College kitchen

Feel great, impress your friends, and turn some friends into more than friends—all on the cheap and easy. Cook some food!

A good stirring motion is all in the wrist for this tomato curry sauce that will top a plate of rice. This sauce includes onions, tomato, peanut butter, orange juice and milk, among a few other ingredients.

Marisa Wojcik

A good stirring motion is all in the wrist for this tomato curry sauce that will top a plate of rice. This sauce includes onions, tomato, peanut butter, orange juice and milk, among a few other ingredients.

Sam Linder

It is understandable that we donâÄôt cook for ourselves more often âÄî the average college student has more stuff to take care of in a day than the pope on Easter. However, trading a little of that study âÄî or people-watching in Coffman âÄî time to prepare a meal is well worth it.

ItâÄôs simple: Making your own food provides better nutrition than eating out or microwaving up a few State Fair corndogs. Taking the time to cook means you arenâÄôtusing that time for stressful activities like reading textbooks or breaking up with your long-distance high school girlfriend. Cooking is itself a particularly zen and therapeutic activity.

The best excuse against cooking right now is that itâÄôs hard to get to a grocery store since they are all just out of reasonable walking distance from campus (thanks for looking out for the 99%, Chairman Bob). That excuse wonâÄôt fly here, however. With one intelligently planned trip to a big grocery store (use your friendâÄôs car, the light rail or hitchhike), and a saunter to your local convenience mart, you can cook like Anthony Bourdain for months.

The trick is to load up on spices and imperishables at the big chain stores, and then use whatever you can find at House of Hanson to complete the meal. ItâÄôs the MacGyver School of Cooking, and it means that you are never without a tasty, healthy, stress-free (or at least reduced-stress) meal.

For example, with just one can of tomatoes and a host of random (and utterly interchangeable) stuff, we can seriously impress our stomachs. Ingredients marked with an asterisk are the ones to buy in bulk at the big grocery store.

The A&E department cooked up a few different canned tomato recipes that we thought you might like. Here they are, arranged in order of difficulty:

Salsa

HereâÄôs a familiar number that requires absolutely minimal preparation and ingredients but always tastes great. .

Ingredients:

*1 can of tomatoes (Diced, chopped, whole, doesnâÄôt matter. Just no extra flavors please, unless that flavor is jalapeno, and you donâÄôt want to buy chiles.)

*1/4 to âÄî1/2 onion, diced

1 jalapeño, de-seeded and diced

About a tablespoon lime juice (fresh squeezed or from one of those little lime-shaped bottles)

A small handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

*Salt and pepper

Instructions: Drain the can of tomatoes, taking care to squeeze out as much of the water as possible âÄî no one wants a sloppy salsa. If your tomatoes are whole or halved, chop them until they are the consistency you want, then put them into a mixing bowl. Throw in the onion, diced pepper, lime juice and cilantro. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix well, and serve. Now wasnâÄôt that easy?

Variations: If you donâÄôt have onions around, throw in a clove of minced garlic or a few diced shallots. Alternatively, a whole bunch of onion or garlic powder will work in a pinch. Use any kind of fresh hot pepper you want or an alternative source of zing such as cayenne, red pepper flakes or even hot sauce. Any sour liquid will do for the lime juice, ranging from lemon or even orange juice to any kind of vinegar. For the cilantro substitute, pretty much any fresh or dried herb will do, keeping in mind that the flavorâÄôs going to be way different if you use something like thyme. Serve with tortilla chips, pita or even noodles if you feel like it; this sauce is incredibly versatile.

Additions: Whatever else you generally like having in your salsa (corn, beans, mango, etc.) can be added here. Increase the amount of spice and lime juice as you increase the total volume.

 

Pasta Sauce

This classic Italian variety is so easy that youâÄôd be a fool to spend your parentâÄôs hard-earned money on NewmanâÄôs Own.

