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Do What’s Proper [ReadyU Conquer This List]


Even though I went a little (okay, a lot) stir crazy over winter break, there was one major redeeming factor in all the time I spent at home: the kitchen. I love to cook, and when I’m at school I miss having a real kitchen. You know, a kitchen that’s stocked with everything you need, is clean, and has plenty of counter space. Not a cramped, dirty kitchen that you share with a bunch of other college students and that may or may not be growing toxic mold. And by “may or may not”, I mean definitely.

I do cook when I’m at school. In fact, I don’t have a meal plan, so it’s all me, baby. But even though cooking makes me feel relaxed and happy, my culinary pursuits aren’t usually all that glamorous. I don’t have time to cook every night, so usually I end up making a big batch of one dish so I can eat leftovers all week. Of course, that means that by the end of the week I’m so sick of the food I’ve made that I can barely stand to touch it.

To solve this dilemma, I came up with the perfect way to fight winter break boredom: cook a fancy meal for my family. I mean go all out – break out the nice plates and silverware that we never use, properly pair wine and food, and of course set up some candles for ambience. Luckily for me, that also allowed me to check off one of my items on ReadyU’s Conquer This List – #28: Do What’s Proper. ReadyU is the ultimate resource for college students beyond the classroom, and they have a little quiz on their Facebook page that you can take to test your knowledge of what’s proper.

I did pretty well on the quiz – thanks, Girl Scout etiquette classes (haha! No, but seriously…). But I was a little rusty. And it’s not a fancy dinner if you don’t have a fancy-looking table! So, I did what any broke college student would do – I turned to the internet for some tips.

Before getting started, I knew I wanted to look my best for this fancy-schmancy meal, and that meant wearing my all-time favorite party dress that is so cute but so short! Have no fear; my Venus® razor was here to save the day! With my legs freshly shaved and super smooth, I focused my attention on dinner research!

I found easy instructions for how to create a formal table setting here, and the website even included this diagram for quick reference:

Pretty easy, right? The next step was to find an idea for a nice centerpiece. Immediately, I knew where I needed to look. I guess it was inevitable that I would visit Pinterest at least once while completing this challenge. Sure enough, I found the perfect seasonal centerpiece:

This was super easy to make. All I needed were some cranberries and holly leaves (which are everywhere around the holidays), a simple glass jar, and a votive candle. Voila! Perfectly festive. I think it was meant to be a wedding centerpiece, but whatever. Next up, it was time to visit my favorite food blogs to find the perfect recipes. This took a while, but only because I got totally sucked into the delicious pictures of food. Sorry I’m not sorry.

I decided to start with this spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette from Smitten Kitchen:

As my main course, I served this braised chicken with garlic and white wine from Epicurious:

Finally, for dessert I made these bourbon peach hand pies, also from Smitten Kitchen:

And I’m happy to report that dinner was a huge success! The only problem? Now my family wants me to cook for them like this every night. Looks like it’s time for me to go back to school.

I highly recommend trying this for yourself! It’s a lot of work, but the deliciousness is worth it in the end. And keep following along as I keep checking items off the ReadyU Conquer This List before the school year is over!

    Dancer, choreographer, personal trainer, and freelance writer based in New York City. More here.