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Advice for the Cooking-Impaired

by LUCI DISANO First-year GD Clarinet

 

For many of you, this is your first time away from home or your first time living in your own apartment, and that probably also means that it’s your first time trying to cook on your own.  For those of you who fit in this category, I beg of you: no more ramen noodles!!!  I hear all kinds of reasons from people who don’t cook for themselves: it’s too expensive, it takes too long, or it’s just too hard.  But I want everyone to know that cooking doesn’t have to be any of the above!  You don’t need to be a gourmet chef in order to enjoy healthy, delicious home-cooked meals.  Trust me, you’ll thank me when all the cafeteria food starts to taste the same.

If you’re eating on a budget, the trick to saving money is to know which foods to buy.  Generally pre-packaged or processed foods cost a lot more than their raw counterparts.  Red meat and cheeses can also run up your grocery bill.  You don’t have to avoid them altogether; just use them sparingly.

Eggs, on the other hand, are extremely cheap and very versatile.  There are more than 100 ways to cook them!  Beans, lentils, and other legumes are also inexpensive, especially if you buy them dried.  Plus they’re good for you! In the veggie department, carrots, onions, celery, and broccoli are your best bets.

If you don’t have a lot of time to cook, there are a few tricks that will save you hours of time.  You really can spend all day cooking if you want to make something really fancy (I once spent four hours making tamales from scratch, yikes!), but there are tons of recipes out there that can be made with little prep time.  In general, I look for recipes with short ingredient lists.  The fewer ingredients, the less time you have to spend peeling/chopping/sautéing them.  Also, never shred your own cheese.  Just pay a dollar extra for the pre-shredded stuff.  I promise it’s worth it!

Another big time-saver and a must-have for novice cooks  is a crock pot or slow cooker.  If you don’t have time to stand over a stove for an hour, there are literally hundreds of crockpot recipes that take maybe ten minutes of preparation.  After that, you just toss everything in the pot and turn it on.  Recipes usually take 4-8 hours to cook this way, but they’re meant to be left alone during that time, which means you can turn it on before you leave in the morning and come back to a delicious dinner just ready and waiting.  They can cook just about anything too, like soups, breads, desserts and even whole chickens!  I recommend avoiding overnight use unless you want to be awakened at 3 a.m. by the smell of chili (Yes, this has actually happened to me).

To close, I’d like to put to rest the myth that cooking is hard.  It’s really something that anyone can do with just a little practice and patience.  I know it can be intimidating at first, but start simply and slowly build your skills. To the right, you’ll find three recipes to get you started.  You can try them when you get tired of the usual fare, or use them to impress your friends at your next fall party.  Two of them can even be made in a dorm room!

 

Cheddar Ale Spread

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Baked Acorn Squash

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Pumpkin Fluff Dip

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