Cooking: Its more than simply a survival skill for college kids
Late July: College kids home for the summer are looking forward to returning to their world of academia and independence. Some of them will be sharing their first apartment or house, and totally responsible for feeding themselves for the first time. Don't let these precious few weeks slip by without ensuring your student knows how to cook. And I am not talking about microwaving or baking chicken nuggets in the oven.
'I had the satisfaction of hearing my son admit there was more to cooking than it appeared,' said Lake Oswegan JoAnn Leach. After struggling to cook for himself, 'he had a whole new appreciation of what I had been doing everyday for years, and he was sorry he hadn't taken me up on cooking lessons.'
Mothers and dads, for the next several weeks, this space will be devoted to tips on cooking on your own. You might want to be sure these columns are left out where all can read them. And, before you recycle the paper, clip the columns and put them in a notebook to send back to college with your student, along with your recipes for his or her favorite dishes.
Students, I know you plan on eating every day for the rest of your lives. What may have not sunk in yet is that mom or dad won't be there to get your breakfast in the morning, pack a healthful lunch and prepare a delicious dinner each and every day. You are now in charge of your care and feeding, as exciting or daunting as it may be.
Perhaps you are thinking: 'My roommate is going to cook for us!' What if your roommate gets tired of always being the cook or they have overpromoted their culinary talent? You don't want to have to rely on others for such a fundamental need as food.
It is in your best interest to learn to cook a few basic dishes well before you go back to school. Don't wait until you get back to school to start cooking - practice now while there is no pressure and you can still take advantage of your parents' well-stocked pantry.
In your new home, remember that you are sharing the kitchen. Just like you, your roommates will be hungry and tired and want to make their own dinner quickly. The pressure will be on to quickly cook your food without setting the house on fire and clean the pans for the next cook. You and your roommates will probably want to cook separately, to accommodate your preferences of diet, be you omnivores, vegetarians or vegans, and to keep within your budget.
There are some items though that make sense to share: Paper towels, dish soap, dishwashing detergent, hand soap, foil and plastic wrap, zip lock bags, light bulbs, coffee and coffee filters, butter or margarine, salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, flour, sugar, etc. Discuss what items will be communal and how they will be paid for.
You will quickly discover that some members of your household are slobs and some are neatniks. Be aware of your surroundings and clean up after yourself - it's important for everyone's health and safety. A dirty kitchen is a breeding ground for germs and bacteria.
Over the next several weeks I will address a number of topics involving being responsible for your own food, including budgeting and shopping, different techniques of food preparation, cookbook and recipe resources, nutrition, kitchen chores and cleaning and how to share a kitchen and meals successfully. If you have tips or comments you wish to share, please be in touch with me (contact information is at the bottom).
Mastering the following recipes will ensure you can start the day right with a hearty breakfast. If you like a good cuppa joe, you will want to know how to make it, rather than put a dent in your food budget by purchasing it every day. And if you aren't an egg eater now, learn to love them. They are versatile, full of great protein and a budget stretcher.
Bon Appetit! Discover the joy of cooking!
Makes 4 servings
Migas are a classic Texan breakfast, originally eaten during Lent. Because of their connection to Lent, they are often vegetarian, so don't worry if you can't find chorizo.
1 small link Spanish chorizo sausage (about 2 ounces)
1 ripe plum tomato
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
Handful fresh cilantro
8 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 6-inch corn tortillas
½ cup shredded Monterey jack cheese (about 2 ounces)
Freshly ground black pepper
Chop chorizo. Halve the tomato crosswise, squeeze out seeds and then chop tomato. Discard seeds. Peel and chop onion and garlic. Wash, dry and chop cilantro.
Crack eggs into a medium bowl, add 1 teaspoon salt and lightly beat.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Break the tortillas into bite-size pieces and add to the skillet. Cook, turning until golden and a little crisp, about 3 minutes.
Add the chorizo, tomato, onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft, about 4 minutes. Pour the eggs over the vegetables and tortillas. Cook as for scrambled eggs. When eggs are still just soft, remove the pan from the heat and fold in the cheese and cilantro and season with salt and peppr to taste. Serve with hot sauce or salsa.
Adapted from Food Network Kitchens How to Boil Water, 2006
How to Make Coffee
If you get a drip style coffeemaker, you barely have to do anything. You will need ground coffee and coffee filters. If you buy coffee beans in bulk and grind them at the grocery store, they will generally be fresher tasting than coffee that is packaged preground. Coffees vary in taste; sample several to find your favorite.
A general ratio is 1 scoop ground coffee for every 2 cups of water - measure your coffee scoop to determine its capacity and follow this formula:
To make 2 cups of coffee, use 2 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of groundcoffee for weak brew, or 1/3 cup ground coffee for strong brew.
For 4 cups of coffee, use 4 cups of water with 1/3 cup ground coffee for weak brew, or ¾ cup for strong brew. For 8 cups of coffee, use 8 cups water with ¾ cup ground coffee for weak or 1 cup ground coffee for strong.