What are some inventive recipes for cooking in a dorm room?
March 12, 2008 4:27 PM   Subscribe

I need your creative dorm-room cooking recipes and tips.

Dining hall food is terrible/ not available at the hours I like to eat, and I also find it satisfying to make a grilled-cheese sandwich with waxed paper and a clothes iron.

So please, give me any creative recipes that would be easy for a student living in a dorm room to make.

My requirements:
minimal ingredients
not a lot of prep time

appliances I have on hand: rice cooker/steamer, microwave, electric kettle

the more unusual the better--I am not interested in the obvious Ramen, soup, etc.

I would also consider purchasing one more small kitchen appliance for my room, if it could be used in a good number of these recipes.
posted by pumpkin11 to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of storage do you have available? If you have a place for frozen and/or fresh foods, I am a vegetarian and buy both fresh veggies and frozen veggie potstickers, then cook them in the glad microwave steamer bags. A dash of Mrs. Dash in the bag with them and you have a ton of flavor in a little baggie.
posted by slavlin at 4:33 PM on March 12, 2008

When I was in the Navy we didn't have a chow hall on base...a $10 hotplate and a $5 pan will open a world of choices for ya. And no, we weren't supposed to have one of those in the barracks either but it was nice to have a burger or something instead of just stuff that could be zapped/cooked in water.
posted by legotech at 4:36 PM on March 12, 2008

This probably falls into the obvious category, but a Foreman grill (or generic equivalent) is great for cooking just about anything. Particularly sandwiches (grilled cheese is just the beginning) and steaks/chops/chicken breasts.

If, however, you want something more fun, get a deep-fryer. The possibilities are endless.
posted by hihowareyou at 4:48 PM on March 12, 2008

I use my 3-in-1 (coffee pot, toaster oven, hotplate) at work almost every day for breakfast. I can make coffee; hot water for oatmeal or tea or hot chocolate; eggs, toast with cheese (for a breakfast sandwich); poptarts; waffle; etc.
posted by nimsey lou at 4:58 PM on March 12, 2008

Thanks for the answers so far!

Slavlin- I have a fairly large mini-fridge (oxymoron?) with no freezer, but a "chilling" compartment that can keep foods frozen pretty well.
posted by pumpkin11 at 5:09 PM on March 12, 2008

I had an electric wok in college that was indispensible. You can cook just about anything in it...boil, saute, deep-fry, stir-fry. We made some legendary thai curries
posted by gnutron at 5:14 PM on March 12, 2008

My roommate owned a food processor, which was great for snacks. Well, a food processor, a knife, and cutting board. We'd make different kinds of salsa (generally a few tomatoes or tomatillos, some lime juice, a couple of jalapenos or habaneros, an onion, and... then experiment from there) or hummus (drained can of chickpeas, a few cloves garlic, lemon/lime/or orange juice, tahini to taste, and water to adjust the consistency).

We also had an electric skillet, which was great because we could make pancakes, tacos, stir fry, and basically anything else that doesn't require an oven. Of course, whenever we used it, the hall smelled like whatever we were cooking, so be warned of that.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:15 PM on March 12, 2008

you can cook tons of stuff in a rice cooker, even if it isn't the fancy kind with lots of settings. You might get started here, or check out the comments here but really, the possibilities are endless, especially if you're able to store fresh vegetables and meat.
posted by peachfuzz at 5:46 PM on March 12, 2008

NEVER, ever, upon your life (cause everyone will hunt you down), Never try to roast peanuts by cooking them in the microwave.

And if you do decide to try this experiment, know that I warned you against it.
posted by onhazier at 6:16 PM on March 12, 2008

There was a guy on my floor in residence who had a sandwich maker. It was a really awesome thing to have at 3 AM when the dining hall was closed, and there's a surprising amount of stuff you can turn into hot sandwiches-- my favourite is pizza sauce, cheese, & whatever meat or vegetables you want to throw in.
posted by riane at 6:19 PM on March 12, 2008

The editorial side of the website I work for did a story on this.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:18 PM on March 12, 2008

You rice cooker/steamer may have options for making soups and even <gasp> cake </gasp>.

If it's programmable at all, it should even be able to make stews.

If it's not programmable, you can still throw in chopped vegetables (mushrooms are good, too) and chopped, er, preserved meats (preserved duck, chicken, sausages, brisket, &c) with the rice. Stir it up once it's done. Drizzle in a little soy sauce (shouldn't be necessary if you have the preserved meats).


I never liked cooking in my dorm rooms - no exhaust fan.

