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College Cooking 101: Meat Nutritional Needs With Meal Prep

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College is hard enough with exams, papers, endless studying, roommate drama and 8 a.m. classes. Worrying about what to eat, while having to cook with limited appliances can definitely add to the stress. Having dining hall food, takeout and PB&J day after day can get boring.

At Maryville, Mouton Hall has a kitchen with a microwave, stove and refrigerator. The Hilltop apartments each include a garbage disposal, dishwasher, stove/oven and a microwave. Learn how to get the best use the basic appliances in dorm rooms and apartments with this crash course in campus cooking.

Healthy Meal Prep

Meal prepping involves cooking and preparing meals ahead of time and portioning them into grab and go containers. This is beneficial, because it saves time and helps eliminate unhealthy foods convenient to college students.

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The most common meal prep combinations include a protein source, a carbohydrate and a vegetable. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Jacquin.

“One of the things I love about the idea of meal prepping is always having a meal ready to go when life gets crazy with school. It keeps you from being tempted to stop and get fast food,” Kaitlyn Fessler, senior, said. “I also pack my lunch the night before school and keep protein bars and shakes in my car in case I get hungry.”

Choosing your Meat

Protein is an essential part of a daily diet, especially when looking to gain muscle. Sirloin steak is the healthiest type of steak since it is the most lean. Ribeye steak is the most flavorful, however, this is due to the marbling of the fat throughout, making it the unhealthiest.

Grilled chicken is extremely healthy, because it is high in protein and low in fat. White meat, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are one of the most healthy cuts of chicken. Dark meat chicken has slightly higher fat content, more iron and twice as much zinc as white meat chicken.

Let’s Get Cookin’

Believe it or not, these meats can actually be cooked without using a grill, which makes them campus friendly.

How to cook steak on the stove top:

  1. This step is optional, but for more flavor, season the steak for the best browning. Kosher salt, pepper and garlic are commonly used as seasonings.
  2. Brush a skillet lightly with vegetable or olive oil, use high heat and place the steak in the center and flip the steak over every few minutes.
  3. Once the desired temperature is reached, remove the steak from the skillet and let it sit for five to ten minutes, depending on the size of the cut. This creates a juicy steak.

How to cook chicken in the oven:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Season the chicken breasts, (Common options to use include salt, pepper, lemon juice, minced garlic or Italian seasoning). For the most flavor, allow it to marinate for at least an hour before cooking.
  2. Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet a few inches apart. Place the sheet on the middle rack and set the timer for 20 minutes.
  3. Start checking the chicken after 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and let it cool. Eat it immediately, refrigerate it in the meal prep containers for up to a week or freeze them for up to a month.

If your appliances are truly limited and you do not have access to an oven, you can still cook chicken breasts with a microwave. Grocery stores sell chicken that has already been grilled so all you have to do is microwave it to your desired temperature.

Healthy carbohydrate options to meal prep with include brown rice and sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, vitamin B5 and B6. They’re fat-free, relatively low in sodium and have fewer calories than russet potatoes. Brown rice is rich in antioxidants, manganese and fiber so it is great for weight loss.

How to cook sweet potatoes in the oven:

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash potatoes thoroughly.
  3. With a fork, pierce sweet potato skin five to six times evenly throughout.
  4. Wrap potatoes with aluminum foil.
  5. Place on baking sheet and bake 45 minutes to one hour or until tender.

How to cook sweet potatoes in the microwave:

  1. Wash potatoes thoroughly. Pierce potato six to eight times. This will prevent it from overheating and exploding in the microwave.
  2. Microwave the potato for approximately six minutes, flipping once halfway through.

How to cook brown rice in the microwave:

  1. Wash rice until water runs clear to remove starch.
  2. Put rice in a large bowl and add 4 cups water for every 1 cup of rice.
  3. Cover and microwave until water boils (eight to 10 minutes depending on microwave).
  4. Carefully remove cover.
  5. Microwave uncovered 20 minutes or until most of water is absorbed.
  6. Remove from microwave, cover and let sit until remaining water is absorbed.

How to cook sautéed zucchini on the stove top:

  1. Wash and slice 3 zucchini into 1/4 inch slices.

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    Sautéeing zucchini over medium heat on a skillet. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Jacquin.
  2. Heat skillet over stove top with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Add the sliced zucchini, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
  4. Cook on medium heat 5 to 7 minutes or until slightly crisp.
  5. Transfer zucchini to serving dish and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

How to cook asparagus in the oven:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Snap off the dry ends of the asparagus.
  2. Spread the asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Toss the asparagus to evenly distribute oil.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes on the top rack of the oven.

According to Potter Hall resident, Ellie Siech, sophomore, “cooking at Maryville while living on campus is easy as long as you use your resources, such as the new lounges.”

Cooking nutritious meals does not have to be difficult while living in a dorm or apartment. Any Maryville student can learn how to cook with minimal appliances by following these recipes.

For more information about the kitchen amenities available in Maryville’s housing, click here. What is your favorite way to cook while living on campus? Comment below.

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