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Inside Beat

College foods: the only three recipes you need!

Questionable meals are undoubtedly a staple of the college experience. Since we're all staying home because of the remote semester, here are three ways you can upgrade your favorite snacks.  – Photo by The Daily Targum

What’s the main staple of the college experience? Besides emailing professors, camping out at the library and getting on the F bus to head to a party with friends, it’s the absolutely terrible diet every student develops halfway through the first semester.

Now that class is going to be online, and it looks like we’ll be attending the Zoom edition of Rutgers for the first time, thousands of first-year and transfer students will be deprived of that iconic college experience. But not to worry — you can recreate those questionable meals at home! 

Here’s a list of my favorite struggle foods, this time gussied up a bit since we’re all at home and have some more ingredients on hand.

1. Ramen noodles

(You get bonus points for completing this recipe if you’ve got the noodles that come in a cup.) Cheap ramen noodles are probably the holy grail of all college foods, challenged only by pizza, which is not something that can be made in less than 5 minutes at home.

For this recipe, you’ll need your favorite pack of ramen noodles, boiling water and some additional spices and toppings. Simply follow the instructions on the package (if you have cup noodles, please do not microwave your noodles) and then break out your toppings!

My personal favorites are leeks, green onions and ginger, but you can really add anything. Garlic powder, pepper or chili oil, fish flakes and dried seaweed are also great options that will make a meager bowl of ramen look much more impressive. If you really want to get fancy, cook an egg with your noodles! I love pairing my ramen with a slightly runny egg.

Now you have a bowl of delicious ramen noodles, perfect for slurping as you binge another Netflix special.

2. Mug cake or cookie

If you were around during BuzzFeed’s Heyday, you probably remember the infamous mug cake. While the original recipe has been lost to the internet, there are tons of recipes and variations available online, from the chocolate chip cookie to birthday cake, to gluten-free and egg-free options as well.

We’ll be drawing from one of the older recipes, from The Comfort of Cooking. You’ll need 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons of either white sugar or brown sugar or a combination of both, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/8 teaspoon or a pinch of salt, 1 egg yolk and 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Chocolate chips are optional, but feel free to add them to your taste.

First, microwave the butter in the cup until melted. Then, mix in the sugar, vanilla extract and salt until everything is well-combined. The recipe suggests that you use a spoon, but my best experience has been mixing with chopsticks! Then add in the egg yolk and mix until you can’t see any separate yolky bits anymore. Add the flour and your chocolate chips if you have them, and mix until smooth. Then, pop it into the microwave for approximately 40 to 50 seconds.

To top it all off, enjoy it with a dollop (or a whole tub, I’m not judging) of ice cream!

3. Mac and cheese

Store-bought mac and cheese with artificial cheese powder is a staple on any college student’s struggle meal menu. My favorite brand of mac and cheese is Annie’s, but any brand will do for this recipe.

Simply follow the directions on the box (or the cup, if you have the Kraft version). Then, before you transfer your mac and cheese to a plate or bowl, let’s get fancy with the toppings! You’d be surprised by how many things pair deliciously with mac and cheese (I recommend caramelized onions, roasted kale, sriracha sauce or bread crumbs). Personally, pepper on my mac and cheese is an absolute must.

Of course, if you have real cheese on hand, please use that instead of the powdered variety …  unless you’re lactose intolerant, in which case I’ll let the powdered cheese thing slide.

This semester might have us all studying from home and separated from our friends, but the good news is that we’ll all still be up at 3 a.m., making questionable food choices regardless of where we are, and there’s something beautiful about that. Until the day we get to return to Brower Commons together, try out these recipes and tag us on social media with your culinary creations!

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