How (And Why) To Nap Effectively In College

Over the course of childhood and into young adulthood, we happily toss aside life’s so-called training wheels as we develop into fully formed beings. Say the check-in text or phone call to parents when travelling alone or the bedroom nightlight. However, in the case of the nap, a routine procedure since birth, why are we so eager to grow up?

Instead of submitting to fatigue during those dangerous hours between 1 pm and 4 pm, we scroll mindlessly through social media, re-watch television shows on Netflix or stare at the ceiling. Somehow this is more productive or at least closer to productivity than submitting to sleep? No way! If anything once we finally acknowledge the time wasted, we’re both behind on our workload and guilt-ridden over our internet binge.

Napping for even 10 to 20 minutes boosts alertness, productivity and mood as well as alleviates stress. Meanwhile, if you nap as long as 90 minutes and thusly reach rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, you have the ability to improve creativity and memory.

Here are three strategies to nap like the tired human you probably are.


Set the alarm

For the unpractised nappers, choose a naptime that suits your schedule and sleep habits. The afternoon is the traditional and optimal time whether you’re an early bird or night owl, but in either case don’t nap later than 4 pm. However, if you struggle with insomnia consult with a doctor before building a nap into your routine. It may increase your difficulty falling asleep come bedtime. Once you’ve decided on a reasonable time, set an alarm for your wake-up. Don’t trust yourself to rise on time for the rest of your day. And, more importantly, whether you’re an insomniac or not, should you nap too long (i.e., more than 90 minutes) you’ll likely upset your regular night’s sleep.

Put your feet up

Create or find a spot conducive to napping. Obviously if you can pop home between afternoon classes and sleep in your own bed all the better. Change into comfortable clothes and block out any intruding sunlight or noise. You may choose to test out sleep music in order to help you relax. If you can’t make it to a bed, at least raise your feet up off the floor when sitting. Although you may eventually master effectively falling into a slumber while sitting (or maybe you’re just that tired), by raising you’re feet you should find it easier to doze off. You may experiment with a caffeine nap: drinking a cup of coffee immediately before taking a 20-minute nap. By the time you wake up, the caffeine should kick in, making you feel even more energized than as a result of sleep alone.

Try, try, try again

Should you struggle to fall asleep, don’t let it frustrate you. Even 10 minutes of rest has its own benefits. Napping need not become another stressor in your life. Help your mind slow down by closing your eyes and completing a body scan: relaxing different specific parts of your body from your feet to your head or vice versa. You can relax these body parts simply by thinking of them doing so. With patience and any necessary adjustments, you should eventually fall asleep.


4 Ways To Eat Your Vitamins

While shrugging off the majority of my parents’ random worries with a casual “I don’t know” may be your first instinct,  let us suggest you seriously consider your vitamin intake.

(We are not a parent, so you can take our suggestions without the slightest hint of an eye roll.)

Although having survived puberty—BO and all—bone growth continues into your early twenties. And vitamins are essential to this process as well as daily cell function and thusly tissue preservation. A balanced diet, high in nutritional value, satisfies your daily intake of essential vitamins as well as important fats, proteins, carbohydrates and fibre. Eating with vitamins in mind is a major step towards a healthy (and probably more delicious) lifestyle.

Here are four recipes inspired by three vitamins vital during young adulthood.

citrus fruit

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is probably best known for its maintenance of eye vision. So, yes, there is some truth to the power of carrots to improve your eyesight. They’re a great source of the vitamin as are the equally brightly coloured sweet potatoes. Vitamin A also plays a role in bone growth and teeth development

Recipe suggestion: roast carrot and sweet potato medley

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Chop as many carrots and sweet potatoes as your heart (or stomach) desires, washing, and in the case of the potatoes, scrubbing the skin beforehand. Scatter across a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and smoked paprika (another source of vitamin A) and bake for 45 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.  

Vitamin C

Infamously associated with oranges, vitamin C assists with immune system support and collagen production as well as serving as an antioxidant. Despite maintaining buzz word status, there is still a lot to be uncovered with regards to antioxidants and disease prevention. Simply speaking, they neutralize free radicals—unstable, harmful molecules—and thus prevent cellular damage. Find your vitamin C in citrus fruits, and if you like a little heat, chilis.  

Recipe suggestion: spicy deviled eggs and citrus BBQ sauce



Between academics and the emotional toils of college, brain health is top priority as a student. Folate, one of the B vitamins, helps produce red blood cells and is often highly recommended during pregnancy. In the case of your brain, the technicalities of biochemistry aside, this form of B vitamin is required to create serotonin, a neurotransmitter or brain chemical responsible for mood. Folate naturally occurs in dark leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli as well as dried legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans.

