During my first week of freshman year, I was so excited to finally be on my own; no parents hovering over me, telling me what I can and can’t do, and more importantly, what I can and can’t eat. I walked into the dining hall and thought 'this isn’t so bad, I can do this,' and proceeded with blind optimism. 

During my second week of freshman year, I felt like if I looked at another piece of dry, overcooked chicken paired with grossly under seasoned green beans, I would go on a hunger-strike. The only consolation was the idea of my own apartment the next year equipped with my very own kitchen. I fantasized about all of the meals I would be making myself, avocado a part of every one of course. 

But once I moved into an apartment, I soon realized fantasizing is very different from doing. There was one fatal flaw to my cooking plan. I didn’t really know how to cook. I understood the gist, but I was no culinary master, nor did I have any desire to be. I just needed to feed myself. For those of you who feel the same, I present you with five delicious, low-maintenance meals to make without fear of food-poisoning or malnourishment.

1. Pasta with vodka sauce and sautéed mushrooms 

Isabella Abdullah

As it turns out, boiling pasta is super easy. All you have to do is put water to boil, add dry pasta, and stir it until it’s at your desired noodle-ness. In terms of sauce, there is no shame in using store-bought sauces. I use the brand “Classico” and pour the sauce directly onto the freshly boiled pasta. For the mushrooms, just put them on a sautée pan with olive oil, add some salt, pepper, and dry oregano and there you have it. Put them all together, add parmesan and you’ll have just made yourself a gourmet meal.

2. Veggie burger with a side salad

Isabella Abdullah

Veggie burgers, in my opinion, trump regular burgers because they’re so much easier to make and you feel better about yourself after. All you have to do is microwave the veggie/black-bean burger and then sautée it with a little olive oil until it’s crispy on the outside. I recommend Dr. Praeger's burgers. Just put it in some bread, add some avocado and tomato, and you have yourself a delicious, wholesome meal. For the salad, put your favorite lettuce in a bowl (mine is romaine), add vegetables like tomatoes, carrots and avocado, then top it off with some dressing. My personal favorites are from Bolthouse Farms

3. Filet of salmon with white rice and avocado

Isabella Abdullah

This is now my forever go-to “impress the crowd” meal. For starters, I would highly recommend purchasing a rice cooker. Making rice without it leads to unnecessary pain and suffering. For the salmon, take the filet, put salt, pepper, and garlic powder on it, and put it on a pan with olive-oil set to medium heat. Sautée it until the outside is golden brown. Next, put it in the oven (preheated to 350℉) for about 5-6 minutes and voilà. A beautiful salmon. Once the hard part is over, just slide it onto a plate with your rice and sliced avocado and you’ll be feasting like royalty.

4. Burrito bowl

Isabella Abdullah

This one is pretty straight forward and can be just as good as Chipotle. Ingredients include, but are not limited to, rice, black beans, avocado, cilantro, tomatoes, corn, onions, jalepeños and the protein of your choice. Options include shrimp, chicken, steak or even tofu if that’s where the wind blows you. Mix it all up and you’ll be putting all of the popular fast-food chains out of business.

5. Breakfast for dinner

vegetable, sauce, cheese, meat, omelet, tomato
Jocelyn Hsu

Is there ever a wrong time to eat pancakes? A three-cheese omelet? French toast? Even cereal? No, there is not. This is a really easy way to make a delicious, low maintenance meal that’ll take you right back to those late-night Denny’s trips you used to love so much. And, all of these are super easy. Let's take an omelet for example: heat your pan up on medium heat, whip up your eggs in a container, put Pam on the pan and dump the scrambled eggs in. Next, throw whatever condiments you want on top of the eggs. Chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese, spinach, or all of the above. Scramble that baby up in the pan, and voila! A complete and rather healthy, delicious meal. 

While it might take you a few tries to get everything just right, remember that practice makes perfect. It's okay if you don't nail a meal the first time you try and are forced to call Dominos. The most important things to have when cooking for the first time are confidence and pepto-bismol. As long as you have both on deck, you'll be in great shape.