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How to Cook Like a Pro: College Kid Edition - 6 Genius Hacks to Master Moving Out On Your Own

Congrats, you did it! You moved out of your parents house and you are taking on the world. This is such a big exciting step that should fill you with so much pride and excitement for the future, YOUR future!

But its scary, too. There will be so many things you run into that you have never done before, so many new decisions to make that you have never even considered. Some big, some small, some mundane and some extraordinary! This post will not attempt to help you navigate the big stuff, but as someone who grew up in a vegan household and entered the world not knowing how to make myself chicken, I can appreciate that the little things can feel so incredibly overwhelming sometimes! So, I am here to help. Think of me as your internet big sis, here to tell you its okay to have questions that might seem silly. Let me shed just a little light on some kitchen hacks that will seem completely obvious after you read them but will come in handy more than you think!

Here are 6 tips that I wish I knew at 18 - Because you have a lot of figuring out to do right now and I don't think making sure you don't get salmonella should be one of them.

First things first, lets cover the kitchen items that will make your life so much easier!

1. Invest in a Kitchen Thermometer

There are some non negotiable things you should have in your kitchen that just make life a million times easier and a meat thermometer is one of them. Take the guess work out of making sure your chicken is cooked safely by investing in a cooking thermometer asap. This accessory is so cheap and you will use it so often that there is literally no excuse here but I know its not something glamorous to buy on your own. Maybe ask your parents for these kitchen gadgets as stocking stuffers or going away gifts. Admittedly this gadget took me awhile to buy as well, I mean it just doesn't seem necessary when you can just cut your chicken open and peep at the color on the inside, right? Let me tell you the piece of mind that this little tool will give you is well worth the $15 investment and you wont be stuck eating dry, flavorless chicken!

2. Everything You Need to Know About Prepping Rice

A rice cooker is a must. This is another kitchen gadget that took me way too long to buy, but now that I have it I cannot imagine life without it! That sounds dramatic but I am so serious. Rice is such a great base for any quick meal but cooking rice is a major pain. If you've mastered cooking rice on the stove top, feel free to ignore me, but for me personally this was a huge chore that I absolutely dreaded! Preparing rice with the rice cooker could actually not be any easier. You'll use about a 1:1 ratio of water to rice (I like to add just a bit more water than rice to make sure it doesn't burn at the bottom and the rice is at maximum fluffyness! but 1:1 makes it easy to remember.)

Make sure to wash your rice before you cook it, and don't stress about not being able to get the water to rice ratio perfect, its really not an exact science. I promise! (to wash my rice I just swirl it around in water and pour off the excess a couple times until the water runs clear.)

Once you've washed your rice and added water, pop the top on your rice cooker and turn it on. That is literally it! When the rice is done, your rice cooker will automatically turn from its "cook" setting to "warm" and at this point I like to unplug it completely to make sure the bottom doesn't burn.

You can also multitask and use your rice cooker to steam veggies as well, we work smarter not harder friends!

If you are just cooking for yourself then one cup of dry rice is perfect, when I am cooking for my fiance and I, we have two cups of dry rice.

Lastly, if you are prepping extra rice for a meal prep or lunch situation just remember to cover your rice with a wet paper towel when you reheat it or it will come out very crunchy and not at all enjoyable. I prefer to just skip the leftover rice completely and opt for minute rice if I'll be using a microwave to heat my rice up!

3. My Hot Take on the Crockpot

Crockpots seem to be everyones solution to quick easy meals but in my opinion for a young person they are just not worth the hype or the price tag. With that being said if your mom is offering you her old crockpot or you find yourself being gifted this gadget, you take it and run, you hear me? Will it come in use, absolutely!! Will you find yourself storing it for 3 years first, its definitely a big possibility. I love my crockpot for nights that I teach pilates late and don't get home until like 8:30. It is so convenient to just have a meal that has been slow cooking all day and is ready to go as soon as I get home! With that being said, crockpots seem to be best for large portions. If you find yourself living with a bunch of roomates this might be perfect for you! But if not, I think other kitchen solutions might be a better fit. I am going to link this personal crockpot because I just think it is so freaking cute but, keep in mind it is just a warmer - perfect for keeping your food hot but not meant for cooking!

