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About the Author
While a student at the University of Massachusetts, Rachel Holcomb updated The Healthy College Cookbook with new recipes for today’s college students seeking out healthier meal options.
Read an Excerpt
Getting Started in Your First Kitchen
Cooking is like any other activity: In order to be successful and have fun during the process, you need to have the right equipment. To that end, we've thought long and hard about the essentials for a novice cook's kitchen. The ideas and recommendations listed here will help you to develop a fully stocked and efficient kitchen — one that includes the basic cookware necessary for preparing our recipes. You'll also find suggestions for useful ingredients to keep on hand.
In the following pages, you'll find a glossary of fundamental cooking terms to read through for an understanding of the skills needed to navigate basic recipes. You will also find descriptions of common herbs and spices and some of their most frequent companions. In addition, we'll hand down to you tips that we've learned along the way, healthy substitutions for some not-so-healthy ingredients, and charts to help you to make measurement conversions.
We hope that you have fun with our book — we certainly did. Our most important piece of advice? Take your time, relax, and don't be afraid to get creative!
setting up your kitchen
A bare kitchen can be intimidating for beginners, especially when it becomes obvious that you will have to equip your kitchen with some essentials. While it's not necessary to spend tons of money on top-of-the-line kitchenware, it is important to invest in the basics.
Shopping for your kitchen can be a tedious task, since it's not always exactly clear what it is that you need to buy. Sure, a pot, a skillet, and a mixing spoon may come speeding to mind, but what about a measuring cup or an oven mitt? To facilitate your shopping expedition, we have provided a list of items that we found, while making all of the recipes in this book, to be necessities for any kitchen. You may decide, based on your eating habits, that you don't need to invest in all of the items that we suggest. If so, this will not offend us in any way — each cook's kitchen is a bit different from any other's.
If you're lucky, you're moving into a furnished house with a fully equipped and stocked kitchen. For those of you who are not so lucky, the key to building a comfortable and functional kitchen is to give up dreams of endless stainless steel and Teflon-coated pots and pans. Instead, keep an eye out for the bargains. Buy cookware with multiple uses and organize your storage space (which, if your apartment is anything like the ones we've had, will be limited) so that the pots and pans you use most often are easy to grab.
In the interest of preserving your budget, keep in mind that you can usually pick up many of these items at yard sales or at a local secondhand store. This is especially true for the electrical equipment, such as microwaves, beaters, and blenders, which can be expensive in a department store but may cost next to nothing at a tag sale.
hang your pots and pans
If you have a small kitchen, buy pots, pans, strainers, and spoons with loops or clasps for hanging. Install hooks (small nails will also do) in the kitchen walls and hang as much of your cookware as possible. It's an impressively efficient use of space that keeps the cookware easily accessible yet out of the way when not in use.
MIXING BOWLS. You'll find that you need more than one, so buy at least one medium and one large bowl. You can use a cereal bowl if you need a small one.
SKILLET. Look for a heavy, durable pan with a nonstick or stainless steel surface. You may want a couple of different sizes — we suggest a 7-inch and a 10-inch.
POTS. Get one small or medium nonstick or stainless steel saucepan (in the 2- to 3-quart range) and a pot big enough for making large quantities of pasta or soups (in the 6quart range).
CASSEROLE DISH. Make sure that the dish is ceramic or ovenproof glass. We recommend having a usefully large one, such as 11 by 13 inches.
LOAF PAN. We highly recommend having at least one loaf pan, as it is good for making not only breads but also smaller casseroles.
BAKING SHEET. Buy baking sheets with 1-inch sides (sometimes called jelly roll pans). These pans are more versatile than true cookie sheets. If you're a cookie baker, you'll want at least two.
CUTTING BOARDS. Buy two — one for cutting meat and one for everything else. Keep them scrupulously clean, as they can be carriers for food-borne bacteria.
DRY AND LIQUID MEASURING CUPS. Buy a set of metal or plastic dry cups and a glass 2-cup liquid version.
