Midterms are in full swing this semester. You’ve had your third night of frozen pizza for dinner and you say to yourself, ‘I’m only doing this because they were on sale’, but you know the real reason- you have no idea what you’re doing in the kitchen.
The cookbook “College Cooking: Feed Yourself and Your Friends” was written to solve this sort of problem and to help clueless college students learn how to cook. Sisters Megan and Jill Carle wrote this cookbook, intending it to be user friendly with over 60 familiar recipes like tuna noodle casserole and chicken tetrazzini.
The Carle Sisters are not new to the cookbook scene, but this is their first foray into college cooking. They have two other cookbooks, “Teen Cooks” and “Teen Cooks Dessert.” The sisters wrote this cookbook while they were undergrads at the University of Arizona, Tucson and now they continue their studies in the University’s graduate program.
Since this is their third cookbook, they definitely have figured out how to create a user-friendly format. The recipes are simple, clear and include lots of pictures. Most recipes include at least a small picture inset into the page but there are also some full page photos.
The recipes are great staples to add to your culinary repertoire. The baked penne pasta with Italian sausage is a great recipe for anyone who is new to cooking. These dishes aren’t gourmet but they are tasty, the directions are easy to follow and the sidebar about making your own sausage is very informative. The chicken tetrazzini was not a quick meal but very delicious. There was also a sidebar about making the dish vegetarian which is perfect if you’re having a dinner party and inviting vegetarian friends.
The only problem with the recipes is that there are no estimates for how long it will take to complete a dish. The main problem with college cooking is that students are always in a time crunch. They need to know if the dish will take 10 minutes to prepare or 110. For example, since there is no time estimate for the chicken tetrazzini it ended up taking a lot longer than originally planned and was finished in around an hour, which is an eternity for a busy college student.
The book also has menus for some popular college parties like Cinco de Mayo and a toga party. The menus are great ideas but that is it — ideas. No one in college has themed dinner parties; if students have any type of dinner party at all it will probably be pasta or some sort of potluck, not an extravagant Mexican fiesta complete with tres leches cake.
Aside from the menus, the book is organized in categories, like avoiding the freshman 15, cheap eats and impressing your date. Normally one uses a cookbook recipe for a special occasion or a special dinner. The impress-your-date section, with recipes like crab cakes with roasted red pepper sauce and shrimp in coconut milk, is a great alternative to a fancy dinner on South Beach. The recipes sound fancy but they are actually a lot easier than they sound. Both your date and you will be impressed with what you accomplished.
After you’ve milled over the recipes and their fun themed sections go back to the introduction you might have skipped. The kitchen basics section is more helpful than you think. The Carle sisters go over basic kitchen techniques and pantry staples. They also talk about price, like buying the store brand cooking spray because it works just as well as the name brands. The price aspect is great for anyone, not just college students. The fact that dried herbs are cheaper than fresh and just as flavorful maybe common sense to some but to a college student that has never cooked before that realization will save them a ton of money in the long run.
The sisters also talk about kitchen techniques including breaking asparagus instead of cutting and other techniques that your mom does but never thought to tell you, so it’s no wonder your pasta sauce doesn’t taste the same.
This book is definitely worth the money if you’re living off-campus. It’s pretty inexpensive and is packed full of useful information for a student living on their own for the first time. If you’re still in the dorms this is not the best book for you, most recipes require a real kitchen, not just a microwave and mini-fridge. Besides, we all know the only reason most people go into the Mahoney/Pearson kitchens is to make chocolate chip cookies anyway.
So grab your spatula and the casserole dish that still has the price sticker on it, put down the party pizza and start cooking. Your taste buds and your waistline will thank you.
Nancy Oben may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.