Fairfield Test Kitchen:

As the school year gets started, many of you might be facing a daunting prospect: living without a meal plan for the first time. Kitchens can be intimidating, but learning to cook is a great life skill, and can actually be really easy. In this column, I’ll break down simple, quick and cheap recipes that are perfect for cooking in college. To start, here are two of my old favorites:

Tortellini Soup (Servings: 4)

  • 6 cups /48 ounces of chicken broth (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 package cheese tortellini
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained
  • 2-3 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 6-10 basil leaves (Tip: Buy a basil plant instead of packaged herbs. It’s cost effective and you can use it all year)
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Optional: Parmesan cheese for garnish

Total Cost$14.78
Cost per serving$3.70

Directions: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot. Add the tortellini and cook according to the directions on the package. Reduce to a simmer. Add the chopped tomatoes and the drained can of beans. Simmer until heated thoroughly, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in basil leaves and balsamic vinegar. If desired, sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top of each bowl.

Chicken and Peppers (Servings: 4)

  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into strips
  • (Tip: Use breasts for a healthier option.)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bell peppers, roughly chopped
  • One 29-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 3-4 servings cooked rice
  • Oregano to taste

Total Cost$12.75
Cost per serving$3.20 

Directions: Saute the onion, garlic and peppers in olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat until onion is translucent and peppers are beginning to soften. Add the chicken strips and cook until they are no longer pink and can easily be cut with a knife. Add the jar of tomato sauce (sometimes I don’t use the entire jar – you want a sauce, not a soupy texture). When the sauce begins to bubble, add the oregano. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes, keeping an eye on the sauce to prevent it from bubbling over. Serve over rice of your choice. If you like spicier food, add a little sriracha sauce or other hot sauce after serving.

These recipes have served me well in my own kitchen for many years. Whether you love to cook and are looking to try something new or you’re just getting started, these meals are easy, inexpensive and a tasty way to break out of the pasta and frozen pizza rut that we all fall into sometimes. Having a good meal can change your whole day, so don’t hesitate to give these a try!


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