Cooking 101: Tips and Recipes for the College-Bound (2024)

Cooking 101: Tips and Recipes for the College-Bound (1)

Authors (and sisters) Megan and Jill Carle wanted a better dining option than their college meal plan. Rather than depend on sustenance from the campus cafeteria, the students prepared fresh meals in their off-campus apartment. The twosome knew they weren't alone in their quest, so they documented their findings and recipes in College Cooking and College Vegetarian Cooking, both designed for first-time cooks living on a limited budget with limited resources.What are the secrets to being a savvy student chef? Jill Carle dishes up her best tips and recipes for anyone looking to eat well while away from Mom's cooking.

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Check Your Dorm Kitchen

Cooking 101: Tips and Recipes for the College-Bound (3)

While some older dorms don't offer private kitchens, many universities are creating apartment-style living quarters equipped with cooking facilities. But even with a built-in kitchen, remember that your resources are likely to be limited. "Cooking in your mom's kitchen is different than cooking on your own," explains Jill Carle, co-author of College Cooking. Aside from not having a fully stocked pantry, you'll have to adjust to limited equipment and following campus rules. Microwaves are usually allowed, but toaster ovens, hot plates, and electric pots might be prohibited. Check with your school before purchasing.

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Equipment Essentials

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Carle suggests stocking up on the basics: "Bowls, silverware, a plate, and a can opener." If you do have access to a kitchen, also acquire a good knife — a chef's or even a steak knife — and a big pot. "If you have a bigger pot, you can do a lot more. If you don't have mixing bowls, you can mix in a large pot. You can make a big batch of something in a big pot and you can make a small batch in a big pot, but you can't make a big batch in a small pot," Carle says.

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Keep Cooking Basics on Hand

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To avoid late-night fast-food visits, keep a few of your favorite foods on hand. "Canned goods are good," says Carle, who suggests canned beans: "They always work very well in the microwave." Supplement with rice and you've got a meal. Always have salt and pepper, plus other seasonings, like a Cajun mix, to keep things interesting. If you've got the room, stock basic starches. "Rice, pasta, and even potatoes because they keep for a long time," suggests Carle. "You can always make something with those ingredients plus a few canned and fresh vegetables." If getting or carrying supplies is a problem, learn to substitute. Buy bouillon cubes instead of canned stock. "It doesn't have the same flavor, but they aren't as heavy as carrying home 12 cans of stock," says Carle.

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Shop Smartly and You'll Save

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After tuition and textbooks, your budget is tapped out. Though fast food might seem cheaper, it's more economical (and healthier) to make your own meals. Stock up on items when they go on sale. "If it's something you eat regularly, then there is no reason not to buy sale items," says Carle. Another cost-cutting tip: "If you're cooking for yourself, that doesn't mean you have to cut down a recipe for a single serving. Make the whole recipe and take the leftovers for lunch the next day or freeze it so you have it for a future dinner. In the long run, it's easier, because then you don't have to cook every single day."

Carle's favorite freezable dinner: stuffed shells.

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Avoid the Freshman Fifteen

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"The first time on your own, it's really easy to eat pizza for every meal and tempting to chow down on ice cream and fries, but it doesn't mean you should," says Carle. Get some variety in your diet. "I would say what every mom says: 'Eat your veggies' or some sort of fiber or it's all just gonna sit there for a really long time." That says it all.

Read on for the recipes!

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Breakfast of Champions

Cooking 101: Tips and Recipes for the College-Bound (13)

Craving: After a long night of studying (or partying) you need sustenance. Eggs are the perfect option for a filling breakfast packed with protein.

Try This Recipe: What's-in-the-Fridge Frittata

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Mexican Cravings Conquered

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Craving: Tacos. It's hard to resist the convenience (and price) of Taco Bell. But nothing beats packing a warm tortilla with fresh ingredients.

Try This Recipe: Black Bean and Corn Tacos

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Pizza Party

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Craving: Pizza. In less time than it takes Domino's delivery to get to your door, you could make your own custom pie, hot and fresh out of the oven.

Try This Recipe: Homemade Pizza

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Say No to Chinese Takeout

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Craving: Chinese. Hang up that phone. You can make a steaming plate of Chinese food that's even more flavorful and less caloric than your local take-out shop's version.

Try This Recipe: Chinese Chicken and Broccoli

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Skip the Ramen, Go Thai

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Craving: Noodles. We know: All you need is hot water to have an instant cup of noodles. Invest a few more minutes and make a hot noodle dish that won't taste like the Styrofoam cup it came from.

Try This Recipe: Tofu Pad Thai

Cooking 101: Tips and Recipes for the College-Bound (2024)
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