High School Graduation Gift

My niece, who loves to cook, is graduating from high school this month. Any ideas for good cookbook/utensils suitable for dorm life to put together for graduation gift?

  • Posted by: Louisa
  • May 18, 2012


Louisa May 23, 2012
What a great idea--and I love the title. Too much ramen can be depressing!
Brain H. May 23, 2012
I am working on a college dorm cookbook for one of my friend's kids as a graduation present. It will have a dozen or so easy recipes that you can make with a toaster oven, a blender, and a microwave. I'll include lots of photos of family, friends, dogs, etc so it will be more like a photo album with recipes. I'll get it published on Blurb in a smallish paperback format so it doesn't take up too much room. Working title: "Beyond Ramen".
Sam1148 May 23, 2012
There was a book called the "Instant Gourmet" by Ceil Dyer which seems to be unavailable now.

It was admittedly a "Sandra Lee" type book with 'can of this or that" One of the best was using braunschweiger from a deli..to make a pate..mix in a bit of butter and nuke to warm add a touch of A1 sauce and chill in a butter dish lid. To serve with fruit and water crackers.

And canned asparagus in a blender with some seasoning and warmed on a stove with some creme and stock is a nice soup---when your 22. (in fact the only decent use for canned asparagus).
Louisa May 23, 2012
Here is the graduation gift: the Rival 6-cup rice cooker/steamer, the Joseph 5-in-1 tool, a mini cutting board, the oxo 4-set paring knives, Bittman's How To Cook Everything, some rice and some tea. And definitely not a potato-ricer.
Bevi May 23, 2012
While in college I read the Time Life Foods of the World series cover to cover. For me, learning about the history and culture around various world cuisines was as important as learning the recipes. It was a great way to armchair-travel while under the pressure of college. Within the series, The Cooking of Provincial France edited by MFK Fisher was and remains a goldmine. You can buy these books on eBay, and while they are over 40 years old, and at this point dated and inaccurate within many of the series, it is still a great resource.
Sam1148 May 20, 2012
I don't care for mashed potatoes in a ricer. They're too 'processed' for my tastes, I like mine with some body.

Although one good use for the ricer is for squeezing water out of cooked spinach to use in dips, creamed spinach, stuffed mushroom caps etc.
And for cole slaw where you salt the cabbage first to draw out moisture and and rinse and squeeze with the ricer, so you don't get really wet slaw.

Not a device for college dorm room, parsed down essential dorm cooking tho.
Ophelia May 20, 2012
The thing not to get is a Potato ricer. Even though I was never in dorms during college that's one gift that was never really used. I did end up in love with my rice cooker, electric kettle and french press.
Honestly though I would get her a gift card to a close grocery store, as a college student my biggest worry was always how I would afford the ingredients, not how I would cook them.
Louisa May 20, 2012
I agree about the potato ricer--I have one way back somewhere in a dark, dark corner cabinet. I would like to get her something she will use over and over and remember as part of her college life, so I'm not thinking gift card, but I'm sure she'll have days when she wishes she had one.
Dea H. May 20, 2012
I give crock-pots. They use very littler energy, so they tend to be safe for dorm rooms. They can be used for a lot of different things - especially if you include a cookbook. One of kids told me she used to throw dinner parties with her crock-pot, and she also used it for breakfast casseroles and chile. Another said he used to make hot punches and coffee drinks with his.
lloreen May 20, 2012
if she is going somewhere with cool weather, how about a nice selection of teas and high quality hot chocolate along with an electric teapot and a cute but inexpensive set of mugs. that way she can host late night hot chocolate, tea parties for her new friends.
Sam1148 May 19, 2012
Ah, here's the Rival model rice cooker I've given before that works well.

My college one was a panasonic that lasted well over 20 years. But, a shallow search for Panasonic model shows they seem to dropped the steamer basket insert that fits on top of the pot. So I'd vote no, for dorm room stuff if they don't have a steamer basket.
Louisa May 20, 2012
I think the rice cooker and the crock pot both sound practical. I recently, after getting advice on hotline, bought a Zojirushi rice cooker that does have a steamer basket. I first ordered the 6-cup and returned it for the 11-cup, but I can see the 6-cup would work well in a dorm. I've also read reviews where people use their rice cookers pretty much like a crock pot.
Sam1148 May 19, 2012
A cheap, non fuzzy logic rice cooker with just one button and a steamer basket is a good device. Rival makes a good one...Panasonic (or the National) brand is also good. Don't get one too big..a 4-6 'cup' model or so is fine. The "cups" they use for rice cooker measurements are about 3/4 of a "Cup".