MEASURING SPOONS. Buy a full set and keep them separate from the rest of your silverware.
GRATER OR MICROPLANE. Box graters are stronger than flat graters and less likely to collapse under pressure. Microplanes also grate hard cheese well and can be used to zest citrus fruits.
STRAINER. Strainers with "feet" that you can set in the sink are easy to use and clean.
SPATULA. Buy one with a sturdy head for flipping pancakes, removing cookies from baking sheets, and other such tasks.
CAN OPENER. You may starve if you don't have one of these.
WOODEN OR STAINLESS STEEL MIXING SPOONS. You'll need these for mixing and stirring. Wooden spoons won't scratch the surface of your nonstick pots and pans.
LARGE KNIFE. Buy a good, durable knife. Going cheap will cost you more in aggravation in the long run.
PARING KNIFE. A smaller knife is much easier to use for small jobs than the large knife.
OVEN MITTS. Buy two.
WHISK. A wire whisk is especially useful for making salad dressings
VEGETABLE PEELER. You'll be eating vegetables at some point if you think about your health, and this will come in handy.
DISH TOWELS. Buy at least three — one will always be dirty, one can be used to clean up as you cook, and the other should be left for drying dishes.
GARLIC PRESS. A good-quality press will give you fresh minced garlic when you want it, and you won't have smelly fingertips.
PLASTIC CONTAINERS. These will be useful for saving leftovers. You can wash and save the empty containers that held your cottage cheese, peanut butter, and other foods.
FLATWARE, CUPS, BOWLS, AND PLATES. You can usually pick these up cheaply at yard sales or your local secondhand store.
BLENDER. It's good for purées, pestos, and margaritas alike.
MICROWAVE. Although certainly not necessary, it does make the quick meal even quicker.
STOCKING THE SHELVES
Now that you have equipped your kitchen, you'll want to stock up on some essential foods. As we've learned from experience, it's a common experience to begin preparing a dish only to realize ten minutes later, mid-recipe and mid-mess, that a necessary ingredient is nowhere to be found. We hope to help you to minimize the frustration and trauma that can result from these scenarios by providing a list of useful food items to keep in your kitchen.
We've presented this information in a checklist form to make it easy for you while you're shopping. While you may think that you'll remember everything that you need when at the supermarket, we guarantee that you won't. So don't hesitate to take this book with you. Just don't leave it in the cart!
• PASTA SAUCE
• CANNED DICED TOMATOES
• SALT AND PEPPER
• COOKING SPRAY
• BOUILLON CUBES
• CANNED TUNA
• BAKING POWDER
• BAKING SODA
• VANILLA EXTRACT
• PEANUT BUTTER
• RED WINE AND BALSAMIC VINEGARS
• EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL AND/OR CANOLA OIL
• ALUMINUM FOIL AND PLASTIC WRAP
• SOY SAUCE (LOW-SODIUM)
KITCHEN QUICK TIP
three easy odor beaters
1. Food storage containers made of plastic can absorb odors easily. To rid them of the smell, soak the containers in a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda per cup of hot water.
2. To rid your microwave of bad odors, place a microwave-safe glass of water mixed with 2 tablespoons lemon juice inside and microwave on the high setting for 2 minutes.
3. To absorb odors in your refrigerator, keep an opened box of baking soda tucked away somewhere in it. But don't use the same box for cooking; those odors will be transferred to your food. Change the box about every three months. And don't just throw the old box away when the three months are up; to freshen a sink, pour the baking soda down the drain and follow with hot water.
FILLING THE FRIDGE
The next space to fill is your refrigerator. Again, you will find that you probably want to start with some basics that are always useful to have on hand. Just remember, they have to be replaced more frequently than the canned goods in your cabinets.
* BUTTER OR MARGARINE
• JAM OR JELLY
• LOW-FAT MAYONNAISE
understanding the language of cooking
Sometimes cooking terminology can be confusing. We have done our best throughout this book to keep terminology simple and to the point. Just in case, however, we've included a brief list of frequently used terms and their definitions so that there will be no misunderstandings. In addition to this basic vocabulary, we have included a few other commonly and not-so-commonly used terms that are useful for impressing friends and family.
