When the taquitos are too tempting and you’re suddenly winded by walking up a flight of stairs, it may be time to re-think that diet of guilt-inducing culinary nightmare fuel. With that in mind, here are some (nearly) effortless dinner hacks to make any weeknight meal feel like a low-stakes Chopped episode.
Use Your Noodle
Noodles have earned their place in the pantheon of easy dinner recipes the world over. With some quick thinking and resourceful flavor pack hoarding, you can turn a bland styrofoam catastrophe into a palatable dinner for one. She Knows has some interesting twists and tricks.
For hot and sour noodles, combine tapatio, toasted sesame oil, and a tablespoon each of sugar and vinegar. The result? Something more akin to home-cooked Dan Dan noodles than a 99 cent instant lunch.
While you’re spicing things up with add-ons like sesame oil and sriracha, you can also stock up on some versatile, long lasting ingredients you can keep on-hand for any number of microwaveable feasts. Consider buying canned food in bulk, which will let you save money while having some tasty non-perishables on-hand like canned spinach, beans, peas, carrots, and even chicken or beef bouillon, easily upping your microwave ramen game.
Put an Egg On It
Who doesn’t love eggs? Whether you like them scrambled, boiled, over easy, or sunny side up, eggs have experienced something of a comeback in recent years coinciding with the late 2000’s Brunch Renaissance. Often paired with avocados and toast (gluten-free or whole wheat for the health fanatics out there,) this millennial trifecta is the stuff of easy, effortless meals and snacks.
If you’re in a dorm, there are a few egg-cellent ways for you to make great eggs with just a microwave. Take poached eggs for example. While they’re notoriously hard to do, even for home cooks with the most advanced appliances available, you can easily get restaurant-quality poached eggs with just a microwave. Fill a 1-cup (or larger) bowl (or mug) with 1/2 cup of water. Crack an egg into a glass or ceramic bowl and make sure it’s completely submerged, but intact in one piece. Cover the top of the bowl with a plate, and microwave on high for 1 minute. After that, remove the bowl and check if the whites are firm. If they’re not, microwave for another 15 seconds. Using a slotted spoon or serving fork, carefully transfer the cooked egg to a plate or over a piece of toast.
If overly processed cafeteria fare and convenience store snacks are leaving you feeling less than fresh, consider taking matters into your own hands with some easy-to-plant window boxes for some great organic produce without those over-the-top Whole Foods prices. According to Craftsy, there are a number of fruits and veggies that grow perfectly in window boxes, including strawberries, radishes, leaf lettuce, spinach, and green onions. All you need is some high-quality potting soil, fertilizer, a window that gets a considerable amount of daytime light, and a sizable planter with enough room for roots to grow.
Living in a dorm doesn’t have to limit your culinary feats. While you may be tight on time and money, you don’t have to skimp on flavor when it comes to spicing up some budget-price noodles or using a microwave for brunch-worthy eggs any time of day. College is all about growth and reinvention, so until you work off your student debt and get that dream home with solid marble counter-tops or stainless steel appliances, you can fake it til’ you make it with good taste and a working microwave.