The dorm food do-over

In the pages of the new Denison Magazine, we asked alumni chefs to re-imagine dorm-room delicacies—those (sometimes) tasty dishes we all cobbled together in the residence halls when we couldn’t make it to the dining hall or that five-star restaurant in Columbus. Here Kathy Lesser ’79, a personal chef from Manassas, Virginia, shows us canned peas in a whole new light.

For more recipes, including Saltwater Grilled Cheese, S’mores Ice Cream Cake, and Mac & Cheese (with bacon!), check your mailbox for the latest issue of the magazine.

Cold Pea, Artichoke and White Corn Salad

Servings: 4-6

  • 2 (14-ounce) cans peas
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans white corn
  • 1 small jar of pimentos
  • 1 (4-ounce) can mushrooms
  • 1 (14-ounce) can French cut green beans
  • 1 cup artichokes (fresh or canned), chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions

Salad

Drain all vegetables, and mix together in a large bowl.

Note: Fresh vegetables may also be substituted for the canned variety, but should be cooked before adding to salad. If possible, use vegetables with no added salt.

Dressing

  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Mix all ingredients, then pour over veggies, and chill at least 2 hours. The salad is even better if left overnight in the refrigerator to marinate. Mix with cold cooked wild rice if you desire.

About Kathy:

It’s not the most traditional progression to go from 14 years of teaching preschool to cooking for one of the families whose kids you had taught.

But that’s how things turned out for Kathy Lesser ’79, whose pre-preschool life saw her working in hospitals, using her Spanish and communication degree to translate for Hispanic patients, serving as an office manager, and later becoming a medical transcriptionist.

It was a close relationship with the family of two of her students that spurred her unintended new career.

“When the family heard I was going to quit teaching, they asked if I could cook for them,” she says with a laugh. “They are both doctors and like to eat healthy but don’t have time to prepare stuff from scratch.”

Five years later, she is still lovingly preparing all the family’s food, guided by a menu the mom prepares each week.

“Since I started doing this, the meals at my own house have become much better,” she notes. “The first year … my husband gained six pounds! I was cooking outside the box, making things I hadn’t made before. It opened up a new world for my family, and I get to know I’m helping another family in the process.”

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