Ask Away

Clueless in the kitchen, stress management

More stories from Hailey Novak


Graphic created by Savannah Reeves

Q: I’m a bit embarrassed but I feel like a lot of other people are in my shoes too. I never learned how to cook. I mean, nothing. I had to look up how to make rice and even then it was terrible. Are there some places or some good videos to learn basics?

A: For some people cooking comes naturally and almost seems like common sense knowledge to have, but for tons of others the kitchen is a place where they feel absolutely clueless. Thankfully, cooking is a skill you can acquire and become better at, not something you need to be born with.


Also, I consider myself to be a pretty good cook and even I still haven’t quite managed to cook rice perfectly; it’s always either crunchy and tad bit burnt or I add too much water so it has a mushy porridge consistency. Either way it’s usually a bit gross.

A good place to start is picking a couple meals that are both college friendly and nearly impossible to mess up. I’m talking about frozen pizza, mac and cheese and salad as some examples. It’s fairly easy to start there and dress them up. Once you master that you can move on to more complicated dishes.

For these examples try sauteing your favorite veggies in a bit of olive oil and adding them to your mac and cheese/pasta dishes or throwing them on top of your cheap cheese frozen pizza before you pop it in the oven. You can get creative with salads by starting with your basic bed of lettuce, adding some seasoned protein of your choice, pecans or almond slivers and a fruit (depending on what’s in season). It’s super easy to throw together and it looks like you put in a lot more effort than you did.

As far as a few more insights go, check out this link:

Under the tab “How To” there’s a variety of mini lessons on cooking basics and techniques to explore.

To hit some of the basics like how to cook rice perfectly (SOS) and how to chop an onion, Gordon Ramsey covers them in this seven minute video that’s worth taking a study break to check out.

This article series from Bon Appetit is also a great go-to because it breaks down the basics for various levels of resources and abilities you have as a “chef.”

Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment! The old saying of trial and error applies here. Test out flavor combinations and if they work — great, and if not, then you try again.


Q: What are good things to do when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed?

A: Since this is fairly open ended I’m going to throw out a list of general tips that should apply to most situations:


— Plan 5-10 minutes each day specifically to sit and relax. Make sure this time is dedicated to putting all the stuff you have to worry about aside in order to genuinely relax. Close your eyes if you have to or perhaps spend it watching a funny YouTube video.

Listen to your favorite song. Sometimes a quick jam session is just what you need to boost your mood, chill out and take a mini-life pause.

— If you have an overwhelming number of things on your to-do list start by checking just one of them off. It might even be something little like making your bed or tidying the living room but this way you’ll feel accomplished and can hopefully get the ball rolling to tackle the rest of your items.

YOGA. This might sound cliché, but yoga/meditation can be a life-saver when it comes to managing stress. If you have no yoga experience that’s fine because all you need to know is Child’s Pose. Take a quick peek at this video for instructions. It’s perfect for calming oneself down and giving your spine a much-needed stretch.

Exercise. This works for many of my friends who like to burn off energy and clear their head. Go for a quick run if you’re busy or take the time to sweat it out for a longer period if you need to. Getting your blood pumping and focusing on a task other than whatever is stressing you out can be a big help in clearing your head and feeling better physically, which usually means you feel a bit better mentally.

Put it in perspective. This helps me when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. I tell myself that, worst case scenario I don’t complete (insert overwhelming task here) it won’t actually be the end of the world. Everyone makes mistakes, life goes on, you are still a good human if you slip up a bit.

If the stress is becoming continual or you feel like you can’t get a handle on it using any of the above techniques or idea of your own, it might be worth checking out Counseling Services (Call 836-5521 -or- Stop in the office: 2122 Old Library) or a local counseling service to find tips that works specifically for you or to unload to someone who’s going to take the time to listen to you and help you.

Keep submitting and I’ll keep answering!