It’s not uncommon for college students to miss home cooked food. In fact, students are so busy studying for exams or reading they often end up choosing unhealthy meal options. A slice of pizza there, a fries and soda afternoon pick-me-up here, or a sugary morning wake-up call consisting of an iced mocha and a doughnut...all of this will take its toll on you mentally, physically and financially.
Smart meals and snacks that fuel your brain
are essential for all students. Before you dial the corner pizza place
, pull up your Uber Eats app or trudge down the hill to the dining hall, consider how cooking for yourself can save you time – and money.
Gorden Ramsay, Rachel Ray, Bobby Flay and Ree Drummond had to start somewhere! College students can really amp up your culinary habits with a few simple adjustments. All you need is a microwave, a few utensils and an empty stomach.
Know your microwave cooking basics.
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Before popping something in the microwave, make sure the container is microwave safe. Melted plastic or heating a metal dish will ruin your microwave.
With a few adjustments, you can cook nearly anything in a microwave that you can make in a conventional oven, although you won’t be able to grill, toast or brown food.
Have these cooking tools on hand.
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You’ll be able to cook an unexpected variety of recipes with just the basics.
• Can opener
• Chef’s knife
• Cutting board
• Measuring cups and spoons
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• Mixing bowls
• Microwave-safe casserole dish
• Microwave-safe coffee mug
• Bowl hot pad or oven mitt
• Instant Pot® (We’ll talk more about the Instant Pot® later.)
Dinner at the Press of a Button
If your experience cooking in a microwave begins and ends with popcorn and frozen pizza, you’re missing out. Microwave cooking is fast, requires little work, and even most students living on campus have access to a microwave. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to make a quick and healthy meal. None of the recipes here take more than seven minutes to cook. If you’re missing mom’s home home-cooked meals, try these recipes:
- Baked Potato
Humble they may be, but potatoes are the perfect base for so many cultural flares.
Potatoes work well in the microwave. To make a potato meal, start with the basic microwaved potato and add your own topping twist to mix things up. Try a buffalo chicken baked potato like this Pioneer Woman recipe, or add your own toppings – like sour cream, bacon bits, broccoli, cheese or salsa.
• Two baking potatoes
Scrub the potatoes and prick them a few times with a fork. Place the potatoes on a plate and microwave on high for five minutes. Turnover and microwave for another five minutes or until potatoes are soft. Let rest for a few minutes before eating.
Additional potato toppings
Try taking your favorite genre of food to create a potato smashup! Do you love Italian dishes? Add a bit of marinara sauce, crumbled Italian sausage and mozzarella cheese. Maybe your heart and stomach need the comfort of Midwestern BBQ? Add some pulled pork, your favorite BBQ sauce and some shredded sharp cheddar cheese to your hot potato. Get creative!!
Salt, Pepper & Butter
Baked potato 101: You really must have all three of these basic seasoning staples added to your potato. If your cutting calories limit the amount of butter you use.
- Mug Egg Scrambler
High in protein, eggs are a great meal option because they’ll keep you feeling fuller longer. Really you don’t need to save eggs for your morning meals. This egg scrambler is basically an omelet in a mug that you can enjoy anytime. Eggs are very inexpensive; no need to feel guilty about eating eggs! Amp up your egg dish by including diced veggies. Mom would be proud!
• Two eggs
• Diced bell pepper and/or Diced onion
• Slice of ham lunch meat, diced
• Salt, Pepper to taste
• ¼ teaspoon of butter
• ½ teaspoon of milk This is a fully egg secret.
Place the milk, eggs, salt and pepper in your microwavable mug. Mix them well with a fork. Once done, add the remaining ingredients. Cook for 1 minute, thirty seconds, stir and cook for a remaining 1 minute, thirty seconds. Enjoy!
- Quick Shells ‘N Cheese
If you’re a foodie feeling a bit more adventurous try cooking shells and cheese in your microwave. Mac ‘n cheese is the ultimate comfort food! Just like the potato recipe above, you can add in ingredients to your cheesy pasta extra special. Tip our editors tested this recipe out at recommend using pasta shells rather than elbow macaroni. As the shells cook better in the microwave!
