Cooking in college: Five easy meals to make and share

Life at Case Western Reserve University often means tight schedules and even tighter budgets, leaving little time for cooking anything more than ready-made meals. However, with a bit of creativity and planning, you can whip up delicious, homemade dishes that won’t break the bank or the study schedule. With some trial and error, I have found a few meals that are satisfying yet simple, and they will never fail to warm your soul.

  1. Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

There’s something comforting about a bowl of good soup, and tomato soup paired with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich is a classic go-to. Using my favorite recipe from Pinch of Yum, tomato soup is a deceivingly simple meal, blending canned tomatoes and veggies that can be found at a local grocery store. Combining broth and seasonings such as garlic and thyme, this soup is hearty and flavorful without requiring too much culinary skill—and bacon adds a welcome smoky flavor. To up the nutritional value, I like to add some rotisserie chicken to the grilled cheese and some steamed veggies to my plate.

  1. Curry and Rice

Curries are versatile, flavorful and easy-to-customize based on your preferences and available ingredients. In college, flexible meals are key to cleaning out your pantry and sticking to a tight budget. Whether you prefer chicken, tofu or vegetables, you can easily create a delicious curry dish with minimal effort. Simply sauté your choice of protein or vegetables with curry paste or powder, coconut milk—or any other cream base—and seasonings such as ginger, garlic and chili peppers.

Let the curry sit in an Instant Pot for a couple minutes or slowly simmer over the stove so that the flavors can meld together and the ingredients can be cooked through. Served over a bed of rice, this meal is packed with flavor and nutrients and never gets boring. Some of our favorites right now are Thai red curry and Indian butter chicken, both of which also work great as meal prep.

  1. Enchiladas with Spanish Rice

Enchiladas are a crowd-pleasing Mexican dish that are easy to prepare and perfect for sharing. To make enchiladas, fill corn tortillas with a combination of cooked chicken, beans and veggies—we usually use bell peppers and onions. Roll up the tortillas and place them in a baking dish, then cover them with enchilada sauce and shredded cheese.

Bake the enchiladas in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly. While the enchiladas are baking, prepare Spanish rice by cooking rice with tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices such as cumin and chili powder. Once the rice is fluffy and fragrant, serve it alongside the enchiladas and sour cream for a satisfying and flavorful meal that is truly as good as that of a restaurant.

While a bit more time-consuming than other options on this list, enchiladas are great for adding veggies and protein to a meal, and the ingredients can be easily substituted to meet dietary needs. Plus, if cooking for friends, I’m certain these enchiladas will definitely be the taco the town!

  1. The Viral Feta Pasta

The viral feta pasta trend took the internet by storm—and for good reason. It’s incredibly easy to make, and it bursts with flavor from the roasted tomatoes and garlic. To make this simple yet delicious dish, place a block of feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and seasonings in a baking dish. Bake everything in the oven until the tomatoes start to split and the feta cheese becomes golden brown.

Toss your roasted tomato and feta mixture with cooked pasta of your choosing—I’m partial to cavatelli—until well combined. The result is a creamy, tangy pasta dish that’s so much better than your average pasta sauce.

  1. Asian Stir Fry or Noodles

Stir-fries and noodles are quick, versatile and infinitely customizable, making them ideal for busy CWRU students. You can use a variety of proteins such as chicken or beef along with an assortment of vegetables such as bell peppers, broccoli, carrots and baby corn.

To make this dish, simply stir-fry your mix-ins in a hot pan with garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil and sriracha if you like some spice until everything is cooked through and well-combined. Serve the stir-fry over rice or egg noodles for a satisfying and nutritious meal that is cheaper than take-out.

While this list might be over, the possibilities are not. Several websites and blogs cater their content to college students, so finding easy recipes can truly just be a click away. This means that even in college, we can enjoy comfort foods such as tomato soup, grilled cheese and more unique flavors such as curry and Asian stir-fry. So, if you haven’t already, stop by your local grocery and get some good food to prepare a meal that is sure to brighten your day!

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