If you have a shared kitchen area (which would typically be pretty icky, though), fried rice is convenient (tip; use rice you made the day before and had left in the fridge; drizzle raw scrambled egg onto just the rice that you've heated up in the pan for a while with the goal of coating each individual grain of rice with a thin protective coating of egg, then add the other ingredients).


More on the spendy side, but there are quality ramen-type noodles. Check out any asian markets that you might have access to. Ramen that you get at the Food Lion or even Walmart tend to be pretty gross (ie., the 3 for $0.99). Look for ramen that comes in bowls and has packets of freeze-dried vegetables and maybe even packaged soy protein. They run from a buck-something to $3-something+. Save the pull-off paper lids so you can remember which ones you liked the next time you go shopping. Here in Vancouver, one can find high quality instant pad Thai and other high quality ramen-like meals at even mainstream supermarkets in the Foreign/Asian section. Some are quite good.

If you see tinned fried wheat gluten, give it a try. Tasty, satisfying, and convenient. If you see tinned eel, give that a try, too. Dump a tin (including the "juice") over some steamed rice.

Knorr makes really good dehydrated soups.


Broccoli is actually very rich in iron. Unfortunately, you need citric acid to absorb this non-haeme iron. Broccoli & tinned pineapple is a great dish.


Foreman grill isn't a bad idea. Grilled sandwich makers are less expensive, though, but less flexible.
posted by porpoise at 7:34 PM on March 12, 2008

If you get a hand blender (approx $30), you can make a host of cheap, easy, fun snacks and treats:

- milkshakes (duh. pretty much pays for itself in milkshakes and malts alone)
- coffee + icecream milkshakes (for the summer months)
- smoothies
- Hummus (canned chickpeas, olive oil, lemon, tahina paste, salt, pepper). Eat with pita or pita chips.
- Salsa (somebody mentioned this upthread). Healthy, until you eat a whole bag of tortilla chips.
- fruit toppings for your pancakes and waffles
- pesto (tons of basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper) and then toss the paste with pasta and some sundried tomatoes if you have some. garnish with a bit of pamesean.
- stick in it a pot of soup (either homemade or store bought) and zap the soup for 10 seconds. This will thicken it up and make it better.
posted by zpousman at 7:38 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

The very best ramen is "Shin" brand. Asian grocery stores have a lot better ramen than regular stores. It doesn't cost more, but it's way tastier. Crack an egg in it for the real-deal asian stylee.
posted by zpousman at 7:40 PM on March 12, 2008

A Foreman grill is pretty awesome. Make sure you get one with grill plates that remove for washing. I am guessing all the new ones have it, but my old one doesn't, and cleaning it is a bitch.
posted by radioamy at 8:10 PM on March 12, 2008

gnutron stole my post... Electric Wok. Quesadillas, cheese sandwiches, stir fry, steam, heat up pre-cooked chicken patties+cheese+bread+mayo+relish. Curry for your rice... Fry a burger.

Really nice thing to have. You really need some sort of Heat-like, Pot-like cooking thing.

Boiling water, noodles, steamer or grease net on top, on that, bowl with pasta sauce that heats while noodles cook, parmesan cheese.

Steamed brocolli, fry with butter some panko, once almost brown add brocolli and toss for a minute or two, even better the second day.

Rice cooker, rice, two hot dogs, maybe some frozen peas or corn. Press button. (short sticky rice is best). Fluff rice on plate, add teriyaki or bonito furikake, add parmesan, press down into a hash-brown like cake. Add cock-sauce. A fork of rice, a bite of dog, dipped in cock-sauce... OM NOM NOM.

Anyway, from what I've tried... as long as you don't overdo it, you can throw about any veggie or pre-cooked meat type stuff in with your rice in a rice cooker. Most work by monitoring the temperature, when the water is gone the temp climbs and they shut off. Usually that is enough to warm up any veggies or pre-cooked type of meat.

Toaster oven is good also. I understand dorm limitations, my rice cooker came with a recipie book with 20 or so things... if you want them, email me. If you can manage an electric wok or hotplate and pan and pot, and toaster oven, email me... :) I'm half-way decent at the tiny freezer, single, don't want to wash tons of pans, bachelor chow thing... *sigh*
posted by zengargoyle at 8:34 PM on March 12, 2008

(echoing a bit of zengargoyle)
You can put any variety of sausage (Chinese sausage is still king for this) in the rice cooker as the rice is cooking for a nice sausage-infused meal. Adding some veggies in there is nice too, but firmer ones are better (broccoli, carrots, potatoes), though you can't go wrong with some onions and other aromatics added in towards the beginning. Adding any sort of flavoring to the rice cooking liquid always adds a little variety, too.

