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Simple inexpensive 1st apartment (college) recipes sought

DD2 will be getting her 1st apartment with a roommate in the fall. Looking to make a printed notebook for her with simple, inexpensive recipes that she and her roommate can make to encourage them to cook and avoid the typical Kraft dinner, ramen noodle route. These are college kids with not sophisticated palates, no exotic fruits or vegetables. They will have a full kitchen with a small m/w, apartment size fridge and stove/oven (no dishwasher) and buying their own cooking utensils, albeit as inexpensively as possible. Also, DD2 does not eat pork(lamb, chicken, beef, fish/seafood OK). She is very much a beginner cook, so a few ingredients and simple cooking techniques are desired. They will have access to IKEA, Target, Costco and Kroger, but a very limited budget. She will be trying to eat as many meals as possible from her apartment, to save on cost. Ideas, hounds? Thanks!

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  1. Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce (one of them anyway). Put a 28 oz. can of tomatoes in a saucepan, cut an onion in half and put in the pan, add 5 tbs. butter, simmer for 45 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes as it cooks. Makes a great sauce and Karl S uses it as soup at dinner parties. Anything can be added to it. Doesn't come any easier than that and I don't know anyone who's tried it who doesn't wind up eating some of it straight from the pot :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      Love that sauce, altho the 5 tbs. of butter means I rarely make it.

    2. Once a week I make a modified version of the refried black bean recipe from Chow. I double the onions (carmelizing them), use beef stock instead of water, and add small amounts of cumin and chili powder, and add a small amount of sour cream at the end of cooking.

      The beans then can be used for many dishes from breakfast to dinner. We pair them with rice and fried eggs, put it on bagels, in quesadillas, or just rolled in a tortilla with rice. It can easily be thinned to make a dip. It's one of the easier, and healthier, things I keep one hand. It pairs well with eggs, pasta, and most meats and vegetables, but can be enjoyed very simply.

      Also, make sure the girl knows her way around eggs. Frittatas are easy, a good way to use up leftovers, and store well (they can be finished in a four-fifty oven if there are broiler worries, but you do lose that lovely browning on top).

      1. Lentil Soup. It couldn't be more adaptable, is nourishing and delicious, and it accomodates anything leftover. Like Stone Soup from the children's story, whatever you or anyone else brings along to add to the basic soup makes the finished dish all the more delicious. It's cheap, and the ingredients are easy to find in even a small market. I think I lived on this as a student, and still default to it when feeling in need of comfort and ease. The first time I made it at 17 or 18, I cooked it without anything but the lentils and water (really not knowing the first thing about what I was doing) and it became mud-brown sludge after several hours. Sadly I threw it out rather than eat it, it was that wierd looking. So proceed with a small caution - definitely add some stuff (any stuff) and don't overcook it, and it's going to be a beautiful thing.
        Procure 1 lb carrots, one 16 oz. bag of any color lentils, and one bunch of greens (chard, kale, spinach, green cabbage - anything at all). Chop up one onion (celery too, if you have it) and 2-3 cloves of garlic, and cook over moderate heat in olive oil (backstory - you have to train them to keep a good oil, onions, and some garlic in the kitchen). Rinse and add the lentils, add half the carrots chopped up, and cover it all with water in a big pot. For the slightly ambitious and/or frugal, make some stock from simmering all the veggie trimmings plus anything half-dead from the frig, which you know will be in there, in salted water, and use that for the liquid. Herbs, spices, or vegetable embelishments added at this point are a bonus, both smell and taste-wise, and you can take it any direction you like. Italian - bay leaf, oregano, basil plus any tomato product. Indian - curry powder, turmeric, and chopped red pepper. Vegetarian - Bragg's Aminos or tamari, black pepper, a cubed-up potato and some mixed herbs like rosemary, parsley, celery tops, etc., some of which you may have foraged if you live in California. I cannot think of any vegetable you couldn't add to it successfully, and the amount of liquid used will vary the results from a soup to a stew.
        The liquid could also be beer, leftover white wine, or a small can of tomato paste mixed with two or three cups of water, or any admixture thereof. Go about your business for 45 minutes while the soup is on a low simmer, covered, then set up the soup plates and start the rice. This whole thing is going to take about an hour, so 10 minutes or so before eating, add salt to the soup (to taste, but probably 2 tsp or more) and add the chopped greens. Stir them in for a few minutes, and add any leftover chicken (or any protein), and let it cook through about five minutes more. Serve over or have your rice on the side, or eat with bread and butter. Or cheese. In the old hippie days, people were concerned about Complete Proteins. Eating rice or wheat plus the lentils in this combo caused you to ingest a Complete Protein providing all 17 amino acids, so you were saving the planet plus getting full protein out of your newfound vegetarian diet. (Whatever happened to Frances Moore Lappe?). Makes 6 servings at least.
        So, it's great - on very little effort here, you will not starve, will find it packs great for lunches, and tastes even better over the next two or three (cookingless) days.