4. The Infamous Air Fryer

Air fryers are so great for a beginner kitchen! Pots and pans can be so expensive and such a hassle. Cooking for one can be frustrating but I feel like air fryers do a spectacular job at simplifying everything. Even more so if you are in your Trader Joes frozen food era, an air fryer will be your best friend! I love to use my air fryer instead of my microwave a lot of the time, especially for things like frozen burritos and fries. Basically anything that would be better with a crunch and nice golden edges, you feel me?! The microwave just turns frozen food and most leftovers into mush and why subject yourself to that if you don't have to!

If you are down to splurge a little on something that is so so cute! Our place makes the most adorable air fryer but I will link a more affordable one as well here.

5. Chicken 101

Don't sleep on the rotisserie chicken

First things first, family meal kits and rotisserie chicken are life savers. This might make me sound so stupid but why did it take me so long to view rotisserie chicken as an INGREDIENT. Like I swear I imagines people just eating rotisserie chicken right off the bone as their dinner, and don't get me wrong that slaps but hear me out! Rotisserie chicken as an ingredient just opened so many doors! On days that you feel like cooking a meal that takes a little more preparation, save yourself so much time and frustration by just skipping forward like three steps! Chicken noodle soup? Hack it with rotisserie chicken. Enchiladas? Skip most of the work, Rotisserie chicken. Meal prep? Rotisserie chicken. Chicken salad? Rotisserie chicken. The options are literally endless! It can be hard to feel like you are juggling between eating healthy and the convenience of eating out, not to mention cooking for one is a nightmare of its own. Save yourself the mess and the frustration by working smarter not harder!

The same idea goes for family meal kits (these are a great way to hack your weekly meals or meal prep as a single young person) When you start viewing these kits as ingredients instead of exactly as they are, you open a world of meal possibilities that are way more interesting than eating the same thing over and over again ... all the time.

On days that you choose to prepare your own chicken, listen up! I like to use chicken tenders because they are already in such cute small pieces. It just seems to fit the vibe, you know? You could definitely use chicken breast but I just feel like it takes longer to cook. The most important thing about cooking chicken is ensuring that the internal temperature reaches 165! If you listen to nothing else I tell you, listen to that like your life depends on it- literally.

Overcooking, however will leave your chicken dry and hard to chew. Its a delicate balance, so I recommend grabbing yourself a food thermometer so that you can stay on top of your chicken game! They are super cheap on amazon and I swear it is a life saver y'all!

Cooking chicken tenders is quite straightforward. Here's a basic recipe:

1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).

2. Season the chicken tenders with salt, pepper, and any other desired spices or herbs.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the internal temp is 165.

You can also pan fry your chicken on the stove top, about 8 minutes each side on medium low heat. If you don't have a meat thermometer yet. Because you need one - Just trust me and get it, okay? You can cut open your chicken to make sure it is not pink on the inside. Make sure you are checking the thickest section of your piece.

6. For a Quick Breakfast

Oatmeal is the best and I don't know when overnight oats literally took over but lets be so honest you really aren't saving yourself time in the grand scheme of things. Overnight outs are freaking gross. There i said it. The texture is weird and something about the cold podwer-yness of it just makes me feel like I am setting myself up for a bad day. If you like them, fine. Keep doing your thing, but if you are like me and you just do not get the hype, let me remind you that regular oatmeal is awesome and it did not go away. My biggest breakfast hack is keeping a giant container of instant oats in the pantry and some cut up fruit in the fridge. In the morning I add a scoop of peanut butter, a scoop of jelly and some almond milk into a bowl with my instant oats and pop it into the microwave. Done and done, so quick. It literally takes the same amount of time it would have taken to convince myself I like the cold soul sucking overnight oats. Regular oatmeal can be put in a togo container too, sometimes you have to remind yourself that not everything in your life has to be "hacked" into something deemed super efficient.

I'll leave you with one final thought. Maybe it will be encouraging, maybe it won't but it is a simple truth. You will never stop learning and you will never (to my knowledge at this point in my life anyway) not be frustrated by the mundane. I for example am sitting here frustrated with myself because I forgot to switch the laundry over last night and now I have to go smell the wet clothes and decide if I need to rerun the wash cycle or if its fine to just toss in the dryer sigh. But do not let this discourage you, and when people act like they know it all and have it all together, feel free to roll your eyes because with 100% certainty I can tell you they do not.

You're gonna do great sweetie!


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