It's been awhile since I last cooked, but the recipes in "College Vegetarian Cooking," by Megan and Jill Carle, got me really excited to get in the kitchen.
As a college student, I appreciate the more adventurous recipes such as the soba noodle salad, the coconut-lime curry, and the eggplant parmesan casserole, among others. Part of the creativity comes from the fact that these recipes contain no meat. Though I'm not a vegetarian, I have great use for these recipes for another reason--I don't think I handle meat very well, especially when it has bones. I could buy the boneless variety, but that usually costs more. I like the option of sidestepping the meat and incorporating new and exciting ingredients in its place.
There were some recipes I felt could be left out, like the vegetable pot pie and the black bean and corn soft tacos. But most looked worthy of my time. The photography by Penny De Los Santos beautifully added to the "delish" factor.
Yesterday, I tried out my first dish from this cookbook: Cheesy Baked Tortellini. This was one of the recipes that had caught my eye when first flipping through the book in the library. I can see myself turning to this recipe time and again because of its convenience.
There's a bigger chance that I'll try a recipe when I have most of the ingredients on hand, and that was the case with the baked tortellini. The main ingredients were frozen cheese tortellini (of course, anyone who wanted to hand-make some could definitely do so), fresh mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese. The remaining ingredients--canola oil, butter, flour, milk, salt and pepper--are what most people can find in their pantry/refrigerator.
Since I only bought a package of tortellini and 8 ounces of mushrooms, the total only came out to about $8. That's really cheap when I think about the number of people it fed. I filled two glass baking pans (one 11-by-7-by-1.5-inch rectangular pan, one 9.5-inch circular pan) with the tortellini, and it ended up making about 10 servings.
And that brings me to the cookbook's lower points. The serving sizes and cooking time may be off.
I'm not sure why my baked tortellini made more than double the servings noted in this recipe (four servings). Maybe my family eats smaller portions than is usual. I guess it's better to have more food than not enough food. :D
Small tip: I'd recommend following the instruction "cook until the mushrooms are golden brown" rather than the suggested cooking time. I'd also reduce the oven time for the tortellini, if using two pans like I did, from 20 - 25 minutes to no more than 20 minutes. Everything is already cooked, so as long as the cheese sauce is a bit set but not hard, you'll be fine.
I hope those small warnings help beginner cooks that have spent little to no time in a kitchen. :)
As for things I'll do differently next time? Add more mushrooms! Mushrooms are perhaps my favorite ingredient, so I'd buy another 8 ounces. It would also balance the dish by contrasting the extreme cheesiness with some "meatiness" that you get with mushrooms. Also, I'll try tortellini with different fillings (the one I made had a three cheese filling).
My sister and college roommate-to-be is looking forward to eating this meal more often now that I have it under my culinary belt.
I'd love to hear cookbook recommendations for college students (either vegetarian or non-vegetarian)!