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Going to college? Don’t forget your cookbook

Six great books for students who want to move beyond pizza and dorm food. By Traci McMurray
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To the disbelief of many parents, dorm cafeteria food has become like a gourmet buffet. The choices are endless.

Unfortunately, college students will eventually tire of the 20 different kinds of cereal and the made-to-order grill, and sometimes ramen noodles and Easy Mac just won’t cut it.

These cookbooks will help you become master of the microwave, or enable you to find your way around a new apartment kitchen without burning it down. Bon Appetit!

‘Cooking Outside the Pizza Box’
By Jean Patterson and Danae CampbellThis ingenious cookbook not only starts off by explaining how to follow a recipe (for the cooking impaired), but also how to share a kitchen (for the more socially impaired). The recipes contain something to please everyone, including vegan and vegetarian listings. The recipes for breakfast are amazing for the student who is self-disciplined enough to get up early — or the student who doesn’t have class until noon.

‘The Everything College Cookbook’

Adams Media

By Rhonda Lauret ParkinsonHassle-free recipes are perfect for any student. Unfortunately, a few of the dishes call for the use of a hotplate, something that is outlawed in most student housing. This cookbook still has a lot to offer, with 300 recipes. Sections include dishes for the microwave, cooking for a date, and easy party foods for a group.

‘A Man, A Can, A Microwave’

Rodale Press

By David JoachimThis book can get you off to a great start, but will probably work best if you have a full-size refrigerator at your disposal. Many of the recipes require meat (since they are manly meals), so you will need a good place to store it, unless you buy right before you cook. It includes 43 microwave recipes, but mostly features main dishes, dips (referred to as dunks), and a couple desserts.

‘Easy Livin’ Low-Calorie Microwave Cooking’

St. Martin's Griffin

By Karen Kangas DwyerPerfect for the health conscious student who wants to eat without worrying about the freshman 15, this book has basic nutrition listings for each recipe so you know exactly what is going into your body. The recipes are a little more complicated and require more ingredients. Most yield about four servings — the perfect amount to zap for a dinner between roommates and friends.

‘Microwave Gourmet’

Harper Collins

By Barbara KafkaThis cookbook’s title contains instructions to make food that is exactly that — gourmet. If you really want to impress your housemates, this is the way to go. But fancy food always comes with its price. The number of ingredients listed may cost you a bit more. It’s probably best for apartment dwellers rather than students who live in dorms — just to make sure you have enough room to store what’s required to make these more complicated yet tasty meals.

‘Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen Cookbook’

Houghton Miflin

By Kevin Mills and Nancy MillsCreated by a college student and his mother, this book contains recipes tried out by the average college specimen. Start simple by beginning with the “Very Easy” ranked recipes and then make your way to the “Not So Easy” ones. This book has some great dishes to offer, and also comes with “Mom Tips” and “Mom Warnings” for each. They let you know how to get rid of lumps in batter or where you can locate hard-to-find ingredients — things only a master of the kitchen might know. Think of it as a “going beyond the microwave” manual.

Traci McMurray is an experienced college student, and MSNBC summer intern, currently packing for her senior year at the University of Missouri - Columbia.