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ISSUE 118 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/6/2005

Cooking for one, fun

By Cate Grochala
Staff Writer


Friday, May 6, 2005

It is a truth universally acknowledged that even over the summer, a St. Olaf student cannot live on ramen alone. Monotony keeps us from relying solely on college food staples.

During the school year, more students cook for themselves since Bon Appétit has cut back on meals during breaks.

Add graduation to the list, and there are several good reasons for St. Olaf students to know how to prepare a variety of simple, healthy meals on their own.

The Wellness Center’s website, www.stolaf.edu/stulife/wellness, is a good resource for beginners who don’t know much about foods or would like some suggestions for healthy recipes to fix.

The website lists healthy snack suggestions, as well as good sources of some specific nutrients. The Wellness Center also periodically offers on-campus lectures related to nutrition.

Fellow students also are good resources for cooking suggestions.

Melanie Meinzer ’07 honed her cooking skills staying on campus over breaks. “I try to think of what I’d usually eat at home with my parents and then try my own variations on these foods,” she said.

Lauren Anderson ’06 also thinks of variations on traditional foods when cooking on campus.

“Try to find some friends to join you, if you can,” she said. “Cooking is more fun with others. It also helps you to keep down the cost if you go in with friends to buy what you need.” Meinzer estimated that this year she spent $30-40 on food during a four-day break, and $60-80 for nine days worth of food.

Buying locally-grown food is an important concern for Anderson. “It’s just so much fresher and less processed if you can do that,” she said.

She also suggested the Northfield Co-Op, Just Foods, as a place where students can purchase locally-grown staples.

“A membership at the co-op is $120, but if you can get a group of 12 friends together, that’s only $10 per person,” Anderson said. She also suggested spices such as basil, oregano and garlic as inexpensive ways to liven up meals.

Keep costs down by buying only what one person can use. Buy foods that coordinate well.

“Don’t be stuck with two pounds of green beans you’ll never use,” Meinzer said. “Also, don’t pick a random selection of foods you like if none of them can be combined together to make a meal.”

Have sufficient tableware and utensils. “You can’t always rely on your residence hall for having everything you need, so it’s important to have your own set of basic utensils,” Meinzer said. A hot pot can be used to make soup, which doesn’t necessarily require a can opener if you purchase soup with a pop top. A bottle of dish soap is crucial for clean-up.

Satisfying food can also be easy to prepare. Sandwiches offer a great deal of flexibility. A variety of meat can be used, such as turkey, ham and chicken. Beef, although more expensive, also works.

A small jar of mayonnaise can be used to make chicken or egg salad or can simply add flavor to ordinary sandwiches.

Boxed pasta is another option. It is versatile, inexpensive and easy to prepare. Add a jar of marinara or alfredo sauce. Both the pasta and the sauce, when confined to their respective containers, last a long time. Alfredo sauce can also be paired with canned chicken or tuna.

Salads are healthy and easy to make. Anderson enjoys adding vegetables – including tomatoes, corn, and peppers – and also nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds.

She noted that the summer season holds an advantage in cooking.

“There are so many vegetables you can get that are grown locally here in the summer,” Anderson said. “There’s also fruit, like strawberries, that will be here in season this summer.”

For snacks, try cheese and crackers, baby carrots and ranch dip. Fresh fruit is also a healthy choice. In addition to being good for breakfast, toasted bagels and yogurt also serve as filling snacks.

Though it may seem a daunting task to choose them, alternatives to Easy Mac and McDonald’s do exist and are surprisingly simple to prepare. A variety of delicious meals await even those without much cooking experience. Find a few friends, find a meal you’d like to prepare and you’ll be well on your way to culinary success this summer!





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