Adams Media

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

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

Review: Substitute Yourself Skinny

For many Americans the battle of the bulge is predicated on the fact that diet food tastes nasty. Those pre-portioned pseudo-meals shipped directly to your door are not only dreadful tasting but processed to the point you can’t really call it food.  They may make your tummy smaller but they wreak havoc on your liver, pancreas, heart, kidneys, et al.  Nothing that tastes bad is good for you.  After all your taste buds are as much a part of your body as your abs and glutes.  Why abuse them?

Susan Irby on Wannabe TV ChefSusan Irby has made her career by designing foods that fit what she calls “the Bikini lifestyle.”  It is an approach that has earned her the nickname the Bikini Chef.  Often identified as spa food, her style features healthy, local, sustainable ingredients prepared with sophistication.  But Irby’s food also has comfort and that’s what makes her healthy fare so satisfying.

Susan’s latest book is her best offering to date of figure-flattering flavors.  Substitute Yourself Skinny (Adams Media, 2010) includes 175 super-slimming recipes and dozens of gorgeous color photos.  This is one diet book that deserves serious food porn props!  Irby’s previous books include $7 Healthy Meals (read review) and $7 Quick and Easy Meals (read review) as well as Cooking with Susan, Southern Family Favorites.  All are available at  For more on Irby check out my exclusive interview from earlier this year.

The true voodoo of Substitute Yourself Skinny is not that Susan takes great, time-tested recipes that are packed with flavor and substitutes one or two high fat or high calorie ingredients for healthier alternatives while maintaining the soul of the dish.  No, the real magic is that Susan teaches you how to do it yourself.

Despite what the mail-order meal people would have you think, the path to getting that Bikini body is through your kitchen.  There is no such thing as a healthy diet that does not involve fresh ingredients cooked from scratch.  If cooking for yourself sounds horrific then what you eat is not the source of your excess tonnage, your laziness is.

Irby addresses this by making her recipes easy and quick.  First she starts you off with a shopping list of the staples needed for eating healthy and cooking quickly.  Then she offers recipes like I’m Feeling Lazy Lasagna and others engineered for that busy family on the go.

Susan Irby the Bikini ChefFinally, and most astonishingly, Irby has filled the pages of Substitute Yourself Skinny with foods you actually like and even crave: Creme de la Creme Cream of Broccoli Soup, Cinnamon Raisin Waffles, Not So Scalloped Potatoes, Biscuits and Gravy, Cajun Red Beans and Rice, I Love New York Cheesecake, Slidin’ Home BBQ Sliders, Sausage Pizza, Banana-rama Banana Pudding Cake and Fudgy Chocolate Brownies to name just a few.

Each delicious recipe is accompanied by a calorie count, serving size and nutritional breakdown.  Scattered throughout you will find helpful bits of information the author calls Skinny Secrets.  As mentioned before the photographs are stunningly clean and colorful.

Check back tomorrow to see how you can get your very own copy of Substitute Yourself Skinny for FREE!

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

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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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

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
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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