Prep - The Essential College Cookbook: GIVEAWAY

May 22, 2019   85 Comments

Are you looking for the perfect high school graduation gift? Know someone who has limited time and money but needs to cook?

Prep - The Essential College Cookbook

Prep: The Essential College Cookbook by Katie Morford is your solution! She has created an excellent guide to making whole foods for those who need the cooking basics.

When I went to college, ramen and mac and cheese (from a box) with tuna mixed in was my go to meal. I wish Katie had written this book because I would have used it. I ended up anemic in college and had to pick up my game quite a bit to get the proper nutrition.

Katie has put together a guide that will turn any young adult into someone who can take control of their diet - and like their food! You can do much better with ramen with the right food in your pantry and a few good cooking techniques (like knife skills).

To celebrate the book’s publishing - we are giving away a great set to a lucky reader.

Above is a photo of a starter kit for the beginning cook which includes a copy of PREP, a Zwilling Santoku knife ($175 value), a small bamboo cutting board, and a set of sturdy Zwilling tea towels.

To enter to win the starter kit, please comment below on the worst meal that you ever ate as a young person.

I will go first (but I cannot win - duh). I used to eat strawberry Poptarts for breakfast since all I had was a toaster in my dorm room and I didn’t want to eat in the dining hall (the food was BAAD).

Check out an example recipe from Prep and see the rules of the giveaway below. Good luck!!

UPDATE - Our winner is Alma!! - Thanks everyone for entering!!

She shared:

Way back when in yonder college days, I thought a ketchup sandwich was pretty yummy...ketchup on white bread, nothing else...completely void of any nutrition...YUCK! I was also pretty fond of that fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark, bright orange mac-n-cheese in a box. I used margarine, before we knew what trans fats do to us. Yikes...what was I thinking? Budget was important, but health should've been #1 priority. Now I know! :)

Prep - The Essential College Cookbook

Reprinted with permission from Prep by Katie Sullivan Morford © 2019 by Katie Sullivan Morford. Photographs © 2019 by Alanna Taylor-Tobin. Reprinted in arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc.


1.6 from 24 reviews


If you’ve ever had spicy peanut sauce at a Thai restaurant, you’ll recognize the flavors in this dish, which are peanutty, a little salty, and just spicy enough. It’s super-easy to make because the sauce is just peanut butter with a few other ingredients whisked in a bowl, then tossed with cooked pasta. For vegetables, use whatever you like in any combination. (I’m partial to snap peas, red bell pepper, and cucumber.)

Kosher salt for the pasta cooking water
1 pound spaghetti
1 lime
½ cup unsweetened, creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1⁄3 cup water
1½ teaspoons sriracha (more if you want it spicier)
3 green onions
2½ cups diced crunchy raw vegetables in any combination, such as cucumbers, bell peppers, celery, carrots, and snap peas

KEY EQUIPMENT: large pot, large bowl, whisk, chef’s knife, cutting board, colander

Fill a large pot with water and add enough salt so that the water tastes slightly salty. Put the pot on the stove over high heat. When the water boils, add the spaghetti, stir, and cook according to package directions until al dente (see page 56).

While the pasta cooks, cut the lime in half and squeeze enough juice to fill 1 tablespoon. Put the lime juice into a large bowl with the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, water, and sriracha. Stir with a whisk until creamy and smooth. Set aside.

Lay the green onions on a cutting board. Trim off the hairy-looking tips and the dark green ends and discard. Cut the white and light green parts into very thin, round slices.

Once the pasta is done, set a colander in the sink, and pour in the pasta to drain well.

Add the pasta, vegetables, and green onions to the peanut sauce and mix well. If the sauce thickens and the pasta gets sticky as it sits, add another 1 to 2 tablespoons of water (or a splash of sesame oil if you have it) to thin the sauce. Serve immediately.

PRO TIP: Instead of making these noodles with spaghetti, try substituting Asian noodles, such as soba or udon. Be sure to read the package for cooking instructions, since they will be different from conventional spaghetti.

Avoid the Burn

Maneuvering around the stove with a pot of pasta in boiling water takes extra care. Here are a few tips to prevent kitchen mishaps:

Set your colander in the sink before you carry the pasta pot over to drain. 

Use 2 good pot holders and never pick up a pot with a cloth that is damp. 

Before you carry a heavy pot over to the stove, do a trial run by lifting the pot up just a 
little to make sure you can handle the weight. If it’s too heavy, ask for help or use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta from the pot to a bowl and then drain in the sink.

