Even You Can Cook This: Basil Spaghetti

So here’s the thing. My mother started teaching me how to cook when I was about ten years old. I could cook a roast chicken dinner from woah to go by the time I was about twelve or thirteen years old. I’m best at baking, but if you put a recipe in front of me I can make a pretty good go of it, all things considered.

Here’s the other thing. Cooking is a pain in the ass. I live in Australia, so in summer it is hot and the kitchen is the utter last place you feel like being. Even in winter….look, cooking is just a pain, alright? I have become the master of the salad wrap.

HOWEVER!

I also think that it is really important to be able to make a few more substantial meals, in minimal time, and preferably creating as few dishes as humanly possible while doing so. Nobody likes washing the dishes. Nobody. I don’t care what they say.

This series is to provide you with a few recipes that are easy to make, with few (and generally inexpensive) ingredients, using the smallest number of pots, pans and utensils possible. Because cooking is a pain, and nobody likes doing dishes. See above.

Basil spaghetti is one of my favourite “fast food” meals to make. It’s easy, it only takes a few minutes (as long as it takes to cook the pasta to your liking), and it tastes pretty bangin’, seriously. PLUS, it is really easy to jazz up, and I’ll let you know some options after the basic recipe, which is vegetarian as I don’t eat meat myself.

BASIL SGHETTI*

*I’ve called spaghetti “sghetti” since I was a kid. It’s been around for over twenty years, it’s not gonna go away now.

Essential Ingredients:
  • Thickened cream (I think they call it heavy cream in the States?)
  • Cheese, either grated or gratable. Parmesan would work well if you have it.
  • One jar of basil pesto, and for god’s sake make sure you get one without animal rennet! Check the label!
  • One packet fettuccine pasta (I prefer spinach fettuccine, but regular works just fine too
Optional ingredients:
  • Chicken bits, or bacon bits, whatever you prefer
  • Sliced and cooked carrots, for colour, flavour, and crunch if you like’em not-squishy like me

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to create basil sghetti deliciousness, do the following:
  1.  Put a pot of water on to boil. Make sure there is at LEAST a full teaspoon of salt in that water; it’ll taste better and help the pasta not to stick together so much.
  2. Once the water is boiling, add your pasta. Not the whole bag unless you’re cooking for multiple people! Just enough for however many you’re cooking for.
  3. Stir the past every once in a while; the more often you do this, the less the pasta will stick, but don’t slave over it either.
  4. Once the pasta is done to your liking, drain most of the water, leaving about a tablespoon worth in the pot with the pasta; the pasta will taste better and the sauce will stick, and it won’t be bone-dry when you eat it.
  5. Add the basil pesto until your pasta has a reasonable covering. I prefer my basil sghetti hella strong, so I use about half the jar per time I cook this! To taste 🙂
  6. Add your thickened cream, maybe a half or two thirds of a cup, and stir until the sauce is creamy and a pale green colour.
  7. Whack it into a bowl, and stick some grated cheese or Parmesan on top.
  8. Enjoy, with gusto.
Optional extras
  1. With meat bits: Obviously, cook them. And in a separate pan! Once they’re done, whack’em in the sauce after the cream step.
  2. With carrots: Slice them thinly, cook’em in a pan with a tiny bit of either butter or olive oil until they’re to your liking. I usually only leave them in the pan for five minutes because I like mine crunchy. When they’re done, whack’em in just after them basil step. Cream is optional for the carrot version, because the pasta is really nice with just the basil pesto and carrots.

If you don’t like basil pesto, I’m pretty sure you could sub sundried tomato pesto here, but it may take some experimenting. I personally think tomatoes are the devil’s fruit, and are suitable for consumption only in tomato-based sauces in Italian cuisine. And even then, you need Parmesan for disguising their presence. BUT, I guess it could be done. If you had to.

RESULTS:

  1. Basil sghetti deliciousness, and if you make enough there’ll be leftovers for lunch or dinner tomorrow, too.
  2. At most (with optional extras), 3 pots and/or pans, eating utensils and plate, spatula (for stirring sauce), knife (carrots) and grater.
  3. The feeling of accomplishment at the realization that you have successfully feed yourself, and also you can pxt your mother to show her you’re not subsisting on 2-minute noodles. Anymore.

See? Even you can cook this!

Stay weird xxx

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KIT System 1 – Notes on Readings

Hi nerds!

The first installment of Keep It Together is dedicated to taking notes on readings, whether that be books, chapters, papers, articles, whatever.

One of the most important parts of developing good systems and habits as a student is understanding precisely what it is that you are reading, and developing a good note-taking system is, I think, a crucial part of that. The most crucial part is of course the reading, which I have a separate KIT for.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and harp on about my excellent note-taking skills. Learning is a process of constant evolution, and my note-taking style has changed a multitude of times over the years that I have been a tertiary student. However, in the last few years there are some base rules that I have developed in my own note-taking. These have lasted longer than previous methods I have used, and as they continue to make sense to me I shall continue to use them. This is important; do NOT use a system, any system, that you struggle to understand or remember. That way leads to frustration and madness, and usually to really crappy notes. Wasted time all around, not to mention the inevitable headache and whining about spending all that time and learning precisely zip.

