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Inside the Commodore Kitchen

"It’s not about making everything crazy, but just about combining things. I always keep staple items in my fridge that I know I can always reach for and put in something."



Explore the insights and advice from recent young alumni below.

Have someone—whether that’s your mom, dad, roommate, whoever—teach you some fundamental skills. You’ve got to have that knowledge base first. Then you can start experimenting with different seasonings, marinades, combinations, etc. Once you’re good at the basics (and variations), then you can have some fun and try and tackle some trickier meals. ’16

Consider a delivery service like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron. ’15

There’s a website called where you can buy a recipe plan for one person. It gives you ingredients to buy at the beginning of the week and then five recipes you can make using those ingredients throughout the week. It saves you from making one recipe that’s meant for four to six people and eating the same thing for several meals in a row! ’15

I love attempting to replicate some of my mom’s recipes. I can never make it taste quite as good as mom does, but it’s the perfect way to cure homesickness and feed myself dinner. I also suggest packing a lunch for work. It just makes sense. ’15

Look up Chef in Training. It’s a great blog with some simple recipes! ’17

You can cook almost anything in a cast iron skillet. Just search on Google for recipes. ’15

I always have bell peppers and onions in my kitchen because they are easy to cook with. I use them to make my own burrito bowls, stir fry, or even just as seasoning. ’18

MEAL PREP!!!! Make your breakfasts and lunches ahead of time!!! It doesn’t have to be fancy; just get it done or you will spend way too much money eating out!! ’16

Run fast. Cook fast. Eat slow. Has some great easy and healthy recipes. I use that cookbook a lot. ’16

I buy precut frozen vegetables, which are cheaper and more nutritious, and you don’t have to worry about them going bad for months. I also cook my rice or pasta for the week on Sundays and separate them into little Tupperware, so on a busy weekday night all I need to do is to microwave my pre-portioned rice and some veggies and it takes less than 10 minutes. ’16

Start simple and use recipes at first! Pinterest is a lifesaver. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, you can start playing around with new flavors/more adventurous recipes. Also, buy an Instant Pot. Like, right now. Will save your life and your time. ’19

Not necessarily a recipe, but a great way to save money is to cook a large batch of something that freezes well, and freeze it in individual serving sizes. I like to freeze lasagna or enchiladas. That way, instead of spending $15-plus on takeout when you’re busy, you can just take something out of your freezer. It saves a lot of money! ’18

Thanks to my Nutri Ninja blender, I am confident that Smoothie King has NOTHING on me. I highly suggest you get great at making protein packed smoothies to counter all the sweets that will somehow, magically make their way into your home. ’16

Trader Joe’s is key! It’s not about making everything crazy, but just about combining things. I always keep staple items in my fridge that I know I can always reach to and put in something. ’18

If you’re into cooking on your own, I’d suggest The Southern Vegetable Book. It has pictures, the recipes are easy and always turn out right, and you eat more vegetables. Your mom would approve, ’15

Sheet pan dinners! Chop up a bunch of veggies, add your choice of protein, and bake in the oven for 20–30 minutes. Super easy and makes for great leftovers. ’15

Costco has individually vacuum sealed frozen chicken breasts … endless possibilities. ’15

I love to make couscous! It’s easy, tastes delicious, and is great to bring to work for lunch. ’16

Chicken Fajitas! Super easy—marinate chicken breasts in chili powder (lots—coat the chicken with it), garlic powder, some lime juice, and vegetable oil. Can marinate for as little as 30 minutes or as long as overnight. Then cook in a pan with bell peppers and onions, and add whatever toppings you would like! ’18

SuperCook is the best app ever! Takes all the ingredients in your kitchen and gives you hundreds of recipe options. Extremely helpful! ’20

If you can afford it, split a meal subscription kit with some friends/roommates. Splitting the cost makes it more affordable. This is the easiest way that I’ve found to be introduced to new recipes, cooking techniques, and even new foods I didn’t think I liked. After a while, we stopped ordering the subscription as much and we have built the knowledge and skills to be able to shop for and cook those types of things on our own. ’18                       

I always try to make one-pot dishes. The instant pot is a great time saver and there are so many recipes online you can try. ’16

Stir-fry noodles is always super easy to make and you can put whatever you want in it. You can use pasta noodles or Asian noodles. There’s a lot of flexibility with vegetables (I like broccoli and asparagus and bok choy) and if you want to add protein or not (I like chicken and sometimes shrimp). ’19

I actually decided to buy a cookbook. I started off with Tasty Everyday: All of the Flavor and None of the Fuss and the recipes in there are not too complicated yet very delicious. Also, you can’t go wrong with any cookbook and/or recipe from Chrissy Teigen! ’20

Soups, stews, and one-pot/pan meals that you can freeze—eating the same pot of soup for a whole week gets a little old, so freezing parts of meals allows you to have a little more variety. ’17

Shakshouka (Moroccan dish with eggs, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and different spices) and smoothies (using whatever ingredients). ’19

Meal kit services are a great way to get recipe ideas for your busy schedule and reduce food waste. ’19

I love trying new recipes! Pinterest is full of quick and healthy lunches and dinners which are great if you are on the go. ’18

