Friday, December 16, 2011

Good Present for College Cooks: Martha Shulman Cookbook

Miss Em just asked for this. She made a wonderful soup, involving canned tomatoes and other things she had. The little neat thing: it was cooked with rice. This is pureed with the stick blender, so it turns to a creamy soup. Perfect for Finals Week.

P.S. You can use jarred roasted peppers and adjust recipe as you wish. Miss Em didn't have slivered basil leaves around.

Puréed Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

I noticed that the most popular boxed soup at my supermarket is a tomato and red pepper soup, so I decided to come up with my own version.

2 red bell peppers, roasted

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup diced carrot

1/2 cup diced celery

Salt to taste

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 sprigs fresh basil

Pinch of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)

1 1/2 quarts vegetable stock or water

1/4 cup rice, preferably a medium-grain rice like arborio

Freshly ground pepper

For garnish (optional):

Garlic croutons (toast thin slices of bread, rub with a cut clove of garlic, and cut into squares)

Freshly grated Parmesan

Slivered fresh basil leaves

1. Roast the peppers as directed, allow to cool in a covered bowl, then peel, seed and dice. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes, and add the carrot and celery and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender and fragrant, about 5 more minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add the tomatoes with their liquid, the tomato paste, basil sprigs, cinnamon, sugar if using, and salt to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the diced roasted peppers, the stock or water, rice, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. Season with freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt. Remove the basil sprigs.

4. Using a hand blender, purée the soup, or use a blender and purée in batches, being careful to pull a dish towel down over the top and not to cover tightly with the blender lid, then return to the pot and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve topped with croutons, Parmesan cheese, and/or slivered basil.

Yield: 6 servings.

Advance preparation: This will keep for about 3 days in the refrigerator and can be frozen.

Nutritional information per serving: 134 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 3 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 21 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams dietary fiber; 269 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 3 grams protein

You can add this to the gift box.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Cheapest Rice Cooker and Slow Cooker I've ever Seen: You have no excuse not to have one

A cross-post from my other blog. If you don't get one as a holiday gift, you can certainly afford to buy one yourself. Or buy both. Or give one to a bewildered friend (who will be grateful later). While you're at it, check out the e-cookbook my son and I produced for Miss Em. You can get it on Amazon too!

Far be it from me to promote shopping for something you don't need. I don't need a slow cooker or rice cooker. But many need one or the other or both. In fact, a colleague recently asked me to pick her up one at the thrift store. I told her that thrift stores sell those appliances for basically the same price they cost new.

So, no, I am not going to link to the famous on-line retailer. Instead, you will have to go to Target. There they have a 3 quart slow cooker for $10 and a 6 cup rice cooker for the same. Note that the slow cooker is smallish (mine is 4 or 5 quarts) and the rice cooker is a medium size. Still, you can cook at least half a pound of dried beans in that slow cooker. And make enough rice for a few meals.

For $20, you can get both! That leaves enough money to buy some provisions, for which your recipient--starving student or regular person--would, no doubt, be grateful.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What the Dinner Cost: Thai Feast

The lesson here is that home cooking is inexpensive! We bought most of the items at sale prices, but even at regular prices--double or triple for some things--this would still be a reasonably priced meal.

We were told to expect between 7 and 20 and the actual number was about at the half-way point. We ended up using less food than we brought, because the kitchen we used was not well-equipped. We only had two medium skillets and one medium saucepan. Everyone had at least one large helping, but some of the hungry people ended up being sated by the brownies and ice cream we had for dessert.

Rice with Thai broth (Big Lots!): $1.50
Shrimp ($2.50/lb), coconut milk ($1.00), curry paste ($1.50): $5.00
Veggies roasted at home, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, onion,reduced for quick sale:$2.00
Braised greens (garden) topped with tofu: $2.50
Peanut sauce: maybe $2.00??
Salad blend bought at Sam's Club: $3.00
Ice Cream: $4.00
Brownies baked at home: $2.00

WHAT? Under $25.00????

Add a few cheap bottles of wine . . .

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dinner Party for the College Cook, with Thai Peanut Sauce

We are going to visit Miss Em soon and she requested that we make dinner for a bunch of her friends. In case you don't know, parents are supposed to provide food for students, either by taking the group out to a restaurant or making dinner. Miss Em has gone to some very nice meals, both in restaurants and in apartments. One set of parents made a multi-course Indian dinner, including samosas, a time-consuming labor of love, I am sure.

We were going to bring a vat of Miss Em's fave shrimp and corn soup, but then Miss Em suggested Thai shrimp curry. OK! That's even easier than the soup. What about the rest of the menu? It has to be expandable in case more people come than anticipated. So far, there have been 8 rsvps, but Miss Em said the number may go up to 15 or even 20.

We are going to bring as much pre-cooked as possible, since we will be spending the day doing other things. Plus, there's little more anxiety-provoking than cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen.

