Time management forces innovation on college cooking

Pat Mallee | October 1, 2012    

This week, I’m dealing with a time-management nightmare. I’m studying for three exams,…

Luv Puhroit / Assistant Visual Editor

Slow cookers make for delicious and long-lasting meals.

This week, I’m dealing with a time-management nightmare. I’m studying for three exams, keeping up with my homework, working seemingly countless hours and, on top of that, writing this column.

Did I mention that I’m occasionally sleeping, as well?

One thing that I absolutely have to fit in to my busy schedule is eating. And if there’s any way that I can make some delicious comfort food to keep me going through the week, I’m going to jump at the opportunity.

Thankfully, I’ve got a trick to make home-cooked meals a possibility in my hectic life: slow cooker recipes.

Slow cookers afford you the ability to cook hearty, fulfilling meals without spending precious time in the kitchen. And for most recipes, the instructions are simple: Mix the ingredients, turn on the slow cooker and walk away until your food is ready.

This means that while you’re doing laundry, working on homework, cleaning the house and chugging your sixth cup of coffee, you can also be cooking a fulfilling dinner that will give you the energy to plow through your chaotic schedule.

Slow cooking is the ideal method for creating soups and stews. The slow heating process in a moist environment tenderizes meat and infuses its flavors into broths. Fresh vegetables such as carrots, celery and onions can be thrown into the mix to cook alongside the meat and bring their own flavors to the dish.

My favorite meal to cook in a slow cooker is pulled pork. It’s the easiest recipe I’ve ever seen and there are few meals more deliciously comforting than a juicy, smoky pulled pork sandwich.

Step one, mix shredded pork with your favorite barbecue sauce in a slow cooker and turn on the machine. Step two, you’re done. If you’re looking for variation, you can always switch pork out for another shredded meat (chicken works very well) and everyone has their own special barbecue sauce blend that they like to incorporate; feel free to work with ingredients such as honey, liquid smoke and chili powder to create your own.

Hopefully, you’re interested in trying out a slow cooker by now. But you’re probably wondering where exactly you’re supposed to get your hands on an appliance that doesn’t come standard in the average Oakland kitchen.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have friends who will loan you theirs for an afternoon, you could think about purchasing one.

Many small models are relatively cheap, and small-sized slow cookers are easy to store away when they’re not in use. A quick browse of shows basic 3-quart models in the $20-to-$25 price range. Larger, more expensive models come with built-in timers and fancy settings to keep food warm, but these perks aren’t necessary for any recipe that a college student would choose to make.

If you’re looking to trade up from a smaller model, one of these larger models might be a good choice. But if you’re akin to the average college student, who’s only cooking meals for himself and the occasional friend or roommate, a cheaper, 3- or 4-quart model is definitely a better option.

This week, I’m cooking a big, hearty chicken and rice casserole that will make enough leftovers to feed me for most of the week. It’s a pretty basic recipe, so it should be a great introduction to the art of slow cooking for beginners.

While the casserole cooks, I’ll be studying Quantitative Methods notes. And when I come home from long nights of newspaper editing, I’ll have a delicious late-night dinner waiting at home for me.

Amidst the craziness of my schedule this week, keeping my slow cooker handy means that I’ll be able to whip up a variety of delicious meals while still finding time to pass my courses.

If you think you can multitask better than Pat, write to him at to let him know.

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