Pros: Manageable recipes for College students
Cons: More basic kitchen knowledge should have been covered.
College Vegetarian Cooking is a cookbook written by college students, for college students. The authors, Megan and Jill Carle, share their own recipes, tips, and advice with other students who are trying to eat healthy in college. In addition to the full color photos, the book includes a wide variety of recipes that will suit most students’ tastes, whether or not they are vegetarian. More importantly, the recipes are designed to fit the unique circumstance of most college students including tight budgets, lack of time, and shared kitchen space—ahhh, college life. The recipes are suitable for vegetarians who consume dairy and eggs, with a narrower selection spread throughout the book for those with stricter regimens. But generally, consumers looking for a nice collection of vegetarian recipes for themselves or their favorite college student will enjoy this book.
There are some major benefits of having college students writing for their peers; the most obvious being that the authors would be intimately familiar with the tastes, needs, limitations, and resources of other students. As such, the authors provide many simple recipes that can be made in a dorm or apartment kitchen, such as potato skins, wraps, and soups. However, the authors also go beyond the college norm to provide affordable recipes that are meant to impress. For example, the authors include recipes for fettuccini with asparagus, eggplant parmesan, and even mushroom ravioli in browned butter. With recipes for snack foods, healthy foods, comfort foods and desserts, College Vegetarian Cooking provides students with a full range of meal possibilities.
The authors also help college students develop their home-economics skills. By following the included shopping and cooking tips, students will find themselves saving both money and time. Encouraging the use of leftovers in fried rice or shepherds pie, buying pre-shredded cheese in bulk, and even simple tips for keeping pots clean while cooking poached eggs, are just some of the numerous notes included in this book. In this respect, then, College Vegetarian Cooking is not just a good “vegetarian” cookbook, but also a useful “college cookbook.”
Now while a cookbook written by college students, for college students, has some tremendous advantages, there are a few drawbacks that need to be highlighted. Most notably is the authors’ lack of attention to detail in certain instances.
First, the health implications of starting a vegetarian diet were never discussed. The authors write from the perspective that their readers are already vegetarians, familiar with the nutritional facts and knowledge that make the lifestyle possible. However, many people first become vegetarian during their college years, without any prior experience. While eliminating meat from their diets can be a healthy choice, doing so improperly can have negative physical consequences. So, by writing a book that promotes and aides this dietary change, the authors should have, at minimum, provided some basic nutritional facts or directed their readers to resources that do.
Next, despite baby-stepping their young audience through kitchen set-up, some important points are botched. For instance, in identifying which tools are required in the kitchen, and which are merely useful to have, the authors list an electric blender as “necessary,” while cutting boards are only “helpful.” In the same breath, however, they acknowledge that cutting on the kitchen counter will ruin your knives and be bad for your countertops. Worse, they fail to realize the unsanitary conditions in which shared counter-tops normally exist, the risk of counter-top shavings or chips becoming mixed in with your food, and the possible loss of a rental deposit from damage. While having an electric blender in college is nice, surely a sanitary cutting board is more deserving of the title “necessary.”
Finally, food safety and sanitation is not mentioned in the least—a rather confusing omission considering the authors’ realization of their audience’s skill level. True, salmonella is most likely to spread while handling chicken, not vegetables. However, even poorly washed produce and careless food preparation can cause food-born illness. Granted, most readers do not expect a chapter on safety and sanitation in every cookbook. Yet, considering the authors’ otherwise acute awareness of the need to discuss even the most basic cooking information for their audience, the exclusion of food safety is rather noticeable.
Fortunately, these and other drawbacks are mostly limited to the introductory and side-bar information. This means that the recipes themselves are not negatively affected in any way. The results of these recipes will be just as appetizing whether the drawbacks existed or not. However, they were important enough to point out to those consumers who were considering this book to boost their own vegetarian or kitchen knowledge.
Regardless, having access to easy and healthy recipes in the dorm is something every college student should have. The fact that the recipes are meant to be vegetarian will quickly be forgotten by anyone thumbing through the tempting recipes. And, the authors truly do a nice job of keeping the cooking process simple and affordable. With just a little effort, college students can soon enjoy baked zucchini fries, various pastas, pot stickers, pizza, and even an assortment of desserts. The naturally lower fat and calorie recipes will really benefit their health, even when attempting to drown their stress with a pre- or post-exam binge. So, for a good collection of flavorful vegetarian recipes that are affordable, easy to prepare, and specially suited for college life, give College Vegetarian Cooking a try.
ZUCCHINI CAKES WITH HORSERADISH SAUCE
2 green onions
2 tsp. horseradish
1 tsp. milk
1 small clove garlic
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. flour, plus additional ¼ c.
1 tbsp. canola oil
Method:Cut off and discard the roots of the green onions, and cut the whites, with about 1 inch of the greens, into thin slices. Place half the sliced green onions, mayonnaise, horseradish, and milk in a small bowl and stir until well combined. Reserve the rest of the sliced green onions. Cut off the ends of the zucchini and discard. Grate the zucchini and place it on a paper towel. Wrap the paper towel around the zucchini and squeeze over the sink to remove excess liquid. Peel and finely chop the garlic or pass it through a garlic press. Lightly beat the egg yolk in a large bowl. Add the reserved green onions, the garlic, and 1 tablespoon of the flour. Gently stir in the zucchini and season with salt and pepper. Put the ¼ cup of flour into a small, flat dish. Form the zucchini mixture into 2 balls, dip the balls into the dish of flour so that they are coated all over, and flatten them slightly to form the cakes. Heat the canola oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add the zucchini cakes, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Place the zucchini cakes on a plate and top with the sauce.