Cooking as a college student can feel like a daunting task.
Time constraints, the rising cost of groceries and limited utensils make it tempting to opt for a pre-made meal, takeout or just another PB&J.
While there’s nothing wrong with these options — I love a good late-night Taco Bell run — it’s time to deconstruct the myth that students can’t cook healthy, delicious meals in a reasonable amount of time and spending less money per portion than you would on takeout.
I love cooking because I love good food and learning to cook well with cheap ingredients has not just saved me money from skipping takeout – I have found a new hobby that both challenges me and, well, fits a basic need.
If you’re looking to eat out less, learn basic cooking techniques and explore inexpensive ways to add some cool dishes into your diet, this food column is for you.
When looking for new recipes, I opt for those that reheat well, have few ingredients or inexpensive ingredients, do not require fancy tools and — of course — taste delicious.
My cauliflower fried rice recipe checks all four boxes.
As the weather gets colder, nothing makes me feel more cozy than curling up on the couch with a steaming bowl of cauliflower fried rice.
This recipe is perfect for getting over colds, as it is rich with antioxidants and stays good in the fridge for up to three days to enjoy as leftovers.
I enjoy using frozen riced cauliflower as my ‘rice’ for this recipe because it’s low-carb, low-calorie, easy to store in the freezer, fries better than room-temperature riced cauliflower or rice and — most importantly — tastes absolutely heavenly when cooked in butter, soy and sesame oil.
My version of the recipe here is both gluten-free and vegetarian, though you can modify it for vegan diets (omitting the egg) or pair it with chicken to add extra protein.
To start, I take my frozen riced cauliflower (frozen does better for fried rice recipes) and frozen mixed vegetable blend (green beans, corn and carrots) out of the refrigerator to partially thaw while I prep my other ingredients.
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Then, I dice a quarter cup of white onion and mince two cloves of fresh garlic. I’ve also made this recipe using one teaspoon of jarred minced garlic, which works perfectly fine.
Next, I let butter coat the bottom of a nonstick pot or frying pan and add my diced onion and garlic. By beginning my dish with these aromatics in the pan, my vegetables and rice will have a strong flavor.
After the onions and garlic have cooked for a few minutes, I toss in half a bag of my frozen mixed vegetable blend, one teaspoon of sesame oil and three teaspoons of soy sauce. Then I cover my pot to let the vegetables steam and really absorb that sesame and soy umami flavor.
After five minutes, I add half a bag of my frozen riced cauliflower.
Sometimes, I’ll add a little more butter if the rest of it has already been absorbed by the other vegetables. The butter really makes the vegetables taste rich — it’s an essential part of the recipe, in my opinion.
Next, I cover the pot. While everything can be ready to eat within about six minutes, the longer it simmers, the better the sesame, soy, garlic and onion flavor gets absorbed by the rice.
I usually give it around 15 minutes and use the cooking time as an opportunity to put away dishes and clean up. Given most of us college students use communal kitchens, you never want to make a recipe that leaves a kitchen looking like a disaster.
Once the rice is thawed and appears a nice brown color, it is good to serve. If you want to bulk your rice with more protein, toss in a scrambled egg, scrambled egg whites, leftover chicken, tofu or whatever else you have lying around.
If you prepare this recipe with a full bag of frozen cauliflower and a full bag of mixed veggies, double the measurements of onion, soy, sesame oil and minced garlic to make four medium-sized portions.
After plating the rice, it is ready to be enjoyed, and there you have it: a healthy and cost-efficient meal any college chef can enjoy cooking!