The semester is winding down, study days are becoming longer, you come home from school, you're probably starving. If you're anything like me, there is nothing more daunting than cooking yourself dinner.
My cooking aversion comes in phases though. Sometimes I get really motivated, see a pretty easy, delicious looking recipe and go all at it. Or, Thanksgiving happens. But most of the time when I cook, I remember how much I dislike cooking. The real problem is I really enjoy good food, but I just don't know how to make it.
My whole family knows how to cook. They cook really well. My mother has the odd ability to have 'nothing in the fridge' and make a healthy, well rounded gourmet meal in no time at all. She's taught me the whole 'have necessities in your pantry at all times'-concept, but it's never quite stuck. I think I've had an unopened bag of lentils in my cubbord for two years now. I'm pretty sure I don't like lentils.
When it came time move out from home, I quickly realized the importance of learning to cook quick and healthy meals for myself. I was fortunate to go to school in a Finnish university where quality cafeterias are dispersed all over campus, where students can eat a proper meal for 2,60€. I loved that aspect of studying in Finland! But after trolling away in a physics lab I moved onto Medical School in Pécs, Hungary where student cafeterias aren't all the rage. While eating out is very affordable here, it's not the healthiest fare. Unfortunately, the most economical, healthy options are ones you produce in your own kitchen. *Sigh*
<-- me and my two left hands
I've become increasingly comfortable with an incredibly quick and easy weeknight dinner I like to call 'Student Scramble'. It almost always encompasses vegetables, a protein and whole-wheat bread or pasta. Since this dish involves only one pan to make, it also combats my other displeasure of cooking: a messy kitchen.
Since this meal is so modifiable, it doesn't deserve a recipe, but the basic idea is this:
Serves 1-2 , or however much you make (I'm that specific)
- Start by pouring a dallop of vegetable oil on a pan (or coconut oil if you're really trendy)
- Chop one onion (because they're an easy way to make everything taste better) and sauté until they're translucent, about 2 minutes
- If you're making pasta, now would be a good time to get the water boiling. If you're having bread, wait until later so it will be served warm (<-- cooking tips from the pros)
- Chop up a motherload of vegetables and add them to the simmering pan of onions. Staples for me are zucchini, mushrooms, kale, spinach, cabbage and peppers.
- Add as many chopped garlic cloves as you can handle. I try to include as many as possible thanks to the natural anti-oxidant properties and the compound allicin, garlic has beneficial impact on your immune and cardiovascular systems!
- Once the vegetables are soft and mixed around with the onions and garlic, add garlic salt and other seasonings like Penzyes herb mixes. I've mentioned Penzyes mixes before, but these herb mixes really do save the lives of cooking amateurs. Another option is to add the herb mixes in the very beginning, with the oil and onion to flavor the oil!
- Transfer the vegetables onto your plates and use the same pan to cook eggs, sliced chicken, turkey, tofu or any protein that needs cooking
- Am I 12 years old if I like eggs and cheese?
- Add fresh herbs towards the end of the cooking process. Here's a PSA to all Pécs city dwellers: There's a fruit and vegetable stand on Fereszesek Utca that has big bunches of fresh parsley for 80ft (that's 0,25€) !
- Toast bread and plate it next to your vegetables. Eggs and toast will forever be a winner combination! Since peppers in Hungary are delicious all year round, having some fresh pepper or other fresh chopped veggie for a refreshing side is a sweet and crunchy luxury.
- Enjoy your well rounded meal in the classiest way possible! Student style 😉
Wine lovers out there?
A great friend of mine has created a genius and practical product for measuring the sugar content of wine. It's called the Valoa Brix.
Woah woah... There's sugar in wine?
As shown in the above chart from Wine Folly, naturally, sweeter wines like dessert wines will contain more sugar than a traditional red or white wine. But, were you aware of how much sugar is in non-sweet wines?
Why is this important?
To quote the creator of the product, President of Valoa Technologies, Dr. Hannu Harjunmaa: "It's going to be a perfect dinner. You can't wait to make a great impression on your date. You've got the ingredients and the cooking lined down. Only one issue remains - the wine. How will you be able to pick the perfect one? What if your choice doesn't go well at all with your carefully prepared dinner? You may think it's as simple as reading the label on a wine bottle, but in reality even the most experienced connoisseur will occasionally be surprised. It can really be a downer at dinner when the wine you picked out at the store is too sweet to go with your main course, or tastes too bland with your dessert. No more! The Valoa Brix will tell you what level of sweetness you are looking at, right through the bottle. White wine, red wine, sparkling wine, even sake — and in fact any clear liquid — you name it."
For health and palatable reasons, the Valoa Brix is a smart and practical product. Visit their website for more information!