Recipe suggestion: spinach pesto pasta

Bring a pot of water to boil and prepare your favourite pasta, saving half a cup of pasta water. In a food processor or blender combine half a cup of your favourite nut, a quarter cup of olive oil, one bundle of fresh spinach, half a cup of Parmesan cheese and one clove of garlic and blend until smooth. If too chunky, add more oil, or if too watery, add more nuts or spinach. Toss the pasta, saved water and pesto together to finish.


How To Build A Better: Pasta

I have never met an individual who detested pasta. And for anyone who does, there are countless more who love it to such a degree to override such hate. With the exception of Italians, the greatest subset of its admirers is students. For many, it’s the first dish they learn to cook and becomes a mainstay of their repertoire after graduation. Its components are cheap and have a long shelf life. Often without even trying, when my fridge is bare, I still find everything I need for satisfying pasta in my cupboards. However, despite our love, there is always room for improvement. I am not here to suggest you make your noodles by hand, but with some slight adjustments to your process, you’ll uncover a handful more reasons to love it.


Use your noodle

Arguably the only aspect of pasta that can be enjoyed on its own (say with a knob of butter and seasoning), don’t take noodles for granted and remain curious. Sure, you could buy the same old spaghetti, but on your next grocery shop explore the shelves above and below. Since pasta is such a reliable dish, it’s worth taking a risk to search out a new signature noodle. Even lasagna noodles can be cooked and sliced lengthwise for a wide noodle suitable for anything from Bolognese to Alfredo. In the case of any noodle, the same principle applies: al dente is king.

Drop the jar

Premade sauces are appropriate training wheels for kitchen newbies. However, there comes a time when you have to rid your pantry of jars or cans of pasta sauce. Remember when it comes to noodles, I did not propose you make your own. I respect your limited time and patience. However, the sauce is another matter entirely. With little effort and skill, you can produce as delicious an equivalent. Combine a mix of canned crushed and chopped tomatoes, some fresh herbs, sugar or a grated carrot, garlic and seasoning and allow to simmer for as little as thirty minutes—enough to boil your noodles, prep an accompanying side and pour yourself a drink—for a respectable tomato sauce. Another classic in my kitchen, fried egg pasta is spaghetti noodles dressed in parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and topped with two over easy eggs. Once you burst the runny yolks with the gentle prod of your folk, they coat your noodles in a rich pseudo sauce. So suck it up, make your own sauce (and then suck that up too).

To top it off

You thought you could call it a day after a mess of noodles and a slap of sauce, huh? Forget it. With the appropriate garnish, you can add flavour, texture and maybe even some wise servings of protein or veggies to round out your meal. Try toasting a handful of breadcrumbs in a frying pan until crisp and brown, combine with chopped fresh herbs and salt before sprinkling over practically any pasta. Or rather than grated cheese, why not top your pasta with a dollop of ricotta or a slice of fresh mozzarella, allowing it to soften and ooze over your noodles?

4 Ways To Pay It Forward On Campus

College is sometimes a ruthless environment. As midterms approach, it’s at its peak, the library full of hopeless, fearmongering faces lost behind their laptops and textbooks. You could tackle your midterm (and not to mention winter) blues with exercise, fruits and vegetables and a solid eight hours sleep—and they all do help—but this year, take a page from Random Acts of Kindness Week. Pay it forward on campus and remind yourself, amid the impending deadlines, the world isn’t an (entirely) dreadful place.

Random Acts of Kindness Week

Visit your professor during office hours

They may not have write the midterms and eventual exams, but they do have to mark them. Don’t assume the school term is all sunshine and roses for profs, TAs and seasonal lecturers alike. Everyone’s in the lurch. Traditionally (although admittedly not always) office hours are underutilized. So surprise one or more of your instructors and schedule an appointment. Go in prepared, having read the course materials and considered questions about them or assignments beforehand. If possible—depending on the nature of your instructor—even engage in friendly conversation. Take the time to show an interest and recognize their efforts.

Surprise your classmate with coffee

Hey, remember that dude who sat beside you all term? Maybe you even collaborated on a group project together? They may not be your best friend, but assuming they aren’t a total jerk, why not finally acknowledge their presence. As part of your own Boost pre-class mobile order, pick up a treat for your classmate. During the height of term, too often we forget about or take for granted those around us. Our struggle is never singular despite how we often let ourselves believe it is.

