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Ramen noodles. Those two words were uttered over and over by amused parents during a recent visit to my son's future college.
He plans to attend a small school that doesn't offer traditional dorms and cafeteria meal plans. Instead, the students live in apartments on campus with full kitchens, hence the numerous ramen noodles comments as parents joked about what their teens' diets would entail once mom and dad aren't cooking the meals.
My children haven't spent a lot of time in the kitchen. That's on me. I claimed it as my space years ago and while my mother was great about letting me experiment in the kitchen when I was growing up, I'm too much of a neat freak to give my children the same carte blanche. Still, I don't relish the thought of my oldest subsisting on peanut butter sandwiches, pizza and pasta for the next four years. He hasn't had ramen noodles, he's not a fan of macaroni and cheese, and the fact that he hates cereal already has his sister convinced he'll starve in college.
So I added cooking lessons to the list of things we need to do before he leaves in August.
We started small: spaghetti with marinara sauce. Not the marinara sauce I make from scratch (which I do when the mood strikes me) but the jar version. That was an easy lesson. Follow the instructions on the pasta package and heat up the sauce.
Turkey meatball soup was next. This is my go-to soup recipe. We have it at least once a week during cold months. I had him assist me in making it one night. When we had it again a week later, I gave him the recipe and let him at it. The results were favorable and I gave myself a congratulatory pat on the back while he did the dishes.
I celebrated too soon.
'What do you want to learn to make next?' I asked during a recent trip to the grocery store.
'OK, but I meant something you'd eat for dinner.'
'I'd eat brownies for dinner.'
He's definitely my son, but I couldn't let his chocolate addiction distract me.
'How about that chicken recipe you like?' I suggested.
'The drumstick one?'
'That's the one.'
I've experimented with vegetarianism twice in my life. The first was for about a year in high school when my parents became vegetarians, and I realized the dinners my mom was preparing for her and my dad tasted better than what she made for us kids.
My second foray into the meatless lifestyle were my last 18 months of college, when I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment. Who knew meat was so expensive? Obviously adults did, but 20-year-old me was shocked. Side pasta and rice dishes became main meals, as the thought of spending three times that cost for beef or chicken was beyond my food budget.
I don't know if my son has it in him to be a vegetarian, but I do know that whatever budget we decide on for his groceries — another item on the pre-college to do list — it likely won't spread to include as many meat dishes as he enjoys now. That's why I'm teaching him variations of his favorite chicken product.
Drumsticks are an affordable protein that can be prepared in multiples ways: stovetop, oven, grilled — even the slow cooker! Better yet, it's one of those food that works well as leftovers, meaning one night of cooking could actually produce a couple dinners and lunches — for most people. My son is over six feet tall with the stereotypical teenage boy appetite. One of these recipes is lunch and a midnight snack.
I better add food storage containers to the never-ending things-to-buy-for-college list. I'll include it under my reminder to have a conversation touting the benefits of purchasing generic brands.
Except for peanut butter. And ketchup. Some things are worth the extra cost.
Herb and Garlic Chicken Drumsticks
10 chicken drumsticks
3 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground basil
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Place drumsticks on greased baking sheet, leaving room between each drumstick. Coat remaining drumsticks with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil evenly.
In a small bowl, mix all spices and herbs together until combined (garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, basil, sage, kosher salt and black pepper).
Rub spice mixture into drumsticks evenly.
Bake drumsticks for 25 minutes. Turn drumsticks over and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, or until drumsticks reach an internal temperature of 160°F.
8 chicken drumsticks
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 tube (8 ounces) refrigerated crescent rolls
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
Remove and discard skin from drumsticks. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat; stir in the barbecue sauce. Add drumsticks. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 180°, turning occasionally. Remove chicken from pan; cool slightly.
Separate crescent dough into eight triangles; place in a lightly greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Brush dough with some of the beaten egg; sprinkle with cheese and Italian seasoning.
Place meaty portion of each drumstick at the tip of each triangle, with bony portion extended beyond one long side of triangle. Wrap drumstick in dough; place seam side down. Brush with remaining egg; sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake at 375° for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown and a meat thermometer reads 180°. Yield: 4 servings (2 drumsticks each).
Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken
2 small limes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 pounds chicken drumsticks (16 drumsticks)
Juice the limes into a 6 quart slow cooker. Add 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1/2 tablespoon freshly minced garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine.
Add the chicken drumsticks and stir to coat the chicken.
Cover and cook on HIGH for 2 1/2 hours, without opening the lid during cooking time.
Preheat the oven to 500°F. Line a cookie sheet with foil, and using tongs, place the drumsticks on the foil. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until nicely browned. Turn the drumsticks halfway through baking time. Serve with juices from the slow cooker and enjoy.
Source: The Magical Slow Cooker: Recipes for Busy Moms by Sarah Olson (Front Table Books; March 10, 2015)