June 6, 2006

Quick, Easy Meals for College Students

I'm doing a workshop tonight for a group of teenagers about how to survive in the kitchen after leaving home. I thought I'd just copy the handout here that I've prepared for them. The meals described below are pretty much the only thing I ate while I was in undergrad. Enjoy!

Cooking for People Who Can't Cook

Let's face it, you're no Iron Chef. Once you are out on your own, are you really going to be able to make your mom's famous lasagna or specialty caramel fudge cake? Probably not right away. So to keep you from dying of hunger during your first years on your own, here's a little cheat sheet to keeping your belly full the easy, cheap way.

Raman Noodles
At about 25 cents per package, these noodles are cheap, full of flavor and take no time to cook. If you are feeling adventurous, add some frozen vegetables to the pot. Or a can of chili, or a raw egg to cook in with the broth. Or grated cheese. Anything that makes you go yum.

I'm not talking about those complicated burritos you buy at a restaurant. All you need is a tortilla, a can of refried beans and cheese. Spread the tortilla with a thin layer of beans, sprinkle on some cheese, roll up the burrito and microwave for 1 minute. This is very delicious dipped in salsa.

The Rice Cooker
This is a miracle tool. It's small, inexpensive and cooks your food in 15 minutes or less. Instead of just using it for rice, add some beans, chopped fresh veggies (broccoli, squash, beans) and a can of cream of mushroom soup. Cook all these ingredients with your rice and 15 minutes later you have a steaming rice casserole ready to eat.

Macaroni & Cheese
Another easy noodle dish. To add more nutrition, dump a can of pork & beans into the finished product. Or you can add ground beef or tuna. My mom added sliced hot dogs which I don't recommend.

The Hot Pot
This is essential for dorm rooms where you don't have access to a stove. It's an inexpensive plug in pot that allows you to fill it with water and then will boil the water for you in a few minutes. You can use it to prepare instant oatmeal, Cup-o-Noodle soup, hot chocolate or herbal teas in your dorm room in 10 minutes or less to keep you warm when you mommy can't.

Canned Soup & Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
It's hard to beat the comfort food taste of a some delicious canned soup along with a hot toasty grilled cheese sandwich. Look for canned soups on sale and stock up. Put the soup in the microwave, the sandwich on the grill and in 10 minutes have a home cooked tasting meal.

Tuna Salad
This one goes from very basic to elaborate. You can stick with the tuna mixed with mayonnaise. Or if you get fancy you can add into the tuna salad: cubed celery, shredded lettuce, walnuts, sliced tomatoes, croƻtons, grated cheese, cayenne pepper or grapes. Just look through your fridge and you'll find some interesting add-ins from food you didn't know how to finish. Eat straight out of the bowl or wrap in a tortilla.

English Muffin Pizzas
Slice the muffin in half and spoon on tomato sauce. Sprinkle with your favorite cheese and then top with any spices you have like oregano, parsley or garlic salt. Microwave for 1 ½ minutes and enjoy your own personal pizza! Or pop in the oven on “broil” for 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted.

The George Foreman Grill
This inexpensive table top grill is great because it plugs in anywhere, is very small, easy to clean and takes the place of an oven. You can make your grilled sandwiches on it as well as cook any meat you have on hand. It is also good for cooking sliced vegetables. I've made very good steak onions on it for company with rave reviews. Any regular cold cut sandwich becomes deluxe when you put in on this grill for 2 minutes.

Homemade Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Mix creamy peanut butter with smashed graham crackers and powdered sugar until smooth. Add as much or as little as you like, but the final product should be the consistency of a nice firm cookie dough. Spread on the bottom of a pie plate or shallow dish. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave and pour over the peanut butter mixture (just enough to cover the peanut butter mixture). Cover and refrigerate for ½ hour or until the chocolate is firm. And yes, this is calorie free.

Kettle Corn
This kind of popcorn is much tastier and cheaper than the instant microwave kind. Pour cooking oil into the bottom of the pot just until the entire bottom of the pot is covered. Pour popcorn (the bagged seeds) into the pot until there is a layer of popcorn covering the bottom of the pot. It should only be one kernel deep. Then cover the pot with a lid and turn the burner on high. You will need to jiggle the pot back and forth to keep the kernels from sticking to the bottom of the pot the whole time. In a minute or two, you'll hear the popcorn start to pop. Keep shaking the pot and DO NOT REMOVE THE LID until the popping slows to 1 pop every 2 seconds. Immediately remove the lid and pour ¼ cup of sugar in the pot and stir until the popcorn is evenly coated with the sugar. Keep in a sealed Tupperware for up to 3 days. A high fiber snack and very delicious!


Mary B said...

SArah, I can't believe they fell upon you to give this seminar. Uh, I think you may be the only one to actually give a recipe for Ramen noodles, or explain how to make a cheese melt. Ram with find this hilariously terrible.

Mary (who loves cheese melts and would have them every night for dinner in her own perfect world.)

Mumsy said...

Ick! I did NOT add sliced hot dogs to Mac 'n Cheese. What are you trying to do to my pristine reputation? If I was ever guilty of adding sliced hot dogs to anything, it would have been pork and beans, but YUCK! I'm pretty sure we din't put 'em in pasta.

You are a horrible child and I am a Fat Old Druid.

Many hugs and kisses from your darling angel mother.

kaff said...

I don't remember seeing any ramen noodles at our house. I think you and Mary made some really good meals (Marys looking a little more edible... you were trying to get out of cooking if I recall).

My best advice is to get a part time job at a restaurant, then you get free food! And if you're lucky you will be able to feed your roommates sometimes too!

I think we need to have another cake Sunday, I'll bring the cake, everyone has to bring their own fork :)

Mumsy said...

I WILL take credit for the English muffin pizzas. Even Nubsy Wubsy, the Pickiest Eater in the Southwest, will deign to sink her teeth into those puppies. Don't forget to sprinkle 'em with oregano.

I may never forgive you for the sliced hot dog libel.

But if I do, would you send me some new pix of Penelope?

Anonymous said...

Hence the freshman weight gain. Did you recommend ANY fresh fruits and veggies to the girls?! Yeesh...

Sarah said...

Fruits and veggies are for the weak.

Mom, maybe I'm a little off about the hot dogs in mac & yack. But I know for SURE that you put them in our scrambled eggs.

Mumsy said...

Why didn't I drown you?

kaff said...

um, anon, you need to reread the rice cooker and tuna salad. As for there not being more, this was quick easy meals and Sarah doesn't like fruit... to much water.

Mom Benac, I think she picked up the hot dog trick somewhere else. Thanks for always cleaning the bathroom :)

Silly Marie said...

Ha. We eat hot dogs in our occasional mac n cheese. I'd never have thought of it but my husband was adament. We do use a very specific type and brand though. Not just any hot dog works. It's grown on me.

My quick meal I ate most often (besides the bean burritos) were cheese crisps (more commonly known as quesadillas) filled with undressed salad.