Write a thank you card

As much as everyone enjoys hating on college life, it’s not entirely terrible, right? Instead of scrolling through Facebook as a study break, reflect on a person or on-campus service who makes the undergraduate experience more bearable. Sticking to the pay-it-forward approach, they need not have directly impacted your experience, but hopefully you’ve at least witnessed their kindness. Use your reflection to write them a thank you card. It’s a small gesture that stands out in our virtually-driven world.

Look out for volunteer opportunities

It’s not too late in the term to seek out a volunteer opportunity on-campus (or at least get the ball rolling on a future one). While it could be something more long-term, universities often advertise one- or two-day volunteer gigs in the larger community. And even if yours doesn’t, student services should have the resources to help you find such short stints. Choose something that interests you. It may even lead to something long-term or employment. If you don’t really care about it, chances are you won’t follow through. Volunteering is about commitment, not a line on your resume.


What Chocolate To Cook And Bake With

We pepper our calendar year with chocolate-centric holidays. (It’s morale-boosting, no?) While there’s no chocolate not worth eating, not all chocolate is fit for baking and cooking. Rewind to early in my own home baking career: a childhood best friend and I decide to bake brownies using Aero chocolate bars from my family’s infamous candy bowl. An hour later we open the oven to tan “brownies”—no not blondies—with a surprisingly unpronounced chocolate flavour. My dad, as all fathers should for their families, ate the entire batch, saving his wife and children (and their friends) the pain and embarrassment.

This Valentine’s Day, don’t disappoint your lovers, friends, family or self with botched chocolate-based baking.

Meet the stalwarts of baking-appropriate chocolate and use them wisely.

What chocolate to cook or bake with

Baking chocolate

It’s all in the name (and likely the majority of your chocolate-flavoured home baking). Baking chocolate is traditionally sold in bars ranging in their ratio of chocolate (or cacao, the seed used to make chocolate) to other ingredients. Unsweetened baking chocolate, the most bitter and darkest in colour, is made of pure cacao with no added sugar. Meanwhile, bittersweet and semisweet are reminiscent of dark chocolate candy bars and versatile in use when either baking or cooking. They contain at least 35% cacao with some added sugar and in the case of semisweet, cocoa butter, and are generally interchangeable, depending on your personal preference. Sweet baking chocolate contains at least 15% cacao, and milk chocolate at least 10% as well as cocoa butter and sugar. Finally, there’s white chocolate, or more accurately white “chocolate”. It’s composed entirely of cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids and flavouring—and absolutely no cacao. Like sweet and milk, it’s best used as a chocolatey addition rather than the main flavour component of your dish or baked good.

Chocolate blocks

Unless you’re baking on a commercial scale, you’re likely to never encounter chocolate blocks. (Two pounds of chocolate, anyone?) However, if you do, shave the chocolate off an end with a serrated knife rather than attempting to chop it into chunks.

Chocolate wafers

No, I am not referring to those sandpaper-dry rectangular cookies. Chocolate wafers are small, disc-shaped chocolate, ideal for melting for glazes or frosting. Unlike chocolate chips, they do not contain stabilizers, the food addictive which allows a chip to maintain its classic shape. They are available in the same percentages of cacao as baking chocolate and blocks.

Chocolate chips

What’s there to say about the beloved chocolate chip? They can be used in place of wafers for meltable delicacies (although ultimately wafers are superior for this use), as additions to cookies, brownies, muffins and breads or as a mid-baking session snack.

Cocoa powder

Unsweetened natural cocoa powder is best for cakes and brownies. Dutch process cocoa powder has a lower acidity level—it’s its reason for existence—making it more likely to react to other ingredients. As a result, use it only as a garnish, say a sprinkle over hot chocolate or homemade truffles.

Leftover candy bars, truffles or individual chocolates

Who would ever leave unfinished chocolate lying around forgotten and alone? I assure you, many. Think back to this post after Valentine’s Day and you will understand. When it comes to baking, pre-made chocolates are best used as garnishes, chopped and sprinkled over a glowing glaze or like the chocolate chip as an addition. Candy bars and individual chocolates, given their own creation processes, simply don’t have the reliability to serve as a structural component in baked goods.


Take Your First International Trip This Spring Break

It’s time to cast your cheap, tired self aside. This spring break, take the week (or even two) to escape campus. Don’t paint the illusion from the confines of your parents’ basement or your best friend’s couch. Head abroad. Hesitation never got anyone—whoever anyone may be—anywhere. Heed the following advice and take an international trip this spring break.

