Your first apartment, if you're a typical college student, can be a little overwhelming.
You're out of the cramped dorms, a good thing, but you're also out of the dorm cafeteria. Cooking real meals for yourself may sound intimidating, especially when it's just so easy to whip up a box of macaroni and cheese or order delivery pizza.
However, with the right tools and trusted standbys, cooking on your own can be done quickly, cheaply and, most importantly, in a healthy way.
But first, you need to set up your kitchen. To help you or the newly renting college student in your life get off to the right start as another fall semester begins, we've assembled lists of tips that will help you get started in your first kitchen.
And when you're ready to try a little cooking, try a recipe from "The Everything Healthy College Cookbook" by Nicole Cormier (Adams Media, 2010, $10.85).
5 healthy tips
Cormier offers some advice for eating and cooking healthy in your new digs:
--When buying groceries at the store, shop the perimeter -- that's where you'll find the healthiest food.
--When choosing vegetables, fresh is always best. If prices are high and produce is out of season, frozen vegetables are the next best option. Canned veggies are an OK alternative, but rinse them well to get rid of up to 90 percent of the sodium.
--Try a new, healthy food such as quinoa. "It's this up-and-coming whole grain that more and more people are finally catching on to; it's been around forever," Cormier said. "It's a superfood because it's a protein and a fiber." It's also versatile -- use it in salads, stir-fry and tabbouleh, among other things.
--Go green and make your own window box. That way, you can grow your own herbs and spices year-round.
--Before you go shopping, make a list. Organize it according to categories such as fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains, snacks and fluids. "If you see a balance on the piece of paper, that means that your grocery cart is going to be more balanced," Cormier said.
5 cooking pieces
--A cookie sheet: You can use it for just about anything you need to bake in the oven.
--A mixing bowl: Better yet, invest in a set of stacking mixing bowls. They're inexpensive, and you'll have the right-size bowl for anything from mixing to serving and storing.
--A slow cooker: You probably didn't consider taking one to college, but it's a great tool to use. Try experimenting with vegetables and stews for warm, filling meals in winter.
--A colander: It's indispensable. Use it for all of the pasta you'll be making or for draining fruits and vegetables.
--A nonstick pot, pan and skillet: OK, that's three items, but you will need an assortment of pots and pans for stovetop cooking. Although you might be tempted, avoid buying the cheapest pots and pans you can find. They can be coated in chemicals that get into your food, and cheaper pans are likely to wear out quickly.
5 small utensils
--Measuring cups/spoons: While it's perfectly fine to experiment with your cooking, you might want to start off by measuring each ingredient. That way, you'll
know how to adjust the flavors for next time.
--A spatula (pancake flipper): It's a little like the Swiss army knife of kitchen tools. Get a nonstick spatula and use it for cooking eggs, flipping pancakes and burgers or as a serving tool.
--A cutting board: You might want a few in different sizes and thicknesses. Some are thin blocks of plastic, and others are thinner and can bend, allowing you to move food around easier and funnel it into pots and pans.
--A can opener: It's one of those small things that you forget about until you need it.
--Set of knives: Like the pots and pans, think about quality more than what's cheap. You can purchase a good set of knives, but there are three big ones to look for: a chef's knife, a bread knife and a paring knife.
5 cooking terms
--Braise: This involves cooking meat or vegetables in butter or oil until brown, then cooking it in a covered pot while immersed in cooking liquid on low heat for a long period. This tenderizes the meat and makes it more flavorful.
--Simmer: To cook slowly on a lower heat setting. This is common in sauces and other liquid-based dishes.
--Sear: Cooking quickly over very high heat, this seals in the juices of what you're cooking.
--Saute: To quickly cook over high heat.
--Steam: To cook over boiling water. This is actually better than boiling, as it retains more inherent nutrients.
5 staple foods
--Get in the habit of cracking out olive oil instead of butter. "(It's) a monounsaturated fat, which actually helps your cholesterol levels," Cormier said.
--Pasta: It's great to have in the pantry because it has a long shelf life and is easy to make. Pick up a few different noodle shapes -- and also other varieties. In particular, try whole grain pasta.
--Frozen vegetables: Cormier said there's no excuse for skipping out on vegetables. Use them as a side dish, or part of the entree, or even add them to soups to make your meals more hearty and filling.
--Chicken: It's basically the meat version of the potato: It's incredibly versatile. You can freeze it until you need it, and you can cook a large serving and use it throughout the week in other dishes such as soups, salads, pasta and sandwiches.
--Leafy greens: Making a salad isn't hard. While grocery stores usually sell plenty of bagged varieties for a shortcut, it's a lot more cost-effective to buy fresh heads of lettuce or spinach leaves and make a salad yourself.
5 herbs and spices
--Garlic powder: Garlic is both tasty and good for you. When you're low on time, add garlic powder to your dish when you can't crush or mince fresh garlic.
--Basil: You'll quickly learn how well basil and tomato go together. It works wonders in Italian dishes and on pizza, so give it a try.
--Lemon pepper: Great for chicken and fish dishes, this spice adds a bite of citrus for some zing.
--Crushed red pepper flakes: Another versatile spice, you can add it to just about anything for a nice kick of heat.
--Some seasoning blend: Think Italian seasoning or any of the other numerous options for adding flavor to food. Experiment and see what kinds you like, and what you like to use them for.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1/2 cup pine nuts
4 ripe beefsteak tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (packed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 pound angel hair pasta
Bring large pot of water to boil for pasta.
Place small skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add pine nuts, cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes or until nuts begin to brown and are fragrant. Remove from heat and pour nuts into serving bowl. Chop tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces and add to pine nuts along with olive oil, lemon juice, basil, salt and pepper. Add pasta to the boiling water, cook and stir until al dente according to package directions. Drain and add to tomato mixture in bowl. Toss gently and serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon all-purpose seasoning
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup red wine
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Coat a large skillet with vegetable oil spray. Place chicken on skillet, being careful not to crowd the meat.
In separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Pour mixture over chicken. Cook over medium-high heat 10 to 12 minutes, then turn chicken and simmer 8 minutes.
Makes 4 servings
1 package (10 ounces) frozen strawberries, thawed
1/2 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 quart vanilla-flavored frozen yogurt
In blender or food processor, combine strawberries, raspberries, vanilla and lemon juice. Blend or process until smooth.
Spoon yogurt into 4 dessert dishes and top with strawberry sauce. Sauce can be covered and stored in refrigerator up to 4 days.
Note: Recipe yields thick sauce. If thinner sauce is desired, add 1 tablespoon of water to blender or processor until desired consistency is reached.