Thai shrimp curry
Tofu and veggies with peanut sauce

Brownies and ice cream

Because I have a lot of ingredients stockpiled--and Louisiana shrimp is on sale for under $3.00 a lb this week!--we can do the food portion for under $35.00. I'll do a breakdown in another post.

For the nonce, here is the recipe for peanut sauce. For a cup. It keeps a long time.

4 TBS peanut butter
4 TBS vegetable oil (NOT olive)
4 TBS soy sauce
4 TBS sugar
4 TBS vinegar
1 tsp Asian sesame oil (if you don't have this, leave it out. That's what a Thai grandma would do)
a little hot pepper, if you so desire

Mix together.

Yes, this is what they put on chicken in Thai restaurants. Now you can do it at home.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Condiments for the College Cook: Thai

If you want the easy 20 ingredient/14 meals no-stove system put together by Frugal Son and me, get a hold of our ebook--upper left for the pdf. or on Amazon for your Kindle: College Cooking Crash Course.

Now I want to go beyond the restrictions. First, I want to show the value in amassing a pantry of condiments. Second, I want to use up a bunch of stuff in my fridge.

For Thai food: good to have curry paste (comes in a small jar in green, red, yellow), fish sauce (can sub soy sauce), coconut milk.

With two of the above, you can jazz up your plain-Jane rice and whatever that you make in your beloved rice cooker. I say two because I ran out of curry paste.

In cooking, I follow the mantra of Roger Ebert, whose blog on his rice cooker was and is an inspiration: the pot knows. So proportions are of littler consequence than one would think.

Into the pot I put 1 large coffee mug of rice.
Then I added some stock (you could use water): 1 1/2 coffee mugs. I did need to add more.
Then I added some chopped eggplant that was moldering in the fridge.
Then I added some chopped scallions (you could use onion, or even garlic).
Then I added a few sliced carrots also moldering in the fridge.
Then I added some hot pepper growing in the garden.

Then I turned it on.

When the rice seemed almost done, I added more water and half a can of coconut milk I had left from something else.

Then I added a few handfuls of spinach.

When it seemed almost done, I stirred in some shrimp I wanted to use up

Then I put some in a bowl and added some fish sauce. Then I squirted some rooster sauce on. Then I made Mr FS take a picture.

And it was good.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Asian Sesame Noodles: Pot Luck Offering for the College Cook

Miss Em has made (i.e. opened three cans) black bean salad/dip for two pot lucks. The dish has been well-received, but she is feeling a bit guilty because it's so easy. Recently, I received an SOS asking for another idea.

Asian sesame noodles: this is one of those dishes that people can't believe you can make yourself. There are zillions of recipes for this dish on the internet and in cookbooks. They are all good. They call for a little of this and a little of that, as each recipe writer tries to come up with the BEST version of the dish.

Not so for the College Cook. For the College Cook, we seek to discover just how minimal you can make the dish and still have it be good for a pot luck. After all, the College Cook may have no stove, no car, no time. Plus, the College Cook does not want to amass all sorts of ingredients that will languish unused in limited storage space.

So, here is the minimal version. I wanted Miss Em to use her sesame paste (tahini) that she acquired to make hummus a while ago.

NOODLES: I used half of a 12 oz bag of angel hair. I cooked the pasta in the rice cooker, in minimal water. Then I forgot about it. OOPS! All the water was sucked up, so no draining, which is good, but a lot stuck to the bottom. It is now soaking. So, if you can do this on the stove, it is a lot easier. Use between 6 oz and a pound of pasta. Any shape is ok.

PASTE: I used about 6 TBS of tahini. This turns to glue in the jar, so I dug some out and heated with Asian flavorings in the microwave. Just a little! You want it to blend with the noodles.

ASIAN FLAVORINGS: Miss Em doesn't have soy sauce. She does have some hoisin sauce I packed in her back-to-school box. I used about 2 TBS and mixed with tahini.

VINEGAR: I used about 1 TBS.

Mix the Asian sauce with the noodles and you have a decent basic pasta salad--good warm, room temperature, or cold.

SUBSTITUTIONS: If you don't have TAHINI, you can use PEANUT BUTTER (or both). If you don't have HOISIN, use SOY SAUCE (or both).

How to jazz it up: add chopped scallion. Add frozen peas. Add shredded cooked chicken. Scallions alone make it pot luck worthy; the other two additions are purely optional.

I like to sprinkle with hot pepper flakes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Vegetables for the College Cook: Cabbage

Here is the email I sent my College Cook earlier today. I wanted to let her know what was on special this week at Publix.

grapes 1.69
pears .99
cucumbers .50 (good for gazpacho!)
bag coleslaw 1.29
bag baby carrots 1.29

Starches are easy for the College Cook: you can make your rice and pasta in the rice cooker; you can bake potatoes, white or sweet, in the microwave.

Vegetables are a pain, however. They require messy chopping, for one thing. That is why Frugal Son and I recommended frozen in our little ebook: onions, bell peppers, spinach can all be found for about a dollar a bag. All you have to do is throw them into whatever you are making.

