Cooking in College

By Brianneth Rocha

            There is a lot to prepare for as an incoming college student, or even as a current student. For those getting ready to live on campus, the list of things to do is endless. Whether it is preparing for your courses, purchasing appliances, assembling a grocery list, I would argue that the most important way to prepare is learning how to cook. I am currently a sophomore living in an apartment, which has taught me to be a little more independent. In particular, I have started learning how to cook, something which is much more complicated than it seems. I can tell you now that the first few attempts will not go perfectly, so don’t give up! I have provided some of the easiest recipes for any beginner. All of these recipes have ingredients that can be substituted to fit various diets. Now especially might be a good time to get a head start on practicing these simple recipes while we are all at home in quarantine. You can even ask your family to evaluate how good your cooking skills are by taste-testing!

Waffles with Nut Butter and Bananas

Photo from Real Simple

For those of you who side with waffles on the waffle vs pancake debate, you will love this! The best thing about waffles is that you can top them with an endless amount of your favorite fruits, nuts, or other sweets!

Hands on Time = 5 mins

Serves 2


  • 4 frozen whole-grain waffles 
  • 4 tablespoons almond butter or peanut butter
  •  2 bananas, thinly sliced 
  • 1 tablespoon honey

How to Make It:

  1. Toast the waffles according to the package directions.
  2. Dividing evenly, top with the almond butter, bananas, and honey.

Scrambled Egg Tacos

Image by Brianneth Rocha

The great part about this recipe is that you can convert this dish for lunch by simply changing the use of eggs for the use of some meat. I guess that is one of the reasons tacos are so popular.  

Hands on Time = 10 mins

Serves 2


  • 4 large eggs
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
  • 4 corn tortillas, warmed 
  • 1/2 avocado, thinly sliced 
  • 1/4 cup salsa 
  • 1-ounce Monterey Jack, shredded 
  • (1/4 cup) 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

How to Make It:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the eggs, stirring, until set but still soft, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Divide the eggs among the tortillas. Dividing evenly, top with the avocado, salsa, Monterey Jack, and cilantro.

15-Minute Lemony Broccolini Pasta

Photo by Liz Andrew

Who doesn’t love a quick meal!?

Serves 4

  • 1-pound casarecce or other short pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1-pound broccolini, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

How to Make It:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the package until al dente (cooked until it is firm when you bite into it).

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the broccolini and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice; sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Stir in the heavy cream and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the Parmesan cheese.

4. Drain the pasta and then combine it with the sauce, tossing well to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with pine nuts and basil.

Chopped Italian Salad Pizza

Photo from Pixabay

Simple and delicious!

Prep: 40 min.   Cook: 20 min

Serves 6-8


  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1-pound pizza dough
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 head Bibb lettuce
  • 1 cup microgreens
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced into rings
  • ½ cup pepperoncini
  • 1 cup drained bite-size fresh mozzarella balls


1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease a baking sheet with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

2. Gently stretch the pizza dough out over the baking sheet, then use your fingers to stipple the dough further. Brush the surface with another 1 tablespoon olive oil and let rise in a warm place for 15 to 20 minutes.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and oregano. Gradually whisk in the olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

4. Spread the ricotta in an even layer on top of the dough. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Transfer to the oven and bake until the pizza dough in golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.

6. When the pizza is done, let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

7. In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, microgreens and salad dressing. Transfer to the pizza, and garnish with an even layer of red onion, pepperoncini and mozzarella balls. Serve immediately.

Don’t let the prep time push you away from trying. It is pizza after all, preparing the dough takes a while. 

Photo by US Army Garrison Humphreys

When it comes to cooking, don’t let the extensive directions fool you. If recipes seem too difficult to do by yourself, then experiment in the kitchen and share stories with your friends. In my opinion, nothing compares to home cooked meals. And if cooking is just not right for you, you are in luck. In Los Angeles you can find authentic dishes from various cultures around the world.   

Featured image from Needpix

Brianneth is a sophomore majoring in Health and Human Sciences at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. She was part of the USC Summer Bridge Program, so she is familiar with the campus’ hidden gems. She was born and raised in the spectacular city of Los Angeles. She cannot imagine growing up anywhere else. She thinks the best thing about LA is the weather. During her free time, she enjoys taking road trips, watching movies, taking hikes, playing  sports, along with other things. She is an honest and open-minded individual who looks forward to new adventures. She enjoys embracing all the wonderful aspects of her Mexican culture and is fluent in the Spanish language.