BAKE. To cook food in an oven with dry heat. Unless otherwise specified, always preheat your oven before putting your dish in to bake.
BARBECUE. Although barbecuing technically refers to cooking over a wood or charcoal grill, it has evolved to include just about anything — including roasting, broiling, or grilling — that involves barbecue sauce.
BASTE. The point of basting is to keep roasting foods, usually meat, moist by reapplying sauce, pan juices, wine, or whatever liquid you're using. You have all seen turkey basters, those giant eye droppers hidden somewhere in your parents' kitchen. They're used to suck up the liquid collecting in the bottom of the pan and dribble it back on top of the roast. Basting can also be accomplished by brushing or spooning the liquid onto the food.
BEAT. To rapidly mix ingredients. Should usually result in a smooth, lightened mixture.
BLANCH. The point of blanching is not to cook the food (usually a fruit or a vegetable) but rather to soften it, perhaps so that it may be peeled more easily or cooked very slightly. Submerge the fruit or vegetable in boiling water for a minute or two (the length of time depends on the food). It should soften and the skin will become easy to remove.
BLEND. To mix well.
BOIL. When you've heated a liquid to a boil, you'll see bubbles bursting up from the bottom of the pot. There are different degrees of boiling: a violent boil, a moderate (or rolling) boil, and a slow boil (simmer). Remember, a liquid is boiling only when bubbles are popping through the surface. It is not boiling when you see little bubbles resting on the bottom of the pot (although that means that you are close).
BREAD. As the name suggests, to cover with breading. Dip the food in raw egg or milk, roll it in breadcrumbs, place it in a dish, and bake. You can also bread with crushed cornflakes or potato chips, among other things.
BROIL. To cook under or over a direct, intense heat. Broiling browns the outside of the food and seals the juices in. You can broil under the broiler in your oven or on a grill. (Some ovens require that the door be kept ajar when broiling.)
BURN. If you are having success with this one, you probably should not be left alone in the kitchen.
CHOP. This dictionary definition, "to cut with an ax or sharp-edged tool; make chopping blows (at)," may not be the best suggestion for your purposes. The general idea is to cut into fairly small pieces. If you're going to be cooking the food that you're chopping, make sure that the pieces are all approximately the same size to ensure even cooking.
CREAM. To cream does not mean to add cream to a mixture but rather to fully soften an ingredient, such as butter, to make it creamy. When creaming, you will often have to blend in other ingredients, such as sugar, until the mixture is completely "creamed" or blended together.
DICE. To cut into very small cubes, usually about half an inch square.
FRY. Though fried food tastes great, frying is not usually considered the healthiest of cooking techniques. To fry food, break out the skillet and throw in some oil or butter. Heat the pan on the burner and then pop the food in. Be careful with hot oil; not only can it hurt if you're splattered (boiling oil will spit at you when foods, especially liquids, are added), but it is also a big fire starter if left unattended. See also Sauté.
GRATE. Technically speaking, to grate means to reduce to small particles — just think of grated Parmesan cheese. Using a grater will save you the trouble of painstakingly chopping and shredding foods into small pieces.
GRATIN.Au gratin is a French term meaning "browned topping." You can make anything au gratin by sprinkling some grated cheese, butter, and breadcrumbs over the top of the dish and then broiling it until golden. It looks good when finished and sounds fancy for dinner parties.
MARINATE. This takes a little while to do, but don't worry — you won't be doing much of the work; the marinade will be. Marinade is the liquid (usually flavored with various spices) that you soak a food in. The marinade will flavor the food while at the same time tenderizing it (if you're marinating meat). This will make cheaper, tougher meat taste much better.
MINCE. To cut or chop into extremely ultra-small pieces.
POACH. To cook by simmering in a liquid that does not quite reach a boil.