        1. Peanut Noodle Salad! Deborah Madison has a good recipe for the sauce in "Savory Way." You can mix up a whole jar of it, and then just toss with noodles, vegetables, and tofu/chicken. It's very inexpensive, nutritious and easy. I've never saved it for so long, but the recipe claims that the sauce will last for months. I like to put more vegetables to make it more of a salad than a noodle dish. My favorites include snap peas, red/orange bell peppers, cucumbers, scallions, carrots, and savoy cabbage.

          1. As a current grad student with limited money and time I can say pasta is the way to go if you want plenty of leftovers! Whether its a simple lasagna recipe, baked mac and cheese (much better than living of boxed ones!) and things like baked ziti. Easy to make and can feed plenty of hungry college students.

            Also will be good to have chicken breasts which come individually wrapped. Can be easily seasoned, baked and then covered by your favorite sauce. If she can afford a George Foreman that would also be great for fast sandwiches, chicken and burgers and will be healthier than fast food versions of the same thing.

            1. Teach her to roast a chicken. There are so many ways to do this I hesitate to suggest one, as I'm sure you have your own favorite.

              I always salt and pepper the bird liberally both inside and out, then cut a lemon and a head of garlic in half through the equator and stuff them in the cavity.

              Cooking temperature and time depend much on the size of the bird. But it's so simple because all you have to do is stick it into a preheated oven and wait for it to cook through.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Euonymous

                +1 on roasting a chicken. Also, teach her how to broil or pan fry an inexpensive steak.

                I'd also show her how to make a stew, chili and some basic soups (I learned chicken soup, which I could turn in a bunch of different ways to taste by adding veggies, rice for jook, etc. and Portuguese bean soup - a favorite from home and easily adaptable and cooked in bulk).

                Other favorites include my "turkey veggies" which is lean ground turkey browned with seasonings (to taste), with onions, and whatever veggies I have on hand (favs include eggplant, cabbage, mushrooms, and zuccinni), sometimes with a can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce thrown in, often eaten over rice, or sometimes used with rice mixed in as the stuffing for stuffed peppers.

                1. re: akq

                  Yes I whole heartedly agree. The roasted chicken can bring several nice meals and an elegant lunch! Who doesn't love chicken salad? The most versatile meat we have is chicken. It can be dressed up or made into delicious soul warming food such as chciken pot pie. Teach your kids about a roasted chicken, 1 hour in the oven, rubbed with butter and some herbs a very good deal for $4.

              2. What a great idea to make an easy reference book for her.

                You may have already thought of this, but you might want to have a few hands-on cooking sessions with her this summer. Make sure she knows how to cook a pot of rice and not boil over a pot of pasta. If she only likes boneless, skinless chicken breasts, that will be expensive. If she will eat dark meat as well, show her how to break down a whole chicken, or at least bone-in breasts. It doesn't have to be pretty. Brown the bones, then simmer to make broth, with which to make gravy or soup.

                Teach her how to make bechamel. Even a bowl of steamed veggies say dinner when tossed with white sauce and sprinkled with shredded cheese.

                Sweet potatoes microwave really well or several can be done in the oven when she has time and then warmed in the m/w later in the week. Drizzle with OO, S&P and cumin and/or smoked paprika and it's a quick lunch. Chunk up into Smarta's lentil soup, it's dinner.