Still, one craves variety. In the Publix list is a hidden gem: cole slaw mix. You get a pound of shredded cabbage, with a few carrots, for little more than a dollar. NO CHOPPING!

In addition to cole slaw (make the dressing with a little mayo, oil, vinegar, and a bit of sugar), you can throw the cabbage in your rice cooker with some soy sauce, making an Asian dish. If you put it in a flour tortilla, perhaps mashing some tofu in, you can eat a reasonable facsimile of mooshu take-out.

You can cook the cabbage in your rice cooker and top with some kielbasa (which will flavor it). Serve on a starch with mustard.

You can throw it into soup, making your dish healthier.

If you have a stove, you can saute the shredded cabbage, with or without onion, and mix into cooked egg noodles. This is a famous Eastern European dish, Jewish comfort food, which I first had at the home of my high school friend Gloria. Her mother, Eva, was an eccentric of the first degree, who, after her divorce, had fallen right out of the middle-class, at least economically. Eva and Gloria lived in a large falling-down house, where you could write phone messages on the kitchen wall and find unwashed dishes piling up over the weeks. The cabbage and noodle dish was, perhaps, my introduction to the food of the poor, which exists wherever there are poor people.

The thing about the food of the poor is that it is cheap and good. Perfect for the College Cook or anyone, really.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What to Bring to a Potluck: Beans, Of Course

We just got off the phone with Miss Em. She is going to a potluck dinner. Since she lacks a kitchen, she thought she'd go buy some cookies at Publix. YUK!

I pointed out that she could mix a can of the black beans (drain and rinse them!) I just sent her via Amazon with a can of Rotel tomatoes (don't drain), which I sent with her to school. All she'd need to get would be some chips.And--if that proved too difficult--she could count on their being an overabundance of chips, as there generally are at potlucks.

She was very happy with this idea and pointed out that she could add a can of corn (drain that too). Yes indeed.

Now, what if there are leftovers? You could scramble beans and salsa with eggs and chips making the famous dish migas.

Or egg-free, you could mix chips with the leftover beans and salsa, top with cheese, and heat in the microwave. This is a dorm version of chilaquiles.

Can you think of other easy potluck dishes for the college cook?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Leftover Frittata with Beans in a Tortilla: Third Meal!

It seems to me that the key to easy cooking is transformation. Like Proteus, the sea god, things turn to other things, involving very little in terms of time, mess, or cost.

So far, a simple rice concoction involving 4 ingredients turned into an egg dish, either a frittata for the lucky dorm cook with stove access or a simple scramble for those with only a rice cooker. In both cases, you have another possibility: Tex-mex or maybe Dorm-mex.

Take the can of beans stashed under your bed, mash up a few and put with egg stuff in a tortilla. Heat in microwave. Or not. I've seen many cookbooks suggest feta in Mexican dishes, so you're still within the borders of authenticity.

Of course, you'll add some hot sauce.

4 ingredients plus eggs plus beans plus tortillas plus hot sauce. Eight total and you still have some of everything left for your next adventure.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Add some eggs for another meal: frittata

Remember how I suggested you make some extra of the 4-ingredient meal? You can, of course, reheat in a microwave.

But how about making something different? If you have a stove, you can make a frittata (an Italian egg dish): mix up a few eggs (2-4, say). Heat some oil in a non-stick pan. Mix your leftover rice concoction into the beaten eggs. Pour into your pan and turn the heat to low. Cook till cooked through. You might want to put a cover on the pan so the top gets cooked. It is quite a trick to flip the frittata.

Oh no! You are a dorm cook and only have your rice cooker. What to do? Well, it won't be as pretty, but you can scramble the mixture in your rice cooker. You may have to keep flipping the switch to cook.

Note that you have hardly made any mess at all. The first meal required only 1 pot or a rice cooker. No chopping. Second day: you have to mix up the eggs.

Save a little for tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

4 ingredient meal for the college dorm cook: rice, olive oil, feta, spinach

My dorm cook is still going from potluck to potluck, so no dorm cooking yet for her! Just in case you need a recipe, try this. Proportions aren't exact.

For your 4 ingredients: rice, frozen chopped spinach,feta cheese,and olive oil.

Make your rice: proportions are 1 cup rice to 1 1/2 cups water for white; 1 cup rice to 2 cups water for brown. I would use a rice cooker, but if you haven't spent your $15.00, try to dig up a stove somewhere.

Start the rice. While it's cooking, take a handful or so of the frozen spinach and put it in a bowl. When the rice is done, stir in the spinach. The heat of the rice should warm up the spinach. Throw in some feta. Sprinkle with olive oil.

Try to save some for tomorrow.

Frugal Tip: the best place to get feta is at Sam's Club or Costco. Feta also freezes pretty well.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

More Pantry Items from Amazon: Coffee for Caffeine and Tahini for Hummus

My College Dorm Cook has not yet cooked anything other than oatmeal. The first few weeks of school are full of FREE FOOD OPPORTUNITIES. Seek them out, College Cooks. It seems that Miss Em has a barbecue almost every evening. Otherwise, she's been eating the burritos we assembled here at home.