Take your first international trip this spring break

Obtain, renew or find your passport

It’s every traveller’s nightmare: you’ve planned the trip of a lifetime only to arrive at the airport with an expired passport (or worse none at all). Instead of Ibiza or Barcelona, you spend your vacation time at the passport office crying on the shoulder of someone who was smart enough to renew their passport before their trip. If you don’t already have a passport, an overseas excursion is the perfect excuse to complete the process. However, do it as soon as possible.

Like now.

Stop reading this post.


While it may take a day to submit your paperwork to the passport office, it can take weeks for the actual passport to arrive in your hands.  Now say you already have your passport? If so, ask yourself, “Where is it?” You may be surprised to discover it’s in the least logical place possible.  

Choose a destination (or let it choose you)

You have two choices: dream up a bucket list worthy destination or select whatever cheap flight is available online at the time of purchase. Consider too, would you prefer a week of booze, buffets and beaches? Then aim for the classic all-inclusive resort, researching accordingly. Otherwise, would you rather play the tourist for your trip, sightseeing every day? In this case, your location is key. If it’s your first time abroad, choose a city big and accessible enough to ease you into the tourist role. Book your ticket with care, perhaps with a buddy to proofread your choice. Give yourself enough time upon your return to unpack and adjust to reality (i.e., don’t intend to return the day of your first class).

Plan as little or as much as suits your personality

Even if your approach to your passport and destination selection didn’t clarify your personality type, creating a day-to-day schedule for your trip certainly should. As my family’s resident trip planner, I live for a thoughtful travel agenda, selecting attractions or areas to explore in the morning, afternoon and evening of each day of our trip and, if possible, appropriate restaurants too. However, there’s nothing wrong with turning up on your trip without anything more than a departure time.

Pack at least the night before

Again, if you’re the free-spirited type, you may consider packing your bags the day of your departure. I strongly advise at least the night before especially if you’ve never travelled before. You may realize last summer’s sunscreen is completely dried up or your windbreaker is two sizes too small. Let me tell you, such last-minute discoveries don’t make travel fun or hilarious. It may take years before you can recount your lack of preparation to friends and family in the form of an entertaining anecdote. Furthermore, you must decide whether or not to check your luggage and if your chosen bags fit the correct size and weight restrictions. Visit your airline’s website for their guidelines.

Enjoy your trip!

Finding The Key To Your Valentine’s Heart (Through Their Stomach)

This Valentine’s Day, don’t let the pressure get to you. Wish your sweetheart a “Happy Valetine’s Day” and stuff them with food and drink. Tenderly mutter words of love as they slurp spaghetti or slug back a beer and they’ll be boasting about your kindness at the cafeteria for weeks to follow. Only someone on an empty stomach or uncomfortably sober would identify the gesture as pandering, thoughtless and likely derived from a blog post. And if your valentine thinks your relationship is above commercial holidays (i.e., a cynic), they’re even more likely to swoon over your edible gesture.

“Love conquers all”? Not in my books. It’s food.

Four keys to your valentine’s heart (through their stomach)

For the lazy valentine: A week of no cooking (or cleaning)

If you casually tease your lover about their inability to make their bed or wash their dishes, admit it: they’re lazy. Or, if you prefer euphemisms, they’re free-spirited. Either way a meal plan gift card is the key to their idle heart. Even if they don’t normally frequent the cafeteria, the freedom from groceries, cooking and cleaning will inspire them to load up on the daily lunch special or Friday night custom nachos.

For the sophisticated valentine: Quality pantry staples

Say your lover fills their iTunes with opera recordings, totes around non-school books and wears actual clothes—you know, more than underwear or pyjamas—for the majority of their day, you’re in a relationship with a sophisticate. Even if they’re not pompous enough to proclaim themselves a foodie, they appreciate cooking and understand it’s a pillar of adulthood. Present them with the best of the basics: olive oil, salt, pepper, or vinegar. Head to a specialty grocery store or perhaps even a butcher, fishmonger or bakery and let their staff guide you to the crème de la crème of pantry staples.   