                Check out yard sales this summer for pots and pans, mixing bowls, maybe an old graniteware roaster, glass pie pans. You'd be surprised what you can find. Look for the ads that say Estate Sale or Moving Sale. Although you might not have much dickering room with estate sales, you might find a rusty cast iron skillet or Dutch oven reasonably priced (which can be brought back to life). You might find the heavy cast aluminum pots as well. Moving sales give you better haggle room, as in, would you take $5 for all this?

                And even if I get booed off the stage, Bisquick Impossible Pies might come to the rescue occasionally in this case.

                1. Diane, our DS just got launched with his own apt this past year. My husband and I wrote out some of the simpler recipes that we make at home that he likes -- red sauce for pasta, chili, various simple dishes with boneless chicken breasts -- and sent them to him. I also gave him Bittman's How to Cook Everything, which he tells me he really likes; says it's especially useful because it give lot's of suggestions for substitute ingredients. Beyond that, these kids are so "wired" that I don't know that you need to do much else to launch them in the kitchen. He goes on the web all the time and just finds recipes. Or he calls me and asks me to forward one; e.g., last year he was actually in the store shopping and decided he wanted to make fish tacos, so I reviewed the ingredients with him over the phone, and then emailed the recipe.

                  1. Easy Crock Pot Beef Wraps

                    1 lb. chuck stew meat cubes
                    3 cups of thick and chunky salsa (mild, med. or hot, your choice)
                    Flour tortillas, whole wheat or regular

                    Put chuck stew meat into a crock pot and pour the salsa over it, stir to combine. Cover and put crock pot on low. Cook on low for 6–8 hours or until meat is tender and falling apart.

                    With a slotted spoon remove the meat from the pot and distribute among the tortillas. Pour on however much salsa you want and roll up the tortillas.

                    1. My stepdaughters were cooking while still in high school. Their college roomates were amazed that they knew how to cook. A popular thing they didthat was also healthy was stir fry. I agree with those who suggest some lessons this summer.

                      1. I use 1/4lb ground beef and lightly brown it in a skillet. Add 1/2 chopped onion and 1 chopped red pepper. Saute for about 5 more minutes, add 1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes, 1 tsp salt and pepper. I also add a pinch or red pepper and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Turn down to low and let simmer, partially covered. Take 1 box of elbow macaroni, cook al dente (about 10 minutes), and add to sauce. I add grated parm cheese. I learned this dish when I was a teen. It's still a confort dish for me now.
                        A rotisserie chicken from costco can give her a roast chicken dinner one night. I serve it warm over potatoes nuked in the microwave ( it's the only thing I cook in the microwave).
                        Teach her how to roast veggies in the oven (400F. for 15-20 minutes). I do them on the weekends and use them during the week, warmed in the microwave.
                        Lasagna is an easy dish. All she has to do is boil the noodles for 5 minutes and place them in a colinder, or I leave them in the bottom of the pan with 1 inch of cool water. Jarred sauce (on sale), Barilla is pretty good. A small container of ricotta cheese, mixed with 2 eggs and a little salt and pepper. Buy shredded mozzarella and put a ladle of sauce in the bottom of a square pyrex pan, a layer of noodles, half of ricotta, half a bag of mozzarella. Top with a few tablespoons of sauce. Repeat a second time and then top with lasagna noodles. Sprinkle with parm cheese, cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes. Serve

                        Good luck and tell her to to have fun!

                        1. Ramen noodles,don't laugh just yet. This past weekend at a yard sale I bought a cookbook called "101 Things To Do With Ramen Noodles" that transforms them into entrees with chicken etc---few ingredients, little time. I see tonight that it's available used on amazon.com for around $5.

                          1. Lots of good suggestions on here and there are a ton of threads on how to save money on chow. My suggestions would be to show your daughter how to make stock and how to save veggie scraps in the zip lock for later. You can use stock for so many things: soup, sauces, gravy etc.

