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A Week of Dinner Recipes inspired by “Lessons in Chemistry”

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Northeastern chapter.

I used to ask my roommate every day, “What are we doing for dinner?” To which she answered, “I don’t know, what do we have?”

The nightly struggle of deciding what to eat out of the random assortment of food we had in the fridge was one point of my day that I did not look forward to. It was just so tiresome to spark creativity when all I wanted was to satiate my hunger. This dragged on for an entire semester, until one glorious day when I thought: maybe if we planned out our dinners ahead of time, we wouldn’t be having this conversation every night. 

After recently finishing Barnes and Noble’s book of the year, “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus (10/10 book, read it if you haven’t), Elizabeth Zott’s cooking show inspired me to come up with a week’s worth of healthy, easy to make dinners. Set in the 1960s, Zott is a chemist and single mother who reluctantly stars in “Supper at Six.” In the show, Zott teaches household women how to make nutritious meals with chemistry (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride” (Garmus)) while also daring them to transgress misogynistic societal standards.

For the rest of this article, I will be your Elizabeth Zott, teaching you step by step how to cook for yourself, but, instead of speaking from mother to mother, I will be speaking from college student to college student. 

*All of the recipes make around 2 servings of food.*

Monday Night: Sriracha Honey Tofu with a side of Shisito Peppers (Gluten free and Vegan!)

Grocery List: Sriracha (1 tbs), honey (1tbs), soy sauce (1 tsp), firm tofu (~7 oz), cornstarch (3 tsp), oil, Shisito peppers (6 oz), lime/lemon (1 wedge), salt, white rice (1 cup)

My Notes: This recipe was my first introduction to making tofu, so it has a soft spot in my recipe inventory. The sauce can also be used on a variety of proteins. 

How to: To start, make your rice because it will take the longest to cook. I usually make 1 cup for my roommate and I to share. Next, press your tofu. While your tofu is pressing, mix together sriracha or your favorite hot sauce (I like using Nando’s Peri Peri sauce), honey, and soy sauce. Now, divert your attention towards the Shisito peppers. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. While we wait for the pan to heat up, wash, dry, and then lightly coat the peppers in oil (I use olive oil). Once the pan is warm, let the peppers cook, occasionally flipping them until they look shriveled, deflated, and are black spotted (~10 minutes). It should look something like this.

While you are waiting for the peppers to cook, grab your tofu and cut it into  ½ inch cubes. Don’t worry if some are bigger than others. Put the cubes into a bowl and drizzle some oil until they’re all lightly coated. Gently mix in the cornstarch. Go check on your peppers! Once the peppers are done, put them on a separate plate, squeeze a wedge of lemon or lime over them, and finish them off with a generous amount of salt. Now, throw the tofu into the same pan, and cook the tofu by stirring occasionally, until it is tan and crispy on all sides (~10 minutes). Then, pour the sauce you just made over the crispy tofu and cook until the sauce thickens (~2-3 minutes). By this point, I hope your rice is done so you can plate all your food! Make it look pretty (or don’t) and then enjoy!

Tuesday Night: Erin Flaherty’s Trader Joe’s Bowl 

Grocery List: Trader Joe’s Mediterranean Salad Mix, Trader Joe’s Shawarma Chicken Thighs, avocado, Trader Joe’s pesto, Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Hummus, and rice of your choice (1 cup)

My Notes: I have to credit one of my best friends from home, Erin Flaherty, because she came up with this easy to make, delectable bowl. I first fell in love with it when I tried it at her beach house over the summer and since then, I’ve made it for countless friends and family members, and every one of them has relished this masterpiece of a bowl.  

How to: First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then, start making your rice. Place the chicken thighs on a baking sheet with parchment paper and cook for 20 minutes. So easy! In the meantime, put the salad mix together, chop up and throw the avocado in, and look, you’re more than halfway done.

Once the chicken is out of the oven, let it sit for a few minutes, and then slice it to check that it is fully cooked. Now, grab a plate or bowl and fill it with your rice, salad, chicken, a scoop of tomato basil hummus, and a scoop of pesto. There’s your masterpiece. This dish is best served mixed up.  

Wednesday Night: One Pot Tomato Orzo

Grocery List: One box of orzo (8oz), grape tomatoes (1 cup), garlic (1 tbsp), onion (½), chicken stock (32 fl. oz), spinach

My Notes: This recipe is actually modified off of an Instagram reel. Nonetheless, it’s very simple and very delicious. It is perfect for meal prepping because it makes a large batch. You can also individualize this recipe by adding in your own ingredients which could include chickpeas, peas, mushrooms, or zucchini. 