For the traditional valentine: Dinner and a movie

So your valentine is actually boring enough to believe in the hallmarks of February 14. Don’t fight it—instead be as boring. Treat them to dinner and movie. Now there’s no reason to overspend on such a traditional gesture. You’re a student, your lover shouldn’t expect a four-star meal at your age. So take them out to their favourite burger joint before curling up on the couch to a movie. Now you could at least stray beyond Netflix and rent a movie online. It’s not as expensive as a trip to the cinema, but not as mundane as everyday streaming. Should your valentine appear disappointed with your pocket-friendly Valentine’s Day, describe your choice as “quirky,” “youthful” and “fun” and compare it to the dime store scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Your relationship hopefully doesn’t last long enough to establish a pattern of cheapness.  

For the homebody valentine: cocoa and brownies in bed

Unlike the sophisticated valentine, yours rarely strays from the couch. They consider a bag of potato chips and an episode of Game of Thrones an exciting night. Thank yourself for selecting such an easygoing specimen. You lucky son of a gun. Embrace your beloved homebody by whipping up a batch of homemade hot chocolate and brownies and snuggle up under the covers.

Homemade Hot Chocolate For Two (adapted from

2 cups whole milk

4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbsp sugar

pinch of salt

pinch of cinnamon

4 jumbo marshmallows

  1.     Whisk ¼ cup milk with cocoa powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a small saucepan over medium heat until dissolved.
  2.     Add the remaining milk and continue to whisk until warm. Serve in mugs and top with marshmallows.

One-Bowl Brownies (adapted from

4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped

¾ butter

2 cups sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup flour

  1.     Preheat oven to 350 F and butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
  2.     Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler or small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until melted.
  3.     Pour into a large bowl. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla and then flour.
  4.     Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from pan.


How To Effectively Self-Reflect

“New Year, new you,” right? As eager as you may be to improve your grades, health or relationships in the New Year, don’t forget to consider what you achieved this past year. It was once new too, remember. In fact effective self-reflection will help you build reasonable and attainable New Year’s resolutions. And there’s no need to limit self-reflection to January. Assuming you see its effects, it can become a life-long habit.

As a student, your independence has increased and self-awareness heightened. Don’t let either overwhelm you. Instead take advantage of this exciting stage of young adulthood by acknowledging your actions and their outcomes. Improvement aside, it’s part of discovering who you are now and who you may become in the future.    

How to effectively self-reflect

Make it regular

To get the most out of self-reflection, take a cue from scientific experimentation. In order to accurately test the hypothesis of a science experiment, there must be a constant, a part of the experiment, which remains, well, constant in comparison to the tested subjects. Self-reflect at a set time on a regular basis, say every evening, every Sunday or once a month. After several sessions of self-reflection, you can review your thoughts and note any developments. By self-reflecting at the same time, you’re also more likely to review your actions with a similar perspective each time. Choose a time when you won’t feel rushed or over tired. When relaxed and well rested (or as close as you can be to either), you’re more likely to revisit your actions without unnecessary judgement. Consider too developing a set of questions or prompts to answer or respond to each self-reflection.

Find your form

Keeping a diary is not the only form of self-reflection. Although it’s perhaps the most common. And its permanence allows you to revisit entries years in the future. However, for some writing is limiting. It’s an unnatural form of expression. Even for a student. (We do enough writing as it is anyways.) Certainly try writing in a diary, however also explore other forms of self-reflection. Speak aloud and record your thoughts using a voice memo function on your phone or audio recording program on your computer. If monologuing feels bizarre, recruit a friend or family member who’s a good listener and capable of asking prompting, non-judgemental questions. In this case, record the conversations. And return the favour by serving as a listener to their self-reflection. Of course if finances allow, counselling is a great option. Although recording may not be possible, a counsellor will track your progress for you. For something untraditional yet still helpful, draw your reflections, titling each piece. A clear title will allow you to remember your reflections even if the image isn’t literal.

Stick with honesty

No matter how or when you self-reflect, do so with honesty. While difficult, it’s essential to successful, practical self-reflection. Furthermore, as best you can review your actions with neutrality. Don’t be overly harsh, nor forgiving about your past choices. When planning for the future, ask yourself “how” rather than “why”. How questions naturally incite action, for example: “How can I get more sleep?” rather than “Why don’t I sleep more?”


Two Holiday Cookie Recipes For Santa (Or More Likely Yourself)

From my experience, holiday cookies go one of two ways: utter disaster or utter perfection. Chalk it up to endless holiday parties, casual kitchen drinking, end-of-term goo brain, or all three. It adds to the fun, no? And, say your batch of cookies flops, the blunder should make for an entertaining story next holiday season.

