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Collegiette Cooking: Back to Basics

This installment of Collegiette Cooking was inspired by a good friend of mine, who simply asked me, “What do you make for dinner every day?” Like many of you, she is beginning the process of weaning herself from her reliance on the dining hall, and isn’t quite sure where to start.This is an exciting place to be, and one where I find myself practically once a week. The key for us as college students is to avoid overburdening ourselves with the idea that to cook for oneself, one must either make everything from scratch (and organic! and local! and nonfat!) or rely solely on expensive takeout. (No offense, Vine, I love you!)

There is a middle ground! Here is a sample Indian dinner that can get you started on this wonderful journey. I picked these items particularly because they are not easily perishable. Plus it’s what I’ve been eating for dinner on and off for the past 2 weeks… I have learned the hard way that for a single person, buying too many perishables causes unnecessary anxiety because you then have to cook the food within a certain time limit or else face a fridge full of rotten food! We do not need any excess stress, especially when it comes to food.
 
 
1. Rice: So many kinds, so many possibilities. Rice is a time-tested staple food, and
quite easy to make. For this sample meal, I would use jasmine rice because that’s what
typically goes with Indian food, and it smells incredible. You can simply follow the
directions on the bag, but be aware that one cup of rice (which needs about 1 ½ cups of
water to cook in) makes four servings. It takes the longest to cook compared to the other
components of this meal, about 15 minutes, so start it first.
 
2. Frozen vegetables: My favorite frozen broccoli florets (meaning only the top parts)
because I love broccoli, but I also have some green beans. Strictly speaking, I know this
doesn’t go with Indian, but I always like to have vegetables at dinner. Frozen veggies
are wonderful because they are often way fresher than “fresh” vegetables since they are
frozen immediately after they are picked, instead of being shipped raw for miles. All you
have to do is cover the bottom of a small pot with water, throw in a handful of broccoli,
and steam it over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes. Make sure you put a tight lid on,
or else it won’t steam.* I always put a little salt and butter on after. That only took a
couple minutes!
 
* You can easily do this in the microwave with a Tupperware container and lid.
 
3. Pre-made Indian entrée: Did you think I was going to make this from scratch? Hell no.
Indian food is delicious precisely because it combines so many different spices, which I
don’t own. I buy the common brands TastyBite and Kitchens of India, which are usually
on sale (The TastyBite pouches I have now were 2 for $5) and always delicious. I know,
pouches. But they are kosher, vegan, gluten-free, MSG-free, and preservative-free,
yet somehow still really tasty and don’t need to be refrigerated. How can you possibly
go wrong? You can microwave it for 90 seconds, or, for us microwave-less suckers,
immerse it in boiling water for 5 minutes on the stovetop.
 
Then I usually toast some naan bread from the freezer aisle, and enjoy with some seltzer
water and an episode of Game of Thrones. After you cook and eat this meal, you have tons
of possibilities left because you have the rest of the rice and frozen veggies to combine with
different entrees. Or if you’re being adventurous, you can let them sit and explore other meals
without worrying that they’ll go bad.
 
Good luck!
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