How Do I Cook in a Dorm?


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**Ask Us Anything: What Can I Make in a Military Dorm?**

I’m living the military dorm life again for a while, and am missing my full kitchen. Right now my appliances are a two-burner hot plate, a crock pot, microwave, and pizza oven. I’ve made a pot roast, and some couscous, some rice, and lots of sandwiches. Do you have any suggestions for meals that can be made with what I have? I still have an inordinate amount of rice/couscous left, along with some yogurt, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and beef. Oh, and some tofu! Sure, they have a chow hall, but who wants to eat chow every day? Not me! Any ideas?

-Bethany M.

It sounds like you are definitely on the right track with using your limited resources to make delicious meals. A pot roast on a hot plate is an achievement – my mom once did that when we were fixing up the kitchen and were relegated to cooking in the laundry room. It’s impressive!!

I have two pieces of advice. The first, which sounds kind of silly, is to identify your favorite food/food combinations. Do you love rice, couscous, and beef? If you do, great. But if your real affection is for sandwiches and pizza, then focus on those to satisfy you while you’re cooking in such limited way.

Which brings me to my second point. Since your repertoire is finite right now, you’ll have to rev it up in small, inventive ways without embarking on ambitious kitchen experiments. Instead of making another plain grilled cheese sandwich, make a mushroom grilled cheese, a pepperoni grilled cheese, or a pesto grilled cheese. Pesto, store-bought or homemade, is a great one to keep around, as it’ll make everything from couscous to pizza taste a lot more interesting and even “gourmet.” Along the same lines, see if you can add mix-ins to the mayo you spread on your sandwiches–try hot sauce, a Caesar-like combo of Parm and anchovies, or chopped chives. You didn’t mention cooking eggs, but they’re a great go-to, and the same idea applies: scrambled eggs with cheddar and scallions are not the same as a fried egg on top of rice and vegetables.

You should also check out the dorm and dining hall combinations our Small Kitchen College writers have come up with. They’ve made cashew chicken in the microwave and all kinds of quesadillas in the George Forman grill.

And, when you’re desperate and down to your last odds and ends, I recommend improvising a stir fry: put tofu/beef/rice/carrots/ANYTHING in a hot pan, add seasonings, and you’ll have a decent, satisfying meal.

Any other advice for Bethany?

Posted in: Ask Us Anything
  • Heather

    I got a slow cooker a few months ago and I’ve been using it a lot.  I’ve made minestrone soup, chili, a whole chicken, meatballs, and pulled pork.  It’s great because you can reheat everything in your microwave but still feel like you’re having a fulfilling meal.

  • Adrienne James

    I understand the frustration of not getting “real” homemade food. I lived in the dorms my first two years of college, and the lack of good food is the main reason I got my own place. Although I have a “real” kitchen now, I cook for just myself, so I often need ideas for simple things  that don’t make huge amounts, or that only take a few minutes of effort to prepare. I don’t like eating fast food or frozen food if possible, so I try to come up with easy quick meals.

    I like to make soup in the winter in a big batch in the crock pot and freeze the rest. I realize this could be hard if you don’t have a freezer, as my dorm “freezer” (little compartment in dorm fridge) didn’t really work. If you have a small crock pot, you could easily make a small batch of something that you could finish in a few days, or share with your neighbors.

    A toaster oven is a god-send, and I’m sure your pizza oven does that job. I love making quick toasted sandwiches without much effort. English muffin pizza? Yum. Pita pizza? Yum. Just make it more grown up with fresh and simple toppings.

    Also, pasta is super simple because it can be scaled down. Cold soba noodles with veggies are simple and delicious, or pasta with butter and herbs. One-dish meals are great. Rice skillets are a favorite of mine, just put rice and veggies and maybe some meat or beans in to cook with the rice. You can use tomato juice or broth for the liquid to add more flavor.

    My advice is to buy food that can be used for multiple things. It takes me a long time to use up a block of cheese, so I try to buy a variety that works with many different dishes.

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