Carefully lift the pot and carry it to the sink. Tip it away from you, pouring hot water and pasta into the colander.

Points values are calculated by Snack Girl and are provided for information only. See all Snack Girl Recipes

What will I win?

A starter kit for the beginning cook which includes a copy of PREP, a Zwilling Santoku knife ($175 value), a small bamboo cutting board, and a set of sturdy Zwilling tea towels. How do I enter?
Please comment below on the worst food that you made as a young adult. Am I eligible to enter?
This giveaway is offered to residents of the USA and Canada. When do I find out if I am the winner?
One randomly chosen winner will be announced on Thursday, May 30, 2019.

Get Free Email Updates! Yes please!


I used to eat two hot dogs in a cup of sauerkraut from a cart at school because I thought without a bun, it’s healthy!

I made Spaghetti and meat sauce for my family. I thought it would be "fun" to put blue food coloring in the pasta water... it made everything blue. My parents were not pleased. Lol

I also ate poptarts; I read the label on the box and thought they were a treasure trove of vitamins. :D

I also had an afternoon snack everyday of a candy bar and coke from a vending machine between classes. :o

Beef ravioli out of the can. At the time it sounded like a balanced

My roommate put a london broil in the broiler and forgot about it. When we returned to the room we found it shriveled and burnt to a crisp. But because it was a "lonon broil" given to us by my mom I felt compeled to save it, so I cut off all the char and we were left with a small hunch of meat which i cut into cubes( more like rocks) and threw in onion soup with wine and ketchup.

Banana and Peanut Butter

I made macaroni and cheese and cut up a hot dog to put in in and topped it with ketchup. Now I think ew, gross. I would not encourage my college daughter to do that!😫

I lived on cereal like Lucky Charms.

I lived by myself senior year of school and after living all my life with my mom cooking and dining hall food, I thought I would be a great cook! WRONG! Easy peasy lunch: brown some ground turkey, throw in some kidney beans and either sour cream or salsa so I had turkey stroganoff or taco fixings. Somehow, I managed not get food poisoning that year, and since then I’ve improved leaps and bounds.

Fake beef with gravy in a pouch in frozen section, put on bread.

Turkey and cheese Lunchables and microwavable beef stew.


I have always been worried about my weight. When in college, trying to take off the “Freshman 10#, my sister told me about this diet she was on. It sounded like a good idea at the time, which tells you how screwed up your mind can get in college! She called it the egg and wiener diet. Here’s the complete crux of it: you ONLY ate eggs and wieners at all times. Cooked any way. But nothing else...not even condiments. Good heavens.

I used to eat those orange peanut butter-filled crackers with a soda for lunch!

Cold spaghettio’s, straight out of the can. For variety I would sometimes add a box of dry Rice A Roni and let it set awhile to soften up. I can't believe I survived it.

Pint of ben and jerry’s ice cream for dinner

I would eat a big bowl of popcorn. I know its whole grain but there was not a vegetable in sight .

For tomato soup, we would boil some water and add free packets of ketchup and free packets of saltines, both from the dining hall.

I used to eat a can of Alphaghetti every day for lunch. On the days I was REALLY hungry, I would eat it poured over a slice or two of toast. When I got tired of that, I switched to Kraft Dinner 😁 It was considered a treat if I had wieners to throw in 😁

I tried to make hamburger stroganoff and misread the instructions. Instead of using 2 tablespoons of flour, I added 2 tablespoons of salt. Then I tried to counteract the salt with more flour and more flour until the fork stayed up in the mess all be itself. Concrete glue... Still remember this ultimate fail.

Those little Vienna sausages in a jar... still cold and on the way out of the store... Ugh. Can't imagine doing that these days!

Ramen noodles and kraft macaroni and cheese !

I used to live on spaghettio's out of the can and occasionally a bag of frozen corn (thawed/warmed) before I ate it.

Saltines and peanut butter. I didn't mind our dining center's food! But on Sunday nights I had to come up with my own meal. It was usually ramen noodles. But I also ate pb and saltines.

Kielbasa in ramen noodles

I went to summer school during college and ate a lot of Kraft Mac & Cheese. Doritos and a soda were sometimes a meal. So BAD!

Three words: instant mashed potatoes.

Ohh, the shame ;)

Close second: ramen with hot dogs (for protein!)

Butter and honey spread on graham crackers was my dinner for weeks. Delicious because it had essentially no protein, fiber or vitamins. Just sugar and fat.

Early in marriage, at age 22, I tried to impress my new husband by making Greek Meatballs. I wasn’t familiar with fresh garlic. Recipe called for three cloves. I used three BULBS!