                            Teach her how to recycle things in her fridge. My kids used to laugh at me years ago because they said they never knew what was going to be for dinner as I was the recycle Queen. Now they do it so they did learn something from me :-)

                            Show her the basics: how to bone & roast chicken, how to sear meat, how to make some of the things she likes that you make at home. I would encourage her to plan & prep her meals ahead so that she don't have to resort to processed foods as we know are full of sodium like ramen noodles & boxed mac & cheese.

                            1. echo the recs for roasted chicken... and then all the various uses such as tacos, enchiladas, chicken salad, stuffed baked potatoes, chicken divan, etc.

                              soups esp made in crockpot....lentil with cumin and coriander, and split pea are both good and easy

                              a crockpot will be a very good friend.stews, chicken dishes, fish, chili, ratatouille, oatmeal, curry, etc.


                              couscous - warm or cool salads

                              bean salads

                              also, perhaps a section on using fresh herbs for flavor, and saving time and energy by washing and prepping veggies/fruits (when possible) for later ease. also some notes on what to refrigerate and what not to.... oh and freezing fish filets like tilapia in individual pieces, then defrosting the day of use when desired.

                              what a good mom you are!

                              1. I refer you to the prison recipes thread at:


                                At the very least, it should remind her that it could be worse.

                                Seriously, a pasta and jarred pasta sauce is an excellent start. Show her a recipe and at the end suggest variations.

                                Lo Mein and fried rice are easy, cheap and quick. A skillet lasagne using the minature lasagne noodles, hamburger and mozzarella cheese.

                                Give her a few recipes on loaded potatoes. You can pour almost anything on a baked potato (velveeta, canned chili, some thick soups or stews


                                Teach her the joys of a can of soup over a plate of rice. Make sure she knows she can add whatever meat she likes to boxed mac and cheese.

                                I suggest a cookbook. "How to cook without a book" by Pam Anderson

                                I also suggest rather than a notebook with recipes, get her a USB thumb drive with a bunch of recipes in word format. She will have a laptop and access to a printer and she will need the thumb drive anyway.

                                Finally, I suggest you spend some time with her in the kitchen making sure she has the basic skills.

                                Good luck to both of you...you will need it. hehe

                                1. I love these lentil tacos (I make frybread, but they're just as good with regular tortillas or taco shells): http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Tasty-Le...

                                  My family - most decidedly NOT vegetarian - likes them as well, so it's harder to get higher praise than that.

                                  And remind her that as long as she has rice and cheese in the house, she basically has a meal. (One of my favorite things is rice topped with cheese, butter & shelled sunflower seeds. And again, no, I'm not veg.


                                  ETA: Remember when ordering pizza every 2nd night sounded like a smart idea for the "leftovers!" and whatnot? I'd also suggest they keep a big bottle of jarred sauce in the fridge, some mozzarella, and whatever simple pizza toppings they like - and any kind of bread that suits them, though it's hard to go wrong with english muffins for texture. (Holy 80's flashbacks!)

                                  1. Pizza!

                                    Help her make a pizza while she's still home, and get her your choice of bakeware to make it on. My mom used to make us her excellent version of New York style pizza on a cookie sheet when I was growing up, no one could touch it. There are such inexpensive pizza pans but if she had to, she could make it on a cookie sheet. How fun for her to have a pizza party with her friends over.

                                    1. Hi: You said these are college kids, unsophisticated palates, no exotic fruits or veggies.

                                      In addition to all the other good suggestions you've been given, maybe you could urge them to try a new fruit or veggie or ingredient about once a month. Do this inexpensively: identify what is in season and on sale, so that they get the best available quality.
                                      Then learn to sift for recipes or instructions on the Internet.

                                      Another idea is to get them a slow cooker / crock pot - it expands ease of cooking and cooking repertoire greatly.

                                      Third idea: make friends with beans. Maybe start with inexpensive canned beans + simmer sauces; or a can or chickpeas tossed into a salad, or a can or red or black beans + salsa + cheese + eggs + store bought tortillas or some such thing, and then very slowly expand from there. Beans are wonderful for taste, budget, and health.

