When I first moved to LA, there was nothing more humbling than realizing that I couldn’t cook for myself. Living at home, I would occasionally make pancakes or fried rice, and somehow I thought that would be enough. I quickly realized that it was not, which left me no choice but to learn how to actually cook. Over the last several months, I’ve honed my skills and can proudly say that I can now hold my own in the kitchen. Cooking becomes a lot less daunting and time-consuming when you have a few solid go-to’s in your back pocket, and these four are the ones I’d recommend for any freshly independent college student:
Salmon is probably my favorite protein to cook because it’s so versatile and easy. I’ll usually either pan-fry it with garlic, butter and simple seasoning or marinate it in teriyaki sauce and throw it in the oven. Salmon is a lot more forgiving to cook than other proteins like chicken or pork, so it’s a good jumping-off point for those who may be worried about working with something raw. Find your favorite way to prepare salmon then serve with some rice, and you’re done.
Everyone loves pasta, especially when you can make it all in one pot. It’s a great choice when you don’t want to put a ton of effort into cooking but still want a balanced meal. Lately, I’ve been loving Gemelli pasta with butter, spinach, mozzarella, and chicken, but you can use whatever noodle and sauce you prefer. Many pasta recipes require ingredients that you probably already have in your apartment, so they don’t need a lot of thought and can be whipped up in no time. Having a trustworthy pasta will save you time cooking and deciding what to eat in the first place.
When you first start living on your own and cooking for yourself, it’s important to build good habits from the beginning and learn how to prepare vegetables in a way that’ll make you excited to eat them. Every Monday, I make a huge pan of roasted broccoli with garlic and olive oil, and I’ll scoop out a portion to eat with almost every meal throughout the week. You could also keep a bunch of chopped veggies and toppings in the fridge, so you can construct your favorite salad at a moment’s notice.
- elevated instant/frozen foods
Some days, starting from scratch may seem impossible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn your basic prepackaged foods into something fun. When I’m feeling particularly lazy, I’ll pan-fry the Trader Joe’s Thai shrimp dumplings and make the most amazing chili oil dipping sauce, so it feels a little more exciting. There are a million ways to elevate things like dumplings, instant ramen, mac and cheese or whatever else you have sitting in your cabinet or freezer right now.
Cooking only feels like a chore if you make it one. However, it can be therapeutic if you see it as a way to unwind and do something nice for yourself at the end of a busy day. Food is not just fuel but something that should make you feel good. Having a repertoire of go-to recipes can give you confidence in the kitchen and help you to nourish your body with healthy, yummy foods.