Katie Liu / North by Northwestern

Adulthood has, so far, left me many unanswered questions. What do I do after graduation? When should I send that email? Most pressing of all: What should I have for dinner?

Whenever I’m at a loss for this eternally recurring conundrum, I find myself going to a source of truly trustworthy culinary advice: TikTok. You can get a whole variety of ideas from there, ranging from cinema-quality masterpieces on how to cook your own steak, or to simple methods for preparing a delicious bowl of ramen. But how many of those are doable and actually taste good?

Whether you live off-campus and are too tired after class to make something elaborate, or you live in a dorm and want a break from that Plex Grandma Pizza, here are some TikTok recipes or “hacks,” that might just be worth trying.

Overnight Oats

Katie Liu / North by Northwestern

I’d known of overnight oats as the newest trend for quite some time but never got around to trying it. At the most basic level, combine your oats (make sure to get rolled oats, not the quick ones) with a milk of your choice. Chia seeds are optional! Add some fruit and sweetener, mix it up and leave it overnight. The next morning, you’ll have a healthy breakfast ready to go before you’re off to class – no more stomach whale-songs in the silence. The combination of fruit and oats was a great opener to my day, and though getting all the ingredients can feel a bit costly, it’s a worthy investment for future meals too!

Avocado (Hashbrown) Toast

Katie Liu / North by Northwestern

If you’re willing to take a little trek down to our local Trader Joe’s, then the combination of their hash browns with avocados on top makes for a great, potato-y twist on the classic breakfast toast. The hash browns themselves cost less than $3, and combined with the savoriness and the amount you get with each pack, feels worth the trip. I did end up using pre-made guacamole instead of making it from scratch like many users do – getting a whole bag of avocados seems like too much commitment, doesn’t it?

Pickles in Fried Cheese

Katie Liu / North by Northwestern

Full disclosure: I’m not a pickle guy.

However, after seeing many videos of various users frying up different cheeses and folding in the vinegary cucumber contraptions got to me. These can make for a pretty quick snack if you are just a little peckish throughout the day.

Add some oil to a pan and toss in your cheese, once it’s browned at the bottom, place your pickle in the center and wrap it up. A few users have said it works well with a dip like Ranch; I haven’t tried it, but now I have a whole extra jar of pickles in my fridge that I have nothing else to do with – so it’s worth a shot next time. Pickles are still an acquired taste for my stubborn palate, but don’t let my reservations stop you from trying this out.

Steamed Eggs

Katie Liu / North by Northwestern

Inspired by Korean steamed eggs, this recipe calls for cup noodles of any microwaveable kind, two eggs and sesame oil if you have it. All you have to do is make your noodles first – but exercise incredible self-restraint by not drinking any of the soup. That savory goodness is where you’ll crack in two eggs, mix it all up, top it off with some sesame oil and then cover it with a wet paper towel to microwave for about three minutes. While TikTok usually calls for Shin Ramen, I used Bowl Noodles just fine. Surprisingly filling and deliciously tender, this recipe is two flavorful meals in one. Besides the cost for eggs in this economy, the rest of these ingredients are all pretty much lower than $5. You’ll find me in Target stocking up on these noodles for the foreseeable future.

The Mayo Ramen

Katie Liu / North by Northwestern

This recipe has been around for what seems like ages: Mix kewpie mayo and an egg into your ramen seasoning, add a little bit of the boiling hot noodle water, then your noodles and come away with a full meal. It does take a little more prep than your average instant ramen (since it includes chopping up some garlic and scallions) but it offers a creamy yet flavorful twist to any regular noodles. And before getting all up in arms over the egg, the water will help cook it. You will survive and have a nice dinner.

This is a recipe that’ll probably take a little more investment given the additional ingredients it calls for, but I loved the refreshing twist it gave to my typical instant noodles – to me, it’s worth the extra effort.

(Alternatively) Microwave Ramen

Katie Liu / North by Northwestern

For another variant of hearty dorm ramen recipes, this hack by TikTok user insta.noodls includes Korean soon tofu as a bonus, a tube of which costs about $3 on the trusty Asian grocery app Weee! All you have to do is mix water with garlic, green onions, some sesame oil, the ramen seasoning packet and, optionally, gochugaru powder if you want some spice. Once you get that “broth” hot in the microwave, add in your noodles, top them with the tofu and an egg and heat them for another three minutes. The end result is surprisingly silky and deliciously filling, thanks to the additional tofu!

Frozen Sour Strips

Katie Liu / North by Northwestern

The elusive sour strips in question cost less than $3 and can be found in our downtown Target. All that’s needed is the candies and a little patience. If you roll them up and keep them in the freezer for a day, and act quickly before you take them out, you can come away with a crunchy version of a regular gummy. I took mine out a bit early so they weren’t as ASMR-worthy as others’ attempts, but it was a fun and sour snack nonetheless.

Fruit Roll-up Ice cream

Katie Liu / North by Northwestern

For this hack, all you need is some fruity ice cream – I opted for Talenti’s mango gelato, the superior flavor – and your favorite childhood Fruit Roll-Ups, which comes down to less than $10 (excluding taxes). Once you lay out your fruit roll-up, add some gelato into the center and pack it all up like a very lopsided attempt at a burrito. After you chill it for ten or so minutes, you’ll come away with a crunchy blessing (or abomination, if you have sensitive teeth like me). As a lover of all things fruit, specifically mango, this was the dessert of my dreams. The hardest part of this is most definitely trying to open the Talenti pint.