Cooking without a kitchen is hard. Or, I should clarify: cooking when the only available kitchen is the size of a closet one floor below and you’re feeling quite lazy never happens.

Second year of dorm life, and I’m just as unproductive with cooking and baking as the year before, except my cooking skills have graduated from instant noodles to heating up Amy’s burritos in the microwave. When I go home, though, I still like to fire up the oven and try my hand at a recipe I’ve found while procrastinating homework. This entire post, sadly, encompasses most of my baking adventures for the past year.

Oh, except that first picture! Right before school started, I took a nice vacation with my best friend to Los Angeles! Pictured above was my favorite meal: the Kilamanjaro Quesadilla from Stuff I Eat. This was probably the best meal I’ve ever had, and if I lived in the LA area, I would come here way too often. The dish was just a quesadilla piled on with various toppings, but oh were the toppings good. The “cheese” sauce was amazing and piping warm, and the carrot un-tuna salad was perhaps one of the best things on the quesadilla. Honorable mention goes to the salad dressing, which hit the perfect spot between tangy and sweet. I sampled a lot of vegan food in LA, but this definitely came out on top.

I also got a new cookbook: The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur! I’ve been eyeing this book ever since I stumbled upon the Vegan Cookies blog back in high school and its gorgeous pictures. So, when it came time to order textbooks, I added this sweet gem into my shopping cart (this ends happens every semester if I order books on Amazon- new textbooks, new cookbook). I ended up making these Lemon Cornmeal cookies one night, as they looked extremely simple and, well, I had some cornmeal to get rid of.

They were extremely easy to whip up, and tasted like crunchy corn muffins with a slight orange-y flavor (I substituted orange zest for lemon zest). The sugar coat made them extra crunchy and gave them a rather pretty sparkle. However, they did crumble a bit easily when eating, but they certainly aren’t fragile cookies.

For Thanksgiving, I made the Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Topping found here. I accidentally used the wrong size pan, smaller than the recipe specified, so my cheesecake didn’t firm up as much as I had hoped. After it sat for about two days though (torturing me), it firmed up quite nicely. This cheesecake has an amazing flavor, definitely just like a creamier version of a pumpkin pie, and the pecan topping gives it the perfect crunch. I used the Triple Ginger cookies from Back to Nature for the crust, and it gave the perfect ginger twang to the whole dessert.

This recipe was also posted as part of New York Time’s Vegetarian Thanksgiving. For the past two years, the Wellness blog has posted recipes for a vegetarian thanksgiving accompanied by mouthwatering pictures.