Sunday, October 27, 2013

Living On Your Own: Cooking.

A veggie stew my roommate Carlos and I made--
most of the ingredients came from our farmshare of local vegetables.
This year, I'm lucky to be living in an Ethan Allen apartment (on North Campus) with a couple buddies of mine from my first-year hall. Saint Mike's is a four-year residential school, so our apartment is technically on-campus housing; but, like the townhouses where seniors live, EA has full kitchens and living rooms, and you're not required to stay on the meal plan.
Thus, there is some element of independence in living in the apartments--most notably, you're responsible for cooking your own food. For some, this is daunting, and that's fair. A lot of thought goes into cooking food, and if you don't enjoy it, cooking becomes that much harder. But there are a few things you can do to make buying groceries and cooking meals less of a hassle, less expensive, and more enjoyable; or, at the very least, as minimally obtrusive as possible.
  1. Plan your shopping list. Going to the store without a list can be disastrous--45 minutes later, there's a good chance you'll emerge with nothing but Annie's mac and cheese, Oreos, and a few awkward vegetables. Such foods don't always make for the healthiest meals. If you plan out a couple possible dinners, and then figure out the ingredients you'll need, it'll be easier to anticipate and limit your grocery purchases, and avoid being forced into making 7 consecutive dinners out of ramen noodles and various sauces.
  2. Microwaved baked potatoes with cheese and
    sauteed green beans with salt and
    pepper (<15min).
    Buy ingredients you like. This definitely works in concert with number 1. Making meals is a lot easier if you can just dump a bunch of food you like in a pot for 15 minutes and munch. A couple of my staples are black beans, potatoes, frozen green beans, rice, cheese, and whatever vegetables are in our farmshare. Combining any 2-4 of these with some sort of sauce wouldn't take very long and is relatively healthy, not to mention light on the wallet.
  3. Do your dishes as you cook. Your roommates will hate you a lot less, and cooking will be less of a hassle if you do your dishes as you cook. After using a mixing bowl for eggs, wash the bowl as the eggs cook. That way, the sink isn't as scary at the end of your cook-venture, and the next chef on deck can get started in a clean environment. Plus, your kitchen is just about the last place you want to have flies, buzzing around dirty plates.
  4. Eat with friends. If you can coordinate to mix ingredients and cook a meal with a few friends, dinner becomes fun. Especially if you're someone who hates to cook, one of your friends can take charge of that while you DJ the iHome in their kitchen. Then, you have a good meal with friends, and all you had to do was bring an eggplant and good taste in music. Win-win.
  5. Always have a backup. There are times when you can't block out a half-hour for dinner, but you don't have the time/swipes to go to Alliot (the dining hall). In such a situation, it's good to have a back-up meal that you can take to go. When I can manage to set aside the time, I like to make black bean burgers and keep them frozen. That way, I can bring one down to main campus on days when I have to eat dinner at my work-study, or have one for a quick meal before going to a concert. The important thing with back-ups is to make sure they're foods that last a while (frozen or non-perishable), and avoid eating them until you really need to.
  6. If you're of age, have a beer. Even better with friends--if you like beer, go buy a good six pack and have one while you make dinner. You can even add a little to whatever you're cooking as you go; see how stir-fry tastes with a little IPA--why not?!
  7. Make your own coffee. Last but not least, if you're a coffee drinker, make your coffee at home. It's way cheaper, and then you can brew it however dark/light you want. As great as Cheray Cafe is, getting a coffee (or three) there every day will begin to add up and make your wallet sad. But on those days you do need to buy a cup, bring your own mug! Cheray Cafe will charge you less, and it's a waste to use paper cups every time you have a coffee.
Here's to good food and learning how to do it on your own!
Til next time, thanks for reading!

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