She did send an SOS: I didn't bring enough coffee. So we had Amazon do the shopping. This is Louisiana coffee: try it. It's cheaper on Amazon (if you put in the code and do Subscribe and Save0 than it is here in Louisiana.

The second SOS was about how to make hummus. Yes, you can make hummus. I shocked someone my age with this info once at a party: she looked at me as if I had announced that you can do brain surgery in your own kitchen. So it is no wonder that college students don't know that hummus is easy to make yourself. It is way cheaper than the stuff in the store. Miss Em had some cans of chickpeas we presciently slipped into her suitcase. But we broke the news: you need tahini. (Tahini is ground sesame paste--kind of like peanut butter, which I would not use as a sub). She bought some at Publix, but I found it on Amazon also, for way cheaper than at my grocery.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes


1 16 oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
3-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Drain chickpeas and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas. Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.

Place in serving bowl, and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus.

Add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil in the well. Garnish with parsley (optional).

Serve immediately with fresh, warm or toasted pita bread, or cover and refrigerate.

Miss Em and her friend made the hummus with a fork. It is possible!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beginning as a College Cook: Pantry

Miss Em shares a kitchen space with 3 other people. There's no stove. Almost no storage space. AND she is car-free. The dorm cook has many limitations.

Last year, we hit on the idea of creating a dorm pantry, one that could be kept on a bookshelf or under the bed. Since it is easy for me to pick up various items as I see them, we packed up the car with a bunch of stuff, saving Miss Em many trips to the Publix right off campus.

A lot of food required no refrigeration--and I'm not talking about boxed mac and cheese.

soy milk
canned tomatoes
canned beans

If you've cooked even a little bit, you can see how these items can form the base of many meals, augmented with some fresh stuff.

OOPS! Forgot my fave: peanut butter.

Can you think of anything else?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Beginning as a College Dorm Cook: Equipment

The first few days of the semester can be very hectic. Miss Em decided to go without a meal plan this year. She also said No to my offer of lasagne and other homemade items. Ahhhh. It reminds me of when, as a six year old, she announced You know I can really take care of myself.

She did accept 30 or so burritos, which made the journey in a cooler in the back seat. She took a lot of food because she doesn't have a car. She is starting as a college cook with all the difficulties: no car, no stove, no space.

Here is what she took in the equipment department. I know I keep listing the same equipment. That is because this is the good stuff--AND it's not an investment. You can get the All-Clad when you have a more permanent abode.
rice cooker
electric kettle
French press coffee maker
Kuhn-Rikon knife
cutting board ($1 at Dollar Tree)
whisk (mine)
yogurt maker (my old one)

I've seen mention of panini makers and toaster ovens, but I believe these are prohibited (for good reason!) by most colleges.

Any other essential equipment for the College Cook?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

OOPS! People who entered for the ebook, send me your email!

So...totally forgot about the give-away. Therefore, anyone who entered a name, please send me an email with YOUR email, so I can send you the pdf. Everyone wins!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Meal Math: 75 Dinners for the Dorm Cook

A semester's worth of dinners sounds daunting, doesn't it? Might as well get 75 boxes of Lean Cuisine, or worse.

But it's all a matter of perspective. Miss Em announced that she wants to try a semester with no meal plan, rather than the 50 meal plan she had last semester. She also wants to try more of the recipes that Frugal Son and I laboriously put together for her last summer.

Still, I want to help out. Anything you bring from home is easier than cooking in that tiny ill-equipped space. I figure a semester is around 15 weeks. Then I figure 5 dinners a week. That's probably high, since college students come upon lots of free food opportunities. Then there are dinners out and dinners with friends at their off-campus abodes.

I was already planning on the 45 bean and cheese burritos, so beloved by our family. That makes around 30 meals.

Then it occurred to me that we could also package the spinach ricotta burritos that I am famous for (at least in my immediate family). These don't even need a rice cooker: just mix defrosted, squeezed frozen spinach with ricotta and roll into burritos. These can be Mexican with jack cheese or Italian with parmesan. Top with salsa or tomato sauce. So: say 30 of these for 20 meals.

Only 25 left! Well, it just so happens that Mr FS and I prepared one of Miss Em's favorite frozen concoctions--ratatouille. Sadly, we had a poor eggplant crop, so she will only get enough for around 10 meals.

Down to 15. I made a chicken/tomato base for Pam Anderson's Chicken Chile. Mixed with canned beans, this should suffice for 5 meals.

5 left! What should I do? Any suggestions?

Note that burritos are very compact. The other items are also compact, frozen in 1 quart ziplock bags. Miss Em won't need more than her 1/4 share of the freezer. Also note how low cost these items are.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Getting Stuff Together for My College Cook: Equipment

Miss Em is in Paris--or is it Barcelona? She will return only a few days before her semester starts. So, Mr FS and I are trying to get things together for her.

