When it comes to dorm cooking, there are two types of students: the ones who can only cook ramen and the ones who can cook everything else. But Jaya Aiyer, a freshman in the College of Nursing, seems to have found the perfect middle ground. Creating unique recipes like homemade Oreos and chocolate chia seed pudding, Aiyer manages to make these complicated-sounding dishes using only simple ingredients in under 10 minutes.
In Third North’s large kitchen, Aiyer is easily able to try out her new recipes. Not only does Aiyer invent recipes, but adds her own twist to traditional ones, such as making her own vegetable sauce to go with pasta or making pancakes with oats instead of flour for a healthier option.
Aiyer’s culinary interest started at a young age. She started off as a helper in the kitchen at home until she learned enough to start experimenting with things on her own.
“Around the age of five or six, I would help my grandmother peel vegetables,” Aiyer said. “A couple years later, my mom would have my sister and I help her cook Indian bread. But I really started cooking around 13 or 14, making things like dumplings and spaghetti on my own. I really like the end result; getting to eat something delicious that I know I made.”
Aiyer’s love for cooking continued into high school, so much so that when she was deciding on option for a first-year residence hall at NYU, one of her biggest deciding factors was whether or not the dorms included kitchens.
“I knew I wanted to cook in college,” Aiyer said. “I’m vegetarian so I have limited options when it comes to good food. Cooking gives me the option to have a diverse amount of food.”
Just like any student on a college budget, Aiyer has had to look around for affordable ways to stock up on her ingredients. For fruits often used in her breakfast recipes, Aiyer makes sure to grab some from a dining hall. All her other ingredients mainly come from Trader Joe’s, which Aiyer says is a great option for students, especially if you’re making a conscious effort to buy items you can use in multiple dishes. She always keeps eggs, oats and red chili peppers on hand as staples.
Although the prospect of cooking can be intimidating, Aiyer definitely encourages everyone seeking to learn to let go of their fears and get their hands dirty.
“There isn’t really anything you can do wrong,” Aiyer said. “Get all the food you like and put it together. For the most part it will work out, and even if it doesn’t, then great, you learned something. So just go for it.”
Pancakes In A Blender Recipe (From RunningWithSpoons.com, a cooking blog):
- ½ cup rolled oats
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ½ medium banana, sliced
- 2 egg whites
- ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 Tbsp. almond milk
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- Preheat a skillet over medium heat and coat it with cooking spray or oil.
- Add ingredients to a blender in the order listed and blend until oats are broken down and batter is frothy.
- Using a ladle or 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop batter onto skillet until desired size of pancakes is reached. Cook until the edges begin to look dry and bubbles start to form on the top of the pancake, about 1 minute. Using a spatula, flip and cook about 2 more minutes on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter, making sure to coat your skillet again with oil between each batch.
- Remove from heat and serve with your favorite toppings.
Email Ankita Bhanot at [email protected]