While many students have dining halls to keep them fed, others have to make do with nothing more than a mini-fridge and a microwave. This might seem meager, but after a summer in a 10′ x 10′ dorm room with just these two appliances, I mastered the art of microwavable meals. Here are some tips and recipes to help expand your microwave skills beyond mac n’ cheese and Ramen noodles.
Before we dive into specific recipes, you should know that the major starches (rice, pasta, and potatoes) which form the bulk of many students’ calorie consumption, can all be microwaved. For rice, buy the boil-in-a-bag variety, place it in a bowl of water, and microwave for 10 to 15 minutes. For pasta, submerge some pasta in water. Be sure to cover the bowl, and microwave for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. For potatoes, poke some holes in it with a fork, and microwave for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the potato’s size (or use the potato button on your microwave).
With these basic staples in mind, here are some microwavable meals you can make quickly and easily:
Chana Aloo Curry
In the comfort of your own dorm, you can make dishes that will be just as good (or better) that your local Indian takeout place.
First, cook a potato. Remove it from the microwave, and cut it into cubes. Toss the cubes in a bowl with half of a 15-ounce can of chickpeas. Add one or two spoonfuls of curry powder, and stir. If you want, you can add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper for heat. Microwave all of this together for one minute, and add three tablespoons of cream (coconut cream can be substituted). Microwave again for one minute, and enjoy!
Alternatives: For Chana Aloo Gobi, add a handful of frozen cauliflower with the chickpeas, and cook an additional minute. For Chana Aloo Saag, add a half of a box of frozen spinach with the chickpeas and cook an additional minute
Among microwavable meals, dirty rice is nutritionally well-balanced. Begin by dicing one red pepper, one stalk of celery, and half an onion. Place the vegetables in a bowl with a bag of rice. Add one can of chicken broth, and enough water to cover the rice. Microwave for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the bowl from the microwave and strain, reserving the liquid. Add the rice to a bowl with the cooked peppers, celery and onion. Add half a can of black beans and two inches of cooked chopped kielbasa. Stir this together with one teaspoon of cumin. Add half a cup of the reserved liquid and microwave for two minutes, or until warmed through.
Not-What-You’re-Thinking Mac N’ Cheese
Next time you’re tempted by the dinosaur on the Kraft box, know that you can make homemade mac n’ cheese with nothing other than your microwave. Begin by microwaving half a pound of macaroni for 10 to 15 minutes. Add two cups of cheddar cheese and a cup of whole milk. (Anything other than skim will do, but some fat is essential.) Stir this all together with salt and pepper, and microwave for five minutes. Remove, stir once more, and voila! You’ve got homemade macaroni and cheese. How’s that for a microwavable meal?
So, the next time you’re at a loss for microwavable meals, remember that basic staples like rice, pasta, and potato can be turned into almost anything! Skip the pizza order or the Ramen noodles, and prepare a healthy meal in the comfort of your dorm room.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons