Cooking for the Body and Soul
It is time we rewrite the cooking manifesto. We need to start listening to the needs of our body, mind and soul and cooking to please those rather than the diet culture we all are so wrapped up in. Cooking is about more than just food and nutrition. It is about feeding and nourishing the one body you have in this life and if your body is craving chocolate and creamy pasta, you damn well feed it some. This is not to say that indulging in junk food 3 times a day everyday is a good thing, but everything in moderation is key to a healthy you. As a society we often punish ourselves for eating “unhealthy” and this negative experience with food is what leads to shameful eating.
As college students we are under a bit more stress than the average individual and the pressures of COVID-19 and online learning have only added to that stress. Over the course of this article, I want to show you how to cook, what food to buy and what to cook with that food in a college environment and on a college budget.
First and foremost, I want you to understand the benefits and ease of meal-prepping. Meal-prepping often gets a weird wrap because it is often portrayed as a practice solely for vegan Instagram influencers, but I’m here to tell you that anyone can and everyone should be meal-prepping in college. The first step to successful meal-prepping is purchasing containers. I highly recommend getting glass containers and you can find a 5-pack on Amazon for $30 and they will last you a lifetime. The glass will make sure the containers are highly durable in the washer and microwave and they won’t hold stains or smells from previous meals. In addition, I recommend getting containers that have two or three compartments. This allows you to pack a balanced meal with a main and side dish(s). For lazy individuals like me, meal-prepping takes a maximum of 1 hour a week to prepare and then provides multiple microwaveable meals.
The next step to healthful cooking is purchasing groceries. The largest struggle with eating for the mind, body and soul in college is the constrictive budget. You don’t need to be a super-couponer to save money on groceries. You just need to take advantage of your student status. On the peninsula, Publix and Harris Teeter both offer a student discount all year round. This discount will range from 5-10% and can save you lots of money on groceries. Also, buy generic! Publix brand is just as good as the name brand and it is half the price. If you have means of transportation, Aldi is by far the cheapest option for groceries because they sell off-brand groceries.
Now that the kitchen is stocked, it is finally time to start making some meals. As I mentioned above, cooking is for your pleasure and no one else. The trick is to manage your cravings in moderation and you’ll find that once you remove the restrictions from what you eat you will tend to have less cravings overall.
Below I have provided two of my favorite recipes. The Creamy Tuscan Pasta is absolutely heavenly. I couldn’t help myself from doing a little happy dance while taking my first few bites of this dish. The other recipe below is Roasted Cabbage Steaks, and this recipe will make you rethink the definition of healthy foods. If you like cabbage then you will absolutely love this dish, and if you don’t like cabbage then you need to try this dish because you have never eaten cabbage that tastes this good.
Cooking is more than just the food that is fueling your body. Food is a cause for social gathering, a symbol of community. Food has the power to nourish your mind and soul as well as your body. However, the only way for this to happen is to make sure that you are thoroughly enjoying the food you are eating the process you go through to get that food from the store to your table.
Creamy Tuscan Pasta
Pasta of your choice, I prefer rigatoni
4 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic; finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
½ tablespoon dried basil
8 ounces cream cheese; softened and cut into 8 pieces
8-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed, drained, and chopped
2 cups milk
6 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon salt, more to taste, if needed
Begin boiling water for your pasta noodles, and add the noodles once the water is boiling.
In a medium pot or skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Then add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly, taking care not to let the garlic burn.
Stir in the dried basil.
Add the cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until the mixture is smooth. It will look curdled at first, but with constant whisking for 2-3 minutes, it should come together to form a smooth, creamy mixture.
Stir in the sun dried tomatoes.
Over medium heat, add the milk gradually, about ¼ cup at a time, whisking quickly and constantly until each addition is fully incorporated into the sauce.
Stir in the parmesan cheese, pepper, and salt.
Cook over medium heat, stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is the desired consistency, 5-10 minutes.
Serve over, hot cooked noodles.
Adding a protein to this pasta like chicken or sausage is a great way to make the meal more filling and well-rounded. This recipe will make a lot of leftovers, so be ready to share or have some containers ready to save for later.
Roasted Cabbage Steaks
2 small cabbage heads
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt to taste
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Cut the stems off the cabbage heads and then cut each on in half, then in half again. You should have four flat discs of cabbage that are about ¾ to 1 inch thick from each head.
Place the cabbage steaks on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper, allowing some space in between each steak to allow even cooking.
Brush the cabbage with the olive oil, coating them thoroughly.
Generously sprinkle each steak with the salt, garlic powder, and paprika.
Flip the cabbage steaks over and repeat steps 3 and 4.
Add a pinch of red pepper flakes to each steak if desired.
Bake the cabbage steaks at 400°F for about 25 minutes, or until the leaves are browned and the center is tender.
Exact measurements of the ingredients are not necessary. Simply add the desired amount of ingredients and enjoy. The cabbage steaks are good on their own or can be served with pasta or a protein, or both! In addition, leftover cabbage steaks can be refrigerated and reheat really well. To story and reheat, allow the steaks to cool before sealing in a container in the refrigerator. To reheat, place the steaks in the microwave for a couple minutes or place in the oven at 350°F.