Easy College Meals for the Cooking Impaired

As a second year living off-grounds, I no longer have ultimate access to UVA’s (not so) delicious dining halls, but not having unlimited swipes anymore is actually quite great; I am saving tons of money by only purchasing the lowest meal plan, and I get to eat healthier. However, there is a slight issue with this new arrangement: I cannot cook (or least not well). Prior to the start of this semester, I almost never cooked anything more complex than fried eggs and steamed vegetables. My dad is a chef, so I fortunately never really had to make my own food. Unfortunately, this means I was never inclined to learn how to cook. This all changed after I moved in. After a few trial and errors, I have slowly mastered some simple cooking skills and curated five easy and fast meals that no one can mess up. 

 

  1. Avocado toast 

(Photo courtesy of @starvingartistfoodphotography) 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 avocado

  • 2 pieces of bread

  • 1 egg

  • ‘Everything but the Bagel’ seasoning 

Avocado toast is super simple to make and usually takes me around 5-10 minutes. I like to spread a whole mashed up avocado on two pieces of bread along with some “everything but the bagel” seasoning and a fried egg on top to keep myself full. The hardest part of this breakfast recipe is frying an egg, which goes to show how foolproof it is. 

 

2. Stir-fry chicken breast and vegetables 

(Photo courtesy of Simon Migaj)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 piece of frozen (or fresh) chicken breast 

  • 1 potato

  • Small bunch of asparagus 

  • Teaspoon of olive oil 

This recipe takes a little more time than avocado toast, but it makes a great dinner. I first defrost my chicken, dice it into smaller pieces, and season it with a dash of salt and pepper. Then I chop my vegetables and preheat the stove with a teaspoon of olive oil before I stir-fry both components. Afterwards, I place the chicken and veggies on the pan and move them around for about 15 minutes (or until they all look cooked). 

 

3. Super green tropical smoothie 

(Photo courtesy of Monica Grabkowska)

Ingredients: 

  • Frozen mango chunks 

  • Frozen pineapple chunks 

  • Frozen strawberries 

  • Super green salad mix 

  • Almond milk 

This healthy vitamin packed smoothie takes zero skill to make. I have been drinking this for breakfast to boost my immune system, and the green leafy taste is pretty much masked. I got all my ingredients in bulk from Costco (woohoo for saving money) too. To make this smoothie, I simply place my desired amount of frozen fruit and greens in a blender, add some almond milk, and blend away. 

4. Tilapia, rice, and veggies dish 

(Photo courtesy of Shirley Chu) 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 slab of frozen Tilapia 

  • Half a cup of rice 

  • Potatoes and asparagus 

  • Salt and pepper 

This dish is similar to the chicken stir-fry but contains fish instead. My roommates and I found a pack of frozen individually wrapped Tilapia at Walmart for a pretty good deal, and we have been making it whenever we want a fancier dinner. I typically let my fish defrost for a few hours before dinnertime in the fridge. Then, I take it out of its packaging and season it with salt and pepper on a plate. The next step is to fry the fish for about 10 minutes (although it really depends on the stove setting). I also like to put half a cup of rice into my instant pot to pair with the fish. If I’m feeling healthy, I’d stir fry some chopped potato and asparagus too. I think this is the most complex meal out of all four, but it actually easy to make when broken down into parts.