These days, I constantly smell of cooking oil and dish soap. It’s a distinctive trait that comes with the dubious honor of being self-sufficient and independent of dorm life. I walk into class horribly aware of the fact that my clothes smell like I work in a restaurant all day, and that my hands are permanently chafed by the rough side of the sponge.
I no longer have a meal plan, so I spend my weekends cooking and prepping meals for the rest of the week. I have to budget money to pay rent, utilities, and groceries—and make sure that I use those groceries before they go bad. I’m a huge fan of food, but I don’t have enough time to cook every day, so it became completely necessary for me to learn how to fake my way to success at the stove, and fast. I’ve compiled some of my best tips for eating good food (and impressing your friends?):
- Eggs are your best friend. I cannot stress this enough. Not only are eggs crazy nutritious, but they can be cooked in approximately a billion different ways. Use them in frittatas, put them in stir-fry, stick ’em in a sandwich. Make an omelette and mix in whatever you want. Eggs are easy.
- The key to cooking eggs perfectly is heat control. Once you’ve cracked your egg into a nice hot oiled pan you can turn it down to medium/medium-high heat. Leave the egg on for as long or as short as you want, so long as the whites are cooked all the way through. I like my egg yolk solid at the edges but runny in the middle, so once the white cooks, I add salt & pepper (I’ll also add cheese if I’m feeling frisky) and flip the egg over to finish cooking. Then I lightly poke the edges of the yolk to check for consistency before I take it off.
- You can bake a bunch of grilled cheese sandwiches at once in an oven. Preheat to 450, then make your sandwiches (don’t forget the butter) and line them up on a baking tray or cookie sheet. Flip them after 6-8 minutes, then bake for another 6-8 minutes. Magic! Grilled cheeses for days.
- I’m a huge, huge, HUGE fan of Greek yogurt with honey and cereal. It’s quick, plus it’s more filling and glamorous (in my opinion) than cereal with milk. It’s also got a great crunch to it.
- If you have a bunch of ramen, you can grate some cheese and add a bit of milk to it to make some bootleg mac & cheese.
- Toast your garlic before you add anything to it! Seriously, it makes such a difference. Use either butter or oil; add your garlic and cook until it smells like you want it in your mouth. Then add your meat/veggies/sauce/whatever. Thank me later.
- Bonus 3-ingredient pasta recipe: garlic and mushroom (or any other veggie) and olive oil pasta. Toast your garlic, then add mushrooms and cook through (you’ll know when you see a bit of mushroom juice). Mix in your pasta. Optional: chop up an herb or two and mix those in afterwards.
- You can sauté some aromatics (garlic, onions, celery, mushrooms, etc) and add them to store-bought sauce (I like to do this with pasta sauce).
- Cook your grains in chicken broth (or vegetable broth) so they’ll have flavor on their own.
- Delicious sauce for stir-fry is 3 ingredients away: mix soy sauce, Sriracha, and sesame oil in a bowl. Pour into your pan and enjoy.
- If you’re making a sandwich with salad greens, squeeze a bit of lime or lemon juice over the greens before you serve that sucker up. It’s a subtle little thing that brings the sandwich just above the “broke college student” level.
I cook 2 or 3 times a week and stagger them so I always have food. Cooked food keeps well–grains will last 3-5 days in an airtight container. Poultry, meat, and vegetables last for about 3-4 days but will keep for a couple of months if you freeze them.