I loved cooking with my rice cooker when I was in college - it was a "set it and forget it" deal that, with a little experimentation, always turned out a pleasant meal.
posted by chan.caro at 8:52 PM on March 12, 2008

I had a toaster oven and used it to make cookies, toasted sandwiches, stuffed mushrooms, and roasted tomatoes when I was in college.
posted by rmless at 10:06 PM on March 12, 2008

I second the hand blender (or more of a minichopper) to make hummous.

Also look into cous-cous Just steam some veggies in your steamer add them to the dry couscous and add boiling water. A splash of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar and you've got a great snack. Throw in some raisins as well.

I think you could cook nearly anything with a steamer/kettle/microwave except anything that needed searing/frying. It might not be appetizing cooking it in a microwave, but it would work.

A george Forman is great as well for anything that would need frying/searing.
posted by koolkat at 5:24 AM on March 13, 2008

Thirding toaster oven. Nothing makes you the most valuable floormate like the ability to produce hot cookies on demand. Also, you can make banana bread in mini loaf pans. Anything you can't do in the microwave you can do in the toaster oven, or vice versa. Alternately, grills a la the George Foreman (though not necessary to get a name brand one) allow you to cook meat, which is just about the only thing the above two can't do well.
posted by sarahkeebs at 8:11 AM on March 13, 2008

A cheap and easy dorm-room recipe I used to like:

1/2 lb. ground meat
1 small can tomato sauce, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, or similar
Your favorite kind of cheese, to taste
1 French loaf

Add salt and pepper to taste and cook the meat. You can probably do this in the microwave, otherwise a hot plate works. While the meat is still very hot, mix in the sauce and the cheese, and then stir until the meat is thoroughly saucy and cheesy. Rip the French loaf in half, hollow out both ends a bit, and pour the meat sauce in. Eat.

Our local supermarket sold huge French loaves for $1, so this was a pretty cheap recipe. You can adjust for whatever is the cheapest unsliced bread where you are. It's also great in tortillas.
posted by vorfeed at 10:08 AM on March 13, 2008

I know, I know you said no ramen, but I've got to tell you this one. Back in school my creative roommate and I had no money, but we had a microwave. My roommate was, as I said, creative, he was also into minimalism. He was always trying to test himself for the Mad Max days. Early on he made meals from ingredients he could get for a maximum total of $1 and one pint of water. He permitted himself the use of a microwave in the beginning. His first recipe was:

1 packet ramen
1 pint water
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can tuna

Bring water to boil in microwave, add flavor packet and ramen.
Cook 1 minute on high
Stir in soup
Cook 1 minute on high
Stir in drained tuna
Cook one more minute
Let sit for a few minutes to cool to edible temperature.

It makes a sort of tuna casarole that is actually palatable.

He went on to make a hot plate/campfire version that included boiling an egg in the water as it heated and pouring off one cup og the boiling water for a cup of tea. The egg was cut into the final casarole before it set to cool. You could also substitute rotini or other pasta for the ramen, but you may want to spice it up a little for flavor.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:14 AM on March 13, 2008

Please buy a George Forman grill. You won't regret it. They're cheap, cook food quickly, and are small. You can make so many things on those little rascals. Grilled veggies, fish, beef, pork, tofu. Get some Mrs. Dash and sprinkle that on everything; no sodium and really tasty.
Cous cous is really great if you don't want to dirty your rice cooker. Just add boiling water from the microwave to the cous cous and let it sit for 7 mins. Add dried fruits, nuts, herbs, veggies (steam the veggies in the rice cooker). You can also use the rice cooker to steam veggies.
posted by HotPatatta at 11:39 AM on March 13, 2008

Something I discovered not to long ago was to cook a can of Cambell's soup, but add in a packet of Ramen noodles (yea yea, I know...but it's a cheap source of calories, and I don't use the sauce packet). I use a Tupperware thing, and I heat up some water. Then I soak the noodles until I'm able to break them apart, but not soggy enough to eat as if you were just making them. I then drain the water, and replace it with a can of your favorite soup (I, for some reason like Chicken Corn Chowder). Then I put it in the microwave and cook it for 20-30 seconds longer than the recommended. For less than $1.50, you can eat a meal that you'll have a hard time finishing...and not because it tastes like crap either. Plus, I really like the idea of chicken noodle noodle soup.
posted by Geppp at 5:00 PM on March 13, 2008

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