The Story Behind the Guide

My name is Mikala Kesselman, and my senior thesis is the College Kitchen Survival Guide.

It wasn’t until late last year that I really immersed myself in the world of cooking. Like most college students, for years I blew past my kitchen, with keys in hand to get to the nearest restaurant or fast food place. I had no idea how to cook, and really had no desire to learn until my junior year of college.

Freshman Year:

From the get-go in college, my diet consisted of dinosaur chicken nuggets (yes, really) and microwaved macaroni and cheese. My two foot tall mini-fridge was filled to the brim with macaroni and cheese and processed chicken nuggets.

Yes folks, they’re real.

Not only did I have no idea how to cook, I had no idea how to portion my meals. My average meal at the dining hall consisted of a sandwich, soup, pizza, fries, a burger, ice cream and anywhere between 2-4 glasses of juice (HOLY CALORIES, BATMAN). It would take me about two hours to eat meals, but I didn’t care because it was “free”. Unfortunately, (or luckily) my diet was balanced out with a ridiculous exercise plan, and therefore my crazy intake didn’t have any visible side effects.

Sophomore Year:

I had stopped going to the gym five days a week, but my eating hadn’t changed at all. I ballooned up almost twenty pounds, and had no idea how it had happened. I was totally oblivious to the fact that my outrageous diet was the obvious cause.

In a desperate attempt to lose weight, I bought diet smoothie-style drinks and proceeded to drink them when I was thirsty (for those who don’t know, these drinks are a meal supplement). I still had no grasp on how to cook, how to portion out my meals, and how to take care of myself. This was also the first year that I had a car on campus, which resulted in almost daily trips to a fast food restaurant, and no trips to the gym.


I liked the chocolate one the best.

I reached out to my mother and she alerted me that it was my atrocious diet that was the problem. I began to realize that if I wanted to be healthy again, I would need to learn how to cook. I decided to put myself to the test, and began organizing and running cooking nights on campus. Although these meals weren’t the healthiest, they were an amazing improvement on my previous attempts at cooking for myself.

Junior Year:

In my junior year, I moved off campus. I had an entire apartment and kitchen at my disposal, and with it an empty fridge. For a while, I continued spending all of my money on fast food; I turned a blind eye to the fact that I was wasting gas, time, money and gaining even more weight.

In the spring semester of my junior year, after visiting a local restaurant for chicken salad 35 times, I took a look in the mirror and woke up. I had gained almost 25 pounds since my freshman year of college.  It was time I got serious about my food. I banned myself from drive-thru’s and stopped eating out at restaurants. My Grandparents bought me a bunch of cook books for my 20th birthday and my journey began.


Here’s the dedication by my Grandma

I started going to the grocery store for more than just frozen dinners. I made shopping lists, looked up recipes, and started getting adventurous in the kitchen. I started a healthy living and food blog to hold myself accountable, and my journey began. I picked the easiest recipes in the books and soon enough, I fell in love with the art of cooking.

I began filling up my “I’m Writing My Own Cookbook” notebook, and started inviting my mother over for cooking sessions. She taught me family recipes, quick fixes, tricks for food preservation, and how to shop on a budget. Really, I owe my success to her.

Isn’t she great?

Senior Year:

Now it’s my senior year, and I’ve lost all the weight I had gained in college. I eat balanced meals every day, I’ve learned to portion out my meals and I love to go to the grocery store. It’s incredible how much my life changed once I learned how to cook. I even began working at a fine dining catering company, which has only fueled my love for food.

I hope this cookbook helps you as much as it’s helped me. I use it every day.

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