PREHEAT. To set the oven or broiler to the desired temperature 10 to 15 minutes before use to allow time for it to reach the appropriate temperature prior to placing the food in to cook.
PURÉE. Remember baby food? Well, it's food that's puréed, so that it can be swallowed at that toothless age. Puréeing means putting something in a blender or food processor to make the food smooth and lump free. The blades turn and miraculously your solid food has a creamy consistency. You can also use an immersion blender, which is a blender on a stick that you can use to blend foods in a pot, rather than having to transfer them to a blender container.
RECONSTITUTE. To rehydrate a dried food by adding liquid.
REDUCE. Reducing serves to concentrate flavor while at the same time cutting down on the total amount of liquid. You reduce something by boiling it for a while uncovered. This causes some of the liquid to evaporate, leaving a substance with less volume but more taste.
SAUTÉ. To cook food in a buttered or oiled pan. Sautéing is similar to frying, but it implies that you use less butter or oil and stir the dish constantly.
SHRED. This slightly barbaric term refers to the act of tearing. You can use a knife or a grater to do it, and like in a paper shredder, the pieces should come out relatively thin and long.
SIMMER. To simmer is to keep a liquid mixture at or just below the boiling point. You should hardly be able to notice any bubbles boiling up to the surface; the surface should just ripple a little.
SKIM. To remove the top layer of something. For example, after refrigerating or freezing a meat broth, you'll notice a layer of hardened fat on the surface. Scoop it off and you've skimmed it. This is a good way to decrease the amount of fat in soups or gravies.
STIR-FRY. To cook food quickly in a wok or skillet over high heat, stirring constantly.
TENDERIZE. As you might guess, this term means "to make more tender." Some cooks like to gently pound some cuts of meat, thus tenderizing them before cooking or marinating them.
ZEST. When you grate off the outer rind of a citrus fruit, you are zesting that fruit. You never want to include the bitter white pith when you are zesting fruit.
herbs and spices
When we were first beginning to cook, our knowledge of using herbs and spices to boost flavor was pretty much limited to salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, and cinnamon sugar. We figure that most of you are probably in a similar boat. Although we wouldn't think of going into great depth here — there are entire volumes devoted to the subject in every bookstore — we will provide an overview of the basics.
We are not recommending that you buy all of the herbs and spices mentioned in this section. That could be incredibly expensive. In order to preserve your budget but still have meals with seasoning pizzazz, we suggest that you invest in a select few herbs and spices. Our personal favorites are basil, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, oregano, and peppercorns. We've found that they are called for in a lot of recipes, and that with these six, you can find the right seasoning for just about any dish.
Dried herbs and spices come in small glass or plastic containers and can be found in your supermarket. Don't be afraid to buy generic-brand products. They usually cost considerably less and taste the same. If you have a natural foods store or cooperative in your area, you might find dried herbs in bulk bins or jars. You can buy very small quantities that will stay fresh until you can use them.
As for fresh herbs, there is no question that the real thing (as compared to the dried stuff) is far superior. However, when they're not in season, fresh herbs can be expensive or hard to find. So during the summer months, buy the more common herbs, such as thyme, basil, and cilantro, fresh from the produce aisle of the grocery store, but if prices go up when the cold season hits, stick to dried herbs. If you have a sunny windowsill and the inclination, you might even try growing your own herbs. Many grocery stores with potted-plant departments carry herbs.
Excerpted from "The Healthy College Cookbook"
Copyright © 2008 Alexandra Nimetz, Jason Stanley, and Emeline Starr.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsIntroduction
Chapter 1: Getting Started
Chapter 2: Champion Breakfasts
Chapter 3: Appetizers & Quick Snacks
Chapter 4: Soups & Salads
Chapter 5: Vegetarian Delights
Chapter 6: Lots of Pasta
Chapter 7: The Best of Seafood
Chapter 8: Simple Chicken Dinners
Chapter 9: Dishes for Meat-Lovers
Chapter 10: Side Dishes & Sauces
Chapter 11: Breads, Biscuits & Muffins
Chapter 12: Dessert Time