Writer Megan Senseney provides an alternative food option when campus dining becomes bland.
Dorm Room Dishes: Thanksgiving feast
Thanksgiving offers a welcomed break to college students near the end of the fall semester. Some are fortunate enough to travel home for the holiday — or even live in the same city as their family — while others, for one reason or another, can’t make it to their family and the holiday meal they’ve prepared.
According to statistics from http://schools.com, the average age of travelers during Thanksgiving is lower than any other time of year; 35 percent of Thanksgiving travelers younger than 25. However, according to AAA statistics, Thanksgiving airfare prices are up by 20 percent from last year, and the average price of a gallon of gas is also up 20 percent. As if traveling wasn’t expensive enough, this year it’ll take an even bigger toll on penny-pinching students.
If you’ll be staying on campus this Thanksgiving break, you should be thankful for your microwave. Round up your friends who are stuck on campus, have everyone make their favorite Thanksgiving dish and let the holiday feast begin.
What would a Thanksgiving dinner be without what is perhaps its most notable food? I know what you’re thinking and, yes, cooking a turkey in the microwave is safe — if you don’t believe me, believe the USDA. They’ve listed microwaving a turkey as one of their safe, alternative methods to oven cooking the bird for the holidays. Most microwaves will only hold a 12 to 14 pound turkey, so go for a smaller turkey or consider buying a turkey breast; not only will it be easier to fit in the microwave, but it will also cook quicker.
The USDA recommends cooking the turkey or turkey breasts in a microwave safe dish with a lid, or in a dish covered with plastic wrap poked with holes for ventilation, but you can also use “oven bags” such as those made by Reynolds.
You’ll want to buy a meat thermometer to ensure that your turkey is cooked to the proper temperature, 165 degrees. It’ll take nine to 10 minutes per pound on medium power to cook the turkey thoroughly, and you’ll want to turn it often. For a simple preparation, try throwing some sliced onion and sliced celery into a large Reynolds oven bag. Place a thawed, raw turkey breast on top of the vegetables, brush the turkey with melted butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then, cut a few slits in the bag and cook on medium power for nine to 10 minutes per pound of turkey. There are endless possibilities for seasoning your turkey, though, so try looking to the Internet for a little inspiration.
Side dishes are the part of the Thanksgiving meal most easily adapted to microwave cooking. Many Thanksgiving sides are comprised of pre-cooked ingredients, so the only task is mixing and microwaving. Most green been casserole recipes call for a simple five ingredients and can be mixed, microwaved and served in the same dish.
For simple mashed potatoes, use your microwave’s “baked potato” button to cook the potatoes, then scoop out the flesh and mash with butter, milk, salt and pepper. Home made gravy can also be made in the microwave, though a basic recipe requires the gravy to be taken out of the microwave and whisked a few times during the cooking process; the ingredient list is cheap, and the steps involved are simple.
Like turkey, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same for most people without stuffing. Though the microwave won’t produce the same golden brown stuffing with a crunchy exterior that the oven would, the taste and texture will be virtually the same. Skip the packaged stuffing route; with breadcrumbs or day-old bread, some chicken stock and veggies — try using frozen vegetables to save on prep time — you’ll get stuffing that tastes even better and is homemade.
Candied sweet potatoes are another Thanksgiving side that takes only a few ingredients. The completed dish takes just five or six minutes to cook at 100 percent power. However, if you top your sweet potatoes with marshmallows, expect them to be melted, but not golden brown.
A recipe for No-Bake Pumpkin Pie
Though it’s entirely possible to bake a pie in the microwave, give yourself and your microwave a break when it comes to dessert. Try this easy recipe for No-Bake Pumpkin Pie to round out your dorm room Thanksgiving feast.
—1 pre-made graham cracker or gingersnap pie crust
—2 packages (3-3/4 ounces each) instant vanilla pudding mix
—1 1/2 cups milk
—1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin puree
—1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
—3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
—1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
—Pecan halves or walnut halves, for garnish (optional)
In medium bowl, whisk together pudding mixes and milk until thick and blended. Stir in pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
Spread evenly over graham cracker or gingersnap crust. If desired, garnish with pecan halves or walnut halves.
Cover and refrigerate at least 5 hours or overnight. Serves 8.