Review: $5 a Meal College Cookbook

In 1986 I graduated from high school and for the first time in my life ventured out into the big, bad world.  Sure the college was only 60 miles from my home but to a kid who had lived his entire life in the same house in the sticks it might as well have been on Mars.  But it was in a whole other state.

Before long I was ensconced in the whole college lifestyle – all nighters, parties and cheap food.  The latter taught me that less is not always more.  I remember the store brand cheese, 50 slices for .99¢.  It would not melt no matter how long you ran the microwave.  Then there were the chicken wieners, 24 for $2.49.  How many was I able to choke down?  Not a single one.  No amount of cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, chili, jalapenos, cayenne pepper, onions, relish, Tabasco Sauce and salsa could make them palatable.  Yes, that’s what I put on hot dogs back then.  We ended up giving them away.

$5 a Meal College Cookbook on WannabeTVchef.comThose were the good old days, too – the Reagan Era.  Still, it sure would have been nice to have had a little help back then.  Something like say the $5 a Meal College Cookbook: Good Cheap Food for When You Need to Eat (Adams Media, 2010) would have come in handy.  $5 a Meal College Cookbook was written by Rhonda Lauret Parkinson with B. E. Horton, MS, RD and is available at amazon.com.

This is not Parkinson’s first cookbook. She also penned The Everything Chinese Cookbook and the Everything Fondue Cookbook to name a few but on this venture she is joined by Horton who brings her experience in nutrition with her.  While Parkinson’s background is in the kitchen Horton has a Master’s in Nutrition Communication from Tuft’s University, received her registered dietitian certification and did her undergraduate work at the University of Vermont.

The authors waste no time with nostalgic tales of their college days (like I did) or witticisms from leaner times.  After a brief introduction they jump right into the recipes.  After all their target audience is the Google Generation –  short attention spans and easily distracted.  And there are plenty of recipes to keep their attention, too.  Over 300 of them and each includes a nutritional breakdown and estimated cost per serving all packed into 224 pages.  Recipes like . . .

Easy Fried Rice

  • 1 large egg
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cooked white rice
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  1. Lightly beat the egg with a fork.  Stir in the salt and pepper and set aside.  Wash the green onion and dice.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently.
  3. Push the rice to the edges of the frying pan.  Add the beaten egg in the middle.  Use a spatula to scramble the egg.  Mix the scrambled egg with the rice.
  4. Stir in the frozen peas.  Stir in the green onion, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until heated through.  Add more salt, pepper, or other seasonings if desired.

Estimated cost per serving $1.56 and each one contains 470 calories, 20 grams fat, 56 grams of carbs, 15 gram of proteins, 210 mg cholesterol and 150 mg of sodium.

$5 a Meal College Cookbook is no Le Guide Culinaire but a copy should find it’s way into every freshmen backpack and dormitory survival kit.  And for goodness sakes, tell them to stay away from chicken wieners.

: Good Cheap Food for When You Need to Eat

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
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