Spaghetti, quesadillas, and microwavable meals had been the standard dinner menu for Rachel Oestreicher ’16. When she first moved into her apartment in CHCRC, meals were limited to whatever she could make between classes and band rehearsals.
But one fall afternoon, a pasta dinner with friends sparked a new passion for food. “I realized how much I enjoyed cooking,” said Oestreicher. In January 2015, she officially kicked off a "Culinary Crusade" to teach herself to cook interesting, healthy meals that fit her schedule and budget.
Oestreicher turned to websites like Budget Bytes and Buzzfeed Tasty to find ideas. Her repertoire now includes fresh tomato soup, spicy dragon noodles, fish tacos, and black bean and sweet potato burgers.
“I have staple meals that I make pretty often, but I always like trying new things,” she said. “You name it, I will probably try and make it someday.”
She has also learned to create recipes of her own, mixing ingredients in a slow cooker so that dinner will be ready when she returns home from a long day of classes and French horn rehearsals. Oestreicher has lived in CHC for three years, and says that cooking is a great way to bring friends together to de-stress and have fun. She says it is rewarding to master a new recipe and to make something for herself, or to share.
Occasionally, recipes are not successful. Oestreicher recalls making a chorizo skillet dinner that resulted in crunchy rice and undercooked potatoes. “I make cooking mistakes just like everyone else, but I'm definitely learning as I make more and more food,” she explained.
Her favorite Culinary Crusade recipe so far has been barbecued slow-cooker ribs. “I made them for a friend and myself after a super long week, and I have to say, it was one of the best things I've ever tasted,” she said. Oestreicher recommends pairing the barbecued ribs with parmesan broccoli for “a match made in heaven.”
After making something new, she posts pictures to Facebook to share the recipe and document the crusade’s progress.
For Oestreicher, the Culinary Crusade provides another creative hobby outside of her “very music heavy life.” Oestreicher studies music education, and participated in the Minuteman Marching Band and the music fraternity Sigma Alpha Iota International. Now, she is pursuing a certification in K-12 Music Education.
“As both an honors student and a music major, I am incredibly busy. My schedule is always filled to the brim with classes, practice and rehearsals,” said Oestreicher. “I make time for cooking though, because it really does relax me.”