Take it slow; be fair to yourself when you struggle to work and cook for yourself. ’18

If you’re new to cooking, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to look up practical essentials like “mise en place,” proper food storage, or knife handling, because learning these will make your cooking safer and more enjoyable! Also, if you can cook meals in advance and freeze them, you’ll thank yourself for the time you save. Some of my favorites for being quick, easy, and freezing well are chicken lentil squash curry and pad thai. ’19

Get an Instant Pot! I make meals for the whole week on Sunday in it and then just put them in individual servings in the fridge. You can find loads of recipes for it online. My favorites are sweet and sour chicken, Asian meatballs, and tomato soup. I also make stir-fry a lot—get some chicken breast or beef and cut up veggies (Whole Foods usually has pre-chopped Asian veggies) and sauté in a pan until cooked, then pour sauce of choice on. I heat up an individual serving of minute rice in the microwave to put it on; it’s super easy and takes only a few minutes if you’ve already done your chopping. ’17

YouTube videos are very helpful for new recipes. Risotto! It sounds fancy and intimidating but is actually very easy to make in reality and you can customize it to different flavors or ingredients in countless ways. ’18

Four Cheese Baked Mac ’N’ Cheese in the fall. One-Pan Lemon Garlic Baked Salmon in the summer. Vegan Shepherd’s Pie in the winter. Experiment with new recipes in the spring. Try to eat a veggie every day and avoid the temptation to order food every night. ’18

Buy a Dutch oven and an air fryer. ’17

I have found so many amazing recipes by just searching for recipes which include a few main ingredients that I have lying around. For example, I had decided to buy a bunch of cut-up beef the other day with no recipe in mind, decided a few days later that I wanted to make marinated kabobs and just had the most AMAZING dinner. Here’s the marinade recipe I found for the beef:

Beef Kabob Marinade

1 cup vegetable oil 3/4 cup soy sauce 1/2 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup prepared mustard (I used Dijon)

1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black pepper 2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix all ingredients in a large bag and marinate the beef for 4–24 hours.

And the easiest homemade dinners: keep some chicken around and a few store-bought 30-minute marinades. When you get home, throw the meat in the marinade, make some rice and steamed veggies, cook the meat and enjoy! ’12


Pumpkin–Black Bean Veggie Soup

One of my new favorites is a Pumpkin–Black Bean Veggie Soup.


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 red bell pepper, chopped 1 zucchini, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 cans (15 oz. each) black beans, rinsed and drained 1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin

1 can (14.5 oz.) no–salt added diced tomatoes, undrained 1 can (14 fl. oz.) vegetable broth

1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste Shredded cheese


Mexican Chicken

Stupidly simple, perfectly tender Mexican chicken. I make this for myself once a week. It’s filling and nutritious for less than $3.25 worth of ingredients

  1. Cover all sides of a thawed chicken breast in taco seasoning
  2. Place the breast in a cooking dish and pour salsa all over
  3. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes


More Recipes

Stir fry pork and veggies (broccoli is a good one). After putting some oil in the pan, I cook the pork until it’s almost done, and then I cook the veggies with the pork! Season with soy sauce while you cook it, and then when they’re pretty much done, add in rice or noodles that are already cooked. Super easy, looks impressive, and keep well as leftovers! ’15

Make fancy tomato sauce for your pasta: buy a jar of tomato basil tomato sauce, but add ground turkey or beef or cut up Italian sausage, season with salt and pepper. Then cook some mushrooms, onions, garlic, tomatoes in some olive oil and heavily season with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Combine in a big pot and add the jar sauce and let simmer for a while. If you want it hot, add some red pepper flakes! ’13

Pan seared chicken thighs with carrots and onions—cheap, easy, and flavorful. Baked salmon with honey mustard and soy sauce glaze. Any green vegetable tastes great with just salt, pepper, and a little olive oil. Sweet potatoes pie is a super easy and delicious homemade southern dessert. Sandwiches are always great and you can jazz them up if you like and try new things like fancy breads and cheeses. ’13

Mixing equal parts water, honey, and soy sauce makes a super easy and delicious chicken marinade! ’15

Salmon and roasted veggies: get some filets of salmon (with skin), rub with olive oil, then lightly season with Tony’s Cajun seasoning or just salt and pepper. Bake in the oven set at 375°F for about 12 minutes (or until the white stuff comes out). In a separate pan you can roast vegetables (remember that they take a bit longer!); broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, potatoes, whatever! Douse with olive oil and heavily season with Italian seasoning! ’13

If you’re cooking for two, roasting a whole chicken is great: wash the bird, melt some butter over it, chop veggies into the bottom of a roasting pan, put it all in the oven at 450 for 40 minutes face down, take it out and enjoy some crispy back skin, flip the bird and bake for another 40 at 450, test meat temp., remove when done, let rest, enjoy with a grain. You can eat legs+thighs the night-of then have breast meat for chicken salad and sandwiches and the wings for a snack. It’s an easy way to start cooking the kinds of recipes you find in books and get a feel for carving meat, using an oven, and utilizing leftovers. ’18