The freshman 15 is a series of 15 "classes" designed specifically for one of my twitter followers, @jontilton.  Starting his junior year at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan he was challenged with learning to cook for himself and asked me for some advice.  So I decided that college kids everywhere could use probably use a few cooking tips... and thus the freshman 15 was born.  Feel free to join along in the "lessons", even if you're not a college student!

« week 5: the key to a woman's heart is pancakes. | week 3: pass the pasta »

week 4: veggie tales

So the freshman 15 was on hiatus for the past 2 weeks a little unexpectedly.  To catch up we’re going to have a 2-part series this week starting a day early.  Because we’re talking... side dishes!  (Exciting, right?)

The first recipe I gave to Jon to try out was for Chicken Casablanca.  When the day that he was making it came I sent him a note asking “What are you making it with?”  To which I got the confused reply, “The crock-pot?”.  So I clarified by saying, “No, I mean what are you serving with it? You can’t just eat chicken, you need a side dish.”  To which he replied, “I don’t know, I’m a guy! I don’t think of these things!”

It was this that made me realize that maybe we should take a minute and talk about the importance of eating a balanced meal.  Specifically side dishes.  I know that eating vegetables might not be the first thing that comes to mind for college guys, but it is really important.  AND you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make them.  Here’s my 3 basic rules for veggie side dishes.

1 - Consider what your plate is going to look like.  It’s always best to try and get as many colours on your plate as possible.  This isn’t just to make it look pretty, it actually has a scientific basis.  The different colours in veggies usually represent different nutrients.

2 - Don’t be a hater.  You might think you hate a certain vegetable.  But I’d encourage you to try, try again.  A lot of times we have food prepared badly and then decide that we don’t like it.  Boiling or overcooking vegetables can make them taste bitter & awful, and make you resent having eaten it.  I find this is the biggest problem with people & broccoli.  If you steam broccoli and serve with a little lemon, it’s delicious.

3 - Get hot & steamy.  I very rarely boil vegetables.  In fact with the exception of green beans & yams, I don’t at all.  Boiling veggies can make them wilty, and drains all the good vitamins out of them.  The fastest & easiest way to make veggies is to steam them.  Get yourself a pot and a metal steamer insert, put water in the pot just up to the bottom of the steamer basket.  Add in your veggies (carrots & onions, broccoli, zucchini,  asparagus, etc), cover with a lid, put on medium-high and wait about 5-10 minutes et voila! Tasty, colourful, nutrient rich, and hassle free side dishes.

While steaming veggies is an easy go-to method, this is a recipe for something so easy but very impressive.  It’s a great when you’re having people over for dinner and you want to seem fancy, but don’t really want to spend time actually being fancy.

Baked Ratatouille

you will need:

  • an 8x8 glass oven-proof dish


  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 2 dozen cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, diced
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt

First up preheat your oven to 350F.

Next what you’re going to want to do is chop up all your vegetables.  It’s easiest if you just toss them in the dish as you go, as they’re just going to end up that way anyways.  When all the vegetables are in the dish add in the thyme, olive oil & balsamic.  Toss it all together with your hands until all the vegetables are well coated.  Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt on top.

Pop your dish in the oven for about 40 minutes.  When you take it out the zucchini should be just soft, and the flavours will have melted together.  It serves well with any fish, poultry or red meat dish.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Response: Protein Bar
    I really like this blog. I\'m going to stop by more often.

Reader Comments (2)

The Freshman 15 has died! :'~(

November 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJake Gonzales

It's not dead yet :) I've just been SO busy! I'm writing it right now.

November 9, 2009 | Registered Commenterkat

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>