Today, I’m sharing with you my first ever cookbook review! for my first review, I chose a cookbook that reflects my goals for this blog. The cookbook shares easy to make, affordable, and nutritious foods and is directed towards university/college-level students who are living on their own for the first time.
The College Student’s Guide to Easy, Healthy and Delicious Food
By Nisa Burns
List price: $17.95
Kitchenability 101 is a book after my own heart. Author Nisa Burns, recently a student herself, writes about healthy, affordable, and easy to make recipes for students (both who are experienced or new to cooking)
The book is divided into seven chapters that help the reader choose the right food for the right occasion:
- Wake-Up Call
- Grab and Go
- Choose Your Major
- Amazing Grazing
- Cram Sessions and Study Groups
The orientation section is especially helpful for beginner cooks. It lists the equipment you will need (indicating whether it is appropriate for a kitchen or a dorm room), cooking techniques you will use for the recipes in this book, and other very helpful information. It reminded me that I really need to buy a whisk!
The recipe sections are very well thought out to accommodate the student lifestyle. The Wake-Up Call section is filled with quick, easy, and healthy breakfasts, the Grab and Go section features easy to make food that you can take to class, meetings, etc. The Choose Your Major and Amazing Grazing sections feature main course meals (likely intended for dinner, but great whenever you have time to make them). The Cram Sessions and Study Groups and Party! sections feature foods that you would make in large batches and is easy to share.
Because this book has a strong focus on sharing food with others and is directed towards new cooks, I would have liked to see a bit more about common food-related allergies or intolerances. This sort of information could help the reader identify which foods are or are not acceptable for a particular occasion.
I love the way that Nisa introduces each recipe. That is, each one is introduced with a short personal narrative about the context in which she prepared and served the recipe. For example, the Pumpkin Muffins, which I’ve tested and will share with you later in this post, she tells the reader about a Halloween party she attended with her boyfriend, the costumes they wore, and the food they contributed. This story is very relatable for the reader because of the common scenario and her casual writing style. Her casual approach to writing helps make the recipes seem feasible for the readers. In fact, I chose to bake the pumpkin muffins first because I find baking challenging, and second because Nisa made them sound so easy to prepare, I figured that even I could make these and it would turn out alright.
I love the way that Nisa has thoughtfully organized each recipe. Most recipes have a three-page layout. The first page (on the left side of the book) is a list of ingredients, the second page is a vibrant and gorgeous photo of the final product, and the third page is the directions. Why do I like this setup? Because it makes it easy to have the book in the kitchen with you while you’re cooking. With the essential information on the left side of the book, you can place an object on the right side of the book to hold it open while you work, making easy to refer back to the ingredients and instructions pages.
In addition, the instructions are clear and easy to follow. The cooking techniques are common and written in plain language. And the ingredients are all common, easy to find items that a student could likely afford to purchase at their local grocery store.
Testing a Recipe
Now for the fun part of the review… I tested the Pumpkin Muffin recipe!
As I’ve mentioned many times before, baking is not my specialty. I tend to stick to cooking meals and will avoid making a dessert or breakfast that involves ingredients such as flour, baking powder, sugar, etc, in combination.
So why, then, did I choose to make these muffins? Because it was a challenge, because I consider myself a beginner in this category, and because I wanted to see whether Nisa’s recipe and directions could help me become a better baker.
I stuck to the exact recipe. I had most of the ingredients readily available in my pantry or fridge. I did have to add cream cheese to my grocery list for the week because it’s something I normally don’t keep on hand.
I made the muffins first thing in the morning before a day full of classes and left them on the counter to cool all day. The cat knows not to get on the counters, so I wasn’t worried that she would be interested and sneak a taste. Instead, when I got home, Bryan greeted me at the door telling me how wonderful the pumpkin muffins were. Oops! I had forgotten to mention to him that they were not ready for sampling. No worries though, it was just one.
How could I be upset? I was already ecstatic that they had turned out! They were perfectly cooked through, moist, and no lumps of flour. Hooray!
I made the frosting that evening and frosted the muffins (leaving a few unfrosted just in case) and then put the muffins to the test!
