard Natural is even better because it is void of artificial ingredients and flavoring.

I have had years of experience in the art of shake making, and there are infinite ways to pimp your shake. Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

The Mean Green Protein Machine


  • ½ Tbsp. Ground Flax Seed
  • ½ Tbsp. Chia Seed
  • Handful of Spinach
  • ¼ Tsp. Spirulina

PB and Gains

  • Base: 2% Milk
  • Fruit: Frozen Banana
  • Protein: Gold Standard Vanilla Whey


  • 2 Tbsp. Peanut Butter
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey or Blue Agave
  • ½ Cup Almonds

The Willy Wonka


  • ½ Tsp. 100% Pure Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Handful Ice
  • 3-4 Squares of Dark Chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp. Honey or Blue Agave

Strawberry and SpongeBob

  • Base: Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • Fruit:
  • 1 Cup Strawberries
  • 1 Cup Frozen Pineapple
  • Protein: Gold Standard Vanilla Whey


  • ½ cup Cottage Cheese
  • ½ Tbsp. Ground Flax Seed

In general, the secret to changing the game in any of your shakes is a frozen banana. If you are opposed to the taste, you can try adding half a banana and using a more potent flavor like chocolate for your protein powder. In terms of additions, don’t be intimidated by green. You won’t taste spinach or spirulina in your shakes, but you’ll feel the added health benefits in the form of increased focused and a small boost in mental energy. Flax and chia seeds are good sources of fiber and add texture to the shake.

I have found that adding sliced pear or apple to any shake can give it an added sweetness boost without dramatically changing the flavor profile. Regular milk also works as a substitute for almond, and if you are really feeling bold you can try coconut milk. If you decide to go the coconut route, ditch the frozen banana and stick to chocolate flavored protein powder. In the end the choice is yours, and trying out different shakes can serve as motivation to maintain consistency in your workout routine.

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How Your Yelp Reviews Get You Free Stuff: Inside Yelp Elite

It’s safe to assume that a good majority of us really only use Yelp to check out reviews and ratings of potential places to grub. But did you know that you can also join their Elite team and go to free events aka get free food?

The Perks

  • You can attend awesome free parties! Some events cater a full dinner (and on several occasions an open bar) or have dessert tastings and send you off with swag bags. What’s great is that the Elite events aren’t only limited to food-focused functions but in the past have also included complimentary tickets to artistic shows around your local area.
  • Living in LA can be a challenge to meet people but this is a great way to network with other Yelp Elite members while bonding over food you wish you could make. And, hey, you never know who you might meet – a future employer, potential partner or what have you but at least there’s a common denominator.

food animated GIF

So now that I have your attention, here’s the sitch: unfortunately, you can’t just simply click a button to join.  You can nominate yourself, someone else can nominate you or the Elite council can choose you. That being said here’s what you should do to increase your chances of joining the exclusivity:

How it happens

  • Write, write, write! Don’t just be a Yelp user who doesn’t leave rating and reviews to businesses.  Not only is writing great for you mentally, but it’s also a good way to give feedback and exposure to local businesses who might need it. Once I wrote a slightly negative review on a restaurant and the owner responded back thanking me for the critique as it helps them improve their business and offered a free entree on the house – a win-win!
  • Quality, not Quantity (sort of).  The Elite squad is looking for active Yelp users but when writing reviews, you should really take the time to give constructive detailed feedback.  Frequency is also a quality they take into consideration so throw it into your daily social media routine.

Not only does the Elite badge stop here, but there’s also “Gold” (being a Yelp Elite for 5+ years) and “Black” (Yelp Elite for 10+ years).  Word has it both of these higher up badges offer even more exclusive and intimate parties.

eating animated GIF

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12 Fun and Festive Treats for Fall

Every season when fall hits, the basic in me hulks out and takes over. Yes, I’m that person walking around with a pumpkin spice latte oohing and aahing over the “changing of the leaves,” and getting all giddy about “sweater season.” Hell, this year I’m actually planning on going apple picking. Yes, apple picking, in an actual orchard. This excitement is real.

Anyways, with Halloween literally around the corner, I say everyone should embrace the basic within. Just indulge in the most cliché fall activities possible, one of which is getting overly homey and baking till your home smells like a Tollhouse factory. So, to save you some time, I’ve compiled a list of easy to make fall treats that would make the Martha Stewart in all of us proud.

No Bake Peanut Butter Bars, courtesy of the Pioneer Woman


Caramel apples ala Martha, duh 

10570712503_073a8a1f1e_oImage source flickr: Йоана Петрова

Jaques Torres’ take on Halloween themed chocolate bark via Epicurious



Double Chocolate Chunk cookies from Tollhouse 



Apple crisp from tried and true Betty Crocker



Almost No Bake Pumpkin Pie, because I’m lazy via Joy the Baker


A White Russian Milkshake from the Brown Eyed Baker 


Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies, courtesy My Baking Addiction blog


Thank You Betty Brownies from Bakerella


Butterscotch Blondies, because everyone needs some butterscotch, from Love, Cake


Easy Pumpkin Cheese Danish from Sprinkle Bakes


Pumpkin danish-cookbook222-1

Last but not least Chocolate Pudding Pie by Smitten Kitchen  


Happy fall my fellow basics!

