Three staples for college cooking
Unless youâre still living with your parents, chances are that youâre either sharing a small kitchen with several other housemates or youâre stuck in a dorm without a kitchen where you barely have room to store a Heinz squeeze bottle.
Therefore, you might not find it wise to purchase more last-minute items, but you might still want to consider the following three items that will not only make your life easier but tastier, too.
1) Folding shopping carts:
Stop smirking. Yes, the very fact that theyâre nicknamed âgrannyâ carts brings to mind the image of a toothless senior citizen hobbling behind a creaky cart with a bag of cat litter in tow. I donât care if youâre 6 feet tall and 190 pounds of pure muscle; when youâre chasing rolling balls of fruit across the streets, ripped bag in hand, you wonât think these carts are so ridiculous.
Whether youâre making a trip to Ralphs, the farmers market, the bookstore or the liquor store, youâll have to haul home a heavy load. Unless you own a car, having a shopping cart on hand will be a huge relief. No longer do you have to make multiple trips to the store. Now you can buy that more economical 12-pack of Dr. Pepper without turning the return trip into a whole-body workout session. You might even save a few bucks since you no longer have to bribe a friend to act as your chauffeur.
Invest in a good, quality cart. You donât have to spend a lot: A durable cart of decent size can cost about $20-$30 and is available at places such as Target, Walmart and the Dollar Store at the University Village.
Another good quality of this cart is that it takes up minimal space. When not in use, you can just fold it up and tuck it in a corner. Make sure to find one with turning front wheels, however, or navigating the cart will be stiff and difficult.
The slow-cooker is hugely underrated. It really should be the godfather of all cooking appliances, because there is practically nothing it canât do. Itâs not just good for pot roasts and stews in cold weather â it is also useful for condiments, breads, pasta, grains and even desserts in summer, when it is simply too hot to turn on the oven.
You can save time and energy with a slow-cooker. You donât need to get a fancy-schmancy gadget â a basic cooker with simple settings will cost anywhere between $20-$50, depending on the size and the brand. Get a 3.5-quart cooker if you want individual portions and dislike leftovers, or one of six to seven quarts if you want to make friends by feeding them.
After spending that small amount, youâll be paid back over time with lower energy bills. Operating a slow-cooker costs about two cents per hour, compared to a conventional electric oven, which costs nearly 20 cents per hour.
Another way slow-cookers save money is that you can nix fattier, pricier portions of meat like rib eye, because the slow cooking tenderizes tougher, leaner cuts of meat (like the heart, if you dare). That also means you get a much healthier dish without sacrificing flavor.
You donât need to be Alton Brown or Albert Einstein to use a slow-cooker. Itâs as simple as dumping a piece of meat and a bottle of your favorite sauce into the pot and turning the dial to low for the whole day. Wash some potatoes, pop them into the cooker and cook on high for a few hours for baked potatoes.
For those adventurous foodies who like to play with their food, slow-cookers are extremely versatile and open to all sorts of experiments. Check out the blog âA Year of Slow Cookingâ for a selection of mind-blowing recipes, from chai tea lattes to peanut butter brownies to pumpkin pudding.
If youâre getting into a more serious relationship with your slow cooker, you might even want to purchase a slow-cooker cookbook. Leaf through The Best Slow Cooker Cook Book Ever: More Than 400 Easy-to-Make Recipes by Diane Phillips, which showcases all sorts of creative yet simple recipes using easy-to-find ingredients and minimal techniques.
But the best thing about slow-cookers? The wonderful, heart-warming aroma wafting from the kitchen as you step into the house after a long day at school. Itâs almost like being back home again, greeted by Momâs lovingly prepared home-cooked meal.
3) Indoor mini grill:
Weâve all seen those George Foreman commercials. Whether you find him annoying or entertaining, George is a godsend when it comes to producing fast and healthy meals and snacks, especially on lazy days in which you just donât want to fuss around the stove.
For less than $20, you can find a Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine Champ Grill (really, thatâs what itâs called) at Walmart or online at Amazon.com. It doesnât take too much space and will do the job.
Because it heats up on both the top and bottom sides, the food cooks up fast and evenly, and you donât have to fuss around trying to flip the food, which helps retain moisture.
Anything is game here â burgers, bacon, chicken breasts, steaks, fish, sandwiches, vegetables, fruits â just use your imagination. Itâs amazing what a grill can do to resuscitate âbadâ foods: Bruised peaches, when grilled, turn into juicy, fragrant sweet jewels that can be tossed with salads or stuffed into grilled cheese sandwiches. Or butter a stale piece of bread, rub some fresh garlic cloves over and transform it into a crunchy, chewy and flavorful accompaniment to your reheated canned soup
Just like regular grills, this mini version also leaves signature grill marks on the surface, which adds a certain level of attraction and rustic quality to a simple meal. This quality comes in handy when youâve got a cute date to impress but terrible cooking skills.
If youâve been convinced, head on out; youâve got some shopping to do. Itâs time to make some sacrifices. If there simply isnât enough space in your kitchen, ponder âWhat would A foodie do?â and clear up some room in your closet to make way for these essential items. Your 13 pairs of skinny jeans wonât feed you, but these will.
Sophia Lee is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column, âThatâs What She Ate,â runs Mondays.