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Favorite Cookbooks for a college student

My daughter is declaring her independence (well, not from her dad's checkbook), and moving to an off-campus apartment. She's looking forward to cooking some meals with her roommates & friends.

Can anyone suggest cookbooks for a somewhat experienced young adult. I thought of the latest version of "Joy of Cooking", just for basics. She mentioned that she'd like to do some basic Italian dishes. I did tell her she could access recipes on-line, but as a mom with a cookbook collection, I'm partial to the printed word/picture.

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  1. Despite the fact that her TV show can annoy me, I do like Everyday Italian by Giada DiLaurentis. It's a good selection of Italian dishes, sauces, snacks, desserts. Very clear directions, too. Good for your daughter! :-)

    1 Reply
    1. re: pinehurst

      Oh, that is true. It reminds me that I got my older daughter a Rachel Ray book too. Very basic and has some recipes for "entertaining" in it (beer and hummus with friends over, snicker, snicker). Anyway, Rachel Ray tends to make tasty, simple "one pot" meals that kids like.

    2. My daughter became vegetarian in college, so I got her the original (Moosewood) Enchanted Broccoli Forrest. But vegetarian or not- most college kids don't have the budget or enthusiasm to skillfully prepare much meat anyway -and this book has a TON of terrific things to make -from homemade tortilla's, quiche, soups,pizza, and cakes! She said she uses it all the time.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sedimental

        Sundays at Moosewood (mostly, but not completely, vegetarian) was one of my grad school cookbook mainstays! As with the other Moosewood cookbooks, excellent for those on budgets. Easy to follow, plus some nice ethnically inspired recipes.

      2. As far as cookbooks go, Making Artisan Pasta by Aliza Green (http://www.amazon.com/Making-Artisan-...) is one of my favorites on the Italian side. Making homemade pasta isn't as intensive as everyone seems to think it is, and the section on stuffed pasta is amazing in its simplicity and range. Another good source of Italian recipes I love is rusticocooking.com, but they don't have a cookbook last time I checked. If she'd be interested in baking, I'd highly recommend The Bread Bible by Rose Beranbaum (http://www.amazon.com/Bread-Bible-Ros...). Baking bread helped me through some of those really tough weeks in college where I could make a homemade focaccia to make it through the week instead of relying on instant ramen.

        1. It may seem dated at this point, but I loved the New Basics as one of my first cookbooks. The recipeis seemed so much more interesting than what I saw in Fanny Farmer or the Joy of cooking. It helped me become interested in learning to cook.

          1. The Joy of Cooking is brilliant and could very well become her bible and go-to reference book for the rest of her life. I still have my mother's version and falling apart, it is still my favorite.

            My mother used to give copies of the Joy of Cooking to everyone we knew that was getting married; she would take the time to go through and write little notes about specific recipes (Carrie's favorite, don't bother with this one, add some extra sugar to this, etc.)

            I don't think you can do better!

            1. Speaking as a current college student, the book I refer to most often is the "Flavor Bible", which is very handy for putting together meals both ad-hoc and planned. It has no recipes but is just a very comprehensive listing of foodstuffs, a bit on preparation methods for each one, and stuff that pairs well with each thing. It also has helpful notes from well-respected American chefs about how they work with ingredients and put together dishes. It's a great tool for making your own recipes. I highly recommend that to anyone who knows some basic techniques and wants to try striking out on their own.

              I have a copy of Joy of Cooking but haven't used it in a while. Not because I'm too good for it or anything but because, since I'm usually just cooking for me, it's more fun to experiment.

              1. Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" may be the only cookbook she ever needs. Well, "ever" is a long time, but it will show her how to cook just about anything she wants to - often with many variations. The first edition is available in paperback, the second in cloth; either is a good choice.

                1. Thank you for all your suggestions!

                  Just let my daughter know I'm doing this as she sipped a box of yoo-hoo. Oy.

                  I like Bittman's simplicity; Moosewood would be a nice attempt to eat healthier (ate there a zillion years ago - remember long communal tables); love "Joy's" encyclopedic approach to different food types. May try to find a copy of Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cook Book" i have my mom's copy from 1973, and it's given me some ideas.

                  Still open to more.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: amymsmom

                    I like Bittman's book; for vegetarian I like "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" by Deborah Madison. It's similarly thorough but the approach is a bit different. Bittman tends to have more basic recipes and offer variations, Madison's book seem more thoroughgoing.

                    Those two, and the aforementioned Flavor Bible are my three most used cookbooks.

                    1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                      I like bittmans vegetarian books. Lots of main course meals, both simple and time consuming. I use some recipes as sides when I serve chicken or fish.

                      Great directories for vegetables and legumes. And i like how subs are offered for almost anything.

                    2. re: amymsmom

                      Both of Mark Bittman's books suggested here are available as iPod apps. They're convenient and fun to use in that way.

                      1. re: sr44

                        A nice feature of the Bittman cookbook apps is built-in timers in the body of the recipe instructions. Click on the timer when executing the cooking step. It seems helpful for a novice cook who may not know when something is "done enough." The recipes also let you click through to technique illustrations pertaining to preparation. I'm sending my college sophomore off to her first kitchen with the apps this fall, as her elder brother has already "appropriated" my hard copies (and had much success).

                        The apps contain the full text of the books. Nice for a college student who's already loaded down with piles of books to schlep around.

                        1. re: cayjohan

                          The timers work well for the frequently addled older cook too. And you can generate shopping lists as well.

                    3. Yeah, Joy is a must-have! This is such a sweet post, by the way.

                      I think better recommendations should be tailored by her tastes and circumstances. Is she a picky eater? What kind of budget will she have and how much time does she want to devote to cooking? Does she like spicy food, vegetarian cuisine, or very simple fare?

