Vegetarian Journal

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Vegetarian Journal Cover

Vegetarian Journal


January/February 1997
Volume XVI, Number 1

Veggie Viewpoint: Eating at College

By Caroline Pyevich

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches often seem to be the standard meal for vegetarian college students, but many other options exist which are just as easy to make either at home or in the cafeteria. Over the past few years, I have discovered many cheap meals which satisfy both my taste buds and budget.

Peanut butter, although high in fat, tastes great with other foods. The following are some of my favorite uses of this product:

One of the quickest ways to make dinner is to open up a can of vegetables and create “Slop Casserole.” Some of my favorite casseroles involve vegetarian beans, which are just like pork-n-beans without any animal products. While this food is high in sodium and added sugar, it can be substantially improved by draining off the added sauce. I usually dump the entire can into a bowl, add 2 cups of warm water, mix the contents, and drain off the water. Now the beans taste slightly more “fresh.”

I do not bother to heat beans (saves time and energy). The warm water which I use to dilute the sauce partially heats the beans. I do not recommend putting beans in the microwave because they will explode and create quite a mess. Adding just-cooked rice or noodles to the beans is another way to substantially warm them.

Other products to eat with beans include whole wheat bread (roll a scoop of beans inside a slice of bread), tortillas, corn nachos, and pita bread. For variety I eat other canned beans such as kidney beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, chick peas, and lentils. Black-eyed peas taste exceptionally good with flour tortillas (hot or cold). On the other hand, black beans are best with chips and salsa.

Lima beans are a delicacy for me. I prefer to buy frozen lima beans, which can be heated in the microwave in less than two minutes or in boiling water in under five minutes. I add spaghetti sauce over the top of them. The creation tastes similar to spaghetti, but it has a beautiful green color.

Spaghetti in itself can always serve as a quick meal. I usually buy the cheapest noodles, most often the ones in the largest package. I also purchase whatever spaghetti sauce is on sale, as long as it does not contain cheese or too much fat. My favorite type of sauce is the chunky kind with added zucchini, olives, carrots, or mushrooms. I often add even more vegetables to the sauce to enrich both the texture and nutritional value of this meal. I always cover the pot of boiling water with a lid so it will cook faster. I never waste time cooking the sauce and washing a separate pan. Instead, I heat the sauce by adding it over the already steaming noodles. Spaghetti sauce is also good over rice, especially wild rice.

Another quick meal with spaghetti sauce involves popcorn. I cook up a huge pot of popcorn and dump a whole jar of sauce into an additional bowl. I then dip the popcorn into the sauce. (This is the messy, fun way to eat it.) The cleanest way to eat this meal is to put the sauce directly over the popcorn and eat it with a spoon. The drawback of this method is that the sauce deflates the popcorn. Popcorn is also good with lots of added raisins (with or without the sauce). Refried beans (vegetarian style) mixed with popcorn makes another nice treat.

I prefer refried beans with corn tortillas (these cost only $1 for about 20 tortillas). For additional flavor, I place big black olives in the tortillas too. Other vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce, and green peppers can also be added.

If I need a quick snack, I often opt for a piece of fruit. I buy three-pound bags of apples and oranges to save money, and one bag of each will last a week. I also like pears and grapes. In the summer, I buy watermelon from local vendors, and can eat half of a melon in one sitting.

During the winter, I sometimes cook my fruit. I core an apple or pear and heat it in the microwave until it becomes soft and warm. I then drink the juice which gathers at the bottom of the bowl. It is also easy to sauté these fruits without using either oil or margarine. I use a spatula to continuously turn the slices of fruit in the pan, which prevents burning. I sometimes add walnuts, peanuts, or almonds to the warm fruit.

Breakfast cereal, usually a high-fiber, lowfat brand, serves as a basic meal or snack. I prefer an oat or wheat base. I sometimes add ketchup or mustard on top of the cereal if I eat it for dinner. I enjoy putting raisins or dates in my cereal as well. Another favorite breakfast food is grits, which is both cheap and easy to make. Adding jelly to the grits makes it taste delicious.

Never underestimate the wide variety of food creations which can be made from raw vegetables. A head of lettuce is cheap and contributes to about three big salads and a few sandwiches. I usually avoid commercial salad dressing and use ketchup instead. Another way to spice up a salad is to add black pepper. Other spices, such as basil, parsley, and oregano, can enhance the flavor of salads or other raw vegetables. Salsa is a nice addition to vegetables as well. It tastes especially good on carrots and cucumbers.

Sandwiches often provide quick meals and allow countless possibilities. Lettuce, cucumber, and tomato sandwiches go well with rye bread and a mustard spread. Tomato and grated carrot sandwiches make another nice combination. If I have some pizza sauce, I will add it to mushrooms and green peppers over wheat bread. My favorite sandwich is pita bread filled with rice, tomatoes, and either ketchup, mustard, or salsa.

When I am desperate for a snack, I go to a gas station to buy pretzels. I later use the leftover pretzels for dinner by mixing them with beans. If I am walking and eating pretzels, I will remove the large grains of salt before eating them. I consider this task a form of meditation.

One of the most fun ways to cook at school is with a portable grill. I go out on the campus patio with my friends and grill up soy burgers. I do not recommend grilling tofu pups because the white tofu will ooze out and the slender pups will often fall off the grilling stick.

Other meal favorites include:

The key to finding quick, cheap vegetarian meals as a college student is knowing both what you like and how much you are able to spend. The school meal plan may limit your options, but the “all you can eat” setup permits students to eat as much food as they want. Therefore, a vegetarian student who is not afraid to mix unlikely combinations of food is likely to fare better in the cafeteria than a student who relies upon the school chefs to prepare a full vegetarian or vegan meal.

Shopping at the grocery store may seem more expensive that eating at school, but avoiding the established school meal plan allows the student to start making the consumer choices he or she will have to make as a vegetarian shopper. For example, buying my own food has taught me how to properly check labels for animal ingredients and how to compare food prices.

Whether a vegetarian student is on the meal plan or shops independently, he or she must learn to make food choices at every meal which will correspond to nutritional requirements and personal preferences. It can be challenging for vegetarian students to find or cook foods that fit their budgets and desires, but that challenge can make both eating and planning meals more exciting.

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

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