Student chefs share culinary tips and tricks of off-campus meal preparations

Most students dream of college dining halls before setting foot on campus: endless buffets of pizza, warmers full of french fries, ice cream machines and rows of soda fountains. An unlimited amount of all of this is any high schooler’s dream, but the novelty wears off quickly after a few months. 

After sophomore year, a number of Augustana students elect to live off campus and most of them then forfeit their meal plans in favor of grocery shopping and cooking. 

College students and cooking in the same sentence leads many to think of ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets, but a lot of students break the mold and dare to find time in busy schedules to cook and bake.

One popular method is meal-prepping, in which students cook big batches of food typically on Sundays and place it in containers to reheat and eat throughout the week, saving time on weeknights. 

“I get really stressed out when I cook complex meals on school nights when I have studying and homework to do,” junior Jessica Kratz said. 

Kratz said meal prepping saves time while also ensuring that as a “picky eater,” she can always have a quick meal available that she knows she will enjoy. Her favorite quick recipe is mixing orzo or pasta with pesto and adding in any veggies she has lying around.

Junior Cal Irvine also meal preps, making about 15 meals every Sunday night to get him through the week ahead. His weekly meals range from chicken tacos to rice bowls to pasta, but Irvine said he enjoys taking the weekends to make more complex meals. 

“Typically I make smaller dinners for the weekdays and then really invest some time and money for the weekend meals,” Irvine said. “I absolutely love to cook.” 

One of Irvine’s favorite dishes to cook is ramen, but not the kind that comes in a bright orange package. His version has beef broth and Japanese ramen noodles layered with pork belly, soft boiled eggs and greens.

Senior Shayla White said the best part of cooking in her own kitchen has been the ability to cater to her own dietary needs as opposed to relying on the Commons. White eats vegan, and she said cooking has helped her ensure she is getting the recommended nutrition while still eating plant-based foods.

White’s favorite quick and easy meal is veggie tacos, where she replaces the meat with chickpeas and then finishes the dish with normal taco toppings like guacamole or pico de gallo. She also enjoys making taco bowls, buffalo cauliflower wings and pasta. 

While she has fast and easy meals on standby, similar to Irvine, White enjoys cooking more complex and new recipes from Pinterest when she has time.

“Cooking is really fun for me,” White said. “Sometimes I put on some music and jam out. It’s low-key so satisfying when you try a new recipe and it actually turns out really good.” 

Justine Stellmaker, a junior, said she loves to bake sweet treats in her free time as a “stress reliever” and a way to be creative outside of her studies.

“I like to bake just about anything,” Stellmaker said.

Stellmaker finds time in between classes, swim practices and homework to bake anything from pumpkin bars to espresso cookies. She said her favorite recipe she’s made were lemon blueberry muffins with streusel on top.

“In academics and athletics I put a lot of pressure on myself,” Stellmaker said. “With baking, there are no expectations from myself or anyone else to do things or to be a certain way.”

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