I’ve just started my seventh year of post-secondary education. I’ve been doing this “student” thing for a decent amount of time now, and am looking forward to (finally) entering the workforce within the next year. That being said, I’ve learned quite a bit in the past six years- and not just in school. As a result of becoming independent and assuming life’s responsibilities, I’ve learned some ways to take control of feeding myself healthily, affordably and efficiently.
Life as a student presents many challenges to eating: time to cook becomes an issue when we become buried in our books, the food we want to eat can seem expensive when it’s you doing the groceries instead of mom and dad, and there are always ample opportunities to indulge on unhealthy, unnecessary extra calories (think of that after-bar-poutine or that study group pizza).
Here are some of my ideas to deal with the above challenges:
- On a less busy day, make a big pot of homemade soup or chili. Once finished, separate it into plastic containers and put them in the freezer. Come midterm season, let the container thaw in the fridge overnight or in the microwave, and have a ready-to-eat meal in no time! You can also cook the equivalent of a few meals on a Sunday night to store in the fridge for some no-prep dinners in the coming week.
- Plan meals before grocery shopping and think of several different dishes that could use overlapping ingredients. For example, it’s hard to use an entire head of spinach (I opt for the head rather than bagged because its less expensive). To get your moneys worth and prevent waste, find recipes for a main course spinach salad, serve it as a side dish, and add it to soups, omelets, pasta and sandwiches. Getting creative with ingredients makes it possible to use them up and avoid getting sick of them.
- Buying meat less often also saves money. Try incorporating other inexpensive sources of protein such as beans, lentils, tofu and canned tuna into your diet. This is also an environmentally friendly decision since growing and transporting livestock consumes more energy than produce.
- Find out the places on campus to get affordable or even free food and ask your grocery store if they have any student discounts. My campus offers a free vegetarian lunch every Thursday, provided the students bring their own dishes to keep the event environmentally friendly. Friends of mine who have been studying in the cafeteria around closing hours have been offered that day’s leftovers. The grocery store near my house offers students a 10% discount at the beginning of the week as well as free delivery. Finding good food deals may be easier than you think!
- A good way to avoid that heavy late night snack or a spontaneous trip to the corner store for chips and chocolate is to keep tasty yet healthy options on hand. Low-fat low-sodium microwave popcorn satisfies my salty cravings (and provides a generous amount of fiber). Pop-in-your-mouth fruits like grapes or berries please my sweet palate- they’re sort of like nature’s candies anyways!
- If you’re absolutely craving that pizza, I suggest making your own. Buy a premade multigrain crust or use a whole-wheat pita, add some tomato sauce or pesto, load it with a ton of fresh veggies, and top with some cheese. This is a yummy way to incorporate one or two servings of vegetables, it can last for a few meals, it is healthier than frozen or fast food pizza, and it still manages to hit the spot.
These tips are simple and easy, but that’s what I think works about them- they are doable! So start today and try one out!
The mysterious Sephardic salade cuite has been reproduced in my kitchen today! I had almost given up on this savoury tomato and pepper salad but I thought I would give it one more chance.
I am very happy that I did. It turned out perfectly and the secret ingredient is patience.
I am posting the recipe here before I forget what I did. I wonder what the Jittery Cook and Norene have to say about this salad.
Caryn’s Salad Cuite Ashkenaz Style
- 1 can of diced tomatoes
- 2 TBSP sugar
- 2 red peppers whole
- 2 green peppers whole
- 3 large garlic cloves minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 TBSP Paprika
- 1/4 cup canola or olive oil
Cook the peppers in the oven or on the BBQ (I used the BBQ because my oven was busy with Apple Cake, Broccoli and Lukshen Kugels) until they are totally black. Let them cool and then peel off the blackened skins. Remove all seeds. Chop them up and set aside.
Heat a TBSP of canola oil and toss in the garlic. Cook for about a minute. Dump the tomatoes in and bring to a boil. Add the sugar.
Toss in the peppers and the rest of the oil into the pot. Now is a good time for the paprika, salt and pepper. Get a good boil going and then turn the heat down, to just below the medium setting.
Here is where the patience comes in. You have to stir the mixture so it doesn’t burn. Do this every 5 minutes or so while the recipe reduces. It took about 2 hours to get to the right consistency.
Let the recipe cool down and then transfer it to a container and store in the fridge. Serve cold.
If you like it spicy add some tabasco sauce or hot pepper flakes along with the other spices.
On a recent trip to Texas, while staying here, I took a day trip to a real organic olive oil ranch with my family. My Aunt and Uncle, who both live in Austin, adopted a little olive tree. We stopped by the ranch to check on it since Texas is having a drought. It turns out all these beautiful trees are being irrigated regularly and the hope is they will start producing fruit by next year.
Texas Hill Country Olive Oil Ranch is located in the Austin hill country and there is also a thriving olive oil agriculture in California. The climate in Austin is hot, hot, hot in the summer but olive trees love that. Olive trees are one of the toughest trees around and they can handle abuse.
One of the son-in-laws of one the Gambini owners gave us a tour of the orchard and explained the process of raising olive trees. These trees need to be pruned very often to facilitate fruit production. If they don’t get pruned they get lazy and grow all over the place like snakes, and then they don’t produce much fruit.
We learned that the USA regulates the production of olive oil to ensure a top quality rancid free product. I was always under the impression that European olive oil producers were under the same strict regulations. Not so, said our guide. He is convinced the best product stays in their respective countries and lower quality oil gets exported. Well, one taste of the Californian/Texan olive oil and I was convinced too. A a high quality olive oil causes a mild burning sensation when it hits the back of your throat and it has an ever so slight bitterness to it.
While we visited Texas Hill Country Olive Oil Ranch my uncle treated us all to olive oil gelato. What a delicacy! We sampled vanilla, chocolate and rosemary with different flavoured balsamic vinegar. My favourite for the ice cream was blackberry but the fig went well with the kettle chips.
To find out more about Texas Hill Country Olive Oil click here.
Cooking time: 25 minutes Makes 16 squares
1 can of black beans drained and rinsed
1/3 cup canola oil
2 TBSP vanilla extract (the real stuff)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 Tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips (if desired)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Put all ingredients in a food processor (except chocolate chips) and mix until smooth
Feed chocolate chips through the top chute with quick on and off pulses
Poor mixture into a well greased 8″ x 8″ pan
½ cup canola oil
2 chopped onions
5 cloves of minced garlic
2 green peppers
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
3 tablespoons paprika
15 pieces chicken with skin taken off (legs and/or thighs)
½ cup water
Saute onions and garlic in oil until onions are translucent.
Add chicken and stir. Add chopped peppers, tomatoes,
salt, pepper and paprika. Stir. Add ½ cup water. Stir.
Cook 45 minutes on low heat. Place on bed of rice, dress