Shortly after I was married, I tried making a pot roast on the stove top in a cheap Dutch oven. I failed to make sure enough liquid was in it during the few hours it took, and I ended up with a totally burnt roast on the bottom.

One time I used too much baking soda and the entire thing was a salt bomb. Completely inedible, needless to say I didn’t win the cookie competition

White bread with mayonnaise

In college we would hard boil eggs for a cheap meal. One time we forgot them and they boiled until they burst and hit the ceiling! The pot was scorched with no water left. Ugh 😑

So many bad choices in college! I rarely cooked (it was usually a diet coke and bag of smart food popcorn) but when I did, it was spaghetti with cream cheese or baked beans on toast. You couldn't pay me to eat those now!

Thank you, by the way, for writing about this because food insecurity and malnutrition is a big problem on college campuses (your personal experience is indicative of that). So along with this article being very entertaining, it is also very important for our young adults. This topic hits close to home too, because my youngest is heading off to university in the fall & I worry a lot about his nutrition. Thank you!!!

As a young adult, I never had to worry about my weight. On weekends, I would often get a McDonald's fish sandwich with cheese (but no tartar sauce- gross), a soda, and finish that up with an apple pie with ice cream. My, my. I didn't know then that I would grow up to be a dietitian.

Not necessarily a bad meal but I ate it too many times in a row, red cool aide, undercooked box pizza and gooey middle brownies. I even have a hard time eating them all separately now haha.

Tomato soup with a roll in the soup Called it brain soup as the bun shrunk in the bowl looking like a brain.

Air popped popcorn with soy sauce and oregano.

I used to eat an giant oatmeal cream pie and a 20 oz of Coke for lunch.

I have a few. I would eat ice cream for breakfast, especially in college. No one was there to tell me no, lol.

But another one (which I still would eat to be honest) was cheese whiz and mayo sandwiches. Just cheese whiz and mayo. I still love cheese whiz, but I can't have it in the house because I would eat it too much. I would also put cheese whiz on a bagel or bread and stick it in the microwave to melt it. Loved it!

I couldn't afford to buy lunchmeat at the deli, but sometimes the deli would pack mixed ends of random lunchmeat loaves onto a little tray for a really low price. I would buy those and usually never knew what kind of "meat" I was eating.

Hot Dog casserole - Ewwww hot dogs, canned beans and pineapple. So much sugar and fat in this meal and poor protein source too. Glad my palette has grown!

I used to eat french fries with seasoning salt almost daily. Lets just say that typical college weight gain is for a reason!

I used to microwave velveeta on bread. I used whole wheat bread because I thought that made it healthy!

Frog legs

In our dorm, we ate Campbell's vegetable soup and popcorn (not together)/Before there was microwave popcorn, we used an appliance called a popcorn popper--could also use it to cook our soup in it. Post-grad, slightly better, french fries and cole slaw for dinner everyday at small town diner, still love fries and cole-slaw.

I experimented and used a can of generic brand biscuits and put Tuna and cream of mushroom soup over them and baked. It did not look appealing nor did it taste the way I thought it would!! UGH!

Spaghetti O’s out of the can and for dessert, frosting out of the can.

Chef Boyardee Raviolis straight out of the can. I didn't even heat them up in a microwave.

My roommate and I got really desperate one night and ate creamed corn w/ mayo. Yuck!!

I used to eat bologna on white bread with ketchup daily. I dont know how I ever ate that and that it was healthy. Yuck!

We had no cooking source one day so we put an unopened package of wieners in hot tap water to "cook them". Nasty!!

My worst meal was frozen Patio burritos with a slice of American cheese on top. Loved it, but terrible for me nutritionally :(.

Eating stew my granny had made, which would be all right had I not found the boiled caterpillar on my plate that had been with the greens.

A can of sardines and white rice. I actually thought that was cooking.

A pint of milk mixed with a can of Tab! Anyone remember Tab? I thought this was a healthy meal replacement - lol!

Lipton Cup-a-Soup - Chicken Noodle …. not a whole lot of chicken or noodles but still to make it go farther I'd add more water and throw in some extra seasoning. If there was some grated parmesan cheese around that really added pizzazz.

generic mac n cheese - with water. Who had money for milk or butter?

Potato chips dipped in ketchup. Couldn't afford onion dip!!

I would eat a whole box of kraft Mac and cheese.

Hot pockets seemed like an easy and quick meal option when I was younger!