We bought most of her College Dorm Cooking equipment last year, and it proved its worth. I've written about these items before, but will do so again to save you a slog through the blog.

These few items will serve you well. The kettle has an automatic shut-off, which is why it is superior to the cheapies. Rice cookers are safe and allowed in most dorms. The colorful knife is cheap and easy to find when you misplace it.

My College Cook requested but one more piece of equipment: a yogurt maker. What do you think of a yogurt maker in a tiny dorm kitchen?

Any other essential equipment?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

College Dorm Cooking: 10 ingredients, rice cooker, microwave

When I told one of Frugal Son's friends about our ebook, he said "20 ingredients! That's so many! That's so expensive!"

Sorry Ryan. That's so wrong. Just to give you a taste of what we did, I will present a baby version, with 10 ingredients.

Equipment: rice cooker and microwave. A rice cooker can be had for as little as $10.00. No doubt you have microwave. I figure you have a can opener.

1. rice
2. cheese
3.canned tomatoes
4. chicken broth, preferably in box
5. frozen spinach
6. canned beans
7. frozen chopped onions
8. eggs
9. tortillas
10. cooking oil

You can fill your cart with these items for under $20.00, most of which will go to the cheese.

Here is what you can make:
--rice with beans
--rice and beans and tomatoes
--add cheese to above
--add spinach and/or onions
--tortillas with beans and cheese
--tortillas with scrambled eggs and cheese
--add onions
--add spinach to eggs
--broth with beans and spinach
--add tomatoes
--add cheese
--add rice
--rice with eggs and cheese

Note that only a few ingredients require refrigeration. You can store the cans in a box under your bed. Note that you get your protein and vitamins! Note that you don't even have to chop anything. Clean up is minimal.

Even though this might get somewhat monotonous, it is a lifesaver system when you are short on time and money and have a final the next day.

Adding a bottle of hot sauce and soy sauce means that you can have ethnic flavors. That would add another $2.00 to your grocery bill.

Each ingredient you add to the line up increases your options exponentially. Try it!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Give Away: College Cooking Crash Course ebook

Are you or do you know a clueless student who would like the little ebook Frugal Son and I put together last summer? Or would you like one for yourself? You don't need to be a college student to benefit from our 20 ingredient/2 weeks of meals/cheap/easy/low mess system. Oh yeah: no stove. But it's good even if you have a stove. You do need a rice cooker for some of the recipes.

Anyway, I will give away one copy on each blog: see Frugal Scholar.

Entry is easy: just leave a comment below. You can double your chances of winning if you leave a comment on both blogs. I'd love it if you'd tell all your friends, but that is not required. The winner will be chosen on Friday.

If you don't win this time, don't despair. I'll be doing this now and again.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lunch and Dinner for the College Cook

True confession: Even though Frugal Son and I KiLLED OURSELVES putting together rice cooker recipes for Miss Em, she seldom cooked any of them. That is because I was an enabler, although in this instance, I enabled Miss Em to eat well with no work on her part. I was happy to do it.

We sent her off to college with 40 frozen bean and cheese burritos. This made the base of about 30 meals for around $10.00. Compare to the meal plan cost of at least $7.00 (so $210.00!) or even the Lean Cuisine or fast food cost.

Then we got more ambitious. After all, it's easier to cook at home in my comfy kitchen than to brave the rice cooker in a tiny dorm kitchen area. We put together ziplock bags of frozen African peanut soup, shrimp and corn chowder, ratatouille, and other things. All these can be eaten over rice.

Now the ideas are percolating. I'm making some chicken chili (Miss Em is not too thrilled with beef or sausage these days).

My newest idea is to make some vegetarian lasagne, bake it, and cut into squares and freeze.

Readers: Any other ideas for dishes that can be frozen in individual portions? I'm especially interested in those that can be meals in a dish.

A bunch of food frozen at home would be more useful to the college student than much of the junk crammed into dorm rooms. What a wonderful gift.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Breakfast for the College Cook: What Miss Em Ate

If you look at the meal plans i posted yesterday, you will discover that--expensive though they are--only one provides all meals (the most expensive). Who wants to use an $8.00 meal plan meal for a bowl of cheerios? Or what if you don't have a meal plan?

As parents have been saying for years (even if they don't follow their own advice): Eat breakfast! In Miss Em's first year with a tiny meal plan, she ate . . . oat groats. She started with packages microwave instant oats, which I, Frugal Mom, picked up on sale, but didn't really like the stuff.

Luckily for Miss Em, she doesn't mind breakfast repetition. She started cooking oat groats (aka Scottish or pinhead oats) in--yes!--the rice cooker. She hit on a good method. Put in some groats, add some water and a bit of salt. Turn on. When it comes to a boil, put on warm. Keep checking and add more water as necessary.

If you read the above paragraph, you will see that Miss Em figured out a way to turn a rice cooker into a slow cooker, which is good for cereals. She made enough for a week and ate some every morning, heated in the microwave. She had it with boxed soymilk, craisins, and enough cinnamon to scent the entire campus. And brown sugar.