                      In general, I do like the Everyday Italian suggestion made by pinehurst. Italian food is always a great place for beginners because there are so many easy recipes, and a good mix of healthy stuff thrown in. Nigella Lawson's book Nigella Express would be a really good one. She offers a lot of interesting food that you can throw together quickly and without ruining your budget.

                      1. I don't know why it's not on more favorites lists, but Lynn Rosetto Kasper's The Italian Country Table is one of my favorite Italian cookbooks; it goes beyond pasta, of course, but has a good number of pasta recipes along with lots of other good recipes (it was a COTM selection sometime in the past year).

                        For a different take on pasta, consider Nina Simonds' Asian Noodles. I love the recipes in this book, and most of the recipes are pretty simple and very doable with a normal kitchen setup (no wok, smooth glass cooktop). Lots of vegetarian options in the books as well.

                        1. I've always found the red and white plaid "Better Homes and Gardens" to be an excellent all around cookbook. I learned to cook from my mothers copy and years later bought an updated version for myself. I'm sure by now they've revised it even further!

                          1. I suggest this, there are Italian dishes in there, but its an overall mix. this book has always reminded me of something that I would buy for a single person or person on his/her own that wanted to start doing good quality meals easily for themselves.

                            Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone: Recipes to Put You in My Favorite Mood


                            1. I think Light Cooking Basics by Martha Rose Shulman would be a good choice --

                              1. Lots of great suggestions already, but I'd like to add Julia Child's "The Way to Cook." It covers a lot of ground without being overwhelming, it's full of useful photographs, and the text (as with all her books) is cogent and lively. I especially like the emphasis on teaching concepts and techniques that allow you to be less dependent on recipes and more confident in your improvisational skills. I also like your own suggestion of Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking," another book that's much more than a collection of recipes. The one-volume edition is still in print, and in my opinion (though others may disagree) it's slightly superior to the original two-volume version.

                                1. My daughter's leaving in 2 days, so I took her for more odds & ends, including her cookbook.

                                  We looked at the newest version of "Joy", or as she called it when she was little, "Joey's Cookbook". I noticed some of the newer (older) grains like spelt, but I think it was too encyclopedic for her. I ended up buying Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything The Basics". It's less overwhelming & the pix guide a less confident cook.

                                  We found an old copy of Joan Nathan's "Jewish Holiday Kitchen" and "The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook" by Gloria Bley Miller, at my mil's house. Also found books from Betty Crocker & Williams Sonoma. Those books surprised me since my mil wouldn't follow recipes.

                                  Thank you for all the suggestions. Though I'm not sure if my daughter realizes it, it was a fun way to celebrate a small milestone!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: amymsmom

                                    Good for her and for you!

                                    I got "The Basics" recently and haven't really looked into it, but Bittman is Bittman. If your daughter likes his style and wants more for free, he's put some recipes up on his site:


                                    Several of them are Francis-tested, like the cornbread and everyday pancakes, and check out the roasted carrots with cumin (and variations).

                                    1. re: amymsmom

                                      :: Betty Crocker & Williams Sonoma. Those books surprised me since my mil wouldn't follow recipes ::

                                      The W-S books are great inspiration for people who don't follow recipes, because of the appealing photography (and staging, etc.). Betty Crocker may have been her first cookbook, and kept around for sentimental reasons if no other..

                                      Thanks for sharing that small milestone with us! Instructive suggestions, much to glean.

                                    2. I am a college student and I have been cooking a lot recently...

                                      My favorites right now are How to Cook Everything The Basics by Mark Bittman. Really good recipes and also fun to just read and educate yourself.

                                      Also, I like the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. There are recipes for everything and they are easy to follow. Again, also can be educational just to read.

                                      I recently got Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan and that has been a lot of fun to read too. This might appeal more to me because I lived in France for awhile.

                                      I've also subscribed to the America's Test Kitchen Online Cooking School. I am having a lot of fun with it and really learning a lot. You can do it at your own pace and I am learning some good tips and it's really helping me build confidence in the kitchen. I would definitely recommend it!

                                      1. I realize I'm late to the party and, that your daughter has already received a cookbook but jic you decide to gift an Italian book at a later date I thought I'd weigh in. I love to cook and have "a lot" of cookbooks and approx 200 Italian cookbooks. I love gifting cookbooks to aspiring cooks/chefs so here's my experience fwiw:

                                        - most younger cooks appreciate books with photos
                                        - for new-ish cooks, it's especially important that recipes be clearly and accurately written (eg. don't say "2 eggplants" say, 2 cups chopped eggplant)and tested if possible. Photos should accurately depict the finished dish
                                        - if the book can be supplemented by some online support/dialogue/presence - all the better
                                        - recipes shouldn't be too complex or time consuming
                                        - ingredients should be widely available or, the book should suggest substitutions

                                        So, with all that said and with your criteria in mind I have 2 suggestions:

                                        Any cookbook by Ina Garten - Ina's cookbooks are some of the best out there as you can be assured her recipes are well tested and full instructions are provided. Most of her books (not her Paris book) have plenty of pasta dishes. I tend to find that when folks say they want to cook "Italian dishes" they really mean they want to cook "pasta". If that's not the case w your daughter then I'd suggest:

                                        Jamie's Italy by Jamie Oliver - Jamie is a great role model for a young chef as he started out his career as a chef at a very young age. He's not hung up on specificity and he teaches flexibility and encourages cooks to go with their gut. FYI, this book was also a COTM on CH so if you do gift this book your daughter will have the benefit of the experience of all the great cooks here on CH. Here's a link to that thread fyi: