Tag Archives: cooking 101

What Every College Pantry/Fridge Should Have

16 Sep

Now that you’re on your own in new place, cooking for yourself for possibly the first time can be a challenge. If you go to your local market and pick up the following items, you’ll be ready to whip up just about anything.

1. Pasta, and lots of it! Take your pick of regular, whole grain, Smart Balance, penne, angel hair, spaghetti, or all of them. Try different kinds, explore the possibilities.

2. Olive oil. This may be the most expensive thing on your receipt, but it’s vital to cooking anything and everything, especially if you like Italian food.

3. Garlic. A jar of pre-chopped garlic is the best for those who are more concerned with the length of the their prep time and not picky about freshness.

4. Frozen Vegetables. Buy in bulk cause they won’t go bad for a long time. One of the fastest, healthiest things you can buy.

5.Eggs. A vital ingredient in most baking dishes, and most breakfasts of champions.

6. Milk. Even if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, milk is accessible and great for cooking, baking, and, of course, cereal.

7. Rice. You’ve got lots of options to choose from: brown, white, wild, long grain, basmati, arborio, jasmine, etc. Try different kinds and pair it with different vegetables and proteins.

8. Tomato sauce. An easy topping for meats, pastas, and Italian dishes.

9. Spices. I’d say the most important ones are: salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder, cinnamon, and Italian seasoning (a combination of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram). These spices will come in handy for just about anything you might want to cook.

10. Sugar. Sold in various forms: powdered, fine, brown, light brown, molasses, agave nectar, etc; sugar is a vital ingredient in baking and coffee enhancement, so think about getting some next time you’re out at the market.

11. Flour. All purpose flour will come in handy for most things you cook/bake in the kitchen. Wheat flour is a good healthy alternative.

12. Vegetable oil. Though it’s not the healthiest ingredient, if you ever want to make a boxed cake mix, fried food dish, or thanksgiving turkey, you’re probably going to want a medium-sized bottle of vegetable oil just in case.

13. Butter. Who doesn’t love butter? The famous cook, Julia Child once said, “Fat gives things flavor.” Depending on how healthy you want to be you can use it sparingly or go all out; either way, butter is a valuable ingredient to have in your fridge, just in case.

14. Bread. Yup, bread is an amazing thing. Wherever you go in the world, bread will be there in one form or another from pita to naan, french to tortilla, hoagie to dinner roll. Try different forms of bread at your local bakery or market each week and see what different things you can do with it. Tip: freeze your bread to keep evil mold from attacking it before you’ve finished enjoying it.

15. Cheese. Depending on where you are studying abroad, you may not be able to find cheddar like you’re so spoiled with in Vermont. Cheese is one of the most versatile dairy products. Get whatever kinds of cheeses you like and try them in different dishes like homemade mac n’ cheese, fondue, grilled cheese, nachos, poutine (for those Montrealers), or whatever you feel like.

16. Fruit. As one of the major food groups on the new MyPlate (designed by Michelle Obama, it replaces the established Food Pyramid concept), it’s important that you get about two cups of fruit in your daily diet. Make weekly trips to your local farmers market or favorite produce seller and buy fresh fruit to snack on. Additionally, get frozen fruit, yogurt, and a thick fruit juice (like Naked or Odwalla) at the grocery store and make fruit smoothies for a delicious breakfast.

17. Frozen burger patties. Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, a flexitarian, or an all out meat lover, it’s super helpful to have a box of frozen burger patties that can be ready to eat in ten minutes or less and won’t go bad.

18. Local delicacies. Now that you’re abroad, you need to go out an try new things. Explore your area for unique markets, restaurants, and specialty shops.

Now go out there and get your pantry and fridge ready because next week there will be a delicious recipe here to try…


How to Boil Water

25 Oct

I know some people who really, truly have the ability to burn water. It’s something. I also know people who don’t know how to boil water. (They’re Italian twenty-something boys whose Italian mothers not only did all their laundry for them, cleaned for them, and bought all their clothes for them, but also cooked for them–every day of their lives.)

Boiling water is a seriously underrated skill. These days, you could do just fine in the kitchen (and your wallet would appreciate you that much more than if you got takeout every day) if only you knew how to prepare dehydrated food. Seriously. Head down to the convenience store around the corner and pick up a packet of just-add-water pasta (at Spar, for example, you could get fettuccine alfredo,  pasta primavera, spaghetti bolognese, and pasta carbonara), and for less than two euro, you can feed two people (or have two meals).

First lesson in cooking: boiling water.

  1. Put water in a (clean) pot. If you’re making pasta, fill your pot to about two inches from the top. If you’re boiling potatoes, cover them with an extra half-inch of water. If you’re making rice, the standard is 2:1 water:rice. If what you’re making requires a specific amount of water, measure it out. If you don’t have a measuring cup,  half a Poland Springs water bottle is a cup of water (8 fluid ounces in a cup).
  2. Place the pot (which now has water in it) on a burner on the stove, and turn the burner on medium-high to high. If you put a cover on the pot it’ll boil faster, but you don’t need one if you don’t have one.
  3. Wait until it boils. What will this look like? Well, first steam will rise off the surface of the water. Little tiny bubbles will form on the bottom. This is not boiling. Those little bubbles will start rising to the surface. This is not boiling. Those little bubbles will start rising more rapidly, and turn into slightly larger bubbles. This is simmering. Patience. Those bubbles will then get larger, stay at that size, and break at the surface in rapid succession.  This is boiling.

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, you can boil water. Think of all the things you can cook now! (Note: if you let all the water boil away, you will burn the pot. Your food, from then on, will taste like burn metal and Teflon. Don’t do that.)

For you visual learners, a video tutorial:

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