When you send your kids off to college, you’re never quite sure whether they’ll eat healthy, nutritious foods or gorge on fries, burgers, pizza, and worse. No wonder the “freshman 15” has become legendary. When your son or daughter comes home for the holidays, they’re always ready for Mom’s delicious, healthy home-cooked meals.
Our children were used to eating home cooking with only natural products, so when they headed off to college, we packed food for them to take—uncooked dishes fit for freezing. In between studying and socializing, our kids had access to quick, fancy, and amazingly easy-to-cook meals.
You can choose to prepare these recipes cooked or uncooked. If you freeze them, date the freezer bags. Make sure you tell your kids to thaw a frozen item in the fridge before heading to class or the library.
Here are a few of our favorite recipes. Ingredients that appear uncommon are available at Asian grocery stores.
Far East Fried Rice (4 servings)
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 pound of peeled, de-veined shrimp, cooked or uncooked
a handful of baby clam meat and/or scallop cubes
Vegetables & Spices:
1 large carrot, sliced
1/4 cauliflower, sized to small florets
1/4 cup green peas—fresh or frozen
1/4 anise (fennel) bulb, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
4-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
20 peapods with ends removed
4 teaspoons each of dry chopped onion and garlic
3-4 tablespoons each of sesame and canola oil
1 teaspoon each of paprika, cayenne pepper powder and basil
1 teaspoon each of sugar and salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1-4 broken dry red chili (to taste)
3-4 branches each of hand-torn cilantro and parsley
2 slices of pitted lemon
1-2 pinches of dry rosemary
1/2 teaspoon each of broken anise seeds and cracked peppercorn
1 pinch crushed red pepper
5 whole cilantro branches
2 twigs of rosemary green
1/4 small red cabbage, superfine slices
3 tablespoons Indian achaar (spiced pickles)
2 green chili (may be hot)
2 sliced tomatoes
4 baby gherkins (dill baby pickles)
4 crispy cooked bacon, broken by hand
Freezing: Mix veggies and spices in a freezer bag and let the flavors marry for two hours before freezing. Place rice and seafood in two separate bags. Freeze all three bags overnight, laying them flat.
Cooking: Thaw in fridge all day. Before cooking, check if it may need a little microwave warming or should be left on the counter for 15-30 minutes.
Fry spiced veggies for 6-7 minutes; add uncooked seafood, halfway through. If seafood is already cooked, add after five minutes. Add thawed rice—may need to break clumps. Blend the mixture gently for 2-3 minutes. Total cooking time is 8-10 minutes.
Chicken Curry (serves 4)
2 pounds skinless chicken cut-up into one inch cubes with bones
1 pinch or 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 tablespoons each of canola and olive oil
1 teaspoon each of cumin and chili powders
2 teaspoons each of sugar, paprika, and cayenne powders
2 teaspoons squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons red or white wine
2 large chopped onions
1/2 head of a garlic bulb
1 teaspoon finely chopped or grated ginger
1 large diced tomato
2 tablespoons plain yoghurt
Salt to taste
(One large potato cut into eight pieces may be added for extra taste and to thicken. A cinnamon stick or two will add flavor. )
Mix and Marinate:
Blend ingredients and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Freezing: Freeze the marinated mix in large or small bags, depending on servings.
Cooking: Thaw in fridge for eight to ten hours. Cook in an appropriately sized saucepan with cover for 30 minutes alternating between medium and high. Half a cup of hot water may be needed, depending on the consistency desired. Eat with steamed or fried rice. Cooked wings would make a hearty addition.
Grilled Salmon (serves 3-4)
2 large, 3/4-inch thick salmon steaks with skin (approx. 1 pound). Steaks are better than filets, which may break up in the oven.
3 tablespoons each of red wine and olive oil
1 teaspoon each of sea salt and freshly crushed black pepper
1 teaspoon each of paprika, cayenne pepper, onion powders, and freshly grounded fennel seeds
1 large red onion, thickly sliced
¼ small red cabbage, finely sliced
¼ fresh anise bulb (sliced) and one branch (diced)
1 small handful torn cilantro (coriander leaves)
1 large tomato, sliced
2-3 slices lemon without seeds.
Soak fish 5-10 min. in the 50-50 mix of wine and olive oil. Then remove from marinade and spread ground sea salt and fresh crushed black pepper over both sides. Add the rest of the ingredients and return the fish to the marinade. Marinate for 4 hours to overnight in the fridge, turning every half an hour for the first four-five hours. Add a few scallions, red bell pepper, and/or yellow squash if desired.
Freeze flat in freezer bags after marinating.
Grilling or Baking:
On the day of cooking, thaw all day in the fridge. When ready to cook, take only the steak out with a tong. Save the fluid-veggie garnish mix. Cook fish straight on the grill flame—six minutes each side. Alternately, use a toaster oven at 450°—bake 9 min and broil 5 min, or broil-bake-broil. Total cooking times (12-14 min) are tentative—depends on preferred taste and texture.
Simultaneously, sauté the marinade-veggie mix in a skillet for five min. or place in the same oven in an ovenproof dish. Pour half veggie garnish into a serving tray and gently place fish on the hot garnish. Lastly, pour the rest of the cooked veggie garnish onto the fish. Serve with rice.
Debabrata Majumdar is a senior professor at Norfolk State and lives with his wife in Va. Beach. He gardens, writes, and cooks in his spare time.