Written by Ivy Walsh
What is keeping you from cooking delicious homemade meals? Not Sure? I’ve generated a list below of some common excuses I hear from my fellow college students and friends and family on why they don’t cook.
You don’t have the time:
I hear you; I really do. Cooking can seem like a real chore, but there are plenty of meals that can be cooked in under thirty minutes (I have included some below), which is less time than walking to a local dining hall or going out to eat. Not to mention, cooking at home can be done in the comfort of your pajamas!
It’s too much work:
The little time and effort that I put into prepping and cooking meals does not even begin to compare to the reward. I enjoy getting to have a tasty, home-cooked meal; food brings my family and friends together; and all in all, it’s healthier for you!
It costs too much:
At first glance, maybe a meal at a fast food joint or your dining hall meal plan sounds like a great deal (okay, maybe the meal plans aren’t such a great deal), but stretching fresh ingredients out throughout the week covers a variety of meals and is much healthier for you! Maybe it’s costly to purchase fresh food only to throw it away, but planning ahead can help you use up all of those delicious ingredients.
I can’t cook:
So maybe you aren’t the world’s best cook. That is totally ok! Everyone has to start from somewhere, and I didn’t begin cooking on a regular basis until I went to college. There is a variety of recipes for cooks of all levels, and it’s ok if you burn a few things! Besides, cooking is a part of your “pre-real-world education,” and your future self will thank you!
You’re a picky eater:
That’s totally ok! Cooking does not have to mean gourmet. There are plenty of recipes out there with simple ingredients for even your pickiest of eaters. Who’s to say you can’t cook up your favorite burger at home?
A piece of advice:
I have some simple advice for all of the college cooks:
- Plan your menu for the week
- Make a shopping list
- Shop for all the necessary ingredients
- You don’t have to cook for every meal. You can prepare meals that you can freeze and eat at a later date, and it’s ok to go out to eat sometimes.
Some Recipes I’m loving Right Now:
Teriyaki chicken and pineapple salsa:
- 1/4 cup pineapple juice
- 4 teaspoons reduced sodium soy
- 1 large garlic clove crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
- 4 chicken breasts
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 3 tablespoon soy
- 1/4 cup pineapple juice
- 2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 small garlic clove minced
- 1 and a half cups of fresh pineapple cut to 1/2-inch dice
- 1 fresh jalapeño finely chopped (I recommend deseeding unless you like heat)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped red onion.
For chicken: In a small bowl, combine pineapple juice, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Put the chicken in a container and let marinade for at least 30 minutes (more time the better). I tend to prep mine in the morning and let it sit till dinner.
For teriyaki sauce: In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of cold water until dissolved. In a small saucepan combine the sauce, pineapple juice, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic. Bring to a boil over medium to low heat and cook until reduced and thickened (about 4 minutes). Then, add cornstarch and cook until thickened (about two minutes, but keep an eye on this one–it depends how hot your burner is).
In a small bowl, combine pineapple, jalapeño, red onion, and cilantro. Set aside. (I do this in the morning with the marinade to make it go quicker).
To cook, preheat the grill, grill pan, or saucepan to medium high on medium to high heat.
Remove chicken from marinade and cook 6-7 min a side.
Serve chicken with pineapple salsa on top
*Recommended pairing tortilla chips to eat extra salsa
Easy Chicken Parmesan:
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- As many boneless, skinless chicken breasts as you want to eat! My following ingredient suggestions are for two breasts. Adjust accordingly.
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup breadcrumbs (I use panko, which is great because lots of panko breadcrumbs are gluten free).
- 4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons melted unsalted butter (I love land o’ lakes)
- 2 cups Marinara (or more ☺)
- As much Mozzarella as you prefer
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees and spray baking sheet with oil
- Butterfly chicken and cover with salt
- Combine breadcrumbs and parmesan in a bowl
- Combine butter and olive oil in another bowl
- Brush chicken with olive oil and butter
- Dredge chicken in breadcrumbs and parmesan
- Put chicken on baking sheet and place in the oven
- Bake until top is browned (about 20 min)
- Turn chicken over and bake until cooked through (about 6 min)
- Meanwhile, warm marinara 2-3 min in a deep covered skillet
- Place baked chicken in a skillet and top each piece with marinara.
- Cover pan and cook until cheese melts (3-4 min)
*Recommended pairing pasta and marinara, or asparagus for a healthier version
Sweet and Spicy Salmon:
- ¼ cup soy
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon siracha sauce
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1-pound wild salmon
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil (optional)
- In a gallon size zip-top, combine all ingredients listed above (with the exception of the sesame oil).
- Toss salmon in bag to coat
- Refrigerate for 1-8 hours (the more, the better)
- When ready to cook, remove salmon from bag and reserve marinade
- Add a drizzle of olive oil or sesame oil to a skillet
- Cook each side of salmon in skillet for about 2 minutes on medium heat (just until browned not cooked through)
- Pour in marinade and cook covered another 5 minutes or until cooked through on low heat
*Recommended pairing green beans
- 6 tablespoons mayo (light mayo also works)
- 5 tablespoons of Thai sweet chili sauce
- 3 tablespoons of sriracha
- 1 pound of shelled deveined shrimp
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Combine mayo, sweet-chili sauce, and siracha in medium bowl
- Toss shrimp in cornstarch
- Cook shrimp in a large non-stick pan over high heat until cooked through (about 3 minutes, but can vary dependent on stove top)
- Transfer shrimp to bowl of sauce and toss to coat
- Serve hot
*Recommended pairing white rice
Food for thought:
I know all of these ingredients and cooking can seem like a hassle, but buying many of these ingredients once can last you for many meals (they make up a few of my regular weeknight dinners). I think you will love these homemade meals if you just try them out. I have really come to love cooking and these recipes, and I hope you will love them too. Thanks for reading! Now, get cooking!