Cooking with Claire: Lazy cooking

Lean Cuisine dinners being sold in food stores. Although not ideal, they can be a helpful alternative to cooking thorough meals when busy. (Courtesy/Flickr Creative Commons)

“Cooking with Claire” is an introduction to dining beyond the dining hall using easy, fast and cheap recipes.

With the semester coming to a very necessary and comforting end, my cooking these days has been subpar. Between studying for finals, last minute group projects and the pages of essays I have to write, my time in the kitchen has been at a bare minimum. I try not to eat out, because that’s the less healthy and more expensive option. True to my column mantra, I’ve compiled a few final tips to cook easy, fast and cheap for the nights when you have no time and energy, but want to avoid eating out.

Make pre-made foods stretch: If you’re like me, your freezer is now filled with Lean Cuisine entrees and other pre-made, frozen dinners. While these microwaveable meals are great when you don’t have the time to prepare the real thing, they aren’t the healthiest, or cheapest option for everyday eating. To make my Lean Cuisine entrees a little more satisfying and complete, I usually throw in a half cup of extra frozen vegetables. It makes the meal more balanced and reduces my urge to snack later.

Microwaveable sweets: God bless the microwave. For the nights when you are craving something sweet, but the thought of pulling out the baking sheets makes you tear up. Make a single serving of cookies, brownies or cake in a microwaveable bowl or mug.

Think outside of the box: Consider cooking the easy, everyday foods you make in a different way. Changing things up can improve your mood and give you something to do besides stress about finals. If you usually cook eggs sunny-side up, consider cooking them into an omelet. Instead of boiling up some pasta and adding tomato sauce, add butter, salt and parmesan cheese instead. Something as easy as taking the extra minute to cut up an apple into slices can change your monotonous diet.

Blend it: Okay, hear me out on this one. If the thought of taking out the blender or magic bullet actually seems like torture, skip this point. But, using a blender to make a meal can be a nice change from heavy sandwiches and protein bars. Throw in a few different types of fruit, a handful of spinach or another green and a scoop of peanut or another nut butter, and you have a complete meal in liquid form. Pour it into a water bottle and drink it on the way to the library. Boom.

Choose the healthier option: When all options fail and no cooking can be done, it comforts me to choose the healthier snacks. Spend an extra five minutes at the grocery store to pick up whole wheat cereals, pasta and macaroni and cheese instead of the regular options. Choose low-fat yogurts, cheeses and milks. Snack on celery, plain popcorn or unsalted nuts instead of chips or candy. Eat whole wheat bagels with low sugar peanut butter instead of regular bagels with cream cheese. These small switches can make you feel better about not cooking at all.

Now, get out of the kitchen and get back to your essay. Good luck in the next two weeks!


Claire Galvin is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at claire.galvin@uconn.edu.