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Quick and Simple Cooking Hacks for Busy BYU-Idaho Students

College life at BYU-Idaho can be demanding, leaving little time for cooking elaborate meals. Between attending classes, studying, and participating in campus activities, finding time to prepare nutritious and delicious meals can be a real challenge. This blog is your ultimate guide to quick and simple cooking hacks that will save you time and energy while ensuring you don’t compromise on flavor or nutrition. Whether you’re a novice in the kitchen or a seasoned chef looking for efficiency tips, these hacks will help you whip up meals that are both satisfying and hassle-free.

No-Cook Wonders: Delicious Dishes Without the Stove

Cooking over a stove can be a real hassle when you’re in a hurry. The time it takes to heat up the stove, the constant attention to make sure nothing burns, and the pile of dirty dishes, pots, and pans that follows can be daunting.

But don’t worry! There are plenty of delicious and satisfying dishes you can whip up without even touching the stove. Here are a few no-cook wonders to keep you fueled and ready to tackle your busy schedule:  

  • Cheesy Pinto Beans: Drain a can of pinto beans and add them to a bowl, mix in shredded cheese, and microwave for a minute. Top with salsa and cilantro for extra flavor. 
  • No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies: Mix peanut butter, oats, honey, and chocolate chips. Roll into balls and refrigerate overnight or throughout one of your classes for a ready-to-eat, sweet treat. 
  • Easy Dumpling Soup: Use pre-made dumplings, add hot water (heated in a coffee maker or the microwave) and a bouillon cube or instant miso for a comforting bowl of soup in minutes. 
  • Curried Chickpeas with Spinach: Combine canned chickpeas with spinach, add a spoonful of Greek yogurt, and stir in some curry powder. Voila! 
  • No-Bake Peanut Butter Pretzel Bars: Crush pretzels and mix with melted butter, peanut butter, and a bit of honey. Press into a dish and refrigerate until solid. 

These dishes are not only easy to prepare, but they also require minimal cleanup. So, next time you’re short on time but still crave something simple and delicious, these no-cook recipes will be your go-to solution!

One-Pot Wonders: Simplify Your Cooking

For those days when you have a bit more time but still dread the cleanup, one-pot and one-pan meals come to the rescue. These recipes not only streamline the cooking process but also ensure minimal dishes, making them perfect for the busy student lifestyle.

  • One-Pan Parmesan Chicken Dinner: This dish combines juicy chicken breasts with wholesome veggies and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Sauté the chicken and vegetables in a single pan, then add a touch of seasoning to bring out the flavors. It’s a hearty meal that feels gourmet, yet it’s incredibly simple to prepare. 
  • Spicy Sriracha Noodles: For a meal with a kick, cook your noodles directly in a single pot with a mix of Sriracha, soy sauce, and garlic. Add in some vegetables and protein of your choice, and you’ve got a spicy, satisfying dinner ready in no time. 
  • Curried Chickpeas with Spinach: With just a pot, some chickpeas, spinach, and a dash of curry powder, you can make a nutritious and flavorful meal. Sauté the chickpeas with onions and garlic, add curry powder, and stir in fresh spinach until wilted. Serve over rice or enjoy as is. 
  • Southwest Quinoa Bowl: Combine quinoa, black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, and your favorite Mexican seasonings in a single pot. Cook until the quinoa is fluffy and the flavors meld together. Top with avocado, a squeeze of lime, and a sprinkle of cilantro for a vibrant, healthy meal. 
  • One-Pot Pasta Primavera: Cook pasta directly in a pot with a mix of seasonal vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes. Add garlic, olive oil, and a splash of vegetable broth to enhance the flavors. Finish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and fresh basil for a light and refreshing dinner. 

Each of these recipes checks the boxes for simplicity, balanced nutrition, and, most importantly, fewer dishes to wash.

Microwave Magic: Meals and Snacks in Minutes

If you’re pressed for time but still want a hot and satisfying meal, your microwave can be your best culinary friend. Here are some microwave meal and snack ideas that won’t keep you waiting:

  • Microwave Sweet Potato Recipe with BBQ Chicken: In just 10 minutes, you can have a savory meal ready. Pierce the skin of a sweet potato a few times, place on a paper towel, and microwave for 2 to 3 minutes per side. You’ll know it’s ready when the potato can be easily pierced with a fork. Top the potato with pre-cooked BBQ chicken for a quick and nutritious dish. 
  • Microwave Potato Chips: Craving a crunchy snack? Slice a potato thinly, season it to your liking, and microwave for a few minutes. You’ll have homemade chips without the deep frying. 
  • 4-minute Microwave Chicken Nachos: Perfect for a quick bite or a study session snack. Layer tortilla chips with shredded chicken, cheese, and any other toppings you love, then microwave for about 4 minutes. 
  • Microwave Pasta: Boil pasta or egg noodles in the microwave, drain, and add your favorite sauce. For a heartier meal, add chopped, cooked veggies, and your desired protein, such as shredded chicken, beans, or egg. It’s simple, fast, and customizable. 
  • Microwave Instant Rice: Cook a dorm-room-friendly batch of rice in minutes. Just add water to instant rice, microwave, and you’ve got a base for countless meals. 
  • Microwave Tuna Casserole: Mix canned tuna, cooked pasta, and a bit of your favorite soup. Microwave until heated through, and you’ve got a warm, comforting meal. 
  • 15-Minute Vegetable Curry: Combine your favorite veggies with curry sauce and microwave. In just 15 minutes, you can have a hearty and warming meal. Eat alone or on top of microwaved instant rice. 

