Dorm & Dine

Recipes, tips, and tricks for better cooking on campus

Rowan students learning outside of the classroom

Photo courtesy of Food Thinkers on Flikr

Photo courtesy of Food Thinkers on Flikr

When I started walking around the dorm hallways this afternoon, I was keeping my eyes (and nose) open for evidence of someone who was cooking something delicious. While the first few rooms I stopped by were more of the Ramen noodle variety of college culinary, I hit the jackpot on my fourth stop of the day.

Nicole Podraza is an 18 year old Math and Science major at Rowan University. She’s also a wizard when it comes to whipping up something delicious for dinner on a busy schedule. When I stopped by her room, it was because I caught the overwhelming scent of hot sauce wafting down the halls. Nicole, who was busy making herself a homemade dinner of microwavable hot wings, had no problem with telling me all about her cooking habits here on campus.

“First of all, I use hot sauce on everything that I can. I got that habit from home,” said Podraza, whose mom gave her a crash course on cooking before she left for college, “I also tend to go for quick meals, since I’m always super busy.”

Nicole’s roommate, Jen Racine, is also a busy bee on campus, participating actively in both her studies and as a pledge of Alpha Sigma Alpha.

“I’ve learned a ton of stuff about cooking from Nicole. She always makes so much food, so we have tons of leftovers,” said Racine.

While Podraza and Racine might seem like accomplished dorm chefs, however, things weren’t always so great.

“When we first moved in, we set off the fire alarms. A lot of fire alarms,” said Jen, recalling the somewhat smoky concoctions that Nicole sometimes pulled from the depths of the microwave.

“I was sort of embarrassed,” said Podraza, recalling the cooking mishaps at the beginning of the fall semester. “My mom showed me some stuff I could make, but I didn’t expect a little bit of smoke to set off alarms and evacuate the whole building. That made me learn quicker though, especially when it started to get cold outside, and we had to stand out in the cold during alarms.”

Nicole, who lives in a dorm with a ban on appliances and only a micro fridge for cooking, often gets creative when it comes to what she’s craving for dinner.

“Sometimes, when I don’t have money for takeout and I don’t feel like walking to the caf[eteria], I’ve ironed sandwiches,” Podraza said, “It sounds weird, but I can make a mean grilled cheese with an iron.”

“I never realized how easy it was to avoid the caf food,” said Jen Racine, who has been trying out Nicole’s cooking tips on her own, “I didn’t think that you could cook meals with just a microwave. I mean, besides Ramen or frozen dinners. It’s nice to be able to eat whatever you feel like eating.”

What’s cooking for the next month

Photo courtesy of moonflowerdragon on Flikr

Photo courtesy of moonflowerdragon on Flikr

Over the next few weeks, there’s going to be a few new things popping up on the blog.

For starters, I plan on sitting down with a Rowan University RA to see what advice they have for the aspiring dorm chef. I also want to know if they have any favorite tips, tricks, and recipes that they can share with us, as well as what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to appliances.

When I’m in my dorm around dinnertime, I can always catch the scent of what everyone is cooking up in their own kitchens. Sometimes, it’s smoke and fire, but sometimes there’s an actual, edible, food smell in the air that makes my mouth water. I’m going to visit my neighbors and see what food they’ve got to show me. I’m really interested in the creative ways that  students without access to cooking appliances prepare meals, and I hope to get the inside scoop on creative dorm cooking methods. I’m also going to post some photos of what I find, so keep your eyes peeled.

Food isn’t the only part of cooking, especially when most of your meals are going to be prepared a la microfridge. I’m going to be making a list of the essentials for any dorm kitchen, as well as where to get the best deals on the tools of the trade.

If anyone has any suggestions for recipes, or if you just want to share some dorm cooking advice, feel free to leave a comment.

Five microwave-only dinner recipes to get you through the week

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Photo courtesy of Chris Tengi on Flikr

After the Valentine’s Day madness of this past week, ordering takeout might seem like the easiest option for a warm meal. Not so! I scoured some of my favorite cooking blogs, and found some recipes that are sure to leave you (and your roommates) very happy. Here are five easy recipes ready-made for the microwave.

  1. Small Kitchen College came up with a simple recipe for homemade lasagna that does not require an oven. No, really.
  2. Cdkitchen has instructions for a yummy microwavable green beans and ham dish.
  3.  This recipe for shepherd’s pie from ifood takes a little while to cook, but it is definitely worth the wait.
  4. For pasta lovers, this spaghetti and meat sauce recipe from busy cooks is cheap and easy to make.
  5. This microwave chicken stir fry recipe from cooks.com has to be marinated overnight, but turns into a delicious and simple dinner that will leave plenty of leftovers.

Everyone’s a Chef

When asked for their idea of a meal, many college students will reply with the staple foods of university life; easy mac, popcorn, ramen noodles, or some form of late night takeout are almost synonymous with on-campus dining. But in the interest of avoiding the low health, high sodium diet of the typical student, some will look for better options, often attempting to cook meals themselves. Dorm living, however, can raise many problems for the eager collegiate chef.

That’s where I come in. I want to know what college kids are cooking up (or burning down) in their very own dorm rooms. How do you tackle the limitations of college life – time, tools, money – and despite everything, turn a few simple ingredients into something edible? How can you even cook food – real food – in a microwave? What keeps you cooking in instead of dining out? And more importantly, how do you keep those pesky, super sensitive dorm fire alarms from going off at the slightest provocation? Along with sharing the cooking methods of fellow students living on campus, I’ll find the dorm foodies. The ones that love to cook, and to eat, and know how to do so with only a micro fridge and 100 square feet of living space. I’ll also track down the first time chefs, the ones that sometimes know the easiest and cheapest recipes, and asking them what they’ve learned so far. There’s a lot of different people out there, and some lack culinary knowledge, but in one way or another, everyone is a chef, and everyone can learn to cook.

Food means something to everyone, but for college students, it can mean anything from a quick break from homework to a way of impressing your significant other with a home cooked meal. So here’s my blog. What does it mean to Dorm and Dine?