So.

Tip the first: pick a system that works for you, that you can remember, that is easy for you to use and understand.

Tip the second: stick to that system. I speak from experience when I say that there is nothing worse, when prepping for an exam, than flipping through notes that start out formatted and written one way and then just gradually devolve into bullet points that don’t make sense even to the person that wrote them. You know that feeling, that you’ll know what you were talking about when you read it again later? That voice in your head that says “I don’t need to write anything else here. I’ve done the reading, I will know what that refers to, so it is a waste of time to write anything else here.” That voice is a damn liar. You absolutely will not remember what that three-word bullet point means six weeks after writing it, three hours before your exam. Stick to your system: you settled on it because it has value, so don’t get lazy about being serious at school.

Tip the third: flag the important bits with a post-it as read, and take your notes after you finish the reading. For me at least, I gain a better understanding of the material if I read all the way through first, and then go back to the important bits. That way, I can mull over the concepts I flagged as important on the first go round, thereby increasing my information uptake and understanding. Then you take the notes, in your own words as much as possible. I do insert word-for-word sections in my notes if I think something is particularly important and I cannot personally think of a better way to articulate a point, but try not to overdo it. The act of thinking about what you are taking notes on helps to cement that knowledge into your brain.

Tip the fourth: pick a colour system. Yes, I highlight my own notes. It has actually become invaluable to me as a PhD student when I am looking for something specific in the notes I have taken. There is nothing quite so infuriating as being absolutely, positively CERTAIN you wrote down that thing about that other thing and then being completely incapable of locating it in your notes. If you have a working colour-code, this task becomes so. Much. Easier.

As you can see in the gallery above, there are four colours that form my primary code: pink, orange, blue and green. Each of these colours performs a different function, and indicate to me their content.

Pink indicates (for the most part!) a new section or, as in the example notes above, a new chapter. This lets me know that my notes are about to shift focus to a new topic. Sounds stupid, but this sort of indicator is actually really useful and a lot of the time it is overlooked.

Orange indicates an incident, operation, or event that I think is of interest. As a cyber scholar, there are a LOT of incidents, operations and events that are of (academic) interest. This just allows me to skim through my notes for particular cases, and then I can read the notes surrounding them.

Blue indicates important concepts and terms. Again, because I am a cyber scholar there is a lot to learn, and very often I come across terms or concepts which are new to me. Blue highlights let me know that these are concepts that are important to understand.

Green indicates actors or parties that are active in cyberspace, or potentially have an interest or stake in an incident, operation or event. This familiarizes me with the names of individuals, groups, agencies and militaries that are or have been active in cyberspace. Knowing these names can help you make connections you may not otherwise have seen as you move through the body of literature for your topic.

Other colours like yellow or purple are used here and there, but not in a systemic fashion; sometimes, just to emphasize something that doesn’t really fall into one of my system categories, which I think is still worth highlighting.

Tip the fifth: Save your work. I know these are only notes, but for the love of little green apples save them somewhere. I personally use Evernote and Evernote Scannable; I scan my notes once finished and save them to a notebook in Evernote. The photos above are just photos taken with my phone, and if you don’t want to use a scanner app go right ahead and just take pictures and email them to yourself or whatever. The point is, just friggin save your notes. Imagine what an absolute waste of time this would all have been if they get lost, stolen, or destroyed. Then where will you be when exam prep rolls around?! That’s right, you’ll be just fine because you did as I said and you saved your notes somewhere.

As an academic and a long-time student, I know this all sends like a hell of a lot of work, especially when you sit down and think about actually doing this for each and every assigned or important reading that you do. HOWEVER: it is going to be useful to you, and not just to exam prep. More and more often recently, I find myself turning to notes that I have taken over the past couple of years because they all of a sudden are pertinent to a new paper I am writing, or a proposal I am polishing, or better: I suddenly realize that a book or article I have notes on is actually the perfect reference for such-and-such section of my thesis. Huzzah! In addition, you may find that as you take these notes and break down the meaning the authors are trying to communicate, you will actually start percolating article ideas of your own. Understanding someone else’s work can lead you to further, publishable work of your own. That, my friends, makes all the effort of note-taking valuable far beyond exam preparation.

And as a bonus? You know stuff. Sort of the whole point of why you’re a student, isn’t it? To know stuff? All of this, all of the reading and the note-taking and the classes and the learning and the knowing stuff contributes to a foundation of knowledge that will eventually earn you the title of “expert in your field” that we Ph.D. candidates value so highly.

I hope this KIT system has helped you, or at least entertained you for the ten or so minutes this post took to read. If you do use this system or something like it, let me know in the comments or by sending me a message through the Contact Me page; I would love to hear from you!

Stay weird xxx