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Clueless in the kitchen

by Archives September 28, 2005

Moving away from your parents’ home may be satisfying on many levels, but having to forgo Mom’s homemade cooking falls on the “not so fun” list of living on your own. Some particularly kind mothers supply their favorite, hungry students with a variety of frozen meals. Others are not so lucky. The following is a survival guide for those left to fend for themselves, or those who are simply adventurous.

The first step in confronting a kitchen is to make sure you have everything you need. Certain cooking utensils are essential when it comes to preparing a meal.

Kitchen Essential Number 1: Wooden Spoons. These handy tools can be purchased for as little as a dollar in the Dollarama on Ste. Catherine St. West of the downtown campus. They can be used for stirring a variety of mixtures. They are great when used in hot substances because they don’t transmit heat. When washing wooden spoons try not to let them sit in soapy water. The soap takes away the natural oils of the wood and makes them more brittle.

Kitchen Essential Number 2: Mixing Bowls. Have you ever tried to mix pancake batter in a soup bowl? Not very practical. Mixing bowls can be used to mix anything you want, from salad to cake batter to an omelet. You can pick up a set of mixing bowls in stores such as Zellers or Winners or Wal-Mart. Sometimes you can find some really sexy stainless steel bowls at Winners for the same price you’d find more boring ones at Zellers. You’ve just got to be patient and sift your way through all the kitschier items.

Kitchen Essential Number 3: Potato Peeler. Having a potato peeler is not something you necessarily think of in your initial kitchen furnishing, but it’ll save a lot of frustration when peeling potatoes, carrots, apples, cucumbers and any other hard skinned fruit or vegetable. A peeler can be picked up along with your groceries the next time you are at the store or you can buy one at Dollarama or Zellers. If your pockets are feeling a little heavy, you can go to a store such as Zone, located at 4246 rue St-Denis, where you can find funkier versions of the potato peeler, but be ready to pay the price of a designer peeler.

Kitchen Essential Number 4: Sharp Knives. Having to work with blunt kitchen knives is not only frustrating but can also be dangerous. They are more likely to slip on smoother surfaces and cut your fingers instead. Although quality kitchen knives can cost up to $250 per knife, you can buy sharp knives in your grocery store or Zellers. Costco often has knife-set promotions. Knives with serrated edges usually stay sharp longer but they cannot be sharpened once they become dull.

Kitchen Essential Number 5: Can Opener. This item may seem quite obvious, but it’s an important one to remember. Having to use your Swiss Army knife to open a can of tomato soup really is not practical, besides, the Swiss Army knife will make a dangerous mess of the lid. You can pick up a can opener at the grocery store. The newest version of the can opener takes the lid of the can off completely, leaving all edges relatively blunt.

Kitchen Essential Number 6:Spices. Although store bought spice racks sometimes come with a number of useful spices, someone who is trying their hand in the kitchen for the first time may not know what to do with most of these ground herbs, seeds and roots. Here are the basic spices and what they can be used for.

Basil and parsley can be used in just about anything. They will add some flavor to a meal. These are very mild spices so recipes will often call for quite a bit. Fresh basil is excellent on tomatoes. Sprinkle some chopped fresh basil, salt and pepper on tomato and mayo toast for a gourmet snack.

Oregano is sometimes known as the pizza spice because it’s often found on pizzas. This spice is usually imported from places such as Mexico so it is more expensive than locally grown spices. It’s also tasty in a tomato sauce of any sort.

Cinnamon is a dessert spice. Sprinkle it on apples or other fruits and it will add a distinctive taste to your dessert. Small amounts of cinnamon can be added to red meat broths as well. You can also add it to your French toast batter (see recipe below).

Although salt is not a spice perce, sea salt has a very different taste than table salt. You can really taste the difference when it is sprinkled on raw veggies or used in meat rubs.

Here are a couple of recipes that are easy to prepare, healthy and not too time consuming. If you can, always make extras for another meal.

(Insert your name here)’s Personalized Pita Pizza’s

Serves 1 person

Pre-heat oven at 350F

1 Pita Bread

1/2 cup grated Mozzarella Cheese

1 small can of pizza sauce (you can replace the sauce by prefab pasta sauce)

Pepperoni or ham slices

Any variety of pizza toppings. Be imaginative, use artichoke hearts, olives, sun dried tomatoes, feta cheese or pineapple. Don’t just stick to the basics.

Chop up the ingredients and spread them to your liking over the pita bread.

Cook on a baking sheet until cheese is golden, approximately 10-15 minutes.

If you’re pressed for time you can just broil the pizza but the sauces may not be as hot. If you broil, stay in front of the stove!! Fires start easily at such high temperatures!

Curry Coconut Chicken

Serves 1 person

1 Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast

1 teaspoon curry paste (this can be bought in the oriental section of your supper market. It usually comes in mild, medium hot or very hot)

1 can of coconut milk.

Egg noodles or rice

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Heat the oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat.

Put water on to boil for the pasta or rice and cook according to the directions.

Chop the chicken into thin strips.

Cook the chicken in the pan until it is cooked through and juices run clear.

Add the coconut milk and curry paste.

Let simmer over medium low heat stirring occasionally until pasta or rice is ready.

Serve curry chicken on pasta or rice.

If you want you can add onions, carrots or cauliflower to the curry mixture. Just add them at the same time as the curry and coconut milk.

Golden French Toast

4 peices of bread

3 eggs,

3/4 cups of milk,

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Wisk wet ingredients and cinnamon in flat, rimmed platter.

Dip a piece of bread and cook on buttered frying pan until golden. Serve with maple syrup or butter and lemon juice.

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