I lived on black coffee, cigarettes, and one can of green beans per day because my goal was to stay super skinny. This was in the days of Twiggy. I'm not that stupid anymore, thank God. I'm heavier but healthier now, and I love your recipes.

My meal consisted of hot dogs and more hot dogs. With all the hot dogs I ate during my two years of college, you would think I would hate them, but they are one of my comfort food.

There was a point in college where sometimes “dinner” would be at midnight and would consist of gummy bears, 4 triscuits, and 2 Oreos. I lost weight during my freshman year instead of the usual gain, but I would not recommend that diet!

I loved 'making' spaghetti! Just like pop tarts, I would still eat them if I could find a healthy version!!!

Well there's a couple of horrible things I ate:

Breakfast might be a honey bun and a soda called Tahitian Treat! I was wired all day!!! :)

And the second equally horrible thing was a Knish with yellow mustard which was my standard lunch for a couple of months!!!

Beef stew out of a can

Cold Chef Boyardee Ravioli and Spaghettios

For one entire summer in college, I subsisted on oatmeal with canned peaches for breakfast and pasta with butter and garlic salt for dinner every single day. Sometimes I allowed myself popsicles!

PopTarts were the go-to. On a budget and on the go. I worked at Pizza Hut thru college so whatever left-overs I could get was what I had available.

My daughter has been living off of fries and super junk vending food. A book of quick, college recipes would be AMAZING for her.

Thanks! Blessings to all who survived the college food days.

I tricked a friend into drinking per once.

Because of hard economic times, I once had a butter sandwich for dinner. I didn’t want toast, so butter on two slices of bread was dinner. Another sad dinner was a box of stuffing made with only hot water. No butter was added. The last of the butter was eaten on the butter sandwich the night before.

My boyfriend was going to surprise me with fried chicken. He mixed all the ingredients together, flour, milk,egg, seasoning and bread crumbs than he tried to dip the chicken, but it was like a paste so he took his hands and coated the drumsticks all around and deepfried them. I didn't even recognize them as fried chicken. I actual thought they were doughnut sticks. They also weren't cooked though, bloody. It was pretty funny, we just laughed. We were only 18.

Mayonnaise sandwiches and spanish rice made with white rice and ketchup

I used to eat cheetos and a sprite for breakfast. Worst meal ever, if you can call it a meal!

Way back when in yonder college days, I thought a ketchup sandwich was pretty yummy...ketchup on white bread, nothing else...completely void of any nutrition...YUCK! I was also pretty fond of that fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark, bright orange mac-n-cheese in a box. I used margarine, before we knew what trans fats do to us. Yikes...what was I thinking? Budget was important, but health should've been #1 priority. Now I know! :)

being a child in a family of 10, it was nothing to make a baked bean sandwich. I can't stand lima beans now

Sadly I ate mostly from vending machines, all packaged foods and fast food(cheapest things on the menu) Didn't much care for the kitchen food. The old me. Sigh

I ate spaghetti Os mixed with a can of green beans to make it healthy !

I literally had four ingredients in my apartment...eggs, Top Ramen, saltine crackers and tuna. The combinations were great. ramen with an egg dropped in - fancy soup. Scrambled eggs with saltines crumbled on top...yum-o. Of course tuna on crackers...healthier than bread, or so I thought. I never did try Ramen and tuna?? I may have really been missing out on something there? The best part was they were all SO cheap and didn't go bad quickly.

I used to eat the crackers with either the cheese or peanut butter in the middle. I "thought" I was getting protein and carbs. Also, potato chips with the whole tub of french onion dip. (vegetable and dairy). Obviously, I was clueless about nutrition! :) Thank goodness I've gotten a lot better especially reading Snack Girl emails!

I made a cheese sandwich. Ate the whole thing. Later realized I ate moldy bread. Yuck!

Tuna and noodle casserole made in the microwave, since we had no stove in the dorms. I'm talking first generation microwaves, minimal options. Combination of slimy, crunchy, and chewy noodles with tuna and mushroom soup flavor. Hot, but not good.

Hamburger Helper of all kinds!! So processed tasting and so much sodium! Yuck. Only ONE time I tried Tuna Helper thinking I might like a tuna casserole type food since I had used to eat tuna melts from a mom & pop deli in SF down the street from my first official job out of college. However, the hot tuna in this casserole tasted HORRIBLE. 🤮

My college roommate once lit the toaster oven on fire making mac'n'cheese (from the box). The resulting "food" was something akin to a popcorn ball, but we still ate it.

(I still have ZERO idea how the toaster oven was involved and how it caught on fire.)

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