Many students in university choose to fend for themselves when it comes to meal preparation. Sometimes students may not feel like cooking because they either do not know how to cook or they are too busy. Finding suitable recipes can also be a challenge. Cooking for yourself is not as difficult as you may think. Once you have a few basic kitchen supplies, spices and a few simple recipes, making your own meals can be simple, economical and fun. Today's session will focus on how to be a successful cook when preparing meals for one or two persons. Key topics to be discussed include how to be a smart shopper, the meaning of common cooking terms and a quick lesson in recipe reading.
To educate university students on the ease of cooking and shopping for one or two persons.
At the end of this session, participants will:
- Feel more confident in cooking for one or two persons.
- Have knowledge of the basic ingredients and utensils recommended to set up a kitchen.
- Know the basics in recipe reading and how to be a smart shopper.
- Be shown how to prepare a simple recipe for one or two persons.
|| 15 Minutes
Suggested Background Reading for Presenters
- Food Smarts: A Shopper's Guide to Healthy Food Choices, Middlesex-London Health Unit, 1990.
- Nutrition Matters: Best Buys in the Four Food Groups, Middlesex-London Health Unit.
- PENS: Cooking for One
- Kitchen Basics
- Cooking Terms
- Recipe: Fajita in a Pita
- Suggested Handouts
- Recipe: Fajita in a Pita
- Little Tips for Big Successes
- Endless Variety of Skillet Casseroles, Ottawa-Carleton Health Department and Middlesex London Health Unit.
- Nutrition Matters: How to use leftovers, Ottawa-Carleton Health Department and Middlesex London Health Unit, 1995.
Basic Kitchen Tools
[If available, set up a table displaying basic kitchen supplies and
review them with the students.]
Meet the Utensils:
You require only a few, inexpensive utensils to furnish your basic kitchen.
- one large pot to boil pasta, cook chili, and boil corn-on-the-cob
- two saucepans with lids to heat pasta sauce, steam vegetables and cook small amounts of food.
- two non-stick frying pans to fry eggs and hamburgers. A larger pan can also serve as a wok
- Baking Sheet
- Casserole Dish
- Stainless steel mixing bowls - 1 large bowl for muffin mixes and 1small bowl to mix liquids or beat eggs
- Spoons/Utensils - wooden spoons of different sizes, a soup ladle, lifter, slotted and unslotted spoons, rubber spatulas of
different sizes, tongs, potato masher, a set of measuring spoons and cups, paring knife, potato peeler, chef's knife and can opener (Not all these items are a must)
- 2 cup glass measuring cup for measuring liquid ingredients
- Chopping boards - washable plastic for meat and fish
- Cheese grater
- Electric hand-held mixer
- Toaster oven
A toaster oven is convenient because it lets you bake one or two servings without heating a large stove oven. When buying pans, it is important to choose sizes which will hold the amounts of foods you usually cook. If a pan has a cover, it should fit securely and the cover knobs on the lids and handles should be of non-heat conducting material. It is wise to buy equipment which can fulfill more than one task and one should focus on versatility when buying cooking equipment. As well, choose the best quality that you can afford.
How to be a Smart Shopper
An important part of preparing good meals for one or two people begins with buying the right amounts and types of groceries. To do this, it is useful to keep a memo pad handy in your kitchen to jot down needed food items. Remember to add foods that are on sale as a reminder to make sure you take advantage of the special offer when you are at the store. When planning meals, try to plan a week ahead. Check the extras in your menu that you will need to buy and add these to old favourites.
Making a List
Making a shopping list is very important because it helps to add variety to your menu and allows you to take advantage of bargains. It may also cut down on impulse buying and you won't be shocked by the cash register figure when you arrive at the check-out.
One way to spice up your daily menu is to include a new food, a new seasoning or a new preparation technique to old menu favourites. In addition, organize the food items on your list as they are found in the grocery store or according to food groups to prevent back tracking.
- Aim to shop early in the day or during the middle of the week when stores are less crowded.
- To limit waste and cut total cost, buy only the amount of food you need or have space to store.
- Read food labels, if provided, so that you have a good understanding of how much fat and nutrients the products contain.
- Bulk food stores or bulk sections in grocery stores often have items which are less expensive than brand name items. (eg., dried fruit, seasoning, broth, nuts, cookies and snack foods)
- Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are often more economical than out-of-season produce.
- If you eat before shopping, you will be less tempted to buy "extras". You may find that those items purchased on an empty stomach may end up holding a permanent place in your cupboards.
- Note the "Best Before" dates. These dates show how long the food will be of best quality if stored correctly. "Best Before" dates appear on refrigerated items such as dairy products while fresh meat labels show dates of packaging.
What should I buy?
As a student on a budget, it is important to make smart food choices that are nutritious, economical and have a long shelf life. Examples include legumes (peas, beans and lentils), rice and pasta. There is a variety of basic food items which are good to have on hand.
[Review kitchen basics.]
Learn to read recipes carefully before you begin. Do you have all the ingredients? Is there something you should do first - melt chocolate, beat eggs, make pastry?
Before you start a recipe, check to make sure that the oven is turned on when you start preparation, so it will reach the correct temperature by the time food is ready to be baked. Take the time to assemble all of your ingredients and utensils before beginning recipe. This can save you a lot of time. If more than one menu item calls for chopped food, do all your chopping at once.
Cooking is simple as long as you can read the recipe. However, there are many cooking terms which are similar yet slightly different. Although a person can read a recipe, it is necessary for you to understand what it means.
