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Mar 19, 2007 09:56 AM

Young and Out of Ideas

I am a 21 year old college student. I have my own (small) apartment so I am able to cook on a semi regular basis. My problem is that I can't find any recipes that don't involve a George Foreman grill and chicken and takes less than 45 minutes. I'm also poor, so I can't afford buying new spices (although I do have most of the basics) and pricey ingredients.
Does anyone have a good suggestion for a recipe or a website I could look at? I'm starving for something besides grilled chicken and asparagus.


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  1. Maybe this Fast White Bean Stew will help you a bit from epicurious, very tasty in a short amount of time...I think beans are your friend in your situation, cheap & quick:

    2 Replies
    1. re: Val

      I agree. Veggie chili, black bean soup, rice and beans and hummus are very cheap to make. Buy dried beans and soak them. You get a lot of beans for a low price. And they pack a nutritional punch.
      This sounds like a commercial, but eggs are great for dinner too. Make a strata with day old bread that you've forgotten about or just simply scrambled eggs with sweet potato fries. You could add cumin and chili pepper and make it "mexican" inspired.
      Keep canned anchovies in your pantry and you can make a quick pasta with olive oil, anchovies (let them melt away in the olive oil), garlic and any protein you want to add.
      Have you ever tried Fennel? Try grilling that or roasting it with garlic and S&P. There are many other vegetables than asparagus that you can use. I think also, for a single person, it makes sense often to buy frozen veggies, such as broccoli and brussel sprouts and then you can take out what you need and it's less likely to go back and you won't waste them.

      1. re: pescatarian

        Another egg dish - scrambled eggs, chiles, & rice. Sure it looks like prison food but it'll stick to your ribs.

    2. My go to, never fail, cheap and delicious recipe when I was a college student (and beyond) was for "bolognese" sauce. You'll need a good size pot or a deep saute pan for this, and although I've seen long cooking, slow simmering recipes for this, I have always cooked this quickly. I make no claims for the regional authenticity of the recipe, it's just good, quick, cheap food, my mother used to make this when I was a kid (and she's Polish) and it's like a fresh version of hamburger helper. In fact I still make it today; actually I made it for my friends' three kids one weekend recently (ages between 4-12), and they deemed me "the best chef in the world."

      You'll need:
      Large onion chopped
      A couple of cloves of garlic, chopped
      About a pound of ground beef
      A large can of crushed tomatoes (I prefer Cento or Pomi)
      Dried oregano and basil
      Bunch of fresh, flat leaf parsley
      (optional) Two good handfuls of pitted kalamata olives rough chopped (this was a recipe addition I made in my 20s when I wanted to make this dish fancier)
      Box of pasta (whatever shape or kind you like)

      Saute your onions on medium heat until they're soft and golden, add the garlic and let that cook quickly as well (it burns quickly so add when the onions are done so it doesn't get bitter). Crumble the beef into the pot and using a wooden spoon break up any bigger clumps of meat, let it get nice and brown for several minutes, try and evaporate most of the liquid the meat gives off or the sauce will have a funny taste. Add some salt and pepper and cover with the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, and turn down to a simmer. Add a few good shakes of dried oregano and basil and stir in. Simmer for about a half hour to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chop a handful of the parsley and stir in during the last few minutes of cooking, it will add a bright green texture and color to the final dish. If you're using the olives, add them at this point also. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad and a nice bottle of Italian red wine, and this is great for a few meals.

      If you wanted to make this a little more authentically, you'd eliminate the garlic, basil and oregano, and you'd add some milk or a touch of cream. If you had it on hand, you could also throw in a rind from an old wedge of Parmesan. You'd also have to simmer the meat all day and add tomatoes near the end! But again, the non-authentic version above is delicious, quick, inexpensive and perfectly serviceable.


      2 Replies
      1. re: ballulah

        I do virtually the same thing on a regular basis, although I like to add diced tomatoes to mine for a bit of texture, and don't usually have parsley around. In the past, I've also done it with a couple of cans of tomato sauce and a can of tomato paste, but the sauce turns out much thinner that way, so these days I just go with the crushed tomatoes (although I find I need to add more salt with those.) I haven't tried the olives before though, I might have to give that a shot.

        1. re: Vexorg

          When I was a kid I used to hate tomato chunks, and even though I've gotten over this, I still like this sauce on the saucier side. With chunks of tomato it just doesn't seem right. Hahaha.

      2. Not likely to be recommended by many so use their recipe search or take a look for recipes based on the programme 'Ready Steady Cook'. The premise for the show is that a £5 bag of ingredients (plus the show larder) is brought in by a contestant and is cooked by a chef (and the contestant) to show a number of potential dishes. (Two contestants, two chef's, one 'winner'). The added requirement is for a 20 minute cooking time as the whole show lasts half an hour.
        As a student I spent a lot of time cooking (more interesting than lectures and left a better taste in my mouth!) I did a lot of slow braises, stews, curries, chilli, bolognese type. All made from cheap cuts of meat and in bulk then frozen.

        1. I like the idea of that show, ali patts!

          Here's a good thread with lots of ideas:

          1 Reply
          1. re: Katie Nell

            It can be really hit and miss - especially when a contestant brings a dessert based bag - the look on some of the celeb chef's faces. Priceless!

          2. My old student go-to was Cheesy-Pesto-Rice -- after rice is cooked mix in cubes of cheese (smoked Gouda my personal fave) and a heaping spoon of pesto. Hearty, soothing, quite economical.

            For a real splurge would sprinkle some parmesan on top.