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Introducing Food for Thought, Arts & Culture’s newest column!

Find easy-to-make, cheap, and delicious recipes
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Check out original student recipes below! JADINE NGAN/THE VARSITY
Check out original student recipes below! JADINE NGAN/THE VARSITY

A common and mostly unforeseen problem at the start of every semester is figuring out how to feed yourself. Whether you are living on- or off-campus, it can be tricky to manage to eat healthy meals alongside a busy class schedule while also staying on budget. 

That’s where Food for Thought comes in; The Varsity’s newest column features recipes from students at U of T that even beginner chefs — who may or may not have an essay due at midnight — can manage.

Easy-peasy pancakes, by Grace Xu

Whether you are looking for a breakfast to start your day, a quick snack, or a little something to conquer boredom, this pancake recipe is a great choice. You do not need to have a lot of cooking experience or skill to make these pancakes. All you need is just a little bit of time and the right ingredients.

There is only one catch: this recipe does, in fact, call for a generous sprinkle of love, a pinch of cooking enthusiasm, and an appetite. Grab your apron along with several bowls and let us get started; this will make eight to 10 pancakes!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons of baking powder

A pinch of salt

2 tablespoons of white sugar

1 1/4 cups of milk

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 eggs

2 tablespoons of melted butter or any vegetable oil

Directions:

In a large bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites, placing the yolks in a medium-large bowl and the egg whites in a medium-sized bowl.

In the medium-large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, milk, vanilla extract, and melted butter or vegetable oil. Combine the milk mixture and the flour mixture until a batter is formed.   

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Place the pan over medium-high heat. Lightly grease a non-stick pan. Pour or scoop the batter onto the pan — you can use a ring mould for uniformity. Flip when the bottom edges begin to brown.

Serve fresh off the pan. You can add the toppings of your choice! 

Vegan chickpea salad from a part-time vegan, by Chaerim Yang

Let’s get one thing straight: I am decidedly not a vegan. So, naturally, it has been a curious journey for me to overcome my aversion for meat-alternative products and the preconceived notion that vegan food isn’t anything but tofu with questionable additives. Quite ironically, I spent a summer working at a local vegan bistro in my hometown.

When I learned about this vegan chickpea salad, my opinions about veganism shifted. I love this recipe because it is so easy to make, totally scrumptious, and so filling. Furthermore, the recipe is fairly open for personal tweaking to better suit your own preference — which is always a bonus. Let the cooking ‘ve-gin’!

Ingredients:

A whole can of chickpeas, drained and washed

3–4 stalks of celery, chopped

1/2 an onion, diced

1/2 a sweet pepper, diced

1/2 cup of sunflower seeds

1/2 cup of dried cranberries

6 tablespoons of vegan mayo — which can be modified with regular mayo

4 tablespoons of maple syrup

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Ground pepper to taste

Directions:

With a fork or potato masher, lightly crush the chickpeas in a bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the chickpeas and mix well.

Enjoy as a salad, on top of crackers, or in a wrap!

Baked sweet zucchini with tofu, by Noora Zahedi Neysiani

When I planned my new meal plan, I had one goal in mind: feel fuller with meals to minimize snacking. I already knew fiber was a big player in feeling full, but what I’ve recently learned is that getting your protein intake has the same effect!

Tofu — firm tofu to be exact — is high in protein, fiber, and estrogen; it is a very versatile ingredient. At this point, all I do under COVID-19 restrictions is figure out new ways to flavour firm tofu. This recipe serves one to two people.

Ingredients:

2 zucchinis

1/2 a block of firm tofu

Desired spices — I like garlic powder, paprika, salt, and black pepper

2 garlic cloves

Olive oil

Chili flakes

Maple syrup or honey, in a pinch

Directions:

Take a baking sheet and cover it with parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

First, cut the zucchinis in half and scoop out the seeds. Pour a little olive oil over them and rub the oil all over, inside and outside, to coat it. Season the inside with your desired spices.

Cut the tofu block into small cubes. Then, use those cubes to fill the zucchini halves.

Slice the garlic cloves and place the slices all over the tofu cubes so it gives them flavour while cooking.

Season the tofu cubes with paprika and more salt. Sprinkle chili flakes over the cubes as much as you want, and drizzle some oil over them, as well as some maple syrup or honey.

Place in the oven for 30–35 minutes until the zucchinis have softened and the tofu cubes look cooked. You can broil for one to three minutes at the end for a more finished, golden colour, but that’s completely optional.

Serve with more maple syrup or honey on top. It’s really the mix of the sweetness of zucchini and maple syrup, or honey, with the heat of the chili flakes that makes everything come together.

Salad that eats like a meal, by Nancy Dutra

I love veggies, but, like many people, I can grow tired of them. My solution is to turn them into hearty salads that eat like a meal. One of my favourite recipes is an amalgamation of different flavour combinations and textures I have enjoyed over the years. 

There is nothing more satisfying than feeling both crunch and creamy goodness alongside sweet and savoury ingredients that pop on your palate. Take pomegranate seeds, for instance. Adding this ruby red Mediterranean fruit to a salad adds visual appeal and a crackling texture that explodes with sweet, tart juice. 

Ingredients:

Salad:

4 cups of kale or spinach

1/2 cup of minced red onion

1 seeded pomegranate

1 cup of blueberries

1/2 cup of goji berries

1 cup of crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup of your choice of roasted nuts: almond slivers, pecan pieces, or walnut chunks

Couscous:

1/2 cup of dried couscous — I sometimes substitute this with barley, quinoa, or brown rice

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 pinch of kosher salt

Dressing:

3 tablespoons of cold-pressed olive oil

3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

1 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 pinch black pepper

Directions:

Bring water, one tablespoon of olive oil, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a small saucepan.

Add couscous, stirring once, and remove from heat. Place lid on pot and allow couscous to steam for 10 minutes or until tender. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.

Warm up a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add nuts. Toss at least once, being careful not to let them burn. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Wash and dry kale leaves before removing stems and slicing into ribbons.

Combine red onions, pomegranate seeds, blueberries, goji berries, feta cheese, roasted nuts, and couscous, and toss with kale.

Combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, and black pepper. Whisk together and drizzle over the entire salad or over individual servings.

Serve with bread or soft-boiled eggs.