One for myself, one for Bryan, and I packed one up to share with a classmate.
I thought the frosting was too sweet (and I was a bit worried about the possible negative effects of the dairy with my lactose sensitivity). However, the unfrosted muffins were amazing and I enjoyed them very much. Bryan enjoyed the muffins either way. He liked them without the frosting as a breakfast food and with the frosting for a snack or dessert. My classmate tried the frosted muffin and loved it! She even asked if I could share the recipe with her. I assured her it would be making an appearance on the blog.
My overall impression of the recipe?
- Easy to make
- Ingredients I would (mostly) have on hand and are readily available at the store
- Delicious (and moist) snack for breakfast or dessert
- Recipe is clear and easy to follow
- Smells delicious when baking and it was nice to come home to the smell permeating my apartment
- Looked very pretty without too much effort (remember, I’m not great at baking, so I don’t have much experience decorating baked goods)
And, at long last, here is the recipe!
Recipe is posted with permission from PR by the Book – Austin
What You Need
To make the muffins
- 3 1/3 cups flour – approximate cost $1.75
- 2 tsp baking soda – approximate cost $0.10
- 1 1/2 tsp salt – approximate cost $0.15
- 2 cups canned pumpkin – approximate cost $2.00
- 2/3 cup water
- 1 cup vegetable oil – approximate cost $1.00
- 4 eggs – approximate cost $1.00
- 1 1/2 cups sugar – approximate cost $1.00
- 1 tsp cinnamon – approximate cost $0.10
- 1 tsp nutmeg – approximate cost $0.10
- 1/4 tsp grated fresh ginger or a dash or dried – approximate cost $0.10
To make the frosting
- 8 oz cream cheese – approximate cost $2.50
- Splash of milk – approximate cost $0.05
- 3 or 4 cups powdered sugar – approximate cost $1.00
- 2 tsp vanilla – approximate cost $0.50
What You Do
As with any cake batter, you mix the dry ingredients separately from the wet ingredients. Then you mix the dry and wet ingredients together by slowly adding the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Don’t try to mix them all together at one or your batter will be lumpy with bubbles of unmixed ingredients. Believe me, a bit of baking soda or salt is gross!
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix the pumpkin, water, vegetable oil, and eggs. Slowly add the sugar to the wet mixture, along with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
- Once all is mixed well, add the dry ingredients by half-cupfuls to the wet ingredients. Use an electric mixer on low to make sure the batter is completely mixed.
- Place paper cupcake holders in a muffin tin, then pour the batter into the muffin holders. Each should be about two-thirds full.
- Bake the muffins for 15 to 20 minutes, until they have risen. Use a knife to check the center; if it pulls out clean, they are done.
- While the muffins are in the oven, make the frosting. Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and add a splash of milk for a smoother consistency. Beat the mixture with an electric mixer.
- Once the cream cheese mixture is smooth, slowly add the powdered sugar and mix.
- Add the vanilla, and mix again until smooth.
- When the frosting is at a spreadable consistency, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature.
- Once the muffins are done, let them cool for approximately 40 minutes. Do not frost the muffins right away, or the heat will melt the frosting.
- Frost each muffin.
Makes one dozen muffins (approximate cost: $0.95 per serving).
Maybe I have a smaller thank average muffin tin, because this made 18 muffins (approximate cost: $0.63 per serving)!
But the big questions are: Would I recommend this cookbook? Would I make these muffins again?
Yes, I would, to both. This book is a great introduction to home cooking for students. It tells you what you need to start out depending on your living situation, features easy to make recipes, and readily available ingredients. Perhaps not as intentional, the recipes are affordable for students. While the recipes are mostly directed towards students who are learning to cook, there is much to offer for those who already know how to cook but are looking for recipes that are healthy, affordable, or just new to the reader. In addition, the book is affordable for its intended audience. It’s something a student could afford on their own or ask a family member to purchase for them at the next upcoming occasion.
As Nisa suggests, her Pumpkin Muffins are a great party food. I would make a double batch of the muffins to share with others (half frosted, half not to suit a variety of tastes). I would make them just for Bryan and I to pack with our lunches or as a quick breakfast before catching the bus to school.