October 24, 2011

Students: Down with Noodles, Cooking is the Way

As much as living alone or away from home during college days is arduous and hectic, as much as a college student can learn so many things , like managing his/her own life, taking full responsibility of what he/ she is doing, learning special techniques, or even developing “super power” skills in accommodating with roommates ..etc. Cooking is one of those special techniques you have to develop. Take it from a person who has been living 6 years away from home.

And there might be a “valid “reason why you need to start cooking. Eating is perhaps one of the most things that make your parents worry about mostly during your first year in University. Simply, they are not used to the fact that you are not dining with them at home, and from their own food.How many times did your mother call you to check up on what did you eat for lunch, or perhaps to remind you to buy food from the grocery? But, with all your courses, clubs’ activities, social life, and sometimes part time work, you actually have no time to plan your eating. And so, you dismiss this question as annoying, maybe intruding, because you can easily manage eating just anything around!

Students rely on fast food chains, deli sandwiches and saj, homemade food restaurants, frozen food brought from home, and of course, universities cafeterias.

Looking through these options comes the vital reason why you should give cooking a try.
 Most of these options are not wise, nutritionally. Aren't you wondering why did you gain those 3 extra kilos in your first year? Well, it is all because of the deli sandwiches, man’eesh, croissant you ate every morning and night, and all the fast food you ordered for lunch. So, then you choose the noodles and popcorn option. Yet here I am begging you to stop these two foods, because during my five years in dorms, the most frustrating thing I have seen was girls having popcorn for dinner every night, all because they were too lazy to make a labneh or cheese sandwich. I used to tell those girls that they will faint some day, due to the lack of their daily requirements of proteins, vitamins and minerals.

And with the cafeteria closing on weekends and holidays, here comes a simple resort: Do it yourself (DYI) foods.

1. Macaroni and cheese, with vegetables. Bring those canned or frozen vegetables and add
them to your Mac and cheese. By this you get your vegetable intake. You can also do your own dressing, ketchup, mustard, and mayo.

2. Tuna: doesn’t need any cooking .It is a loaded with healthy proteins, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. You can put it in Arabic bread or French baguette with tomatoes, lettuce and lemon. Or you can even add it to your macaroni and cheese, as prepared above. Make sure you choose the Tuna in water rather than in oil.

3. Fava Beans (Fūl) or Hummus: both easy, nutritious, and hunger satisfying. Just cook canned hummus or foul for few minutes, add lemon, salt, or some garlic if you want. You can dish them up with fresh vegetables; fresh mint, onion, tomatoes, and cucumber.

4. The Egg Meal; an easy, healthy meal that can give you ample satiety. Before frying the eggs, peal potato and microwave them for about 10 minutes or boil them in water. Whip them with eggs, and fry them together. You may add tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, salt and pepper. If you are having it for lunch, get frozen chicken or canned hotdogs and cook them aside, on a pan. ( Also Check an old post)

Make your own salad from anything! :)
5. Salads: it is important to have fresh vegetables every day. So why not prepare them yourself? Just buy vegetables and green leaves, and make sure you clean them well before cutting them. Add your favorite seasoning of lemon oil, mayonnaise, or mustard and vinegar. Walnuts are a great addition too because of the proteins they provide. Adding oat to salads is also a health conscious option since it provides you with fibers that can ease digestion, and give you satiety.

6. Frozen vegetables and rice: This might need extra preparation time. Rice cooking usually
takes around 30 minutes of preparation. The most common way to do rice is to wash the rice, then add water (every cup of rice needs around 1.5 cups of water). Bring them to boil then cover the saucepan. When all the water is evaporated, the rice is ready. As for the frozen vegetables (spinach or Chinese vegetables) they just need some defrosting and addition of your favorite seasoning (maggi cubes) or condiments.

7. If you like Mloukhiyah ( known as Jew's mallaw) ,it is as simple as cooking the frozen vegetables. Just buy the frozen mloukhiyah, chop out some garlic and onion , fry them with Kuzbara ( Cilantro)and add the frozen mloukhiyah . Cook till you see the leaves becoming slimmy. Cook chicken aside.

Pearl's Powder: This isn't all. There are more recipes online and I am sure you have better brilliant ideas. Be creative because cooking is all about improvising! The fun part is to invite your friends to cook meals together over weekends or perhaps plan a potluck in your dorms or studio where everyone can bring their favorite dishes.

Bon Appetite!

This article appeared in Outlook * article , Volume 44 , Issues 1 and Issue 2.

*Outlook is the independent Student publication of the American University of Beirut since 1949.

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