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How to Cook: The Basics

By Katie Davis

While some of you who read this may be seasoned chefs, my general observation throughout my time as a sports Registered Dietitian is that few athletes have been taught how to cook pasta, let alone fillet mignon. So for those who just want to survive in the kitchen, here are a few “How-Tos.” This would make a great read for the college student athlete or athlete-to-be who now has to fend for his/herself in the kitchen!



1. Bring water to a boil. Use enough water to cover the pasta once pasta is in the pot. Test first if needed.
2. Once boiling, add pasta to pot. Stir occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking together.
3. Refer to package for approximate baking times. To test for doneness, pull out one piece of pasta using tongs of fork. Pasta is done when it is still a little chewy.
4. Drain water using a colander or the lid to the pot. If making cold pasta salad, run pasta under cold running water. Otherwise, add sauce to pasta on a plate and enjoy.

“Instant” Rice (pre-cooked to shorten the cooking time)

1. Follow directions on box or use equal amounts rice and water/broth. Bring water or broth to a boil then add rice.
2. Simmer for 5 minutes with lid ON.

Note: You can make regular white or brown rice easily using a rice cooker. Most make 8 servings: use 2 cups rice + 4 cups water. If you eat rice often, a rice cooker is a great investment!

Baked potato (white or sweet)

1. Wash potato. Poke several times with a fork.
2. Place on plate and microwave ~5 minutes per side (10 minutes total).
3. Be careful when removing from microwave – it will be warm! The potato is done when it is soft.

Chicken breast

1. You will need: 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast; canola oil, Italian seasoning, oven-safe baking pan, aluminum foil.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
3. Line baking pan with aluminum foil. Drizzle a small amount of canola oil on pan (~1 Tbsp).
4. Place thawed chicken breast on top of oil and sprinkle with seasoning. (Add additional seasonings as desired).
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Test with fork to be sure there is no pink (or check for internal temperature of at least 165 degrees).


1. You will need: 1 fish fillet (salmon or tilapia works best with this recipe); canola oil, plenty of fresh veggies (zucchini, summer squash, kale, mushrooms and red pepper work well for this), butter, lemon juice or 1/2 fresh lemon, oven-safe baking pan, aluminum foil
2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
3. Make a large rectangle of aluminum foil. Drizzle ~1 Tbsp oil in center of rectangle and place  thawed fish fillet on top. Squeeze 1/2 fresh lemon or 2 Tbsp lemon juice onto fish (optional: additional seasonings such as oregano, basil and dill work well with this dish).
4. Chop vegetables into a small pieces and place on top of fish. Top vegetables with ~1 tbsp butter.
5. Create packets by bringing ends together to the center and folding down then folding up sides of packet. Be sure there are no openings in the packet.
6. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Fish is done when it flakes with a fork and is no longer clear in appearance.

Note: Instead of the lemon juice and seasonings, another great preparation is to top with a honey-mustard sauce. Mix 1 part honey to 2 parts spicy brown mustard. Brush on top of fish (works best with salmon). Top with veggies and bake as directed above.

kateKatie Davis MS, RD, CSSD, LDN has a mission to help ordinary athletes become extraordinary competitors by using whole-food based nutrition to improve athletic performance. She is the owner of RDKate Sports Nutrition Consulting, based out of Naperville, where she offers expertise in sports nutrition, eating disorders/disordered eating, intuitive eating and weight management for sport. Katie holds a Masters Degree in Nutrition with an emphasis in Exercise Physiology. She is both a registered dietitian (RD) and 1 of only 550 RDs in the United States to be board -certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. As a runner, triathlete, snowboarder, and rock climber, Katie understands the physical and mental challenges of being a top athlete. Katie has previously consulted with NCAA Division I & Division III, NFL and NBA athletes; she truly brings both her knowledge and experience to the table as sports dietitian. Katie is available for individual consulting, team talks and group seminars. Visit her website at; from there you can navigate to her weekly blog, Eat to Compete, and connect with her on Twitter or Facebook. Contact her directly at