• ½ cup shell pasta
• ½ cup water
• 3 tablespoons of milk
• ¼ teaspoon of butter
• ¼ cup shredded sharp-cheddar cheese
• Salt, Pepper to taste
Mix your shell pasta and water in a microwavable bowl. Microwave for 2-3 minutes. Drop in the butter and stir in to melt. Add the salt and pepper and mix. Continue by adding in your milk and cheese. Stir these until they melt. You may want to pop your bowl back into the microwave for a quick warm up. Try warming your cheesy dish for just 20 seconds. Be careful pulling this out of your microwave—it will be hot! Check out this hot bowl holder; everyone should own one!!
5-Minute Mug Brownie
Sometimes you just need a sweet treat to satisfy a sweet tooth. No worries. You don’t have to commit to an entire tray of brownies. Make yourself a solo brownie in your dorm microwave.
• 1/4 cup flour
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons of unsweetened powdered cocoa
• pinch of salt
• 2 tablespoons melted butter
• 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Place all dry ingredients in the mug and stir. Add in melted butter, water and vanilla and stir until there are zero lumps. Place your mug in the microwave and cook for 1 minute and 10 seconds. Use a toothpick to see if it needs to cook longer. If it does, cook in 10 second increments until done—but don’t overcook it. Every microwave is different, you’ll need to safely experiment with the time on this one.
Pressure Cooker/ Instant Pot® Recipes
We couldn't leave this article without mentioning the Instant Pot®. Some dorms allow this newest fast-food tech, others are slower to allow for such food tech advancement. Honestly, it took several decades of domestication before the microwave was mainstream for the common consumer
. We’re talking circa late 1960s! So, we’re not surprised there's still some hesitation in the college dorm, Instant Pot® arena.
If you’re allow to have an Instant Pot® in your dorm room
(or you already have one in your apartment) try one of these innovative, steam-pressure recipes all college students should master.
- Instant Pot® Pasta & Sauce
Another "reminds you of home" meal, you'll feel satisfied after this supper.
• 1 lb your favorite shape of pasta (penne, ziti)
• 1 jar pasta sauce (24oz)
• 3 cups water
• Optional- favorite spices such as garlic, salt, Italian blend
• Optional- grated parmesan for topping
Add your pasta and water to your Instant Pot®. Pour the sauce evenly over the uncooked pasta and water. DO NOT STIR. If you want to add your optional spices, now’s the time. Add spices to the top of your sauce. Again, DO NOT STIR. Put the lid on and set the time for 6 minutes at high pressure. After the High-pressure timer ends, wait 2-3 minutes let the steam release naturally. After this finish release any remaining pressure. Stir your pasta and sauce to combine. Top your dish off with grated parmesan if you’d like.
- 5-5-5 Hard Boiled Eggs
Try planning breakfast for the entire week. With this 5 Rule, no-fail hard boiled egg recipe. Place five eggs (Or more if you’d like—just don’t stack eggs on top of one another.)
• 1 cup water
• 5-8 eggs
• Salt, Pepper to taste
Carefully place the eggs in the Instant Pot®. Pour in your water. Seal the pot and set it on high for five minutes. Release the steam. Use tongs to pick up eggs and rest them in an ice water bath for five minutes. Please the eggs and refrigerate. Refrigerated, your eggs should last up to five days.
- Deviled Eggs
A classic, you don’t have to wait until a holiday gathering to whip up a batch of deviled eggs. These are a great addition to a sandwich and can even be a breakfast meal on the go.
• 6 hard boiled eggs
• 1 tablespoon of Dukes mayo
• 1 tablespoon of sweet pickle relish
• ½ teaspoon of mustard
• ½ teaspoon of mustard
• Optional- ¼ teaspoon of fresh ground horseradish
• Optional- paprika
Using the 5-5-5 hard boiled eggs recipe above, peel your eggs after cooled. Slice in half and placed the cooked yolks in a separate bowl. In the bowl of hard yolks, use a fork to mash in the Dukes, mustard, and sweet relish. If you’re feeling adventurous add a ¼ a teaspoon of freshly ground horseradish. Use a small spoon to evenly distribute and scoop your mashed egg yolk mix (this is the deviled part) back into the yolk-less egg halves. Sprinkle with paprika, cover and refrigerate.
What’s your favorite microwave or Instant Pot® recipes you cook in your dorm room or apartment? Please share with us in the comments below!