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Cooking 101 for the Busy Collegiette

There's no sugar-coating it. Finding time to cook meals in college is hard. The last thing you want when you come home from a long day of classes and work is to chop up vegetables and wait for your pasta to boil.

Having the same boring and easy meals day after day gets mundane, draining, and it isn't all that healthy. So I've experimented with a few foolproof dishes to spice up my diet, add a little bit of fun into my day without the stress of preparing a huge meal, and to make sure I'm eating well.

1. Thai Curry

Trader Joe's makes several delicious Thai curry sauces, and when combined with coconut milk, it makes for a great sauce to serve with any combination of meat and vegetables. Just grab your favorite vegetables and your choice of meat or tofu, and you're ready to go!

This dish is great because you can use any vegetables you have in your fridge like carrots, spinach, mushrooms, or bell peppers. It's also a great multitasking dish. While your chicken is cooking, cut your vegetables, and while your vegetables are sautéing, have your rice cooker on. When your ingredients are ready to go, mix them all into a big pot and let them simmer together for 10 or so minutes. Serve over rice and you've just made yourself an easy and unique Thai curry!

Photo courtesy: cookieandkate.com

2. Shrimp Tacos

This is one of my favorite dishes because of how few ingredients you need and how quick it is. All you really need are sautéed onions, bell peppers, and your choice of meat. I gravitate towards shrimp because it has the least amount of prep time among the meats, and it tastes delicious in a taco setting.

Throw your onions, bell peppers, and thawed shrimp into a skillet and let them get thoroughly cooked. The ultimate kicker of this dish, however, is the taco sauce. Safeway, Raley's, Trader Joe's, and most grocery stores sell taco or fajita sauces in a variety of flavors. These sauces are perfect because they take the stress out of creating a sauce from scratch and give the taco the finishing touch. Drizzle the sauce over your sauté while you start heating up tortillas. Arrange your sauté in your tortilla and cut up an avocado on the side if you're feeling like getting that extra health quick!

Photo courtesy: Pexels

3. Veggie burger a la Bagel

This dish is for the on-the-go collegiette who wants the least amount of labor to go into food preparation. Trader Joe's makes great veggie burgers that come in unique flavors such as Spicy Thai or Pizza, and they bake easily in an oven in around 10 minutes. Using a bagel as the bun for your burger is a fun way to make your meal more filling and adds carbs to the dish, making this a better meal for lunch.

Because the veggie patty is already so flavorful, you don’t really need other ingredients or condiments; however, I like adding pieces of spinach or lettuce, a slice of cheese and cut up pieces of avocado to really complete the meal. Serve with chips and a drink and you have a restaurant quality but personalized meal in front of you!

Photo courtesy: Pexels

The trick with cooking as a busy college student is to be creative and resourceful with the ingredients you already have in your fridge. Recipes are great starting points, but they don't have to be followed as strictly as you might think. You can mold a recipe to fit your tastes and fit the foods you already have, saving you a trip to the store and extra expenses. Flavored sauces have made all the difference in my culinary journey and have led to the creation of a great many types of dishes. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing your own fresh vegetables and experimentation pay off with a delicious, home-made meal in front of you.

None of the images used belong to the author or Her Campus UC Davis.

Cover photo courtesy: Pexels

Maria is a fourth year at University of California, Davis where she is double majoring in Economics and Comparative Literature. When she's not studying for her classes or writing up an article, you can find her playing soccer with her friends, working with the UCD School of Education or chowing down on some delicious Thai food with her roommates.
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