February has crept up on us at the speed of light, meaning that Valentine’s Day is only just around the corner. In less than one week, it will be time for all the generic V-Day fare — a heart-shaped box of candy, a somewhat-romantic dinner at an overly crowded restaurant or perhaps two tickets to a movie that won’t be as great as you imagined it would. Instead of giving your special someone the typical and the expected this Valentine’s Day, try going the route of a homemade dinner for two. You can cook a great and impressive meal in your microwave and serve it up in your dorm room for a thoughtful gift that’ll make a lasting impression. • The first thing you’ll need to do to plan your romantic night is to make sure it will actually be romantic. Negotiate with your roommate ahead of time so you can have your alone time without having to kick them to the curb on short notice. Make sure your room is clean, too (guys of Webster, I’m looking at you). • Make sure your night proceeds how you want it to by planning everything out ahead of time. That means buying decorations — if you choose to re-decorate your dorm for the occasion — and deciding what you’re actually going to make and how you’re serving it. If you’re on a budget, it will also help to scour local grocery store’s ads to find out which items are on sale. Then, look for recipes based on what you already have. • Alcohol is allowed in the dorms, so serve up a drink with dinner, if you’d like. If you take this route, though, both you and your date need to be over 21 — be prepared to face the wrath of Housing and Residential Life if you get caught giving alcohol to a minor. If you can’t legally consume alcohol, try serving some sparkling grape or apple juice. • If you plan on serving meat, try going for a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. They’re available at most major grocery stores these days and are typically about $5 for the whole thing — you’ll save time and money. • As for side dishes, many of the usual choices are easy to cook in the microwave. Baked potatoes are cheap and cook quickly, and most microwaves even come with a baked-potato button to take out the guesswork— you can even scoop out the flesh after the potatoes cook to make mashed potatoes. Frozen vegetables are another cheap option and some brands even come packed in steamable bags. Salads are an additional incredibly versatile choice. Since salads are served cold, you can also make them ahead of time and leave them in the fridge. • Cap off the night with dessert. If you know your date’s favorite confection, you can certainly dish out the money to get it for them. However, if he or she likes cake, try this recipe for cake in a mug, baked in the microwave.
A Recipe for Cupcake-in-a-mug:
7 tablespoons boxed cake mix, any flavor
Nonstick cooking spray
3 tablespoons oil
6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons liquid egg substitute or ½ egg , lightly beaten
1 can ready-to-use frosting, any flavor
Sprinkles or other decorations, optional
Spray the inside of a 10 to 16 ounce coffee mug with non-stick cooking spray. Add the boxed cake mix. Next, add the oil and water to the cup and mix thoroughly. Finally, add the egg and mix well.
Place in microwave and microwave on high for 3 minutes —the cake may rise above the top of the cup. When finished, check center with a toothpick. If pick comes out clean, then the cake is done.
Allow cake to cool for several minutes and then turn cake out onto a dish or serve right in the coffee mug.
Top with desired frosting and decorate with sprinkles or other toppings.