Those are perfect for a quick meal of rice with some veggies and frozen dim sum in the steamer basket, or steamed fish wraped in parchment with some ginger, lemon juice, sake or mirin.
And it'll all cook at once.
Especially good as you can remove the inner 'pot' and keep in the 'fridge and just rewarm with a bit more water and a push of the button. Don't get the fuzzy logic ones--which are nice, but expensive and sometimes don't have a steam basket and have a hinged lid. The simple ones are best for multi-use.
Louisa May 19, 2012
Small, practical, reasonably price ( I do remember all the borrowing that goes on and also using the knife as a screwdriver when needed), and microwaveable and reusable. I think Mark Bittman's How to cook everything is brilliant--practical and simple. The other cookbooks for consideration also,, but I don't want to load her down. Everything in a reuse, flat-fold shopping bag. Thanks, everyone for your help!
WannabeBaker May 18, 2012
I second How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. He stresses easy to make recipes, so I would imagine a good chunk of them could be made in a dorm.
petitbleu May 18, 2012
They're both large cookbooks, but between How to Cook Everything and the Joy of Cooking, she'll find anything she wants to know about or make. As for cookware, the basics are best--I think beyondcelery covered it pretty well.
healthierkitchen May 18, 2012
I bought my son a couple of nice large mug/bowls that are convenient for microwaving or serving. HIs are like the size of small crocks but have one handle. I've seen others with two handles. I think it's still not recommended to microwave in plastic, so maybe a pair of nice ceramic or porcelain (less chipping) bowls with handles that can be used for oatmeal, chili, instant ramen, soups, mac n cheese, etc. These might be nice along with some of beyond celery's suggestions. Maybe even a small coffee or espresso maker - my son bought one to "save" on carryout costs - and a couple of nice mugs. Also, a good insulated mug for coffee and tea on the go (OXO makes a good one - and no, I don't work for them) as many college students are careful about not wasting paper and styrofoam). With regard to beyond celery's concern about borrowed paring knives, OXO makes a set of four in bright colors that is pretty reasonable (here I go again with OXO!).
beyondcelery May 18, 2012
I did a lot of cooking in my dorm and here's what I used on a regular basis, especially since the counters and limited equipment in the dorm "kitchen" were always dirty: small colander, cutting board/prep board, paring knife, non-breakable bowls, fork, can opener/bottle opener, small saute pan, spatula, good olive oil, dish soap, scrub brush, dish towels. Remember she'll almost certainly be washing everything by hand and packing them away from the public space for safe-keeping, so the more compact and durable, the better.

And don't go expensive or fancy with a paring knife. Someone will inevitably borrow it from her and break the tip of the blade or otherwise damage it. (A paring knife is the perfect tool for opening the back of a laptop, right?) Something durable and sharp, but easily replaced, is best.

What an excellent gift idea!
JessieBee May 18, 2012
Unless she has a kitchen, her cooking options are going to be very limited while in the dorms. This might sound odd, but a good microwave cookbook might be a good choice. Beth Hensperger's "Not Your Mother's Microwave Cookbook" looks like it has some modern, healthy recipes (most microwave cooksbooks look like they were published in the 70's...for good reason!). http://www.amazon.com/Not-Your-Mothers-Microwave-Cookbook/dp/1558324186

An even better choice might be a "raw" foods cookbook-- the raw foods movement is really gaining speed, so there are a lot of choices right now. That way, assuming she has access to decent groceries (and maybe a minifridge), she can "cook" without a stove. You could accompany that with a small set of paring knives, a mini cutting board, and some nesting bowls-- the more compact everything can get, the better! A small-sized "Kapoosh" knife block would allow her to keep a set of knives safely, but would give her flexibility to add knives later when she move into an apartment. http://www.amazon.com/Kapoosh-Knife-Holder-Black-Small/dp/B000V5Q7WE
ksb517 May 18, 2012
I don't know if you have ever heard of the brand Joseph Joseph. They have some really neat nesting bowls & multipurpose items that would be great for dorm life. I have the 5-in-1 tool & love it.

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