Versatile cooking is often considered an expensive option or a long process, or both. That’s a pure misconception. You can have the cheapest ingredients in a variety and create a truly delicious and even fancy dish.
What does a typical day of a student look like? You wake up as early as possible, put your clothes on, and send a “write my paper” request on your way to the classes realizing you fell asleep yesterday before you finished your essay. Then, you go to the lectures, visit some workshops, return to the dorm, try to cook something as fast as possible and study again.
That’s what to expect at best. Of course, some students can afford delivery services or takeouts, while others may just resort to fast food or even worse options like instant noodles. Whether the reason is the inability to cook something tasty or lack of money or time, there’s a way out.
Those addicted to food delivery may think that there are secret recipes for the stuff they usually order. Mostly, it’s sugar added to sauces and dips; it’s an addictive ingredient that can make anything tasty. However, sometimes, the secret lies just on the supermarket shelves you always ignore while looking for chips and soft drinks.
So, let’s look into the types of ingredients students can improve their cooking with. The following ones will not only enrich your diet but also take care of your health.
Seeds & Nuts
If you ever complained about not quite nutritious salads and wanted to make cooking less boring, try to diversify them with the following supplements:
- flax: rich in vitamin B1 and magnesium;
- sesame: calcium, silicon, magnesium, iron, and zinc;
- pumpkin seeds: an excellent vegan substitute for protein, also rich in chromium, phosphorus, and magnesium;
- sunflower seeds: vitamins B1, B7, and E;
- chia: rich in phosphorus and omega-3; not quite a cheap option, but they are very nutritious, and one package will serve you for a long time;
- hazelnut: chromium and vitamins E and B7;
- almond: vitamin E;
- walnut: tastes amazing if crushed and mixed in (also very nutritious and rich in silicon);
- fennel seeds (these have quite a peculiar flavor, but they can be used not directly in dishes; see the legumes section).
These are the essentials for anybody who ever tried to go vegan or just sprinkled their food with a spoon of sesame or flax seeds. Nuts do not belong to the cheap option, but seeds do. More so, they actually have a nutty taste when added generously to a salad or a second course.
Greens & Herbs
This area is quite promising and inspirational for any cook:
- cilantro: has a specific flavor; yet, if chopped and used in moderate volumes, it will freshen up any course (rich in vitamin K);
- dill and parsley: can be used both together or separately; they will have a delicious smell if you chop them together with scallions and add to a hot dish (rich in vitamins C, A, and K);
- spinach: alone, it seems to have no taste, but it gives salads a creamy one (rich in silicon, iron, and vitamin K);
- arugula: a perfect choice if you want to spice things up;
- iceberg salad: very juicy, and there’s not a trace of bitterness in contrast to other leaves of salad;
- rosemary: if you bake it with potato, fresh garlic, and olive oil, your life will never be the same.
Despite the wide range of spices, the following ones should be mentioned as all of them are accessible and have an outstanding smell and taste:
- dried and ground ginger;
- dried and ground garlic;
- cumin (rich in iron and calcium);
- paprika: a great natural sweetener and substitute for sugar (rich in iron, beta-carotene, potassium, sodium, and vitamins A, B6, and E);
- coriander (ground cilantro seeds);
- chili flakes/powder (rich in beta-carotene and vitamins A, B6, and E).
Everybody has once tasted beans, and there are not so many fans of them out there. At least, if those are not canned beans or frozen food flavored with sugar, which makes everything tastier. Yet, there are two particular types of legumes you can use in the preparation of a number of dishes:
- lentils: you can mix them with vegetables and make rissoles or cook a cream soup; you can even bake your own bread out of it (rich in silicon, iron, and protein);
- chickpeas: we all know about hummus and falafel, and you can also bake chickpeas in spices and have a crispy snack (a great source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin B9).
Most people don’t like these ingredients because of how hard it is to digest them. Yet, if you leave them soaking for a night in water with a spoon of lemon juice and then boil them with fennel seeds, there will be no problems at all.
If you don’t need to boil lentils or chickpeas, ground cumin or fennel seeds mixed in the dish will be an alternative. Chopped greens like parsley and cilantro will also be a nice choice in this case.
Oils & Juices
Yes, you can use many other options apart from frying something with sunflower or olive oil. There is a range of oils suitable for raw consumption, and they add an amazing flavor to salads, especially if combined with the seeds mentioned above. The following ones can revamp the taste of a salad you got bored of or be a perfect flavoring for a side dish:
- sesame oil;
- walnut oil;
- corn oil.
Moreover, using lemon, lime, or orange juice, you can play a bit with the flavor contrast. A bottle of lemon juice bought once will last for several months.
If you think that the stuff above doesn’t really decide how tasty your food is, look at the ingredients of any dish from food delivery or at a restaurant. There are always some seeds, nuts, microgreens, and other supplements like rice vinegar. You could also notice that sesame seeds are almost always added to Asian food. So, it looks like they matter.
Therefore, a product in a bright package you can see in a supermarket is often not something you can enjoy if you cook it by just baking or roasting it. There’s a whole range of spices, herbs, superfoods, and seeds that can diversify your recipes. All you need is to experiment a bit.