Cooking Tips for the College Bound

This one's for the college kids, the moms of college kids and, well, the ones who don't know how to cook. The problem? You're 18, you're going to college, and you've never cooked a day in your life. Do you even know how to boil water? Is plastic-covered cheese the only cheese you know?

We're pretty sure that mom would be a lot happier if your diet consisted of something more than beer, bagel bites, and burritos. Here are your cooking tips from a local college student who had never even eaten a sandwich before leaving for college. Now, he's a grill master and trier of all things, even the obscure, like pate and sweetbreads. No culinary training needed, just common sense and a little bit of patience.

Here are my tips for easing into the line of fire:

Keep cooking simple

and fun. Yes, cooking may be daunting, but if you don't approach it too seriously, it can actually be fun. Remember also that trial and error are part of the process. If you need to, read a book. Have you ever heard of Cooking for Dummies?

Don't be afraid to try new things. The worst that could happen is that it'll taste really bad. You can always give it to the dog or your friends as a practical joke. To ease yourself into new items that you've never tried before (for example, Gouda cheese), either Google it or take a risk and buy it at the supermarket. You'll never know until you try it. Every time I go to the supermarket, I buy something that I've never tried before to build my sense of taste.

Eggs are your best friend. If you know how to cook a perfect egg, you're pretty much on the road to great cooking. Plus, they're good to eat at any time.

Keep sides simple. You can find ready made sides at the supermarket's prepared foods section or in the freezer section.

Make a lot of food at the beginning of the week. It'll last you all week long and you only have to cook once.

Use common sense. If you like chicken, mushrooms, and tomatoes, cook them all together in a saute pan with olive oil. Chicken with pudding and gummi bears not so much. Well, maybe if you're drunk.

Pound on the salt. Don't be afraid to use too much of an ingredient. The cooking process kills a lot of flavor out of food. I promise that you're still not using enough salt.

Learn from the best. Spend a weekend in the kitchen with mom or grandma before you leave for school.

Manly men cook too. If cooking doesn't cut it for you because you're a man, then -- if you have the room and the money -- get a grill and cook your food on that.

Fast food is not sexy. Try to avoid fast food as much as possible. Less reasons for gaining the Freshman 15.

The taste of home sweet home. Have your family send over food that you can't find in your area supermarkets. I can never find good tortillas or "Latin" refried beans, so they send it over to me. I always have a taste of home away from home.

Buy the essentials: one pot, two pans, one colander, one hot plate if you live in a dorm, and assorted cooking utensils like a spatula, tongs, slotted spoon, etc.

Can't-live-without ingredients: Salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, assortment of herbs, chicken, pasta, ready-made pasta sauce, deli meats, eggs, pancake mix, assorted veggies.

GTS. When in doubt, GTS. (Google that shit.) You'd be surprised that there's a YouTube video for practically everything you have a question for.

Once you get comfortable in the kitchen, you'll be able to get adventurous and try new things. Before you know it, you'll be the master of your own kitchen.

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