How to: First, dice your onion and mince your garlic. Heat the onion and garlic in a big pot, coating them in olive oil. Cook until the onions are soft and then add in the grape tomatoes. Let the tomatoes saute for a few minutes before you pour in the orzo and chicken stock. Cut up and stir in spinach when the liquid is nearly gone. Keep the stove at medium heat, and stir occasionally until all the liquid is gone. It should take about 10-15 minutes! Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, parmesan or whatever else you like! 

Thursday Night: Mushroom Risotto (Gluten free and Vegan!)

Grocery List: Arborio rice (1 cup), mushrooms (as much as you want ~½ cup), vegetable or chicken (not vegan) stock (16 oz)

My Notes: Mushroom might be my #1 favorite ingredient. I also made this twice this week already. 

How to: Pour the rice into a big pan and lightly drizzle olive oil on top, letting it sit for 2 minutes over medium heat. This is to “toast” the rice. I learned this while I lived in Italy. Pour in your stock until it covers all the rice and then stir. Once the rice starts to bubble and absorb some of the stock, continue to pour in the stock little by little for around 30 minutes. Continue to stir the rice, adding in salt occasionally. It’s kind of an inconvenient and tedious process, but I promise you it will be worth it.

While you are waiting for your rice, cut up the mushrooms into whatever shape or size you like and throw them into a different pan. You can lightly coat them with olive oil or even with the same stock you’re using. Once they turn a slightly darker color and start to smell really good, you know they’re done. As your rice is finishing up, transfer the mushrooms from one pan to the other, folding them into the now risotto. Now you’re ready to eat!

Friday Night: Taco Salad

Grocery List: Ground beef (1 lb), taco seasoning (1 packet), lettuce, shredded cheese (of your choice), salsa, avocado (or guacamole), beans, tortilla chips 

My Notes: The ingredients listed above are my personal favorites, but feel free to modify to make it your own. This one’s pretty self explanatory, but read along just for fun. 

How to: Cook the ground beef over medium/high heat breaking it up into little pieces until it’s a nice brown color. Pour the finished ground beef into a strainer to drain the oil. Then, put it back in the pan on low heat and stir in the taco seasoning. Cut up your lettuce, avocado, and any other ingredients you are adding to your bowl. I like to take a bowl and start with a bed of lettuce then add the meat, cheese, beans, salsa, and avocado. Lastly, top the bowl off with crushed up tortilla chips for some crunch. 

Side note: if you have leftovers of some of the ingredients, throw them on top of some chips on a baking sheet, sprinkle lots of cheese over it, put it in the oven at 350 degrees, and you have loaded nachos. 

Saturday Night: Penne alla Vodka (Vegan)

Grocery List: Cashews (½ cup), marinara sauce, penne (or pasta of your choice, I like rigatoni)

My Notes: My favorite meal in the world is penne alla vodka, but I will painfully admit that my stomach is no longer able to handle heavy cream. Thankfully, I stumbled upon this vegan recipe I modified to measure up closely to the real deal. 

How to: First, soak the cashews in hot water (preferably boiling) for around 30 minutes. In that time, make your pasta. Save about 1 cup of pasta water! Once the cashews are soft, put them in a blender with about ¼ cup of pasta water. Blend it until smooth. If you’re having a difficult time doing this, try stirring the cashews between blends and adding more pasta water. It should be creamy, not watery. Then add in about 1 cup of marinara sauce. Add more marinara sauce as you see fit. It should turn out to be a nice orange color like this. Add salt, pepper, oregano or whatever your favorite Italian seasonings are. Pour over pasta and enjoy! 

Sunday Night: Takeout

My Notes: After six days of cooking, you deserve a treat! Some suggestions for takeout in the Northeastern area would be: 

  1. Honeygrow 
  2. Cava
  3. SweetGreen
  4. Amelia’s Taqueria
  5. Symphony Sushi

I hope this article brings out your inner Elizabeth Zott and inspires you to cook something for yourself! 

Ellee Tomaru

Northeastern '25

Ellee Tomaru is a third year psychology student at Northeastern University. She loves going to Core Power Yoga, reading, and trying new restaurants.