Cooking with the basics


Story by Bridget Cooke, Staff Writer

As college students, newly by ourselves  and perhaps used to our parents cooking for us, cooking with recipes unfamiliar can seem tedious and difficult. However, many ingredients are foods already lying around the kitchen, but are not necessarily always used to the best of the cook’s ability.

    Three essentials: milk, eggs, and butter. It is very hard to make an inexpensive and tasty meal without these basic foods, and they provide for a plethora of different eats. Mashed potatoes, for instance. Simple and relatively quick to make, but if the chef doesn’t have a little bit of milk and a stick of butter, they are just soft, chopped up clumps of starch.
“Cream of” soups and broths are something to keep around — making a soup from scratch is not time consuming and is healthier than buying it in a can. The best thing about it is that the cost is virtually the same for the amount per serving. Broth is a purchase easy on the wallet, and so are carrots and celery. Anyone who has survived off of pasta because of a limited budget knows that noodles are cheap to buy as well. Put these together over a stove with some water and preservatives are nearly eliminated in a tasty soup that can be eaten for several meals throughout the week.
An especially interesting dish involves Ramen, broccoli and chicken. Ramen, made according to package and broth drained–to prevent a lot of the saturated fat–thrown in a dish with some microwave steamed broccoli and, if one chooses, a cut up chicken breast mixed together. This is a very quick and inexpensive way to prepare a meal and egg noodles or spaghetti can be substituted for Ramen, though spices need to be added in order to make it less bland given the lack of chicken flavoring. A decent spice rack is also a necessity for anyone who wants to do a halfway job cooking.
Two spices that may seem obvious are kosher salt and black pepper. Salt can bring out flavor in virtually every recipe that can be prepared, and black pepper applies similarly. An interesting one that people wouldn’t think could be useful is cinnamon. Watching the Food Network gives a whole new appreciation for this little spice, that is not just used in bakes with fruit, but is also a necessary ingredient in many stews. It is even an important contribution to meatloaf, which is also a convenient and economical meal for the budget-strapped college student.
Garlic powder is also something that should be kept around. An excellent add-in to any savory meal is bread. Most grocery stores have bakeries that sell day old bread for a bargain price. The easiest way to accompany a pasta dinner is by cutting the bread in half vertically, slathering on some butter and sprinkling a bit of garlic powder on top. This powder is also good for those who want to add some flavor to plain tomato sauce. Oregano is useful for that as well.
Students do not have to live on fatty, preservative-filled food that leads to weight gain and unhealthy habits just because they are young and on a budget, and even a few items can help to alleviate some of these problems.