Gustatory gifts for the graduate

Catharine L. Kaufman
Catharine L. Kaufman

Concerned parents of college-bound grads want culinary guidance to pass along to their kids. Here’s a primer to help put the skids on the Freshman 15 and those disastrous dorm diets in general, with some student-friendly gadgets and simple, healthful recipes to fuel the brain and the brawn.

Study Buddies

College students would welcome kitchen gizmos to simplify meal preparation, and produce food and beverages to fortify and keep them alert. Start with an espresso-maker for ‘round-the-clock pick me-ups, especially during mid-term and finals weeks.

The coffee bean is an antioxidant warrior packed with vitamins and minerals. Its brain-friendly caffeine is linked to boosting short-term memory and increasing focus and problem-solving skills.

For teetotalers, offer a stainless steel electric teakettle for invigorating brews.

Other good choices include an air popcorn-maker for high fiber, a panini press to use for hearty, protein-packed grilled sandwiches, a powerful smoothie blender that can handle frozen and uncut fruits for a dose of antioxidant phytonutrients, and a sieve that attaches to a pot’s lip for easy draining and straining pasta and veggies.

Ramen Review

Ramen noodles, a dorm staple for decades now, comes in organic and GMO-free versions. For an antioxidant boost when the immune system gets a little ragged from exam cramming and all-nighters, toss in broccoli florets, green and red pepper slices, shredded cabbage and a squirt of lemon juice.

For some new twists, crush raw noodles and sprinkle on mandarin chicken or green salads for a crispy crunch, or blend cooked noodles with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese for an Italian riff; peanut sauce for a take on Thai; a yoghurt dill sauce for a Mediterranean flavor; or prepare Ramen traditionally with your favorite healthy protein (deep-sea scallops, wild shrimp, organic chicken breast).

Spam Protection

Another dorm delight, this canned classic gets its name from its blended “Spicy Ham” ingredients: a gelatinous chunk of pig shoulder combined with salt, sugar and sodium nitrite. For die-hard Spam fans there’s better versions, including Spam Lite with 33 percent fewer calories and 50 percent less fat, Low Sodium Spam, and Oven Roasted Turkey Spam (made from turkey breast with the lowest fat and sodium content) makes it the healthiest Spam alternative.

Pot (and Pan) Heads

Dorm kitchens should be outfitted with stainless steel or copper pots and pans, which are the safest and best conductors of heat. Non-stick surfaces, like the trademarked Teflon brand, can release toxic substances into the food when the surface becomes scratched. Iron skillets also leach metal into the vittles, which can be dangerous for carnivores, who already have an abundance of iron in their bodies.

Crash Cooking Course

These four meals a-go-go get an “A” in my cookbook.

1) Express Eggplant Caviar

Ingredients

1 large eggplant

2 Persian cucumbers, diced

1/2 small red onion, diced

1 Roma tomato, diced

Juice from half a lemon

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method: Preheat oven to 375 F and place the eggplant on a cookie sheet. Pierce with a fork and bake until tender. Cool and scoop out the flesh. Puree in a blender and add remaining ingredients. Serve with pita chips or Middle Eastern flat bread.

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