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Easy Cuisine for the New Grad

A recent grad's guide to cooking post-college food that is actually fit for human consumption.

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Few things are harder on the palate than four years of college. Meals are at the mercy of severely limited funds, and that hyper-reliance on resourcefulness that makes it possible to scrape together three meals a day can at best yield something blandly inoffensive, and at worst has the uncanny ability to make even the plate wince.

But because the allure of ramen mixed with three-day-old pizza and Tabasco sauce is fleeting to say the least, we'd like to offer you some quick, inexpensive and delicious meals for those of you dining alone or with friends.


Pasta with Spinach

Very easy -- and almost too pretty to eat!

  • 1 pound tricolor pasta (shells or rotini)
  • 1/2 pound spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • 8 or 16 ounces stewed tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 cup provolone, shredded
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Italian seasoning
  • Parsley

Bring one 16-quart pot of water to a boil. Add pasta, spinach (if frozen), cook until pasta is firm yet tender and spinach has thawed. Drain. If using fresh spinach, saute with garlic and olive oil in a separate pan and set aside.

Return 1/3 of the cooked pasta and spinach to the pot. Add 1/3 of the tomatoes, mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, red wine vinegar, Italian seasoning, basil, and parsley. Repeat twice, layering pasta so flavors blend and cheese melts throughout. Stir to mix all ingredients, serve immediately.

Serves 5.

Dan's Clam Sauce

Quick and delicious.

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • Chopped parsley
  • 1 cup minced clams or mussels, with liquid
  • Oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound pasta (thin spaghetti or linguini)

Heat olive oil in a skillet with 3 tablespoons water. Add garlic cloves and cook 5 minutes over low heat. Add parsley, clams, and oregano. Heat until bubbling, approximately 5 minutes. Serve at once over hot cooked pasta.

Serves 4.

Best Macaroni and Cheese

The original and best (substitute your favorite cheeses to make a dish that best suits your tastes).

  • 1 pound macaroni, cooked and drained
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • 1 cup grated cheddar
  • 1/2 cup parmesan or romano
  • Milk (no more than 1/4 cup)
  • Bread crumbs (no more than 1/4 cup)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Parsley

Place a thin layer of milk over the bottom of baking pan. Add half of the macaroni, cover with half of the cheese over the top. Add rest of macaroni over the first layer, cover well with remainder of cheese. Add bread crumbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and parsley as you like. Carefully pour remainder of milk over the mixture. Bake in 350-degree oven, approximately 25-35 minutes or until cheese and bread crumbs are golden brown.

Serves 3.

MEALS FOR THE WEEK (for those who love leftovers)

Slow Cook Chicken

This meal, delicious in itself, will provide lots of leftovers for the week -- which can be transformed into chicken salad, chicken soup, open-faced chicken sandwiches -- the possibilities are endless.

  • 4 or 5 pounds whole roasting chicken
  • Red wine vinegar or Italian salad dressing
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Poultry seasoning

In a small roasting pan, marinate chicken in salad dressing, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, and poultry seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for two to three hours before cooking.

Put in oven at 275 degrees for two hours. Increase heat to 350 degrees for the third and final hour. Baste regularly throughout cooking time.

Serves 6.

Chicken in Wine Sauce

Easy to make and very tasty.

  • 3 or 4 pounds chicken parts
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, cut in rings
  • Italian seasoning
  • Poultry seasoning
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper

Rinse chicken parts well, place in 3-quart baking pan. Add seasonings as desired, place onion on top of chicken pieces to flavor the meat. Marinate chicken in wine, vinegar, and olive oil for two to three hours before baking (cover and refrigerate). Bake in 350-degree oven for 1 1/2 hours or until meat's juices run clear.

Serves 4.

Long Carrot Stew

Great for cold winter nights.

  • 2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (1 pound) can tomatoes, cut up
  • 3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 (10 1/2 oz.) can condensed beef broth
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 medium carrots, pared and cut into strips
  • 3 medium potatoes, pared and quartered
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery

Brown beef cubes on all sides in hot oil in large skillet. Add onion, tomatoes, tapioca, beef broth, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Bring mixture to a boil. Turn into 3-quart casserole pan. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake in 350-degree oven for 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender.

Add carrots, potatoes, and celery. Continue baking, covered, for one hour or until vegetables are tender.

Serves 6-8.


Eggs for a Crowd

A breakfast staple -- also works for dinner.

  • 1/2 loaf day-old Italian bread or 1 bag croutons
  • 1 1/2 dozen eggs
  • 16 ounces assorted cheeses (mix milds and sharps for best effect)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup raw mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup raw green or red pepper
  • 1/2 cup raw onion
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced

Grease a 9x13 rectangular casserole pan well. Fill the bottom with croutons or bread. In a blender, mix eggs, cheese, salt, pepper, and milk, just enough to stretch the eggs and ensure the baked mixture will be fluffy (blending may have to be done in shifts depending on blender size). Set aside.

Add mushrooms, peppers, onions, and other vegetables (improvise!) on top of bread or croutons in the pan, then pour egg mixture on top (roughly 2/3 to the top of the pan). If desired, place a few strips of raw bacon and sliced tomatoes on the top.

Bake 40-45 minutes in 375-degree oven. Check if the middle is cooked by inserting a knife (should come out clean).

Serves 8-12.

Writer Sarah Pascarella owes a famished eGrad staff a good meal.

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