The Toaster Oven: A College Kid's Foremost Tool For Survival
There are times during college where the food at the mess hall seems so…unappetizing. Well, that’s because in most cases—it does suck!
You need to eat. College tuition in the United States can be very heavy on the pocket—and that doesn’t count room and board. Most colleges have packages where the cost of living on campus and the cost of meals are combined to make nifty packages that can really hurt even the deep recesses of your college fund. Living on campus is expensive. Combine that with your meal package and you’re looking at a bill that is almost as costly as your tuition.
This room and meal option is unavoidable for students in their freshman and sophomore years, unless you live off campus. But for upper division students (junior and senior years), there is the option of foregoing the meal option (something about being mature enough to hunt and cook your own food).
As a college kid, I can attest to the fact that your average college student does not know how to cook anything else besides ramen (and microwave popcorn). I myself once went on a sodium-induced spree of trying out EVERY SINGLE FLAVOR OF RAMEN at the local Asian grocery store.
What about cookware and kitchen equipment? Forget it! Our lives revolve around that glorious machine that goes BEEP when our frozen entrees are ready. The Microwave! That’s right horrified parents! After a night of illegal boozing, we wake up to the BEEP of the microwave for that hangover cure-all: MORE RAMEN!
But there is a way to avoid such a large amount of sodium intake.
In my sophomore year at the university, tired of egg noodles and fake vegetables out of my microwave safe Tupperware, I purchased a toaster oven. Mind you, this purchase was mostly because I thought I could live off of toast, butter, and cheese (and booze) for a while.
The toaster oven was perhaps the best purchased I’ve made in my college career—besides the extravagantly expensive textbooks.
After spending an all-nighter (or all-morning? I’m not sure how real people differentiate) writing a fifteen page paper about, um, stuff, I found myself hungry. I had a box of two days old chicken nuggets in my fridge and thought: what if I toast it?
It was wonderful—heavenly toasty in fact! Although I’m sure that it was toasty because of all the saturated fat in that glorious nugget, a kinship with my toaster oven was born. What else can it do? Well, it can ‘bake’ fries, bake potato chips, heat cookies, oh and it can cook real food! I soon found myself roasting vegetables and chicken!
As a college kid being forced to pay these ridiculous tuition fees, I can confirm that it is near impossible to eat well-rounded meals. We have no money. Our money goes to tuition and over-priced books that go out of date as soon as the semester is over.
Owning a toaster oven is a lifesaver. No more microwave ramen (and popcorn) for dinner. Most of all, no more crappy, overly priced mess hall food.
The toaster oven can pretty much cook anything. With patience and the right toaster oven, a college kid can have a healthy meal and a kitchen equipment that goes BEEP when the food is cooked.
The main protein that I cook most regularly, because it is the easiest, is chicken. Chicken is leaner and healthier compared to red meat. You can do anything with chicken: Basil Chicken, Lemon Chicken, Buttered Chicken, etc. It is also the cheapest: you can dress or marinade the chicken with the simplest of seasonings: Italian, lemon-pepper, or good ol’ salt and pepper. The main thing is that it’s simple and easy to make.
The toaster oven also eliminates the mess that cooking on a stovetop generate. You just wrap the pan in an aluminum foil and when you’re finished cooking—PRESTO! You just remove the aluminum foil and replace it with a new sheet.
So, if you’re a college kid and you’re reading this…step away from that box of ramen! Learn how to make a healthy meal. I found that as soon as I made cooking a part of my down time, I was more relaxed, less stressed about school, and I had more energy to study—or party harder! (It essentially goes hand in hand)
So, look for that toaster oven that meets your needs! (Does it toast AND roast at the same time?) Make time to cook your dinner. Learn how to shop for food and learn how to cook. Most of all make sure that when you purchase a toaster oven, it goes BEEP so that you know when your food is done. Let’s avoid burning down the dorms.
Happy Nom Noms Everyone.
Italian Herb Roasted Chicken
4 chicken fillets
Pam or other non-stick cooking spray
Lemon (if you have it)
1. Spray toaster oven pan with Pam.
2. Combine melted butter, chicken fillet, and Italian seasoning (season to taste) in a bowl and toss ingredients together.
3. Place chicken on the pan and cook for 25 minutes on the BAKE setting at 350 degrees.
4. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice on the chicken when it’s done.