Tag Archives: cooking skills

Dorm Cooking 101

If you know some young adults headed off to a college dorm or apartment, launch them properly with a cooking lesson and a basic understanding of nutrition. Many 18-26 yr olds subsist on take-out & fast food, sweet sodas, syrupy lattes and energy drinks. They think cooking means baking a frozen pizza and boiling pasta with nuked bottled sauce.

One cannot live on pizza alone. Sorry. (Stock photo off web.)

It’s not their fault they grew up in a “convenience-food culture” that is based on cheap carbs & sugar. But, this is not real food. It does not provide good fuel for busy young folks (or older folks either) who need their brains and bodies to perform at maximum capacity. In the short term, their wallets and grades and sports performance will suffer. Eventually, their health will, too (more $$).

Young vegetarians generally don’t have a good grasp of nutrition and usually do not eat enough protein. Young women in particular, given their concern with weight.  And, a light green salad or two at best do not really meet the 4-5 daily veg recommendation.

Everybody needs a foundation of basic cooking skills. Like reading, driving and managing money, these practical skills equip one for a lifetime.

Caroline learns to snap off stems from fresh green beans for Salad Nicoise, a salad that keeps for a week. I’m in the background. (Photo by Brad Dahlgaard.)

With a few basics, young adults can increase & include complex carbs like whole grains and beans in their food lifestyle, let alone veggies. THIS is fuel for brains and bodies.

Book a cooking lesson with me this year! Launch them with a cutting board, a knife and a crock pot, and they’ll be set. My lessons focus on easy dishes, efficient batch cooking and dishes that keep or freeze. And I tailor to your preferences and requirements.


See previous posting for more about Cooking Lessons and a suggested menu.

For instance, they’ll find crock pots are a god-send for all kinds of dishes from vegetarian & meat stews & soups to homey pot roasts. Think ravenous young men. $15 bucks gets them a whole roast w/ potatoes — or a hamburger & fries w/ soda.

With a crockpot, you could wake up to real oatmeal and even mashed sweet potato pudding for breakfast. Fuel.





One-Bowl Meals for Too Fast Lives

The Hearty Mexican Posole Soup with Radish Cabbage Arugula Salad Garnish (choice of vegan bean or pork version) that is featured for this week’s Delivered Dishes of the Week is an excellent one-bowl meal. See pithy descriptions for the next 2 weeks’ menus on the Menu Archive.

One-bowl meals are a way of life for many of us. They’re quick to eat, easy to make and more portable. When made of whole foods,  they’re also more ‘nutrient-dense’. A cup of nutrient-dense food like beans & greens gives you more nutrition than a comparable serving of something starchy and/or processed.  Looking at it another way, if you’re going to eat a 600-calorie meal, you could eat a 3-4 course meal of nutrient-dense foods instead of one bowl of mac ‘n cheese.

[Of course, there are times when that mac ‘n cheese or ice cream is completely appropriate. For instance, driving past Izzy’s Ice Cream on a 76 F evening last week.]

Anybody who’s followed a weight-loss program knows this. So the challenge is to surround ourselves with more nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods, which is hard when nutrient-poor processed foods are everywhere and simply more convenient.

I’ll be teaching to this question on Thu to residents at Next Step Housing, an independent living facility run by Ascension Place, a transitional housing program for women based in North Mpls.  I’ll assess their cooking skills, teach basic knife techniques, and focus on easy, cheap, healthful dishes that you can ‘build’ on for an endless variety of meals.

Tuscan white beans, swiss chard and broccoli.

We’re going to make a couple variations of Beans & Greens (see prior posts). Next Step’s apartment building is near the Cub Grocery on Broadway Ave & Lyndale Ave North, so these women can easily get dried/canned beans and frozen/ fresh greens such as kale, collards, turnip greens and spinach, all year round. On summer weekends, they can go to a satellite Farmers’ Market run by Mpls Farmers’ Market and West Broadway Business & Area Coalition. These women may have never visited a farmers’ market before, so I’m looking forward to introducing them come summer.

We’ll cook large batches as usual. In the end it’s cheaper and more efficient to cook a large batch than a small batch of most dishes. If you’re going to chop 1 onion and 3 carrots, you may as well chop twice as many while you’re at it.

Furthermore, I’m going to suggest that, since they live in the same apartment building, they do a couple things that will make cooking more fun and save money, too:

1) Monthly Soup Swap. Say you have a group of 6 people. Each participant brings a 6-quart pot of home-made soup and 5 quart-size ziploc bags or tupperware. Divide all the soups. Everybody gets 6 quarts of different soups! If you freeze the ziplocs flat, they can be stacked vertically or horizontally in the freezer and will take up less room.