                                      1. What a wonderful idea. My mother in law, when sending my husband off to college, armed him with a bunch of basic recipes (she didn't give him a cookbook, I don't think, just a crash cooking course. Of course, he'd been helping in the kitchen since he was a little boy so he had a foundation for this)--she taught him a million things to do with eggs, and how to make spaghetti sauce, chili, meatloaf (with oatmeal and lots of extenders). I think she taught him a decent amount of baking stuff, too. I am so thankful because he is super-self sufficient in the kitchen and, of course, because he survived his college years.

                                        Is tofu too exotic? All you really need for this recipe of Berley's is a cast iron pan, and tofu is an inexpensive source of protein.


                                        Also, silken tofu makes great smoothies for a gal on the go. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6773...

                                        Have fun!

                                        1. I love to cook, but I've gone back bak to school and don't have a lot of time during the week. On Sunday I like to make assemble components along a certain theme that can be mixed and matched into different meals. All pretty easy to make and much faster/healthier during the week.

                                          I'll boil small potatoes and a couple, make pesto steam green beans and buy a few cans of tuna.

                                          Tabouleh with quinoa instead of bulgar, roast chicken thighs with lemon, cut up cucumbers and wash cherry tomatoes.

                                          Black beans, cilantro rice (I make brown rice, let it cool and add chopped cilantro and lime juice), buy tortillas and salsa.

                                          With staples like bread, eggs and lettuce around all of these can be turned into different meals. Black beans and salsa in the blender make a soup, fry the rice with an egg for fried rice, make quesidillas etc.

                                          1. Thanks so much for all the comments, please keep them coming. I love the one about 101 things to do with Ramen, as my DD2 loves it. Will have to find a copy of that if only for a "gag" gift.

                                            I will be putting the recipes on a thumb drive as well as printing them in a book. What I didn't originally mentioned is that DD1 is graduating from college and setting up her first real apartment in a few weeks. Although she is a pescatarian, eats kosher fish, not shell fish, she will be getting a copy as well. She has introduced us to grains I would never have tried on my own - quinoa, barley (except for soup), tempeh, etc. Since they both will be living far from home, thought a recipe notebook would be a nice reminder of Mom (can you tell I'm a Jewish mother - guilt, guilt for living away from me?)

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                              You might also give her a few muffin recipes... great to bake and freeze, then defrost the night before for a quick portable breakfast.

                                              101 things to do with beans might be a good section too, if she would make a big batch on the weekends and use for various preparations over the week.

                                              101 things to press - make a mock panini press with a brick covered in foil to make pressed sandwiches

                                              101 ways to dress a salad - various variations on homemade dressings

                                              101 pairings for herbs and spices - just a section on what kinds of herbs and spices pair with what other kinds of ingredients

                                              ...i'm sure there are plenty more where this comes from... what other ingredients does she tend to love?

                                              and you sound like the BEST of Jewish mothers :)

                                              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                Yes Yes... you'll just cook for yourself....alone...sigh

                                              2. Quesadillas are easy to make and frequently use up leftovers and are pretty cheap too. I use leftover chicken with salsa and maybe some refried beans and cheese.

                                                I make a pizza quesadilla too. I use a flour tortilla, a squirt of pizza sauce and mozzerella. If I have some pepperoni (you can get all beef pepperoni), sausage or other meat I might add that too.

                                                1. About that printed notebook - you might consider getting one of the computer programs like Living Cookbook and entering your starter recipes in it. Then DD2 can print out the ones she wants to have on paper, and she can also add to it any recipes she may come across on her own (online, from other family or friends, wherever). These programs also make it easy to scale recipe ingredients up or down from the usual 4 servings to 2 for herself and roommate, or 1 if eating solo, or 16.

                                                  I mentioned Living Cookbook because that's the one I use. Others include BigOven Deluxe, MasterCook Deluxe, and a host of others - reviews of 10 of them are here:


                                                  Incidentally, they all come preloaded with hundreds of recipes from various sources. So if DD2 decides she wants to do something with the ramen or lettuce she happens to have around, but doesn't know what - just search the database for recipes that use the ingredient(s).