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The Daily Tar Heel

Convenient cooking: ‘You press one button’

After a day of handling classes, extracurriculars and homework, students can be befuddled by the simplest of tasks: boiling water.

For students who find themselves off the meal plan and cooking on their own for the first time, the task of preparing healthy, affordable meals can seem foreboding.

But armed with just a few utensils, anyone can whip up simple meals that fit into the college schedule and budget.

“If you have a skillet, a pot to boil, a good knife and a cutting board, that’s all you need,” said Dorette Snover, an owner and chef at the C’est si Bon Cooking School in Chapel Hill.

The convenience and versatility of rice cookers and blenders should make them staples for college students, said Whitney Dane, the teacher at Kid’s Kitchen, which is part of the Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department.

“You press one button, and it cooks it all for you,” Dane said.
Dane also said rice cookers can be used to roast meat and heat soup, while smoothies loaded with fruits and vegetables are a cheap, filling and quick meal.

Snover suggested cooking foods that keep well over time and can be stored, like brown rice and pastas.

“Onions are forgiving, and soup is always easy to cook,” Snover added.

When cooking on a tight schedule, preparing filling meals in bulk can stretch one meal into several, Dane said.

To keep cooking costs under a budget, Snover suggested buying seasonal vegetables at the local farmers’ markets.

Both Carrboro and Chapel Hill hold farmers’ markets every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

Carrboro’s market is located at the Town Commons, and Chapel Hill’s is behind University Mall.

Limiting the number of meals with meat can help lower the cost of cooking as well, Dane said.

A meal of roasted vegetables is cheaper and also much healthier than a bag of chips, said Marilyn Markel, a chef at Southern Season.

Cutting coupons and avoiding brand names is a good way of eating at a lower cost, said sophomore Maggie Schneider, a residential advisor at Hinton James Residence Hall.

For those who want to learn to cook, Dane said there are many step-by-step tutorials online.

For a more formal introduction, there are many cooking classes in the area, with offerings from basic knife skills to crepe recipes.
Southern Season offers classes throughout the week, ranging from about $20 to $50 per class.

Other groups in the community also offer cooking classes, such as the Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department and C’est si Bon.

Regardless of how a student learns to cook, Markel stressed that a beginner should be patient and cook foods that they like.

“Be adventurous and don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t turn out,” she said.

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