The fall semester holds a lot of new beginnings for students. New classes, new classmates and, for some, a new apartment with a kitchen that can seem a little scary. Cooking for oneself for the first time is difficult because there’s a lot to consider like budget, time and ingredients. However, studies show that cooking your own meals can be better for your body and have a lot of added psychological benefits if you share those meals with others. Instead of being intimidated, see cooking as a new type of self-care where you can learn more about yourself and grow as a chef. Here is a list of six budget and dietary-restriction friendly recipes for any type of cook that require little equipment and little time. These recipes are perfect after a long day of Zoom classes.
1. Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala (Vegetarian/Vegan)
Posted by the blog Budget Bytes, this masala recipe can be whipped up in just 40 minutes for an easy, weeknight meal. Served with hot rice or naan, this dish can be transformed into a vegan dinner by substituting the heavy cream for full fat coconut milk. The best part about this dish is that it is inexpensive and will hold up well in the fridge, making it a perfect meal prep option for busy weeks.
2. Slow Cooker Chicken and Butternut Squash Stew (Gluten/Dairy-free)
September is here, and no dish can welcome fall better than this warm creation. A slow cooker is a great kitchen tool for the busy student, because this stew only needs some simple prep before it cooks itself on the counter during the day. Looking for some ways to add more nutrients to this stew? The Natural Nurturer recommends adding some dark, leafy greens in the last few minutes before serving the dish, or topping it off with avocado, in order to add some healthy fats. This dish can easily be reheated from the fridge for the week and saved frozen for up to a month.
3. Quinoa and Kale Salad (Vegetarian/Vegan/Gluten-free)
TikTok star and creator of the blog Collegetown Kitchen, Jeremy Scheck, dishes up content for great meal-time inspiration. In this one-minute video, Scheck’s mom breaks down his family’s favorite kale salad with a homemade lemon vinaigrette. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is added to the salad for some additional flavor, but that can easily be omitted to comply with any dietary restrictions. Top this dish off with the protein of your choice to take this great salad from a hearty lunch to an excellent dinner. The salad ingredients can be prepared and stored in the fridge in separate containers and assembled before eating to maintain freshness for several more days. Kale, however, is a strong enough green that this salad can hold the dressing on it for next-day leftovers.
4. One Pan Sausage and Vegetables (Dairy-free)
This easy meal from the blog Chelsea’s Messy Apron comes together within 40 minutes in one pan in the oven and makes excellent leftovers. It’s great served with your favorite type of whole grain and needs almost no prep to taste so good. The recipe calls for potatoes, green beans, broccoli and bell peppers, but any variety of seasonal vegetables will taste great roasted next to chicken or turkey sausage. Frozen vegetables can also be used to make this recipe even easier. This guide from The Kitchn offers a great tutorial on how to get frozen vegetables roasted just right.
5. Frittata Egg Muffins (Vegetarian/Gluten-free)
If getting up early to cook a healthy breakfast sounds impossible, then try baking these easy, protein-packed bites from RecipeTin Eats the night before. These frittata egg muffins will last in the fridge for up to four days and freeze for up to three months. Filled with spinach, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and feta, these little frittatas are the perfect addition to your morning cup of coffee or can be eaten as a mid-afternoon snack for a little pick-me-up between classes. Serve it with some fresh bacon or breakfast sausage for a hearty start to the day.
6. Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili (Vegetarian/Vegan/Gluten Free)
Chelsea’s Messy Apron is back with another great and easy dish. This vegetarian chili can be made vegan with some quick substitutions, and it can be reheated all week long. Jalapeño, lime juice and fresh cilantro add a level of brightness to this chili that complements the sweet potato. If you want to add a little variety to this chili for a week of meals, serve it over a baked potato with some plain greek yogurt or sour cream, have it in a taco salad, or create this amazing teriyaki sweet potato and black bean quesadilla.
In the digital age, culinary dishes are easy to share and recreate through blogs or social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. This list is only the beginning, meant to offer a little inspiration for any cook (no matter their level of experience) to bring cooking into their routine. All of these recipes make for some great leftovers, can be eaten throughout the week and enjoyed all semester long.