For many of our college-bound kids, back to school means living on their own for the first time. The realization that their apartment doesn't include a cook or a kitchen consultant (aka Mom) can be more than a little shocking.
I used to get panic phone calls regularly with questions like "How long does it take to boil water?," "How do I preheat my oven?," "What do I do to my pan that's burned black?" and "How many chickens do I need to feed eight for Shabbat?"
A great gift to send off with your collegiate is a kitchen survival kit, containing a couple of good-quality nonstick skillets and saucepans, some heavy-duty foil roasting pans, an immersion blender (for soups and smoothies), a copy of Cooking for Dummies and a refrigerator sign that says "When in Doubt, Throw It Out."
Most importantly, include some very simple one-dish meal recipes like those below. Their cooking skills will develop with trial and error, and some tasty, well-balanced meals will replace the prerequisite pizzas, burgers and frozen burritos.
One-Pan Roast Chicken With Vegetables
1 chicken (4 lbs.)
4 Tbsps. olive oil
3 large potatoes (about 2 lbs.), peeled, quartered lengthwise, then halved crosswise
4 large carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise, halved crosswise
6 celery stalks, cut into 3 inch pieces
11/2 tsps. dried oregano
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
Preheat oven to 425°.
Rinse the chicken; pat dry with paper towels. Rub chicken with 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the center of a large roasting pan. Roast for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss the potatoes, carrots and celery with remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl to coat. Crumble oregano in small bowl; mix in the garlic powder. Sprinkle all but 1/4 teaspoon oregano mixture over vegetables; toss to coat.
Arrange vegetables around chicken in roasting pan.
Sprinkle chicken with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of oregano mixture.
Roast chicken and vegetables until cooked through and golden, brushing chicken once with any pan juices and turning vegetables over once with spatula, about 1 hour.
Arrange the chicken and vegetables on platter. Scrape any pan juices into bowl and serve alongside the bird.
Serves 4. Recipe can be doubled.
Pasta With Tuna and Tomatoes
6 oz. pasta (about 21/2 cups)
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 can (14.5-oz.) chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted black olives, quartered
1/2 cup slivered fresh basil
1 can (6 oz.) solid white tuna packed in water, undrained
Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, olives and basil and bring sauce to simmer.
Drain pasta thoroughly. Mix the pasta and tuna with its water into the sauce. Toss to heat pasta through, breaking up the tuna into large pieces with fork, about 3 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serves 2. Recipe can be doubled.
(Meat or Pareve)
11/2 Tbsps. olive oil
11/2 cups diced hot dogs (2 portobello mushroom caps, diced, are a good vegetarian alternative)
2 tsps. dried oregano
3 cups (or more) canned low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
Heat oil in heavy, large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add the hot dogs or mushrooms (if using), and the oregano, and stir until meat begins to brown, about 2 minutes.
Add 3 cups broth and lentils, and bring to boil.
Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.
Add the tomatoes with juices; simmer uncovered 2 minutes.
Add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin soup, if desired.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serves 3. Recipe can be doubled.
Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. E-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org .