By Emily Cummins, Assistant Features Editor
The concept of "real money" comes up a lot when I hear people talking around campus. My friends say that they can't go to the bar because they don't have any "real money." But what is "real money?" The opposite of real money speaks volumes: meal plan. Admit it, you don't consider your meal plan to be real money. It's some strange Monopoly money only accepted by the school. You can't use it to buy books or put gas in your car, so you don't feel it's real.
Any way you slice it, the money on that card with which you bought $40 of Easy Mac from Dutch Treats was at some point "real money."
By changing what you think of your meal plan, you can really save some serious cash that might come in handy on the weekends. To do that, think of it this way. In what world does a tuna sandwich cost seven dollars? At some point your meal plan will run out, so here's a solution: start cooking.
Now I know that to most of us, cooking generally involves that sheer dread when we drunkenly read the words "DO NOT MICROWAVE" on a box of chicken fingers, but I'm here to change all that. Here is a recipe that is simple, inexpensive, and definitely more delicious than dry sodium noodles.
Zatarain's Mexican Stew
1 box Zatarain's Black Beans and Rice (7 oz.)
1 pound of sweet or spicy sausage meat
2 ¾ cups water
2 tablespoons butter, margarine, or olive oil
1 tablespoon Frank's Red Hot Sauce (I put that sh—t on everything)
1 tablespoon of Garlic Ajo
1 can of corn drained (optional)
1 tablespoon of sour cream to garnish (optional)
This is a one-pot meal, and by that I mean you only need one pot or saucepan (about 2 quarts in size or larger) to make this meal. First, you must brown the sausage meat in the pot. To do this, I use a drop of olive oil and slowly add the meat with the burner on high. I suggest buying one pound sausage patties because they are not only cheaper, but also easier to work with.
Once all the meat is in the pot, break it into smaller, bite sized pieces and lower the heat to medium.
At this point, sprinkle the garlic ajo onto the meat until it is all brown.
Then add 2 ¾ cups water to the meat, the rest of the olive oil or butter you are using and the hot sauce. Stir it to make sure the meat doesn't stick to the bottom. It is now time to add the rice and bring the mixture to a boil with the burner on high.
Now here comes the fun part. Once the contents of your pot are furiously boiling, you need to reduce the heat to low and put the lid on the pot. And that's all you need to do for about 20 minutes. You should stir it occasionally to fluff the rice, but at this point, you can walk away and get some work done.
Once the 20 minutes are up, and the majority of the liquid has been absorbed, turn off the burner and remove the lid. Let it sit for about five minutes and stir once more before serving.
Servings: 4 (2 cups)
Calories per serving: 565
Total Cost (approximation based on specific stores): $8.00
Cost per serving: $2.00
I really hate sounding like a grandma, but that is an amazing saving. To save those extra servings, package them up in some Tupperware (recyclable Chinese food containers work great) and just reheat the meal for about 2 minutes in the microwave.
For a vegetarian variation on this meal, use one pound of firm tofu instead of sausage. You don't need to brown the tofu, so add it to the water mixture and it will absorb the flavor. This changes the calories to 375, which makes this an even healthier meal.