Ingredients:

*1 can of tomatoes (see salsa for stipulations), drained

*2 tablespoons olive oil

*1/2 onion, diced

About 1 1/2 tablespoons of Oregano, more if itâÄôs fresh

Salt and pepper

Instructions: Put the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and when itâÄôs hot (the surface will shimmer in the light, like a vampire) put in the onions. Sauté for a couple of minutes until they are starting to give a little, then pour the tomatoes (chopped if whole or half) into the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to thicken and darken. Turn off the heat, stir in the oregano, add a couple teaspoons of salt and a sprinkling of pepper and serve!

Variations: Use nearly any oil (except sesame) for the olive oil, a couple cloves minced garlic for the onion and any mixture of dried or fresh basil and oregano for the straight oregano. If you donâÄôt have whole onions then simply cook the tomatoes for 10 to 15 minutes, and add onion and/or garlic powder at the end with the oregano.

Additions: Celery, carrots, bell peppers (any color), really any vegetable at all: Chop and cook with the onions for 10 to 15 minutes before adding the tomatoes.

Mushrooms: Slice and add with the onions.

Beans: Add a well-drained can at the end of cooking so that it simply warms through.

Ground beef: Defrost, then brown in a skillet. Add a few minutes before the tomatoes are done cooking.

Wine: Add a quarter cup with the tomatoes.

Tofu: Drain, crumble, sauté with a little oil in a skillet and then add in near the end of cooking.

Italian sausage: Follow cooking instructions on the package, then add near the end of cooking.

 

Tomato Curry

A delicious introduction curry that I stumbled upon while messing around in the kitchen. If you are not familiar with Indian food, give this one a shot; if you love Indian cuisine, it will still hit the spot.

Ingredients:

*1 can of tomatoes, drained

*1/2 onion, diced

*2 tablespoons oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

*2 tablespoons peanut butter

*Soy Sauce

*Vinegar

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons spices (In order of necessity and quantity: salt, pepper, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, chili flakes/hot chili powder, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)

Instructions: Put the oil in a big skillet over medium-high heat with the spices. When itâÄôs hot, add the onion and stir to coat evenly with the spice-oil mixture. Let cook for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another 60 seconds. Toss in the tomatoes, mix well and let sit.

While the tomatoes are cooking, put the peanut butter in a sauce pan on the lowest possible heat. Stirring fairly constantly, wait until it âÄúmelts,âÄù turning into a liquid-esque substance. Add a two-to-one ratio of soy sauce to vinegar, a splash at a time. After the first few drops, the mixture will clump up and toughen, but as you continue to add the soy sauce and vinegar, it will smooth out again. When the mixture is dark brown and fairly smooth, turn the heat off and let sit.

Add the milk and orange juice to the tomato mixture, and bring the heat down to medium-low. Spoon a pile of the tomato sauce into the peanut butter pan, and stir this new substance until itâÄôs smooth and liquid. Put the contents of that pan back into the rest of the tomato-milk skillet, and stir in completely. Heat for a few more minutes and then serve!

Substitutions: Use nearly any oil, except sesame. As with the last two recipes, onion and garlic powders may be used at the end of cooking if necessary. Any sour liquid (lemon/lime juice, any vinegar) can be used for the vinegar and indeed the entire peanut butter-soy-vinegar contraption can be left out it if youâÄôre in a hurry or missing ingredients (though it adds quite a bit to the flavor).

The orange juice can be left out, and the milk can be replaced with cream, soy milk or even silken tofu if the situation requires. Use any nut butter for the peanut butter, except Nutella. Please donâÄôt use Nutella.

Finally, the spices: You can replace the entire mixture with tablespoons of a curry mix or simply garam masala if you choose. Otherwise, the cumin, turmeric and coriander are the most necessary, and it wonâÄôt work if all you have is cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. This isnâÄôt a carrot cake, unfortunately.

Additions: See pasta sauce for ideas. Traditionally, Indian dishes are served vegetarian over rice. However, itâÄôs great over any starch (pasta, pita, baked or mashed potatoes, couscous, etc.), and you can add meat if you so desire.

Have fun cooking, and let me know how it worked out or if a particular addition blew your mind. Enjoy!