So easy, a freshman can do it – or how to impress a date in your dorm room while keeping your pants on - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

So easy, a freshman can do it – or how to impress a date in your dorm room while keeping your pants on

College is where I really began to find myself in the kitchen.  I’ve been in a kitchen for as long as I can remember, but it was at this point in my life where I began to experiment with flavors, and find out what I could do for myself what I’d normally have done for me at a restaurant.

this old friend got me through college, while being mistaken for a TV, a bread maker and a guitar amp.

Seeing stores are beginning their back-to-school sales, complete with displays of dorm – sorry, they’re called residence halls now, though I’ll never get used to it – room furniture, and for a split second I recall shopping for the stuff myself.

It’s not easy to eat well when you live at school.  So this week, I’m doing recipes that can be made in a dorm room, because I don’t want anyone to be that kid who sets off the fire alarm at three in the morning after putting a whole can of soup in the microwave while pulling an all-nighter on the honors floor.  It’s not the way you want to get to know the people on your floor.

Many residence halls do have at least one shared kitchen (DO NOT leave your food in there if you want to come back for it at another time)  and I encourage you to use and abuse it when you have the time.  Just clean up after yourself, you’re a big kid now.  We all have times when we can’t take another brainless pre-made morsel.

In which case, I recommend making a box of mac ‘n’ cheese, with your own personal twist.  Some people add chunks of hot dogs or ham, others throw in broccoli.  I myself prefer adding a drained can of tuna, frozen peas and some chili powder, making a fairly well-rounded meal, all things considered.

When thinking of in-room cooking, most people get a mental image of making grilled cheese on an ironing board, trays of Jell-O shots, crates of ramen or anything pre-made and easy to store.  When asked what food prep items they’ll need, most students would tell you a microwave and mini-fridge and sometimes a coffee pot.

I would like to add to that list.  To those of you who like to eat real food no matter where you are, get yourself an electric kettle.  Sure, it’s good to make a cup of tea, but in minutes you can boil pasta, hard-boil eggs, steam veggies and most have a stainer in the spout, so it comes with a built-in colander.

So, I’m sitting here thinking about this challenge with which I’ve presented myself.  I can’t use a hot plate, slow cooker, toaster oven, Foreman grill or a stove.  No sweat, right?  I’ve roasted marshmallows with lighters; I once used a hammer and screwdriver to bust into a can of peaches when my can opener refused to work; and I’ve made quesadillas in the microwave (not traditionally recommended, but desperate times call for desperate measures.)

The microwave in my home is the same one I took to the residence halls I’m not telling how many years ago, so the recipes I make will be powered on the same wattage allowed in the standard dorm room and the dishes being used to cook must fit into the smaller cooking area.  To eat well in a dorm room, it just takes some ingenuity.  The other half of this challenge is using ingredients that will store, last long enough until you get around to using them, and take it easy on a college budget.  Game on.

I know lots of people make eggs in a microwave, beating eggs in a mug, adding desired extra veggies or meat, then nuking until fluffy.  I could tell you a hundred ways to make pasta dishes, but that’s too easy.  Simply boil your pasta in a hot pot, dumping in the pasta before heating the water so that it will cook as the water heats – many electric kettles are made to shut off when the water boils for more than a few mintues – pour off the water, then dump the pasta into a bowl, add desired sauce.  Or I could tell you a pleasant tuna salad, but we’ve all got our own.  What I’m going for this week is a filling, full fledged meal, complete with soup, side, entrée and dessert.

If you told me a month ago that I would make a chicken dinner in the microwave, I would have laughed in your face.  I was apprehensive about making this dish, because I worried the directed time wouldn’t cook the chicken all the way through while keeping its flavor and texture.

I stand corrected.  The chicken, to my surprise was not rubbery at all, and retained its flavor just fine, even tender.  This meal is great for a dorm date.  It’s filling, creative, and somewhat impressive that it is pulled off in a nuker.

Chicken Diane and potato fans fresh out of the microwave

Chicken Diane

2 chicken breasts, slightly pounded

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. scallions

2 tsp. Lemon juice

1½  tsp. Parsely

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 tbsp. chicken broth

In a baking dish, melt the butter and olive oil, mixing together (about 30 seconds in the microwave).  Put in the chicken, the turn it over to coat in the oil/butter mixture.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Microwave for four minutes on high, let rest one minute, then turn over and cook another four minutes.  Cut into it to make sure it’s done, and cook longer if necessary.  If done, set aside.

