College cooking no longer a challenge

By Jen Harvey

Kristie Cobb has a taste for something sweet. She opens the refrigerator, notices the zucchini she and her roommates meant to eat a week ago, but have yet to, and decides to be adventurous and make zucchini cake. She spends the time and effort in creating her masterpiece and once it has cooled enough her and her roommates dig in. To their surprise and disappointment, Cobb, junior in Engineering, had unknowingly made two pans of cucumber cake and given them all a bad taste in their mouths.

Knowing how to cook, to some extent, is a skill that most people do not really have to worry about until they are forced to do it on their own and, oftentimes, that situation comes from living in one’s first college apartment. This circumstance allows people to come up with their own preferences, however practical, healthy or expensive they may be.

“When people begin cooking for the first time, they are often unprepared for how time consuming it is,” said Rebecca Roach, professor in food, science and human nutrition and a registered dietician. “It takes time to plan meals for the week, time to shop and time to cook, as well.”

Planning meals for a week is not often highest on the to-do list for busy college students. To save money, frozen foods tend to offer inexpensive options, but Roach said they are not often balanced and complete.

“Making a frozen pizza is fine, but once when it’s done, slice up some fresh veggies and put them on top,” Roach said.

Cobb, who learned to cook from her mom, has found college cooking more painless than she had thought. However, she said that her biggest disappointment is how quickly fresh items expire.

“Oftentimes students have the good intention of eating fruits and vegetables, however, these items don’t last,” Roach said. “Therefore, all these fresh items transfer into a lot of waste and money down the drain.”

Dan Morgan, junior in Engineering, does not see cooking as an over-feminine activity and has found cooking items such as, pasta to be easy and fulfilling. While the weather is still nice, he and his roommates take advantage of outdoor grilling.

Roach recommends trying to have as consistent of a diet as possible. This includes eating breakfast, lunch and dinner around the same time everyday, carrying snacks if a meal will be missed, and avoiding becoming overly-hungry as over-eating is likely to occur after extreme hunger.

Students should also know what healthy options the University fast-food scene offers, Roach said.

“College is an extremely chaotic time in life, and no one I know has ever had their most healthful eating in college,” she added.

However, there are small steps that can be made. Fruits, veggies and whole grains help to maintain fullness and create the platform for healthy living. Substituting ground round and ground sirloin for ground beef is a leaner and healthier option, Roach said.

Cobb and her roommates spend Sundays making large portions of meals to put in the refrigerator to eat throughout the week. She also recommends shopping the perimeter of the supermarket for dairy, meats and frozen and fresh fruits and veggies. This also allows the avoidance of aisles that offer high-sugar, high-fat and over-processed foods.

For more help, University students can use the school’s newest resource. The Instructional Kitchen at the Activities and Recreation Center will hold cooking classes starting this week. These classes are led by Stacey L. Krawczyk, registered dietician, and are available through registration for a fee.

Ali Timm, sophomore in AHS, is a member of the Cooking Club and tries to keep her recipe bank fresh to avoid getting sick of the same foods over and over again. With the addition of the Instructional Kitchen, the group will now hold meetings based on specific topics there.

“We are looking at trying to do some demos for students or doing classes for boyfriends so they can make their girlfriends dinner, as well as others” Timm said. “We hope to get speakers in to teach advanced knife skills and herb and spice pairing, also.”

The college lifestyle is oftentimes overly busy, and a diet lacking in necessary nutrients cannot help fuel late nights. With the right perspective, cooking for oneself can be painless and even fun.