Spicing up staple student dishes

By in Culture

The busy life of being a student can sometimes lead to less creativity in the kitchen. Staple student meals such as pasta and grilled cheese can get repetitive and boring after having them five days in a row. However, jazzing up those staple meals doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming — here are some recipes to try when you feel like shaking things up in the kitchen.

One pot chili mac and cheese

Combining two great things, chili and macaroni and cheese, this dish is sure to be delicious and is a great way to spice up your traditional mac and cheese. From damndelicious.net, this recipes serves four and only takes 30 minutes to make.


1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves minced garlic

1 diced onion

8 ounces ground beef

2 cups chicken broth

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes

¾ cup canned white kidney beans, drained and rinsed

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 ½ teaspoons cumin

10 ounces elbow pasta (or any pasta of your choice)

¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Salt and pepper, to taste


1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion and ground beef and cook until browned. Make sure to crumble the beef as it cooks and drain excess fat.

2. Stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes, beans, chili powder and cumin. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and stir in the pasta.

3. Bring to a boil, cover and then reduce the heat and simmer until the pasta is cooked through, about 13 to 15 minutes.

4. Remove from heat and top with cheese and cover until the cheese melts. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Shiitake bok choy soba noodles

Try replacing that old standby penne pasta dish and give this soba noodle recipe from ahouseinthehills.com a go. This recipe serves two to three people.


4 cups washed and thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms

3 small to medium bok choy

About 6 ounces soba noodles

¼ cup and 3 tablespoons tamari

1/8 cup mirin (or 1/8 rice vinegar, mixed with 1/8 cup sugar)

2 tablespoons butter 

2 tablespoons minced ginger

3 cloves crushed garlic

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Sesame seeds, to garnish


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook noodles according to the package. Once cooked, drain and rinse with warm water.

2. While the water is coming to a boil, prepare the mushrooms, sauce and bok choy.

3. In a large non-stick pan, heat the butter with 4 tablespoons tamari and add the mushrooms. Mix and coat the mushrooms in the tamari and then leave to cook on high-heat for six minutes. Stir and cook mushrooms an additional two minutes. The mushrooms should be brown, slightly crispy and a little caramelized.

4. For the sauce, combine the mirlin (or substitute), garlic, ginger, sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of tamari.

5. Trim off the ends, wash and dry the bok choy.

6. In a large wok, or that same large non-stick pan used to cook mushrooms, combine the noodles, sauce, bok choy and mushrooms. Cook over medium-high heat until the bok choy is wilted.

7. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve.

Brie, fig and apple grilled cheese

Apple and Brie Grilled CheeseHere’s a variation from twopeasandapod.com on the standard cheddar grilled cheese — it’s defintely worth a try. This recipe makes two sandwiches.


1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ of a red onion, sliced

4 slices sourdough bread

2 tablespoons soft butter

4 tablespoons fig butter or jam

5 ounces brie cheese, thinly sliced

1 large granny smith apple, thinly sliced

½ cup baby arugula

1. Heat the olive oil in a small pan. Stirring occasionally, add the onions and cook until caramelized and set aside.

2. Butter the outside layer of each peice of bread. Spread the fig jam on each slice of the bread and layer the brie, apple slices, caramelized onions and arugula. Top with the other slice of bread.

3. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat and place the sandwiches butter-side down on the pan. Cook on each side until browned and the cheese melts, and then serve.

Bridget Morrison / Culture Editor

Photo: mealmakeovermoms / Flickr