In this high-risk spirit, here are my two favourite cookie recipes, a standard (i.e., consistently reliable) chocolate chip and seemingly simple (i.e., consistently unreliable) shortbread from my one of my most beloved Christmas gifts, the 75th anniversary edition of Joy of Cooking. Admittedly, the latter of the two recipes must deliver for some bakers. (It’s a Joy recipe!) However, in my approximately twelve years of baking, I have yet to turn out a respectable batch of shortbread. Every time it’s either too crumbly or impossibly stiff. On the other hand, chocolate chip has become my signature bake. Whether you eat the whole batch out of desire or because no one else will, make cookies part of your holiday traditions.

Two holiday cookie recipes for Santa (or more likely yourself)

Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Joy of Cooking, 2006)

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

½ tsp salt

3 tsp vanilla

1 300g-pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips


  1.     Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2.     Whisk together flour and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.
  3.     Beat butter and sugars in a large bowl until well blended before adding eggs, salt and vanilla and beating further.
  4.     Stir the flour mixture into the butter until smooth. Add chocolate chips and stir again until combined.
  5.     Using an ice cream scoop, drop the dough by heaping teaspoonfuls about two inches apart onto the cookie sheets. Bake one sheet at a time until the cookies are just slighted coloured on top and the edges brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool completed.

Scotch Shortbread (from Joy of Cooking, 2006)

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup + 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, divided

¼ tsp salt

1½ cups all-purpose flour


  1.     Preheat the oven to 300 F.
  2.     Beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, ¼ cup sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir in flour.
  3.     Lightly knead the dough until blended. Press it evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 8-inch square baking pan, pierce the dough deeply with a fork all over in a decorative pattern and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
  4.     Bake until the shortbread is lightly browned and darker at the edges, 45 to 50 minutes. Immediately cut into bars while still warm, then cool in the pan or on a rack.


How To Build A Better: Soup

Whether a chilled cucumber number in the summer or a steaming chicken noodle in the winter, there’s a soup for every season. And it’s wonderfully forgiving to prepare. While the box or canned varieties are endless and increasingly impressive in both flavour and nutritional value, the student cook shouldn’t overlook homemade soups. What dish has study time built into its method? With some soups requiring up to 45 minutes to an hour’s worth of simmering, it’s the perfect block of time to review notes or finish an essay outline. Wherever you source your recipes from, consider the following tips for the ultimate homemade soup.

soup bowls

Size matters

Soup is best when prepared in big batches. It’s part of its appeal. However, before you go doubling, tripling or even quadrupling your favourite tomato soup recipe, ensure you have the right sized equipment for the job. If your diet is already 50% pasta, you’re likely already the owner of a big stockpot with a hopefully solid bottom and lid. No saucepan will ever suffice. Likewise invest in some quality Tupperware. The larger varieties can hold up to a week’s worth of soup, while the smaller are perfect for freezing individual portions for future meals. (Just don’t forget to let your soup cool completely at room temperature before refrigerating or freezing.)

Sweat it out

Every homemade soup starts by sweating vegetables (or in fancy food-speak, aromatics) in either oil or butter. Typically some combination of onion, carrot, celery or leek, they form the base of any flavourful soup. (The more soups you prepare, you’ll develop your vegetables and fat of choice.) As a result, never skip this step. In fact it’s the one point in the preparation when your full attention should be on the contents of your pot. A minute or two lost to your Facebook newsfeed and your finely diced onion will turn into a crisp, bitter mess. Give this component the respect it deserves. In this case, burnt is never better.

Stock up

If aromatics are the heart of any soup, stock is its skeleton. Like homemade soup, homemade stock isn’t hard. And it’s worth the effort (which isn’t much to begin with). Now, fair, real, chef-level stock, perfectly clear and clean in flavour, takes years of experience. However, something more “rustic” won’t disappoint. Got leftover bones from a roast chicken? Toss into your stockpot, cover with water, season, bring to a boil and leave to simmer for a simple chicken stock. For the veggie variety, sweat some aromatics before adding whatever leftover vegetable scraps you’d otherwise throw into the compost, add seasoning and herbs and, again, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer. Unlike stock cubes or box stock, you can control how much salt you add and personal it to your tastes.

Smooth or chunky

After you’ve gone to the trouble to consider the preceding points, don’t ruin your soup by leaving it uncomfortably chunky or blending to baby food-like thick. Sadly, it’s usually not until you’re a few bites in, you’ll know whether or not you chose the right consistency. Thankfully, you can save your soup. For something too chunky, partially puree for the best of both worlds. If too thick, loosen by stirring in leftover stock and adjusting the seasoning.