Note that these items are all dorm friendly and can, in fact, be bought on Amazon. We had the oat groats sent to her.

You can get soymilk at Amazon too, but I found the cheapest prices at Dollar Tree.

Nothing needs refrigeration except the cooked oat groats!

Do you have any ideas for breakfasts for the College Cook?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to Save Money in College: Cook!

Last year, my little Frugal Scholar, Miss Em, decided to get the 50-meal/semester plan, rather than a larger one. If you do the math--and many do not--you will find that college meals are $7.00 to $9.00 each, depending on your college.

Here is the plan at University of Alabama. Prices are PER SEMESTER.


We thought that the smallest plan provided a lot of flexibility and assumed Miss Em would go out to eat a lot more than she had her first year. Frugal Son and I had a brainstorm about rice cookers (allowed in dorms; Miss Em has a room scholarship) and put together a bunch of recipes for the College Cook--short on time, space, money, know-how, transportation, and STOVES.

The cookbook gives you at least 2 weeks of meals made with 20 ingredients--things like rice, tortillas, tomatoes, and so on. No stove required: all can be made in the rice cooker or microwave. You can buy a pdf version above left or get a Kindle version on Amazon.

Doing this changed my cooking life--it is so easy, cheap, and NOT MESSY. I use my rice cooker all the time now and I HAVE A STOVE. College Cooking Crash Course!

Use some of your graduation money and get a rice cooker too.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ramen Rescue: Pantry Cooking for the College Cook

I was just writing about cooking from the pantry over at my other blog. Cooking from the pantry for the College Cook: a different and more difficult concept, to be sure. I included some pasta recipes, but pasta is a challenge for the College Cook, especially if said cook is lacking a stove. It takes a lot of ingenuity to make pasta in the rice cooker.

But noodles, whatever the ethnicity, are essential comfort foods and who needs comfort more than the College Cook? Probably in any dorm or student housing there are numerous packets of ramen noodles. Is there any way to make ramen noodles actual food and not just a liquid version of potato chips?

A while ago, I consulted a cookbook called 100 Things to Do with Ramen.

OK. 101 Things. This book was the source of something like ramen stroganoff, consisting of cream of mushroom soup, hamburger, and sour cream. And ramen. I returned the book whence it came (the library).

We can do better. Take your ramen. Use only 1/2 the flavor packet. Cook in microwave. When it's hot, add a beaten egg. Stir around. Not bad.

Do you have some frozen spinach? Add it. Or frozen peas? Add them. A dash of rooster sauce completes the meal.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Amazon Subscribe and Save: A Good Deal

I've been noodling around Amazon for many years now, but never understood the "Subscribe and Save" option. Subscribe and Save gives you a 15% discount on selected items (food and other stuff) if you sign up for regular delivery.

It also gives you FREE SHIPPING. And I learned that you can cancel your order at any time, so you can take the discount and cancel. Many people do that. You can set your schedule at up to 6 months hence, so you have plenty of time to decide. (Note: I don't think intending to cancel is unethical. Amy D of The Tightwad Gazette said such offers catch many fish and you don't need to feel guilty if you are a smart fish.)

I finally figured this out when I got a crisis email from Miss Em who seriously underestimated the amount of oatmeal--actually oat groats--she would consume. Mom to the rescue!

Then she requested some fancy tea. We were happy to oblige.

We are happy to oblige because Miss Em is a busy, carless student, and has less time to take care of these things than we do. Plus, of course, if your mother is pathologically frugal, it is a good idea to let her do the shopping. And, as an added bonus, parents end up paying! What a great system.

If you want to see where Amy D. takes her stand on the ethics of canceling a subscription after getting a benefit, well, it's somewhere in here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Food Bargains for the College Cook: No Driving!

Students get a free year of Amazon Prime. You all know that, right? That means you get FREE SHIPPING and don't need to meet the $25.00 minimum order (I HAVE TO).

Now Amazon is not just being NICE. Amazon wants you to buy textbooks. Textbooks are expensive. The free Prime must work, because both Frugal Son and Miss Em bought some textbooks through Amazon.

Now that you have your Prime, you can get whatever you want.

Like instant coffee.

This is an incredible deal if you like coffee with chicory. It expires in March, so you must use your judgment about dates and all.

Check out the dried fruit, peanut butter, and so on. The free shipping--which saves you both the time and money of getting to a store--may compensate for the somewhat higher prices.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Drugstores for Groceries? YES!

This comes under the category: I thought everyone knew this. However, since most of my peers don't know this, I can only assume most College Cooks are likewise unaware of the riches (or staples) lurking in the drugstore.

This may be news you can use. For many, grocery stores are at a distance from campus, a problem for the time-challenged College Cook. There seem to be drugstores on every corner. In my town of 8500, there are often two drugstores on every corner, as CVS and Walgreens are facing off.

Now you may suppose that drugstores only carry overpriced convenience foods or snack items. Not so, College Cooks. They carry more staples than you might think, AND (for after all, I am FRUGAL) they have good WEEKLY SALES.