With these microwave meal ideas, you can whip up a nutritious and tasty dish in mere minutes, making it easier to stay fueled and focused during your busiest college days.

Instant Pot Insights: Speedy Meals for Students

Imagine this: you just got back from a long day of classes and you’re starving. You need something quick, delicious, and hearty. That’s where the Instant Pot comes in. With just a bit of prep and the push of a button, you can whip up meals in minutes that taste like you’ve spent hours cooking.

    • Chili: A classic comfort food, and with an Instant Pot, it’s a breeze. Just toss in some ground beef or turkey, canned beans, diced tomatoes, and your favorite spices. Set it to pressure cook for about 20 minutes, and you’ve got a savory, filling meal or snack.  
    • Chicken Alfredo: Yes, you can enjoy creamy, decadent pasta even on a tight schedule. Start by adding chicken broth, heavy whipping cream, and garlic to the pot. Break the noodles in half and place them on top of the liquids without stirring. Lay chicken breasts over the noodles and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, again without stirring. Secure the lid, set the valve to sealing, and cook on Manual high pressure for 10 minutes. After cooking, let the pressure release naturally for 8 minutes before doing a quick release. Remove the chicken, shred or slice it, and set aside. Stir in freshly shredded Parmesan cheese until melted. If the sauce is too thin, use the Saute setting to thicken it, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot. Finally, add the chicken back into the pot and serve immediately. Enjoy a creamy, delicious chicken alfredo with minimal effort!  
    • Rice & Veggie Bowls: Healthy and customizable, rice bowls are perfect for busy student life. Add rice, your choice of veggies, and some broth into the pot. Pressure cook for 6 minutes, and you have a nutritious base. Top it with soy sauce, sriracha, or any of your favorite dressings.

The beauty of these Instant Pot meals lies in their simplicity and versatility. Whether you’re in the mood for something hearty or healthy, sweet or savory, the Instant Pot has got you covered. So next time you’re in a hurry, don’t settle for takeout; your kitchen’s best-kept secret is just a button press away.

Prep Like a Pro: Meal Prep Hacks to Save Time

Being a busy student doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice healthy and delicious meals. Meal prepping is a game-changer, giving you the ability to plan and prepare your meals in advance, ensuring you always have something nutritious and tasty to eat. Not only does it save you time during the week, but it also helps you stick to your budget and make smarter food choices.

Easy Meals to Meal Prep  

  • Burrito Bowls: Cook up some rice, black beans, corn, and seasoned ground turkey. Divide into containers and top with salsa, cheese, and your favorite veggies. These bowls are versatile and can be enjoyed hot or cold. 
  • Overnight Oats: Mix rolled oats with your choice of milk, and add fruits, nuts, and seeds. Let it soak overnight, and grab it on your way out the door for a quick and healthy breakfast. 
  • Chicken Stir-Fry: Prepare a big batch of stir-fried chicken and veggies. Pair with quinoa or brown rice for a complete meal that’s easy to pack and reheat. 

Meal Prep Hacks  

  1. Prep Ingredients, Not Just Meals: Sometimes prepping individual ingredients like cooked chicken, chopped veggies, and cooked grains can be more flexible. This way, you can mix and match throughout the week. 
  1. Invest in Quality Containers: Keep your meals fresh and organized with good quality, stackable containers. It’ll make a huge difference in how long your food stays fresh and how easy it is to grab-and-go. 
  1. Batch Cooking on Weekends: Designate a day, like Sunday, to batch cook your meals. It’s a fun way to unwind and ensures you start your week on the right foot. 
  1. Keep It Simple: There’s no need to cook gourmet meals. Stick to basics like grains, proteins, and veggies. Simple meals are often the most satisfying and easy to prepare. 
  1. Plan Your Meals and Snacks: Think ahead and plan not just your meals, but snacks too. Having healthy snacks readily available can curb those midday cravings and keep your energy levels up.

Meal prepping might seem overwhelming at first, but with these tips, you’ll find yourself saving time, money, and stress. Plus, having home-cooked meals ready to go ensures you always have something tasty and nutritious to eat, no matter how hectic your schedule gets!

With these practical and efficient cooking hacks, even the busiest BYU-Idaho students can enjoy delicious homemade meals without the hassle. Whether you’re meal prepping for the week, using your microwave to whip up quick snacks, or embracing the convenience of no-cook recipes, there’s a method to suit every schedule and skill level. Take these tips to heart, and you’ll find cooking not only manageable but also a rewarding and satisfying part of your routine.

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