Food - Cooking for college: Pimp your ramen!

And other dorm room dinner recipes

Microwave mac and cheese. Pizza delivery. Ramen noodles. Repeat. It's a wonder more college students don't die of scurvy. Sure, there are healthy options at the dining hall salad bar, and of course there's no rule against opting for a veggie tofu wrap at Whole Foods over McDonald's drive-thru, but let's face it: When you're trying to fit meals between classes and parties, when you want breakfast at 2 p.m. and dinner at midnight, when you're on a strict $5 per day budget and cooking on a hot plate in your dorm room, good food just ain't that easy to come by. I'm here to help.

Don't worry — I'm not about to give you the mom speech. I want you to avoid going hungry, and to actually take pleasure in the food you consume. With that in mind, here are a couple of recipes you can make easily on one burner using cheap ingredients, which you might even enjoy.


Tricked-out ramen

At 10 cents a serving, it's hard to argue with the value of ramen noodles. They're comforting, filling and fast. But let's face it, they kinda taste like soupy salty Styrofoam. You can get some more interesting varieties at Asian grocery stores, but even then it's hard to feel as though you're getting a full meal. With just a few extra ingredients added, you can turn these squiggly bastards into a full on feast.

?• Small amount of veggie oil for sautéing
?• 1 package ramen noodles, flavor of choice
?• 1 inch-long piece of ginger root, chopped
?• 1 clove of garlic, chopped
?• 1/4 yellow onion, thinly sliced
?• Handful of basil or cilantro, chopped
?• 2 mushrooms, sliced (shiitake is nice but regular will do)
?• Handful of snow peas (can substitute chopped bok choy or another green veggie of choice)
?• Juice of half a lime
?• Package or glurp of soy sauce
?• Optional: teaspoon dark sesame oil, hot sauce of some sort — I prefer Sriracha and recommend it for any dorm room (a generous squirt makes Velveeta shells and cheese 10 times better), but any hot sauce will add flavor.

Instructions: In a medium pot, heat a glurp of oil over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger and onions, and cook until onions start to turn translucent. Add mushrooms and snow peas or other veggies and cook a few minutes until the snow peas are hot but not wilted. Transfer mixture to a bowl.

In the same pot (no need to clean out), heat three cups of water (ramen package says two, but you're adding extra seasoning). When the water comes to a boil, add ramen noodles and turn down heat to a simmer. Stir occasionally for about two minutes, then add flavor package from ramen, as well as the veggie medley you cooked earlier. Add lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil and hot sauce if you desire. Cook another minute, then add fresh basil or cilantro at the last minute. Serve and eat.

This recipe can be doubled or tripled easily for a communal ramen feast.

Next: Recipe for midnight beans


Midnight beans

There are two stories about this recipe. One is its origin story, about how one night in high school I found myself ravenous in the kitchen in the middle of the night and made up the recipe by grabbing whatever was on hand. One ingredient that was on hand was a can of beer, which leads me to the second story.

When I was in college, I was living in New York City and was on a strict $5-a-day budget. This didn't leave a lot of room for fun, and buying booze seemed like a grand extravagance. But beans are cheap, and seeing as my midnight beans recipe called for beer, I figured it was the one way to justify buying a can of beer at night. A splash into the beans, a few splashes into my gullet. Apart from that, this recipe feels truly nourishing to me, physically and emotionally.

?• 2 tablespoons olive oil
?• 1 can black beans, undrained
?• 1/2 medium yellow onion
?• 1 clove garlic, chopped
?• Juice of half a lime
?• 1 can of beer
?• Squirt of Sriracha (alternatively, chop up a jalapeño and add it to the onions and garlic)
?• Handful cilantro, chopped

Instructions: Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add beans and stir. Add a decent sized splash of beer, as well as the lime and Sriracha. Stir until it simmers. Drink the beer. Add cilantro and cook for one more minute. Serve with rice or in a big bowl. I like to eat it in a soup bowl with fresh arugula stirred into it, which helps with staving off scurvy.

Next: Cookbooks for college


Cookbooks for college

Here are a few suggestions for books that will further your dorm room cooking repertoire.

The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker by Roger Ebert

Did you know that Roger Ebert, the film critic, wrote a book about how to cook full meals in a rice cooker? I mean, it's a crazy idea, but you could totally get a rice cooker in your room, right? And cook meals in it? Uh, yeah.

I Love Trader Joe's College Cookbook: 150 Cheap and Easy Gourmet Recipes by Andrea Lynne

If you need a cookbook to teach you how to microwave those delicious Trader Joe's frozen samosas, you're in trouble. But with a subtitle like "Delicious Dishes You Can't Eff Up," this book must be hipper than hip, right? Right?

__''Knack College Cookbook: Dorm Eating and Apartment Feasting by David Poran
Your mom probably already bought you this. It has a healthy looking guy on the front who's probably a reject from the Food Channel. But it looks pretty useful, has 150 recipes and includes a section on equipment.''__

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