Just for a glimpse at my Walgreens this week*:

tuna 69 cents
peanuts 1.99/lb
cereal (cheerios, fiber1) 2.50
Kraft mayo 2.99
butter 2.50/lb
bacon 2.50**
coffee of various kinds, instant and regular

Not to be mentioned in polite company, box mac and cheese (69 cents) and those bowl things that you can microwave (99 cents).

They always have pasta, milk, and eggs also, the latter two at decent prices.

Now, for the **:
* You may need a coupon. The coupons are in the ads at the front of the store. Ask a cashier for help if you can't handle this task.

** The ad says "ready-to-serve bacon." Could this be the pre-cooked slices? I've never used the product, but I would think this would be great for the College Cook. It does not require refrigeration, and can be sprinkled on some of your soups and pastas. Must check on this, faithful readers.

CVS and Rite-Aid have similar sales.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

List of Useful Foods for the College Cook: No Refrigeration Needed

It's easy for me--with a big refrigerator--to shop my pantry. I hardly ever NEED to go to the store. I always have something that will make a good dinner. College Cooks may have problems. Some might have teeny refrigerators with freezer space that will hold only a single ice cube tray. Groceries are heavy and bulky, so there may be issues with storage space. Plus, some College Cooks don't have cars (mine doesn't). Groceries may be distant also, even if you're willing to walk.

I have fond memories of trudging through the snow in Bloomington Indiana, carrying a grocery sack. Really. Fond.

Ah, the halcyon days of grad school! College Cooks now have better options in many areas. Of course, job opportunities in the humanities are even worse than they were then. At least computers are available for papers! And the internet for research!

And aseptic packaging for the College Cook.

You can have a small part of your bookshelf for these great supplies: broth, tofu, pasta sauce, soymilk, milk. Photos from Amazon are for reference only! They are often--though not always--expensive. Still, if you are in dire straits, without transportation or time, Amazon will deliver to your door. This may compenste for the higher cost. Not too shabby a choice.

My view: My favorite of the above would be the TOFU. This would make that ubiquitous ramen (which I would guess has all the nutrition of a potato chip) into a fairly healthy repast. Add some spinach for your veggies!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Electric Egg Cooker: Frugal or Foolish for the College Cook

Electric egg cooker!!?? How I despise single-use appliances. Still, I came upon one at Goodwill for $2 and I thought it might be good for the stoveless college cook who might want to eat hard boiled eggs. Supposedly, you can make hb eggs in the rice cooker. I tried. But it was very time-consuming and annoying in several ways, so I decided it wasn't worth the effort.

The one I got is by Toastmaster and has an adorable name: Egg Head. It seems to be defunct. Unfortunately, it was missing the measuring beaker, which tells you how much water to use for how many eggs cooked in various ways. After a ridiculous amount of time perusing the internet, I found the measurements for a DIFFERENT brand. And I must say: the eggs came out well. These things have a LOUD buzzer, so you can zone out without fear.

The cutest one is called Henrietta

See what I mean? There are other kinds too, I do think Henrietta would look quite cute next to your red rice cooker. There are other kinds for a more tasteful aesthetic.

Is this a worthwhile purchase? If you are planning on eating a lot of hard boiled eggs during your college cooking years, then I would say yes. It makes soft boiled and poached too, but I haven't tried it.

What do you think of this appliance?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Roadblocks to Cooking: Plus a Recipe that Avoids the Roadblocks

When Frugal Son and I decided to put together some recipes for the dorm-cooker in our family, we did so because the various guides to college cooking we consulted presented a bunch of recipes, some easy, some hard. In this, the college-focused cookbooks were not much different from any other cookbook.

We realized that college cooking, particularly the dorm variety, is defined by its limitations. Here was the list we came up with.

BIG ROADBLOCKS: No time, no skill, no car, no storage space, little money, no stove

LITTLE ROADBLOCKS: No room for messy and smelly preparation

Also, as any cook knows, it's disheartening (to say the least) to make a big mess and then have a single omelette serving one to show for it.

So, Frugal Son and I set out to counter all the roadblocks. With a few pantry items (most requiring no refrigeration), you can make a bunch of stuff.

With the rice cooker, you don't need a stove.

And with certain ingredients, you don't need to chop. We are not talking about the various "HELPERS" or "BOXED MAC and CHEESE." There are some ingredients that offer convenience, even for the picky.

To wit (and you do need a freezer): chopped onions, chopped bell peppers, chopped spinach. All these are in our cookbook. But another is frozen hashed brown potatoes.

Think about it: throw some--along with your frozen onions--in your heated rice cooker, into which you have put some oil. When the potatoes seem cooked, throw in some eggs (beaten beforehand, or just beat in the cooker). Stir till the eggs are done. You may have to keep setting your rice cooker to cook, sicne it doesn't KNOW you're doing eggs and may switch to warm.

