Healthy Living with The Spectrum
College Cooking 101
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
UB meal plans are an extremely deceptive thing.
The average student starts the semester off with 100 or so meal exchanges and Dining Dollars. It feels like there’s so much to choose from – like the late-night convenience of Sizzles, the ever-present Richmond Dining Hall and the test of endurance known as Pistachio’s.
As your amount of Dining Dollars diminishes, meal exchanges dwindle and the very thought of food at the dining hall makes your stomach churn, college will become less of a learning experience and more of a test of survival. Take it from a senior – cooking becomes almost a necessity to pass this test.
Being able to cook Ramen noodles is cool, but that may not be enough to keep you going through those hard winter months. It’s being able to cook up some mean pasta with Alfredo sauce that will give you the carbs to keep you going through those long study hours. It’s being able to make some mashed potatoes that will bring those guests to your dorm. Personality will only get you so far. But most importantly, cooking is a huge step toward self-sufficiency.
That’s what will separate the guy proudly standing over his homemade breakfast – ready to show the world what’s what – from the guy tripping over his flip-flops and spilling that meatball sauce all over the floor.
Be a Don Draper, not a Patrick Star, and learn how to at least cook the basics. Here are a few:
Ingredients: One can of tuna, mayonnaise, relish (optional)
Tuna is essential, mainly because it’s quick and easy to make and also a cheap source of protein. But be advised: there’s a right and a wrong way to make tuna.
The first time I made tuna was in front of guests in my apartment. I poured the tuna into a bowl and threw at least three spoonfuls of mayonnaise into the mix. The result was a white mess that barely passed for edible. My guests were appalled.
Don’t be a Brian Josephs. Drain the liquid from the can first (preferably with a strainer) and then only put a maximum of one spoonful of mayo into the mix. Stir and throw some relish in there if you see it fit. It’s a five-minute process that will give you at least four days worth of food – and, if you keep the mayo under control, a healthy option.
Pasta with Alfredo sauce
Ingredients: A box of any pasta of your choice, cheddar or Parmesan cheese, broccoli, can of Alfredo
No one’s going to have the determination to stand in the line at Pistachio’s for 10 minutes every day, or the grit to continually eat the dining hall’s bland pasta offerings. So why not make the darn thing yourself? It’s simple if you have two pots.
First, boil water in the pot and toss the pasta (I use spaghetti) inside. Don’t worry about how much pasta to use, as it’s better to have leftovers to use on a rainy day than barely enough to use for one full meal. Wait 10-15 minutes or until it’s soft.
Put the concoction into a strainer to drain the water, then throw it back into the pot to heat. Put some cheese in it and stir until it’s evenly distributed.
As for the Alfredo: just heat it up in a separate pot until it bubbles. Pour the sauce on the pasta (either while it’s in the pot or on a plate, your choice) and bon appétit.
Ingredients: Potatoes, milk, butter, heavy cream, pepper and salt
There are potato buds in a box and instant mash potatoes sold in Tops and Wegmans, but that’s the easy route. This way of making mashed potatoes takes a little longer, but removes all those artificial ingredients and it’s just the healthier route. Plus it tastes better.
You ought to get starchier potatoes (at least one pound) because they’ll mash better. If you’re not sure what that is, ask someone in the produce section of the supermarket.
Peel the potatoes, cut them into quarters and throw them in a pot. Add water until it completely covers the potatoes. When the water boils, lower the stove heat and wait for about 15-20 minutes.
Lastly, toss the potatoes into a strainer then mash them with a potato masher (or with a spoon if you don’t have one). The basic recipe says put one or two tablespoons of milk and heated butter and four tablespoons of heavy cream, but since the title of this section is Healthy Living, we recommend that you skip those ingredients as they are not a necessity.
Stir your creation and pepper (stay away from super-unhealthy salt) for flavor.
Ingredients: A bucket of brown rice, salt, olive oil
This one’s going to take a bit of trial and error for you to nail the water-to-rice ratio. Too much water will make for some soggy rice and too little will make the rice too hard. There are a lot of recipes online that post a specific ration, but I think finding the right amount comes with experience.
Regardless, you should only put a small amount of olive oil and salt (optional) into the water. Pour the rice grains and heat at a high setting until the water boils. Then turn the knob to a low setting and cover the pot for the next 20 minutes. It’s longer than a simple trip to the dining hall, but you’re saving yourself a meal exchange in the process.
Uncover the pot and enjoy the smell of steam and freshly cooked rice.