As the new school year approaches and many of you last-year-newbies begin the new adventure of moving into an apartment, your world of eating changes. You no longer have those prepared dining commons meals, and those monthly rent and utility payments put a halt to as much dining out as possible. But lo and behold, you have a kitchen! Your very own stove, regular-sized refrigerator and an oven. There are now so many possibilities in the realm of culinary creation within the very walls of your kitchen.

I, myself, am in your very same position — the transition from dorm life to apartment living — and I am here to give you a few tips on how to make this change as smooth as possible along with a couple of yummy recipes to inspire your inner chef.

The first thing is utensils — how can you cook without those? You don’t need to get all Better Homes & Gardens, but it is important that you have the basics to get things going. A quick trip to Kmart or elsewhere if you’re like me and your heart belongs to Target, will work to get you these essential items.

Essential Utensils:

  • Pot and pan: one for boiling, one for sautéing. They should probably only be about medium sized, especially if you’re cooking for just yourself and maybe a couple more.
  • Baking dish and cookie sheet: I know you all have a sweet tooth and when the stress gets too high the double chocolate chip cookies you’re craving won’t be a problem if you have that sheet lying around. The baking dish is very versatile; from red velvet cakes to baked chicken or even lasagna, it is an essential tool you need.
  • Large bowl set: About two or three bowls will be useful whether it be for popcorn, mixing batter or making a salad, they are always handy. As a bonus tip, look for a set with lids. That way, if you have leftovers, you can store them neatly.
  • Serving dishes: Plates, bowls, cups and coffee mugs. Since you’re mainly cooking for one, you don’t need a full set of any of these items, but two or three of each should do.
  • Cooking utensils: You’ll need a stirring spoon, ladle, whisk and spatula at least,  plus a knife set for chopping up anything. Most stores sell packs so you don’t have to worry about the particulars other than making sure these items are contained.
  • Eating utensils: Again, no need to get fancy, just a basic set. I personally bought a 20-piece set, which was the smallest one I found, but it contained forks, butter knives and spoons, which is really all you need.
  • Odds and ends: can opener, colander, cutting board, measuring cups and tupperware. Just a few more pieces that don’t need too much explaining, but are definitely useful in the kitchen.

Of course, this list is not a complete, all-encompassing guide to what you will need, but it is definitely a good start. As you learn the ropes of cooking for yourself, you will realize what best suits your preferences.

The exciting part is getting to create recipes or follow them to prepare your own meals, here are some great fresh recipes that I have christened my kitchen with.

Pear Gorgonzola Melts Marisa Ratchford/Daily Nexus

Pear Gorgonzola Melts Marisa Ratchford/Daily Nexus

Pear Gorgonzola Melts:

Adapted from a recipe in Vegetarian 3 Books in 1 from Publications International, Ltd.

4 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese (do NOT use bleu cheese!)

8 slices of whole wheat bread

2 pears, cored and sliced

½ cup of spinach

Butter, melted

  1. Spread cheese evenly on 4 bread slices; layer with pears and spinach. Top with remaining bread slices. Brush outside of sandwiches with butter.
  2. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add sandwiches; cook 4 to 5 minutes per side or until cheese melts and sandwiches are golden brown.

Serves 4

Watermelon Salad Marisa Ratchford/Daily Nexus

Watermelon Salad Marisa Ratchford/Daily Nexus

Watermelon Salad

*From The Accidental Vegetarian by Simon Rimmer

7oz Greek feta cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes

½ cucumber, seeded and cut into 2-inch batons

6-8 fresh basil leaves

6 wedges of watermelon, about 3oz each

For the dressing:

½ cup Greek yogurt

Lots of freshly chopped mint leaves

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl
  2. Toss the salad ingredients in the dressing, season lightly.

I let my salad sit overnight in the fridge, I think that really melded the flavors together.

Serves 6