Eggs and potatoes--yummy! Cheap. Only one pot to wash. If you made too much, heat in the micro tomorrow for another meal.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

College Cook: What's On Sale at Publix later this week

For you and your friends, dear Miss Em. Not for you the mac and cheese and other vile items. You've got your pantry and freezer filled with good things. And you can augment with the following:

canned tomatoes Hunts BOGO
Yoplait yogurt .50
5 lb bag grapefruit 2.50
fuji apples .99/lb

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mixing, Matching, Using What You Have=Soup

In my last post, I showed how a few humble ingredients, plus a humble rice cooker, could yield several wholesome, hearty, sustaining, and GOOD meals.

If you look at the ingredients and THINK, you can see that 2 soups are also possible. With soup, you need to be flexible, so amounts are as your fancy takes you.

MEXICAN SOUP: canned tomatoes, beans (rinse them), rice (cooked or not), plus some water. Aim for around 1-2 cups total. You can use salsa for the tomato part. You can use a can of refried beans for the beans. If you have some stale chips, throw 'em in.

ITALIAN SOUP: Tomatoes, canned beans (rinse them), macaroni. Add water and cook till mac is done. Add some Italian cheese if you have it. For more vitamins, throw in some frozen spinach.

Even if you are a CLUELESS COOK and GROCERY SHOPPER, you can tell, I'm sure, that these ingredients are very cheap. Think of what you can do with the money freed up.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mixing and Matching and Using What You Have: Food

Now that Miss Em's friend has learned how to use her rice cooker to make RICE AND WHATEVER and MACARONI AND CHEESE, the possibilities are, if not endless, more than sufficient.

Just buy:
canned tomatoes
canned beans
canned corn
frozen veggies of your liking
soy sauce

Then you can make:
Rice with tomatoes, beans, corn, salsa=Mexican!

Rice with veggies and soy sauce=Asian!

Mix some tuna with your mac and cheese and you have a classic American dish, especially if you add frozen peas.

Add spinach to your mac and cheese for a rather sophisticated pasta dish!

Each ingredient you add increases your options exponentially.

Check out the book Frugal Son and I put together based on the limitations of the College Cook's situation. We figured that Miss Em saves AT LEAST $500/semester over the cost of the meal plan, which doesn't cover all meals anyway.

What do you want to do with your $500?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese in Your Rice Cooker

Miss Em's friend came over last night for her second dorm cooking lesson: mac and cheese. She's been buying those little round things that you cook in the microwave: can we say YUK? Not to mention expensive with wasteful packaging?

I've posted on the beloved comfort food before, but this is a new version. Miss Em's friend is a vegetarian, so will not use the chicken broth in the original Wolfgang Puck-inspired recipe. I told my student that canned broth, including vegetable broth, is kind of over-priced. So we threw in a garlic clove, which made garlic broth as if by magic. It was good!

OK. Put about 2 cups of macaroni or similar in the rice cooker. Add water JUST TO COVER. Add some salt and your garlic clove. You could probably use garlic powder instead.

Put on COOK. After 15-20 minutes, test to see if the mac is done.

DO NOT DRAIN. The starch from the pasta thickens the sauce. Genius! At this point you turn to warm and add a little milk. (You do this when it's on warm so it doesn't curdle). I showed my student how you could mix up a bit of powdered milk in a cup (with COLD water) in the event that you didn't have regular milk.

Then we cut some cheese in small pieces and put it in. If you have a cheese grater, go ahead and use it. Or buy pre-grated. We used Cabot extra sharp.

Keep on warm and stir till cheese melts.

My student was wide-eyed in wonder during the procedure.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year, New Semester, Buy Your Rice Cooker

The other day, one of Miss Em's friends came over. She complained about the food at her college, the cost of the meal plan, the lack of facilities, and so on. I told her a rice cooker plus a little help from me would solve her problems. She asked how much it would cost. I told her that she would need a rice cooker and a few food items to start. I would even give her a private cooking lesson.*

Two days later the lesson commenced. I took out my cheap rice cooker, put a cup of rice in it, added a cup and a half of water, threw in a handful of chopped onions and rice, and pressed COOK. If I'd had some frozen spinach, I would have put that in too.

NOTE: NO CHOPPING, so no clean-up.

We went our separate ways and reconvened about 30 minutes later. The cooker was on WARM. We had waited a little too long, so we had some sticking.

I added a beaten egg and some soy sauce. The friend looked at me as if I had solved some difficult physics problem. This is, by the way, a very hardworking and smart girl. So she picked up the point that with different add-ins (cheese, salsa, beans, whatever), you could have many different meals.

I told her that we had done a rough calculation and figured that Miss Em saves AT LEAST $500.00/semester with our methods.

So, let me reiterate: get a rice cooker.

You could even get our little cookbook.

If you have a KINDLE.

If you don't, you can get the pdf.

*As for the private cooking lesson: how many people have a private cooking lesson conducted by a Phd? This dear girl also came over one day with some questions about poetry, which were answered by Mr. FS and me: another private lesson. I'm glad to report that she got an A on her test.