November 4, 2012

Collegetown Cooks: Five Staples Every College Kitchen Should Have

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Don’t be the typical college student and turn to ramen noodles, grilled cheese, spaghetti and Chef Boyardee in times of need, but change it up and try out these healthy alternative staples. Meant to be bought and forgot about until that week comes along with three midterms, two papers and a project due, these foods are ones that are versatile, have a long shelf life, can be easily frozen and thawed, and can be quickly converted into easy meals.

Keen on Quinoa         Quinoa is a versatile, grain-like product that can be used as a higher protein substitute than rice. Containing all the essential amino acids, as well as other important nutrients including high fiber and iron content, quinoa is an ideal item to have in any pantry. Use quinoa to complement a stir-fry, mix it with corn, beans and peppers or even make quinoa burgers (try them out, you may be surprised!). The variety of different flavors, tastes and meals you can make out of quinoa is one of the many reasons it should always be in your kitchen.

Tune into Tuna         Many college students lack omega-3 fatty acids in their diets, and incorporating tuna is one way to solve this dilemma. Buying canned tuna in water creates options for an easy lunch or quick dinner that packs in the protein and omega-3s. Mix the tuna with a little bit of light mayo or Miracle Whip and create a tuna salad that you can throw on top of a salad or into a wrap or melt some cheese over it and make a tuna melt on a damp, cold day. However, be careful not to consume this saltwater finfish more than three times a week because tuna contains small amounts of mercury.

Trust in Crust         Making your own pizza is both a cheaper and healthier option than ordering in. And I’m talking about pizza for dinner, not for when you’re blackout at CTP on a Friday night. Having a pizza crust on hand is great way to make a meal that will last for several days. Buying and freezing any pre-made pizza crust allows for an easy option so that when you have cheese that is about to go bad or sauce to use up, just pre-heat the oven and throw on whatever excess ingredients you may have laying around the house. Be creative! We’ve all seen the weird pizzas RPCC serves for Sunday brunch, and if they can make a palatable breakfast pizza, have faith you can put weird combinations together and make them taste delicious.

Tastes Like Chicken!         But it’s shaped like sausage. But it’s chicken. But … Despite the confusion it may cause, pre-cooked chicken sausage can be used for virtually any meal. I usually buy Al Fresco chicken sausage and throw it in the freezer and pull it out when necessary. Scramble it in with eggs to make an omelet, dice it up and mix it with some red sauce to make a heartier and healthier meat sauce, slice some chicken sausage and skewer with vegetables and put them on the grill (let’s get real, any George Foreman grill or skillet over the stove) or heat up some chicken sausage with chopped pepper and onion.

Lucky Lentils         A member of the legume family, lentils are the second highest in protein of all beans behind soybeans. Although mainly consumed whole in North America and Europe, buying lentils dehulled will decrease the cooking time and increase iron bioavailability. These magical beans can be used to make lentil soup, mix them with rice and sautéed onions or make a lentil potato salad.

Original Author: Casey Carr