Gorgeous local veg!

2) Buy favorite veggies in bulk at the Farmers’ Market and divide. You can buy 5-10 lb tubs of green beans, tomatoes, et al at a cheaper rate than the little 1-lb trays. The farmers often have blemished ‘seconds’ in large tubs for even lower prices. And, if you go near closing time, they will practically give stuff away rather than pack it up in their trucks.

3) Cook together occasionally. It makes a solitary chore more of a social event, especially for singles, and besides, two cooks are faster than one.

Of course, these are excellent time- & money-savers for everybody, whether you live next door or not!

Sage Advice: more fresh food, less effort

As a cooking coach, I focus on efficiency, versatility and making use of seasonal foods. The most recent sessions feature black-eyed peas & Swiss chard prepared SIX ways, five of which can be frozen.

Beans and Dark Leafy Greens such as chard are a wonderful combination that happens to be easy, versatile and extremely nutritious (and low-fat).  I could use kale or turnip greens in the following recipes just as easily as chard, and I do.

Dark Leafy Greens! from top: dinosaur kale (Lacinato), red onion, collards, turnip green, red radish.

Sadly I find many people do not know what to do with Chard or Kale, they mistakenly overcook Collards, they keep beets but throw OUT Beet Greens (gasp!) and, they’ve never even heard of Turnip Greens. Aiyeee!

Just like spinach, these greens are LOVELY when simply sauteed with garlic, lemon & salt. Unlike spinach, all these greens are bountiful from now til Nov.

Black-eyed peas (BEP) is a stand-in for any creamy mild bean. I like it because it’s fast-cooking and under-used.

6 dishes you can easily make from these 2 main ingredients, even in ONE afternoon. All basically vegan.

#1 Marinated BEP Salad with diced chard stems and leaves, any crunchy veg on hand, tossed w/ herb vinaigrette.

#2 BEP & Leafy Green Saute Base. A simple saute of chopped chard leaves & stems, garlic & onion and cooked BEP in a generous amount of olive oil. Zucchini is also nice in this base. It should be wet enough to clump together but not overly goopy. This mixture is divided into 3+ quarts to be seasoned separately; a quart or more of plain is frozen too.

#3 A la Provencal. Add fresh herbs like sage, lemon juice, and, if you like, green olives and/or capers.

Sage & Smashed Black-eyed Peas & Chard Bruschetta

Smashed Black-eyed Peas & Chard Bruschetta with Fresh Sage

#4 Provencal Bruschetta, sandwich or omelette filling: #3 smashed, drizzled with EVOO and topped with minced fresh sage & garlic. And diced fresh tomatoes if got ’em.

#5 Provencal Stew and Soup. Broth & wine added to #3 along with more veg (any kind), more herbs or pesto, then simmered til soft. Throw some pesto or grated cheese on top before serving.

#6 Curry Stew. #2 base simmered with more veg, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, broth and Indian spices such as garam masala or curry powder (and many more which I won’t list now), cayenne if you like it spicy. Yogurt and raisins is nice as garnish.

#7 Spaghetti Sauce. #2 simmered with with tomato sauce and paste, basil, oregano.

If you have 3 large pots, you can do this is in one session. All but the salad can be frozen. Easy, versatile, yummy!

Zucchini Linguine

Raw zucchini linguine (link to recipe) was a hit at today’s Little Locavore shows!

My wonderful volunteers really got into food preparation. We could have spent the entire half hour on that.  But, then we would not have had the chance to enjoy the Zucchini Baton Relay Race or the Aunty Oxidant & Free Radicals skit.

Raw Zucchini "Linguine" w/ fresh marinara sauce

Raw Zucchini "Linguine" w/ fresh marinara sauce

The kids were very skillful, using “kid” scissors to:

  • snip basil
  • dice strips of zucchini and pattypan squash
  • cut small roma tomatoes in quarters

They also used a potato masher to mash juicy cherry tomatoes for the marinara sauce.

Here’s feedback from Ruth today (also in Comments section) :

Thanks for introducing all kinds of veggies to my girls, Izzy and Vivian. For some reason, the same veg presented by me is not nearly as enticing. Izzy blogged about you and making zucchini linguine.

And a BIG THANK YOU to volunteers Vivian, Izzy, Catherine, Selena, June, JJ, Harper, Madeleine, VJ, Jackson and Caroline!