By Casey Rebecca Nunes | Image sorn11 via iStock and Collage ChefsFeed

If anyone ever told you that people get into cooking for the money, they are absolutely lying to you.


As a result, chefs and cooks are absolute magicians when it comes to making something out of nothing. It’s how I started cooking in the first place; my options were being creative with what I had, or breaking the bank by going out to eat. It may seem overwhelming to come up with a meal without any specific guidelines, but that’s part of the fun! Here are some gentle suggestions for jumpstarting your kitchen wizardry. 

Step 1: Hook up your freezer. Stockpile your pantry with canned goods and ingredients every time you hit the grocery store so that when you’re hungry, there are no hurdles. You’ll be happy you’ve squirreled away all this stuff.  

Step 2: Buy fresh produce, and buy it often. Learn how to discern between what’s good, not yet ripe, not worth the price tag.  

Step 3: Read a lot of recipes. Watch a lot of demo videos. Learn from other people’s mistakes in the kitchen. Then, take all of that info, mash it into your brain, and strain out something entirely yours. It doesn’t have to be good: this is the trial-and-error process of R&Ding your own recipes.  

Step 4: Quit being so scared! It’s just food. Try new things, even if it’s disgusting. You won’t make that mistake a second time, right? (Well, you might.) It’s not like you’re never going to eat any and all pasta again if your spaghetti Bolognese tastes like feet. Back to the drawing board. (Then again, always be afraid of salmonella poisoning. Take it from someone who has given it to herself.)  

Step 4.5: While you’re at it? Stop saying you can’t cook. You can.  

Step 5: Cook something. Anything!  

Here! Try this. I made it up one time when I was broke, and it has continued to save my sorry (still broke) ass ever since.  

Broke Bitch Noodles
 

Ingredients
    
Vegetable oil
A handful of fresh, Asian-style noodles. Or dried. Whatever.
A handful of whatever protein you like (the OG recipe calls for tofu because hi, you are broke, but you can do whatever you want.)
A tablespoon-ish of fresh grated ginger (if you don’t have a microplane, use the cheese grater, man.)
A tablespoon-esque of fresh grated garlic
An up-to-you amount of hot chili oil, but I like to sweat when I eat, so... 
A 3/4 kinda-cup of soy sauce
A 1/2 so-so cup of rice wine vinegar
An approx. bloop-bloop-blll of fish sauce (DO NOT BREAK THIS BOTTLE. This will make you want to avoid your kitchen for all eternity.)
A driiiiiip-drip of sesame oil (you can get fancy and get ‘toasted’ sesame oil or whatever, just make sure you have it.)
Two ketchup-bottle-hand-pounds of oyster sauce (you know what I’m saying)
5–6 vigorous shakes of white pepper (yes, white.)
Pinch of sugar

A handful of carrots, made into ribbons via vegetable peeler
A little less than a handful of red onion, thinly sliced in half moons
Half to 3/4 handful of raw hot peppers (jalapeños, serranos, Thai, bird’s eye), thinly sliced or minced (I don’t know how you roll, so this can be optional) 1 lime (this is about as specific as I get)
Garnish with however much chopped cilantro you want, because it’s delicious and fresh. I put a lot in there.  

Equipment    

Wok, or a large saucepan, and a medium pot.     


Boil water in the pot. I don’t really know how much water? Just enough so that the noodles won’t be sticking out when you put them in. You know how much this is.   

Add noodles when at a rolling boil. Strain when you taste a noodle and it’s still chewy, but not raw, but definitely not mushy. Some fun people call this al dente, but I just say “you know, when it’s ready.” You might fuck this up, but that’s okay. Set that shit aside, toss with a smidge of veggie oil.  

Bust out that wok and add veggie oil to the pan, to coat plus a glug-glug more. Heat up on medium-high and add ginger, garlic, and chili oil.   Stir until you’re like, “Damn, that smells kinda good.”  

Throw in your protein (my tofu) and cook until done (or incorporated, if using tofu). Stir.   Now I’m gonna make you scroll up: add ingredients starting from soy sauce through sugar to the wok. Stir well, then add onions and carrots (peppers, too, if you’re down); stir again. Let this all just hang out for a couple minutes.  

NOODLES! Toss them in there with the rest of the pals, and stir some more!   

Turn off the heat. You’re almost there. Squeeze that lime all over, and sprankle that cilantro.

Tosstosstoss.  

YOU’RE DONE. This sounds like it takes 90 minutes to make, but it’s only 20, I swear.

From my broke-ass, half-sized kitchen to yours: XOXO!          



A version of this article originally appeared on Medium, and has been republished with the author's permission.