5 Recipes I Learned in College and Still Use Today

published Oct 1, 2014
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Ah, college cooking. It brings to mind such sophisticated fare as Rice Krispie treats (eaten straight out of the bowl, of course), thick dining hall chili, boxed brownie mixes and the like.

For me, college was when I really figured out that I liked to cook, so my memories actually include somewhat sophisticated foods like homemade pita bread, baba ghanoush, gnocchi, and risotto. I found a few favorite recipes along the way that I still use today — read on to find out which ones!

The beauty of these recipes is that each is easy enough to tackle in a poorly-stocked kitchen or dorm room with a hot plate or a blender, but they still pack plenty of flavor and are worth making even after college.

1. Baked Lemon Chicken

The title really doesn’t do this one justice. It actually came from the Healthy College Cookbook (which I still own, believe it or not), and it results in flavorful, moist chicken every time. Simply season chicken breasts (or a whole chicken) with salt and pepper, cover with lemon juice, a splash of olive oil and a few slices of garlic before baking. A few lemon slices on top help keep the chicken from drying out, especially when using chicken breasts.

2. Pita Bread & Hummus

I remember the moment I first made pita bread because it set off the fire alarm in my rickety kitchen. I had wanted to recreate a meal from a favorite Lebanese restaurant from home and set out on an ambitious menu, probably finishing up around 10pm. My boyfriend at the time asked if we could order pizza next time. Suffice to say that relationship did not last.

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3. Brownies

I remember the look on my roommates’ faces when I said I was going to make brownies from scratch. To them, from scratch meant from a box, and I’m sure they thought I was making things unnecessarily complicated. Brownies (as with pancakes and other boxed mixes) aren’t much more effort to make from scratch, and while they lack that “crack” quality the processed box mixes can give, they’re pretty damn tasty.

4. Rotisserie Chicken Stew

This recipe seemed genius at the time. It’s a shortcut chicken and tomato stew, with chopped kalamata olives, chickpeas, served over couscous flavored with cinnamon and orange juice. Using a rotisserie chicken helps it come together in no time, and I promise it doesn’t taste very “college” (aka bland and boring).

5. Nachos

We didn’t tailgate much at Syracuse (snow, always snow), but plummeting temperatures outside meant lots of time indoors, snacking. I never much cared for the gooey nachos I’d had at stadiums and cheesy (ha ha) Mexican restaurants, so when my roommate told me she was making some I wasn’t very interested.

But what came out of the oven changed my view of nachos forever — crisp tortilla chips layered with ground beef, sharp cheddar, pickled jalapeños and fresh tomatoes, all topped with Wegmans salsa. The best part is that it doesn’t require a recipe, just lots of layers and plenty of cheese.

What are your tried-and-true college recipes?