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Common Misconceptions of the Shred Game | Episode 1: Late Night Eating

In today’s digital age, information is right at our fingertips. Unfortunately this means that a lot of times we’re going to be exposed to material that may not be totally accurate. Becoming informed shouldn’t seem like a chore; for you to be successful in your fitness journey over the long-term, you must be passionate enough to want to learn everything about the lifestyle. Be aware of the traps laid out by greedy companies, power hungry trainers, or uneducated friends who believe everything they hear. With that being said, I’m here to get you started on what not to believe.

One of my favorite late night snacks is ground turkey. A little Worchester sauce, a little garlic salt, and some chopped mushrooms are all it takes to make a seemingly boring dish taste absolutely delicious. Not only is it easy to cook, but it doesn’t leave you feeling full or bloated, which is good when you’re close to going to bed. The deliciousness of this dish didn’t stop my roommate from questioning my eating habits and explaining how he read an article about the negative effects of eating before bed and why it was a sure way to put on fat. If I didn’t know any better I would have started going to bed hungry and angry every night. Hanger (hunger + anger)  is real and it’s not enjoyable.

hungry animated GIF claims that the U.S Department of Agriculture Weight and Obesity website states, “It does not matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight.”

If you exercise at night, your body needs to replenish its glycogen levels in order for your metabolism to maintain an anabolic, or muscle building, state. Don’t be afraid to have complex carbohydrates after the sun goes down. Complex carbs are also known as polysaccharides because they consist of more than two units of sugars linked together in a chain. Your body releases glucose at a slower pace when digesting these molecules as opposed to simple carbohydrates that don’t consist of as many sugar subunits.

According to, eating complex carbs can help curb your hunger late at night as well. For those of us who have studying to do before bed, eating a bowl of oatmeal or some baked sweet potatoes will give our brain the boost it needs to concentrate.

homer simpson animated GIF

Another of my favorite pre-bed meals is cottage cheese. Cottage cheese contains casein protein, which is a milk derivative that is slower digesting than whey. Slow digesting protein will help your muscles remain satisfied while your catch some shut-eye, and is important for recovery because muscle regeneration occurs when you sleep.

A different method for obtaining casein is buying casein protein powder and making a nice shake before hitting the hay. For more on the benefits of casein check out this article from

Eating late at night may seem like a bad idea if you’re pounding Oreo Milkshakes and Double-Doubles, but as long as you keep it clean, it’s a necessary habit to develop in order to ensure your body gets the proper fuel needed to build muscle during the night.

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Easy Pasta Dinner

Pasta sauce is one of the most forgiving recipes. It’s easy to make corrections if you make any mistakes and it’s something that’s great reheated for later in the week. If you’re like me and sometimes have zero time to cook, all you have to do is throw this in the microwave for a minute with pre-made pasta and you’re good to go.

For my recipe, I suggest using a bucatini for the noodle, but if that’s not your jam it’s cool, just use your favorite pasta instead. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest any stuffed pasta or something too heavy like gnocchi since this sauce is pretty substantial, but it’s up to you.


Image credit: honestlyyum

Serves: 4-7 people or just yourself…


Buccatini (See above, or any other types you want, bucatini is my go-to)

Instructions for the pasta

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot:

  • 1) Throw pasta into to the pot when you get to step 9 of your pasta sauce steps
  • 2) Follow package cooking directions depending or on how done you like your pasta
  • 3) Drain pasta

Let’s get saucy

Sauce ingredients

  • 1/2 package hot Italian sausage (You can vary this depending on preference: turkey versus pork, sweet versus hot, or you can skip it all together)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove thinly sliced
  • 1/2 large yellow onion chopped (see how to chop an onion video)
  • 1 5.5oz can tomato paste
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomato (make sure it’s not salted)
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt (to start)
  • 1 tablespoon pepper (to start)

1) Heat your skillet or a large deep pan (3- 4 inch sides) over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes.

2) Depending on the type of meat you get, if the sausage is in casing, you want to squeeze the sausage out from the casing into the pan; about 2 ½ links worth. If it’s just packed like ground beef, then just plop half that meat brick into the pan. The rest can be frozen for later.

3) Start breaking up the meat as it browns so that it begins to crumble. Cook over medium-high heat until piece look lightly browned and have zero pink throughout the meat, roughly 4-6 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl.

4) In the same pan, add about 3-4 tablespoons olive oil. Since the pan will still be hot, it will only need to heat for about a minute.

5) Throw in the sliced up garlic and let that sauté for about 1-2 minutes until lightly browned. This is infusing the oil in the pan with garlic flavor.

6) Throw in the onion and brown as well for about 3-4 minutes.

7) Take the bowl holding the browned meat and dump into the onion and garlic mix.

8) Add in tomato paste. You want to integrate this well with all other ingredients in the pan. This is where the infused oil comes in to play. The oil will help cut the tomato tang out of the sauce. Heat through for about 2 minutes.

9) Add crushed tomatoes, Oregano, and salt and pepper to mixture and stir until everything is well integrated and bubbling.

PS This is where you want to start boiling your pasta

10) Turn down heat to low and let simmer for about 8-9 minutes. This is where you want to start taste-testing the sauce. Don’t be afraid to add salt for flavor. I suggest only two teaspoons to begin, but seasoning is extremely important and based upon personal preference, so feel free to salt and pepper to how you like it. After about ten minutes the flavors should be ready for serving.

11) Take cooked pasta and put in a bowl. Top with sauce and cheese of your preference. Enjoy!

Now that you’ve got the basics down, feel free to change up the ingredients. Different vegetables and meat or lack there of can change the taste and texture. Experimentation is key to finding out your favorite sauce. Personally I like adding roasted bell peppers and zucchini to the mix.

Happy eating!

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