While the chicken is cooking, mix lemon juice, scallions, parsley, Dijon,and chicken broth in a small bowl.  Zap for one minute.  Pour of the chicken and serve immediately.

To go with the chicken, I made fan potatoes, full of flavor and easy as can be.  These would also be great with a packet of ranch dressing spices in place of the Parmesan and spices.  Potatoes are great flavor absorbers, so you could spice these up with really whatever strikes your fancy.

Fan Potatoes

2 large potatoes

2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese

1½ tsp. parsley

½ tsp. paprika

2 tbsp. butter (or margarine)

½ tbsp. lemon juice

In a small bowl, combine cheese, paprika and parsley.  Set aside.

Wash and pat dry potatoes.  Cut each lengthwise into quarters, but don’t cut them all the way through.  Rest in cold water for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl (or coffee cup) combine butter and lemon juice, microwave for 30 seconds until melted.  Arrange potatoes in a microwave safe baking dish, brush with butter mixture.  Cook on high for 12 minutes.  Sprinkle with cheese and seasonings, cover, and let stand five minutes before eating.

Sometimes at college you’re not going to feel well, be it from your heinously gross room mate, the professor who coughs on the low-scoring tests, or getting stuck in the elevator with the son of Sneezy.

On those days, you’re just going to want some soup and a nap.  Well, I think it’s safe to say everyone knows how to nap, but I’ll let you in a soup recipe that’s easier than ever expected.  Egg drop soup is the easiest thing I have ever made.  Really. Three ingredients, heat, and not that much time.

Egg drop soup

1 chicken boullion cube

2 cups water

1 beaten egg

Put the boullion cube and water into your hot pot and let boil.  Beat the egg in a small bowl.  Pour the chicken broth into a microwave safe bowl, and slowly pour in the egg.  Microwave for two minutes to make sure the egg gets cooked through.

Everyone gets a hankering for junk food at some point or another.  These brownies are quick, easy and single serving.  No oven needed!  Be warned that while they taste like normal brownies, they don’t really bake the same way.  When you pull them from the microwave, they often look much like they did when you put them in, so don’t be afraid to do the toothpick test to make sure they’re done.  Hence the mess in my cup.

Discovery: microwave brownies “bake” the way they’re loaded into the mug, not crusting up or evening out like oven brownies.

Mug Brownies

¼ cup flour

¼ cup sugar

2 tbsp. cocoa powder

2 tbsp. veggie oil

2 tbsp. water

1/8 tsp. salt

Combine flour, sugar and cocoa powder in a coffee mug.  Add oil, water and salt, mix well.  Nuke for two minutes.  Enjoy

This last recipe can go as either a side (it would have gone great with the chicken) or can as easily stand alone as a dessert.  All the perks of an apple pie, but with a lot less sugar.  I’ve seen this recipe with honey, but knowing the handiness of freezer waffles, I think maple syrup would go just as nicely.

Cinnamon maple apples

2 cooking apples (I used the pink lady variety)

4 tbsp. raisins

2 tbsp. maple syrup

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tbsp. butter.

Core the apples and half the apples, arranging them in a microwave safe dish.  Pack the raisins into the apples’ cored holes.  Pour the syrup over the raisins and into the apples, top with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon.  Microwave on high for five to seven minutes.  Serve warm.

Tip of the week: For a quick and easy baked potato, wash a potato, stab with a fork enough times to vent it, then wrap in wet paper towel before nuking for five minutes.  My roommates and I all kicked in for a bag of taters and toppings, then lived off of these fast comfort foods.



About the author

Sally Michaelis

Sally is a wife and domestic diva in Maryland. She approaches life with gusto, humor, and a passion that is unmatched. She is a classic woman, with a modern twist and is the kind of woman who will throw back a beer and watch Star Trek with her husband, and entertain the church croquette group with homemade cheese cake. Sally offers something for everyone, and is always experimenting and cooking up a storm in her kitchen. Contact the author.

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