Some recipe terms which may need clarification
Grated and Shredded
What is the difference? Grated as in grated lemon or orange peel means very fine particles. Shredded means small, long, narrow pieces.
Chopped food is cut into pieces about the size of peas. Diced food is cut in small cubes of uniform size and shape. Minced food means very finely chopped.
These are similar words but what is the difference? The phrase " cook just until boiling"... this indicates bubbles come to the surface, where they break. Bubbles form rapidly throughout the mixture when it has reached a full rolling or hard boil. If directions call for simmering, you'll use a lower temperature. Bubbles form at a much slower rate and burst before reaching surface. If the temperature is too high and mixture boils rather than simmers, liquid will evaporate too fast.
Beating makes a mixture creamy-smooth, or airy - you'll use a brisk whipping motion. To blend is simply to mix two or more ingredients till smooth and uniform. Stirring is mixing with a circular motion - around and around to combine ingredients until well blended or of uniform consistency. To cream is to beat with a spoon or mixer till smooth. Shortening and sugar are creamed till light and fluffy.
Soft peaks or stiff peaks
These make a difference when beating egg whites, for example in preparing meringue. First, the recipe directs to beat egg whites to soft peaks. The egg whites hold their shape when beaters are lifted but the peaks droop a bit. Sugar is added gradually as you beat to stiff peaks. Peaks stand up straight, but are moist and glossy. When asked to seal meringue to pastry, this is means you need to simply spread the meringue over the filling, touching the edge of the pastry all the way around, so as to seal out the air. This is important to prevent shrinking of meringue during baking time.
To saute onion is to cook it quickly in butter, margarine, or other fat until tender. Coating meat with a flour mixture before browning is called dredging. To poach fresh fruit or fish, simmer the food in hot liquid, watching to see that the food retains its shape. To puree is to sieve or blend cooked fruits or vegetables to make a smooth uniform mixture.
These terms are different. Cool is to remove food from heat and let stand at room temperature. Chill is to refrigerate food for a certain time period.
Tips on Cooking for One
- Cook for yourself as you would for others. Enjoy it and treat yourself to a nice meal occasionally.
- Prepare recipes for 4 - 6 persons and pre-portion leftovers. Pop in the freezer for other days.
- Buy one or two really good cookbooks for cooking for one or cooking for busy people and try different recipes.
- Plan weekly meals ahead of time.
- Find ways to cut corners. For example, if you are grilling chicken breast one night, cook 2 and use the left over to make fajitas or wraps the next night.
- Vary standby recipes often. For example, make a stir fry spicy one night, add bok choy or other interesting and different ingredients the next, change the flavour all together the next night and make it a Cajun stir fry.
- Make meal plans based on what you already have. For example, if you have purchased hoisin sauce for one recipe, find other recipes which call for the same sauce.
- Look on-line for ideas and recipes.
- Learn to enjoy cooking and make it a time for yourself.
- Organize a dinner club. Have a meal at a different person's room or house once a week so that you can try new things.
- Avoid food boredom at all cost. Boredom leads to ordering the same pizza 5 times a week.
- Learn to love and respect the food you put into your body. After all ... You are what you eat!
[Hand out "How to Use Leftovers" and discuss. Answer any questions and encourage group participation.]
[Hand out recipe for "Fajita in a Pita" and demonstrate. If on a time constraint, have any/all of the following ingredients available for participants to prepare personalized Fajitas:
[Flour Tortillas, Cooked Seasoned Chicken, Cooked Seasoned Beef, Sauteed Onions and Green Peppers, Guacamole, Diced Tomatoes, Cooked Mixed Beans, Grated Cheddar Cheese, Sour Cream, Salsa. Demonstrate the making of the first Fajita, discussing how this meal contains foods from all four food groups.]
Fajita in a Pita
- 1/2lb Chicken breast strips
- 1 tbsp Oil
- 2 cloves Garlic minced
- 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
- 1/2tsp Oregano
- 1 1/2tsp Cumin
- 1 Spanish or white onion,
halved and sliced
- 1 Red or Green pepper (or both) sliced
- 2 tbsp Lime Juice ( juice of 1 lime)
- 2 large Pita Pockets, cut in half
- Cut chicken into small 1" x 1/4" strips. Trimmed off visible fat.
- Heat oil in non-stick pan over high heat. Add chicken and garlic and
stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.
- Add Tabasco sauce, oregano and cumin. Stir-fry for two more minutes.
- Remove meat and add onion and peppers to pan and stir-fry for 4 minutes. If the pan is dry, add about 2 tbsp of water, to steam the vegetables.
- Return meat to pan, pour lime juice over mixture, toss and spoon into warmed pita pockets.
- Serve with shredded lettuce, low fat yogurt or light sour cream and salsa. Serves one or two people.
(Recipe adapted from Light and Easy Pork. produced by Ontario Pork, 1994.)
- Oil (e.g., olive, canola)
- Prepared mustard
- Baking Soda & PowderWorcestershire sauce
- Coffee and Tea Ketchup
- Whole grain bread
- Butter or Margarine
- Legumes (peas, beans, lentils)
- Mayonnaise/Salad dressing
- Canned Tuna & Salmon
- Canned Fruit
- Salad Dressing
- Frozen Vegetables
- Herbs and Spices
- chili powder
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- rosemary and basil
are just a few which are handy
- Grated and Shredded
- Soft peaks or stiff peaks